Tag: Stephen Nicolazzo

Little Ones Theatre Presents MERCILESS GODS

Walk into the darkness

By Leeor Adar

Little Ones Theatre manages to make me laugh at the grotesque and alluring once again in Merciless Gods. Whether it’s the description of a hardened criminal unpicking thorns from the tongue of a paedophile or the pungent growth spurt of a teenage boy, beautiful and ugly words cohabit so eloquently at the end of Don Giovannoni’s pen, the result of which is imagined onto the stage with feverish intensity by director Stephen Nicolazzo.

Merciless Gods' Charles Purcell - photo credit Sarah Walker .jpg

The scene is set early on as a gathering of hip university-educated 20-somethings pop pills and dive into their samosas before descending into the truly “bad” things they’ve done. A competition of sorts of the varying evils they’ve seen or committed. Merciless Gods is at its core a series of monologues and performances that capture Australia’s foreign identity and the universal identity of being human, even if it’s grotesque and sadistic. There is enormous vulnerability too in this production, as it lays itself bare to hard truths.

Eugyeene Teh’s costume and set design is a perfect mix of minimalist drama. We have red curtains and a catwalk of sorts for a stage to let the intense performances unfold before us. Intense is honestly an understatement, and I found myself really affected and mesmerised by the actors.

Peter Paltos delivered a monologue that really defined the night for me. As the criminal who commits an unforgivable crime in line with the rest of the merciless gods of the night, Paltos manages to describe with such lush expression the pity he experiences, and the violence of his actions. I am certain the audience had their eyes fixed on his sweat, spit and grit with wonder. Another notable series of performances by the mercurial Jennifer Vuletic really heightened the calibre of this production. Vuletic could inhabit the pious tragic figure of a woman speaking broken English and then swoop on stage in naked cruel glory wearing nothing but royal red robes to tear apart her feminist daughter (Brigid Gallacher).

Despite its darkness, there is a great deal of humour in Merciless Gods. Gallacher’s comic timing sent the audience into frequent bouts of laughter, even when she beautifully and breathlessly gazed upon her teenage son with love and disgust. Of course the humour delivered really emerges from Giovannoni’s writing which in its poetic and succinct quality captures what we think but cannot articulate.

Audiences with softer stomachs and a penchant for political correctness may feel queasy at some of the language, so heed this warning. Merciless Gods is unapologetic in its content and brutality and I find it utterly appealing for this reason.

Take time out of your every day and head to the Northcote Town Hall to catch Merciless Gods. The production runs until 5 August. Book your tickets here: http://www.littleonestheatre.com.au/merciless-gods/

Image by Sarah Walker

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Red Stitch Presents THE MOORS

A brilliant, absurdist Brontesque thriller

By Tania Herbert

Haze cascades down from the ceiling, and the severe form of a Victorian woman is lit to look like a cameo brooch. Thus opens The Moors at Red Stitch Theatre, and I already have a little thrill of expectation.

The Moors

Wandering into the tiny, immaculate theatre of Red Stitch is always an expected delight. What was less expected though, was this gothic surrealist gem of a play by Jen Silverman.

Governess Emilie (Zoe Boesen) is lured to a new job at a manor on the moors, after an exchange of sultry emails with the lord of the manor. She arrives to find that there appears to be no child, her bedroom looks suspiciously like the parlour, and her benefactor is nowhere to be found.

Instead she quickly finds herself embroiled in the mysteries of the household, with the multiple personalities of the housemaid (Grace Lowry), melancholies of tortured writer Hudley (Anna McCarthy) and the chilling powers of Agatha (Alex Aldrich), the formidable sister of the missing lord.

The gothic thriller set-up is counterpointed by the parallel story of the depressed family hound who forms an implausible relationship with a damaged moor-hen unable to fly away (played by ensemble actors Dion Mills and Olga Makeeva).

The set-up and absurdist nature of the play could have easily ended up out of hand, but was held in place by extremely tight direction under Stephen Nicolazzo, and particularly the strength of characterisation by all cast members. For every performance, the simmering darkness within was captured, presenting a gripping two hours of theatre. With an almost all-female cast, the play pushed gender roles in particularly interesting ways – my feeling was that the play isn’t foregrounding a feminist message as such – but rather, is a story with an exceptionally strong cast of characters and actors – most of whom happen to be women.

It is difficult to highlight a particular standout performer, as every cast member was strong, convincing and compelling. Perhaps my personal favourite was Olga Makeeva mastering the challenge of playing both an anthropomorphised bird, but also the relative ‘everyman’ against the absurdities around her.

The accent variation grated on me a little, as Australian ocker just doesn’t seem congruent with the English moors, but given the surrealist nature of the work, this did not subtract overall. This play won’t be for everyone – it is dark in mood, appearance and humour with horror elements and a bit of lustiness.

