Tag: Metanoia Theatre

Metanoia Theatre Presents 3 SISTERS

Chekhov regrown

By Leeor Adar

Anton Chekhov’s ode to the Russian rested but restless classes in Three Sisters is reimagined by director Greg Ulfan in Metanoia Theatre’s production of 3 Sisters. One never knows what to expect with a Chekhov production, but I was surprised that this production engaged its audience despite the three hours given to the tragedies of its three sisters, Irina, Maria (Masha), and Olga.

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Ulfan views theatre as an ‘endangered species’ in an increasingly digitised age, and no play draws its audience back into the depths of their thoughts like Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The lamentations of the characters before us emulate our lamentations of today, ‘to work’ and find purpose – as rag-dolls to the realities of our modern day, so too are the lives of the characters in this play.

Ulfan directs a group of actors who are very well cast in their roles. Erick Mitsak brings a sense of comedy to his role as Baron Tuzenbach, and yet manages to inject the affable and pitiable nature ideal for the character. Reece Vella’s passionate performance as Vershinin contrasts well with the beautiful intensity and harshness of Donna Dimovski’s portrayal of Masha. Their soul-destroying final embrace made for difficult viewing, but was incredibly satisfying performance-wise. Masha’s sisters were performed well, with Tariro Mavondo’s bursts of youthful joy and exasperation as Irina adding lightness to the otherwise solid and stoic gloom of Natalia Novikova’s Olga. Another performance highlight was the sudden outburst of Michael Gwynne’s portrayal of Solyony; losing his otherwise quiet and imposing demeanour, he confesses his obsessive and unrelenting love for Irina, crawling across the dining room table just to grasp a hold of light in this gloomy, Chekhovian world.

Lara Week’s set and costume design was charming and minimalist, with Lego pieces to replicate dining materials and gifts. The actors wore uniform clothing with white painted embellishments of collars, bows and buttons; this was stylistically inspired, coupled with the actors’ white face paint to capture perhaps the imposing duties of the characters’ lives that render them immobile against the currents of their times. Christopher Bolton’s live piano-playing in the background set the tone of this production, and mirrored the action of the play in a pleasing touch.

The length and drawl of this play is its downfall, and the final scenes were exhausting, perhaps telling of the exhaustion of the characters. The bursts of singing and dancing were thankfully convincing and joyful, and set alight the moody atmosphere we’re held captive within for these three hours.

Despite the length and occasionally camp nature of 3 Sisters, I can’t honestly say I did not enjoy it. I laughed, and thought a little too hard about the meaning of it all. This was ultimately what I expect Chekhov wanted, and Ulfan has given us a loving spoonful of this melancholy world.

You can submerge yourself in this production until Saturday November 5, 7pm at the Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute:  https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=221728

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Matchstick Theatre Presents TRUE WEST

Fraternal feuds and open emotions

By Margaret Wieringa

The audience enters to see a tidy, perfectly-kept kitchen and lounge with an array of houseplants on one side and the entrance hall on the other. Haunting country music plays as the lights dim and the actors enter. Austin, played by Charlie Mycroft, sits at the typewriter, working, while his brother Lee, played by Michael Argus, drinks beer and challenges him from across the room.

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Sam Shepard’s True West is a play about relationships and families, as shown through these two brothers. Seemingly opposites, Shepard’s work takes us on a journey where each brother is challenged to question his relationship with each other as well as their place in the world.

And it is a journey that leads to intense emotions for the characters. This was difficult to capture in full in this performance as everything started at such a high level of energy. Mycroft did start the show quiet and restrained, with only very subtle movements, and this needed to be contrasted by  Argus – and he did play a very opposite character – but right from the start, he was loud to the point of almost shouting, not leaving either character far to go. It felt as though we had arrived at the climax of emotion and it took the story a while to catch up. Des Fleming was great as Saul, the powerful producer who could make their dreams come true. He had a cheesiness that only just hid his power, and a flash of that charming smile could win just about anyone over. The end of the play should leave the audience somewhat exhausted, but I think it would have had even more impact had there been a gradual build-up throughout the performance.

