Tag: Kat Henry

REVIEW: Watch This Presents COMPANY

Stunning performances in superb production

By Adam Tonking

Stephen Sondheim can be tricky. His shows seem to be full of pitfalls to trap the unwary theatre company into poor choices, and Company is no exception. With no linear narrative, just a series of vignettes centred on marriage and relationships in New York and his usual densely layered music and finely wrought lyrics, there are a myriad of ways for this show to go off the rails. Fortunately, the cast and creative team behind Watch This’ Company are more than up to the challenge.
Company Photo Credit Jodie Hutchinson

The cast are sublime. The protagonist Robert is a difficult role to play; a mostly passive observer to the five married couples in his friendship circle, he still needs to build a rapport with the audience so they care when he stops for a moment of self-reflection. Nick Simpson-Deeks was perfect, engaged in every scene as the fulcrum around which the action takes place, charming and affable with a stunning voice: there could not have been a better choice for the dramatic lynchpin that carries the whole show.

But there were many beautiful performances from the rest of the cast also. Mark Dickinson as David in an early scene where he reveals a controlling side was absolutely chilling, Johanna Allen as Jenny brought a delightful schadenfreude and glorious voice to “Getting Married Today”, and Sally Bourne brought poignantly to life the difficult song “The Little Things You Do Together” as Joanne (a role which in another performer’s hands could have seemed like a mere mean drunk there simply to throw in the acerbic asides). These were a few of my favourite moments, but the whole cast were spectacular.

In fact, the creative team have likewise done a spectacular job. The choreography by Michael Ralph was inventive and finely detailed; in a show that doesn’t require big dance numbers, his choreography was clever and beautifully executed. Costume design by Zoe Rouse carefully managed a balance between current fashion and the 1970s era in which the show is set, while also cleverly colour-coding the married couples to help the audience manage visually the relationships between the characters.

One glaring problem with this production is the choice of venue. Unfortunately for a portion of the audience, the action was obstructed from view by poles or railings, which is a shame because the direction and staging was flawless. A sparse and economical set by Eugyeene Teh was transformed under the direction of Kat Henry into the multitude of locations required, and Henry’s tight direction kept the momentum going through the quietest of scenes. The creative team also made the brave choice to have the performers work without microphones, with mixed results. There is something so much more engaging and compelling, particularly in an intimate show like Company, to hear the performers under the musical direction of Lucy O’Brien without the filter of amplification, and in many moments in this production it was magnificent. Until the performer turns away from you and you’ve missed what they’re saying. Again, I confess I blame the choice of venue.

That said, I would dearly love to see this exact production again, preferably in a different venue, or at least in a better seat. This is Sondheim, after all, and Watch This have presented a brilliant production of Company. My suggestion is, see it, but make sure you choose your seating carefully. Actually – see it anyway. Because even from my seat next to the band where I couldn’t see half of the stage, I still loved it.

Watch This presents Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth is on at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, from September 16 till October 4. Tickets available at www.fortyfivedownstairs.com or by calling 03 9662 9966.

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Review: THIS TRICK (The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice)

To hell and back for love

By Myron My

Using the Greek myth but set in a contemporary world, This Trick invites us to be voyeurs to a very private moment for Orpheus and Eurydice, who are so in love with each other that the rest of the world is seen as a danger they do not wish to be engaged with.

I particularly enjoyed the contrast of passionate declarations of love intermingled with trivial domestic arguments such as leaving the milk out, thus allowing those simple moments to be more intense. Much of the emotional impact is to the credit of the two leads Penny Harpham and Matt Hickey, and their hypnotic performances.

This Trick

Both were very strong and capable in taking on these roles, and the scripted words flowed as naturally as any spontaneous conversation. The on-stage chemistry and level of intimacy between them was palpable, and comfortably portrayed their characters’ jealousies, insecurities and fears in giving themselves over completely to the person they love.

There is a fitting sense of visual minimalism in this production: the set  is mainly a white mattress and white curtains and some bottles of alcohol. The ethereal environment established by designer Hanna Sandgren is further alluded to with the leads also beginning in white clothing.

In contrast, the dynamic lighting design by Julia Knibbs helped emphasise the passion and enveloping darkness for the two lovers: casting many shadows on their faces and using firey red to show the fierce passion between the two reminded me very much of the related myth of Dionysus and the dangers of excess. The stagecraft and music throughout This Trick is also well-executed and you can feel a lot of work has been done on this by all involved including sound designer Jennifer Kingwell.

Writer and director Kat Henry of Stella Electrika has produced a piece of work that is sharp, witty and real – even though there are times the dialogue does reach extremes, it is perfectly fitting in This Trick. A very powerful production all round, and one that makes you question just how much love is too much love.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Season: Until 3 March | Tue, Wed 6.30pm | Thu, Fri, Sat 7.30pm | Sun 4.30pm & 6.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Concession

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au