Tag: Northcote Town Hall

Tangled Web Theatre Presents BETRAYAL

Pinter’s work at its finest

By Ross Larkin

Harold Pinter is a somewhat acquired taste. The Nobel Prize-winning British playwright’s work was distinctive in its knack for simplicity and complexity all at once. Betrayal is possibly Pinter’s most interesting example of his preoccupation with the fragility and emotional inconsistency of the human condition and the relationships implicated by it.

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Betrayal examines a chronologically reversed seven-year period in the affair-laden lives of married couple Emma and Robert and their close friend (and Emma’s lover), Jerry. Deception and infidelity are second nature and compulsive to the trio to the extent where the characters themselves lose track and create their own undoing.

Tangled Web Theatre’s production, directed by Bruce Cochrane, succeeds in capturing the mood of the piece: one of subtle tension, heavy pauses and intricate exchanges. Presented sparsely and deliberately, the atmosphere and direction would have made Pinter himself proud.

However, it’s the performers who really shine here. Supported by Michael Fenemore’s solid portrayal in the difficult role of Robert, Eleni Miller, who plays the unapologetic and somewhat sociopathic Emma, is suave yet guarded with a calculated and emotional repression that is natural, absorbing and devastating. Her understated performance is hypnotic and exactly the right measure of Pinteresque.

Tim Constantine as the deceptive Jerry is exceptional, capturing the charm and truthfulness of the character without ever succumbing to any obvious or intentional malice or trickery, but rather, allowing the text to allure and reveal while maintaining Jerry’s authenticity and self-perceived ingenuousness.

The pair are mesmerising from the get-go with a believable and palpable dynamic, rich in nuance and wonder, managing to woo the audience to care and empathise, despite their deceitful, self-absorbed ways.

Betrayal in all its uncomfortable loitering and tension may not be for every taste, but for those who like their theatre raw, brooding and close to the bone, it’s just the ticket. Playing now at the Northcote Town Hall until November 19th nightly at 8pm with 2pm weekend matinees. Booking at www.northcotetownhall.com.au or (03) 9481-9500.

 

Little Ones Theatre Presents MERCILESS GODS

Walk into the darkness

By Leeor Adar

Little Ones Theatre manages to make me laugh at the grotesque and alluring once again in Merciless Gods. Whether it’s the description of a hardened criminal unpicking thorns from the tongue of a paedophile or the pungent growth spurt of a teenage boy, beautiful and ugly words cohabit so eloquently at the end of Don Giovannoni’s pen, the result of which is imagined onto the stage with feverish intensity by director Stephen Nicolazzo.

Merciless Gods' Charles Purcell - photo credit Sarah Walker .jpg

The scene is set early on as a gathering of hip university-educated 20-somethings pop pills and dive into their samosas before descending into the truly “bad” things they’ve done. A competition of sorts of the varying evils they’ve seen or committed. Merciless Gods is at its core a series of monologues and performances that capture Australia’s foreign identity and the universal identity of being human, even if it’s grotesque and sadistic. There is enormous vulnerability too in this production, as it lays itself bare to hard truths.

Eugyeene Teh’s costume and set design is a perfect mix of minimalist drama. We have red curtains and a catwalk of sorts for a stage to let the intense performances unfold before us. Intense is honestly an understatement, and I found myself really affected and mesmerised by the actors.

Peter Paltos delivered a monologue that really defined the night for me. As the criminal who commits an unforgivable crime in line with the rest of the merciless gods of the night, Paltos manages to describe with such lush expression the pity he experiences, and the violence of his actions. I am certain the audience had their eyes fixed on his sweat, spit and grit with wonder. Another notable series of performances by the mercurial Jennifer Vuletic really heightened the calibre of this production. Vuletic could inhabit the pious tragic figure of a woman speaking broken English and then swoop on stage in naked cruel glory wearing nothing but royal red robes to tear apart her feminist daughter (Brigid Gallacher).

