Tag: Robert Chuter

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE FASTEST CLOCK IN THE UNIVERSE

An intriguing time piece

By Caitlin McGrane

An intriguing presentation as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, the drama is uneasy and disquieting in The Fastest Clock in the Universe by Phillip Ridley. The play opens as Cougar Glass (Robert Ricks) lounges luxuriously in only his briefs under a sun lamp; his friend/man-servant/lover (?)/lackey Captain Tock (Ian Rose) appears as the portentous messenger to remind Cougar about his birthday party. The unsettling narrative continues apace as Cougar has invited only one person to his birthday, a boy of 15 named Foxtrot Darling (William Freeman). The obvious comparison is to The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the first act is certainly reminiscent of the young man who cannot bear to accept responsibility, while remaining perpetually 19. When Cougar’s age is alluded to it is only Cheetah Bee (Brenda Palmer), the landlady who lives downstairs, who can soothe him. Inside the tiny apartment, as the wind screams outside, Foxtrot arrives with an uninvited guest.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe

Each individual performance was excellent, but Scout Boxall really stole the show as the hilarious yet bonkers Sherbert Gravel in the second act. Ricks’ increasingly deranged Cougar almost became part of the furniture while she dominated the stage with her handbag, and Foxtrot, in tow. Rose’s Captain ratcheted up the tension; his glee mirroring Cougar’s insanity. It was clear the play was set in London, so I found Palmer’s Australian accent slightly out-of-place.

While the first act was dynamic, interesting and dark, the second act failed to live up to expectations. It is difficult to pin down exactly what didn’t work, but it felt like scenes ran on for too long, and after a particularly affective split-stage scene, the mood of the play shifted into absurdity as Foxtrot and Sherbert remained in a desperately uncomfortable situation. Was that the intention? One cannot be sure, but by the time Cheetah Bee delivered her final monologue, it was clear that something had gone awry. A moment that should have been poignant became somewhat clichéd.

However, overall this production is gripping and edgy; Director Robert Chuter has managed to create something both wildly funny and thrillingly tense. Robert Smith (Set Designer, Graphic Designer and Producer) has done wonders with the small space; the set is imbued with a sense of unwilling decay. There is similarly excellent work from Tom Backhaus (Sound Designer) whose soundtrack is almost reminiscent of Blade Runner. It may need some creases ironed out, but The Fastest Clock in the Universe certainly gives audiences pause.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe is showing until 31 January 2015 in The Loft at Chapel off Chapel. Tickets are $38 Full, $32 Concession, $30 Group 5+ (+ transaction fee) and available from http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/melbourne-comedy-theatre-art/melbourne-events/midsumma-festival/the-fastest-clock-in-the-universe-21-31-jan/.
Be advised: The Fastest Clock in the Universe does contain some nudity and scenes of violence against women.

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REVIEW: Fly on the Wall Theatre Presents TELENY

Taking it slow…

By Margaret Wieringa

When a young and sexually inexperienced man in 1920s Paris meets a talented pianist, the world and everything he believes in is turned upside-down. Believed to have been written by Oscar Wilde and his circle, Teleny pulls no punches when it comes to graphic and shocking sexual stories.

A grand piano dominates the stage, set among the stunning chandeliers and chaise longues. It is used innovatively throughout the performance, but none more so than in the beautifully choreographed sex scene between the two lovers. Actors Tom Byers and Dushan Phillips use every muscle in their bodies to create stunning visual images of love and lust, captured in the light and shadow of excellent lighting design.

Jackson Raine in TELENY_credit FSPY FRANCINE SCHAEPPER PHOTOGRAPHY

A grand piano dominates the stage, set among the stunning chandeliers and chaise longues. It is used innovatively throughout the performance, but none more so than in the beautifully choreographed sex scene between the two lovers. Actors Tom Byers and Dushan Phillips use every muscle in their bodies to create stunning visual images of love and lust, captured in the light and shadow of excellent lighting design.

The challenge to these two actors was not just the physical lovemaking scenes, but conveying the aloof and sarcastic nature of the pretty young things of Wilde’s world. At times, the emotion of the scene was lost in the words and tone, but once the characters lose themselves to love, the words came more naturally.

The second half of the performance opens with the salon scene – an orgy of delights, with naked men performing poetry (well, bawdy limericks), storytelling and a hilarious commedia dell ‘arte number, and ends in a violent act that director Robert Chuter has somehow managed to keep tasteful.

Unfortunately, for me, all of the good things about the play were severely outweighed by the self-indulgent length. When, after two-and-a-half hours the lights came on and we were informed that there would be a twenty-minute interval, there were various sounds of surprise from the audience. There were a considerable number of people who did not return after the interval, and I suspect it was the length more than the content. The performance would have benefitted from some severe editing to ensure that the story that was being told was kept, but that it didn’t drag on and on. Throughout the show, various non-naturalistic techniques were used to tell a lot in a very snappy manner, and perhaps more of this could have been incorporated.

