Tag: Tom Holloway

Red Stitch Presents SUNSHINE

Dawning potential as four lives interweave

By Caitlin McGrane

There’s something about Red Stitch that always keeps me coming back. It might be the way their plays seem to be selected deliberately and with precision, or the very, very fine performances that they nearly always seem to produce. Sunshine by Tom Holloway opens with four performers lying on the ground on stage where they seem to come to life one-by-one and speak their lines lyrically and with intense musicality.

Sunshine.jpg

Each player moves in their own world; even when it becomes apparent later that they’re interacting with one another, it’s like they’re in layered alternate universes. I was reminded of the ‘real’ world compared to the ‘Upside Down’ in Stranger Things in the way the characters moved around each other, near and almost touching but never quite. Direction from Kirsten von Bibra was superb and sublime – the delicate and precarious way the actors spoke and moved around each other was masterful. The four-hander cast, Ella Caldwell, Philip Hayden, Caroline Lee and George Lingard, are all tremendous, very much each making the most of their character’s individual trajectory.

For me, however, the writing was disappointing. The dialogue was highly stylised, and for a time it was really interesting and beautiful, but after about half an hour my head began to ache and I found I was having to do a lot of work to remember what was happening with each character. As my head whipped back and forth trying to keep up, I started to lose interest in the onstage goings on.

The dialogue would have been easy enough to let go if the individual stories amounted to more than the sum of their parts, but for my money the playwright missed an opportunity to look at a really interesting relationship between Man 2 (Philip Hayden) and Woman 2 (Caroline Lee). Hayden and Lee had far and away the most nuanced and interesting characters, and their limited interaction showed the kind of writing of which Holloway is capable.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention that embedded within the writing is the character of a homeless man who ostensibly lives in the same universe in which the play takes place. He has no lines, no face and is referred to only as a plot device (to do what exactly, I’m not sure). Homelessness is an increasing problem in Melbourne, and it was extremely disappointing to see yet another misrepresentation of homelessness as male, drug-affected and living in a park. People who are homeless deserve better and fairer representation, and it smacks of lazy writing to use people who are already socially invisible in this manner.

All that said, there was a lot to enjoy. The set and lighting were expertly crafted by Matthew Adey – the staging in particular showed real ingenuity. Elizabeth Drake made some interesting choices for the play’s composition and sound design; her dreamy ethereal sounds were reminiscent of Blade Runner. Costumes (Matilda Woodroofe) were simple, fitting the minimalist theme of the play, and didn’t distract from the drama. Overall Sunshine shows great potential, not least from Holloway who I hope will continue to grow and experiment as a writer.

Sunshine is now showing at Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre until 5 November 2016. Tickets and more information: http://redstitch.net/gallery/sunshine/

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REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents DEAD CENTRE / SEA WALL

Impressive and powerful as always

By Margaret Wieringa

Three squares of light, perhaps windows, gradually appear on the scrim that divides the stage. As the audience quieten for the start of the show, slowly the lights come up on a couple, the woman sleeping on the man’s shoulder. There is a weight to the tableaux which is held and held, and then fades to black.

Dead Centre and Sea Wall

And then out bursts Helen an Englishwoman who now lives in Australia, accidentally. Rosie Lockhart plays Helen with charm and a fast smile that immediately has the audience in the palm of her hand. She relates her stories filled with such ridiculous behaviours (such as her choice of travel companions when heading inland to visit Uluru), yet there is something beneath it, something sinister or painful. And it comes out in a strange mix of sadness and anger, somewhat misdirected.

After Helen leaves the stage, Alex wanders on, an Irishman photographer who relates stories of taking his wife and daughter to visit her father in France. Like Helen, he is charming and bright, a man who people like, and who likes people. But he too has a darkness, and as he spoke, and I realised where it was going, I was hoping, almost praying, that it would turn out he was taking us for a ride. But no. Ben Prendergast broke my heart with his smiles through the tears, with his ability despite it all to give some sense of hope. Of hope not for now, but for one day.

Sea Wall was written by Olivier award-winning Simon Stephens (whose Birdland recently closed at MTC). Dead Centre was written in response to this by local Green Room and AWGIE winner Tom Holloway. In Sea Wall, Stephens has created a monologue that grabs the audience and draws them in to Alex’s story, so they cannot help but feel his grief as he attempts to get through it. Holloway captures these juxtaposing emotions beautifully, and manages to give Helen her own story without stepping on the toes of Alex. And the gentle vignettes behind the scrim bring it all together for a strong but emotionally challenging evening of theatre directed by Julian Meyrick, from the ever-impressive company Red Stitch.

Where: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East
When: July 14-August 15, Wed – Sat 8pm and 3pm Matinee on Saturdays and 6:30 Sundays
Tickets: $20 – $37
Booking: By phone Tues-Fri 11-2pm 9533 8083 or visit www.redstitch.net