Tag: La Mama Theatre

REVIEW: La Mama Presents TRUE LOVE’S SIGHT

A taste of a working Shakespearean reworking

By Myron My

The great thing about La Mama’s Explorations season is that it gives artists the opportunity to present works in various stages of development. It might be the first time it is staged to an audience or a scripted reading. In the case of True Love’s Sight, we see a number of segments from their upcoming immersive theatrical experience.

True Loves Sight

Taking place inside the walls of Athens, the work, created by Michaela Bedel and Nikki Brumen, is inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We meet a number of characters from the play, including Theseus, Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius. William Ewing, Doug Lyons and  Tamzen Hayes do well with their characters and are confident enough in making their interactions with the audience seem genuine and spontaneous.

At one point, Helena grabs three audience members – including myself on the night in question – and takes us into a shed, where she professes her undying love for Demetrius. Helena dictates a poem for me to write, as Demetrius will not read it if it is in her handwriting. It’s an enjoyable few minutes that allows the three audience members to gain special insight into Helena and subsequently Demetrius. My attempt at passing the poem to Demetrius is quite an enjoyable one.

There is potential for True Love’s Sight to be quite a memorable show, however with only 25 minutes of the production’s current material being performed, it is difficult to get a real idea of what its creators’ intentions are or where it is headed. Even ten more minutes would probably have provided some more basic framework and understanding for the audience, for just as we were becoming more involved with the story, it abruptly comes to end.

The one thing that needs to be ensured for successful immersive theatre however is that no matter in what group the audience members end up or what story they experience, they must still be able to piece a general plot and appreciate its intersecting storylines and the motivations of its characters. From what was witnessed in this performance, True Love’s Sight seems to be going down the right path. 

True Love’s Sight was performed at La Mama Theatre between 4 – 6 December.

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REVIEW: La Mama Presents BEERS AND TREES

Promising new work ponders who needs to save the world

By Myron My

Performed as part of La Mama Theatre’s 2015 Explorations season and developed with the assistance of Theatre 451, Beers and Trees by Allee Richards is a humorous yet thoughtful look at not only what makes a person strive for good, but what makes a ‘good’ activist and just how important this activity is. We all want to change the world and make it better for everyone, but we also want to be happy and fulfilled by our own needs and desires. It’s a fine balancing act to get it just right and the question of where this balance lies is what the five characters presented here attempt to answer.

Beers and Trees

Adrian Del-Re is the standout performer in the cast, with his portrayal of Brad being highly natural, nuanced and convincing. The delivery really highlights the comfort that Del-Re has found with this character, and his scenes with Julia Hanna (Ruby) are the most entertaining of the show. Playwright Richards has succeeded admirably in finding clear voices for these two characters, and really fleshing them out.

Relatively new to the independent theatre scene, Luke Costabile delivers a solid performance as Wes who, despite his activist ways, is just as confused as everyone else. The script falters a little in the development of Violet and Isaac (Caitlin Lavery and A.J Steele) however. While the two performers do well dealing with their characters, I found much of their dialogue didn’t seem to drive the point that was trying to be made, and the conversations ending up being more of a tool for Violet and Isaac to antagonise each other.

The direction by Lisa Inman and Tref Gare is consistent throughout, with meaningful actions and body language opening the possibility for much interpretation. With regards to plot however, Beers and Trees starts out strongly, but towards the final stretch it does become a little confusing and too wordy. The climax is missing a strong build-up and the abrupt ending goes against the mood the rest of the show seems to have so carefully focused on.

I am eager to see how Beer and Trees progresses in its next incarnation. With a few small changes in the storyline and some characters, there is potential for this to be a stronger and even more engaging production all round.

Beers and Trees was performed at La Mama Theatre between 6 – 8 November 2015.

Image by Ed Gorwell

REVIEW; La Mama Theatre Presents US

Polished and poignant new work

By Myron My

Presented as part of La Mama Theatre‘s Explorations season of works in various stages of development, Margaret Hickey’s Us provides an insight into six very different lives bound by one thing in common, a connection to others. Through six ten-minute monologues, these stories are explored in a light-hearted yet truthful way that has us questioning what it is we are seeking from other people.

Us

Hickey has struck gold in assembling the cast that she has for this show. Natalie Carr, Travis McMahon, Ned Napier, Daniel Rice, Sally-Anne Upton and Janet Watson Kruse all find the essence of their characters and their individual displays of equal bravado and vulnerability are perfectly captured. It is clear that each has put in much thought as to how their particular character carries themselves, and their individual state of mind.

