Tag: James O’Connell

A Dirty Pretty Theatre and Critical Stages Productions Presents THERESE RAQUIN

A dark tale revealed

By Leeor Adar

The audience’s lust for work exposing the underbelly of human desire and vengeance never ceases, and gothic masterpieces always manage to spook and lure audiences centuries after their first public entrance. A great practitioner of literary naturalism, Émile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin finds itself dealt a supernatural twist in the hands of director and adaptor Gary Abrahams for theatre company A Dirty Pretty Theatre. Abrahams has not disposed of the elegance of late 1800s Paris, as his set designer Jacob Battista and costume designer Chloe Greaves journey back in time with him.

Therese Raquin

Thérèse Raquin follows the tragedy of a small family moving to Paris for a new start to invigorate the sickly Camille (Andre Jewson). Trapped under the weight of wifely servitude is the beautiful Thérèse (Jessica Clarke), oscillating between wistful gazing and the swift practiced movements of someone wanting to shatter her proverbial glass cage. The delightful little family is threatened by vagabond artist, Laurent (James O’Connell), whose presence gleefully brutalises the now excitable Camille and stirs up the most carnal of longings in Thérèse – both of whom are desperately seeking something that helps them forget themselves. The lust overcoming the characters climaxes in a brutal killing: cue the total disintegration of the survivors’ sense of sanity in a manner that Shakespeare himself would admire.

In this production, projection was a difficulty for some of the actors, particularly Clarke whose voice strained into hoarseness, but this could be due to the total submersion into a desperate Thérèse. Clarke’s performance certainly conveyed the desperation of her character potently, and O’Connell’s Laurent was suitably dangerous. Overall, the performances throughout were strong: notably Suzanne as played by Emily Milledge had the captivating ability to take us far away from the gloom of the room in her girlish rants about a phantom lover. Keeping the pace of the production was the composition and music of Christopher De Groot, whose score injected a sense of melancholy to the production.

Tragically, some very dramatic moments were thrown askew on the night I attended by the curtain falling upon a poorly-placed table and a flower crown that was swept about underneath the gowns of the actresses. The audience’s occasional laughter was perhaps a welcome distraction from the gloom of the tale before us – but at times, in Zola’s land of naturalism, such misadventures cannot be helped.

Abrahams’ production ultimately aimed for high drama, but unfortunately came across as pure melodrama with too many distractions. I admittedly enjoyed the gothic horror elements that snuck up on us, but feel these could easily have been dispensed with for the subtlety Zola’s text warranted.

This gothic drama was performed at the beautiful National Theatre in St Kilda from 31 May – 1 June.

Image by Sarah Walker

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Optic Nerve Presents THE MILL ON THE FLOSS

Where waters run deep

By Rebecca Waese

Optic Nerve’s The Mill on the Floss directed by Tanya Gerstle, delivers a thrilling, sensual, and physically-charged performance about Maggie Tulliver, who, growing up in a provincial town in nineteenth-century England, learns that her choices in life are damningly limited by her gender.

The Mill on the Floss

In this intelligent and immersive production, originally adapted by Helen Edmundson for Shared Experience Theatre Company from George Eliot’s novel, three actors play Maggie at different stages in her life in a moving embodiment of how we experience inner conflict when faced with making heart-breaking decisions. Young Maggie, played by Maddie Nunn with joy and irreverence, supports the more somber second Maggie, hauntingly portrayed by Zahra Newman, and convinces her to return the affections of her first suitor Philip Wakeham, (Tom Heath), who is the son of the lawyer who has taken over Maggie’s father’s mill. Rosie Lockhart delivers a beautifully tempered yet volatile third evolution of Maggie, who becomes entangled in an impossible love triangle with her cousin’s betrothed, Stephen Guest (George Lingard), and has to choose between respecting her brother’s wishes for her and her own desires that will leave her disowned by her family and a societal outcast.

Gerstle’s Pulse style of actor training, where actors follow physical and emotional impulses to give body to the text, allows for some unforgettable ensemble moments. Eight actors commit fully to their 17 roles and create a moving experience of a flood using only chairs and an upturned table in a simple yet evocative light and soundscape. The ghost of a drowned witch emerges from an unseen crevice under the stage to try and drown Maggie in the river. The scenes with the Aunties who selfishly expose their self-interest when Mrs Tulliver (Luisa Hastings Edge) and Mr Tulliver (James O’Connell) lose everything reveal the underside of family divided by class. Music enhances the production and Zahra Newman’s powerful instrument of a voice, worth the price of admission alone, sings a primal call-to-arms of the pain of women who centuries earlier were drowned for being witches.

