Tag: Jodie Hutchinson

Red Stitch Presents THE MOORS

A brilliant, absurdist Brontesque thriller

By Tania Herbert

Haze cascades down from the ceiling, and the severe form of a Victorian woman is lit to look like a cameo brooch. Thus opens The Moors at Red Stitch Theatre, and I already have a little thrill of expectation.

The Moors

Wandering into the tiny, immaculate theatre of Red Stitch is always an expected delight. What was less expected though, was this gothic surrealist gem of a play by Jen Silverman.

Governess Emilie (Zoe Boesen) is lured to a new job at a manor on the moors, after an exchange of sultry emails with the lord of the manor. She arrives to find that there appears to be no child, her bedroom looks suspiciously like the parlour, and her benefactor is nowhere to be found.

Instead she quickly finds herself embroiled in the mysteries of the household, with the multiple personalities of the housemaid (Grace Lowry), melancholies of tortured writer Hudley (Anna McCarthy) and the chilling powers of Agatha (Alex Aldrich), the formidable sister of the missing lord.

The gothic thriller set-up is counterpointed by the parallel story of the depressed family hound who forms an implausible relationship with a damaged moor-hen unable to fly away (played by ensemble actors Dion Mills and Olga Makeeva).

The set-up and absurdist nature of the play could have easily ended up out of hand, but was held in place by extremely tight direction under Stephen Nicolazzo, and particularly the strength of characterisation by all cast members. For every performance, the simmering darkness within was captured, presenting a gripping two hours of theatre. With an almost all-female cast, the play pushed gender roles in particularly interesting ways – my feeling was that the play isn’t foregrounding a feminist message as such – but rather, is a story with an exceptionally strong cast of characters and actors – most of whom happen to be women.

It is difficult to highlight a particular standout performer, as every cast member was strong, convincing and compelling. Perhaps my personal favourite was Olga Makeeva mastering the challenge of playing both an anthropomorphised bird, but also the relative ‘everyman’ against the absurdities around her.

The accent variation grated on me a little, as Australian ocker just doesn’t seem congruent with the English moors, but given the surrealist nature of the work, this did not subtract overall. This play won’t be for everyone – it is dark in mood, appearance and humour with horror elements and a bit of lustiness.

Sinister, dark, and humorous, watching The Moors feels like peering into a gothic dollhouse of horrors.

The Moors is performing at Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East

 Dates: 6 June- 9 July, Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 6.30pm (Post-show Q&A 22 June)

Tickets: $15-$49

Bookings: (03) 9533 8083 or www.redstitch.net

Image by Jodie Hutchinson

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2016 Graduating Music Theatre Company of Federation University Australia Presents THE ADDAMS FAMILY

Inventive and energetic production of quirky gothic musical

By Amy Planner

That kooky family that we all know and love has been reborn in musical form in this production of The Addams Family, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Presented by this year’s music theatre Arts Academy graduates from Federation University Australia in Ballarat, and based on the original cartoon characters by Charles Addams, this amusingly spooky tale is witty, unique, mysterious, spooky and altogether ooky.

The Addams Family.jpg

This gloriously gloomy tale follows the Addams clan as they find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Wednesday decides she wants to marry the very normal, very cheery, yellow wearing boy, Lucas Beineke. When their families meet for the first time, when basic black meets bright and shiny, something is bound to go wrong.

This off-beat musical was decisively dependent on their creative team, whose unique vision of this crazy family and willingness to step outside the box certainly paid off. Director and choreographer David Wynen and musical director Rainer Pollard proved satisfyingly that what you think you know should never be what you expect when it comes to musical theatre.

The cast were diverse, multi-talented and even controversial at times. As is often the case in large-scale productions, some performers were stronger than others and deserve special mention such as Andrew Thomas as the seductively romantic Gomez Addams, Liam Dodds as the hilariously kooky Uncle Fester, Georgia Moore as the solemn but somehow hopelessly in love Wednesday Addams, and of course Paige Easter as the slightly off-centre and forever rhyming Alice Beineke.

