Tag: Midsumma 2013

REVIEW: The Dead Ones at THEATREWORKS

Remembering those who came before us

By Myron My

The first thing to note about The Dead Ones, now playing at Theatreworks as part of Midsumma Festival, is that this is not like any other performance. There is no acting, there are no characters and there is no ‘script’. The Dead Ones is a presentation, a homage of sorts in which Margie Fischer retells the life of her family, now that she is the last remaining member of it.

Margie-Fischer

Whilst Fischer speaks to us, there is a photo slideshow of her family and the places she describes playing prominently centre stage. Putting faces to the names makes this seem all the more real (even though it already is) and Fischer’s stories seek to strike a more poignant note with the audience.

The thing that disappointed me about The Dead Ones was the level of detachment. Fischer is sharing some deeply moving and personal moments of her life yet I felt little of the emotional connection to what she was saying which I think was pivotal to a piece such as this. I felt in the performance style and language there was a real lack of dramatic rhetoric being utilized.

At times we kept switching from one period of time to another without warning and it seemed as if there were moments where we had already heard particular stories. There was a wealth of tales mentioned about which I – and I’m sure the rest of the audience – would have loved to hear more but it felt like we skimmed the surface of many of these due to the rapid nature of the changes in narrative direction.

Fortunately, these moments don’t detract too much from Fischer’s over-arching and admirable theme of honoring those we have met; those who have lived before us. It was very difficult to not simply go away inside myself and get lost in thinking about the love and loss I have experienced over the years, and the final minutes of The Dead Ones therefore do achieve the show’s goal in being particularly bittersweet and touching.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 3 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm & 2pm Sat & 5pm Sun

Tickets: $28 Full | $22 Conc

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

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Review: TRANSIT at Gasworks

Buy the ticket, take the trip

By Christine Moffat

Transit is a story about travellers being thrown together by chance and trying to stay together on purpose.  This hour-long production for Midsumma Festival tells the stories of three young Australians living abroad, but it is also the universal story of the first taste of the ‘foreign’.  The three Aussies learn that sometimes travel is difficult, sometimes it’s sublime, but it’s always life-changing.

The show, devised and written by Troy Nankervis, is based on interviews conducted with travellers he met whilst travelling himself in the UK.  The result is a script with sections that are a little undramatic; perhaps these sections follow the interviews too faithfully.  That being said, most of the show is interesting and touching, and ably performed by the three actors. 

Transit

Ewan Whittle is amusing and surprising as the slightly disconnected Tyler.  Ella Di Marco is very watchable in her stage debut as Nicole.  Ezel Doruk who plays Kieran, also does well with difficult task of playing several small characters that help the story flow.

The overall style of this production is a slightly stilted mix of naturalistic and stylised elements.  I much preferred the stylised elements.  For example, director Cameron Stewart created a great series of silent tableaux performed during monologues with the non-speaking actors. I think the two styles would have combined much more successfully if both elements were heightened.

Everything is there in this show, but when working from real life, writers and directors often feel that dramatising will take away from the truth.  However, this  is theatre: I think that Nankervis has a knack for finding the important stories, and should give himself permission to ‘crank up’ his script so that more is at stake for the characters.

I believe that if the script had a little more bubbling beneath the surface, and the production smoothed out its style choices, this show has the potential to be challenging and moving play.  As it stands, Transit is a great piece of new Australian theatre, and an entertaining 60 minutes promising great things in the future from all involved.

Dates: Sat 23 Jan – Fri 1 Feb, 7pm

Venue: Studio Theatre, Gasworks Arts Park, Cnr Graham & Pickles St, Albert Park

Tickets: $22 /$17 Conc

Bookings: www.gasworks.org.au/events/transit

Review: VIEUX CARRE by Tennessee Williams

A rare classic performed with real finesse

By Tania Herbert

Fortyfivedownstairs must be one of the more atmospheric venue spaces in Melbourne, and the conversion into a seedy New Orleans rooming house for ITCH Production’s Vieux Carré was an impressive use of space. Add the live blues artists to the side of the stage for score, and the stage is set for a fully immersive theatrical experience.

In the Midsumma festival of extremes, subtlety is the new black, and the piece still manages to capture a feeling of controversy by running a delicious line between sensuality and crudity.

Photo by Julian Dolman

Noted as Tennessee Williams’ most autobiographical coming-of-age piece, Vieux Carré follows the awkward character of “Writer” who ends up destitute in the rooming house. Who doesn’t love the tried-and-true Williams model of fast-paced humour descending into heart-wrenching angst? – and despite the obscurity of the play, this is Williams at his best.

The quiet entry of Thomas Blackburne as the everyman “Writer” captured the audience from the opening moment, and his beautiful albeit self-conscious presence plays in contrast to the dramatic and colourful individuals around them who find commonality in their individual tales of loneliness.

For an opening night, this was an astonishingly polished performance, and there was a veteran command of the stage by all performers without exception. The immaculate timing and flawless build-up of intensity plays sentiment to the skill of director Alice Bishop, and her tale in the program of having visited New Orleans in preparation for the played out in the authentic feel.

While difficult to single an individual in such an impressive ensemble, particular highlights included the gut wrenching despair of Stephen Whittaker’s performance, Samantha Murray’s exceptional ability to spout a running monologue without breath and Kelly’s Nash’s wonderful range throughout the play.

Vieux Carré is a little piece of life in a box. Not for the dramatically faint-hearted, ITCH Productions have done true credit to Williams and to Midsumma. Highly recommended.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane

Dates: 17th Jan – 3rd Feb, 2013

Tickets: $40 full, $35 conc, $35 groups 6+

Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com