Despite its darkness, there is a great deal of humour in Merciless Gods. Gallacher’s comic timing sent the audience into frequent bouts of laughter, even when she beautifully and breathlessly gazed upon her teenage son with love and disgust. Of course the humour delivered really emerges from Giovannoni’s writing which in its poetic and succinct quality captures what we think but cannot articulate.

Audiences with softer stomachs and a penchant for political correctness may feel queasy at some of the language, so heed this warning. Merciless Gods is unapologetic in its content and brutality and I find it utterly appealing for this reason.

Take time out of your every day and head to the Northcote Town Hall to catch Merciless Gods. The production runs until 5 August. Book your tickets here: http://www.littleonestheatre.com.au/merciless-gods/

Image by Sarah Walker

Melbourne Fringe 2016: SAVING SPIDERS

Not all is as it seems…

By Myron My

In Saving Spiders, presented by Darebin Arts Speakeasy and GRANITE for the 2016 Melbourne Fringe, Tina is a young woman who is living her life as if it is one big party. Between her boyfriend Grant and best friend Gracie, their shared existence consists solely of sex, drugs and good times. There is little responsibility in any of their lives, just a lot of fun – until the moment the fun stops, and things can never be the same again.

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Saving Spiders relies on its cast to ensure its success, as it is very much a character-driven piece. Fortunately Zoe Boesen, Paul Blenheim, Ryan Jones and Leila Rodgers (who also wrote the show) all embrace their characters wholeheartedly and their resonant interactions with each other feel as If they have known each other for years.

The intriguing story develops organically and this is due to Rodgers’ ability to write strong fleshed-out characters where much is understood about their relationships without Rodgers’ needing to explicitly state it. It feels like Rodgers is writing about us, or people we know, so we can instantly relate to their lives and actions.

As the narrative continues, Rodgers takes a less linear path as we begin to go inside Tina’s mind and see how she is slowly unraveling for reasons that are initially a mystery to the audience. Brigid Gallagher’s skillful direction is a highlight here, particularly the scene where Grant and Gracie begin to clear out Tina’s bedroom, exposing the cold hard realities of Tina’s life in the present and how the party is well and truly over.

Everyone wants to be surrounded by their best friends, those they can trust implicitly and always know will be there for them. Saving Spiders explores what happens when that is no longer the case. Powerful theatre that is highly entertaining.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote, 3070 

Season: until 24 September | Tue – Sat 9:15pm, Sun 8:15pm 

Length: 60 minutes

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc/Cheap Tuesday/Groups 4+

Bookings: MelbourneFringe Festival

Zoey Dawson’s CONVICTION

Unsettling and outstanding

By Leeor Adar

Welcome to the prolonged anxiety attack.

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We were submerged into a seemingly soothing world of sound design maverick, James Paul. Distant shores ebbed and flowed into the subconscious and conscious workings of playwright Zoey Dawson. Inane, witty and self-indulgent thoughts grabbed us and made us laugh, and sometimes think a little too hard about ourselves. But that was Dawson’s point. Our own private narrative is both universal and compelling, and Dawson understands this, even if it ticks some theatre-goers off.

Declan Greene’s assured direction makes its masterful entrance as our actors form a tableau from a bygone era. The stream of consciousness that we found ourselves immersed in earlier is being spoken by our now shifting tableau. It’s a gorgeous beginning, and I feel safe in this space, which will become a central feature of what the Dawson/Greene team are going to undo.

And undo it they will.

Conviction goes House on the Prairie to Lord of the Flies in a descent one does not see coming. With every unhappy scene, it is reworked again, and again, just as its playwright tears the pages of their work away. You can almost feel the playwright’s desperation as historical inconsistencies litter the work, until our convict-cum-lady, Lillian (Ruby Hughes), is smoking out of a crack pipe and unravelling both out of character and out of era. The playwright has clearly become bored with the ‘great play’ and returns to a reality more familiar.

