Tag: Rosie Lockhart

Red Stitch Presents UNCLE VANYA

Chekhov adaptation is both smart and stylish

By Leeor Adar

Nadia Tass continues her accomplished direction here in Annie Baker’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. It is one of the best things I’ve seen this year, and Red Stitch delivers some of the best Australian theatre once again. Having witnessed a number of Chekhov productions recently, it is a delight to see such an accomplished and stylish cast bring to life one of Chekhov’s more titillating works. Uncle Vanya brings the longings for life, for land and for love in a way that embraces the depths of the emotional life rarely written so well. The melancholy acceptance of our lot rings true, we almost feel like tearing down the walls of the little world on stage and freeing the characters from their own reverie and turmoil.

 Uncle Vanya - Rosie Lockhart & Ben Prendergast c. David_Parker.jpg

Baker’s contemporary adaptation of Uncle Vanya captures the larger-than-life torment of the characters in a way we recognise as an audience. From the plight of the forests to the plight of the loss of youth and vigour to sedentary living, Chekhov’s world continues to make sense to contemporary audiences. While admittedly his world tends to drag (why any work should go beyond two hours is increasingly beyond me), the Chekhovian drag perfectly symbolises the endless days that follow in the pursuit of living – so aptly considered by the character of Sonya.

Long-time resident of Red Stitch, David Whiteley portrays the title role of Uncle Vanya with humour, bitterness and vitality. It’s hard playing a lovelorn, broken man, but Whiteley does it with panache. Whiteley is accompanied brilliantly by Ben Prendergast’s Astrov, the country doctor-cum-man of the earth. Both fall prey to the bored wanderlust of the leisurely Yelena, portrayed with so much grace, guile and allure by Rosie Lockhart. Lockhart’s mystery is balanced well with Sonya’s earthy kindness, played by Eva Seymour with astonishing conviction. The supporting cast bring their own, with a special mention to Justin Hosking’s tragi-comic Telegin, who’s timing and awkwardness are utterly endearing. Marta Kaczmarek’s ‘nanny’ Marina’s watchful, wise gaze pervades the production with the kind of certainty that only comes with a life lived and observed. Together this ensemble cast seamlessly delivers this universal family drama with an intimacy and tenderness that does justice to the writer’s work. My only displeasure is with the Russian accents deployed with too great a variety by the actors to genuinely contribute to the overall work.

Sophie Woodward’s set and costume design captures the country home feel astutely. The little window gazing towards the countryside that only the characters can see out of perfectly encapsulates the unending longing. The lounge sofa converts so well from the bed of the exhaustingly self-important Professor, Serebryakov (Kristof Kaczmarek), to the melancholy place where Voynitsky drowns his sorrows. The set is utilised very well, and the carefully thought-out production is aided by Woodward’s style.

There is great humour and poetry to Tass’ Uncle Vanya, and the excellent direction kites its audience along, observing all the moments that rupture, and all those softer moments in between. Chekhov fans will endure, and they will enjoy. For those who are unfamiliar with the work, this production would be a great place to start.

Uncle Vanya continues to be performed at Red Stitch until December 17.

http://redstitch.net/bookings/

Image by David Parker

Optic Nerve Presents THE MILL ON THE FLOSS

Where waters run deep

By Rebecca Waese

Optic Nerve’s The Mill on the Floss directed by Tanya Gerstle, delivers a thrilling, sensual, and physically-charged performance about Maggie Tulliver, who, growing up in a provincial town in nineteenth-century England, learns that her choices in life are damningly limited by her gender.

The Mill on the Floss

In this intelligent and immersive production, originally adapted by Helen Edmundson for Shared Experience Theatre Company from George Eliot’s novel, three actors play Maggie at different stages in her life in a moving embodiment of how we experience inner conflict when faced with making heart-breaking decisions. Young Maggie, played by Maddie Nunn with joy and irreverence, supports the more somber second Maggie, hauntingly portrayed by Zahra Newman, and convinces her to return the affections of her first suitor Philip Wakeham, (Tom Heath), who is the son of the lawyer who has taken over Maggie’s father’s mill. Rosie Lockhart delivers a beautifully tempered yet volatile third evolution of Maggie, who becomes entangled in an impossible love triangle with her cousin’s betrothed, Stephen Guest (George Lingard), and has to choose between respecting her brother’s wishes for her and her own desires that will leave her disowned by her family and a societal outcast.

