Tag: Tom Halls

Poppy Seed Festival Presents WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE

Ambitious attempt to traverse an Australian cultural landscape

By Myron My

“Give me a home among the gum trees, with lots of plum trees…” How the Australian dream has changed since 1974. But has it been for better of for worse? Presented as part of the Poppy Seed Festival, Hotel Now’s What’s Yours Is Mine explores Australian values and ownership of a land that was never ours to own, with an elaborate touch of campness.

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The show begins at a reunion for Olympic Games volunteers where three friends – Milly, Ollie and Syd – reconnect and decide to go on a road trip together; Milly has just quit her job, Ollie has a car and Syd just wants to get away from everything. Cue road-trip montage and offbeat adventures as the three friends travel through the country.

The performances from Hayden Burke, Simone French and Tom Halls are full of energy and commitment, and having seen French and Halls in Hotel Now‘s 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Nothing Special, I found the two continue to share some great chemistry on stage. The direction by Yvonne Virsik is insightful and provoking in the way she chooses to represent and display the ideas raised in show.

What worked brilliantly in Nothing Special was the focus on an aspect of modern culture that was explored to the extreme. Sadly, I feel this doesn’t work as well in What’s Yours Is Mine, as this look at Australian culture is far too broad in scope, and what we end up seeing is a whole lot of ideas, but a disjointed story that is difficult to connect with.

There is a scene where the three characters describe all the “ingredients” needed in explaining what makes ‘Australian culture’, and I couldn’t help wishing the creators had taken their own advice here and been more refined and less haphazard with what they chose to explore and how they choose to do it. As it stands, What’s Yours Is Mine is a pretty performance to look at on the outside, but on the inside I’m afraid it felt a bit of a mess.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 4 December | 8.30pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

Melbourne Fringe 2016: NOTHING SPECIAL

Absurdist satire on our yearning for individuality

By Myron My

We all want to be something special. As children we are often led to believe we can be by our parents and teachers, and while it can be a positive thing, it can also be quite detrimental. Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Hotel Now’s Nothing Special looks at what happens when people live their lives based on the belief that they are extraordinary, and more talented and important than the average man.

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We follow a young girl, Chlorine (Simone French), literally from from the moment she is born. Her mother informs us that she was not supposed to live beyond the age of five, but that’s a defeatist attitude so she was forbidden to die. Chlorine’s dreams to be different and unique and to leave her mark on the world as an innovator in the arts are explored through various periods of her life, but when this seems unlikely, it is the harsh realities that Chlorine must then contend with.

Chlorine’s vulnerability and fragile ego is captured well by French and she plays well with the tragedy that feels certain to befall her. Likewise, Tom Halls‘ character work is a definite highlight of this show. From Chlorine’s “dance mum” persona to Othella, the Dean of the academy for gifted children that Chlorine attends, his movements, facial expressions and speech are dedicated and consistent.

The show explores the lengths to which people will go in order to feel successful and be revered. It is an all-consuming goal where even – as the two characters are having a (melodramatic) breakdown – they position themselves to still be under the right frame and lighting.

Nothing Special is an eccentric and absurd look at our obsession to be special and to matter. It’s a great concept that is executed well by Halls and French. With so many “talent”-focused reality TV shows screening at the moment, Nothing Special is a great reality check for those with mistakenly big dreams.

Venue: Sokol Melbourne, 497 Queensberry St, North Melbourne 

Season: Until 30 September | 7pm 

Length: 60 minutes

Tickets: $25 Full | $16 Conc

Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Bette & Joan:Bitch. Slut. Liar. Whore.

Fresh and fun, with the potential for more

By Myron My

These days, you just need to look at a cover of a magazine or access a website to be bombarded with Hollywood stories and gossip. Some might say it’s the price to pay for being in the industry, however in Bette & Joan: Bitch. Slut. Liar. Whore., writer and performer David Morris explores how this type of reporting is predominantly focused on women and how not much has actually changed since Hollywood’s golden era.

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As she sneaks into her bedroom to escape a dreary party, Bette Davis (Morris) comes to find the real party is in her bedroom, as she finds thirty audience members in there. She begins to reminisce about her life and the lost loves she has encountered. Of course, one such as Davis cannot reminisce about her Hollywood life without an appearance by her infamous arch-nemesis Joan Crawford, brilliantly played by Tom Halls. Having two gay men portray these immortal Hollywood stars is an effective and clever idea in reminding the audience of the fact that men who behave in this way are rarely scrutinised or expected to justify themselves to anyone.

Accompanied by pianist Shanon Whitelock, the musical numbers are highly enjoyable with the title track “Bitch. Slut. Liar. Whore.” perfectly displaying the tension between the two actors. The re-imagining of popular iconic tracks such as “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé and “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa are a great way of having them express their own sexuality and their own desires rather than playing to the male gaze.

While the narrative touches on the struggles these women faced in order to make it in Hollywood, I feel more thought was required on how to tell this complex story. Some moments, such as when Bette is recalling her failed marriages, ultimately add very little to the overall direction of the show, and seem to be forgotten about as quickly as they are brought up. The finale unfortunately also doesn’t seem to add anything of substance to the profound themes being explored, and cutting it in length would have kept the story tighter and more focused.

Despite the emotional turmoil and sacrifices Bette had to endure in order to be considered “as good as” and “as talented as” men, for me the extravagant and somewhat over-the-top way that Morris plays Bette doesn’t quite correlate with the more subtle emotional impact of what is being said. Similarly, the dialogue between Bette and Joan when they question the way they were treated in Hollywood feels rather forced and doesn’t ring with conviction over what is being said.

Bette & Joan: Bitch. Slut. Liar Whore is a distinctly enjoyable show with great music and quite a few laughs, that is admirably attempting to depict the struggles that these female stars faced in the golden age of Hollywood. Had there been a deeper look at how this really affected them though, I feel sure the show could then have created something even more telling of gender, sexuality and celebrity antagonism in the society they lived in then, and the one we live in now.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday St, Carlton
Season: Until 7 February | Fri, Sun 8.30pm, Sat 10.15pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc
Bookings: La Mama Theatre

Image by Luke Warm