Tag: The Owl and the Pussycat

REVIEW: The Owl and Cat Presents BORDELLO

The brothel is open

By Myron My

Bordello, the newest production from The Owl and Cat Theatre, is an immersive theatrical experience revolving around one fateful evening at a brothel. We are free to explore the three-storey building of the well-known venue and follow the interlocking stories between the two owners of the brothel, Yvonne and David, its three employees, Trisha, Frankie and Cherry, and two of its clientele, Harry and Matthew.

Bordello

This is very much a voyeuristic experience as the audience wanders around the premises, watching secret conversations and some highly intimate moments take place. Audience members are required to wear plain black masquerade masks (in the style of the famous New York installation production Sleep No More) throughout the course of the evening, which feels like a buffer between passively watching the story unfold and actively spying on these character’s lives.

Even though the story unfolds via multiple scenes being acted out simultaneously from various rooms in the venue, the script written by Thomas Ian Doyle and directed by Gabrielle Savrone is so well constructed and thought-out we can gradually put the pieces of the story together and understand the nature of the relationships between the characters. The pacing of the story, along with the snippets of intriguing conversations and scenes we watch, allows us to be absorbed by the world around us. However, the script itself needs some work in placing us in the time period in which we are supposed to be located. Despite the costumes indicating a 1920s environment, the words and language used were more suggestive of a modern vernacular.

Aly Calder is brilliant as Frankie, one of the employees at the bordello. Despite the character’s roughness, Calder very clearly shows her innocence and naivety allowing Frankie to come to life. Similarly, John Frankland as Matthew also does well with his characterisation and building on his character’s emotional development. However, I feel the rest of the cast need to work on creating more authenticity in establishing their characters’ thoughts, words and actions. There are many scenes that lack the passion or the rawness that a piece of work such as Bordello requires to be a success.

Bordello is definitely a great concept and offers an immersive entertainment opportunity I’ve not been able to experience for quite some time. It is a unique piece of theatre that is worth watching, but ultimately requires a clearer creative process underpinning its development in order to elicit a stronger response from its audience.

Venue: The Owl and Cat Theatre, 34 Swan St, Richmond
Season: Until 17 October | Fri-Sat 8.30pm and 10pm
Tickets: $39 Full | $32 Conc
Bookings: http://www.owlandcat.com.au

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REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre Presents KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN

Raw and vibrant theatre

By Ross Larkin

Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman is an iconic, unusual story of the relationship between two men in an Argentinean prison cell.

Angelo De Cata and Adam Ward in Kiss of the Spiderwoman

Incarcerated for vastly different crimes, the prisoners, whose similarities seem only to be their predicament, gradually discover they have more in common than anyone would likely foresee.

Compared to its film and musical cousins, the play is confined to one cramped location, two actors, and a hefty stream of dialogue.

Mockingbird Theatre’s version is staged in the most intimate of spaces, with the audience squeezed so tightly in front of the action that the experience teeters on awkward: fitting, for an exploration of two curiously unhinged men and the unlikely affection that surfaces amidst a rocky, emotional course.

Imprisoned for corrupting a minor, Molina (Angelo DeCata) is a flamboyant dreamer, obsessed with storytelling his favourite movie, often in denial of his situation. Molina is caged with Valentin (Adam Ward), a volatile political prisoner whose dysfunction is rife.

DeCato is faced with a particularly challenging role, having to walk the line between vicarious fantasy, and the stark reality of his circumstances. Although, at times, bordering on one note, DeCato largely succeeds in portraying a shakily optimistic, effeminate character. Meanwhile, Ward’s performance feels initially forced and unsubtle, playing anger quite liberally, when the impact and intrigue of the character would have benefited from more light and shade.

When the stakes are later raised, however, the connection between the men matures, and Ward offers a more nuanced, genuine portrayal, leaving the audience affected in all the right ways.

As usual, director Chris Baldock does justice to a richly powerful story with his tastefully simplistic trademark approach – concentrating more on the character-driven narrative, and less so on gimmickry. The colour-changing web was an interesting exception. Likewise, the stark light for the bulk of the play’s duration was a choice which may have prevented the audience being drawn deeper into a world where fantasy and reality co-exist. Thus, the enhanced lighting for the tenderly awkward sex scene provided a window to a theatrical mood which was otherwise perhaps a little too absent at times.

Kiss of the Spiderwoman has, in the past, been either loved or hated, though more so the former. Lovers of the earlier versions will without doubt not be disappointed, while those unfamiliar are urged to experience Mockingbird’s version, which is well worth the effort.

