Tag: Ian Meadows

REVIEW: MTC Presents THE WEIR

Spectacular veteran cast share a drink

By Christine Young

The Weir takes place at a country pub in the south of Ireland where a handful of locals have taken refuge on a cold, windy night, though there’s no doubt they enjoy a regular tipple regardless of the weather. The stage in the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Studio is aptly decked out as a cosy pub with a bar for gossiping and a hearth for conversations from the heart.

MTC THE WEIR photo Jeff Busby

It’s clearly an important meeting place for local bachelors of a certain age who gather for a bit of ‘craic’ (conversation) which is central to the Irish psyche and way of life. The Weir is true ‘slice of life’ theatre: the audience eavesdrops on a conversation between the publican Brendan and locals Jack and Jim who are soon joined by Finbar and the mysterious newcomer Valerie.

The cast of MTC’s (Melbourne Theatre Company) production is impressive and all are veterans of Australian stage and screen: Nadine Garner (Valerie), Peter Kowitz (Jack), Finbar (Greg Stone), Jim (Robert Menzies) and Brendan (Ian Meadows). You may not recognise all their names but their faces are familiar from recent ABC programs such as Janet King, Doctor Blake Mysteries and The Moodys.

So the casting is excellent, the acting is brilliant, and the setting is just right. But the play itself is slow going and this reviewer found the first half, well, boring. It’s quite possible that I missed the whole point but it seemed to me that the initial conversations and stories were so pedestrian that they weren’t very interesting. Even naturalistic theatre needs some contrived excitement to propel a play’s narrative.

The play only began to pique my interest when Nadine Garner as Valerie delivers a heart-wrenching monologue which becomes the ‘psychological moment’. From this point onwards, the characters begin to speak authentically and drop the bravado.

That said, there are plenty more learned people than me who have given The Weir high praise. The play was Irish playwright Conor Mcpherson’s breakthrough script in 1997-98 and it won several prestigious theatre awards following its premiere season in London.

It’s not my glass of brandy … but it is wonderful to see some of our finest actors treading the boards together.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne
Date: Until 26 September, 2015
Tickets: $49-$119
Booking: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

REVIEW: MTC Presents OTHER DESERT CITIES

Powerful family politics play out to the bitter end

By Ross Larkin

Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities is surely one of the more intriguing and gripping contemporary plays of the last decade. Unpacking the fragile segments of family politics saturated with love and lies, tension and grief – Baitz’s comedy drama reveals its inner belly at just the right pace.

MTC OTHER DESERT CITIES photo BUSBY

The MTC’s version opened this week, to a very receptive crowd. Director Sam Strong has perfectly cast Robyn Nevin as the simmering Polly, doing everything in her power to suppress her past, while maintaining an edge of ruthless charm. Nevin is utterly convincing in her portrayal of a privileged, somewhat manipulative woman who is dangerously close to breaking down.

Daughter Brooke, however (Sacha Horler), enters with nothing left to lose, and very little tolerance for her family’s insincerities. Horler offers a tremendous balance of light, shade and the chasm in between. Her unwinding and revealing at just the right pace and level of authenticity showcases Horler as the diverse and believable actress she is. The beautiful aspect to Nevin and Horler’s performances is that one does not ever see them ‘working’: we cannot see the acting, we are only absorbed by the truth of the characters.

John Gaden as husband Lyman is equally fitting in his transformation from loving family man to nervous wreck. It’s a demanding role which could very easily fall flat with a less-experienced actor or under the wrong direction. Gaden doesn’t disappoint with his direct and uncompromising performance.

Ian Meadows and Sue Jones as son Trip and Aunt Silda respectively begin as borderline caricatures, with pantomine gestures and postures. Fortunately, however, in spite of restricting themselves initially to exaggerated comic relief, Meadows and Jones do manage to absorb themselves in the unfolding drama, and by the end, both deliver powerful punches.

An obvious choice was made to stage most of the family drama in a living room behind large glass windows, to create the feeling that one is on the outside observing the action, like trapped fish in a bowl. While this technique was aesthetically interesting and in line with the play’s concept, it did, at times, prevent complete engagement between audience and drama. There was literally a wall between us, which more than likely prevented some great opportunities for intimacy.

Nonetheless, Strong has achieved great momentum with Other Desert Cities, helped in no uncertain terms by its brilliant lead actors, and this remains one of the most riveting and unforgettable plays of our generation. 

Venue Southbank Theatre, The Sumner

Season dates 2 March to 17 April 2013

Tickets from $58, Under 30s just $33

Bookings Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au