Tag: MTC

REVIEW: MTC Presents THE WEIR

Spectacular veteran cast share a drink

By Christine Young

The Weir takes place at a country pub in the south of Ireland where a handful of locals have taken refuge on a cold, windy night, though there’s no doubt they enjoy a regular tipple regardless of the weather. The stage in the Arts Centre’s Fairfax Studio is aptly decked out as a cosy pub with a bar for gossiping and a hearth for conversations from the heart.

MTC THE WEIR photo Jeff Busby

It’s clearly an important meeting place for local bachelors of a certain age who gather for a bit of ‘craic’ (conversation) which is central to the Irish psyche and way of life. The Weir is true ‘slice of life’ theatre: the audience eavesdrops on a conversation between the publican Brendan and locals Jack and Jim who are soon joined by Finbar and the mysterious newcomer Valerie.

The cast of MTC’s (Melbourne Theatre Company) production is impressive and all are veterans of Australian stage and screen: Nadine Garner (Valerie), Peter Kowitz (Jack), Finbar (Greg Stone), Jim (Robert Menzies) and Brendan (Ian Meadows). You may not recognise all their names but their faces are familiar from recent ABC programs such as Janet King, Doctor Blake Mysteries and The Moodys.

So the casting is excellent, the acting is brilliant, and the setting is just right. But the play itself is slow going and this reviewer found the first half, well, boring. It’s quite possible that I missed the whole point but it seemed to me that the initial conversations and stories were so pedestrian that they weren’t very interesting. Even naturalistic theatre needs some contrived excitement to propel a play’s narrative.

The play only began to pique my interest when Nadine Garner as Valerie delivers a heart-wrenching monologue which becomes the ‘psychological moment’. From this point onwards, the characters begin to speak authentically and drop the bravado.

That said, there are plenty more learned people than me who have given The Weir high praise. The play was Irish playwright Conor Mcpherson’s breakthrough script in 1997-98 and it won several prestigious theatre awards following its premiere season in London.

It’s not my glass of brandy … but it is wonderful to see some of our finest actors treading the boards together.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne
Date: Until 26 September, 2015
Tickets: $49-$119
Booking: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Advertisements

REVIEW: The Daniel Schlusser Ensemble’s MENAGERIE

A daring exploration of the essence of a life

By Christine Moffat

Menagerie is a composite of many ideas, combining the real and imagined life and companions of playwright Tennessee Williams. This is experimental theatre, bordering on performance art, something that the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble has become known for. A circus of characters in and around a small, seedy shack create a cacophony of noise and movement. It’s a risky combination: when it worked, it created sublime theatrical experiences. When it didn’t, the result was prettily arranged tableaux better suited to photography.

Menagerie

There is no arc or emotional journey within this show. This type of experimental work is aiming for more than a good story: it is seeking the essence of an event, or in this case, a life. Through a controlled mayhem, director Daniel Schlusser weaves six incredibly capable actors into a tragically beautiful tapestry. Throughout the piece, the cast became a dysfunctional family. Each performance seemed to exploit the personal strengths of each actor. Josh Price (Williams) and Zahra Newman (Ozzie) both delivered powerful, potentially dominating performances. Price was particularly interesting as the many dishevelled versions of Williams. These larger roles were tempered and complimented by the subtle work of Kevin Hofbauer (Frank) and Edwina Wren (Rose). Jane Badler (Edwina) and Karen Sibbing were erratic, tragic and hilarious, and owned the audience more than once.

The set, designed by Dale Ferguson, was almost a character in itself. It consisted of the claustrophobic hut, surrounded by an assortment of rough amenities that suggested both squalor, and the enmeshed, suffocating family that plagued the real Williams. Although not emotionally affecting in the way a traditional theatre piece would be, Menagerie achieves a sense of truth about Williams’ internal world that you instinctively believe. The ensemble appear to have taken what is known about Williams the artist and worked backwards to present a valid hypothesis of how that complex man was created. This achievement indicates the method in their mayhem.

Menagerie (part of NEON Festival of Independent Theatre)
Venue: MTC Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Dates: 18 to 26 May 2013
Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm (duration 90mins + interval)
Tickets: $25
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 or www.mtc.com/neon

Review: MTC’s Boy Girl Wall

A theatre experience that is innovative, intriguing and highly engaging

By Christine Moffat

“Side by side in a leafy suburb, Thom lives in one flat, Alethea in another. It’s pretty clear that their respective unsatisfying lives would improve enormously if they just met each other. But with literally a wall between them, this seems highly improbable.”