The cast is excellent – but it is our leading ladies who really stand out. Hughes dominates in her performance as the ‘survivor’ in a world of her own making, and Caroline Lee’s timing as a performer is effortless. Greene has directed his cast with style – transitioning them with ease from one dimension to the next. It’s a testament to this creative team’s skill that as an audience we take this wild and weird journey with them.

The only concern for this work is its exclusivity. Dawson may find it difficult to reimagine this work in another city. The references to Melbourne and the very specific Melbourne condition are hard to unravel. Dawson’s story resonated with me, but I wonder, outside of the theatre-loving privilege, how will outsiders connect? Dawson has taken on a mouthful in Conviction, but she still artfully weaves historical and feminist inconsistencies into her work in a way that is charming, jarring and familiar.  She reconfigures the past, as our stock white colonialists ask a passing native Australian to tell her story. The world stops for a moment, blacked out and blank, as this story was not Dawson’s to tell. Dawson reminds us that we write stories about our own experiences because they are authentic. It’s also a brazen up-yours to our great nation’s denial of a stolen history. But this is Dawson’s experience, and she manages to intersect her private narrative with a greater narrative about our fear of not being enough, and unworthy of telling our tale.

This isn’t a story about convicts – as I expect you’ve gathered by now. It’s a story about convicting ourselves to a life of self-doubt and anxiety for failing to have the conviction to tell our story.

You can join the stream of consciousness from the 27 July to the 6 August, Wednesday – Sunday at 7:30pm, Northcote Town Hall.

Bookings: Conviction Ticketing

MICF 2016: HOT BROWN HONEY

Just wow

By Joana Simmons

Hot damn. Hot Brown Honey is tearin’ up the Northcote town hall and tearin’ down patriarchy, entitlement and fear. The impeccably written and designed show is a sassy smorgasboard of dance, poetry, comedy, circus, striptease and song. The vibe feels like a disco crossed with a rock concert and gospel service with its no-excuses-high-energy-let’s-rock-the-boat attitude.

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The Queen Bee on her pedestal of swag raps rhymes both humorous and heart-rending, and tells us how “Fighting the power never tasted so sweet (gluten free, no wheat).” Out from the giant lit-up honeycomb-shaped hive, the Honeys fiercely perform solo and group songs, scenes, and energetic and stylistic urban, traditional, tribal and contemporary dance. The range of talent in the cast is immense – hoola hoops, straps and beat-boxing that has my jaw dropping at the precision. All the acts are linked by the narration of the Queen Bee and show depth and connection to the poignant and sometimes dark themes and ideas they are raising. The rousing soundtrack of rnb, inventive remixes, original beats and voice overs had the sold-out opening night audience clapping, cheering and on their feet.

The production quality is outstanding. The lighting is superb – lasers, spots, and the giant hive of rock star quality. I couldn’t go without mentioning the inventive clever costumes that were seamlessly transformed within seconds during complex choreography: pants you can rip off? Wow. Coconut bras you can drink out of? Wow wow. What starts out as a leaf skirt turns into a full dress with head gear? Wow wow wow WOW!

This show is full-power female kick-ass gold. The audience was energised and buzzing all the way to the tram stop. It’s gobsmacking the talent and message this show has to offer: how it challenges everyone to review their views, and inspires everyone to rock the boat. Go see it. Cancel all your plans, tell all your friends if they haven’t heard about it already: because I’m know I’m going to be talking about it for a long time.

Hot Brown Honey for the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Venue: Northcote Town Hall

Dates: April 6-16

Time: 8pm

Tickets: http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/hot-brown-honey

REVIEW: House of Vnholy Presents HOMME

Gentle performance art exposed and exposing

By Myron My

Created by the House of Vnholy and performed as part of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe FestivalHomme is a performative piece that explores male identity and contemporary masculinity in Australia. Through a series of vignettes and in complete silence, the differences between what it means to be a male and be a female are subtly explored.

