Tag: Tariro Mavondo

Western Edge Presents CALIBAN

Dynamic and captivating

By Leeor Adar

The culturally diverse Western Edge Youth Arts’ Edge Ensemble under the directorship of Dave Kelman and Tariro Mavondo delivers a spirited, vibrant and painfully accurate adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Caliban.

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Who is Caliban in this tale?

We are not dealing with a deformed witch’s son, but a native of an island, which carries the spirit of his mother – all mothers – in the sand, air and water. The Edge Ensemble’s Caliban (Oti Willoughby) is every pure thing, every angry living thing that despises the poisons inflicted by civilisation on the natural world.

In this tale Prospero is Prospera (Natalie Lucic), and Ariel (Piper Huynh) is a machine, not spirit, that can think up realities to save the planet from global warming and other ills that contribute to the inevitable downfall of our world. But Prospera needs capital. Propera needs wealth. Prospera’s adopted daughter, Miranda (Achai Deng), is shipped off with billionaire Afghani, Ferdinand (Abraham Herasan) for a better life, a life of opulence, but little freedom and incredible isolation. It is ironically a lonely and uncertain life at the top of the world, but all is not lost.

Caliban tackles big ideas with humour and poignancy. This is a remarkable and highly physical performance delivered by an ensemble with differing physicality. The performers are excellent, emotive, funny and totally humane. So much of the story told is delivered by this troupe through their bodies, and they each deliver something unique. Credit must be given to movement director, Amy MacPherson, who has successfully conjured the best of the cast. The set design by Lara Week, who previously worked with Mavondo in Greg Ulfan’s 3 Sisters, provides yet another bright and adaptable space that works well for the performers. Turquoise cylinders serve as podiums, seats, towers, and the ever-present reminder of man-made waste.

There is at the heart of this story a great longing for a home that is being stolen by land erosion and war. On one hand our lovers, Ferdinand and Miranda, each long for their homes, Afghanistan and the Sudanese Abyei Area, each torn, each broken by the worst of human nature. On the other, Phano (Rexson Pelman) longs for a Samoa with an uncertain future, and Caliban for his island home – two examples of the fate rendered by the hands of global warming, another ongoing man-made calamity.

The tragedy of our characters is that they each seek to do well, but fail fundamentally on their quest. It is deeply Shakespearean, but simply a timeless tale of humanity. Prospera is blinded by her mind, Ferdinand by his desire for respect, and Caliban by his anger. Their undoing is deeply psychological and a result of the previous ills of man-made affliction. And so is the cycle of human nature…

Caliban will be showing for its final night tonight, November 26 at 7pm at the Coopers Malthouse Theatre. Bookings: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/caliban

Image by Nicola Dracoulis

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Metanoia Theatre Presents 3 SISTERS

Chekhov regrown

By Leeor Adar

Anton Chekhov’s ode to the Russian rested but restless classes in Three Sisters is reimagined by director Greg Ulfan in Metanoia Theatre’s production of 3 Sisters. One never knows what to expect with a Chekhov production, but I was surprised that this production engaged its audience despite the three hours given to the tragedies of its three sisters, Irina, Maria (Masha), and Olga.

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Ulfan views theatre as an ‘endangered species’ in an increasingly digitised age, and no play draws its audience back into the depths of their thoughts like Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The lamentations of the characters before us emulate our lamentations of today, ‘to work’ and find purpose – as rag-dolls to the realities of our modern day, so too are the lives of the characters in this play.

Ulfan directs a group of actors who are very well cast in their roles. Erick Mitsak brings a sense of comedy to his role as Baron Tuzenbach, and yet manages to inject the affable and pitiable nature ideal for the character. Reece Vella’s passionate performance as Vershinin contrasts well with the beautiful intensity and harshness of Donna Dimovski’s portrayal of Masha. Their soul-destroying final embrace made for difficult viewing, but was incredibly satisfying performance-wise. Masha’s sisters were performed well, with Tariro Mavondo’s bursts of youthful joy and exasperation as Irina adding lightness to the otherwise solid and stoic gloom of Natalia Novikova’s Olga. Another performance highlight was the sudden outburst of Michael Gwynne’s portrayal of Solyony; losing his otherwise quiet and imposing demeanour, he confesses his obsessive and unrelenting love for Irina, crawling across the dining room table just to grasp a hold of light in this gloomy, Chekhovian world.

Lara Week’s set and costume design was charming and minimalist, with Lego pieces to replicate dining materials and gifts. The actors wore uniform clothing with white painted embellishments of collars, bows and buttons; this was stylistically inspired, coupled with the actors’ white face paint to capture perhaps the imposing duties of the characters’ lives that render them immobile against the currents of their times. Christopher Bolton’s live piano-playing in the background set the tone of this production, and mirrored the action of the play in a pleasing touch.

The length and drawl of this play is its downfall, and the final scenes were exhausting, perhaps telling of the exhaustion of the characters. The bursts of singing and dancing were thankfully convincing and joyful, and set alight the moody atmosphere we’re held captive within for these three hours.

Despite the length and occasionally camp nature of 3 Sisters, I can’t honestly say I did not enjoy it. I laughed, and thought a little too hard about the meaning of it all. This was ultimately what I expect Chekhov wanted, and Ulfan has given us a loving spoonful of this melancholy world.

You can submerge yourself in this production until Saturday November 5, 7pm at the Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute:  https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=221728

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents BELLEVILLE

Compelling theatre

By Narelle Wood

Belleville by Amy Herzog is a challenging play in that it explores a dysfunctional relationship in a witty, yet brutally honest and often harrowing, way.

Paul Ashcroft and Christina O'Neill in BELLEVILLE Photo Credit Jodie Hutchinson

The story follows a couple of days in the life of Zack (Paul Ashcroft) and Abby (Christina O’Neill), an American couple living and working in France. Apart from language and obvious cultural differences, Abby is still grieving her mother’s death and experiencing homesickness, while Zack is doing what ever he can to make ends meet and Abby happy. Pestered by his landlord Alioune (Renaud Momtbrun) and his wife Amina (Tariro Mavondo) for overdue rent, Zack finds himself more and more desperate to put his life and relationship back on track.

O’Neill and Ashcroft work perfectly together as they negotiate the emotional turmoil of their characters: from deep passion, to exasperation, tenderness, desperation, to outright hatred, these two actors depict it all with a disturbing realism that makes the play both riveting and difficult to watch. O’Neill’s portrayal of Abby is just as complex as her character’s slow mental decline and Ashcroft similarly presents Zack as a multidimensional character who is just as ingratiating as he is completely unappealing.

The Parisian apartment where the play is set is small, but director Denny Lawrence makes maximum use of the available space both on and off stage, with the bedroom and bathroom providing really clever opportunities for costume changes and storyline segues. The use of props, including their placement and movement to different areas of the stage, is very cleverly choreographed. However, what perhaps is the most impressive thing about Lawrence’s direction is the way he has dealt with and enabled the actors to deal with demanding themes and situations.

Although Belleville has some funny moments, it is not a play for escapism or one that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Red Stitch’s latest production expertly provides a dose of relationship realism and is a resolute must-see if you like plays that are expertly staged with a quality script and excellent acting.

Venue: Red Stitch Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda
Season: Until 31st May, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8pm, Sun 6.30pm
Tickets: Full $39| Conc $20
Bookings: http://redstitch.net/bookings/