14 Acland St, St Kilda
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Bookings: 03 9534 3388
Office: 03 9534 4879
December 8, 2011
Online: Jennifer Coles - Theatre Press
Monday 5, December 2011
Online: Darby Turnbull - Theatre People
Thursday, 01 December 2011
Online: Jane Canaway - Australian Stage
December 1, 2011
Online: Bradley Storer - Theatre Press
December 1, 2011
Online: Bradley Storer - Theatre Press
Thursday, 17 November 2011
Online review: Heather Bloom - Australian Stage
October 8, 2011
ArtsHub: Review by Nicole Eckersley
Rating: Three and a half stars
October 7, 2011
Herald Sun - Review: Kate Herbert
Star rating: ***
Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Australian Stage Online: Heather Bloom
August 31, 2011
The Australian - Review: Chirs Boyd
August 31, 2011
The Age - Review: Elly Varrenti
★★★★☆ (4.5 Stars)
August 27, 2011
Article: Robin Usher [The Age]
Review written by Anne-Marie Peard [AussieTheatre.com]
Friday, 5 August, 2011
August 4 2011
Review: Eleanor Howlett - Australian Stage
Photo – Jacqueline Jane
June 18, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Liza Dezfouli [Australian Stage]
June 18, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Liza Dezfouli [Australian Stage]
June 17, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Christopher Barrett [Theatrealive]
June 17, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Elly Varrenti [The Age]
ONLINE - Article: [Beat]
Fran Middleton, Alissa Claessens,
St John Cowcher and Gita Bezard.
Photo: Simon Schluter
June 15, 2011
Article: Robin Usher [The Age]
May 12, 2011
Article: Will Hanley [Theatrepeople]
ONLINE - Review: Anne-Marie Peard [Aussietheatre.com]
Samantha Morley in The Hatpin
plays the friend of a single mother,
who advertises to find her baby
a new family.
PHOTO: CARMELO BAZZANO
23 May, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Bianca Carmona [The Progress Leader]
Williamstown's Shaun Kingma
is directing the play The Hatpin.
Picture: DAVID SMITH
23 May, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Laura Keys [The Hobson Bay Leader]
Gemma-Ashley Kaplan as Amber,
and Samantha Morley as Harriet
in the Magnormos production of
20 May, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Antony Steadman [ArtsHub]
The Hatpin's Gemma-Ashley Kaplan
and Samantha Morley.
20 May, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Kate Herbert [The Herald Sun]
Star rating: ** 1/2
CARTOON: Lucy Fekete
16 May, 2011
Review: Lucy Fekete [Blog]
16 May, 2011
Review: Georgia Costello [Theatrealive]
26 April, 2011
ONLINE - Interview: Regina Green [Dance informa]
(Top) Emma Jones, Sophie Collins
and Philip Gould.
(Lower) Gemma-Ashley Kaplan
and Samantha Morley
Photographer: Darrell Jones.
Review: Graham Ford [Stage Whispers]
Photos: Darrell Jones
17 May, 2011
Review: Chris Hughes [Theatrepeople]
16 May, 2011
Interview: Raymond Gill [The Age]
16 May, 2011
Video feature: [Aussie Theatre News Network]
13 May, 2011
ONLINE - Video feature: Ian Nisbet [Theatrepeople]
Article: [Stage Whispers]
Review: Chris Barrett [Theatre Alive]
04 May 2011
3 May, 2011
Article: Fiona Gruber [The Australian]
12 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Sally Bennett [The Herald Sun]
The Hayloft Project: Delectable Shelter at Theatre Works, St Kilda, until April 17
THE Hayloft Project's winning streak continues with its first bold step into comedy.
It could have been a misfire -- a young independent theatre company bowling up a Comedy Festival show -- but it seems these creative brains can do no wrong at present.
Fresh from winning three Green Room Awards for hit production Thyestes, Hayloft brings us the dark comedy Delectable Shelter.
It's probably not the best show it has ever done, but it's highly entertaining, well acted and laugh-out-loud funny -- screamingly so in parts.
