Tag: Kate Cole

Red Stitch Presents INCOGNITO

Outstanding

By Myron My

The expression ‘the mind works in mysterious ways’ rings true in the stunning new work by Red Stitch Actors Studio. In its Australian premiere, Nick Payne’s Incognito – a poignant play about the brain, Albert Einstein and love – is a beautiful exploration of how our minds do work and how we use memories to create our identity and become the people we are.

Jing-Xuan Chan & Kate Cole_Incognito_7468.jpg

The story focuses on three non-linear narratives, two of which are centred on real people. Thomas Harvey is the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Albert Einstein and became obsessed with what could be revealed from research into his brain. The second story based on fact is of Henry Molaison, a 27 year old-man who – after an operation to cure his epilepsy – lost his short-term memory which left him unable to remember the detail of conversations he had been having seconds earlier. The third story meanwhile revolves around a fictitious neuro-psychologist, Martha, who has a somewhat nihilistic view on identity and memories.

Incognito‘s narrative structure can be a puzzle to piece together, but as the story progresses, the relationships and links between characters and scenes gradually becomes apparent. Through the astute direction of Ella Caldwell and Brett Cousins, the pace is fast enough to keep momentum building and have you engrossed in the scenes playing out, but slow enough to ensure you never get left behind. The snap changes from scene to scene are executed perfectly and supported by Tom Willis‘ insightful lighting design.

The cast of four deliver accomplished performances in their portrayal of both the central characters and the eighteen additional ones, with each actor taking on between four to six roles. Ben Prendergast as pathologist Thomas brings forth a nuanced performance and Prendergast’s ability to show Thomas at varying stages of his life are a testament to his skill as an actor. Paul Ashcroft is heart-breakingly marvelous as Henry, as he obliviously remains stuck in an eternal time warp. Guest actor with the company Jing-Xuan Chan is also brilliant as both Henry’s long-suffering wife Margaret and as Lisa, a woman who finds herself in a relationship with Martha, played by Kate Cole. Cole brings to the surface the complexities of Martha’s history and views on life with ease but it is in her  evocative portrayal of Evelyn, the adopted granddaughter of Albert Einstein, where she really shines.

With the scenes that take place spanning various cities and time periods, dialect coach Jean Goodwin ensures that subtle differences are picked up on, and each actor does an incredibly skillful job in their convincing accents and being able to switch between them at the drop of a hat. With the story moving through the years, this achievement is also a great indicator of time passing by and allows us to relocate events in some order.

Chloe Greaves‘ remarkable set design perfectly captures the essence of Payne’s play. A piano rests just off centre-stage, its lid has exploded from its place and hanging in mid air, frozen in time. From inside the piano, black string spills out, reaching the ceiling and walls that results in a spider web-like cave and giving an artistic interpretation of how the brain operates. 

Incognito is an intelligent exploration of the brain, memories and identity: about knowing who you are and in some cases, about not knowing who you are. It may be a play that demands we pay attention, and perhaps ironically, puts our brain into overdrive, but it is also an extremely rewarding experience to be seeing theatre of such a high standard performed locally.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
Season: Until 13 August | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $49 Full | $34 Senior | $28 Student | $25 Under 30s

Bookings: Red Stitch Actors Theatre

Image by Theresa Noble Photography

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REVIEW: Luckiest Productions Presents SWEET CHARITY

Your friends should see this now

By Bradley Storer

Luckiest Productions’ Sweet Charity has made its way to Melbourne after successful sell-out seasons in Sydney and Canberra. This Helpmann Award-winning production more than lives up to expectations with a dark revisionist exploration of this Broadway classic.

Sweet Charity 2015 photo Jeff Busby_2

Verity Hunter-Ballad in the title role of Charity Hope Valentine brings a refreshing touch of normality and relatability. The audience is always aware, beneath the zany and perky exterior, of the real flesh and blood human that Charity is. She also dances up a storm and brings exquisite vocal mastery to all of Charity’s songs, unleashing a full-throttle and soul-rending performance in the despairing ‘Where Am I Going?’. Martin Crewes shows surprising versatility as the various men in Charity’s life – at first showing seductive charm and gallantry as the charismatic Italian movie star Vittorio Vidal, then later morphing into the neurotic but lovable Oscar Lindquist, with a similar vocal transformation from operatic tenor to contemporary character singing.

The bare-bones production, under the direction of Dean Bryant, is unafraid to show the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of this seemingly comedic musical. The female ensemble are depicted closer to the prostitutes of Fellini’s original film than the taxi dancers of the Broadway musical, stuck in an eternal cycle of degradation and poverty that they’ve given up on escaping – most touchingly rendered in Nickie (Debora Krizak) and Helene (Kate Cole)’s by turns cynical and hopeful duet ‘Baby, Dream Your Dream’. Even Charity’s Act One comedic tour de force, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’, is performed in a single light surrounded by darkness, as if suggesting the continual threat of the despair kept at bay by Charity’s hopefulness and optimism.

