Tag: Will Atkinson

Q44 Theatre Presents NK: A KAZANTZAKIAN MONTAGE

A valiant effort to portray a remarkable man

By Myron My

Cretan writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis is perhaps most well-known for his two novels Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ, and his epic poem The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. However, Kazantzakis also led a life of adventure, passion and exploration and in Howard F. Dossor’s NK: A Kazantzakian Montage, important and life-changing moments from his personal story are presented and examined.

NK A Kazantzakian Montage.jpg

The story is told with the aid of a Greek Chorus that gives life to Kazantzakis’ stories, and allows the impressive nine performers (Elyssia Koulouris, Erin Marshall, Kostas Illias, Nicole Coombs, Paul Pellegrino, Sebastian Gunner, Tabitha Veness, Tania Knight, Will Atkinson) to easily switch in and out of the Chorus to become a person from Kazantzakis’ life. Alex Tsitsopoulos as Kazantzakis displays an sound understanding of who this writer was, and delivers a thoughtful performance. However, the production falls into the trap of having Kazantzakis explaining how certain experiences made him feel and what they meant to him, rather than showing us why these moments were important. This resulted in long monologues with less impact, particularly evident in the final scene with the Chorus that had the potential to be a climatic moment and bring this unique life’s story full circle.

While it is an ambitious task to condense seventy-four years into a two-hour show, it felt overall that the work was trying to depict too much, and therefore momentous events Kazantzakis’ life were merely skimmed. His first marriage, which lasted for 15 years, was over within minutes in the show, and his exploration of the monasteries of Mount Athos with his friend and poet, Angelos Sikelianos, while creating some great visuals and certainly marked as an important experience for him, was not given the time that it seemed to warrant.

The live music by Pantelis Krestas and his bouzouki and the sound design by Justin Gardham work well together in creating an authentic Greek ambience – along with some enthusiastic clapping from the audience – and also in bringing out the emotional layers of the story. John Collopy‘s lighting design creates the ambience for each scene and highlights the intensity of Kazantzakis’ emotions. Suzanne Heywood‘s direction utilises the space creatively and through minimal use of props and positioning of the performers is able to set up some visually arresting moments, including the earlier mentioned scene at Mount Athos.

NK: A Kazantzakian Montage is a look at the political, philosophical and intimate nature of a man who never stopped asking questions about life. While it’s great to see Q44 Theatre stepping outside of their familiar repertoire with this form of story and storytelling, the reliance on lengthy exposition and the structure of this narrative unfortunately never allows the audience to profoundly understand and become familiar with Nikos Kazantzakis.

NK: A Kazantzakian Montage was performed at Gasworks Arts Park between 14 – 17 November 2017.

Image by John Collopy

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Q44 Theatre Presents SEX WITH STRANGERS

Writers meet, and the story unfurls

By Myron My

In Laura Eason’s Sex With Strangers, a female novelist meets a male blogger at a bed and breakfast in rural Michigan. She loves books, he prefers ebooks. She likes reading the classics, he prefers living writers. She prefers to keep her private life private, he lives his life on-line. Despite their differences, the two are drawn to each other and are forced to question the choices they’ve made in their lives and the ones they are going to have to make in the future.

Sex With Strangers.jpg

Will Atkinson offers a strong performance as Ethan, finding the right balance of brashness, cockiness and arrogance to his sweet, charismatic and endearing nature. Ethan is the type of guy that many of us despise but secretly want to be, and it’s Atkinson’s work in Sex With Strangers that really has you debating that position.

Atkinson’s pairing with Carissa McAllen as Olivia is a great casting choice and the two play off each other well. McAllen convincingly portrays the uncertainty and insecurities Olivia feels in being judged by the public on her writing; however, there were scenes in which I felt McAllen needed to express her character’s anger and frustrations more deeply than what was displayed on the night I attended.