The biggest surprise is a cast that includes opera singers and stand-out comic singing at the beginning, middle and end. Such amazing voices.
Set in a bunker deep under the Earth's surface, the show begins with the last five humans left after ``the end of the world''.
Their job is to ensure the human race survives for the 350 years it takes before it is safe to return to the surface.
That means introducing a hilarious breeding program as these five very different individuals plan their utopian society.
Does the human race survive? Do the last five humans recreate the offspring and society of their dreams? That's the bit you have to find out for yourself.
Delectable Shelter is a clever and interesting piece of writing. It should be a hit with theatre buffs and those who like a quirky edge to a night of culture.
Written and directed by Benedict Hardie, cast members are Thomas Conroy, Simone Page Jones, Anthony Mackey, Josh Price and Yesse Spence.
Star rating: ****
08 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Shelley Blake [ArtsHub]
This witty, black and intelligent performance is the latest brain child of one of Melbourne's most exciting theatre companies, The Hayloft Project. Taking us into an dimly lit underground bunker (the characters' hide out from a war above), Delectable Shelter is a fantastically delightful experience.
White elitism and First World worries are highlighted through the cleverly written and sarcastic dialogue between rich suburban couple, Reginald (Anthony Mackey) and Biddy (Yesse Spence) and their obviously inadequate son Grayson (Thomas Conroy) and his wife (Simone Page Jones). The holder of knowledge in the world below is the cleverly entertaining master of the shelter, Thor (Josh Price).
As the characters delve into the 'not to worries’ and ignore the severity of their apparent situation, the performance makes an obvious satirical comment on the ways of the 21st century and the emptiness of that which we hold dearest, such as solariums and squeaky clean images.
The characters’ naïvety about the outside world is highlighted throughout this engaging and hilarious show. Their blatant daftness is contrasted with the darkness of the underground; all culminating in a purely hilarious gospel choir belting out 80’s love ballads.
Left to their own procreating devices to generate the new world and prepare to take on the few humans who are rumoured to have survived – the Chinese – Delectable Shelter is drearily insightful, entertaining in its obscenities, and sits very much outside the realms of political correctness.
A welcome darkness in this year’s Comedy Festival, writer and director Benedict Hardie has taken another refreshing risk with Delectable Shelter. The result of this illogical, 350 year mission of repopulating a post-Armageddon earth is seriously impressive (and Roxette has never sounded so good).
09 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: [Crossoverman's Journal]
Continuing to light up every space they call home, even if that light always shines on some hideous aspect of human nature, The Hayloft Project's newest production - by its very advertising - seems unlike anything else it has done before. After the brutal Thyestes and the heavy human drama of The Nest, Delectable Shelter is positioned as The Hayloft Project vs Comedy. Presented at Theatreworks as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Certainly, their projects of late last year couldn't have been mistaken for comedies, but I don't think the group's sensibility precludes the possibility of black comedy and biting satire. And that's surely what Delectable Shelter is - a comment on the Western middle classes and their centuries of being too comfortable with their lots in life. The play, told in three acts, spanning 350 years, is a post-Apocalyptic comedy about five people (likely the last five people on Earth) sheltering from sped-up climate change while planning a new Utopia for when humanity returns to the surface of the planet. It's the story of a white suburban Melbourne family and one of the Engineers of both the climate change Apocalypse and the shelter they and their progeny will live in for centuries.
The remarkable cast of actors also double as a choir, presenting choral arrangements of 80s love songs - the only music to survive the end of the world and the birth of this new civilisation. Really, if a choral version of Roxette's It Must Have Been Love is not the perfect mood setter for a comedy, I don't know what is.
The Hayloft Project shouldn't have worried their sensibility was anathema to comedy, though perhaps their comedy isn't as funny as their tragedy is tragic. No, scratch that. The show is hilarious but perhaps the comments they are making about society aren't quite as provocative or as incisive as I might have expected from this troupe. Writer/director Benedict Hardie should be thoroughly commended for taking the company in this direction - I sincerely hope punters reading the Comedy Festival guide just stumble across this remarkable piece of theatrical comedy - since it's hard to imagine Hayloft's projects getting darker. This satire is pretty positive about the resilience of human nature, even when it is critical of us repeating past mistakes and being threatened by the "unknowable other".
