Showing posts with label Ensemble Theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ensemble Theatre. Show all posts

Monday, 30 June 2014

Richard III - review

                       credit: TimeOut
Reviewed by Ben Oxley
Richard III
Ensemble Theatre
from JUNE 24

"Fitting memorial"

I read with interest this week of the real Richard III's monument being built near Leicester Cathedral. Festivities mark the occasion, and timely coincidence has enabled us to have a fresh look at "this son of York" here in Sydney.

From Mark's Kilmurry's blog:

9 August 2013

Starts work on play

"As I stand, sit or wait lurking at the back of the room to enter the world we have created (none of us actually ever leave the acting space but are dotted around the upstage area) I marvel and congratulate myself (just once) at having such a great and dedicated cast. It has been a joy in a job that could have been so hard to make work till now, fun and exciting."

"The cast are great. Patrick Dickson smooth as Buckingham, Amy Mathews fiery as Lady Anne, Danielle Carter guarded and knowing as Queen Elizabeth, Toni Scanlan earthy Duchess and dead right as Tyrell, and Matt Edgerton playing so many roles and yet giving them all their own truth and humanity... I am thrilled. As director."

Kilmurry's portrayal has elements of Gollum, especially in the conversation with himself. He physically negotiates the tables and chair seats to create the dimension of a conventional theatre. Twitchy, restless, conniving - all traits we expect from this usurper are there.

Buckingham and Assistant Director was Patrick Dickson, who gave us a wan political figure who backs the wrong horse. Pun intended.

The trio of ladies cover the female and male roles, other than Matt Edgerton's nimble work with Clarence/Rivers/King Edward/Ratcliff/Catesby. Danielle Carter is superb as Queen Elizabeth, most vitriolic in her encounter with Richard.

Amy Mathews gave Lady Anne tremendous vocal and physical presence, and turned up with a resolute Richmond at the finale. In between she paired with Carter as the Prince of York, and gave a halting vignette as the Second Murderer.

The experience of Toni Scanlan as Richard's mother, the Duchess of York, fearlessly pegging him for what he really is, which contrasted with a watchful Tyrell and a very amusing First Murderer.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Cruise Control - Review

Transatlantic trauma

Cruise Control
by David Williamson
Ensemble Theatre
reviewed by Ben Oxley

credit: Ensemble Theatre

Cruise Control brings together seasoned stalwarts, eccentric characters and a zinging script. Chloe Dallimore purrs as the love-lost Imogen, aside Michelle Doake as Fiona, the respectable, cuckolded editor. No confrontations between rivals, but Kate Fitzpatrick brings breezy class to Silky.

Peter Phelps' straight-shooting Darren shocks neurotic Sol (Henry Szeps) and challenges David's son, Felix Williamson's lecherous, loathable Richard with typical 'Aussie abroad' bluntness.

Williamson's own onboard dining disaster comes to The Ensemble at a time when holiday cruising in the post 9-11 era is the socially acceptable choice. Like the jokes, "there was a Englishman, an American Jew and an Australian", the humour wears thin as the real drama emerges, and we genuinely connect with the pathos of the piece.

What works well is the timing of so many of the lines. "You're more of a reptile thesaurus" quips Silky to Richard, pinpointing the aggressive predator with vocabulary to burn. Fine dining, like the delivery allows the audience to savour the lines. We love to hate Richard, and experience the rancour and disdain of this
loathsome Lothario.

Genuine tenderness emerges from the brief encounter of Sol and Fiona, as she gently coaches his novel aspirations. Dentistry and drama is not an obvious connection, nor is surfware and syndication with Darren, but all tension leads to how they treat Richard's flagrant indiscretions.

Like the champagne, we have a near-perfect cast to lead us onboard (and off), with marital struggles, cavorting and cajoling in the best Williamson way. The lovely foil of Kenneth Moraleda as Charlie to the haughty Richard, the crass Darren and suffering Sol make the week that was plausible.

Williamson the playwright doubles as director, and achieves slick pace, as if the ship's staff had changed the sheets and cleaned the glasses. Marissa Dale-Johnson's design matches the style with a glamorous backdrop of luxury liner, a dinner table featured, with cabin and deck relief.

Lighting from Ross Graham spotted the curious conversations, and we have a Muzak-style soundtrack the like of which we could expect onboard. For the large outlay, and the Titanic proportions perhaps we should have Andre Rieu and Tchaikovsky.