Cy Coleman’s classic Broadway score and Bob Fosse’s signature choreography are both thrillingly modified here to service the new production – new arrangements of music bring in such contemporary sounds as electric guitar, drums and synthesizer that drastically shift the feel of Coleman’s music to the modern. The famous ‘Hey Big Spender’ becomes less of a brassy Broadway belter and more like the guttural, dirty rock music of a strip club in the early hours. The ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ is transformed through the wonderfully imaginative choreography of Andrew Hallsworth into an angular and frenetic vision of a hideously modern New York party, and the psychedelic hippy celebration of ‘The Rhythm of Life’ into a rock-gospel revivalist meeting that sees most of the cast naked by the end.

The most drastic change is the very last scene, stripping away any pretensions to Broadway brightness with Hunter-Ballad’s achingly vulnerable and raw performance and an ending so shocking and unexpected that it leaves the audience dumb-founded. Such a dark and revelatory vision of a classic Broadway musical make this production of Sweet Charity a must see!

Venue: The Playhouse, Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

Dates: 25th February – 7th March

Times: WednesdaySaturday 8pm, Tuesday 7pm,  Matinees: Thursday 26 February, 1pm, Saturday 28 February, 2pm, Sunday 1 March, 3pm, Saturday 7 March, 2pm

Tickets: Tickets from $79.90, Under 30s concession pricing $30

Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, at the box office.

Image by Jeff Busby

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS

An utter delight

By Caitlin McGrane

It’s not often one sees a play (or a film, or a TV show) where a straight white man is considered tokenistic: Jumpers for Goalposts gives us that and so much more. Director Tom Healey expertly presents Tom Wells’ sharp, sensitive and uproariously funny script. It tells the story of a five-a-side gay, lesbian and transgender football tournament in Hull as one team, the Barely Athletic, attempt to win/come second/come third/have a team at all.

The team consists of Beardy (Ray Chong Nee), Viv (Kate Cole), Danny (Johnathan Peck), Luke (Rory Kelly) and Joe (Paul Denny). The development and story arc of each character is equal parts witty and poignant. Each performer steps up to and meets the mark with buckets of humour, despite the heaviness of the themes.

2014 Jumpers for goalposts It’s extraordinarily rare that HIV, death and sexuality can be dealt with so clearly without anyone really uttering any of those words. In addition, the diversity on stage is a marked change from the endless parade of straight white male narratives to which we are all so accustomed; Beardy got all the best lines and Joe was almost relegated to the sidelines (puns intended).

The set and costumes designed by Jacob Battista were fantastic – the locker room in which the entire play takes place really belonged on a dodgy estate in England’s northeast. Lighting designed by Clare Springett strategically washed out the stage and gave the performers the sickly fluorescent sheen of a team worn out. Healey’s directorial vision and the efforts of stage manager Rebekah Gibbs are definitely something to write home about as the whole show (some slightly dodgy pronunciation aside) hung together flawlessly . This is a thoroughly enjoyable and truly romantic production: I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jumpers for Goalposts is now showing at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre on Chapel St in St Kilda until 20 December. Tickets available at: http://redstitch.net/gallery/jumpers-for-goalposts/.

Review: CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION

Poignant and personal theatre at its best

By Kate Boston Smith

MTC’s production of Circle Mirror Transformation is sleek, perfectly timed and beautiful.  American writer Annie Baker has crafted a poignant play about four unlikely characters signed up for a six-week acting course.  Director Aidan Fennessy has stripped back any of the hyperbole of theatre and left us with real characters and situations that we can relate to and truly care about.

© Photo by Paul Dunn

Set in the dream-catcher that is a community college, short, sharp scenes are played out over the duration of the acting course.  The classes are run by the free-spirited, enthusiastic Marty played by Deidre Ruberstein who guides her four students, shy sixteen-year old Lauren (Brigid Gallacher), recently divorced Schultz (Ben Grant), femme fatale Theresa (Kate Cole) and James (Roger Oakley) her dutiful husband.

The group runs through a range of abstract acting exercises that help them focus in and open up to the task at hand.  Absolutely absurd to watch, the audience, (who have likely participated in these kind of games at acting school or corporate team-building days) delighted in seeing these activities played out on stage. Baker combines numerous moments of stillness with snappy dialogue that unravels the story with exact precision.  We watch as these five characters open and connect like flowers on a vine. 

© Photo by Paul Dunn

Casting is divine, with direction that was perfectly timed.  Staging and props were kept to a minimum, which was ideal for this situation as smaller moments were not lost in the wash of production.   There were several times where a mere eyebrow raised by Theresa or slight head drop from Schultz could bring the audience to tears.  It was the combination of these minute physical details and extremely considered conversations between characters that wove a rich and seamless show

Particularly heart-warming are the different points through the piece when one character introduces themself as another, describing who they are, what they do and why they are enrolled in the class.  At these instances we see not only how a character has viewed a fellow classmate, but also the empathy they share with them.   Watching, we are reminded of when we have put ourselves into vulnerable situations and how a little encouragement has meant the world or an unlikely friend  – or a moving theatre experience – can warmly affect our lives.

Melbourne Theatre Company presents
Circle Mirror Transformation
by Annie Baker

Director Aidan Fennessy

Venue: The MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio | 140 Southbank Blvd Southbank, VIC
Dates: August 17 – September 17, 2011
Tickets: from $35 (Under 30s $25)
Bookings: MTC Theatre Box Office (03)8688 0800 | mtc.com.au