The cast, as with every Hayloft show, is hand picked and perfectly chosen. Set designer Claude Marcos buries us all beneath the surface of the earth in a strikingly inhospitable room. Lucy Birkinshaw's lighting and Alistair Mew's sound design suggest a bright spot in the darkness, but seemingly threatened by groans and creaks of perhaps an earth threatening to crush these fuck-arse survivors.
Delectable Shelter is smart and funny. Dark but with a hint of optimism. And all Hayloft. It's at Theatreworks until April 17th as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
All hail the Albatross!
Photos: Pia Johnson.
07 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Charlie Cunningham [Laneway Magazine]
The comedy festival isn't all about one man shows and stand up, full productions which highlight the art of stagecraft and expert acting can be even more amusing than 90 minute of dirty jokes and shouting.
Described as a black comedy about white terror, Delectable Shelter tells the story of a group of people (described as 'rich white folk' ) holed up in an underground shelter after the end of the world. They’re purpose? To repopulate the earth when the apocalypse is over. This gives them plenty of time to in breed and develop a plan for a utopian society.
The production covers the story of their adjustment to the isolated and underground world, following 350 years of interpartner mating which results in a few genetically challenged characters later on in the story. Each short act is divided by the cast appearing as an evangelical church-esque choir, the presence on stage was powerful, but what made it more enjoyable was the amazing capabilities of the cast with a special mention to Simone Page Jones who led the popular pop songs tuned to a choir flavour.
Showing at Theatre works in St Kilda, this production is something out of the ordinary and a unique addition to this year’s comedy festival. The cast really make this piece of theatre stand out with their every action adding something to the show, whether it be "Thor’s" disturbing manner, the subtlest movements, pauses and sounds that the cast perform, the well written script or the impressive set. I would recommend Delectable Shelter for all mature audiences…although the sex scene gave me one of those awkward father son moments with my dad who I had brought along to see the show.
06 April, 2011
PRINT - Review: Chris Boyd [The Australian]
In Benedict Hardie's infantile and deliciously vulgar comedy, the last human beings on earth are stuck in a shelter for 350 years until the poisoned world is fit to be reinhabited. They plan to repopulate the earth and to make a utopia. But these, 'profoundly rich white people" have chosen to install a solarium instead of a stereo, so the only music the new world will inherit is some Bach sheet music and a 1980s songbook. So we're treated to some frightfully solemn five-part choral versions of love songs by Roxette, Air Supply, Foreigner and Billy Ocean.
As satire, Delectable Shelter is closer to Douglas Adams than Jonathan Swift, but there are modest (and indecent) proposals galore in this monstrously funny and smartly staged pageant.
06 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Alison Croggan [Theatrenotes]
Watching the development of theatre companies is a fascinating business. They are organisms subject to all the travails of being alive: growth, change, decay, death and renewal. They are networks of individual energies which seed in unexpected places, producing unexpected syntheses and collaborations. The Hayloft Project and Chamber Made Opera are cases in point. Both have had a major impact on performance in this town, and both are under new artistic leadership.
Hayloft was begun by Simon Stone in 2007, pulling together a bunch of recently graduated talent for a notable production of Franz Wedekind's Spring Awakening (review here). Since then, Melbourne, and later Sydney, has seen a series of productions that re-examined classics and mounted new works, sometimes controversially, and Stone has catapulted to the main stage at the STC and is now resident director at Belvoir St. Hayloft, which has never been short on talent, is now under the artistic leadership of Anne-Louise Sarks, who as well as being assistant director on Stone's recent Belvoir production of The Wild Duck, directed the Fringe hit Yuri Wells and last year's exquisite version of Gorky's The Nest.
The continuities are much more obvious in Hayloft, which is not so much reinventing itself as continuing its previous explorations, using much of the same talent that drove their earlier work. Delectable Shelter, directed and written by Benedict Hardie, is Hayloft's second production under Sarks. Under the umbrella of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, it's an SF apocalyptic satire, produced with all the style we've come to expect from Hayloft. It's a stylish three-act nonsense with savage undertones and a surprisingly optimistic feel.
