Tag: John Sheedy

Theatre Works Presents LIFETIME GUARANTEE

Talented hard-working cast enliven new Australian play

By Myron My

Written by Ross Mueller, Lifetime Guarantee is a story shared by five characters whose lives intertwine as they seek love and connection in the modern world. Julian Dibley-Hall and Charles Purcell play Charles and Daniel, a couple living together who don’t seem to actually want to be with each other despite their protestations. Charlie’s new assistant Jodie has some interesting sexual predilections and Daniel’s ex-wife Chloe is trying to move on with her life. And then there’s Francis, whose interactions with each character seems to lead to situations in which they’d rather not be.

Lifetime Guarantee.jpg

Unfortunately Mueller’s script feels under-developed, with some questionable character motivations throughout. The cast themselves do well with their characters’ limited development, and with direction that seems surprisingly over-the-top, awkward and unnatural. Candace Miles manages to breathe some life into the aggrieved Chloe, bringing pleasing nuance to her portrayal. Izabella Yena as Jodie is initially full of spark and creates interest in her character, but once the assistant’s “secret” is revealed, Jodie immediately becomes one-note and repetitive where even Yena’s energy and effort is unable to make her relevant again.

Jodie’s revelation, while intended to create shock and intrigue, is just ridiculous, and there seems to be no purpose in having this transpire except to make some sex-related puns. Similarly, the scene involving Francis visiting Daniel to fix his broken washing machine is preposterous, and becomes merely a plot function to drive the story go down the path Mueller wants.

For me, John Sheedy‘s direction is often jarring and prevents any emotional connection being established, with even intimate moments feeling cold and artificial. Simple actions like entering and exiting from the same side of the stage break the realism and if the production goes to all the trouble of having a working shower on stage, why did they decide to have an actor pretend to spit out coffee from an empty cup?

What is interesting about Lifetime Guarantee is the level of importance that ‘models’ of things have:  Charlie and his model house signify the life he idealises, Jodie and her model cars are symbolic of the kind of love she desires, and there’s Jodie’s friend who has been offered a job to create a model of the Great Wall of China. The idea that everyone is trying to build these perfect lives for themselves with intricate and minute care, but end up ignoring the significance of the things happening around them is fascinating, but sadly never fleshed out.

Lifetime Guarantee attempts to examine modern life and the ways people experience loneliness and struggle to connect with others. Unfortunately the writing and direction here cannot inspire any deeper thought beyond the surface of themes that have been staged many times before.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 26 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm 

Tickets: $38 Full | $30 Conc 

Bookings: Theatreworks

Photo by Pier Carthew

REVIEW: Melbourne Festival Presents THE RABBITS

Powerful and poignant family opera

By Rachel Holker

Based on the acclaimed picture book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, and the winner of several Helpmann Awards, The Rabbits (adapted and directed by John Sheedy) comes with high expectations and does not disappoint. An unsubtle commentary on the colonisation of Australia and the consequences for the people and the environment, this production for Melbourne Festival 2015 is no pantomime for the kids.

The Rabbits

The story remains very close to the original text, with the addition of Bird (Kate Miller-Heidke) as a narrator of sorts, calling on high various warnings and dire predictions yet pointlessly declaring her inability to assist with the Marsupials plight as the Rabbits invade.

The Rabbits is masterpiece of staging and design. Tan’s illustrations are utilised sparingly, yet effectively to portray the land of the Marsupials and the encroaching impact of the Rabbits. The costumes (Gabriela Tylesova) cross the line into puppetry and are so emotionally effective (the Marsupials in particular are gorgeously haunting) that the performers’ own faces become superfluous.

Miller-Heidke’s score is very good and, the small orchestra on stage was a delight – I would have liked to see even more of their interactions with the other players. All the performances were strong, especially the Marsupials Hollie Andrew, Jessica Hitchcock and Lisa Maza who brought genuine grief to some heartrending scenes.

The libretto is a touch uneven and jarring at points, particularly where it tries to play to the adults in the audience. This was not necessary and detracted from the story rather than lightening the mood as was the intent. However where the words and music combine at key emotional points is where The Rabbits excels.

I hope The Rabbits represents the beginning of a trend in children’s productions that speak up rather than down to their audience.

Tickets to The Rabbits, produced by Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company, in Melbourne are sold out.
Sydney performances:14-24 January, Roslyn Packer Theatre, $47-$98

Bookings: https://opera.org.au/whatson/events/detail?prodid=113130

By Abbey age 11.

I really liked The Rabbits, but it was really sad at some parts. The costumes were amazing and the way they used their headdresses’ mouths when the Rabbits were drinking tea, instead of their own, was really cool. The use of props was awesome with some reaching the top of the stage such as the boat.

The story was told extremely well with one of the Marsupials from the book replaced by a narrating bird and I thought that was effective. The interpretation of the book was really good for the book has no dialogue, but the show does. The character’s speeches were made up but what they said still made sense to the story. The operatic side was amazing but loud.

I wouldn’t recommend this for young kids because it is so sad and emotional.