Tag: Hoy Polloy

REVIEW: Hoy Polloy Presents MEEKA

True crime meets fiction

By Narelle Wood

Meeka is a tale of fraud, deceit, arsen and a brutal attempt at murder told with all the straight-talking humour you would expect from a play set in the outback.

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The storyline focuses on a local school pricipal John (Kevin Summers) who is trying to do the best he can with his small isolated community school. However dealing with budgetary issues becomes a bigger burden than he had bargained for, especially when the city folk in the department send auditor Kevin (Keith Brockett) up to Meeka to check the school’s finances. John is not fooled by the apparent routineness of the audit and is determined to watch the Kevin’s every move. To complicate issues John’s relationship with his staff is on tenter hooks for a whole range of reasons, including issues of favouritism and power plays, that potentially implicate his staff in the alleged fraud. When Kevin arrives all seems to be going well, but bit by bit things slowly start to unravel ending with Kevin’s head blending profusely, Kevin claiming John tried to kill him, and John professing self defence. Under normal circumstances that would be a spoiler, however Meeka is based on a true crime, so the focus is not so much on the murder attempt but the events leading up to the heinous crime and who exactly is responsible.

The cast is full of wonderful Aussie archetypes: the straight-talking, no-holds-barred woman Eileen (Kelly Nash); the quintessential bloke PE teacher Tom (Liam Gillespie); the uptight English teacher Tiffany (Christina Costigan); and the primary school teacher Bec (Claire Pearson) with a hint of rebellion behind her caring demeanour. It is superbly cast, each performance complimenting Dan Walls‘ dialogue which is witty, and generally well paced. There was quite a colourful array of explicit language used throughout, sitting naturally alongside the very Australian twangs and colloquialisms of many of the characters. Under Shaun Kingma‘s direction there is complete authenticity to each of the performances, and the transitions between scenes are fast and make great use of the large space and simple sets.

If there was one thing that perhaps didn’t work as well for me was the middle section; it seemed to lag a little in comparison to the snappiness of the beginning and end. That aside, Meeka is a strangely funny take on some very dark subject matter; what makes the narrative work is the humour comes from the characters and not the situation. An exceptionally well-written and executed play.

Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 14th February, 8pm, 3pm Sundays
Tickets: Full $38
Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events

Review: OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME

A brave war effort in theatre

By Anastasia Russell-Head

This new Melbourne production of Frank McGuinness’ iconic play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme visually transports us to another place and time.

From the moment we entered the theatre space at the Brunswick Mechanics’ Institute and were confronted with a mist-shrouded cross-shaped catwalk-style stage, the somber palette and earthy textures of World War I set the mood very effectively.

Telling the story of eight young Northern Irish soldiers who are thrown together by circumstance, and who must navigate their own fears and prejudices, this play is compelling in its subject-matter but yet left me strangely unsatisfied. There were some fine performances from the ensemble cast, who bravely took up the challenge of the Irish accents, and Dan Walls is to be commended for his portrayal of the subversive Kenneth Pyper. Nicholas Brien also showed depth and sensitivity as the young blacksmith David Craig.

The play itself is a little heavy-handed – as The Guardian’s Michael Billington writes, McGuinness puts an “excessive emphasis on an apparent Ulster death-wish”. The shortcomings in the script, coupled with perhaps some lack of subtlety in direction, prevented this story from fulfilling its potential to be truly moving. Lighter comedic moments really hit the mark, however, evoking genuine laughs from the audience, and providing a bitter-sweet counterpoint to the main plot.

Visually and spatially this production is quite successful. Having the audience in the round gives visual depth and interesting angles from which to view the action, and I enjoyed the surprising moments of intimacy which this offered. This stage layout is of course much more challenging for sight lines and lighting – a challenge that was generally met very well.

Hoy Polloy has taken the challenge of a tough ensemble play – a work not without its flaws – and has produced a solid production supported by an excellent cast of young actors. If you want to see the next generation of leading men strut their stuff, this is the show to see.

Featuring: Nicholas Brien, Angus Brown, Karl Cottee, Kevin Dee, Mathew Gelsumini, Tosh Greenslade, David Passmore, Ian Rooney & Dan Walls

Season runs until 13 August, 8pm Tue to Sat

Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre (cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rd, Brunswick)

$30 /$24/$20 Tue

Bookings www.trybooking.com

 Enquiries 9005 6734