Tag: Gabriel Bergmoser

Bitten By Productions Presents DRACULA: THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER

Atmospheric and intriguing

By Rachel Holkner

Dracula is a character who requires no introduction, no commentary and, one might think, no new stories. Dracula: The Last Voyage of the Demeter proves otherwise. This new play by Sean Carney fills a tiny gap in the story we know so well, providing an explanation for what happened on the ship Demeter before its arrival at Whitby.

Dracula.jpg

Set entirely in the ship’s hold with the chained vampire holding court, various members of the crew and passengers descend the ladder out of necessity or curiosity. There Dracula does what psychopaths do best: charm them in to revealing more about themselves than they intended. Tension builds as the unseen crew of the ship, slowly at first, then with impossible rapidity, are murdered or vanish.

Carney’s writing is assured, but occasionally misses a step through basic anachronisms or overt exposition. There is no humour to this dark tale of human flaws, yet the dialogue is scattered with truly clever language and witty notes which effectively relieve the strained atmosphere.

Gregory Caine as Count Dracula pulls the story along beautifully, commanding the stage faultlessly. Unfortunately this only highlights the rather static performances of the other players who rarely change the pitch of their rather one-note characters. Mumbling Nichols (Matthew Elliot) was unfortunately incomprehensible at times, while Captain Atkins (Robin Darch) suffered a similarly wobbly accent.

As the characters descend in turn to bargain with the captive monster the play becomes repetitive, due in part to static stage direction. Ineffective use of the space grew tiring to watch. Surely the single chair could be moved to elsewhere on the stage to provide a little relief. I feel opportunities were also missed by director Ashley Tardy to utilise the terrific staircase into the performance space that the venue provides.

Celina Mack as young Elizabeth and Stephanie Daniel as her mother Jessica make an excellent partnership, effectively portraying that relationship. I would have liked to see Gabriel Bergmoser as Gibson and Chris Grant‘s Hopkins have an opportunity to play off each other a little more too as their characters were so at odds with each other.

Effective set dressing and costuming set an impressive claustrophobic atmosphere of a ship’s hold to the venue; audio effects and of course theatrical smoke to represent the fog set the audience well inside the story before the play even began.

Dracula: Last Voyage of the Demeter is the perfect piece to head to as a respite from the Comedy Festival.

Thursdays to Saturday from April 13-22

Club Voltaire, North Melbourne

https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=265879

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Bitten By Productions Presents THE CRITIC

Reviewing the play about reviewing

By Margaret Wieringa

Imagine this: you are attending a theatrical performance written, directed and starring a close friend… and you hate it. What can you tell them? Be honest, or be polite? Now, raise the stakes: you are a theatre critic writing for a well-respected newspaper. Ouch. This is the situation that Jamie finds herself in, having begged to be allowed to review a friend’s performance only to discover it is appalling.

The Critic.jpg

Gabriel Bergmoser hits the spot with his script, challenging the characters to look into themselves and search for their truth. The dialogue had a level of awareness and blunt honesty that made for deliberately uncomfortable moments for both the characters and the audience. The opening scene, with Susan reading a scathing and horrible review must have had creative folk in the audience cringing with familiarity, or perhaps just enjoying that it is about a fictional performance.

Director Ashley Tardy has gathered a strong cast who work well to capture the warring personalities onstage. Jamie, played by Louise Cocks, talks her thought process out while balancing on the edge of self-confidence and anxiety. Her high-energy performance captures the stress of Jamie fighting her way through this dilemma, and is beautifully countered by the hardened, cut-throat attitude of her boss. In this role, Angelique Malcolm struts the stage, owning it and everyone on it. She can own another character with a single glance – and knows it. Then there is Emma: as cocksure and self-centred as any performer putting on a solo piece, but also overly sensitive and self-deluding. Alicia Beckhurst captures the intense emotional state of Emma, from post-performance high to the anger of feeling betrayed. Thank goodness for Ellie, Jamie’s housemate who has seen the performance and been along for the ride.  She provides much needed humour to break up the tension (or sometimes, to add a whole extra level of stress). Rosie Flanagan delivers her hilarious dialogue with great timing, punctuating the piece.

My only real issue with the performance was that it felt rushed. As a very dialogue-heavy piece, much of it needed to slow down and allow the audience to keep up. My favourite moment of the performance was watching Jamie and Ellie react to the magnificently strange noises being created off-stage by Emma as she performs her terrible show – beautiful teamwork and absolutely hilarious.

Where: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne

When: October 6-15, 7pm

Tickets: $18-$20

Book: www.trybooking.com or acopa.com.au/voltaire.