Kiss of the Spiderwoman is playing now until September 15 at The Owl and the Pussycat, Swan street, Richmond. Saturday September 7 at 2pm and 8pm, Sunday September 8 at 5pm, Tuesday-Saturday September 10-14 at 8pm, Sunday September 15 at 5pm.

Bookings: www.trybooking.com/40831 or bookings@mockingbirdtheatre.com.au

REVIEW: 5Pound Theatre Present 2SHORT RUSSIANS

An excellent odd couple of short plays

By Myron My

With 2Short Russians, 5Pound Theatre has brought two very different plays to the stage of The Owl and the Pussycat.

First we have the Australian premiere of ‘Vodka, Fucking and Television’ by one of Russia’s newest playwrights Maksym Kurochkin, which is followed by Anton Chekhov’s classic ‘The Bear’. With a very capable cast comprised of Jack Beeby, Clare Callow, Susannah Frith and Dmitri Pronin, each play offers a very different experience for the audience.

2Short Russians

In the first, our modern-day Hero (Beeby) is a struggling writer who blames three things for holding him back in life: namely, vodka, fucking  and television. These three vices (played by Frith, Callow and Pronin) physically manifest, and plead their individual cases as to why they should not be discarded. An impressive entrance by Fucking provided a few gasps from the audience and the use of different forms of media to represent Vodka and Television was quite unique and kept engagement levels with the audience high. Beeby handles his conflicted character with great aplomb and provides significant insight into the problems facing man in the modern age.

With its more classical backdrop, ‘The Bear’ is a farcical tale about a grieving widow, Popova (Callow), and Smirnoff (Pronin) the man who has come to collect his debt. The direction by Jason Kavanagh is quite different to the earlier play with some hilarious monologues and wonderful play with silences between characters.

Pronin triumphantly brought down the house with his fiery Smirnoff and Frith was perfect as the exasperated and mourning widow Popova. Their interactions together were a joy to watch and their comic timing was spot on. Beeby as Popova’s manservant Luka displays great versatility as a young actor and is definitely one to keep an eye on in future.

5Pound Theatre has returned for their 2013 Melbourne season with an impressive production in 2Short Russians and if they continue to provide plays and performances of this calibre, it is going to be a fantastic year for them.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Extended until 14 June | 7:30pm, Sat 2:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: http://www.5pound.com.au

REVIEW: RePlay Theatre’s THE WOMAN TAMER

Ambitious production of an Australian classic

By Myron My

Originally written in 1911, The Woman Tamer by Australian playwright Louis Esson has just been given a makeover over a 100 years later by RePlay Theatre for a limited run this week at The Owl and the Pussycat.

The play begins in the foyer of the theatre with a man and a woman (Jack Beeby and Clara Pagone) dressed in period costume, singing a song with a ukulele. However, they are also covered in ghoulish make-up and at the end of the song they guide us into the theatre. The two stand in the doorway strumming away until the doors close, evoking a strong and uneasy emotional response and offering a hint of the horror that is to come.

TheWomanTamer

Unfortunately, I found the story very difficult to follow due to the overwhelming visuals: the choreographed ‘dances’, the make-up and costumes, the music and at times, the two completely different scenes occurring at the same time. Whilst all this was engaging and captivating to watch, it resulted in me losing a lot of the actual narrative.

Robert Reid‘s direction is strong overall, but does allows things to get a little convoluted and left us trying to figure out what’s going on. There are some profound themes in this play including an examination of domestic violence against women, so adding all these other layers and levels to it jeopardized the focus on the issues and created a haphazard experience for the audience.

However, the cast (Beeby, Pagone, Tom Molyneux and Kate Brennan) were quite skilled in their roles. This play is peopled with emotionally and physically-demanding characters, and they were all committed, with particular mention going to Beeby who seemed to relish his character and really gave it his all.

RePlay Theatre have succeeded in producing an interesting contemporary reinterpretation of the original text of The Woman Tamer, but  unfortunately have managed to also ostracize the audience in our endeavours to connect with the play.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 25 May | 7:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: http://www.owlandcat.com.au/thewomantamer.html

 

Review: THOMAS GREEN’s Sign of the Times

Openness, intimacy, and comic ease

By Myron My

You’d be forgiven if you thought all comedy during the last few weeks was part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but you would also be wrong. When Thomas Green – fresh from his Adelaide Fringe Show – slinked into Melbourne to perform a few intimate gigs of his show Sign of the Times at The Owl and the Pussycat I decided to take a punt and I was not disappointed.

The thing I enjoyed most about Green’s show was the engaging use of the everyday normalities of life to create his stories and insights, including his job as a casual relief teacher, his marriage and an unfortunate encounter involving his parents – although perhaps this one isn’t an everyday occurrence for most people! It all comes to a hilarious end with Green confessing to us his biggest phobia in life and how he overcame it.