Jacob Battista, who put together the beautiful set in a way that could be slowly destroyed quite spectacularly, was also responsible for the costuming. While I felt that the homeless look for Lee was a bit much for the character, especially the rope belt, the rest of the costuming was spot-on in creating a sense of middle America in the late 70s/early 80s.

This production of True West is an interesting and intense interpretation of this modern American classic, and is well worth a watch.  The performance was thoroughly enjoyed by its sold-out audience, and tickets are selling fast. Matchstick Theatre has only been around for about a year, and so far they are proving themselves to be a company to watch.

When: October 12 – 22, Tues-Sun 8pm

Where: Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick 3056

Tickets:  $20 – $30

Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=193998

Melbourne Fringe 2016: PINOCCHIO RESTRUNG

Clever and illuminating rethinking of classic tale

By Myron My

We all know the “traditional” tale of Pinocchio: the wooden puppet who just wanted to be a real boy. Created as a grim Italian children’s novel by Collodi, and sanitised for the Disney movie, emerging theatre company A_tistic have cleverly re-imagined this story as part of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival in quite a different way and with some brilliant results.

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A_tistic aim to tell stories that highlight the experiences and create an understanding of autism spectrum disorders so writer and director Tom Middleditch has adapted Pinocchio’s tale as an allegory for a boy with autism who is attempting to become a “real boy”. Middleditch, himself on the autism spectrum, has created a thoughtful intelligent story that not only looks at the anxieties and difficulties people with autism can experience but also those their parents undergo in attempting to understand and accept their child as they are.

Matt Alden as Pinocchio is very comfortable with the character and material, and his mannerisms and body language do well in conveying the thoughts and feelings a person can have with autism. The visual cues of how someone with autism processes information are done simply yet highly effectively, such as when the ‘running puppet’ is deciding upon his name. Similarly, Edan Goodall and Sam Barson are entertaining to watch as Geppetto and Crichton, particularly Goodall as his character tries to find a way to build a relationship with Pinocchio.

The naturalistic costuming that highlights the personalities of these characters is well thought-out, however I feel some subtle creative touches could have benefited the characters of the Blue Fairy (Sophie Jevons) and Fox (Kristiane Burri). The same can be said about the set design and its painted cardboard backdrops. However, due to Middleditch’s strong engaging narrative, the weaker design actually supports the play by allowing our focus to easily remain on the characters without any of our attention wavering.

With Pinocchio Restrung, A_tistic accomplish exactly what they set out to do. With accessibility and inclusivity such an important aspect of the arts, it’s great to see theatre companies putting on works that not only open up discussion on issues people may be less familiar with, but also allows those less often represented to see themselves on stage.

Venue: Metanoia at the Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydey Rd, Brunswick, 3056
Season: until 17 September | Thurs – Sat 6.00pm, Sat 2.00pm
Length: 90 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image by William Anderson WA Photography

Metanoia Theatre Presents MILK BARS

Engaging and evocative nostalgia

By Narelle Wood

Just as the title suggests, Milk Bars explores that iconic Australian fixture of the milk bar, its place in Australia’s past and its potentially questionable future.

Milk Bars

This is not your average theatre show though; it’s performance art. Over the course of an hour and a half, the audience are guided from room to room to witness different performances and art installations that all, in some way, explore the idea of the milk bar.

The performances range from Elnaz Sheshgelani’s exploration of pre-Islamic Persian storytelling to Janette Hoe’s movement and mime pieces to a heart-felt talk presented by Domenic Greco, the executive Director of CAMBA. Each performance adds another perspective to the milk bar experience. Hoe transforms herself into a milk-bar owner, contrasting the talkative and perky behind-the-counter persona with the personal struggles that occur behind the scenes. Shane Grant’s monologue, beginning with advertising catchphrases that he and Zayn Ulfan shout at each other from across the room, documents the sacrifice and hard work of milk bar owners especially in a time of modernisation.