If you can spare two hours, spend it in the company of some of Australia's finest actors and don't let your emotions go overboard.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Clybourne Park - Review

Clybourne Park


'honoring the connection'

Reviewed by Ben Oxley
With the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and Olivier Evening Standard Awards, it's helpful to backtrack to the play's prequel "A Raisin In The Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry. This serves as context to the shape of  Clybourne Park, and the integrity of its structure.

A Raisin in the Sun portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. When the play opens, the Youngers are about to receive an insurance check for $10,000. The matriarch Mama puts a down payment on a house for the whole family. She believes that a bigger, brighter dwelling will help them all. This house is in fictitious Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighborhood of Chicago. When the Youngers’ future neighbors find out that the Youngers are moving in, they send Mr. Lindner, from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, to offer the Youngers money in return for staying away. The Youngers refuse the deal.

As we enter Clybourne Park, we have a handle on the tense racial and societal pretext, but not on the real 'elephant in the room'. What we discover is the ache of parents for loss, and an inability of those around them to listen to their problems. After all, this was post-war, politically genteel middle America.

The second act is a sequel in a sense, cleverly lifting the story to our time, capturing the progress or lack of social inclusion and dialogue. Nonetheless, the house is made over for the transition, and the staircase is as strong a silent player in the unfolding tale.

To get this to work as drama today it takes a fine cast, and we have strength in depth in every role. Paula Arundell, herself an award-winning actor, straddles the dual roles of Francine and Lena superbly. Both strong figures, and essential to play against Nathan Lovejoy's overbearing Karl and Steve. Around the room, Wendy Strehlow fastidious Bev and Richard Sydenham as Russ double speak their way through the fog of shared but singular grief.

Thomas Campbell gives Rev. Jim an unctuous touch, and brings poignancy at the end with his handling of Kenneth. Briallen Clarke did a believable job of deaf expectant mum (there's a stereotype) Betsy, and in turn expertly plays the placating Lindsey. The one compassionate figure comes from solid Cleave Williams, with Albert and Kevin both harried by willful women and more articulate men.

Tanya Goldberg extracts the gut-wrenching social text with the smartly satirical observations to create a careening train crash in Act One. The 'chorus interruptus' continues in Act Two, revisiting the history, explicitly unveiling the divide between cultures in the house.

Sets and costume made Clybourne very believable, and Tobhiyah Stone Feller deserves credit for creating the tone and taste. Verity Hampson's thoughtful lighting design led us through the tale, as did Daryl Wallis' evocative audio.

Cheers to all hands at Ensemble for a mighty success, and I left to discover what the capital of Morocco really was. What was the point?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Proof - review

You do the math
Ensemble Theatre
78 McDougall Street
Kirribilli Australia 2061
5 February 2014

Credit: Ensemble Theatre


Reviewed by Benjamin Oxley
There is a marked contrast between the purity of mathematics and the awkwardness of human relations. The father's frustration of losing the "geyser" flow, the elegance, the machine - his beautiful mind.

Matilda Ridgway's towering performance is backed by her high maths background: before drama school intervened, she was following her dad into a career with a beautiful mind.

Catherine's knowing "You can feel it coming" was reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn in Adam's Rib: "All I'm trying to say is that there's lots of things that a man can do and in society's eyes it's all hunky-dory. A woman does the same thing - the same thing, mind you - and she's an outcast."

There's a pointed take on the male-dominated milieu of math, and a talented lady's recognition as their equal.

"It comes back to zero"

It received a Pulitzer Prize, Tony award for best play and NY Drama Critics Circle Award in 2001. The play was then adapted for the silver screen in 2005 in a version starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow.

What makes the play deep and urgent is that Catherine is motivated by conflicting desires. She wants to be a great mathematician, but does not want to hurt or shame her father.