The conceit is that a bunch of fanatics have decided that the world is past saving and have ramped up climate change to a catastrophic degree that destroys all life on earth. Five people - an engineer and four members of an upper-middle class Melbourne family - are in a bunker underground, readying themselves to repopulate the planet, once it is possible to reinhabit it, with a new, utopian society.
The bunker itself, represented in Claude Marcos's design by a kind of open-sided cabinet propped on the stage, is decorated with the most eye-burning wallpaper I've ever seen which, even more than the walls of the box, emphasises the claustrophobia of Hardie's black vision. (The single sign of real life, a painting by Van Gogh, sits jarringly on the wall, representing everything that has been destroyed). In between the three acts, we are given performances of 80s pop songs rearranged by Benny Davis as Bach madrigals, sumptuously sung by the performers in eye-popping salmon-pink choral robes.
There are touches of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf and Chris Morris's deeply unsettling Blue Jam in the text. The first two acts follow the fortunes of this dysfunctional family, immediately after the catatrsophe and then a couple of years later. Privilege functions here as emotional and intellectual cauterisation, a complete inability to empathise with anyone, or to grasp any reality beyond the immediate situation. It emerges as careless cruelty and a carefully meaningless dialogue that skates over an abyss of neuroticism. The family obediently bows to the necessities of their situation: breeding schedules and survival.
The action then leaps three centuries, to the eve of their re-emergence onto the surface of the planet. Hardie examines the (il)logical results of a vastly depleted gene pool - a bunker populated by hundreds of people who are all identical to their five progenitors, and a musical culture that has evolved from two Ur-texts, Bach chorales and 80s pop songs. Idle suggestions written down three centuries earlier have risen to the status of religious texts, cannibalism is a way of life and the Chinese - according to rumour, the only other survivors of the destruction of the earth, and masters of leaping backwards onto buildings - are The Enemy. But how to greet the Enemy? With guns or with songs?
Alistair Mew's sublimimally rumbling sound design adds to the dissociative realities, suggesting a world crumbling in chaos outside the bright, airtight box where the increasingly unhinged characters dutifully pursue their deluded dreams. Hardie's play is sharp and clever, paying off all its jokes, although I thought the middle act a little overwritten and consequently slow. The cast brings an infectious energy and some beautiful voices to this bizarro world, with an especially sharp comic performance by Yesse Spence; the early scenes were a little sticky on opening night, but relaxed as the evening progressed. Very funny, with enough sting to create a lingering aftertaste.
06 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Andrew Fuhrmann [Time Out]
Where Dr Strangelove finishes, Delectable Shelter begins says Andrew Fuhrmann
The scenario reminds me of that famous final scene from Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, where Strangelove, the former Nazi scientist now working for the US government, lays out his fantastical plan to preserve a "nucleus of human specimens":
The radioactivity would never penetrate a mineshaft some thousands of feet deep, and in a matter of weeks, sufficient improvement in dwelling space could easily be provided. […] Naturally, they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time and little to do.
Where Strangelove finishes, Delectable Shelter begins. Writer/director Benedict Hardie describes, by way of a Mel Brooks-type farce, the installation and propagation of a buffoonish bourgeois family in one of these mineshaft shelters.
It's Reginald, the father (Anthony Mackey), Biddy, his sunshiny wife (Yesse Spence), their son Grayson (Thomas Conroy) and his partner (Simone Page Jones). Rounding out the little company is Tor (Josh Price), a cynical engineer from a shadowy organisation called "The Program". The play begins as the shelter is sealed, not to be opened for 350 years.
The shelter, the work of company designer Claude Marcos, is the highlight of this production. Hypnotic silver-fern wallpaper with matching kneeling chairs and a van Gogh lightbox all in a claustrophobic five-sided container. It's a design that, like the singing, stylishly points the strangeness and oppressiveness of the utopia these survivors will seek to construct.
