Tag: Suzanne Heywood

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.

NK A Kazantzakian Montage.jpg

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

REVIEW: MTC Presents BUYER AND CELLAR

Here’s what Barbra keeps in her basement…

By Caitlin McGrane

As the house lights dimmed inside the Fairfax Theatre at the Arts Centre, I leaned over to my mother and whispered, ‘I don’t know anything about Barbra Streisand.’ This remains true, but I am now certainly informed about her basement. As Alex (Ash Flanders) recounts his fictional employment in Barbra Streisand’s basement shopping mall it was thrilling to revel in the affection that playwright Jonathan Tolins clearly has for the superstar singer. The play was warm, heartfelt and gregarious in all the right ways.

Buyer and Cellar

The play opens with Ash giving a brief introduction to the audience about the book that inspired the play (My Passion for Design by Barbra Streisand) and about how Streisand built a shopping mall in the basement of her Malibu home. Ash then becomes Alex and tells the wickedly funny story of how he moved from Disneyland to Streisand, and how Alex’s relationship with his boyfriend Barry is affected by the new job. It’s a true one-man show, and Flanders did a spectacular job of moving seamlessly between the characters with their idiosyncratic accents and mannerisms. As I stated before, I don’t know anything about Barbra Streisand, but Flanders’ impression of her softly lilting voice and affected mannerisms were outrageously funny.

For the most part the play had me in stitches, however, there were several LA references that went completely over my head and it seemed, much of the rest of audience’s as well. This has nothing to do with the delivery, just that the play was written about a particular place with which a local audience is not necessarily familiar. The saturation of American culture certainly helped contextualise the jokes, but specific references to freeways were always going to go over most of our heads. (I would love to see if something similar could be written about Melbourne; maybe Geoffrey Rush has a Pirates of the Caribbean set up in his garage, I don’t know.)

There is clearly so much passion and fondness for Streisand in the script; director Gary Abrahams has ensured the barbs (pardon the pun) are handled just right – carefully toeing that difficult line between gently mocking and barbarous (I’m sorry I can’t stop). Adam Gardnir simply and effectively designed the sets and costumes; while Rachel Burke’s lighting design was beautiful. For a play about such a massively successful musician, there wasn’t much music, however The Sweats’ composition and sound design carefully adorned and enhanced the performance. Finally, Flanders’ numerous accents were so accurate, that it would be deeply remiss not to mention voice and dialogue coach Suzanne Heywood who has clearly done a marvellous job.

It can make me wary when it looks like the cast and crew of a production have had lots of fun assembling and crafting their work, but in this case it was really joyous to see. Buyer and Cellar demonstrates how reverence can work well alongside gentle teasing, especially if the butt of your jokes is a multimillionaire who really does have a shopping mall in her basement.

Buyer and Cellar is showing at the Fairfax Theatre at the Arts Centre until 12 December. Tickets from: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/mainstage-2015/buyer-and-cellar/

REVIEW: TBC Theatre Presents MADE IN CHINA

Irish ninjas and gang politics

By Myron My

You wouldn’t expect the seedy underworld of Dublin to have much in common with martial arts, but in Mark O’Rowe‘s dark comedy Made In China, these two worlds collide for three men who are all facing their own power struggles with each other and within gang politics. One wants to get out, one wants to get in, and the other one wants to remain on top.

Made In China

Unfortunately, this promising story moves at an incredibly slow pace, with nothing happening until roughly the final twenty minutes of this two-hour play. Even when the plot reaches its climax, it still feels drawn out and lacks any suspense. There is very little in terms of character development, which has these people come across as monotonous beings. Even by the end of the show, there is very little that has actually changed for these people in the greater scheme of things.

High up in the gang food chain, Kirby (Stuart Jeanfield) is such a weird character that his menace and aggressiveness is farcical, and not in a good way. In fact, I found a lot of the humour scripted in this to be quite a miss, particular the cringe-inducing sexual overtone scenes with Kirby and his Nik Naks crisps. Hughie (Vaughn Rae) is more or less a passive pawn in his power struggle with Kirby from beginning to end. Damien Harrison as Paddy is fortunate enough to play a character that at least gets to go on an emotional journey and is somewhat changed by the end of the proceedings, even if the way it occurs seems forced.

Despite these issues, first-time director Fleur Murphy works well with the actors to produce highly committed performances, and some physically demanding ones too with the choreographed fight scenes by Myles Tankle. Murphy does her best to keep the action on stage engaging, but given the confines of the space and script, it results in a lot of repeated pacing around and sitting down.

I have to say the set design failed to excited me aesthetically and the random lighting effects during the fight scenes felt contrived. The vocal coaching by Suzanne Heywood proves to have worked soundly with all three actors consistently keeping to their accents. However, the strong accents and the added slang used throughout the play admittedly made it very difficult to follow what was happening at times.

Walking out at the end of Made In China, I must confess I did not feel satisfied with the pay-off we received as an audience. Despite the interesting premise, this is ultimately not the most exciting story, and as written, the characters feel boring and one-dimensional. There appear to be some talented minds behind TBC Theatre however, with the choice of their current production, that does not come across successfully.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond.
Season: Until 25 July | Wed- Sat 7:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: Q44 Theatre