Thomas Green

I never usually take into consideration the number of audience members in a show – it is about quality and not quantity – but with only five people present this particular evening, I was interested to see how Green would handle this. Green asked us for our names and had a chat with us and really created the vibe of us all just being a group of friends catching up for beers and pizza.

At times during Green’s conversations with us, it felt like we were diverting from his material, but he always successfully managed to use these moments not only to create humour, but to eventually bring the show back on track. It is a testament to Green’s confidence and easy ability to make us laugh when he opens himself up so freely to spontaneity and open dialogue with his audience.

Billed as a 50-minute show, we were in the theatre for almost an hour and a half. At times I wasn’t sure if we were watching Green’s original act or if we were chatting. Either way, Sign of the Times was 90 minutes of enjoyment and laughter. Green is definitely one to look out for at next year’s
festivals.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 20 April | 8:00pm

Tickets: $20

Bookings: http://www.owlandcat.com.au/adelaidefringereview.html or at the door

Review: DRINKING, DREAMING, DATING AND DOING

Eloquent, elegant, encompassing solo show

By Myron My

I’m sitting in the foyer of The Owl and the Pussycat, waiting to be ushered into the theatre when a man comes down the stairs and asks us have we ever been in love?

Colin Craig

For a second I was thrown and thought this was a drunken visitor stumbling down from the room upstairs, but quickly realised it was the evocative beginning of Drinking, Dreaming, Dating and Doing.

We are introduced to Liam (Colin Craig) as he opens up about love and life, and in the small area where we are gathered, it is very personal and intimate. You can’t help but feel a little awkward that this stranger is opening up so much to us. Eventually we are led into the theatre space where Craig as Liam continues to captivate our attention – his eye contact with the audience really dramatises how intense and sincere he is with his thoughts and honesty.

So often I see actors take on multiple roles for a production only to have it suffer by not having a set of independent eyes watching other aspects of it, but Craig – as producer, writer and performer of Drinking, Dreaming, Dating and Doing – excels in all these areas and along with director Brooke Smith-Harris has really captured the feeling of intimacy and spontaneity with this piece.

I’ve seen Craig perform previously and he does very well with long wordy scripts, so it’s not surprising he has chosen to create a conversational and eloquent one-man show in Drinking, Dreaming, Dating and Doing. Inspired by the song “Diversions” by New Zealand group Betchadupa, Craig has delivered a script that is written in beautiful prose with strong spoken imagery throughout.

It’s not until the end that you realise what all the different types of “flowers” we had been given prior to the performance are to be used for, which leaves you with a sombre yet hopeful feeling.

Coming in at roughly 50 minutes, Drinking, Dreaming, Dating and Doing is a short piece but a strong performance that will remain with you for much longer than its running time.

 

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 6 April | 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm

Tickets: $19 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://www.owlandcat.com.au/drinkingdreaming.html

REVIEW: Fleur Murphy’s SHADOWS OF ANGELS

Superb performances in a dark and gritty play

By Myron My

Shadows Of Angels is a play that delves into the minds and stories of the Australian female criminal: each tale dealing with a painful situation and event that links them all together.

The set of this production is bare apart from a chair, and a spotlight falls onto the cast as they individually take to the stage and tell their story to the audience. With so little visual stimulation, it’s even more important to have a talented cast to carry the story.

Shadows of Angels

For the most part the casting is spot on. H. Clare Callow is the standout as the “Man Femme”, showing equal parts vulnerability, yearning and sorrow. Meg Spencer is also particularly strong as the “Pretty Femme” portraying the tougher, angrier side of the femme fatale. Mel Dodge’s “Good Femme” rounds out the great performances.

My issue was with Rosemary Johns as the “Old Femme” and it was not at all due to the fine acting and effort that was put into the role, but I feel Jones was miscast here as the “Old Femme”. This was a woman who performed illegal abortions in a secret room and was about to flee from the police but Johns just seemed too sweet and gentle and I had problems believing her character would be capable of committing these crimes.

Fleur Murphy’s script is brilliant. The problem I often find with shows that use monologues is the narrative remains stagnant. However, with Shadows of Angels there is a steady pace that allows the narrative to flow and grow. Even more importantly, these are engaging characters that paint the scene with such vivid imagery that you often forget there is just that one chair on stage.

Chris Saxton has directed a show that stays with you long after it’s over. His efforts in creating the right blend of horror and sympathy both emotionally and physically on stage are what theatre is meant to be about: creating a world that envelops you until you feel like you are actually there.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond

Season: Until 23 March | 8:00pm

Tickets: $24 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: www.owlandcat.com.au/shadows.html