The singing. The singing is another highlight. The cast, resplendent in their salmon robes (costumes, Esther Marie Hayes), divide the three acts of the play by performing a selection of eighties' love ballads, transcribed in the style of Bach’s choral music (Benny Davis and Nathan Gilkes). Thus we get beautiful a cappella versions of songs from Foreigner, Billy Ocean, Air Supply and, right at the start, Roxette’s "It Must Have been Love" (yes, that’s technically the nineties, but still it’s hilarious).
The performance is very funny in parts, especially some of the physical humour, but it lacks impact. There is a careful imbrication of keywords and references that maintain a comic unity throughout, but this is a very superficial kind of unity.
The farcical elements have the feeling of unreconstructed late 50s/early 60s slapstick. This era of comedy is fertile ground for a playwright, no doubt, but what seems to be missing here is any element of subversion or critique, the sort of self-aware attitude for which The Hayloft Project are usually celebrated.
Although billed as a satire of privilege, nothing seems integrally challenged by the method, mood or narrative. Dr Strangelove again:
When they go down into the mine, everyone would still be alive. There would be no shocking memories, and the prevailing mood would be one of nostalgia for those left behind.
I’d suggest that nostalgia is indeed the prevailing mood of this play: there is nothing at all grim hidden beneath its wallpaper. It’s very gentle. While there are many jokes that turn on the audience’s recognition of the absurdity of middle-class fears—especially racist fears—the nostalgia in which these jokes are wrapped implies sympathy and, at times, commemoration, so that inherent in the "satire of privilege" seems to be a “celebration of privilege”.
Once the action progresses through a few generations and enters more fully into absurdist humour, the realisation of the promised utopia, the direction loosens up and the comedy hits its stride. The satire still tends toward the sentimental, but there seems to be more fun and life about the caricatures.
There’s no denying that this production offers a lot of laughs, and some of the production elements are spectacular; but I think that if it had been more sharply targeted, the laughs might have had more impact.
05 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: David Maney [RHUM]
RHUM Loves The Hayloft Project's Delectable Shelter @ MICF 2011
WARNING: Performance contains singing, swearing, ergonomic chairs, 80s music, for-the-good-of-mankind-fucking, and questionable adult themes. Writer-director Benedict Hardie's latest play follows an illogical situation through to its logical conclusion, all the while re-populating a post-apocalyptic earth in preparation for war with the Chinese.
Trapped in a shelter and told that they will not be allowed back up to the surface for 350 years, Reginald (Anthony Mackey) and his wife, Biddy (Yesse Spence) are coupled on a double-date of destiny with their son, Grayson (Thomas Conroy) and his wife (Simone Page Jones). Fifth wheel on this expedition to nowhere is Thor (Josh Price), engineer of the bunker and the other 300 or so bunkers just like it.
All of them are stereotypes in the best way. Reginald, middle-aged, upper-class and in tweed, is confronted with his diminishing masculinity and only having one teste. His son, Grayson, in lairy skinny jeans, must accept that he is not a man and that his part in re-population is confined to what he can squeeze into his 'milking cup'. His 'Just Married’ but already long-suffering wife, whose hair alone tells you she is intelligent but disgruntled, must forfeit her body to become a baby-making factory. But the star-turn is Yesse Spence as the Stepford-wife, Biddy, who, preened like cat and her skin polished within an inch of her carnal desires, is the comedic motor of the first two acts, if only because she embodies her stereotype.
The play is staged in a large set-box, the interior of which is lined with a Magic Eye style wallpaper, but between acts all the actors assemble outside the box, front-of-stage, dressed in choir robes. If you like Glee’s re-working of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, or any of the viral a cappella imitators, you’ll love Benny Davis’ (Axis of Awesome) arrangement of 80s love ballads into pop-opera. This all leads to the ultimate question: will the shelter send soldiers or the choir to meet the Chinese on the surface when the 350 years is up?
A great ensemble of vocal talent and fantastic physical humour (when the lights go out in the second act you might need a little bit of spit to enjoy it more) I can only use the 80s to sing in praise: It must have been love / but it’s over now / It must have been good… and it was.
