Tag: Romaine Harper

Paul Capsis in RESIDENT ALIEN

Superb sojourn in the life of a legend

By Joana Simmons

“If I have any talent at all, it is not for doing but for being.”

Resident Alien, presented by Cameron Lukey, is a thought-provoking look at English writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp. The seasoned and critically-acclaimed Paul Capsis embodies this textured effeminate character and has the audience swept up as he recounts stories and moments from his fascinating life.

Resident Alien Photo Credit Sarah Walker.jpg

Quentin Crisp was a self-described flamboyant homosexual.  He’s a man who defied convention by criticising Gay liberation and Diana, Princess of Wales. At a time when homosexuality was illegal, Crisp remained true to himself and expressed himself by dying his long hair lavender, wearing nail polish, and dressing in an often androgynous style. Despite the ridicule and violence often directed toward him, Crisp carried on, meeting hostility with wit. When he tried to join the army with the outbreak of World War he was rejected by the medical board, who determined that he was suffering from sexual perversion.  Instead, Crisp remained in London and entertained the American GIs, whose friendliness inculcated a love for Americans and he moved to Manhattan in 1981, when he was 72 years old. Crisp continued to tour, write, and lecture; including instructions on how to live life with style and the importance of manners.

The play by Tim Fountain picks up in Quentin’s dusty single-room Manhattan apartment, littered with books and dirty plates, where Crisp speaks to the audience as he prepares to be visited by Mr Brown and Mr Black.  His monologue moves naturally and conversationally through a plethora of opinions and anecdotes, from the mundane to the ones that strike a chord in your heart and get your brain spinning. Paul Capsis is outstanding in this role. Each single look and mannerism is captivating and his skillful delivery of the wordy and lengthy script is astonishing.

Director Gary Abrahams has helped construct a theatre piece that gives you more than something to sink your teeth into- it’s a piece of theatre that needs to sink in. To be able to stage one man’s story and views and have it make us reflect on our own whilst still being entertaining is true craftsmanship. Romaine Harper’s costume and set design gives immediate depth and background to this interesting person as the Fortyfivedownstairs performance space is transformed into Crisp’s apartment, cleverly lit by lighting designer Rob Sowinski and all accompanied by Daniel Nixon’s sound design.  You can tell the production is high-calibre and many hours have been spent on tying everything into one professional and glamorous bow.

Sometimes we go to the theatre to laugh, sometimes we go to cry, sometimes we go to forget about our own lives and live in a different world for a moment in time. Resident Alien gives us all these things. It’s remarkable, it’s memorable and it’s still got me reflecting now. If you go to the theatre and you enjoyed yourself, that’s great. If you go to the theatre and it makes you question yourself, that’s art.  Congratulations to all the creatives involved for producing such a high-class production.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, CBD

Season:Until June 12 2016

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/resident-alien/2016-05-25/

Image by Sarah Walker

Advertisements

REVIEW: Daniel Schlusser Ensemble in M+M

Daring to unravel a Russian classic

By Christine Moffat

M + M is the theatrical reworking of Bulgakov’s classic Russian novel The Master and Margarita by exploratory masters the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble for this year’s Melbourne Festival.  Approaching such a novel with reverence, and producing a slavish retelling is not in this Ensemble’s vocabulary.  Instead, this innovative group always attempt to crack the code underpinning the work of art, and present its inner workings to the audience.  Unfortunately, in this production they have taken a risk that has not entirely paid off.

M+M

Some elements of this show are truly superb.  The set design by Anna Cordingley and Romaine Harper is outstanding, and used extensively and with great effect by director Daniel Schulusser.  Every performer (Johnny Carr, Josh Price, Nikki Shiels, Karen Sibbing, Emily Tomlins, Mark Winter & Edwina Wren) bravely attacks the show with energy, commitment and obvious talent.

Deconstructing such rich source material is ambitious for when it comes to reconstructing, how do you decide which elements must be reinstated?  The attempt to connect the novel to Pussy Riot and modern Russian social oppression is disjointed.  Instead of combining these themes, the performance gives the sense of empty, barren space between them.  The program invites the audience to view the piece as “…theatrical architecture…”, but the parts are too loosely connected to achieve this.  It could be better compared to blueprints and a collection of building materials.

It is not a narrative that this production lacks, but rather any emotional resonance.  The vignettes performed on stage are diaspora; closer to resembling performance art than theatre, but not managing the shock or provocation common to that art form either.  Whether this production succeeds in affecting others in its audience emotionally, or merely works visually, the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble have achieved an outcome that can inform and feed their future works.

Sometimes parts do not create a cohesive and greater whole.  In approaching a seemingly impossible novel, this Ensemble should impress us in the attempt, and in the many successful moments it produces.  Sadly, this reconstruction still feels as if it has major elements of the original source missing.  It is like a beautiful watch that has been rebuilt without hands – each component is lovingly crafted, but it has no way of performing as intended and so we have no way of receiving its ultimate message.

Oct 12 – 16 (no show Oct 15)

Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street St Kilda

Tickets: $65 / $50 / Under 30s $35, Student $25

Bookings: theatreworks.org.au, 03 9534 3388, or Ticketmaster 136 100