The ensemble is also highly engaging: long moments pass where your eyes are glued to the ghostly figures in the background and yet you are still more than thoroughly entertained. These Addams ancestors, decked out in clothing from various eras, dance and sing their way through the entire show, including most notably the Roman Luke Wilson and Equestrian Rider and show dance captain Eliza Grundy.

These sleek era-styled costumes of the ensemble were the work of costume & set designer Adrienne Chisholm, whose work was artistically distinctive in the face of the extremely iconic image that is the Addams Family.

There were a number of technical difficulties throughout the performance I attended, with a few mic fades, some lighting trouble, a couple of projection issues and a 47-minute technical-related intermission. But despite all this, the performers remained calm and in character and should be commended for their professionalism.

If musical theatre and a little nostalgia are what you’re after, this production will delight and stimulate. You really should go and see ‘em, they really are a screa-um – check out The Addams Family. *Click *Click.

SHOW DETAILS

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St. Kilda

Season: June 18th-25th 2016 – Wed to Sat 7.30pm, Sun 19th 3pm, Sat 25th 1pm.

Tickets: $50 Full, $40 group 10+, $35 Conc, $10 Fed Uni Students (plus $2.50 booking fee)

Bookings: theatreworks.org.au

Image by Jodie Hutchinson

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents THE VILLAGE BIKE

Compelling and confronting play performed with aplomb

By Christine Young

British playwright Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike is a gripping study in lust, love and gender politics. And hormones. Lots of them.

The Village Bike.jpg

 

Red Stitch Actors Theatre in St Kilda is presenting the Australian premiere of The Village Bike which opened to rave reviews and won a local award in London five years ago. The theatre company’s Artistic Director, Ella Caldwell, takes on the lead role of Becky who is a newly-pregnant schoolteacher on summer break. She has recently moved to a village in the country with her husband John (Richard Davies from Channel 10’s Offspring) who seems like the ‘perfect man’. He cooks, cleans, reads baby books and caters for most of Becky’s needs. Sigh. Right, ladies? Wrong. Becky’s sex drive is going through the roof due to pregnancy hormones, while John is off the boil.

In a 2011 interview at theatreVOICE, Skinner said she found plenty of evidence on the internet “that men go off sex during their partner’s pregnancy”. Therein lies the rub. Becky buys a bike from a local, the womaniser and eccentric Oliver (comedian/actor Matt Dyktynski), and they soon embark on an intense sexfest. They agree this is a temporary fling while Oliver’s wife is away. But the true course of rampant sex, fulfilling previously unsated fantasies, never did run smooth. As my plus one said: “Life is not a porno”.
But what happens if it becomes one?

The play brings into question both gender roles and stereotypes, and conventional expectations of men and women in relation to sex and marriage, and the cast teases out the dark shadows of the characters’ desires into the full force of daylight. Caldwell as Becky is enthralling, though her performance was a little self-conscious at times in contrast to Davies and Dyktynski. I felt the latters’ experience in naturalistic acting in film and TV meant they gave more authentic and relaxed performances here. And while there is an initial charm to their characters, the actors gradually reveal that John and Oliver aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Nor is Becky but Caldwell carefully explores the fact she is more aware that she is going through life pretending and feeling like an imposter in her own existence.

This production has a lot of simulated sex acts which it’s easy to be blasé about when we have easy access to so much internet and film porn. But theatre sex is different to filmed sex and not everyone will be comfortable with it. If that is you, perhaps just ask for tickets further up the back.

The Village Bike at Red Stitch is definitely worth seeing though because it keeps you talking and thinking long after the lights go down.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear of 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East
Dates: Until March 5, 2016
Tickets: $25-$45
Booking: redstitch.net

Image by Jodie Hutchinson