Tag: Victoria Haslam

Melbourne Fringe 2016: HEARD OF ELEPHANTS

Ambitious work acknowledges the elephant in the room

By Myron My

Presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, Heard of Elephants is a musical on elephant conservation that follows a herd of elephants over a year as they face daily threats from nature and man. Further to that, the play explores the intricate relationships these animals share with each other by exploring their strong links to family, mating rituals and traditions within their species.

Heard of Elephants.jpg

The way writer and director Katherine Phelps has humanized elephants with her cast (Alanna Baschera, Victoria Haslam, Karanvir Malhorta, Suhasini Seelin and Harlene Hercules) is surprisingly clever and charming. Their basic movements and simple costumes easily persuade you that they are indeed elephants, provided you allow the magic of theatre to do its work.

The narrative switches between two perspectives: that of the elephants, and that of Chene (James Ao), a conservationist working to keep the elephants safe in their uncertain present. It is here that Heard of Elephants begins to struggle finding a balance between entertaining and educating the audience. Phelps is clearly passionate about conservation and saving the elephants however, in order to make her point, the story unfortunately loses its heart and its engagement with the audience. We spend close to an hour getting to understand how elephants live and the threats that surround them, but the final ten minutes seem chaotic and clumsy as Phelps attempts to cover too much plot too fast.

The stage design, while minimal, is actually quite effective; the scene where the herd is bathing in water, the birthing of Mim and the lighting during the drought are creatively constructed. However, it would benefit the show more if the sound and lighting crew were not positioned at the front of the stage with the cast, as this was often distracting from the actual performance.

While Heard of Elephants has an important message to convey, I feel it needs to rethink the story it wants to share and take its time telling it, so that the audience can truly appreciate what is happening and being said.

Venue: SomaChi Yoga Studio, 15 Belford St, Collingwood
Season: until 2 October | Fri – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 2.30pm
Length: 70 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $22.50 Conc / Groups 6+ | $20 Children
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image by Gregg Kerr

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REVIEW: Sly Rat Theatre Presents FOREIGN BODIES

Erotic, evocative and engrossing

By Amy Planner

Foreign Bodies is the newest production from Sly Rat Theatre Company, director Chris Baldock, and playwright Andy Harmsen. This seductive yet confronting look into the lives of two mismatched people tells tales of allure, disdain, political turmoil and self-discovery.

Foreign Bodies

The mood is set as you snuggle into your Indian cushion on the floor around the small intimate stage. Dim lighting, Hindi imagery and exotically draped fabric surround you and the stage. There is nowhere to hide in this theatre: the actors are within touching distance and the room is intensified.

Andy Harmsen’s script is concise, intriguing and psychologically charged, dealing with severe issues with a graceful intelligence and authentic fearlessness. There are a few elements of the story that seem to only be present to validate other unnecessary components, which detracted only slightly as the candid snapshot into the hidden truth of the sex trade overshadows any minor faults. The political circumstance was a little unclear, but under the direction of Chris Baldock, the force with which the play builds to its climax is so incredibly powerful and almost unnervingly real.

Hamsen also deserves props for sound design, which creates a true atmospheric representation of Mumbai and the hustle-bustle of the culture, which translates powerfully into the intensity of the story as realised on stage.

Sly Rat co-artistic director Alan Chambers features as the bumbling journalist, alongside the sultry stylings of Marika Marosszeky. In the unforgiving and exposing space, the performers make no excuses as their emotional journey radiates through the audience. The pair are to be commended for their willingness to be so vulnerable on the stage.

Marosszeky bares her all, both emotionally and physically, giving everyone a intensely honest look into a totally dishonest world. Chambers felt a little unsteady in the beginning, but really held no punches when he settled in to the role. The duo prove themselves to be refreshingly genuine and superbly gifted.

Victoria Haslam and the cast use costume and makeup techniques that bring real depth to the characters and the setting. The sheer sweatiness of Chambers’ character in the opening was unbelievably convincing.

Foreign Bodies is funny, confronting and altogether engrossing for the audience. This production promises to challenge your boundaries and bounce off your curiosity – it truly does.

Venue: The Owl and Cat Theatre, 34 Swan Street, Richmond

Season: 23 October – 31 October

Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/155361

REVIEW: Dramatic Pause Presents DO YOU FEAR THE DARK?