This is the scant information ‘about the play’ that the programme divulges; a tantalising three sentences that give you no idea of the dynamic and entertaining 90 minutes you are about to embark on.

Boy Girl Wall is a story about life and love, not just those of the two protagonists, but also of the people, and especially the seemingly inanimate objects, around them.

It is not a story I can set out in this review without removing the magic of discovery as you watch the story unfold.  Suffice then to say, this show is an unorthodox, amusing, entertaining ‘trampoline-like’ experience.

Upon entering the theatre and being seated, you are presented with a set by Jonathon Oxlade that resembles a giant fold-up ping-pong table.  A woman sits to one side of the stage waiting.  This turns out to be Neridah Waters, musical designer and musician and understated partner-in-crime to Lucas Stibbard, the hilarious one-man-band-of-a-performer who delivers Boy Girl Wall.

The implied ping-pong effect is not diminished once the show is underway.  Stibbard appears to be made of energy, delivering an hour and a half of entertaining, intelligent, rapid-fire dialogue (and at least 25 personalities!) and story-telling in a way that makes you feel that the time flew by.

This show is a perfect example of minimalism at its best, where less truly is more.  The production has not much more than a cast of one, a musician, that table-tennis like set (much of which is ‘dressed’ in real time with a stick of chalk), a xylophone and a ruler.

The lighting design by Keith Clark apparently consisted simply of two large retro light globes and an old school overhead projector: all of which are used to great effect for comedy but also, surprisingly for lovely moments of pathos as well.

The ingredients for Boy Girl Wall may not sound like much of a theatrical shopping list, but with these few items this production delivers an evening of surprise, laughter, love and an unexpected dash of optimism for good measure.

Venue: The MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio

Season Dates: 17 April to 4 May 2012

Tickets: From $40; Under 30s just $25

Booking Details: The MTC Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or www.mtc.com.au

Review: MTC’s Production of CLYBOURNE PARK

A funny, confronting and fascinating look at life over the fence…

By Diana Tarr

MTC’s latest production Clybourne Park, the Pulitzer prize-winning play by Bruce Norris, is a frank and honest depiction of the racial tension in northern American cities in the 1950’s and raises the question of what, if anything, has changed in our attitudes in the subsequent years.

In 1959, in the affluent Chicago suburb of Clybourne Park, a white couple is forced to consider the impact that selling their home to a black family will have on the neighbours they are leaving behind.  Fast-forward fifty years, and a young white couple tries to go forward with their plans to demolish the same, though now sadly decrepit, house and rebuild – with considerable resistance from their soon-to-be (black) neighbours.

The set, designed by Christina Smith, included just the right details to send me straight back to the homes and neighbourhoods of my childhood in suburban Detroit: the built-in bookcases, the string dangling from the basement light, even the sound of footsteps on the carpeted stairs.

Each of the superb cast (including Patrick Brammall, Bert LaBonte, Zahra Newman, Luke Ryan and Alison Whyte). portrayed at least two unique characters, though Greg Stone and Laura Gordon produced the most convincing and dramatic transformations in mannerisms, voice and characterisations for the second act. As grieving father Russ and then forthright tradie Dan, Stone gave the stand-out performance of the night, inspiring incredulous belly laughs and shocked silences from an audience that was eating out of his hands from his first bite of Neapolitan ice cream.

There is so much of the familiar in Clybourne Park, which is at times comforting but also self-convicting: not only in acknowledging the awkward relationships and social niceties, but particularly in recognising the people with good intentions who either don’t realise or don’t want to acknowledge how much they misunderstand about the experiences of others.

By the end of the first act, I was mentally kicking myself for even considering that perhaps a few of the arguments for keeping the neighbourhood unchanged might just have a certain logic to them. By the end of the second, I was cringing by how much I recognised myself in the comments and ideals of the yuppie wife, Lindsey (Gordon). But although Clybourne Park acknowledges these feelings of confusion and guilt, it does not seem to try to invoke them – just poke fun at them.

And oh my, what fun it was!

 

Clybourne Park: The Black and White Picket Fence

17 September – 26 October

The MTC Theatre, Sumner

140 Southbank Blvd, Southbank

Tickets: $30 (29 & under); $86-$97 (full)