Tag: Q44 Theatre

Q44 Theatre Presents NK: A KAZANTZAKIAN MONTAGE

A valiant effort to portray a remarkable man

By Myron My

Cretan writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis is perhaps most well-known for his two novels Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ, and his epic poem The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. However, Kazantzakis also led a life of adventure, passion and exploration and in Howard F. Dossor’s NK: A Kazantzakian Montage, important and life-changing moments from his personal story are presented and examined.

NK A Kazantzakian Montage.jpg

The story is told with the aid of a Greek Chorus that gives life to Kazantzakis’ stories, and allows the impressive nine performers (Elyssia Koulouris, Erin Marshall, Kostas Illias, Nicole Coombs, Paul Pellegrino, Sebastian Gunner, Tabitha Veness, Tania Knight, Will Atkinson) to easily switch in and out of the Chorus to become a person from Kazantzakis’ life. Alex Tsitsopoulos as Kazantzakis displays an sound understanding of who this writer was, and delivers a thoughtful performance. However, the production falls into the trap of having Kazantzakis explaining how certain experiences made him feel and what they meant to him, rather than showing us why these moments were important. This resulted in long monologues with less impact, particularly evident in the final scene with the Chorus that had the potential to be a climatic moment and bring this unique life’s story full circle.

While it is an ambitious task to condense seventy-four years into a two-hour show, it felt overall that the work was trying to depict too much, and therefore momentous events Kazantzakis’ life were merely skimmed. His first marriage, which lasted for 15 years, was over within minutes in the show, and his exploration of the monasteries of Mount Athos with his friend and poet, Angelos Sikelianos, while creating some great visuals and certainly marked as an important experience for him, was not given the time that it seemed to warrant.

The live music by Pantelis Krestas and his bouzouki and the sound design by Justin Gardham work well together in creating an authentic Greek ambience – along with some enthusiastic clapping from the audience – and also in bringing out the emotional layers of the story. John Collopy‘s lighting design creates the ambience for each scene and highlights the intensity of Kazantzakis’ emotions. Suzanne Heywood‘s direction utilises the space creatively and through minimal use of props and positioning of the performers is able to set up some visually arresting moments, including the earlier mentioned scene at Mount Athos.

NK: A Kazantzakian Montage is a look at the political, philosophical and intimate nature of a man who never stopped asking questions about life. While it’s great to see Q44 Theatre stepping outside of their familiar repertoire with this form of story and storytelling, the reliance on lengthy exposition and the structure of this narrative unfortunately never allows the audience to profoundly understand and become familiar with Nikos Kazantzakis.

NK: A Kazantzakian Montage was performed at Gasworks Arts Park between 14 – 17 November 2017.

Image by John Collopy

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Q44 Theatre Presents SHINING CITY

Poignant and powerful

By Myron My

The effects of grief and guilt are hauntingly explored in Q44 Theatre‘s latest production of Conor McPherson’s Shining City.

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Set in Dublin, the story revolves around a therapist and his patient, each with his own set of demons to face, and it is another example of the exemplary work on which this theatre company is building its reputation.

Anthony Scundi is exceptional as Ian, an ex-priest struggling with his loss of faith who has just opened up a therapy clinic. While initially coming across as someone who has his life in order, the ensuing scenes paint a picture of a man who is gradually unraveling. Scundi is well-paired with Sebastian Gunner as John, his new patient and the rapport they share feels genuine. Gunner nails a lengthy monologue that requires him to find the right balance of a range of emotions as he recount the events leading up to the death of his wife.

Madeline Claire French as Ian’s wife Neasa, and Nick Cain as Laurence, deliver some strong work in their short but pivotal scenes in Shining City. The chemistry shared between Cain and Scundi in their scene is palpable, and Gabriella Rose-Carter‘s intimate direction clearly conveys Ian’s confusion and helplessness. This results in the most engrossing and intense scene of the play, and keep the audience guessing as to what is going to happen next and how the events are going to play out.

Rose-Carter once again creates engaging and captivating work from her actors, allowing them to embody their characters, and the interludes she instigates between the scenes are well-executed. There is no sense of time or being rushed during the show and Rose-Carter allows things to linger, so that we can interpret them as we like.

The scenic design by Casey-Scott Corless and construction by John Byrne functions as a great metaphor on our attempts to keep our true thoughts and feelings buried, and exposes a duality in our efforts to present ourselves as someone we feel we ought to be. This is supported by the subtle yet effective lighting design by John Collopy that really pushes the claustrophobia in the play.

Shining City is not just a play about John and Ian, but also Neasa and Laurence, and even then it’s about something bigger. It’s about people who are confused and have lost their way, and are doing whatever it is they can to do better – to be better. While set in Dublin, this could easily be any one of us in these characters’ shoes. It’s a lingering and thought-inducing show on people’s struggle to find meaning and connection in the world in which they live.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 27 November | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:00pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc

Bookings:Q44 Theatre

Q44 Theatre Presents SEX WITH STRANGERS

Writers meet, and the story unfurls

By Myron My

In Laura Eason’s Sex With Strangers, a female novelist meets a male blogger at a bed and breakfast in rural Michigan. She loves books, he prefers ebooks. She likes reading the classics, he prefers living writers. She prefers to keep her private life private, he lives his life on-line. Despite their differences, the two are drawn to each other and are forced to question the choices they’ve made in their lives and the ones they are going to have to make in the future.

