Showing posts with label Sydney Independent Theatre Company. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sydney Independent Theatre Company. Show all posts

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Mercy Seat - Review

Reviewed by Ben Oxley

The quality is strained

The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute

Gentle Banana People in conjunction with Sydney Independent Theatre Company
Old Fitzroy Theatre
Credit: Sydney Independent Theatre Company

Rebecca Martin
Credits include – The Shape of Things, autobahn, Punk Rock, Dogs Barking (pantsguys productions), Havana Harlem (Sydney Fringe), After the End (Tap Gallery), Cock (NIDA).
As a director: autobahn, The Knowledge (pantsguys productions). As Assistant Director - Lord of the Flies (New Theatre)

Rebecca graduated from Actors Centre Australia in 2010 and has a BA from UNSW and an ATCL in Speech and Drama from Trinity College London. Rebecca teaches for NIDA and is currently studying a Masters of Teaching at Melbourne Uni

Patrick Magee
Patrick is a comedian, author and actor. His credits include Tempest/Lear (Verge Theatre), Richard III (Genesian Theatre), Brideshead Revisited (RGP Productions) and MOJO (Belvoir). 

On one hand there's a disaster, on the other the possibility of a new life. Or is there? 

In reality, it is a sexual battle played out in confinement. We know the lovers are going to split, as there is little to keep the relationship alive. Competing for the same position at work, Abby becomes Ben's boss, and so the illicit relationship begins on a conference trip. 

Two postmodern people struggling with overwhelming guilt and self-loathing tear strips off each other's fragile egos. The moral recognition of their sins is very brave, but could they go as far as turning from this affair?

We don't empathise with Ben at first, as his shallow self interest is pale against Abby's overbearing angst and tempestuous bitching. It's possible he has had a sudden windfall due to the events of 9/11. But no, there is a personal reason for his plan to escape, or 'run' as Abby says. 

It has been his wife trying to reach him on his mobile phone, despite his knowledge of what he has done. But the play ratchets up to the climax. 

Abby lays her cards on the table to say she will sacrifice her position and life for Ben. Will he do this one thing for her: call his wife and children and explain he is not coming back?

Ben picks up the phone, and calls. What happens next is a bombshell more devastating than the World Trade buildings crashing down. 

Rebecca Martin is a powerful presence, using her voice and body skillfully to portray the dysfunctional 40 something career climber. Patrick Magee makes Ben a credible loser, particularly in the growing tension of being forced to decide between his family and his mistress. 

Not easy watching, but worth the fine performances from these two actors.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Lies, Love And Hitler - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Apr 15 – May 3, 2014
Playwright: Elizabeth Avery Scott
Director: Rochelle Whyte
Actors: James Scott, Doug Chapman, Ylaria Rogers
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
Romance and art are not usually complementary; theirs is a fraught relationship. Art conventions are concerned with all that is deep in the human experience, and romance pursues something that is often inane and fleeting. Elizabeth Avery Scott’s script however, manages to place romance in its centre, and through themes of ethics, politics, history and religion, tells a story that is engaging and intelligent.

Scott’s structure for Love, Lies And Hitler discusses the nature of ethics, and unpacks perennial questions that we face in every ethical dilemma. A parallel is drawn across time and space, between a university lecturer’s love affair with a student, and a German theologian’s involvement in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The stakes are different, but our thought processes are intriguingly similar when determining right from wrong.

With topics like capital punishment, sexual harassment and Nazism put in focus, the play’s solemnity is inescapable. Director Rochelle Whyte handles the play’s dark sides with sensitivity and reverence, and her skill in introducing seamlessly, the apparition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from 1945, into scenes at a university in modern day Australia is commendable. Less effective are her interpretation of the script’s moments of levity. These are frequently hurried through, and jokes are neglected, resulting in a show that feels heavier than necessary.

Ylaria Rogers plays Hannah and Hermione, displaying great efficiency and simplicity with both characters. Rogers places emphasis on moving the plot along swiftly, and telling her parts of the story clearly, but her portrayals would benefit from greater complexity and presence. James Scott is a very dynamic Paul Langley. His charisma quickly connects him with the audience, and we enjoy the tenacity in his performance, which is confident and thoroughly considered. There is however, a deliberateness to his style that can at times make his character seem less than authentic. Bonhoeffer is played by Doug Chapman, who has a subtle and naturalist approach that contrasts strongly with the other actors, and consequently, and ironically, helps him leave the greatest impression. Chapman provides a healthy counterbalance to the production with his restraint, which is also a quality that keeps us engrossed.

