Tag: Olga Makeeva

Red Stitch Presents THE MOORS

A brilliant, absurdist Brontesque thriller

By Tania Herbert

Haze cascades down from the ceiling, and the severe form of a Victorian woman is lit to look like a cameo brooch. Thus opens The Moors at Red Stitch Theatre, and I already have a little thrill of expectation.

The Moors

Wandering into the tiny, immaculate theatre of Red Stitch is always an expected delight. What was less expected though, was this gothic surrealist gem of a play by Jen Silverman.

Governess Emilie (Zoe Boesen) is lured to a new job at a manor on the moors, after an exchange of sultry emails with the lord of the manor. She arrives to find that there appears to be no child, her bedroom looks suspiciously like the parlour, and her benefactor is nowhere to be found.

Instead she quickly finds herself embroiled in the mysteries of the household, with the multiple personalities of the housemaid (Grace Lowry), melancholies of tortured writer Hudley (Anna McCarthy) and the chilling powers of Agatha (Alex Aldrich), the formidable sister of the missing lord.

The gothic thriller set-up is counterpointed by the parallel story of the depressed family hound who forms an implausible relationship with a damaged moor-hen unable to fly away (played by ensemble actors Dion Mills and Olga Makeeva).

The set-up and absurdist nature of the play could have easily ended up out of hand, but was held in place by extremely tight direction under Stephen Nicolazzo, and particularly the strength of characterisation by all cast members. For every performance, the simmering darkness within was captured, presenting a gripping two hours of theatre. With an almost all-female cast, the play pushed gender roles in particularly interesting ways – my feeling was that the play isn’t foregrounding a feminist message as such – but rather, is a story with an exceptionally strong cast of characters and actors – most of whom happen to be women.

It is difficult to highlight a particular standout performer, as every cast member was strong, convincing and compelling. Perhaps my personal favourite was Olga Makeeva mastering the challenge of playing both an anthropomorphised bird, but also the relative ‘everyman’ against the absurdities around her.

The accent variation grated on me a little, as Australian ocker just doesn’t seem congruent with the English moors, but given the surrealist nature of the work, this did not subtract overall. This play won’t be for everyone – it is dark in mood, appearance and humour with horror elements and a bit of lustiness.

Sinister, dark, and humorous, watching The Moors feels like peering into a gothic dollhouse of horrors.

The Moors is performing at Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East

 Dates: 6 June- 9 July, Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 6.30pm (Post-show Q&A 22 June)

Tickets: $15-$49

Bookings: (03) 9533 8083 or www.redstitch.net

Image by Jodie Hutchinson

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REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents JURASSICA

Impressive cast in family saga

By Caitlin McGrane

Jurassica is a familiar Australian family story of immigration and assimilation. Ralph (Joe Petruzzi) and Sara (Caroline Lee) came from Italy in the 1950s to begin a new life in Australia. As immigrants in a foreign land they attempted to adjust to a new way of life, while trying to maintain their familiar traditions and customs. The play is told through flashback sequences as Ralph’s son Ichlis (Jordan Fraser-Trumble), grandson Luca (Edward Orton) and daughter-in-law Penny (Devon Lang Wilton) attempt to deal with his rapidly failing health. All the performers in the ensemble cast give exceptional performances as individuals and work well together. Fraser-Trumble and Orton both do a particularly good job of playing men/boys at a variety of ages.

Jurassica

However, for me the play did not hang together exceptionally well: the script was slightly tired and took a well-trodden path that was not aided by the addition of the interpreter Kaja’s (Olga Makeeva) Serbian background story, which seemed slightly clumsily included. Director Bridget Balodis has done a terrific job in the six weeks she had to put the play together, but the story was not quite up to the standard I have come to expect from Red Stitch. However, the writing was not without merit, and the play maintained a steady and relatively engaging pace throughout.

As always at Red Stitch the staging and lighting were excellent: Romaine Harper (Set & Designer) and Amelia Lever-Davidson (Lighting Designer) have both done a wonderful job of evoking a variety of environs on stage.

In some ways this is a story of fragile masculinity within a family, and while it was certainly told with its heart in the right place, it unfortunately did not strike a chord with me. This may have been due to the heavy use of Italian, which I do not understand or speak. Luckily I attended with someone who does so she was able to translate, but this somewhat distracted from the intentions on stage. I look forward to seeing what playwright Dan Giovannoni does next.

Dates: Until Nov 9th 2015

Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Rear 2 Chapel Street
St Kilda East, Vic 3183, Australia

Bookings: http://redstitch.net/gallery/jurassica/

Image by Jodie Hutchinson

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents THE RITUAL SLAUGHTER OF GORGE MASTROMAS

The evils of success

By Caitlin McGrane

The opening of this interesting postmodern production is explicit in its scene setting: the five members of the ensemble cast explain the circumstances of Gorge Mastromas’ conception, birth and childhood. It is immediately apparent that this will be a performance that will both show and tell its protagonist’s story. Written by Dennis Kelly, the Australian premier of The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas is well executed by director Mark Wilson; the staging is highly stylistic and minimalist – sleek, sharp lines frame the performance space and projectors are gainfully employed to immerse the audience in Wilson’s vision.

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas

Initially Gorge, excellently played by Richard Cawthorne, is unassuming and almost unbearably feckless. Then, after a particularly tense business deal, Gorge’s temperament changes; he becomes convinced that the only way to succeed is to live by three rules, all of which revolve around lying. The rest of the play unfurls while Gorge’s morals crumble and dissolve as he manipulates his way to personal and financial success.

The rest of the cast beautifully bring to life this darkly comic morality tale; Jordan Fraser-Trumble, Olga Makeeva and Dion Mills inject so much humour into the narration that the exposition rarely feels unnecessary or laborious. However, there are certainly moments where the play drags, particularly in the second act. The first travels at such a cracking pace that it was surprising over an hour had passed since we first entered the theatre; but this was sadly not repeated in the second act. This lack of continuity was distracting, yet the performance was saved by the strength of the script, and the combination of lighting (Clare Springett), sound and video design (Robert D Jordan). Red Stitch’s small performance space has been well utilised by stage manager Melissa Place.

There are some very, very dark themes in this play: scenes of suicide and child abuse, scenes with blood and implied violence. Never gratuitous, it wasn’t until the end of some scenes that I noticed my hands had formed tight fists. And that’s how I felt when I left the theatre, like I had been hit by a well-placed, well-timed punch to the gut.

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas is showing at Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre until 7 March 2015. Tickets are $20-$39 available here: http://redstitch.net/bookings/.

Photo credit: Jodie Hutchinson