REVIEW: Bitten By Productions’ THE LUCAS CONUNDRUM

Moral issues churn against artistic integrity

By Margaret Weiringa

How can you argue against a dying child? In The Lucas Conundrum, playwright Gabriel Bergmoser has created a script that seeks to explore the complexities of this infamous issue: the protagonist Robert Stone is one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, an innovator whose fantasy films changed the way movies are made, and his soon-to-be-released film is his first return to his hugely successful franchise in over thirty years. Then an internet petition with millions of signatures begs him to let a dying child watch his film before the kid passes away, and Stone don’t want to – not until it is ready by his high standards.

The Lucas Conundrum.jpg

Unfortunately, this promising plot about the changing power of the auteur, the modern film industry and social influence is presented mostly as a series of cocaine-fueled arguments that gradually lost my attention. The arguments built, but somehow the tension onstage didn’t seem to. Perhaps it was that the stakes did not seem high enough – the set-up was that Stone would lose everything if he did not bow to the studio’s pressure. In this production, Greg Caine offered a solid presentation of Stone as a man who was arrogantly confident that his decisions were the right ones, but I didn’t feel that this interpretation fully supported this situation as something that would destroy his career and, therefore, his life.

Chris Grant played Freddie, the man who was trying to force Stone’s hand. His character started as a believable, albeit over-the-top Hollywood-type, but as the arguments intensified, he became more and more comical, even to the point of slapstick. Despite the description “funny, (and) incisive”, the play generally seemed to be going for a more realistic feel, which made his valiant performance feel rather out of genre.

The two women in the cast, Alicia Beckhurst as Stone’s girlfriend and Angelique Malcolm as his ex-wife, both gave good performances in their roles, but disappointingly neither character was given a lot for the actors to really bite into. The female roles were quite functional and stereotyped, although there was certainly the opportunity to create characters who are more than just the relationship that they have with a man.

Essentially, The Lucas Conundrum is a good, promising production that has just missed the chance to be great. I think that the work would have benefited from further script and character development to explore an interesting premise and a complex real-world situation: who owns the art?

Where: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne
When: Feb 17 – February 27, Tues-Sat, 7pm
Tickets: Full $20 Conc $15 through www.trybooking.com

REVIEW: Bitten By Productions Presents THE LAST SUPPER

Compelling tale of a crime lord and his cohorts

By Myron My

Being a leader is not the easiest thing. Especially when you are a leader of a mob group or crime syndicate and have to determine who is genuinely looking out for your safety and to constantly second-guess in whom you can put your trust. In Bitten By Productions’ The Last Supper, crime lord Dorian is facing these problems. What follows is an evening of truths being spoken, lies and deception being revealed, and an examination of the extremes to which people will go to be a leader and claim power.

The Last Supper

Dorian (Gregory Caine) has invited his most inner circle to a meeting: his “trusted” associates and partners. Those invited include his brother Brody (Karl Sarsfield), Madam President, Claudia (Ashley Tardy), the Head of Intelligence, Novak (Kashmir Sinnamon) and the Chief of Police, Vaughan (Christopher Grant). Once Dorian is finished with his interrogations, this may indeed be the last supper for some of them, as failure to perform their jobs results in death.

Gabriel Bergmoser‘s script has some great moments of tension, especially between Brody and Dorian, and the build-up to the conclusion is quite compelling. Bergmoser’s language is highly descriptive and the scene where Dorian retells the story of the pool of glass is so vivid and feels so real that the visuals created in my mind were highly intense. However, this narrative flashback feature is also the difficulty I had with the structure of The Last Supper: the many conversations about past events referencing at least half a dozen non-present characters. At some points, it felt like we were spending too much time focusing on the past than on the present, and not working with these interesting characters actually on stage.

With The Last Supper being seen as a conclusion to a loose trilogy by Bitten By Productions, I wonder – despite being told it is not necessary – if having seen Below Babylon and Beyond Babylon would have made this narrative easier to follow.

Sarsfield brings lots of emotion and honesty with the nervous Brody, who is eager to break free from the life of crime and be a good husband and father. As the story progresses, this desperation to lead a normal life is handled capably by Sarsfield. Similarly, Sinnamon and Grant do well with their supporting roles, each bringing their respective characters to life quite convincingly.

Despite some extremely powerful monologues, I felt some of Caine’s emotional responses as Dorian did not always feel authentic and his motivations and actions were not always clear or seemed to contradict themselves. Tardy does a great job as Claudia, but unfortunately fails to bring credibility to the character. I feel this is more a casting issue though, as she appeared to be too young for the role.