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Will Atkinson offers a strong performance as Ethan, finding the right balance of brashness, cockiness and arrogance to his sweet, charismatic and endearing nature. Ethan is the type of guy that many of us despise but secretly want to be, and it’s Atkinson’s work in Sex With Strangers that really has you debating that position.

Atkinson’s pairing with Carissa McAllen as Olivia is a great casting choice and the two play off each other well. McAllen convincingly portrays the uncertainty and insecurities Olivia feels in being judged by the public on her writing; however, there were scenes in which I felt McAllen needed to express her character’s anger and frustrations more deeply than what was displayed on the night I attended.

While the space at Q44 Theatre is on the small side and the set itself is more compact than other productions, directors Gabriella Rose-Carter and Casey-Scott Corless use it to their advantage. They adroitly create an intimate world for Olivia and Ethan, that – while certainly influenced by outside factors – ensures the important moments of their lives are captured within the confines of the four walls.

The set and lighting design by Corless and sound design by Justin Gardam effectively show the differences of the two lifestyles being featured. We witness what feels like a battle between a time when life involved face-to-face interaction and real talent being rewarded, and present-day life with its iPhone obsession and the ability to be famous for being famous.

In the bed and breakfast, there is no television and the Internet has dropped out, wherepon an incredulous Ethan exclaims, “How will I look stuff up?” as he repeatedly checks his phone in vain. The environment here is therefore quiet and calm, just like our initial impressions of Olivia. The transition between scenes occur with a flash of light from an imagined Polaroid camera and the photo developing, often capturing an embrace or a kiss shared before the lights dim and calming music plays as the actors perform a quick costume change or set up the next scene.

By contrast, the second act in Olivia’s Chicago apartment has both characters constantly on their phones or their computers. They are no longer giving each other their undivided attention and it’s this technology that could be the doom for their relationship. The scene changes now occur with thumping club music and a red strobe light, reminiscent of an alarm warning of impending danger.

Q44 Theatre is fast building a reputation for producing a varied repertoire of excellent shows, and Sex With Strangers is another success story. Despite being first performed in 2009, the play still has plenty of relevance in the struggles to find meaningful connections – not only in what we do, but also with each other. In a society where there is a constant cacophony of ringing, buzzing and tapping, making these connections and having these experiences is becoming more difficult, ultimately leaving us wondering what we have missed out on, much like Ethan and Olivia.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond
Season:
 Until 3 September | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:00p
Tickets:
 $35 Full | $30 Con
Bookings:
 Q44 Theatre

REVIEW: Q44 Presents SAVAGE IN LIMBO

Engrossing and impressive production

By Myron My

It’s Monday night at an almost empty, seedy Bronx bar in the mid-80s, and five 32-year-olds are not quite sure where their lives are heading, or even what exactly it is they want. What they do know, is that they want change, excitement and passion, and they want it now. Savage in Limbo by acclaimed playwright John Patrick Shanley offers a comedic yet honest look at hope, dreams and missed opportunities.

Savage in Limbo

Sarah Nicolazzo is the shining star of this production as Linda Rotunda, the local girl that all the men know. Her boyfriend has just announced to her he wants to see ugly girls and she is just a little distraught. Nicolazzo delivers a brilliant performance and the excellent physicality and subtle facial expressions she uses to portray Linda are highly natural.

Samantha Mesh as the title character, Denise Savage, convincingly displays the pent-up frustration over where Denise’s life has led. She is still living with her mother, single and unhappy. Something has to give and she’s decided that it’s going to be her virginity, and possibly to Linda’s boyfriend. Nicolazzo and Mesh are highly entertaining to watch, and bounce off each others’ charisma well in their equally strong performances.

Anthony Scundi as the boyfriend, Tony Aronica, plays the role with a level of macho naivety that actually has us disliking him much less than we ought to. Rounding out the talented cast, in supporting roles but still with plenty to say, were Kostas Ilias as Murk the bartender and Andrea McCannon as April, the alcoholic ex-nun.

The design of the bar interior was well thought-out, however I would have liked to have seen a bit more flair and colour with the costumes, especially given the period we were in. Having all five people dressed in black (apart from the Murk’s shirt) wasn’t always visually arresting. Thankfully this didn’t affect the show much due to Gabriella Rose-Carter‘s direction in keeping the characters moving and active with each other. Apart from getting great performances from the cast, she also managed to keep them interesting when they were listening to each other, which I particularly noticed during the Santa Claus scene.

Being thirty-two, I have found myself having similar thoughts to and experiencing life-moments like these characters. Even though it’s been over 30 years since Savage in Limbo was written, it’s somewhat comforting to know that some things never change. Or maybe it should be unsettling? Either way, Q44 Theatre have made a commendable production that burrows into your mind for you to ponder over after the final bow has taken place.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond.
Season: Until 6 September | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $27 Conc
Bookings: Q44 Theatre