Stories about genocidal persecution and Hitler never dry up. They also never fail to fascinate. Love, Lies And Hitler is a show that entertains and enlightens. We think about our individual ethical boundaries and moral structures, while it seduces us with love stories past and present, and a surprising brand of romance that does not patronise.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Thom Pain (based on nothing) - Review

Thom Pain (based on nothing) written by Will Eno is currently been produced by the Sydney Independent Theatre at the Old Fitzroy Theatre.

Before I begin I have to say that I have been blown away by the quality of theatre Sydney Independent Theatre has been producing or been associated with this year.  Thom Pain (based on nothing) is a remarkable work and I am not surprised it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
It is very hard to say what it is about, because as the title suggests it based on nothing! It is a one man show, with little set, so you could be forgiven if you are thinking that this is could be a pretentious load of twaddle, particularly considering the title.  But it isn't. It is more like a comical portrayal of human nature. 

Thom Pain stands on stage and tells two stories, one about a boy another about a former girlfriend (who has everything including flees which he gave her). He tells the stories as random thoughts almost as if he talking his thoughts out loud. This makes the play seem a cross between stand up comedy and improvisation. I did ask Julie Baz the director if the play allowed for some impro because Thom asks the audience lots of questions which could have evoked a variety of responses. Apparently it does, it would be up to the skill of the actor to respond and then get the performance back on track. The audience would never know whether the actor is on track because it flits about and on occasion retraces the last few lines as if he has forgotten his train of thought.  There are some profound statements to make you think. At one point he asks if you had a day to live what would you do? If you knew you had 40 years to live what would you do?  Another is later in the piece when he talks about the brain. The brain makes sure that your body functions correctly but your mind could do anything. He also says that the cancers are all growing nicely and that Mother Nature will always have the last laugh.  So, there are some deeper more depressing moments during the show.

Because it is rather random this means that every now and again Thom behaves or says things that you are not expecting. There is swearing every now and then. I wondered whether it was necessary, my answer is yes, absolutely. It adds to the spontaneity of the play. There was one moment in particular that shocked the audience so much gasps could be heard echoing round the theatre and you can't quite believe he just said what he did.

The second half really screws with your mind,  you feel like you are almost making sense of it all but instead of talking in the third person Thom suddenly recaps the boy story in the first person, at this point you have to wonder to his sanity. This is soon forgotten though as he reverts back to the third person, but from that point on you do keep wondering who Thom really is and is the little boy him.
Even though this play is just one actor it is so complexly written you could easily watch it a few times.

David Jeffrey plays Thom Pain and his performance is flawless. So, if you fancy seeing a very funny, different piece of Theatre look no further and head to the Old Fitzroy.  Click here for more information and booking.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A Moment On The Lips - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 4 – 22, 2014
Playwright: Jonathan Gavin
Director: Mackenzie Steele
Actors: Beth Aubrey, Sarah Aubrey, Claudia Barrie, Lucy Goleby, Sonya Kerr, Ainslie McGlynn, Sabryna Te’o
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review
A Moment On The Lips is a play about the relationships between seven women in Sydney. Entangled as spouses, lovers, friends and sisters, they navigate a multitude of complex discordances, all of which are familiar and reflective of our personal lives. Jonathan Gavin’s script interweaves issues from personal and social spaces, with themes like ethnic and sexuality discrimination, converging with family and professional lives.

It is a tricky work to direct. The play seems to be about “first world problems”, so while we relate to the emotions being portrayed, there is a lack of gravity that makes the characters’ circumstances seem somewhat trivial. Mackenzie Steele succeeds in extracting passionate performances from his cast, and some of the tearful and emotional moments are excellent viewing, but the action always seems a little detached. The scenes are short, resulting in a fast-paced show that is entertaining and thoroughly engaging, but this also presents a challenge for creating depth in scenarios and personalities, making empathy difficult to establish.

Sabryna Te’o’s naturalistic portrayal as Bridget is a stand out in the cast. Her performance is a reactive one, which allows her to connect well with the other women. The importance of an actor who emphasises listening over speaking is demonstrated well here. The quality of understated authenticity Te’o brings to her role is refreshing. Ainslie McGlynn is a very funny actor. Her comic ability is truly excellent, giving a jolt of excitement whenever she appears to light up the stage as Anne. Her interpretation of mental illness is well handled. MGlynn loves to entertain, but takes care to give her character a sense of dignity through her multiple break downs. Lucy Goleby as Rowena is memorable in a scene where she confronts her homophobic sister. It is the single most powerful moment in the show, and a real visceral treat.