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Dates: May 29 – June 15, Wednesday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 6:30pm
Price: $37.50 Full, $34.50 Concession (+ Transaction Fee)
Tickets: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or call (03) 8290 7000

PLEASE NOTE: THIS PERFORMANCE IS SUITABLE FOR MATURE AUDIENCES 18+ CONTAINS NUDITY, SIMULATED EXPLICIT SEX SCENES, DRUG USE, COARSE LANGUAGE AND SMOKE EFFECTS

REVIEW: Barry Lowe’s THE DEATH OF PETER PAN

Boyish bildungsroman and lingering love story

By Myron My

Barry Lowe’s The Death of Peter Pan is a tragic and beautiful story of growing up and becoming a man. Set during the 1920’s, it follows the life of Michael Llewelyn-Davies – the adopted (and favourite) son of Peter Pan author, James Barrie – and his chance encounter with fellow student Rupert Buxton.

Death of Peter Pan Photo credit - MarcOpitz

Kieran McShane and Jordan Armstrong do a flawless job as the two protagonists, Michael and Rupert respectively. Rupert’s arrogance and brashness is a perfect contrast to Michael’s ambivalence and fear of what is happening, and this dynamic ultimately leads to a first kiss, first love and first heartbreak for Michael. There are some strong relationship-defining moments on stage, including the scene at the Parisian whorehouse and Michael’s swimming lesson. The affection and tenderness between the characters has a heartfelt authenticity, and this is mainly due to the talents of these two performers.

The two are supported by a more-than-capable ensemble cast including Sean Paisley Collins as Roger Senhouse, Michael’s flirtatious college friend. Collins is superb in his role: not overdone and revealing a serious and sensitive side that (when it does come to the surface) leaves quite an impact. Similarly, Ian Rooney’s J.M. Barrie is impressive as he plays out the nuances of a man still trying to live in his own Peter Pan moment.

Robert Chuter returns to the Chapel to direct The Death of Peter Pan and his focus on and image of this production is breathtaking. He has put together a very fine cast and crew, including costume designer Elissa Hullah and hair and make-up artist Rebecca Vaughan whose efforts warrant particular mention. The show does use blackouts between scenes and although I am not generally a fan of these visual interruptions, the haunting musical score by Andrew Bishop was able to keep us utterly absorbed in the moment.

The Death of Peter Pan is Australian theatre at its unrivaled best. It’s always a joy to be enveloped by a production that has brought everything so seamlessly together and its effects will still be felt long after having seen it.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 2 June | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $30 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000

Review: ALL THAT I EVER WILL BE by Alan Ball

Dark and clever script demands strong performances

By Ross Larkin

Alan Ball has established himself as a leading American screenwriter, with award winning credits including Six Feet Under and American Beauty. His knack for confronting and exploring the human condition with dark humour and striking realism seems unparalleled. For many, witnessing his work on stage will be a new experience.

All That I Will Ever Be, although five years old, is a lesser-known play by Ball, and while this particular season has returned due to popular demand, it has seldom been performed state-side or in Australia.

As one might expect from Ball, the play focuses on complex relationships – with sexuality, identity and fidelity largely driving the action. Direction and performance, therefore, are intrinsically key in the success of a story whose foundation relies heavily on the perils and quirks of the human condition.

Ball’s characters are multi-faceted, three-dimensional though somehow accessible – hence his universal appeal.  Yet, in the wrong hands, his work runs the risk of losing that combination of raw yet subtle Ball mystique, falling into average, forgettable territory. Taking on the task of directing such challenging material is not a decision that can be made lightly.

All That I Will Ever Be certainly could have fallen into less capable hands than that of director Robert Chuter who thankfully avoided sappy melodrama with which a less-experienced director may have been tempted. His simplistic set and focus on character were safe though wise choices – unfortunately let down, however, by an ensemble of varying capabilities.

In a play heavily driven by performance, there were thankfully no weak links, but with material of this nature, acceptable simply isn’t strong enough. Christian Heath was one of few who convincingly portrayed inner struggle and occasional outward despair with subtlety, depth and balance to engage and evoke the necessary empathy. Yet as Heath got the stakes rising, enticing the audience into Ball’s world as intended – others would swiftly push viewers back to observer status.

Had the calibre of performers all matched Heath’s, Chuter and Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre could have had a very different result on his hands. The kind that Alan Ball’s work calls for.

PLAYING FROM 01-12 AUGUST
Wednesday – Saturday @ 8.00pm
Sunday @ 6.30pm
Full $29 / Conc $23

CHAPEL OFF CHAPEL
12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran, 3181

BOOKINGS 03 8290 7000
www.chapeloffchapel.com.au