Tag: Kevin Dee

REVIEW: The Seven Ages of Joyce for BLOOMSDAY

Piecing together the broken life of a brilliant man

By Ross Larkin

It is, at first, anyone’s guess as to what one can expect from The Seven Ages of Joyce, a theatrical exploration of the life of Irish novelist and poet, James Joyce for this year’s  Bloomsday in Melbourne Festival.

Best known for his 1922 novel Ulysses, many (with the exception of Joyce aficionados), may not be aware of the controversy his work attracted, largely due to his use of obscenities and interest in the abject.

bloomsday-in-melbourne

This fact alone, however, suggests a (potentially) very dry two hours of biographical examination indeed, and it was fair to wonder if much padding might be required to sustain such an engagement.

Yet, perhaps surprising to us all is the extent of Joyce’s irreverent and quirky personality, and moreover, the bloodline of torment and mental dysfunction from which he came.

Undoubtedly, director Wayne Pearn faces a challenge in staging a fragmented re-telling of Ulysses along with Joyce’s writing process and life throughout. Incidental characters are rife, as is Joyce’s famous stream-of-consciousness in a dialogue-heavy and, at times, erratic production.

Fortunately, Pearn’s casting alone saves The Seven Ages of Joyce from a potentially immediate death, for this character driven-play with music and singing relies on extraordinarily versatile actors, who must decipher and showcase some heartily challenging text and structure.

Much of his cast of nine require the skill and commitment to interchange between as many as ten characters, consistently manipulating vocal tone, accent, physicality and objective – an assignment for only the brave and experienced performer.

Kevin Dee, as the novelist in question, faces the arduous task of writing out loud and recalling passages at great length, yet does so with ease, while Corrine Davies and Stephanie Lillis, who play a variety of the major female roles, excel at moving between comic charisma and gut-wrenching tragedy.

The supporting cast, however, not only compliment and genuinely support the leads, they provide a much-needed injection of pace and spice, with outstanding performances throughout.

With a simple backdrop, ambient lighting, and intermittent live music and song, the players and creators of The Seven Ages of Joyce manage to bring to life eccentric individuals, manic colour and heartbreaking drama.

The Seven Ages of Joyce opens tonight at 7.30pm, and thereafter on Saturday June 15 at 6pm and Sunday June 16 at 1pm and 6pm.
45 Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs.com or 03 9662 9966.

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Review: OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME

A brave war effort in theatre

By Anastasia Russell-Head

This new Melbourne production of Frank McGuinness’ iconic play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme visually transports us to another place and time.

From the moment we entered the theatre space at the Brunswick Mechanics’ Institute and were confronted with a mist-shrouded cross-shaped catwalk-style stage, the somber palette and earthy textures of World War I set the mood very effectively.

Telling the story of eight young Northern Irish soldiers who are thrown together by circumstance, and who must navigate their own fears and prejudices, this play is compelling in its subject-matter but yet left me strangely unsatisfied. There were some fine performances from the ensemble cast, who bravely took up the challenge of the Irish accents, and Dan Walls is to be commended for his portrayal of the subversive Kenneth Pyper. Nicholas Brien also showed depth and sensitivity as the young blacksmith David Craig.

The play itself is a little heavy-handed – as The Guardian’s Michael Billington writes, McGuinness puts an “excessive emphasis on an apparent Ulster death-wish”. The shortcomings in the script, coupled with perhaps some lack of subtlety in direction, prevented this story from fulfilling its potential to be truly moving. Lighter comedic moments really hit the mark, however, evoking genuine laughs from the audience, and providing a bitter-sweet counterpoint to the main plot.

Visually and spatially this production is quite successful. Having the audience in the round gives visual depth and interesting angles from which to view the action, and I enjoyed the surprising moments of intimacy which this offered. This stage layout is of course much more challenging for sight lines and lighting – a challenge that was generally met very well.

Hoy Polloy has taken the challenge of a tough ensemble play – a work not without its flaws – and has produced a solid production supported by an excellent cast of young actors. If you want to see the next generation of leading men strut their stuff, this is the show to see.

Featuring: Nicholas Brien, Angus Brown, Karl Cottee, Kevin Dee, Mathew Gelsumini, Tosh Greenslade, David Passmore, Ian Rooney & Dan Walls

Season runs until 13 August, 8pm Tue to Sat

Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre (cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rd, Brunswick)

$30 /$24/$20 Tue

Bookings www.trybooking.com

 Enquiries 9005 6734