Tag: Lachlan Woods

REVIEW: Return Season of NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Seeking the adventure again

By Caitlin McGrane

The reimagined Hitchcock classic North by Northwest gets an excellent presentation at the Melbourne Arts Centre after its fantastically successful run in 2015.

North by Northwest 2.jpg

For those who don’t know, the story is that of Roger O. Thornhill (Matt Day), Madison Avenue advertising executive mistaken for the mysterious George Kaplan in The Plaza Hotel in New York; thus setting in motion a chain of events that takes Thornhill to the United Nations, Chicago, and Mount Rushmore. His partner in crime is Eve Kendall (Amber McMahon), an enigmatic femme fatale with whom Thornhill forms an instant connection on a train.

Writer Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips really have done a terrific job of bringing the classic film to the stage; Burns has successfully managed to tread the very fragile line between appreciating and replicating the original, especially given it is such a well-loved text. Hitchcock’s contemporality is appropriately heightened through clever direction from Phillips, so some of the uncomfortable and backwards politics of the 1950s can be seen through a modern lens.

The ensemble cast, comprised of Nicholas Bell, Ian Bliss, Lyall Brooks, Leon Cain, Sheridan Harbridge, Matt Hetherington, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Gina Riley, Lucas Stibbard and Lachlan Woods are all clearly having a ball. Harbridge, Llewellyn Jones and Riley all delivered standout performances, providing just the right number of nods and winks to the audience and some truly excellent accents. It would perhaps have been nice to see more chemistry between the two leads, and it sometimes felt to me like McMahon’s Eve was not as self-assured as her silver screen counterpart. But these minor critiques did not hamper my enjoyment of their respective performances.

It would be extraordinarily remiss of me not to mention the exceptional creative work from the backstage team. Nick Schlieper’s lighting and set design were joyously clever and funny, Ian McDonald’s composition and sound design catapulted me back in time to my first screening of North by Northwest, while Josh and Jess Burns’ innovative and hilarious use of video really stole the show. I shall never see Mount Rushmore the same way ever again.

To have a bad time watching North by Northwest would be an extremely difficult thing, and while this may seem like damning with faint praise I really would be surprised if anyone came out of seeing this production feeling anything but contented. Sometimes what I need is a big sugary treat from the theatre, and North by Northwest delivered deliciously comforting familiarity in spades. This is the second time I’ve seen the production, and it is the combination of joy, self-awareness and fun that makes this such a pleasure to watch.

North by Northwest is now showing at The State Theatre at the Arts Centre until 13 February 2016. More information and tickets from: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/theatre-drama/north-by-northwest-2016

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REVIEW: Jane Miller’s CUCKOO

Unsettling funny

By Narelle Wood

Cuckoo, written by Jane Miller and presented by 15 Minutes from Anywhere, is a dark comedy that delivers on both promises of darkness and humour. It’s an ordinary night, Mel and Leo are having an ordinary conversation until a knock at the door reveals the unexpected: the return of their long ago lost son J. Over the next 90 minutes the plot teeters on tragedy as it explores the effects of such monumental events on those involved.

Cuckoo

Miller’s script is something quite unique. Most of the dialogue seems like benign chatter, with characters often talking to themselves, and over the top of each. However this is actually a cleverly disguised ploy for plot exposition as each seemingly random utterance reveals small details about the characters, their relationships and how those relationships are shifting. Under Alice Bishop’s direction these layers of conversations are perfectly timed and interspersed with just the right amount of pause.

The lighting and character movement are also used to establish story and character dynamic. Lighting changes are used to denote flashbacks that only give glimpses into the past, never really revealing too much. And while the characters are always moving, it never appears too busy, but rather adds to the understanding of where this story is and perhaps where it is going.

The ensemble cast of Natalie Carr (Mel), Matthew Molony (Leo), David Kambouris (Dan) and Samuel Russo (J) are exceptional and just one more element that makes this play work so well. The chemistry between the cast heightens the uncomfortable feeling that something is not right and that perhaps one or more of the characters is being manipulative, but you’re never quite sure who or what they are up to. Russo’s portrayal of J is both infantile and calculating, which borders on the sociopathic and is completely intriguing.

The subject matter of Cuckoo could have been harrowing and potentially offensive. But instead what it accomplishes is an honest, unsettling and thoroughly humorous account of life in the face of tragedy. Everything about this play works, and I walked out slightly disturbed but thoroughly entertained.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 flinders lane
Season: 8th to 26th July
Tickets: Full $36 | Conc $28
Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs.com ph: 96629966

Image by Lachlan Woods

REVIEW: Heaven at LA MAMA

Teen drama tackles big issues

By Myron My

What happens when we die? What happens when we are confronted with death and begin to question our own mortality? Heaven attempts to deal with these questions when a young girl (Jessica Clarke) is killed by a bakery van and three classmates attempt to bring her back from the afterlife.

Heaven

It’s only been two years since Heaven was written but unfortunately it already has an outdated feel with regards to its language. I did not feel convinced 15-year olds speak like this – but perhaps I am way out of touch with the youth of today. I do understand what writer/director Kit Brookman was attempting to achieve here, but the switches from child-like behavior (playing with toy robots in one scene) to the characters dealing with profound issues like life after death ended up seeming contrived. The ending left me with many questions that did not necessarily need to be answered but would have benefited from having some clarity brought to them. 

I felt the characters could also have been developed more as they appeared to be mere familiar teen stereotypes: the nerd, the goth, the jock, and the brain. Having said that, the cast do their best (appropriately) to bring life to them. Lachlan Woods as Stewart was very good in displaying not only the jock’s bravado but also his emotional insecurities. Another special mention goes to Sarah Ogden, who brings some incredibly touching scenes to the stage as Sally.

Furthermore, there are a number of great ensemble moments in this play, in particular the séance between Max (Andre Jewson), Sally and Stewart, which has some genuinely funny dialogue. There is a good blend of humour and truth in Heaven, with the final scene being quite a touching one. 

On the technical side, the score by Tom Hogan and lighting design by Richard Vabre added strong emotive elements to the narrative. When used, they not only created an intimacy and the almost claustrophobic environment that Heaven required, but were able to increase the tension and heighten the mood of what was coming.

Heaven tries to cover a vast array of topics in the spectrum of life and death. Some it does quite well, and others it should have stayed away from. Overall, the admirable acting and production elements are let down by a story whose script doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street Carlton

Season: Until 2 June | Wed-Fri 8:30pm, Sat-Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://lamama.com.au or 9347 6142