Tag: Jean Goodwin

Red Stitch Presents INCOGNITO

Outstanding

By Myron My

The expression ‘the mind works in mysterious ways’ rings true in the stunning new work by Red Stitch Actors Studio. In its Australian premiere, Nick Payne’s Incognito – a poignant play about the brain, Albert Einstein and love – is a beautiful exploration of how our minds do work and how we use memories to create our identity and become the people we are.

Jing-Xuan Chan & Kate Cole_Incognito_7468.jpg

The story focuses on three non-linear narratives, two of which are centred on real people. Thomas Harvey is the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Albert Einstein and became obsessed with what could be revealed from research into his brain. The second story based on fact is of Henry Molaison, a 27 year old-man who – after an operation to cure his epilepsy – lost his short-term memory which left him unable to remember the detail of conversations he had been having seconds earlier. The third story meanwhile revolves around a fictitious neuro-psychologist, Martha, who has a somewhat nihilistic view on identity and memories.

Incognito‘s narrative structure can be a puzzle to piece together, but as the story progresses, the relationships and links between characters and scenes gradually becomes apparent. Through the astute direction of Ella Caldwell and Brett Cousins, the pace is fast enough to keep momentum building and have you engrossed in the scenes playing out, but slow enough to ensure you never get left behind. The snap changes from scene to scene are executed perfectly and supported by Tom Willis‘ insightful lighting design.

The cast of four deliver accomplished performances in their portrayal of both the central characters and the eighteen additional ones, with each actor taking on between four to six roles. Ben Prendergast as pathologist Thomas brings forth a nuanced performance and Prendergast’s ability to show Thomas at varying stages of his life are a testament to his skill as an actor. Paul Ashcroft is heart-breakingly marvelous as Henry, as he obliviously remains stuck in an eternal time warp. Guest actor with the company Jing-Xuan Chan is also brilliant as both Henry’s long-suffering wife Margaret and as Lisa, a woman who finds herself in a relationship with Martha, played by Kate Cole. Cole brings to the surface the complexities of Martha’s history and views on life with ease but it is in her  evocative portrayal of Evelyn, the adopted granddaughter of Albert Einstein, where she really shines.

With the scenes that take place spanning various cities and time periods, dialect coach Jean Goodwin ensures that subtle differences are picked up on, and each actor does an incredibly skillful job in their convincing accents and being able to switch between them at the drop of a hat. With the story moving through the years, this achievement is also a great indicator of time passing by and allows us to relocate events in some order.

Chloe Greaves‘ remarkable set design perfectly captures the essence of Payne’s play. A piano rests just off centre-stage, its lid has exploded from its place and hanging in mid air, frozen in time. From inside the piano, black string spills out, reaching the ceiling and walls that results in a spider web-like cave and giving an artistic interpretation of how the brain operates. 

Incognito is an intelligent exploration of the brain, memories and identity: about knowing who you are and in some cases, about not knowing who you are. It may be a play that demands we pay attention, and perhaps ironically, puts our brain into overdrive, but it is also an extremely rewarding experience to be seeing theatre of such a high standard performed locally.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
Season: Until 13 August | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $49 Full | $34 Senior | $28 Student | $25 Under 30s

Bookings: Red Stitch Actors Theatre

Image by Theresa Noble Photography

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REVIEW: Devize Co Presents PLUNGE

It begins with a single touch…

By Myron My

Having seen Plunge when it was in its early stages of development last year during La Mama’s Explorations season (then known as Blending), I was very interested to see how the work had progressed. Being performed at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe, the work explores the infinite number of outcomes that can result from a single touch. Some are good and some are bad and some are absolutely crushing.

Plunge

Choreographer and director Darren Vizer continues to push his two performers, dancer Joel Fenton and actor Jean Goodwin, to their extremes relentlessly. They share a good chemistry and have clearly worked hard at driving through the more challenging moments of Plunge and allowing the piece to evolve.

Fenton’s dance sequences clearly demonstrate how his body has been taken over by his emotional state and he uses the whole space to bound, leap, and throw himself around the stage. The music and sounds used to further convey these feelings are well chosen, especially the rapid beating of the heart in the second story.

Goodwin’s monologue on loving and owning her body is a powerful statement about the constant threat women face just for being women. Her command of the statements she makes and the pace with which they are delivered are full of angry confidence. She wants to be heard and she wants to make sure we hear her. It’s a speech that should resonate with each and every single woman out there as well as to every single man who has female family members, friends or partners.

