Tag: Marcel Dorney

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.

Shrine.jpg

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: MTC and Elbow Room Present WE GET IT

Looking for the women in theatre

By Myron My

In We Get It, sexism is no more. Everyone rejoice! We are now truly living in the age of equality. Hoorah! To celebrate, five women are competing for an opportunity to perform with a ‘real’ theatre company in a classic female literary role. They appear on stage gyrating to a medley of “sexy” songs and when the musical number is over, return to the stage brandishing self-identifying beauty pageant sashes. We have the “Token”, the “Ethnic Extra”, the “Funny Bitch”, the “Muslim Doctor” and the “Bogan/Migrant”.

We Get It

These five women (Amy Ingram, Tamiah Bantum, Kasia Kaczmarek, Maurial Spearim and Sonya Suares) explore the ideas of theatre showing diversity through casting and roles and also the question of treating women as equals. Perhaps it’s because I have chosen to associate myself with strong women in my life, and have been conscious of where my white male privilege has taken me and the freedoms it has provided that I felt frustrated watching We Get It. I am aware of what my role is in supporting gender equality and I also believe that message needs to be constantly repeated and spread to as many people as possible, however I struggled to connect in this instance: not because of what was being said, but how it was being said.

I found myself being talked at for much of the show rather than being informed or educated. Furthermore, there were a number of scenes that seemed to go on for that bit too long and could have benefited from an edit. The beginning of the show also seemed clunky and flat, which is a shame as the intention behind it had the potential to make a strong impact and set the tone for the rest of the production.

What I thought was a great inclusion was the use of The Diary Room, which the contestants treated as a type of public private confessional. This device gave the best insight into these women’s lives, where truth and honesty were present in what is expected of them when auditioning for roles and rehearsals.

Considering the five “contestants” collaborated with Marcel Dorney and Rachel Perks in writing this piece and to an extent, based on their personal experiences, it is no surprise just how impressive they all are in their roles, with Bantum’s strong stage presence making her particularly captivating to watch. Directors Dorney and Emily Tomlins have worked very closely and developed a trust with these women to create the opportunity for them to explore the issues they face as actors and women.

Set design by Matt Adey was well-thought out and considering everything that happened on stage, the use of the space and props never had you feeling overwhelmed with what was happening. However, there were a few technical issues the night I attended, particularly with mic and sound levels.

Whilst I completely and utterly agree with the messages being conveyed here, I believe there have been stronger shows put on recently that still have a strong feminist approach but present their ideas in a more accessible way. That said, We Get It, presented as part of the 2015 NEON Festival of Independent Theatre, still created a conversation with the people I attended on the night about the changes that we, as males, can make to support gender equality and that is probably the most important thing for such a production to have achieved.

Venue: Melbourne Theatre Company, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank

Season: Until 19 July | Tues-Sat 7:30pm, Sunday 4:00pm
Tickets: $25 all tickets
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

REVIEW: Speakeasy Presents PREHISTORIC

Back to punk

By Caitlin McGrane

Marcel Dorney’s Prehistoric is a raucous, lively, beautiful and heart-breaking look at the punk scene in Brisbane in 1979. It struck so many chords with me that I could barely stop smiling throughout. The play took me back to when I decided, aged twelve, to become a punk: it was simultaneously joyous and uncomfortable in the best possible way.

Prehistoric

Before the play begins, the performers speak directly to the audience, inviting us to come with them back to 1979, a most convincing way to get an audience to turn off their phones. The play opens as we are introduced to the four characters: Barbara, Rachel, Nick and Pete. They’re all young, angry, and frustrated by their surrounds: prime for the allure of punk. There’s a song they all remember hearing that catapults them away from the humdrum of their lives and into the boisterous world of a punk band formed in Barb’s living room. They’re all immediately sympathetic and I fell in love with every one of them.

As the story unfurls, the performance covers an awful lot of ground: abuse, mental illness, police brutality, rape and sexuality. All of these topics are handled in the most sensitive and evocative way, never turning to cliché or hamstrung ideas to get their message across. What is most striking about this play is that the themes and concerns are just as relevant today as they were in 1979.

It slightly lost its way in the third act, but despite this it remained fairly compelling. It could have been shorter by about ten to fifteen minutes, but that is a small gripe when the rest of the performance was so spectacular.

The production values were all excellent and I particularly enjoyed the way the lights behind the audience invoked the idea of the police without having any additional presence on stage. Every off-stage role was superbly characterised through voice techniques and I would challenge you to sit through the scene between Rachel and the police without squirming. I look forward to Elbow Room’s next production and Dorney is definitely one to watch.

Prehistoric is on every night from now until 5 October at 9pm in Studio Two of the Northcote Town Hall. Tickets are $26 at http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/prehistoric/

REVIEW: Elbow Room Presents THE MOTION OF LIGHT IN WATER

Two strange tales interweave

By Myron My

Despite not being a massive fan of science-fiction, I really enjoyed The Motion of Light in Water. It was engaging with a well-written script, great work from a technical point of view, and the acting was of a high standard.

Jacinta Yelland as Rydra in The Motion of Light in Water_ Photo Credit LachlanWoods

Inspired by the life and works of writer Samuel R. Delaney and poet Marilyn Hacker, The Motion of Light in Water takes place in two parallel worlds. The first is set in 1964, where we meet ‘Chip’ Delaney (Ray Chong Nee), an African American, who is in an interracial and open marriage with Marilyn (Laura Maitland), a Jew.

It’s in 2116 when I became a little unsure of the second story, revolving around space captain Rydra Wong (Jacinta Yelland). Rydra is on a mission to crack a linguistic code that will prevent an alien invasion on humanity. Both stories look at complex issues of sexuality, identity and moral responsibility but in very different ways and if you’re not familiar with Delaney’s work, the narrative can get quite muddled in the space plot.

The whole cast do a superb job bringing the characters to life but Chong Nee in the dual role of ‘Chip’ and Brass is extremely charismatic to watch. His switch from one to other is seamless and he does a great job in portraying both. Yelland as headstrong Rydra is also a strong presence on stage and appears to love playing the role. I was also impressed by Paul Blenheim in his numerous roles, but particularly enjoying seeing him as The Baronees which provoked quite a few laughs from the audience during her short appearance.

The costumes designed by Zoe Rouse were satisfyingly authentic for the era of the 60s, and the metallic shimmering outfits in the future seemed very fitting and worked well with the set design by Matthew Adey of House of Vnholy.

Elbow Room has taken on an immense challenge with creating The Motion of Light in Water. Produced by anyone else, this queer sci-fi love story could have been a disaster, but with Marcel Dorney’s taut script and direction, this company have created a unique and thought-provoking piece.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.
Season: Until 27 July | Tues-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au