Tag: Sebastian Gunner

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.

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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

Hungry Wolf Theatre Presents ORPHANS

Fraternal bonds are set to break

By Myron My

The bond between brothers, or any siblings for that matter, is a bond for life. After all, as the adage goes, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Lyle Kessler’s Orphans, two brothers share the pain of having a mother who has died and a father that has abandoned them. While both of them choose to deal with the pain and protect themselves and each other in different ways, emotions gradually reach boiling point where something has got to give.

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In Hungry Wolf Theatre‘s current production, Mark Davis as younger brother Phillip continues to impress me with his ability in bringing his varied characters to life. It’s testament to his skill and talent that Davis is physically and emotionally the complete opposite to the character I last saw him in: Q44‘s brilliant production of Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love last year. The machismo and hot-bloodedness of Eddie is nowhere to be seen in Phillip, an innocent, sheltered individual who falls somewhere on the high-functioning Autism disorder spectrum. It is almost like the performer has ceased to exist as each movement, each stare, each thought process is overtaken by Phillip and for a show that goes for over two hours, it is a challenging feat that Davis smashes through.

Danny Zivaljevic as the older, more volatile brother, Treat, has a strong presence on stage and physically captures the anger that is boiling inside the character. It’s an anger that we recognise if Treat doesn’t control soon enough, will eventually be his undoing. I confess I would have liked to see Zivaljevic try and work more with the subtleties and the nuances of these anger issues that would have allowed Treat to feel like a better-rounded character. Meanwhile, Sebastian Gunner is much at ease with Harold, finding the perfect balance between his comedic, threatening and sensitive nature.

The committed performances from the actors are unfortunately let down by a script that for me lacks true suspense or tension and doesn’t seem to lead anywhere – nor does it explore the characters’ relationships to the depth that I feel would be more rewarding for the audience. However,  Peter Blackburn’s strong direction here and use of the space builds a claustrophobic and still somewhat suspenseful environment within the confines of the brothers’ living room.

Despite the script not being as engaging as I would have liked it to be, the captivating performances alone are worth seeing in this production of Orphans by Hungry Wolf Theatre.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park, 3206
Season:
 Until 23 April | 3pm and 7.30pm
Tickets:
 $30 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: Gasworks Arts Park