We are reminded several times, that “it is the little things”. The play wants us to realise not just the importance of relationships but also the subtleties within them. The things we say to each other may seem fleeting, but the words that sit a moment on our lips have effects that last beyond any intention. The destruction that comes from thoughtlessness can often be unpredictably severe. Relationships are hard, but it only takes a little care to turn love into a thing of nourishment.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Tidy Town Of The Year - Review

Review originally posted at
Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 4 – 22, 2014
Playwrights: Victoria Greiner, Sarah Hodgetts, Andy Leonard
Directors: Deborah Jones, Sean O’Riordan
Actosr: Victoria Greiner, Sarah Hodgetts, Andy Leonard
Image by Katy Green Loughrey

Theatre review 
It is probably true that a show cannot contain too many amusing ideas. Tidy Town Of The Year has no shortage of amusing lines and concepts, but trying to keep up and absorb them all can be challenging. Its writing and direction lack breathing space, often making the show feel overwhelming. Timing is key in humour. Even with clever and inspired ideas, attention needs to be paid on editing and delivery for communication to happen, especially in comedies.

In spite of these imperfections, performances are actually polished and confident. It is a fast-paced show, with a cast that is full of enthusiasm and buoyancy. We may not always catch the jokes that they attempt to relay, but their energy can be infectious. More variation in tone could be explored to prevent the actors from playing at the one level that they are most comfortable with, but their overall commitment to the work is a delight.

At heart, this is a show with a great deal of eccentricity, but the eccentric is by nature an entity that finds connections challenging. It has the capacity for brilliance and originality, but to convey its genius, a bridge needs to be found. In the theatre, ideas are exchanged and laughs can be shared, but only when the linkage between show and audience is established. This isn’t always easy, but the quest for it is always rewarding.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Fully Committed - Review

Fully Committed
by Becky Mode
Brevity Theatre Company in association with
Sydney Independent Theatre Company
Old Fitzroy Theatre

Work to pay for your career

credit: Brevity Theatre Company
Reviewed by Benjamin Oxley
Fully Committed - a play on the theatrical term for deeply in character, and a PC phrase for a full house at a restaurant - is much more than a one-man show. It allows the physical and vocal talents of Nick Curnow to stretch the gamut of Transatlantic vignettes. It tells the story of Sam, who takes the reservations for an over-priced Manhattan dining establishment. His dilemma is universal - how to escape from his post at Christmas to be with his newly-widowed dad.

With a dank office as his habitat, Sam is beset by cranky callers, high brow and hysterical, all bent on landing the plum spot at dinner. Lunch has its own concerns, as he attempts to balance the service demands of chef, maitre-d. and all those callers. It gets so frenetic that Sam is called on to double as toilet cleaner, after all others have grossed out at the diner's debacle.

It is enough that the role encompasses nigh on 40 characters, director Alexander Butt finds room for Curnow to work between the phone, the tannoy and the chef's personal line. Oh, and Sam's mobile phone that represents his life away from drudgery. Perhaps a telco could support this venture?

Nick Curnow is highly sought after for his talent and knowledge as a voice actor, is experienced in voice over narration and ADR, can differentiate between New York and New England, Liverpool and Lancashire, give you a Texan or a Russian, a Kiwi or Latino, or anyone else you might need. My favourite voice was Mrs Sebag, a distraught New York Jewess desperate for a table.

Praise too for the work from the control desk: split-second timing to match Curnow, placing the myriad sound effects on beats of musical bars. Benjamin Brockman's strobe-effected lighting created a suggestion of power overload at the climaxes, channelling the storytelling into a spiraling vortex.

After the call to Sam's father to ... you need to be there and see it for yourself. And if you are like me, you'll be pleased it's a theatre pub, so you can catch your breath and have a much needed drink.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Something Natural but Very Childish - Review

Something Natural but Very Childish is inspired by and based on short stories by Katherine Mansfield. The stage production was written and adapted by Gary Abrahams. The piece was skilfully directed by Julie Baz.  This is the Sydney première of an award winning Australian play.

