Tag: Maree Barnett

Review: Extinction

An uncomfortable environmental theme

By Rachel Holkner


Modern churches have the most comfortable chairs. I guess that’s because people just won’t come if their backside falls asleep during the sermon. Fortunately these same chairs are now being used at multi-purpose venues such as Gateway to seat theatre audiences at times when sermons are not being delivered.

But what about when the theatre is a sermon? Extinction by Hannie Rayson, a play on the VCE English list, has an environmental theme that is not always comfortable to hear. This production, directed by Sarah Tierney, has been designed with a student audience in mind, an audience which may not be entirely convinced about seeing a play, let alone a play which carries strong messages the audience might not want to hear.

Going in knowing very little about the story, I was surprised, not unpleasantly, to have my own strong environmental views challenged particularly by the mining magnate character of Harry Jewell. While it felt almost medicinal at times, I appreciated the opportunity for establishing defensive arguments alongside the more traditionally environmentally skewed characters of the empathetic zoologist, Piper and unsentimental vet, Andy.

The play itself is clear and compelling. Set in the near future it takes on a pragmatic environmental message while encompassing economic perspectives. While the first act of Extinction is strongly environmental and explores issues of economics, ecology, the role of research and policy, the second act devolves somewhat into soap opera territory. The characters’ motivations clash and while the deal of bed-hopping that occurs highlights the foibles of human nature, it detracts from the stronger messages that affect communities and ecosystems. The text is a little on the long side and would benefit from an edit to remove repetitive exposition.

The production design of repurposed crates and shipping pallets and tonal costumes emphasised this rendition’s stance on individual action being powerful. The lighting design made terrific use of the venue’s futuristic neon stage lighting and the sound design was as equally evocative.

Tierney’s straightforward direction led to each performance being excellent; Amelia Hunter as the American zoologist; Juan Fernando Monge negotiating the tricky role of a sympathetic mining magnate; Maree Barnett fitting the part of harried university administrator to a tee; the role of her brother the vet by Jesse Thomas negotiating secrecy very capably. These are each morally complex characters with stubborn streaks which with Rayson’s writing navigate the themes extremely effectively.

The seats might be comfortable, but this exploration of the role of human intervention in ecological recovery won’t be. I strongly encourage audiences to attend this short season of Extinction.

Extinction was performed at Gateway Worship & Performing Arts Centre


REVIEW: Four Letter Word Theatre Presents THE WILD PARTY

Let the fun begin

By Bradley Storer

Upon entering the Main Stage area at Revolt, the audience is immediately immersed in the dingy but seductive Prohibition-era charms of the ‘speak easy’, with tables set up close to the stage and lit eerily by candles. The dark cavernous space of Revolt seems an oddly fitting place for this 1920’s tale of a party thrown by a pair of vaudeville performers on their last legs – a potent cocktail of sin, depravity and eventual tragedy.

Rosa McCarty is a knockout as Queenie the party’s hostess, a blonde bombshell past her prime, throwing herself into the fading performer’s depths of hedonism and disillusionment with abandon and a fierce belt.

The Wild Party

James Cutler is continually compelling as the brutish Burrs, her abusive and bullying husband, bringing ferocious energy and sinister glee to the role that makes him exciting to watch. Their volatile and destructive relationship, although disturbing, is vividly invoked by the two performers.

The musical unfortunately has trouble finding its feet in the first act. Despite a cavalcade of strange and curious characters that pour onstage at the beginning of the show, including a charming polysexual predator (Ed Deganos), a lesbian stripper and her borderline comatose lover (Samantha Hammersley and Renee Pope-Munro) and a creepily close pair of male twins (Samuel Dariol and James Worsnop), there is a lack of energy onstage which makes the ‘party’ atmosphere hard to maintain. Maree Barnett as the cunning diva looking for a comeback emits smouldering ambition, while wielding a pair of surprisingly flexible legs like a weapon. The arrival of Kate, a vaudevillian star and Queenie’s best friend/enemy (played with commanding confidence by Alana Kiely), and her lover Black (Christian Cavallo) raises the spirits of the ensemble considerably, culminating in an Act Two ode to gin that explodes with an dynamic vitality that has been missing so far.

A daring move is the inclusion of a secondary ensemble, a collection of malevolent Satanic spirits who seemingly manipulate and corrupt the characters unseen by anyone whilst wandering offstage and through the audience – a very original idea, which has mixed results throughout the evening. While feeling like an unnecessary addition in the first act, director Robbie Carmellotti finds some electrifying tableaus in the second act that utilize them to a better degree.

An evening of daring and boundary-pushing theatre that, while sometimes not entirely succeeding, is nevertheless admirable for the depth of its invention and ambition.

VENUE: Revolt Melbourne, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington

DATES: 31st July – 3rd August

TIME: Tue to Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm

TICKETS: A Reserve $60/Concession $40, B Reserve $45/ Concession $30, C Reserve $25, Table of 8 $900

BOOKINGS: www.fourletterwordtheatre.com, www.revoltproductions.com,  boxoffice@revoltproductions.com , at the door.