Of course, the great acting is complemented by Hickey’s strong writing. Each story begins somewhat predictably with the actors playing to the stereotype of their character, however Hickey creates a twist to each story that has us considering these people in a very different light. There is an incredible emotional depth to the monologues that allows us to connect with each and every story.

Hickey ensures the idea of an “us” is felt throughout the show and highlighted by her call-backs and references to the other monologues. There are a number of characters who mention football or scrap-booking for example, and at one point, Upton refers to herself as an “old bird” and soon after we are introduced to Rice’s character who is a bird-watcher. It is this elegant attention to the smaller things that help make Us such a rich and rewarding piece of theatre.

The direction by Matthew Emond further pushes this idea of interconnectedness with all characters remaining on stage for the whole show. They are always present, surrounding the individual whose story it is, watching and listening just as intently as we are.

It’s hard to believe Us still a work in development because this production seems to be almost flawless. It is a beautiful piece  that explores humanity and what it is that connects us with other people. You can’t help but walk out of the theatre feeling like there is no longer an I or you or him or her or them but a we, that despite our differences, we really are an us.

Us was performed between 16 – 18 October at La Mama Theatre.

Image by Mary Helen Sassman

REVIEW: La Mama Presents ALPHA

Word play and body art evoke and emote

By Myron My

In this day and age, queer identity is more important than ever. Or is it? In Sebastian Robinson and Tamara Natt’s 2015 Melbourne Fringe production Alpha, the two performers explore the idea of what modern-day queer identity looks like – and if it actually exists. Through poetry, movement, music and sound, the two create a world where the roles we choose to take on in life are revealed and questioned.

Alpha

Robinson and Natt appear on an empty stage, dressed in matching white shoes and black tracksuit outfits. They spend the next 50 minutes creating some beautiful visuals for us not only through their soft and fluid movements and exploration of the space but also through their words. From a Britney Spears song to an Auslan interpretation of a Delta Goodrem song to one of their original works of poetry, Alpha shows how words can do so much to an environment even when you are staring at a relatively empty stage.

Sound designer Milly O’Sullivan, is also on stage with the two performers, creating a live soundscape with her guitar that manages to quietly nestle its way into your mind. Whether it be accompanying the poetry being recited or the scene being acted out or the bodies moving on the stage, O’Sullivan’s sounds heighten every emotion and thought the audience are invited to experience.

At times however, I felt there was so much happening with Alpha and subsequently in my head, that it was difficult to fully grasp and appreciate all the ideas that were being presented. Perhaps this is the point that Robinson and Natt are trying to make with this work. Maybe there is no such thing as queer identity. Maybe the very concept is too big to grasp. There is no constant in the world so maybe we only need to be aware of our own personal identity to love and be loved. Either way, it’s worth your time seeing this show and coming to your own conclusions.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Season: Until 27 September | Thurs – Sat 10pm, Sun 6.30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: 
Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Adam J. Cass’ BOCK KILLS HER FATHER

Violence comes to light

By Myron My

My second play by writer Adam J. Cass during this 2015 Melbourne Fringe festival continues with his running critique of society and the treatment of its people. However, unlike the refugee theme of Fractured, Bock Kills Her Father contemplates the long-lasting effects a group of women must deal with after being at the mercy of one man.

Bock Kills Her Father

Penny Harpham‘s strong direction never allows the action on the small La Mama stage to become overwhelming or cramped, especially when there are five aggressive and angry characters on stage. The choreography for the fight scenes is executed well, with some very convincingly painful moments. There is only one time where the fight scenes disappoint and that is when Sarah (powerfully played by Annie Lumsden) is attacked. Due to the hardness of the adult women we had previously seen, it felt more like something young children would do to each other and as such, its intensity was lost.

Despite this, Cass has created a script that draws the audience into the pressure cooker of how a patriarchal society – and in this case, a cowering unseen man – still has the power to control these women’s lives. For the most part, the language is raw and authentic and I could not help but be reminded of Patricia Cornelius’s Shit, which played during MTC’s NEON season earlier this year. In fact, thematically Bock Kills Her Father could easily be appreciated as a natural prequel to Shit, in considering how the cycle of women being victims will continue to repeat itself if society does nothing.

These women however – the five actors on stage – do a great job in these physically and emotionally demanding roles. Emina Ashman, as the slightly unhinged D’Agostino, captures the attention of the audience in every scene she is in. Ashman’s portrayal is a perfect combination of endearing, annoying and incredibly frightening. Together with Marissa O’Reilly and Ruby Hughes (as Taylor and Chambers), the three women are all highly convincing in their characters and in their relationships with each other. I would have liked to see Emma Annand be pushed slightly more with difficult title character Bock, to ensure all her character’s choices seem genuine and not forced.