This adaptation maintains a strong connection to the novel, written in 1860 by Mary Ann Evans under the male pseudonym George Eliot, for its unflinching and unnervingly contemporary portrait of the stirring passions of a young woman bound by the social forces of her time. There is less focus on Tom, Maggie’s brother (Grant Cartwright) than in the novel although his over-physical relationship with Maggie resonates with the intense childhood bond George Eliot describes having with her brother before they were estranged in her autobiographical poem “Brother and Sister.” The weakest part comes in the love affair between third Maggie and Stephen Guest where the affair feels somewhat rushed and not as consuming as it could be if Lingard were able to bring a deeper maturity to the role.

Mill on the Floss injects the past into the contemporary with its rousing themes of how women react passionately against being held down in society. In the theatre foyer, a collage depicting fifteenth-century witch trials and Eddie McGuire’s recent comments about how he would pay to see his female colleague’s head held under a pool of iced water, tracks a chilling legacy that makes Maggie’s struggles even more vital today. This a triumph you do not want to miss; it’s history in the making.

Date: 28 Jul 2016 – 13 Aug 2016. Extra show added Tues Aug 9.

Time: Tues to Sat at 7:30pm and 1:30pm on Sat 6, Sat 13 Aug

Price: $35 Full / $26 Conc, Under 30, Groups 8+ /$20 Preview [plus $2.50 booking fee per ticket]

Presented by: Theatre Works and Optic Nerve

Bookings: (03) 9534 3388

Image by Pia Johnson

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

REVIEW: Patricia Cornelius’ SAVAGES

Seething, unsettling – and superb

By Scarlett Harris

This may make for a boring review of Patricia Cornelius’ Savages at fortyfive downstairs as I really couldn’t fault it. The acting, writing, lighting, sound and blocking were flawless, not to mention the grave subject matter that left the audience truly affected.

Savages Photo Credit Sarah Walker

Savages centres around four late-thirty-something/early-forty-something men on the boys’ trip of a lifetime aboard a cruise. George, Runt, Rabbit and Craze discuss their failed relationships, unfulfilling jobs, fragmented childhoods and for those with kids, their struggles raising them. There’s a lot that’s implied but not outright said: Runt was beaten by his father; George is seeing Craze’s ex-wife; not to mention the ambiguous and utterly frightening ending.

Through the choreography, we see the impact that competition among mates can have: comparing scars, running races, the exhilaration of brawling. Savages explores themes of modern masculinity, fatherhood, love, sex and violence, tapping into notions of pack mentality, the phenomenon of “nice guys”, domestic and intimate partner abuse and drug-facilitated date rape.

Said intimations of date rape occur in the cruise nightclub, which is created with only the use of thumping bass and strobe lights by sound engineer Kelly Ryall and lighting technician Andy Turner, respectively, evoking the breathless, menacing machismo that the club experience can so often be.

The acting by Lyall Brooks (George), Luke Elliot (Runt), James O’Connell (Rabbit) and Mark Tregonning (Craze) was exceptional, and the juxtapositioning of the redeeming qualities of “nice guys” – loving their mothers, kids, women in general – with the misogynistic underbelly these characters possess is a truly haunting representation of modern manhood that, for some men, isn’t necessarily inaccurate.

The use of the slanted, exposed floorboards to construct the stage really conjures not only the cruise ship (not to mention the continued use of water metaphors – drowning, rebirth) but the hierarchy of mateship, with Runt on the bottom and (arguably) Craze at the helm.

One thing I did find a bit disconcerting at first was the “highly rhythmic, poetic” dialogue, and the only actor whose portrayal I couldn’t 100% connect with was O’Connell’s, but I put that down to nerves, perhaps.

At once a funny, sad, pitiful, scary and altogether realistic portrayal of modern masculinity – and the inherent “savage” misogyny that sometimes goes with it – in all its glory.

* contains some nudity and disturbing content, and employs the use of strobe lights.

Savages is on at fortyfive downstairs until 8th September Tuesday to Friday at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm and Sundays at 5pm. Tickets $45 full, $37.50 concession.

http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events/savages-written-by-patricia-cornelius-directed-by-susie-dee/