Tag: Glenn Van Oosterom

REVIEW: George Tabori’s MEIN KAMPF

Bold and confronting comedy

By Myron My

The farce Mein Kampf revolves around Hitler’s younger years as a man who is struggling to become an artist (and to secretly take over the world – including New Zealand). In Vienna, he meets a well-educated, bible selling Jewish man Shlomo Herzl, and through this chance encounter, chaos ensues. Written in 1987 by George Tabori – himself a survivor of the holocaust – it is somewhat autobiographical yet it is also a complete fabrication, and knowing this really sets the mood quite fittingly for Mein Kampf.

Mein Kampf

The three leads; Mark Wilson (Shlomo), Glenn van Oosterom (Hitler) and Mark Bonanno (Lobkowitz) are just phenomenal. Their comedy timing is impeccable and their superb facial expressions and physicality are a testament to the skills and dedication they have brought to the roles. The three of them ensure that every line they deliver is with utter conviction. Wilson is on stage for the whole show – nearly 2 hours – and there is not one scene where he wavers or his energy lowers in this demanding role. Van Oosterom is most impressive as the man with the short and fiery temper, especially when he threw himself into one of his many angry speech-giving tirades the vehemence of which would turn the character’s face red from frustration.

The humour in Mein Kampf is used not to poke fun at the atrocities that occurred under Hitler’s regime but behind the entertainment, we are reminded of the tragedy. Shlomo attempts to persuade Hitler to get into politics and later Hitler comments he will purchase Shlomo a gift: an oven, so he can keep warm.  Tabori famously wants us to recognise that the holocaust and events surrounding it “are taboos that must be broken or they will continue to choke us”. The writing is sharp and witty, and despite its plentiful laughs there are poignant moments in the script with dark forebodings of what’s to come. There are a couple of times where the momentum did get lost ever so slightly, including when Frau Death (Uschi Felix) comes to visit and a long scene between Shlomo and his love Gretchen (Stephania Pountney).

I really enjoyed Mein Kampf as I am a firm believer in the idea of there being comic value in everything and through humour we can be educated and informed. The cast were flawless and the laughs kept coming. However – and this is where I feel quite conflicted – there were about ten minutes where I was left morally dubious and extremely uncomfortable. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t impose this view on others but in one scene, a dead chicken is brought on stage and hacked up and drained of its blood with various parts being ripped out, all  by Himmlisch, a young Himmler (Samuel Macdonald). It may have been dead, but I was still shocked and disgusted at seeing this and it really dampened my whole experience of this otherwise impressive performance. I feel that as a theatre production, there should be other creative and more sophisticated ways of conveying these visuals and ideas.

Nonetheless, director Beng Oh has done a great job in putting this production together and the importance of having Mein Kampf performed is highlighted with what has been occurring in the world recently. Even after all these years it is very easy for society to discriminate and be hateful towards people because of perceived differences. The absurdity of Tabori’s play succeeds in insisting that we don’t forget, and more importantly, don’t allow anything like those events to happen again.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton
Season: Until 25 August | Wed-Sat 8:30pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: http://lamama.com.au or 9347 6142

REVIEW: True Love Travels on a Gravel Road

Exciting new theatre is right on track

By Christine Moffat

True Love Travels On A Gravel Road is billed as a comedy-drama, but this interesting new work leans more towards a modernised tragic-farce romance.  This is by no means a bad thing.The play was entertaining, funny and surprisingly moving.

True Love Travels - Photos by Sophie Dewhirst and Glenn van Oosterom

The key to this work succeeding (and it does) is the skilful collaboration of writer Jane Miller and director Beng Oh.  With the assistance of a very capable cast, they have created a world where the characters can exist and be real.  These characters rely heavily on classical theatre archetypes and as a result are all slightly larger than life, leading to many comic moments.  Interestingly though, they are also well-drawn human beings, especially demonstrated through the use of everyday dialogue which on the whole made them very relatable. The set (by Christina Logan-Bell) is a stylised, neutral-coloured corrugated iron shed, allowing the location to be anywhere at any time.  This clever device results in some great plot reveals that could have been pre-empted if the set had given too much away.

The stand-out performances on opening night were by Elizabeth McColl (Glenda), David Kambouris (Richard) and Glenn van Oosterom (Jake).  All of these actors pushed the scope of their performances to the outer edge of realism, but their risk paid off with three of the most affecting characters in both the comic and dramatic moments.  That being said, all performances were strong.  The entire ensemble filled the piece with energy and emotion, and the audience responded positively to every character.

Unfortunately this reviewer feels that by inserting an interval at a critical point in the action the sense of tension was lost, and it took time to regain that atmosphere once the show recommenced.  The play is roughly standard length (90 minutes), and modern audiences are well accustomed to sitting through an entire performance without interval.  The production is compelling enough to risk removing the interval to keep its pace, for overall, True Love Travels on a Gravel Road is inventive and fresh, and a great blend of comedy and pathos.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season dates: 17 May to 2 June 2013

Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $37 Full, $30 Conc, $33 Group 6+

Bookings:      03 9662 9966

                        www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

REVIEW: Drew Collet and Sophie Weiss in THE LAST FIVE BEERS

Home-brewed cabaret hits the spot!

By Jen Coles

In presenting a homage of sorts to their favourite musical Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, Drew Collet and Sophie Weiss have managed to create a truly creative and uniquely Australian piece of cabaret.

The Last Five Beers tells the story of two ex-lovers who are meeting for drinks after two years (unlike the original musical, which tells the story of the deconstruction of a relationship over five years).

Weiss and Collet have taken certain licences with the storytelling itself, taking the time to introduce themselves before the show ‘started,’ giving out free popcorn and cracking jokes at each other’s expense.

This may have seemed like an unnecessary deviation from starting the show, however they incorporated many aspects of the aforementioned jokes into the later story (for example, Sophie’s loud voice or Drew’s less-than-committed Jewish/American accents). This whole approach allowed the audience to get past the stigma of audience participation, as it was a vital part of their show.

Beginning at a restaurant, The Last Five Beers accurately captures the awkwardness of meeting an ex-lover. The pair heightened aspects of their personalities into new characters; Sophie emerged as a neurotic stress-head whereas Drew appeared too much of a relaxed bloke to really cope with that type of person, and so, it was clear early on the pair weren’t right for each other.

Still, the discussions of the good times versus the bad showed a nice quiet chemistry between Weiss and Drew, and a perfect explanation of why the relationship went south in the first place.

The cabaret itself was rich with a diverse range of music to inform the story, Weiss and Collet had ample time to showcase their incredible talents, and despite a few shaky moments, Collet recovered well to hold the stage for some of the more tender moments (in particular, a beautiful rendition of Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word).

Weiss has a phenomenal voice, which sometimes was too overpowering for the small space of the Club (but again, Collet had established this in the opening, so it was still funny).

Overall, the show was extremely humorous and felt very fresh and exciting to watch. The performers’ energy was matched by the expertise lighting and direction of Glenn Van Oosterom, and Simon Bruckard on piano was delightful in skill. This is a wonderful piece of cabaret not to be missed. 

The Last Five Beers is playing this weekend at The Butterfly Club.

Thur – Sat 28-30 April- 7pm
Sun 1 May- 6pm

BOOKINGS: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com/