Chuckle Factor: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Find out more HERE
03 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Liza Dezfouli [Australian Stage]
This latest from the Hayloft Project is such a goody. Enormously enjoyable and clever, it delivers a satisfyingly strong structure, an original and well-developed storyline and impeccable performances including some impressive a Capella singing. The classic end of the world scenario is used here by writer/director Benedict Hardie to make a lot of fun of the privileged classes in the form of a family of five who are left to populate the world after the apocalypse. The power struggles and dynamics between the hapless individuals under the control of the awful Thor (Josh Price) are wittily played out with some unpredictable results. But, as they soon discover, some other humans have also survived: a handful of Chinese!
The show opens with scenes of an extremely nervous choir giving us a choral arrangement of It Must Have Been Love. This amusing conceit – the choral interludes of bad 80s love ballads to Bach – is wonderfully resolved in the story. It's funny and musically impressive, including an occasional atonality within classic Bach arrangements and the wonderful bass voice of Anthony Mackey along with Simone Page Jones's stunning soprano. We eventually discover what the stakes are for this brave little choir as they are literally singing for world peace. 350 years after the first family bunkered down, their descendents and clones are about to go back up to the surface of the planet. Rather than waging war, which is the plan, the choir, in the most god-awful robes of orange satin trimmed with leather, has subversively broken rank and will try to disarm the Chinese with song. The costume and set designers (Esther Marie Hayes and Claude Marcos) have had the best time matching up outfits to furnishings.
Most of the play takes place within a small square, overwhelmingly papered in floral; the intense feeling of claustrophobia unrelieved by a Van Gogh print, its sad presence a reminder of what has been destroyed above. The big themes of humanity, spirituality and future eating are rambunctiously played about within a show that holds nothing back in its gleeful exposure of just how ridiculous human beings can be. The later scenes involving the descendents and clones involve lovely references to earlier conversations; like a centuries-old game of Chinese whispers, language has mutated and memories distorted into a quasi-religion. Reginald's dream of an albatross has spawned a priest-like figure called Albatross. Like they say in the future, 'it's all fuck-arse!"
02 April, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Nyunkia Tauss [Theatre Alive]
Delectable Shelter Audience feedback:
One tropical plant is nice, cleansing the air. A room full of tropical plants, why, it must be so nice you can't even breathe. Delectable Shelter plasters the 'last-survivors-tasked-with-repopulating-the-world' construction with nice, white, middle class aspirations.
Maybe you’re out for a laugh, maybe you’ve heard good things about Hayloft’s work, maybe you’ve even seen some of it? Then someone suggests you try the salmon, but you can’t because you’re vegetarian. But maybe you would if it was the last food on earth? Maybe if there was a choir serenading you with Roxette madrigals? Go on, just a nibble, it’s local…
Lily Fish gets some inspiration from Tyson the
guide dog for her role in Lana Schwarcz's play
Monty and Melville.
Picture: DAVID SMITH N39WT105
02 April, 2011
ONLINE - Interview: Anthea Cannon [Maribyrnong Leader]
Yarraville puppeteer on a dog's life
YARRAVILLE puppeteer Lana Schwarcz has turned the highs and lows of raising a guide dog puppy into a play to educate people about their importance.
Schwarcz cared for and socialised three puppies before their training and said, despite the sadness of giving them away, there was no other feeling in the world that matched being able to help someone so much.
The puppeteer was drawn to the industry after an internship as a production assistant working on Sesame Street. "In Australia, you have to create your own work and I had been thinking about it (a play about guide dogs) for a long time," she said.
"People don't think about how guide dogs are trained and bought up and the need to be socialised."
Check out Monty and Melville from April 6 to 16 at Theatre Works in St Kilda.
01 April, 2011
ONLINE - Interview: Paul Andrew [Australian Stage]
Benedict Hardie is an actor, writer and director with award-winning theatre company The Hayloft Project. We first spoke to Benedict last year as he prepared for his role in Daniel Keene's Life Without Me as part of the 2010 Melbourne International Arts Festival. This year he returns as both writer and director of the latest work for The Hayloft Project – Delectable Shelter.
Benedict spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew.
