Tag: Red Stitch

Red Stitch Presents THE RIVER

Deceptively simple fable runs deep

By Myron My

A Man, a Woman, a cabin and a lot of fish. This is the set up for Red Stitch’s latest production and the Australian premiere of Jez Butterworth’s The River. The story is quite straightforward, with The Man bringing The Woman to his cabin to go fishing, but the performances and technical aspects present allow for a deeper understanding of what it means to be loved and to be deceived.

The River.jpg

It’s been over a year since I saw Dion Mills in another fantastic Red Stitch production, Wet House, and with The River, Mills again shows his powerful ability not only to get inside his characters’ heads but to be able to so with apparent ease. Apart from his skill in masterfully gutting a fish, Mills’ The Man is a fine balance of masculinity, fragility and mystery and his naturalistic portrayal of him makes this character seem all the more tragic.

Ngaire Dawn Fair as The Woman is the perfect counterpart to this Man, adding a level of energy and liveliness to their relationship. Her discovery of the deceit is quietly heartbreaking as it plays out with subtlety and nuance. The Other Woman however (played  by Christina O’Neill), lacked the depth of these characters and, perhaps also by necessity, was missing the chemistry that Mills and Fair shared on stage.

John Kachoyan‘s elegant direction adds to the unease and melancholy of The River. While the entire story is set within the confines of the cabin, you can’t help but feel that the world outside is slowly drowning these people. There’s a sense of timelessness in the movements: nothing feels rushed or frenetic inside the cabin, and the only real moment of drama occurs while out by the river – although we only hear about this. The previously mentioned scene with The Man preparing the fish for dinner speaks volumes to the confidence that both Kachoyan and Mills have in keeping the audience transfixed over such simple stage action for such a period of time, and in ultimately making this one of the most memorable moments of the show.

My only gripe with an otherwise absorbing story is the lack of payoff I experienced, come the end of The River. Even with Christopher De Groot‘s compelling music and sound design and Clare Springett‘s adroit lighting adding highly emotional layers to Butterworth’s script, I left feeling dissatisfied, like something had been missed. I needed more to happen in this narrative: to feel something that would then linger deep inside me as I left the theatre, to be affected by what had happened to these people. The strong efforts of all involved in this production still make this production well worth seeing, but unfortunately for me, it’s in the play’s close that The River seems to get bogged down.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
Season: Until 28 May | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sat 3:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $45 Full | $28-35 Conc
Bookings: Red Stitch Actors Theatre

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REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

Fine performances in difficult play

By Myron My

In June 1967, The Beatles appeared on Our World, the world’s first live television satellite link-up that was watched by roughly 400 million people across the world. While this major event was happening, playwright Mike Bartlett has envisioned a much smaller life-changing moment also occurring. In Love, Love, Love, presented by Red Stitch and directed by Denny Lawrence, two free-spirited nineteen year-olds meet for the first time in a small London flat. Sparks are immediate, and we visit their relationship again in 1990, and then in 2011.

Directed by Denny Lawrence ,  CAST  : ELLA CALDWELL, PAUL ASHCROFT : JORDAN FRASER TRUMBLE , RORY KELLY & JEM NICHOLAS
Directed by Denny Lawrence ,
CAST : ELLA CALDWELL, PAUL ASHCROFT : JORDAN FRASER TRUMBLE , RORY KELLY & JEM NICHOLAS

The chance encounter between Kenneth and Sandra (Paul Ashcroft and Ella Caldwell) in the first act is full of excitement and energy and there is a genuine spark between the two actors. With the addition of Jordan Fraser-Trumble as Kenneth’s more conservative older brother, the script develops at a solid pace. However, the following two acts struggled to retain my interest as much as the first. There was nothing engaging or new about what I was watching and it culminated in a pseudo-ending with white middle-class people complaining about how hard life is. It reached the point where the characters themselves become far less likeable, especially Sandra who ends up resembling a B-grade character from Absolutely Fabulous.

For their part though, Caldwell and Ashcroft put in solid performances and watching them interact on stage together was a highlight of the whole production. It’s a shame these impressive actors weren’t given something more substantial into which they could sink their teeth. Rory Kelly and Jem Nicholas do well with their roles as Kenneth and Sandra’s children, Jamie and Rosie, despite how terribly they are written. I was also quite impressed with Fraser-Trumble, and would have liked to see him and his character return later in the story.

I am still amazed at the visual transformations of the stage space in Red Stitch shows. I can’t recall a season where it has been anything but inspiring, and the same can be said about Love, Love, Love. The costumes by Sophie Woodward and set design by Jacob Battista are appealing and well-presented, although the second act takes place in 1990 but still had a strong 80s feel to it visually.

The direction started off strong and felt very alive and in the moment but by the time we got to the final act, it seemed to become unimaginative and almost lazy. The actors appeared to be stuck trying to keep the momentum gathering, while the storyline became mundane and predictable. A potential plot with Jamie was incredulously ignored and I was baffled as to why we ended up dealing with the chosen issues.

Despite the positive start to Love, Love Love, from the second act onwards the hard work begins to slowly unravel. Even with the great performances by the two leads, it is one of the less memorable works put to stage by Red Stitch.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
Season: Until 4 July | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sat 3:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $37 Full | $20-27 Conc
Bookings: Red Stitch Actors Theatre

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