Tag: H. Clare Callow


Strong performances in intriguing cemetery lodge location

By Myron My

Performed inside the historic Gate Lodge at Melbourne Cemetery, TBC Theatre’s production of Mr Naismith’s Secret is an intriguing and entertaining piece of immersive theatre. At a gathering at Edward Naismith’s residence to celebrate some news between he and Jane Adair, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone wishes the happy couple good tidings with a number of guests and staff within the house having their own schemes and plots to attend to…

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We enter the house interacting with the characters, but we are soon ghost-like creatures that are left wander the rooms and observe interactions and eavesdrop on private conversations. Secret letters are read out and locked rooms are explored in our ignored presence but there are also times when characters stare directly at you as they deliver their lines or perform in a scene. It is somewhat unnerving but works extremely well in heightening the tension of the narrative.

The difficulty with immersive theatre such as this – where you only get to see some of a full story – is ensuring that by the end your audience has enough information to be able to fill in enough of the empty pieces. Writer H. Clare Callow is aware of this and does a good job of keeping the characters focused on a single narrative, and when they are then speaking with other characters, discussing or repeating things that have been mentioned earlier by other character for our benefit. There are a few instances however where I felt the language used was not entirely suited to the era and environment we were in, as when a servant obscenely swears at a man of a higher class than him.

Past experience with immersive theatre has taught me that it is best to stick with roughly three characters and follow them around. In this instance, I was drawn to Trudi Boatwright‘s portrayal of Agnes, where you’re left questioning what her intentions are and whether she has her own nefarious agenda at play. Similarly, Vaughn Rae as the snide Abercrombie brutally masters the death stare and displays his callousness well. Stuart Jeanfield as our host Edward Naismith and Jennie Dibly as Mrs. Cutter the cook (while not directly embroiled in the story itself like the other characters) also deliver some strong and convincing performances.

Much like a Choose Your Own Adventure book,  your choices and the characters you follow determine the story you experience in Mr Naismith’s Secret. While the climax of this gothic tale did not have as strong an impact as I suspect it could, possibly because of the characters I chose to follow, it is still a highly enjoyable piece of theatre that challenges and changes the role of the audience.

Venue: The Gate Lodge, Melbourne General Cemetery,Cnr College Cres & Princes Park Dr, Parkville
Season: until 13 November | Tues – Sat 8pm, Sunday 6pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: TBC Theatre


Superb performances in a dark and gritty play

By Myron My

Shadows Of Angels is a play that delves into the minds and stories of the Australian female criminal: each tale dealing with a painful situation and event that links them all together.

The set of this production is bare apart from a chair, and a spotlight falls onto the cast as they individually take to the stage and tell their story to the audience. With so little visual stimulation, it’s even more important to have a talented cast to carry the story.

Shadows of Angels

For the most part the casting is spot on. H. Clare Callow is the standout as the “Man Femme”, showing equal parts vulnerability, yearning and sorrow. Meg Spencer is also particularly strong as the “Pretty Femme” portraying the tougher, angrier side of the femme fatale. Mel Dodge’s “Good Femme” rounds out the great performances.

My issue was with Rosemary Johns as the “Old Femme” and it was not at all due to the fine acting and effort that was put into the role, but I feel Jones was miscast here as the “Old Femme”. This was a woman who performed illegal abortions in a secret room and was about to flee from the police but Johns just seemed too sweet and gentle and I had problems believing her character would be capable of committing these crimes.

Fleur Murphy’s script is brilliant. The problem I often find with shows that use monologues is the narrative remains stagnant. However, with Shadows of Angels there is a steady pace that allows the narrative to flow and grow. Even more importantly, these are engaging characters that paint the scene with such vivid imagery that you often forget there is just that one chair on stage.

Chris Saxton has directed a show that stays with you long after it’s over. His efforts in creating the right blend of horror and sympathy both emotionally and physically on stage are what theatre is meant to be about: creating a world that envelops you until you feel like you are actually there.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 23 March | 8:00pm

Tickets: $24 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: www.owlandcat.com.au/shadows.html