Tag: Kate Brennan

REVIEW: Barking Spider Visual Theatre’s PSYCHOPOMP & SEETHING

Down into dream worlds

By Myron My

Barking Spider Visual Theatre has consistently created shows and performances that have a lingering effect on their audiences. Collaborating with MUST (Monash Uni Student Theatre), their newest production Psychopomp & Seething delivers on this reputation yet again. In two short pieces, they transport the audience to two very different dream-like worlds that are paradoxically calming yet unsettling.

Psychopomp & Seething

The audience seating area has been specifically designed for this show and only seats twenty people in its very intimate structure. As we take our seats, the doors close in on the stage, boxing us in, and we begin to move. Yes, the seating bank moves. With nothing but a blue spotlight sporadically shining above us, I get images of the boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the hurricane from The Wizard of Oz, which is fitting as this is the type of intriguing experience I’ve come to expect from Barking Spider.

Once we “arrive” at our “destination”, the doors open to Seething. The stage is bare except for a woman (Vanessa O’Neil) standing in a lit up sound booth. She begins reading a poem revolving around sex, the body and image. As she begins, a person (Kate Brennan) appears from the darkness and brings her words to life through dance and movements. Brennan is like a marionette to O’Neil’s words and there is a strong sense that the two need to co-exist in order to be here. The words spoken have a lingering effect on my mind and I find myself lost and overcome by the visual and aural beauty on stage.

Upon its conclusion, the doors are shut and we are transported to Psychopomp, which has a very different feel to Seething. This is a two-by-two square box stage, with each square occupied by a performer (James Cerche, Nicola Grear, Aislinn Murray and Lindsay Templeton). In a whimsical setting reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, the four individuals recount their own experiences with death where, as in the previous piece, they are bound together yet separated from each other.

The stunning set designs, detailed costuming and makeup, and strong performances in particular by Murray and Templeton, make Psychopomp highly memorable. However, I feel more clarity was needed with the narrative. It took quite some time to understand who these characters were and what their story was. After the audience being so visually overwhelmed, with a 30-minute show there is a need to be more direct and clear with the story.

While walking home after the show, and even as I write this review, there is still much of Psychopomp & Seething that remains in my thoughts. The fact that this is not the type of theatre that leaves you the next day makes it a must-see experience. Barking Spider constantly aim to produce original and unique theatre for its audiences, with no performance experience the same. It is risky but so far, they are hitting all the right spots.

Venue: La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton

Season: Until 1 March | Wed-Sat 6.30pm & 8pm, Sun 4pm & 5.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

 or 9347 6948

Image by Sarah Walker


Ambitious production of an Australian classic

By Myron My

Originally written in 1911, The Woman Tamer by Australian playwright Louis Esson has just been given a makeover over a 100 years later by RePlay Theatre for a limited run this week at The Owl and the Pussycat.

The play begins in the foyer of the theatre with a man and a woman (Jack Beeby and Clara Pagone) dressed in period costume, singing a song with a ukulele. However, they are also covered in ghoulish make-up and at the end of the song they guide us into the theatre. The two stand in the doorway strumming away until the doors close, evoking a strong and uneasy emotional response and offering a hint of the horror that is to come.


Unfortunately, I found the story very difficult to follow due to the overwhelming visuals: the choreographed ‘dances’, the make-up and costumes, the music and at times, the two completely different scenes occurring at the same time. Whilst all this was engaging and captivating to watch, it resulted in me losing a lot of the actual narrative.

Robert Reid‘s direction is strong overall, but does allows things to get a little convoluted and left us trying to figure out what’s going on. There are some profound themes in this play including an examination of domestic violence against women, so adding all these other layers and levels to it jeopardized the focus on the issues and created a haphazard experience for the audience.

However, the cast (Beeby, Pagone, Tom Molyneux and Kate Brennan) were quite skilled in their roles. This play is peopled with emotionally and physically-demanding characters, and they were all committed, with particular mention going to Beeby who seemed to relish his character and really gave it his all.

RePlay Theatre have succeeded in producing an interesting contemporary reinterpretation of the original text of The Woman Tamer, but  unfortunately have managed to also ostracize the audience in our endeavours to connect with the play.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 25 May | 7:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: http://www.owlandcat.com.au/thewomantamer.html