While Bock Kills Her Father isn’t the most polished of works, the grittiness and dirtiness of the world we find ourselves in makes this work in its favour. Nothing is ever going to be perfect for these women; they are unlikely to find inner peace and let go of their inner rage until those who have done them wrong are forced out of hiding and held accountable for what they have done. Bock Kills Her Father is an enthralling piece of Fringe theatre that has a lot to say about society’s treatment of women.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Season: Until 27 September | Wed 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: La Mama Presents IN SEARCH OF OWN ROE

Engrossing quest in mysteries past

By Margaret Wieringa

When Vanessa O’Neill gave birth to her son, she wanted to be able to share her proud Irish heritage with him, but soon discovered there was a big hole in her family history; her great grandfather Owen Roe was buried in an unmarked grave with his thirteen-year old daughter, and the rest of the family were buried nearby. Who was he? What was his life like? How did he end up there?

Vanessa O'neill

This one-woman show is a culmination of O’Neill’s research, her experiences and many aspects of her life during this time, and it is absolutely captivating. From the moment she first addresses the audience to her departure up the La Mama staircase, we are on her side. We too want to know who Owen Roe was and to see the charming and endearing (and very funny) O’Neill bring closure to this chapter.

Through the show, she plays a wide range of characters, cites poetry, and sings songs. She could easily have gone through the show without props or costumes, but those that she chose were a delightful touch. There were two pieces of art, one on either side of the stage; a map of Ireland and a family tree. These were beautifully designed by Annie Edney, the Celtic background that is so significant to this piece was clearly displayed in both.

The sound for the performance is extremely important (not including the lounge singing from across the road which was an annoyance that was, through the engaging performance, easy to ignore). In the opening scene, which I felt ran a little long though, the soundscape established a sense of history, or ghosts from the past haunting the research, haunting O’Neill. At times, the sound lead the performance, and other times sound designer and composer Darius Kedros added to the final touches to well-created scenes.

There were questions left unanswered (as much for the performer as the audience) which left us wanting more at the end, but overall this was a funny, emotional and clever performance by a strong and confident performer, and I really enjoyed myself.

In Search of Owen Roe is playing at La Mama Theatre In Faraday St, Carlton until July 5. Tickets are $15 and $25 – visit www.lamama.com.au

REVIEW: Annie Ferguson’s LITTLE DAUGHTERS

Stories of silence, speaking out and survival

By Myron My

There’s a strong sense of unease as I take my seat for Little Daughters. Having to walk through the seven motionless actors on the stage to get to my seat is quite eerie and almost intimidating. They are all dressed in black and with the stage bare and cloaked in black too, there is a dark mood that covers the room. The six men on stage stare intently at the sole woman: their eyes pierce through her skin as if they were daggers.

Little Daughters

It is never explicitly stated what happens to this woman (Annie Lumsden) but we get enough information to know that she is the victim of a sexual assault. The six men portray a doctor, boyfriend, friends and possible assailant. The one thing they all have in common though is their demand at controlling and handling the situation. While the men discuss the woman’s assault among them, they consistently talk at her when addressing the issue. The idea that she perhaps needs to forget about it and move on is thrown around, and there is an echo of doubt and frustration coming from them all, in particular the over-the-top portrayal of her doctor (Martin Can De Wouw), who is comically frightening in his assessment and treatment of Lumsden’s character.

Director Zachary Ruane delivers some great moments in his direction of Little Daughters: in particular, when having the men not only exit the stage at one point, but exit the room all together. Initially it’s down to Lumsden and Raymond Martini on stage. Again, while nothing is confirmed, you get the strong impression that his character is her assailant. It’s an ambiguously confronting moment that Ruane handles with great skill.

Ultimately it is once Martini leaves the room that Lumsden’s character can finally open up and speak freely about her experience and emotions. Sadly though, she can only feel like being honest when she is alone, when she is no longer being talked at or patronised or threatened by the men in her life. It’s a strange monologue but it shows the thought process and ideas that formulate in the mind of a survivor of sexual violence.

The reason it all feels so real and exposed is because playwright Annie Ferguson has based Little Daughters – her first full-length play – on her own personal experience with sexual violence. It’s an extremely brave piece that has been in formation for a number of years, that now generates the right amount of tension and exposition to slowly envelop us. Even though Lumsden’s character’s story is based on Ferguson’s experience, it could be anyone’s story, and we are all inside that story and we all need to start listening to survivors of sexual violence to bring that story to an end.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Season: Until 21 June | Wed 6:30pm, Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre