Tag: Lisa Mibus

MTC Presents STRAIGHT WHITE MEN

Four blokes and one family Christmas

By Myron My

Upon entering Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre Melbourne, you can’t help but notice Candy Bowers as the Stagehand-in-Charge sitting up in her booth, playing some hip hop music, including Khia’s racy “My Neck, My Back”. As the music plays, she regularly glances over the audience while flicking through a newspaper, the back page emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter”. Considering we are about to see Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, a play about a family of the four eponymous men getting together for Christmas celebrations, the ruthless satire is punching us in the face, especially as she makes her way down to the stage and introduces us to the make-believe world.

Straight White Men.jpg

The “brotherly” chemistry between Hamish Michael, Luke Ryan and Gareth Reeves, as siblings Drew, Jake and Matt respectively, is undeniable. Their scenes together have a believable authenticity and you do feel like they have known each other for their entire lives. Michael in particular is a highlight as the youngest sibling, trying to help his family while trying not to be seen as the baby of said family. Ryan also impresses with his alpha-male banker who would prefer that the status quo under which he is comfortably living is not ruffled. Reeves as the oldest sibling offers an accomplished performance as a white man struggling to find his place in society and to not be seen as living off his privilege. Despite the other characters being louder and more animated than Reeves’, he manages to have a quiet but strong presence on stage. John Gaden as patriarch Ed, brings a nurturing and fragile depth to the man who only wants the best for his children.

The set and costume design is another impressive feat by Eugyeene Teh. While this is a little more conservative than what I’ve previously seen in his work (and this is due to the script itself), he captures the mood perfectly and once again is able to make the environment just as much of a character in the story as the four men on stage. Along with Lisa Mibus‘ intelligent lighting and David Heinrich‘s sleek sound design, all the elements come together seamlessly for Straight White Men.

While I enjoyed the show, especially the stellar performances from the cast, I feel Lee’s script ultimately lacked a deeper exploration of what these men are actually arguing about and the privilege they have, to really leave a mark. There are some extremely funny scenes and some that capture realistic sibling relationships, but the overall story seems to become preoccupied with this humour at the expense of the more powerful issues. It is clear Lee knows what she wants to say but possibly not how she wants to say it.

Straight White Men is an enjoyable performance, but this play ends up more a family Christmas dramedy than an intended piece of satire that will have people – mainly straight white men – questioning their privilege and perceiving how lucky they are.

Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3004
Season: Until 18 June | Mon – Tues 6.30pm, Wed 1pm, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8.30pm
Tickets: $39 – 77
Bookings: MTC

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REVIEW: Ben Noble in MEMBER

Powerful and lingering

By Myron My

Presented as part of the 2016 Midsumma Festival by Fairly Lucid Productions and directed by Casey Gould, Ben Noble‘s play Member was incited by the death of gay man Scott Johnson in 1988 when his body was found at the bottom of a cliff at Manly. Deemed a suicide, there has always been speculation that he was a victim of a gay hate-crime. However, this narrative focuses on Corey, your typical Aussie living in Manly with his wife and child. We follow Corey through various moments in his life that have led to where he is now: in a hospital room with his son lying unconscious, seemingly fighting for his life.

Member.jpg

 

Ben Noble is exemplary in his performance as Corey (and all the other characters he plays). From the very beginning, our eyes are glued on him and even as he begins to unravel and the truth becomes clearer, we still cannot look away. Corey is a complex character but Noble is able to bring some insight into his actions and thoughts while still holding him accountable for them.

There are some very difficult moments to watch in the show: not because of what’s happening on stage, but because of what’s happening in our head. Noble is so convincing with his delivery of the dialogue and the characters he creates that it is impossible to not begin visualising what is being described. You see the fear in the eyes of the victims with every insult slurred, you hear the moment when foot connects with rib, and you can almost feel the blood splatter from every strike to the face.

The lighting design by Lisa Mibus hones in on the intensity of the events and despite the empty space bar for a single chair, builds well on creating a claustrophobic environment. Jacob Battista‘s stage design that covering the entire floor in one sheet of silver gloss works perfectly in bringing more depth to the work. The watery mirrored surface not only captures Noble reflecting on his own behaviour and past, but also ensures the audience reflect on the community we live in and acknowledge that these things have happened and continue to happen.

Despite its set time period, Member could easily be describing topical events from current times with homophobic attacks on people of the GLBTIQ community still occurring when you consider that only last week a gay man was bashed in St Kilda Royal Botanical Gardens, and stickers were placed along Chapel St stating “Cure AIDS, Kick a Poofter to Death”.

Member is an important story that needs to be told. It’s important because it reminds us that no matter how far we have come as a community and as a society, we still have so much further to go before people such as Scott Johnson can feel safe in their community and in their homes. With a completely sold-out run, here’s hoping this show gets a second season some time soon.

Member was performed between 19 – 30 January at La Mama Theatre

Image by Derek McAlpin

Review: LOVE ME TENDER by Tom Holloway

An important story works to be told

By Myron My

Directed by Patrick McCarthy, Love Me Tender explores the aftermath of the Black Saturday fires and the effects it has had particularly on one man and his family.

Love Me Tender

I appreciate the adage “show, don’t tell” in theatre, so for me, this performance unfortunately consisted of too much telling. I find prolonged exposition hinders the involvement that an audience member can have with a piece and makes us less likely to care for or invest in the characters.  My other issue with this was that the characters tend to spend a lot of time talking about other people and offering very little about themselves, including remaining unnamed the whole time. The obvious effort to represent universal experiences here isn’t entirely successful.

That said, actors Nick Pelomis and James Tresise had great banter and rapport together. Their scenes are reminiscent of Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot, bordering on the absurd but giving some relief from the more serious mood at hand. Sarah Ogden also provides a strong yet subtle performance as the Mother.

Lisa Mibus has created a great lighting design for this production, and there were moments where the shadows on the background dominated the scene that was being played out, adding an atmospheric sense of macabre and impending doom to the story. The set design by Ashlee Hughes was also impressive; minimal and subtly used throughout, including a lone tree void of any life after a fire has gone through as its centrepiece.

Love Me Tender attempts to cover a variety of topics including bushfires, love, family and the sexualisation of teenage girls but it doesn’t all flow smoothly and you do get confused as to what is happening. The disjointed stories made this narrative difficult to follow.

McCarthy has obviously worked hard with a difficult and ambitious script by a reputable Australian playwright, which should always be commended, but ultimately I felt Love Me Tender prevents the characters or story from developing to their full potential.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 2 March | 8:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au