Tell me about your studies/theatre background background pre-Hayloft?
When I was in school I was part of a NSW Public Schools Drama Company, which gave me training and performance experience (including a tour to the UK). I studied Economic Theory and Psychology at Sydney University, amidst a life of acting, comedy and theatremaking in Sydney. Then I studied Acting at the VCA.
Tell me about how you came up with both the name and the ensemble?
The name comes from a line in the first production with which Simon Stone started the company. In Spring Awakening a mother asks a doctor what to do about her wayward (pregnant) child - "Keep your daughter out of Haylofts" is his reply. The Hayloft Project is a group of theatremakers who have joined the company started by Simon Stone in 2007. There are core artists, as well as a range of designers and performers that join the company depending on the needs of each production.
Tell me a little about Delectable Shelter?
The play is set in an underground shelter at the end of the world. We watch an affluent family and one aloof scientist adjust to their confinement, engage in reproduction, and plan for a future utopia. We then flash forward three hundred and fifty years. The actors now play several of their own descendents (all drawn from a very small gene pool), as they nervously prepare to return to the surface of the earth. So all the action occurs within one cramped room in a scientifically designed shelter, complete with ergonomic kneeling chairs. All the action except for a mysterious choir, who sing bach-style arrangments of 1980s love ballads in an unknown world...
Tell me about the process of writing the play from seed to finished product, what happened?
It's been unnaturally fast. The whole process has occurred in less than six months from idea to full production, but I think that lends a certain manic energy to the piece – which I like. I worked with Tom Healey as dramaturge in the writing process, and tried to flesh out the logical and dramatic elements of the story as richly as possible.
Also, I approached Benny Davis from The Axis of Awesome to see if we could come up with some music which fit into my satirical mindset, but still treat it very seriously (his classical music expertise was critical in the making of the show). Then rehearsal started and we've basically tried to rip it apart and make it as silly as we can. I try to be meticulous as a writer, but ruthless as a director.
Together with the cast we have cut and changed large chunks of the play, and inserted entirely new scenes. I think we found out very early that I was being too didactic with the satire and it wasn't really playable for the actors, so we tried as an ensemble to ensure the action came from the characters and their reality, and to try and hide the politics of the writing between the lines. The number one goal is to entertain.
Tell me about some of the playwrights who continue to enchant you?
I often return to Chekhov and Howard Barker. Chekhov writes bottomless characters in situations that are forensically normal and emotionally impossible (like life). Howard Barker writes theatre that is hard, but rewarding.
Melbourne indie theatre scene right now, what are you absolutely loving about it?
Theatre doesn't exist in a vacuum. It needs both artists and audiences. There seems to be a higher number of both at the moment because people are opening up to it. Artists want to push themselves, and audiences want new experiences. I love that I'm a part of the independent theatre engine, and sometimes I get to drive the thing.
29 March, 2011
ONLINE - Article: [BEAT]
Hayloft's Delectable Project
Billed as a "black comedy about white terror" that is "crammed with sex, opera, fear and bodily fluids," The Hayloft Project's Delectable Shelter isn't necessarily the kind of show that you’d expect to find in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival listing. Luckily playwright and director Benedict Hardie shed some light on what audiences might expect from the performance.
“Delectable Shelter is an original comedy play … and centres around a group of wealthy people in a bunker at the end of the world preparing for a new society 350 years into the future,” says Hardie, “and in the middle of that … they sing classical arrangements of 1980s love songs.”
Hardie, also the Artistic Associate for The Hayloft Project, explains that while the company has quite a good reputation for their theatrical works this is the first time they have brought their theatre practice to a comedy festival. “It is a dark comedy, it is an absurd comedy but it’s not something that most comedy festival punters would expect," he explains.
It’s not unusual for The Hayloft Project’s shows to be a little confronting, with their most recent production, a retelling of the Ancient Greek tragedy Thyestes, featuring nudity, strong sexual themes and violence.
“We seek to create theatre that is alive today. We seek to create something that is going to speak to an audience now and not going to feel musty and old. We want to make something that feels fresh and exciting and sometimes that means we get pretty ruthless.”