At worst, she doesn't believe in her own ability. It's essentially about a woman whose destiny is in her own hands, but she can't make them close on it.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
From: November 6
Directed by Sandra Bates
Reviewed by Ben Oxley

CHLOE BAYLISS, (genuine triple threat, seen as Nell in Reef Doctors, fiesty, biochemical view of relationship as Avery) 
DIANE CRAIG, (Australian acting royalty, perfect study of Alice) 
GLENN HAZELDINE (with a wealth of stage, TV and film credits, is a highly plausible and disturbed Don)The play Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica, which featured and reunites him and GEORGIE PARKER, ( a beautiful and transparent Catherine), famous for above all being a champion of Ensemble Theatre. Her performance is the hub of the play. If it were not for Catherine, all the others would continue on disconnected. As we discover, 
ANNE TENNEY, so right for the depressive Gwen and the completion of the relationship triangle, has a hand in changing their outcomes.
Media star academic Catherine Croll, who has made her reputation as the "pretty girl who talks porn", returns home to care for her mother Alice. Her mother has had a heart attack, and it awakes questions in Catherine as to what her priorities should be. In the same New England hometown where her mother lives, her former grad school boyfriend, local college disciplinary dean Don Harper lives in his uneasy marriage to her former grad school roommate Gwen. Caroline is by turns deep and shallow, academic and alone. Don has the unfulfilling resume of beer, pot and porn. As the backstory unravels he is pressed into defining what he wants.

It is the cross-section of the views of three generations that fuel this piece. Avery has cutting insight into Catherine's problems: "It went wrong, you move on." She challenges the views of the other women, while asserting her "hooked-up, permanent" relationship is solid. She learns and applies the tips that Catherine, Gwen and Alice pass on.

Gwen is a barometer for where the play is headed. Owning her habitual drinking by joining AA, and making note of it at every turn, she sets about judging others, particularly Catherine. Her dissatisfaction of her life moves from Don to her old rival for his affections.

Don, the man in the middle, is an under-achiever who moves between a below par standard for Gwen to a dizzying one that Catherine unconsciously sets. He can no longer reside at the low end of the gene pool after his encounter with Catherine after years apart.

Gwen is the soul here, with loving concern for Catherine, and little time for Gwen's posturing as the fulfilled mother over the lonely academic. Her timing with Refreshments are signature, accommodating Gwen non-alcoholic cocktails, contrasting the sessional excess between Catherine and Don.

If Theatre sports had additional categories, would 'Ensemble Theatre' style be included? It's a tribute to stalwart director Sandra Bates, who focuses us on each character in turn. There is intimacy and pace, almost at TV tempo. Designer GRAHAM MACLEAN kept clean lines for the story to move forward, and Trudy Dalgleish made a fluid assigment of the lighting changes. Congratulations!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

CAMP - Review

Reviewed by Regi Su

From the 19th of September, The Ensemble, Kirribilli hosts “Camp”, a crazy comedy following the antics of a group of families on their Boxing Day camping holiday. Each family is dysfunctional in their own right, so spending time trapped in a communal camping ground is the perfect place to set a comedy, while magnifying some of the more relevant human experiences.

In hindsight, the plot isn’t outlandishly unique and the character development, conflict, climax and resolution are all evident as a formulaic stage text. However what makes this play very clever is the fact that playwright Gary Baxter has managed to flawlessly script chaos, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish. His dialogue is balanced, heavy with implied humour, satire and the taste of the production is inherently Australian, which in my opinion is rather refreshing.

To further the success of this production, Baxter’s heavy chaos wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate dedication of such a high calibre cast under the great direction of Mark Kilmurry. The dynamics of the cast were perfect, their power was raw when necessary and they had total believability when performing their roles- I believed they were who they said they were and I believed we were at a campsite in the sweltering heat. I thought the actors and the script were very crafty in being able to highlight small idiosyncrasies and heighten character and nuance, and these are indicative of great theatre because for that moment, as you sit in the dark, you leave your own world behind and escape for a while.

The play didn’t need your involvement, it didn’t ask you to decode or work for anything. As the audience, you were only asked to be open to the journey ahead. There were people who roared with laughter and people who sat horrified at the sickening reality of campsite claustrophobia. For some, well for me at least, the play came a little too close to home in their portrayal of the typical Australian camping experience.

In terms of production, The Ensemble delights me every time. The set was perfect, astro-turf, washing line, doggy-poop and all. Their attention to detail in the prop and lighting department really authenticates the play. I’d also like to mention that there was a mix-up at the Box office and the office staff were more than helpful with my tickets. “Camp” is a play that is fun, relative to our own experiences, as happy campers, or even just as Australians. It’s a nice break from reality for two hours and it’s well-executed, light-hearted fun.