Tag: Keith Brockett

Kin Collective Presents SHRINE

Intelligent and invested production of Winton’s play

By Tania Herbert

Starting with an Acknowledgement of Country and transitioning straight into an Australianism-filled train-of-thought dialogue, it was immediately evident that we were in the theatre with one of Australia’s most celebrated writers, Tim Winton. Shrine is one of Winton’s three Western Australian-based plays, presented by Kin Collective and directed by Marcel Dorney.

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The script content is not happy fare, telling the story of teenager Jack Mansfield (Christian Taylor) and his untimely death from a car accident that his bratty and drunk grammar-school friends (Nick Clark and Keith Brockett) manage to walk away from unscathed. His grieving parents (Chris Bunworth and Alexandra Fowler) find themselves struggling to come to terms with both their loss and their disbelief at the events as related by his school mates.

The catalyst come through interactions with June (Tenielle Thompson), an enigmatic and almost ghost-like character, who appears to Jack’s father Adam. She offers the chance for him to gain a last insight into his son, as she tells stories of moments from her long-term school-girl crush on Jack.

The central character of Adam – a stoic, grieving father filled with barely-contained rage – was masterfully captured by TV and theatre veteran Bunworth. The emotional range of both character and actor were engaging and believable, driving both the story and the emotion. Thompson as June plays counterpoint to his layers of emotional depth with a likeable and steady performance.

Dorney’s staging greatly added to the allure of the play, with the brick shrine centre stage functioning poignantly as prop, emotional barrier, or transitional object. This, with the heavy proscenium border and ambient soundtrack made the performance space reminiscent of a live cinema, with characters stepping from screen into the audience, beautifully capturing the theme within the play of moving between life and fiction.

The build-up and resolution were unpredictable, nuanced and somehow satisfying, in typical-Winton style. However, unfortunately there are serious eye-rolls evoked by the storyline’s gender stereotyping (quite touchingly reflected upon by the director in his program notes), with female characters presented only as passive recipients of abuse and grief. There was little Fowler could do with the character of Mary Mansfield as the wailing wife, who appears only to howl, berate her husband and embark on soliloquies of childbirth and motherhood. Her one short scene of a sweet memory with Jack is the only time she gets to be her own woman, and becomes a particularly moving moment of performance. The sections of stunted, overlapping sentences typical of Winton felt a little unnatural as more prose than dialogue – though the director used them to advantage, giving a lofty Greek-chorus feel to the unwinding of the tragedy.

Thus despite some script limitations, the direction and performances here are strong, the play engaging, and the lighting (designed by Kris Chainey) is just gorgeous. Fortyfivedownstairs was the perfect venue for a dive into what lies under the surface of Australian culture in Shrine.

Shrine is on at fortyfivedownstairs, May 24 – June 18, Tuesday – Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm.

Bookings: 02 9662 9966 or online at  http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/shrine-tim-winton/.

Ticket price: $30-45.

N.B. Shrine is part of 2017 VCE Drama Studies Unit 3 Curriculum – Thurs 1, 8 & 15 June 11am school matinees are for school groups only.

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REVIEW: Hoy Polloy Presents MEEKA

True crime meets fiction

By Narelle Wood

Meeka is a tale of fraud, deceit, arsen and a brutal attempt at murder told with all the straight-talking humour you would expect from a play set in the outback.

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The storyline focuses on a local school pricipal John (Kevin Summers) who is trying to do the best he can with his small isolated community school. However dealing with budgetary issues becomes a bigger burden than he had bargained for, especially when the city folk in the department send auditor Kevin (Keith Brockett) up to Meeka to check the school’s finances. John is not fooled by the apparent routineness of the audit and is determined to watch the Kevin’s every move. To complicate issues John’s relationship with his staff is on tenter hooks for a whole range of reasons, including issues of favouritism and power plays, that potentially implicate his staff in the alleged fraud. When Kevin arrives all seems to be going well, but bit by bit things slowly start to unravel ending with Kevin’s head blending profusely, Kevin claiming John tried to kill him, and John professing self defence. Under normal circumstances that would be a spoiler, however Meeka is based on a true crime, so the focus is not so much on the murder attempt but the events leading up to the heinous crime and who exactly is responsible.

The cast is full of wonderful Aussie archetypes: the straight-talking, no-holds-barred woman Eileen (Kelly Nash); the quintessential bloke PE teacher Tom (Liam Gillespie); the uptight English teacher Tiffany (Christina Costigan); and the primary school teacher Bec (Claire Pearson) with a hint of rebellion behind her caring demeanour. It is superbly cast, each performance complimenting Dan Walls‘ dialogue which is witty, and generally well paced. There was quite a colourful array of explicit language used throughout, sitting naturally alongside the very Australian twangs and colloquialisms of many of the characters. Under Shaun Kingma‘s direction there is complete authenticity to each of the performances, and the transitions between scenes are fast and make great use of the large space and simple sets.

If there was one thing that perhaps didn’t work as well for me was the middle section; it seemed to lag a little in comparison to the snappiness of the beginning and end. That aside, Meeka is a strangely funny take on some very dark subject matter; what makes the narrative work is the humour comes from the characters and not the situation. An exceptionally well-written and executed play.

Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 14th February, 8pm, 3pm Sundays
Tickets: Full $38
Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events