Tag: Jean Tong

Review: Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland!

Great title, great fun

By Owen James

Are we en route to a world where “hail Satan” becomes a normalised, cordial greeting? Kirby Medway’s ‘Oh No! Satan Stole My Pineal Gland!’ undoubtedly wins best title at Fringe this year, and seems to suggest that this future isn’t too far out of reach.

Medway gives us satire at its most contemplative and reflective height in this terrifyingly recognisable world of fake smiles and fake news, set atop and against fake grass. We meet four regular young Australians who casually worship Satan, but whose day-to-day struggles are largely not different to our own. It’s difficult enough to find a comfortable living arrangement, or an easy ‘out’ of an awkward conversation, or remember that specific episode of Gilmore Girls – but even more difficult when you’re a Satanist. The delight Medway finds in distorting communication within this skewed reality provides many moments of entertaining comedy, but also asks many insightful, thought-provoking questions. Each audience member will respond to these questions in their own way, and so interpret this sardonic, and sometimes perplexing world, differently.

Clever direction from Jean Tong and Lou Wall brings out both the warm, relatable humour and the bleak melancholy inherent in Medway’s script with affection and punchy zest. They have created a charming and unique space where left-of-centre stagecraft is quickly established as convention, and then takes on a comedic life of its own – giving the audience a sense that as we understand the rules that define this world, our connection with the text and performers is increasingly embellished. As friendships break down and barriers are built up, comprehending the converging spaces and blurring conversations relies on our learned understanding of the environment depicted – expertly seeped into our consciousness thanks to Tong and Wall’s lucid and deliberate construction.

The cast of five bring their skilled comedic timing to every eccentric beat of this absurd AstroTurf-ed venture, deftly displaying fallacies of friendship and anxious but amusing social discomfort. Societal crisis and organ extortion are all played with a smirk, winking at the perturbing undercurrent of truth-in-flux to their characters. Special mentions to Liam Maguire for his many short, cynical, guitar-plucked taunting tunes delivered with an unnerving and candid grin, and Lou Wall as coercing, stubborn housemate Satan, who induced many giggles from the crowd.

Sell your soul before it’s stolen with your pineal gland, with a ticket to this absurd masterpiece. I look forward to the next offering from Medway and team.

Tickets: https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/oh-no-satan-stole-my-pineal-gland/

Photography by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

 

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UHT Presents MACBETH + MACDEATH: A CODA

They who dared do more

By Narelle Wood

In a year that marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death you can’t go far this season without encountering a performance celebrating or commenting in his life’s work. The Union House Theatre present a mostly traditional retelling of Macbeth juxtaposed with a modern, colonialist version through macdeath: a coda.

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Under the artistic direction of Petra Kalive, the traditional section of The Tragedy of Macbeth is performed almost in its entirety, with only small, arguably non-essential lines omitted from the script. The fast pace at which the actors speak means the production has quite a manic pace to it at times and also affords some extra time at the end for the coda. The pacing works, the staging is minimalist so transitions from one scene to another match the speed of the dialogue, with only a few well-crafted pauses along the way. The only downside to this was that sometimes Lady Macbeth’s (Sen Wagaarachchi) lines were delivered with such fervour and haste the character’s linguistic manipulation was lost in a blur of words.

There was some characterisation that didn’t sit well with me. Malcolm (Lachlan Watts) seemed sleazy and entitled; an interpretation of his character that I had not considered before and didn’t particularly like, mostly because there was nothing, even by the character’s own admission, kingly about him. This was not helped by the fact that I found Martin Hoggart’s portrayal of Macbeth to be completely charismatic; for the first time ever I was hoping that things were going to work out for Macbeth, despite his ambitious ways.

Despite my reservations in some of these character interpretations, the acting was great. The Weird Sisters (Bec Riggs, Amy Spurgeon and Liam Bellman Sharpe) epitomised sinister and malevolent, and Georgie Daniels’ (Macduff) was fierce making her character a fair contender for the throne.

The staging (Kalive), lighting (Jacob Trethowan and Brendan McDougall) and soundtrack (Nat Grant and Connor Ross) were genius. The combination of all 3 turned a minimalist black set into something eerie and atmospheric; especially the use of the chairs and sound effects produced by the witches.

Jean Tong’s macdeath: a coda was intriguing but left me feeling a little ambivalent towards what was a very good production. The political message in the coda was poignant and the comparison between Macbeth’s story and more recent historical drew some rather worrying parallels. I couldn’t help but think though that this section deserved to be more than a coda; that either story in its own right deserved to be told and performed in full.

Macbeth + macdeath: a coda is a thought-provoking and intense combination of the traditional and the reinvented Macbeth. It is perhaps not a production for die-hard traditionalists: that been said though, it certainly does raise questions, and propose some answers, about why Shakespeare and The Tragedy of Macbeth is still relevant today.

Venue: Guild Theatre, Union House, University of Melbourne

Season: 16-24 September, 7.30 Wednesday – Saturday, Saturday matinee 3pm

Tickets: $20

Bookings: chook.as/uht/macbeth