Sinister, dark, and humorous, watching The Moors feels like peering into a gothic dollhouse of horrors.

The Moors is performing at Red Stitch Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East

 Dates: 6 June- 9 July, Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Sunday 6.30pm (Post-show Q&A 22 June)

Tickets: $15-$49

Bookings: (03) 9533 8083 or www.redstitch.net

Image by Jodie Hutchinson

Midsumma Festival 2017: THE HAPPY PRINCE

Wilde’s famous fairytale beautifully reinvented

By Myron My

Oscar Wilde‘s short story, The Happy Prince, tells the tale of a golden statue of a prince that overlooks a city. Along with a flying swallow that he encounters, the Happy Prince sacrifices itself in vain in order to help the people who are suffering from poverty. As part of Midsumma Festival, queer theatre company Little Ones Theatre have taken Wilde’s tale and adapted it through a queer lens. The contemporary homo-erotic story now explores the desperation and futility that two women experience in order to remain with the one they love.

The Happy Prince.jpg

Dressed in a gold-sequinned dress with gold nail-polish and a smear of gold face-paint, Janine Watson wondrously captures the innocence (and ignorance) of the Happy Prince. As the sacrifices become bigger, her determination becomes more evident in bringing happiness and good to the people, regardless of how fleeting or thankful the act might be.

Catherine Davies brings a poignant level of cynicism to the Swallow but also a passion and yearning for a connection. With her hair quiffed up, wearing rollerskates and chewing gum, she is reminiscent of a defiant and impatient youth constantly on the go. The passion between the two performers is palpable from the very first moment they share the stage together and neither Watson or Davies let go of that for the entire show.

This short story doesn’t offer much in terms of length and plot development, whereupon director Stephen Nicolazzo has created erotically charged and deeply tender moments of no dialogue between the Happy Prince and the swallow, exploring their emotional state of mind on a deeper level. There is a sense of time standing still during the show and we are given the opportunity to take in everything that is being said and everything that is being performed without being rushed.

Katie Sfetkidis‘ intelligent combination of cold and warm lighting design throughout the show highlights the moments of passion and love and the ultimate demise of said love as does the sleek clean set design by Eugyeene Teh. The grey material that runs along the wall and floor of the stage allows the gold and sparkle of the Happy Prince’s costume to constantly attract our attention and admiration.

The Happy Prince is the poetically tragic tale of a love that cannot be. Through its queer retelling, Little Ones Theatre have expertly crafted a powerfully affecting and layered story of deep affection and sacrifice that will linger in your mind long after the final scene.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Season: until 29 January | Wed 6.30pm, Thu – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Image by Pia Johnson

REVIEW: Little Ones Theatre Presents DRACULA

Bloody and beguiling

By Myron My

Little Ones Theatre is back with bite in their nearly all-female, silent production of Stoker’s classic 1897 gothic horror story Dracula. It is a brilliant homage to previous cinematic adaptations of the novel, with nods to Bela Legosi, Gary Oldman and Catherine Deneuve, while also including the company’s trademark exploration of sexuality and queerness.

Dracula - Amanda McGregor and Zoe Boeson -photo by Sarah Walker

The seductive Dracula is ‘brought to life’ by Alexandra Aldrich and Catherine Davies, with Davies playing a more youthful transformation of the bloodsucker. As one expected with films made during the silent era, on-screen performances need to be more emphatic and expressive, and on stage, Aldrich and Davies (like the rest of the cast) do not falter. Under the strong direction of Stephen Nicolazzo, their movements and actions are large and telling while still maintaining a menacing air of mystery around Dracula.

Janine Watson as Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray’s fiancé, who in turn is the obsession of Dracula, convincingly shows the emotional turmoil her character goes through, beginning with his initial hapless meeting with the Count. The only male cast member, Kevin Kiernan Molloy certainly nails it (so to speak) as vampire hunter Van Helsing. Molloy portrays him with much bravado and machismo as here to save the day, but ultimately it is he who poses a threat to those around him; intriguing in this case, he is shown to be the destabilising force.

All the various stage elements of this production seamlessly come together and work extremely well in supporting each other. Katie Sfetkidis‘ dramatic lighting design is a highlight with some memorable moments created from its play with darkness and shadows. Along with Daniel Nixon‘s original score, the emotion of both music and light heighten the tension as the story builds to its climatic conclusion. The sparkling all-black stage design by Eugyeene Teh paired with Tessa Leigh Wolffenbuttel Pitt’s and Teh’s mostly black-and-white costume designs pay further homage to the silent film era.