Fearsome fables of the night

By Myron My

We’re all afraid of something: no use in denying that. Sometimes it can be irrational and other times it can be rational and justified. In Do You Fear The Dark? we are presented with two short stories by theatre company Dramatic Pause that looks at both of these kinds of fears. Written by Hayley Lawson-Smith, the stories both focus on a mother’s relationship with her children, but in two very different ways.

Do You Fear The Dark

In the first and stronger story of the pair, “Perhaps”, a mother (Victoria Haslam) worries about what’s become of her two runaway daughters. Her minds races through various scenarios, some of which are humorous, like joining the circus, while others are more dire, like being taken by a man under the ruse that he had lost his dog. Her dark thoughts are acted out on stage by Ariel Simone and Shae O’Reilly as her daughters and Zak Zavod as quite literally everyone else.

With the darkness surrounding it, the second story, “Tom Tat”, has more of a fairytale feel akin to what the Grimm brothers might have created. Here, Tom Tat (Zavod) comes to collect a debt from Pandora (Haslam). While she fights him, he is adamant he will have what he is owed: her daughter’s soul. It’s a fierce power struggle between the two as to who will be victorious, however, there were times when the dialogue became repetitious and lessened the intensity of the overall story. This was originally a 20-minute play, but having seen it in this longer form, I feel the story would probably benefit more as the shorter and tauter piece.

The cast of four is great and the individual performances are impressive, however it is Zavod that demands all of our attention. His multiple-character work in “Perhaps” is just brilliant and his ability to switch from one end of the spectrum to the other in seconds showcases the talent he possesses. He elicits an equal feeling of fun and dread from the audience in his roles and his scenes with Haslam in “Tom Tat” remained a joy to watch.

Accompanying the actors on stage is musician Natasha Broadstock playing the bassoon and various percussion instruments, which effectively builds on the suspense. Furthermore, the ethereal choreography throughout the pieces is used purposefully, and nicely enhances the fear and trepidation that the various characters feel.

Despite my issue with some of the dialogue in Tom Tat, Do You Fear The Dark? does a fine job in creating a macabre environment for its audience. While one story is an exploration of the human psyche and how our thoughts can overpower us and the second ponders the extent a mother will go to to protect her child, both stories will gradually draw you in to their darkness.

Do You Fear The Dark? was performed at The Butterfly Club between 2 – 6 September 2015.

REVIEW: Moreland Theatre Company Presents THE BACCHAE

Classic Greek tragedy dramatically reimagined

By Michael Olsen

Moreland Theatre Company’s The Bacchae by Euripides concerns the arrival in the city of Thebes of the god Dionysus (in human form), and the inevitable clash that arises between this god of merriment and chaos and the patrician leader of the city, Pentheus. While Dionysus represents the emotional wellspring of life and offers an escape from life’s hardships through drunken revelry on Mt Citharon (which lies outside the city), Pentheus stands for order and control, and this dichotomy is enhanced by having Dionysus in this instance played by a woman (Kate Barford in a challenging role which she pulled off magnificently.)

The Bacchae

Director Sam Browne has taken an updated text of the play (translated by Ian Johnston and adapted by John Kelly and Matt O’Reilly) and has clearly presented the gripping conflict not only between Dionysus and Pentheus, but also the contradictions within Dionysus herself (god of merriment vs avenging god). Whilst the formality of the play distances us somewhat from the characters, the conclusion is devastating and an uneasy catharsis is reached. The heart of the production which Browne handles so well is to present the fatal imbalance that can occur when the masculine and feminine sides of our personality are in conflict, and the horrors that a vengeful god can unleash.

Karl Sarsfield stood out as the commanding and unbending Pentheus, while Angelique Malcolm as his mother, Agave, transfixed with the play’s climactic moment when she slowly realises what she’s done in a moment of utter madness. Special mention should be made of Victoria Haslam‘s costume design for the Bacchae, which helped to energise and bring vivid colour to the production.

After more than 2000 years The Bacchae speaks to us of the results of disobedience, unbending rationality, and the terrors of unbridled passion. Is Dionysus right to take the revenge she takes? Who knows. Euripides seems to be saying for better or worse: “That’s life.”

The Bacchae runs till the 13th of June at 8pm at the Metanoia Theatre at The Mechanics Institute
270 Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Tickets: Book online or cash at the door. For more details go to www.moreland.org.au

Image by Teresa Noble