What drew me to Plunge initially was the challenge of having a performer, who is predominately a dancer, acting – and vice versa. This idea has been further developed, especially with providing Goodwin a solo dance moment. However, while her commitment to the piece is evident, I ultimately had difficulty understanding the purpose of what was trying to be conveyed by this inclusion. Similarly, I would have liked to see Fenton be slightly more aggressive in the final story to really drive home Goodwin’s response.

Plunge took on its new name as the performers were no longer blending their two art forms but immersing themselves in it. Similarly, one could also say that it’s about what happens when we take the plunge into romance without quite knowing what the outcome will be. Despite its minor shortcomings, this is still a highly intelligent and insightful piece not only exploring relationships, but also the way the society in which we live operates.

Venue: Fringe Hub, Arts House, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne, 3051

Season: Until 24 September | Tues-Sat 10.30pm, Sun 9.30pm

Tickets:$25 Full | $15 Conc, Cheap Tuesday

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: La Mama Presents BLENDING

New work comes together skillfully

By Myron My

Created by Darren Vizer, Blending is an intricate exploration of relationships, sex, bullying and love. Using one dancer (Joel Fenton) and one actor (Jean Goodwin), Vizer combines the two art forms to create an evocative piece of work where each of the three scenarios explored begin similarly but end in very different places.

Blending

The deliveries of dialogue from Goodwin in the first and third scenario are particularly powerful and not only demand our attention but leave us feeling very strong but contrary emotions. However, in the second scenario the writing needed refinement as it verged on repetition and began losing its impact on the audience.

The play with silence during Blending was welcoming and fresh, as there can often a fear of this from both performers and audience members. The opening moments show Goodwin reading a book and Fenton watching her from afar, giving us the opportunity to come up with our own idea of what is happening and what is going to happen and thus invest more in the people we are seeing.

I thoroughly enjoy watching theatre and dance come together as they are able to create a stronger emotive experience for the audience that could otherwise not be achieved. By overtly putting himself out of his dancer’s comfort zone, Fenton’s vulnerability and feelings comes to the surface through his acting in a more effective and honest way. As Blending develops, it will be great to see Goodwin also being pushed more profoundly out of her role as actor and into the realm of dance to be able to express the same breadth of emotions, particularly in the third scenario.

With Blending, Vizer explores three very different relationships that while making significant impact do not leave you overwhelmed with a confused myriad of emotion. It is a complex experience that could be quite jarring for the audience were it not for its skillful creator and performers.

Blending was performed at La Mama as part of its 2014 Explorations season, which supports new works in various stages of development.

REVIEW: VCA Presents A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY

Impressive handling of a difficult play

By Myron My

A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner, directed by Tom Healey, begins in 1932 with a group of friends celebrating New Years’ Eve. Over the course of the next few years, we see how their lives and relationships with each other are affected with the slow rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

The first half of the performance was quite long and I felt like I was waiting a long time for something definitive to happen. It wasn’t until the second act where things really start moving; the relationships between the characters were explored on a deeper level and you saw the complexities of the choices these people were making and the effects they had on everyone else.

I was however puzzled by the plot’s inclusion of the scenes about a 1990s New Yorker living in Berlin. I felt this sideways storyline detracted from the strength of the 1930s and whilst I appreciated the tie-in towards the end, I did feel like it might have allowed for a tighter story with its exclusion.

The play had a strong cast including Aaron Walton and Edwina Samuels as the one-eyed Hungarian film electrician Husz and glamorous movie star Paulinka respectively. They played their scenes with strong conviction and authenticity and special mention would have to go to Walton for his Hungarian accent.

Another notable performance was Jean Goodwin as “Die Alte” (the Old Woman); the ghost who resides in the apartment. Her dynamic scenes amplified the fear and uncertainty that was rising in Berlin and allowed for a different form of energy to be created which, given the heavy nature of the subject being explored, was a welcomed change.

Set designer Jacob Battista has used the space incredibly well and created a single set– where the whole play takes place – as if it were a real apartment where real people lived, thus magnifying the effect of the supernatural elements. The scene with the devil’s arrival is the first time in a while that any set design has made me go ‘wow’. Similarly, the costumes used were indicative of the effort that costume designer Nicholas MacKinnon has gone to in creating a strong sense of individuality between the characters but to also represent the ideology of the time back then.

A Bright Room Called Day has given these graduating students from The Victorian College of the Arts an opportunity to delve into the psyche of some wonderful characters so it is a shame the play’s plot could not have been as strong as the performances.

Venue: Studio 45, with Box Office at 28 Dodds Street, Southbank.

Season: Until 2 November | 7:00pm, Sat 2:00pm Tickets: $22 Full | $16 Concession

Bookings: http://www.vca.unimelb.edu.au/events?id=448