I have to say from the outset that I expected more from an award winning play. The dialogue was very well written but it was just lacking. The stories revolved around three couples which were very predictable so there was no surprise or wow factor. The music too was a little too loud and very repetitive, perhaps even unnecessary in places.  That all said there were some outstanding elements and moments in the play. Notably the acting, directing and the costumes.

Something Natural by Very Childish looks at the lives of three couples set in Edwardian England.  Edna (Leah Donovan) and Henry (Kieran Foster) a young couple who first meet on the platform waiting for the train home. There relationship is based on dreams and the excitement of  first love.  I loved Henry's character it reminded me of Norman Wisdom. Mr Bullen (David Jeffrey) and Mrs Bullen (Carla Nirella) who play the dysfunctional married couple.  They spend their lives seeing how they can wind each other up. Mrs Bullen wants to escape and almost has an affair with Mr Peacock (Michael Faustmann) but realised when it comes down to it she just can't do it. The last couple Anne (Margaux Harris) and Reggie (Tim Cole) who are in the typical scenario they love each other but they never actually get together. Anne again is a great character, full of life and very bubbly. This is in stark contrast to Mrs Bullen who is miserable for much of the play.  The female actors in this production were very strong particularly Margaux.

The Edwardian costumes were very good, particularly the female costumes which were very elegant. Julie Baz did a great job directing this production. It is a fairly small stage at the Old Fitz but she managed to segment it and overlap the couples with their comings and goings seamlessly.

Something Natural but Very Childish is playing at the Old Fitzroy Theatre 129 Dowling Street Woolloomooloo until 25 May.  

(photo by Katy Green Loughrey)

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Liar's Bible by Fiona Samuel

- presented by the Sydney Independent theatre Company
Dates: 1st-19th May
Where: 8A/32-60 Alice St Newtown
Tickets: $29 full, $23 concession, $20 cheap Tuesdays

Fiona Samuel, winner of the Special Prize for Woman Playwright has written a complex play with an intertwining set of characters, whose lives develop over a short course of seven weeks. Themes explored are love, sex, art and poetry (the fun ones) but also death, drugs, alcoholism, anger and depression (the not-so-fun-ones).

On paper, the storyline and dialogue is intellectual, witty, thought-provoking and dabbed with dark humour and sounds like an interesting play to see. Unfortunately, the performance detracted a little from what would have otherwise been a successful, dramatic production.

Director Julie Baz admits the intricate journeys of each character are somewhat confusing and posed the difficulty of determining the overriding theme and point of the play. She has embraced this fact and believes the hard-to-follow storyline contributes to the overall production and mirrors what often happens in life; where we struggle to identify meanings and have difficulty analysing our experiences. Such is life.

I understand that not everything has to be crystal clear and that a good play will exhibit depth and generate thought; however I was relying on the portrayal of the characters to tie everything together and to help me appreciate the character's situation, and I'm afraid there wasn't enough of a connection present. Some scenes appeared forced and mechanical; the actors didn't seem to have a great bond with one another or their character.

Paul Armstrong, who played housepainter Gus, stood out as the most experienced actor and he embraced his character completely despite it being one of the minor characters when compared with the others. His depiction made his scenes the most interesting to watch.

The staging was brilliant considering the space of the theatre - there were roughly 50 tiered-seats - and was creatively set to host all five locations in the play. Such a small space was chosen especially so the audience would feel slightly claustrophobic, just like each character, and the actors would be able to give an intimate performance. The effect was appreciated and well received. The only negative comment I have about the theatre and set design was that the seats were very uncomfortable - bring a pillow!

Overall, a very intriguing story but the performance didn't quite hit the mark.

Reviewed by Lana Hilton

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Complete Package

The Sydney Independent Theatre Company present the world premiere of a new Australian play The Complete Package by Robert Allan.
The Sydney Independent Theatre Company are a new company operating out from 8A/32-60 Alice Street Newtown, it is a brand new space and is a work in progress! The Complete Package is the company's first production. They have been workshopping the show over the past three months and then went into rehearsals with the cast and director Julie Baz for the past month.  It was a brave move, new play, new company and a new space.  It could easily have been a complete disaster but after seeing the show if this one is anything to go by I can't wait for the next one.
The Complete Package is a very moving tale of Joshua (Tennessee Baz-Jeffrey) a ten year old boy in foster care. The writer Robert Allan touches on a number of topics throughout the play from the mundane office politics to the breakdown in communication between the characters and the social services department and common prejudices and believes to foster care.