Gerstle’s Pulse style of actor training, where actors follow physical and emotional impulses to give body to the text, allows for some unforgettable ensemble moments. Eight actors commit fully to their 17 roles and create a moving experience of a flood using only chairs and an upturned table in a simple yet evocative light and soundscape. The ghost of a drowned witch emerges from an unseen crevice under the stage to try and drown Maggie in the river. The scenes with the Aunties who selfishly expose their self-interest when Mrs Tulliver (Luisa Hastings Edge) and Mr Tulliver (James O’Connell) lose everything reveal the underside of family divided by class. Music enhances the production and Zahra Newman’s powerful instrument of a voice, worth the price of admission alone, sings a primal call-to-arms of the pain of women who centuries earlier were drowned for being witches.

This adaptation maintains a strong connection to the novel, written in 1860 by Mary Ann Evans under the male pseudonym George Eliot, for its unflinching and unnervingly contemporary portrait of the stirring passions of a young woman bound by the social forces of her time. There is less focus on Tom, Maggie’s brother (Grant Cartwright) than in the novel although his over-physical relationship with Maggie resonates with the intense childhood bond George Eliot describes having with her brother before they were estranged in her autobiographical poem “Brother and Sister.” The weakest part comes in the love affair between third Maggie and Stephen Guest where the affair feels somewhat rushed and not as consuming as it could be if Lingard were able to bring a deeper maturity to the role.

Mill on the Floss injects the past into the contemporary with its rousing themes of how women react passionately against being held down in society. In the theatre foyer, a collage depicting fifteenth-century witch trials and Eddie McGuire’s recent comments about how he would pay to see his female colleague’s head held under a pool of iced water, tracks a chilling legacy that makes Maggie’s struggles even more vital today. This a triumph you do not want to miss; it’s history in the making.

Date: 28 Jul 2016 – 13 Aug 2016. Extra show added Tues Aug 9.

Time: Tues to Sat at 7:30pm and 1:30pm on Sat 6, Sat 13 Aug

Price: $35 Full / $26 Conc, Under 30, Groups 8+ /$20 Preview [plus $2.50 booking fee per ticket]

Presented by: Theatre Works and Optic Nerve

Bookings: (03) 9534 3388

Image by Pia Johnson

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents DEAD CENTRE / SEA WALL

Impressive and powerful as always

By Margaret Wieringa

Three squares of light, perhaps windows, gradually appear on the scrim that divides the stage. As the audience quieten for the start of the show, slowly the lights come up on a couple, the woman sleeping on the man’s shoulder. There is a weight to the tableaux which is held and held, and then fades to black.

Dead Centre and Sea Wall

And then out bursts Helen an Englishwoman who now lives in Australia, accidentally. Rosie Lockhart plays Helen with charm and a fast smile that immediately has the audience in the palm of her hand. She relates her stories filled with such ridiculous behaviours (such as her choice of travel companions when heading inland to visit Uluru), yet there is something beneath it, something sinister or painful. And it comes out in a strange mix of sadness and anger, somewhat misdirected.

After Helen leaves the stage, Alex wanders on, an Irishman photographer who relates stories of taking his wife and daughter to visit her father in France. Like Helen, he is charming and bright, a man who people like, and who likes people. But he too has a darkness, and as he spoke, and I realised where it was going, I was hoping, almost praying, that it would turn out he was taking us for a ride. But no. Ben Prendergast broke my heart with his smiles through the tears, with his ability despite it all to give some sense of hope. Of hope not for now, but for one day.

Sea Wall was written by Olivier award-winning Simon Stephens (whose Birdland recently closed at MTC). Dead Centre was written in response to this by local Green Room and AWGIE winner Tom Holloway. In Sea Wall, Stephens has created a monologue that grabs the audience and draws them in to Alex’s story, so they cannot help but feel his grief as he attempts to get through it. Holloway captures these juxtaposing emotions beautifully, and manages to give Helen her own story without stepping on the toes of Alex. And the gentle vignettes behind the scrim bring it all together for a strong but emotionally challenging evening of theatre directed by Julian Meyrick, from the ever-impressive company Red Stitch.