The theme across all performances is definitely this hard work and sacrifice in the face of an unknown future, thanks to globalisation and giant supermarket chains. But amidst this are stories of new immigrants finding their place in new communities and the sense of community and belonging that a milkbar can provide.

Each of the performances in themselves were fantastic, and as an ensemble, left me profoundly nostalgic for the local corner store where you could buy a massive bag of mixed lollies for 20 cents and buy your mum a packet of ciggies because the shop lady knew you. This is in no small way due to the setting of Milkbars, which under the artistic direction of Gorkem Acaroglu, transports you back to what appears to an authentic  1970’s milk bar. There are Big M calendar ads on the wall, an obligatory Chico Roll ad, Tarax pineapple soda in the fridge, and you can also purchase your very own bag of mixed lollies.

This isn’t the sort of show I’d normally gravitate towards, but the mixture of art installations, performances and movement between spaces was a really fascinating way of reflecting upon what the milk bar means to you personally, as well as to the performances and Australia culture.

 Milk Bars was performed at The Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, from July 27 – August 6, 2016

Bare Naked Theatre Presents 4:48 PSYCHOSIS

Deeply moving and memorable

By Margaret Wieringa

Sometimes, theatre is heavy; weighed down by the topic, by the experiences of those making it and those watching it; weighed down with every line uttered, every movement. 4:48 Psychosis is one of those pieces: heavy, and difficult – and wonderful.

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Written by British playwright Sarah Kane, it explores mental illness in a variety of forms, including self-harm and suicide. Knowing that the playwright herself tragically committed suicide without ever seeing the work performed adds a whole extra weight and emotion to the performance.

The show is made up of twenty-four sections that seamlessly flow from one to another, moving through naturalistic conversations to more abstract movement pieces, and back. The script gives no specific settings or characters, but it felt to me that there were constants. Director Kendall-Jane Rundle seems to have interpreted the work to have a single patient, a doctor and two others – internal representations of the patient or, at times, possibly forces outside of the patient. Sometimes the patient is aware of them, other times not. The Metanoia Theatre was sparse, allowing the actors to transform the space throughout. Lighting designer Shane Grant used bare bulbs hung around the space at varying heights and these were attributed with meaning throughout – although sometimes, a light bulb is just a light bulb.

Kendall-Jane Rundle not only directed this performance but played the character of the patient and was magnificent in this role. She was subtle and intense, humorous on occasion, and so very real. The script has lines that are filled with overwrought poetry that could easily be melodramatic and possibly ridiculous, but Rundle delivered them with such truth that they worked. At times, it was difficult to hear her, but I felt even this was planned. Jessica Stevens and Alisha Eddy played off each other as the two mysterious characters, often echoing the patient, moving through the space, sometimes still or only very subtly moving. Their performances, both individual and together, were exactly what was needed – strong at times, but able to almost disappear altogether. As the doctor figure, Jeff Wortman was able to infuse each scene with hidden depth. While acting calm and collected, there was a sense that the character was repressing fear or frustration or anger, although every now and then, the professional facade slipped. Wortman made the character not just a tool to represent those attempting to support, help, even cure people with mental illness, but someone who was also a full person, even though we never got a name or much beyond.

Bare Naked Theatre is a new company to Melbourne, set up by Kendall-Jane Rundle. With a first show as powerful and poignant as 4:48 Psychosis, they are a company to look out for.

Where: Metanoia Theatre at the Brunswick Institute, 270 Sydney Rd Brunswick

When: Wednesday June 29 to Saturday July 2, 8pm

Tickets: Full $30/ Conc $25

Bookings: metanoiatheatre.com or called 9387 3376

If you know someone struggling with mental illness, this production recommends  visiting www.sane.org for helpline assistance, information, and donations.

REVIEW: Metanoia Theatre Presents NOT A GOOD LOOK

Sprawling and ambitious

By Christine Young

NagL, or Not a Good Look, is intended to represent writer Lech Mackiewicz’s impressions of the changes he observed in Australia after leaving in the late 1990s and returning in 2002. This is an Australia that has progressively become less progressive in its acceptance of multiculturalism, to state the obvious.