The Little Ones Theatre‘s winning streak of creating unique theatrical experiences therefore continues here with this production of Dracula. While we may be familiar with the gothic and erotic nature behind the famous story, the striking camp and queer elements the company explores ensures that this retelling retains a high level of surprises and entertainment for audiences.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 14 November | Wed- Sat 8:00pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc

Bookings: Theatreworks

Image by Sarah Walker

REVIEW: Meme Girls

Exploring the black hole of Youtube

By Myron My

Every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views on videos. In Meme GirlsAsh Flanders has delved into the bottomless pit of YouTube vloggers and their videos, performing a selection of monologues in the dramatic camp fashion that Flanders does so well.

meme girls

There are a variety of videos that Flanders has chosen, from the serious to the absurd, such as the woman who tells you that one of the hardest things in life is learning how to fold a fitted sheet. Flanders nails each “character” he performs. The way he speaks, sounds, acts and moves; each person is unique.

Accompanying Flanders is the wonderful Art Simone. Simone has a presence to her that is instantly captivating and draws all our attention when she is on stage. I would have loved to have seen her more and do more, but the little time she has she effectively  blurs gender lines and identity; the same transformation that Flanders goes through during Meme Girls.

However, I’m not completely sold on the idea that the show has, as director Stephen Nicolazzo puts it, “genuine love of the genders, races and class (Flanders) represents on stage”. Some, most definitely, but others feel like they are being parodied and played for laughs and therefore lack the honesty or sincerity that I expected to see. Perhaps this is Flanders’ intention though and is commenting on the type of culture and lifestyle that we, as a society, seem to be obsessed with.

From a stagecraft perspective, this show cannot be faulted. How I would love to get inside Eugyeene Teh’s thought process and see how he consistently creates these brilliant sets and costume designs. His pink cylindrical tunnel, as if we are falling into the black hole that is YouTube, is absolutely stunning, especially when paired with Katie Sfetkidis’ lighting design. Along with THE SWEATS’ sound design; I have not been, in a very long time, so in awe, of the opening moments of a show as much as I have for Meme Girls.

Meme Girls is a wonderful showcase of talent from Nicolazzo, Flanders and the creative team behind it. Whilst the message it tries to make is not always clear or consistent, it is, as Simone mimes at one point during the show, “an unusual and exciting theatrical event“.

Venue: Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt St, Southbank

Season: Until 2 May | Wed – Sat 8pm, Tuesday 7pm, Saturday 2pm, Sunday 5pm

Tickets: $60 Full | $50 Conc | $30 Under 30

Bookings: Malthouse Theatre

REVIEW: Little Ones Theatre Presents THE HOUSE OF YES

Dysfunctional comedy all in the family

By Myron My

It took me exactly 37 seconds to realize that I was going to be in pure bliss watching Little Ones Theatre‘s production of The House Of Yes, a bizarre yet hilariously witty play by Wendy Macleod.

The House of Yes_Photo Credit_ Sarah Walker Photography

It’s Thanksgiving in 1983, and Marty (Benjamin Rigby) has returned home with his fiancée Lesly (Anna McCarthy). As we meet the rest of the family – his mentally unstable and Kennedy-obsessed twin sister “Jackie O” (Genevieve Giuffre), younger brother Anthony (Paul Blenheim) and matriarch, Mrs. Pascal (Josh Price, in a superb casting decision) – the domestic Pandora’s box is well and truly opened in this satirical play on class, incest and mental illness.

For the most part, Giuffre succeeds in bringing out the fragility and loneliness in the challenging role of Jackie O but it is the scenes involving McCarthy and Blenheim that allow for a deeper honesty and vulnerability to be present. Unfortunately I was not at all convinced by Rigby’s performance as Marty, who really only shines in his scenes with Giuffre which are filled with an infinite amount of palpable sexual chemistry.

Price as Mrs. Pascal is truly an unusual choice, but at the same time a perfect decision to convey the dysfunctional ties of the family, and personify the desires and morals that otherwise seem to be lacking in the Pascal household.

Director Stephen Nicolazzo has done a great job in crafting the pace and delivery in The House of Yes, and there is never a dull moment on stage. The set and lighting design of the Pascal home further articulates the misguided values and the mindset of a family that is caught up in its own bourgeois reality. Eugyeene Teh’s all-pink set contrasts with the darkness that envelops the family, and the lighting by Katie Sfetkidis successfully builds the tension towards the climatic final scene, even with all the laughs and antics.

Little Ones Theatre have managed to bring their own unique touch to this compelling story of a family whose desires and wishes to lead the lives they want only ends in devastation for themselves and each other. The House of Yes gets a resounding yes from me.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.

Season: Until 13 December | Tues – Sat 8:00pm

Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Concession

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au