Homme

It is standing room only during the performance, with Homme enveloping virtually the whole space.  The white flooring is bare except for a number of select items, including a washing machine, a bundle of black balloons, a megaphone and a plinth. The two performers – Matthew Adey and Rebecca Jensen – are dressed in black and the only time they speak is when they ask audience members for assistance with the props.

An audio menagerie of animal sounds play out from the speakers as Adey undresses and rests atop the washing machine in tableau. In conjunction with these sounds, Adey very much resembles a reposing lion, which evokes the idea of masculinity and the animal kingdom and being the king of the “jungle”.

At one point during the performance, Adey resumes his standing position, still unclothed, and opens himself to be the object of not only Jensen’s gaze, but also ours. Later, Adey ‘battles’ with a plinth, as he hugs, clings to and succumbs to the over-powering weight of it. Like a Greek sculpture battling to return to his rightful position on a pedestal, so to is masculinity struggling to demand and retain its position of power.

The 30-minute performance moves quite slowly and at times, there is no movement happening at all. However, the striking images and vignettes give the audience the opportunity to venture inside themselves and think about the issues HOMME is raising as the performance is inviting these thoughts without letting us miss out on what comes next. HOMME asks us to question what being a “man” in contemporary society entails while hinting that the masculine and the feminine are not so different after all and perhaps there is no necessity for division and differentiation.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote, 3070.

Season: Until 3 October | Sat 3.30pm and 8.30pm

Tickets: $22 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Emilie Collyer’s DREAM HOME

Renovation nightmare comes true…

By Christine Young

What ‘sort of people’ are you? This is a question that dogs the central characters of Dream Home, a play about a suburban couple whose renovations become a manifestation of their fears and desires.

Dream Home

The play opens with protagonists Wendy and Brian front-of-stage explaining why they are ‘going up’: adding an upstairs retreat to their house, that is. Wendy is especially worried about what the neighbours think so they have been invited round for a BBQ. Have they become the kind of people who want a room with a view? And what’s that stench seeping through the crack in the wall?

So from the outset, Dream Home breaks down the imaginary fourth wall between players and audience. The characters represent the audience and connect with them while they struggle to bond with each other. They address the audience directly or with humourous asides throughout.

Playwright Emilie Collyer explores the Australian dream-nightmare with compassion and humour. The ordinariness ‘living the dream’ is set against the nightmarish bubbling of subconscious yearnings represented by the mysterious house extension.

At this intersection of reality and fantasy, the audience is challenged to suspend disbelief at the peculiar smells, sights and apparitions projected onto the wall.

There is a Shakespearean quality to the fantasy world reminiscent of Hamlet and Macbeth. The characters are haunted by the past, experiencing an internal struggle between who they are, who they want to be and how they want to live.

The performance is a culmination of an intelligent, carefully structured script brought to life by skilful direction from Luke Kerridge. Kerridge has a firm grasp on the scenes’ pace and transitions; and he understands who the characters are, where they have been and where they are going.

And the seven actors display a profound understanding of the characters they are playing. In particular, Emily Tomlins (Wendy) gives an intuitive performance imbued with empathy and wit. And Olivia Monticciolo stands out as Elise, a 20-something comedian who gate-crashes the BBQ and the play.

The current season of Dream Home presented by Darebin Arts Speakeasy is almost over so there’s not much time to catch this remarkable play which was shortlisted for two playwrights’ awards.

Venue: Northcote Town Hall, West Wing Studio 1, 189 High St, Northcote
Dates: Until June 3, 2015
Tickets: Adult $29, Concession $25 (Student, Health Care Card, Equity Members), Group 4 or more $25
Booking: www.northcotetownhall.com.au

Warning: Contains Strong Language, Partial Nudity, Simulated Sex, Not suitable for Children