Not A Good Look

NagL/Not a Good Look means: to describe something as unacceptable, foul, disastrous, inappropriate, or awkward. And this is what’s dished up. Five actors portray several generations of a dysfunctional multicultural family who are in a constant state of disconnect; they are unable to communicate without shouting or talking at each other. They are supposed to be grotesque. And they are supposed to reflect us back to ourselves.

About three quarters of the way through Not a Good Look, actor Miles Paras’s character holds a mirror up to herself and is astounded and upset about how awful she looks. Mirror in hand, she starts a chant with words to the effect of: “live theatre is supposed to show us ourselves in caricature”.

So the vision presented in Not a Good Look is one of a nation at war with itself and what it means to be Australian. The play is structured into 20-odd scenes which are punctuated with the familiar ding! ding! of a boxing ring while the disjointed family goes through motions of their mundane existence. Sometimes, scenes begin with the Hey Dad! television show theme playing ironically in the background.

This an attempt at absurdist theatre with a lot of nonsensical conversations and scenarios occurring in the backdrop of a suburban kitchen and living room.

Unfortunately, the goals of the play aren’t quite realised. At best, it’s organised chaos. At worst, it tries to deliver too many layers of meaning and symbolism so the main message is lost. For instance, the final scene of the play had the characters in costume including a statue of liberty with a barbeque on a barge while Angry Anderson’s Suddenly played. It came out of nowhere and seemed an unlikely ending to the play.

There were some enjoyable aspects to the play such as the tango routine with Paras and Joseph Sherman. However, I wonder if this is a play that needs to be seen more than once in order to understand and engage with it properly.

Venue: Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Dates: Until October 18, 2015
Tickets: $25 Full / $20 /2 for $25 Wednesdays
Booking: metanoiatheatre.com

REVIEW: Moreland Theatre Company Presents THE BACCHAE

Classic Greek tragedy dramatically reimagined

By Michael Olsen

Moreland Theatre Company’s The Bacchae by Euripides concerns the arrival in the city of Thebes of the god Dionysus (in human form), and the inevitable clash that arises between this god of merriment and chaos and the patrician leader of the city, Pentheus. While Dionysus represents the emotional wellspring of life and offers an escape from life’s hardships through drunken revelry on Mt Citharon (which lies outside the city), Pentheus stands for order and control, and this dichotomy is enhanced by having Dionysus in this instance played by a woman (Kate Barford in a challenging role which she pulled off magnificently.)

The Bacchae

Director Sam Browne has taken an updated text of the play (translated by Ian Johnston and adapted by John Kelly and Matt O’Reilly) and has clearly presented the gripping conflict not only between Dionysus and Pentheus, but also the contradictions within Dionysus herself (god of merriment vs avenging god). Whilst the formality of the play distances us somewhat from the characters, the conclusion is devastating and an uneasy catharsis is reached. The heart of the production which Browne handles so well is to present the fatal imbalance that can occur when the masculine and feminine sides of our personality are in conflict, and the horrors that a vengeful god can unleash.

Karl Sarsfield stood out as the commanding and unbending Pentheus, while Angelique Malcolm as his mother, Agave, transfixed with the play’s climactic moment when she slowly realises what she’s done in a moment of utter madness. Special mention should be made of Victoria Haslam‘s costume design for the Bacchae, which helped to energise and bring vivid colour to the production.

After more than 2000 years The Bacchae speaks to us of the results of disobedience, unbending rationality, and the terrors of unbridled passion. Is Dionysus right to take the revenge she takes? Who knows. Euripides seems to be saying for better or worse: “That’s life.”

The Bacchae runs till the 13th of June at 8pm at the Metanoia Theatre at The Mechanics Institute
270 Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Tickets: Book online or cash at the door. For more details go to www.moreland.org.au

Image by Teresa Noble