Where: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East
When: July 14-August 15, Wed – Sat 8pm and 3pm Matinee on Saturdays and 6:30 Sundays
Tickets: $20 – $37
Booking: By phone Tues-Fri 11-2pm 9533 8083 or visit www.redstitch.net

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents STRAIGHT

Finding the comedy in modern relationships

By Myron My

The title of Red Stitch’s latest production Straight comes with a double meaning. It plays on the notion of being stuffy and predictable but also brings up questions about intimacy and sexuality between a group of late-twenty-somethings.

Straight

D. C. Moore’s fun script is strong and I had only a few quibbles with it. For example, the opening scene between Lewis and Morgan (Ryan Gibson and Rosie Lockhart) feels quite contrived and grated on my patience with the “cute and adorable” relationship speak. Fortunately, this issue is rarely repeated. There are a few instances where the story seems to slow down with some hedging preventing any progression, but when the audience is generally two steps ahead of what is on stage, sometimes it’s best to just get on with it.

However, Moore does exceptionally well in keeping the story and characters honest and grounded. It’s a topic that could easily end up becoming full of badly-made sex and porn jokes but there is real heart evident in all facets and throughout the comedy of Straight. This is mainly through the scenes with Waldorf (Ben Prendergast) and Lewis but the final scene between Morgan and Lewis is quite heartbreaking and touching.

Guest actor with Red Stitch, Gibson is perfectly cast as Lewis and plays his nuances and anxieties well. Christina O’Neill is a delight to watch as Steph, Waldorf’s Amy Winehouse-esque one-night stand. I would have liked to see more of her but Moore knows the story he wants to tell and sacrifices have to be made. Rounding out the talented ensemble were Lockhart and Prendergast who both do well with their roles. The cast excels in their English accents and they all remain natural and consistent with them throughout.

I’m generally not a fan of blackouts between scenes but in Straight they work effectively in keeping us engaged with the show. In particular, the set change from cramped living room to swanky hotel room is a spot of genius and you do not even notice the the time it takes to make the transformation.

Straight is an enjoyable show with some great performances and a script with plenty of moments that will have you laughing out loud.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.

Season: Until 28 September | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sat 4:00pm, Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $37 Full | $20-27 Conc

Bookings: http://redstitch.net

Review: VCA’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Stunning performances throughout

By Christine Moffat

The VCA School of Performing Arts’ production of Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a play about image and transformation, examining the very modern, yet age-old issues of gender and societal roles. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher imagines a tumultuous episode in the life of the real-life celebrated female character actor Edward ‘Ned’ Kynaston (Tom Heath), and charts his historical journey from darling of London society to the wilderness of potential irrelevance.

Kynaston is at times arrogant, at others touchingly fragile, and requires a transformative performance. Heath deftly makes the flawed Kynaston heroic by investing him with an unwavering honesty of intention. As Nell Gwyn, Rosie Lockhart is a standout performance, succeeding in making the historically famous and notoriously fickle Gwyn a warm and vulnerable real woman.  Matt Whitty is aptly named, as his comic timing is impeccable and his Charles II is amusing without becoming a caricature. Alice Cavanagh was also especially good in both her roles, again showing a good sense of natural comedic acting, as opposed to simply playing for laughs. It has to be said that it is difficult to only make specific mention of the performers above, as the calibre of performances from every member of this large cast was superb.

The original set design by Amaya Veccellio (beginning at the theatre door) takes the audience backstage in a seventeenth-century theatre, and helps create the sense of immediacy that continues throughout the play. On the walk to your seat the actors are right there, completing their pre-show rituals of dressing, rehearsing lines, or even grabbing a quickie. The careful lighting created by Sarah Willetts augmented by the subtle sound design of Kahra Scott-James evokes a pre-electric world, whilst ensuring that the audience does not need to strain see details. Director Tanya Gerstle deserves recognition for generating a true feeling of immersion and involvement: during a bawdy tavern scene when Kynaston is at his lowest, and undergoing great torment from his ‘audience’, my theatre companion had to stop herself from heckling back in his defence.

This classic play explores the concept of self, and how it is affected by circumstance and choice. This particular production is a poetic marriage of pathos and comedy, and a credit to everyone involved. I can thoroughly recommend it as an intelligent, engaging, and most importantly, entertaining night’s theatre.

Show information:

Sun 28 October – Thurs 1 November, 7:30pm

Fri 2 November, 2:00pm & 7:30pm

Venue: Grant Street Theatre, Grant Street, Southbank

Tickets: $22 Full/$16 Concession

Bookings: www.trybooking.com