Less than a year ago, I watched Bergmoser’s Reunion and I saw potential in his writing. The Last Supper is clearly far more ambitious than this previous play, but fortunately there has also been a strong improvement in his skill as a writer. Even with the somewhat confusing and discursive narrative structure, the suspense, and the pay-off for the audience at the end, is worth it.

Venue: My Handlebar, 581 Sydney Rd, Brunswick.

Season: Until 16 May | Wed-Sat 7:30pm

Tickets: $20 Full | $18 Conc

Bookings: www.gabrielbergmoser.com

REVIEW: Bitten By Productions Presents BELOW BABYLON

Society’s seedy underside smoothed over

By Narelle Wood

Below Babylon by Gabriel Bergmoser promised to be a gritty and fast-paced play looking at the morality of the underworld; however it wasn’t quite fast enough and had potential to be far grittier.

Below Babylon

The play is set in a low-life bar in the alleyways of a cartel-run town from which there is no escape. Harry (Christopher Grant), the barkeeper and moral compass of the show, attempts to save his eclectic patrons, whether it is the young prostitute Lila (Nalini Vasudevan) or the wayward ex-cartel assassin Lincoln (Justin Anderson). Other assorted characters such as Mac (Hamish Buchanan), Clara (Dhania McKechnie) and Chloe (Melissa Howard) come and go in an attempt to thicken a plot based around Lincoln waiting to die.

There were a couple of inconsistencies in both setting and character portrayal that made the dystopian atmosphere a little hard to believe. For instance, the bar seemed far too clean, Lila seemed far too at ease with working the apparently dangerous streets, and Harry, who was pursuing a quieter life, was far too eager to involve himself in other people’s business. The inconsistencies in characterisation were perhaps highlighted by the wealth of experience Anderson and Buchanan each bought to the stage, both delivering completely believable performances. Likewise, what was lacking in the bar was highlighted by the impressive attention to detail in creating the right atmosphere through soundtrack, lighting and the use of props, especially the cap guns and fake-blood.

The show was completely stolen by Steve Young’s portrayal of Reagan, who epitomised the saying ‘honour amongst thieves’, and this gave credible motivation to his violent outbursts and demands of respect. Reagan’s sometimes-playful, sometimes-sinister banter with the other characters provided the tension that was lacking in the first half. The clear purpose of Reagan’s character in the plot meant that I found myself connecting with him more than any other character, and consequently I found myself wishing that evil would triumph.

Below Babylon was perhaps a bit more charcoal than noir, but if dystopian worlds are your thing then it is definitely worth a look.

Venue: Revolt Theatre, Kensington

Season: 7.30pm 19th February until 1st March (no shows Sunday or Monday)

Tickets: $25 adult

Bookings: www.revoltproductions.com/melbourneevents

REVIEW: Reunion at THE BUTTERFLY CLUB

Clash of an ex-high school quartet

By Myron My

Reunion

In the short play Reunion, four friends organise a catch-up to see what life has been like for each since they graduated from high school five years previously. We meet best friends, Charlie and Phil (Gabriel Bergmoser and Finn Gilfedder-Cooney), Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Sophie (Ashley Tardy), and Jane (Kayla Symons), who seems to be harbouring some strong animosity towards the group. As the evening progresses and the shots are downed, secrets are revealed and the tense friendships are tested even further.

Bergmoser, who is also the writer of Reunion, has created some highly entertaining dialogue between Charlie and Phil. Their rapport is very believable and easily establishes the long-time relationship between the two friends. Both Bergmoser and Gilfedder-Cooney also do extremely well in then bringing Charlie and Phil to life. By contrast, I was disappointed with the dialogue and characterisation of Jane and Sophie. I felt more work was needed to give these two women more depth and emotion.

Unfortunately the story of Reunion is also a bit disjointed and underdeveloped, so when it’s revealed why Jane is so angry with the group, I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated. As an audience member, you are racking your brain throughout the play trying to determine what Jane’s issue could be, and when the reason comes out, my first thought was ‘Is that it?’

The lighting and sound design by Boden Lee Tennant worked effectively in creating the fluctuating atmosphere and I enjoyed the way the sound worked to set the environment for each scene. In fact it was so appealing, I would have liked this to have been continued throughout, with some traffic noises for scenes set outside or water running in the bathroom.

Reunion is a good attempt at character investigation and interaction: although there are still some creases that need to be ironed out, there is great potential for this show should the narrative and relationships be explored further to allow these characters to reach their full potential.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St (entry via Carson Place), Melbourne

Season: Sunday 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th August | 9:30pm

Tickets: $23 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com