While the space at Q44 Theatre is on the small side and the set itself is more compact than other productions, directors Gabriella Rose-Carter and Casey-Scott Corless use it to their advantage. They adroitly create an intimate world for Olivia and Ethan, that – while certainly influenced by outside factors – ensures the important moments of their lives are captured within the confines of the four walls.

The set and lighting design by Corless and sound design by Justin Gardam effectively show the differences of the two lifestyles being featured. We witness what feels like a battle between a time when life involved face-to-face interaction and real talent being rewarded, and present-day life with its iPhone obsession and the ability to be famous for being famous.

In the bed and breakfast, there is no television and the Internet has dropped out, wherepon an incredulous Ethan exclaims, “How will I look stuff up?” as he repeatedly checks his phone in vain. The environment here is therefore quiet and calm, just like our initial impressions of Olivia. The transition between scenes occur with a flash of light from an imagined Polaroid camera and the photo developing, often capturing an embrace or a kiss shared before the lights dim and calming music plays as the actors perform a quick costume change or set up the next scene.

By contrast, the second act in Olivia’s Chicago apartment has both characters constantly on their phones or their computers. They are no longer giving each other their undivided attention and it’s this technology that could be the doom for their relationship. The scene changes now occur with thumping club music and a red strobe light, reminiscent of an alarm warning of impending danger.

Q44 Theatre is fast building a reputation for producing a varied repertoire of excellent shows, and Sex With Strangers is another success story. Despite being first performed in 2009, the play still has plenty of relevance in the struggles to find meaningful connections – not only in what we do, but also with each other. In a society where there is a constant cacophony of ringing, buzzing and tapping, making these connections and having these experiences is becoming more difficult, ultimately leaving us wondering what we have missed out on, much like Ethan and Olivia.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond
Season:
 Until 3 September | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:00p
Tickets:
 $35 Full | $30 Con
Bookings:
 Q44 Theatre

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s THE BIG GAY CRUISE

All aboard this maritime musical

By Myron My

What could be more fun than a gay cruise? Nothing, according to engaged couple Alex and Ben and their best men, Stephen and Anthony, as they board a gay cruise ship for one final hoorah before their nuptials. Being performed as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, it’s fun, sexy and camp laughs in David Peake‘s original musical The Big Gay Cruise, directed by Leigh Barker and presented by Adam J. Lowe.

The Big Gay Cruise

With Alex and Ben (Brenton Cosier and Will Atkinson) soon to be married and their wedding day approaching, insecurities and fear are heightened for the characters. I would have loved to see more focus on this storyline in Peake’s script and an exploration of the secret that is revealed in the second act rather than splitting off to various sideline stories for the support cast. These characters may have had some genuinely funny moments, but I was not as emotionally invested in their story as I was about Alex and Ben’s. I felt more focus on the central couple would have kept the narrative more entertaining, with a stronger pay-off at the end.

The impact of the music raises a similar issue, with many songs not progressing the story, and creating the impression they are mostly filler, such as “The Locker Room” and “My Suite”. Despite being saddled with these unnecessary numbers, most of the cast are strong singers and do exceptionally well with their solo songs. Cosier in particular does an exemplary job when singing, and seems to be in his element during these moments.

The funniest part of The Big Gay Cruise would belong to Ben Paine as the sexually adventurous Anthony, and his song “Strength Inside of Me”, which Paine performs with great comedic expression and timing. However, it is Samuel Kitchen as Stephen who steals the show with “That Happy,” his emotional song of love lost and missed opportunities. This is where Peake’s songwriting skills excel, alongside other striking numbers about life and love such as “There’s A Boy” and “Just A Little Bit”.

Overall, there is little clarity on whose story this is, and thus the relationship between the audience and the inferred “hero” of this musical, Alex, needs to be strengthened. The Big Gay Cruise definitely has enough laughs and a committed cast to prevent this ship from sinking but the script and score do require more fine-tuning.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda.
Season: Until 1 February | Tues – Sat 7:30pm, Sat 3pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: $39 Full | $35 Concession
Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au, http://www.theatreworks.org.au, or 9534 3388