Mind you, the show did earn the company nine of their eleven Green Room Award nominations in 2010 as well as critical acclaim from critics like Alison Croggon and Cameron Woodhead.
“There is a lot of desire in this country, particularly in Melbourne, for exciting theatre. I think we’re realising that you can do other things with it other than kitchen-sink dramas. You can create things that are exciting … and have all the same energy as a live concert," says Hardie, "I think a lot of people are attracted to that in Melbourne at the moment and that’s what we are doing. I think we are riding a bit of a wave … it’s a good time to be making theatre.”
While it wasn’t his original plan in his theatre-making, Hardie also directs Delectable Shelter. “At one stage I was just going to write this play and look for a director but the idea just got so crazy that it sort of seemed like no one else could follow through on it except for me.”
However in true Hayloft spirit, Hardie is prepared to rip his own work apart in the directing room. “I think directors need to be pretty hard on the text they use. I don’t think they should nurture them at all … they should be ruthless.”
With that sort of attitude, and an ability to radically reinvent classics such as Thyestes as well as Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening in a relevant and interesting way, The Hayloft Project have attracted a whole new audience to the theatre scene.
“We do believe that it’s important to bring new people to the theatre, if you don’t do that then the art form dies. We do bring our own sensibility; we’re all young people ourselves. We try and make things that speak to us and are going to speak to people that are in our situation living in our political and social reality at the moment … but also the things that make us laugh, the things that move us and make us cry. They are a reflection of the generation we live in … so we move and hopefully our audience moves with us.”
29 March, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Robin Usher [The Age] - excerpt.
Early Brecht play hits modern note
DIRECTOR Simon Stone has earned rave reviews in a short career in both Melbourne and Sydney, so perhaps it is not surprising that he has discovered similarities between the young pioneer of German theatre, Bertolt Brecht, and the modern public self-destruction of such celebrities as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.
Stone's progress has been electrifying since founding his first company, Hayloft, in Melbourne four years ago. Baal opens soon after the latest Hayloft production, Delectable Shelter, as part of the Comedy Festival, which Stone says indicates the exciting ideas the company is pursuing while his career is focused on Sydney.
While the director has moved to Sydney, Hayloft is moving in new directions with Delectable Shelter - written and directed by Benedict Hardie - at St Kilda's Theatre Works.
''It is absurdist satire, which is unlike anything else Hayloft has done,'' Hardie says. It is set in an underground bunker after the end of the world where five capitalists plan a utopian society over a period of 350 years.
''It is a duty to breed to save the world, so it becomes just another chore,'' he says. ''The gene pool is just as narrow as the set of ideas.''
In another Hayloft first, the cast of five includes opera singer Anthony Mackey, with songs by Benny Davis from the group Axis of Awesome, which has performed in Edinburgh, Montreal and at the Adelaide Fringe.
James Tresise, Patrick McCarthy and
Katy Warner with Tim Wotherspoon.
Picture: Ben Swinnerton Source: Herald Sun
25 March, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Sally Bennett [Herald Sun]
Theatre dropout's triumphant new show
AN ACTING school dropout is the brain behind one of Melbourne's most exciting young theatre companies.
Patrick McCarthy was six months into a performing-arts degree when he tossed it in and gave his all to Mutation Theatre. That was two years ago and the risky decision is paying off.
The ensemble of four writers and performers is back on stage this month with its hit show from the 2010 Fringe Festival, These Are The Isolate.
The original play, written by Mutation member Katy Warner, won the award for Best Emerging Playwright.
"It's been an exciting and pretty full-on few years," McCarthy says.
"We're really pleased with where we're at and really proud of the work we've done."
This time the two-person play, performed by Warner and Tim Wotherspoon, has graduated from a 30-seat Fringe venue to Theatre Works in St Kilda.
The invitation was offered on the strength of Mutation's performances at Fringe, where it also won the People's Choice Award for its adaptation of The Arrival.
"We've done six full-length productions so far and five of them have been new plays," McCarthy says.
"People are . . . really hungry for quality playwriting and Katy's script is pretty special."
Only one of the four ensemble members, James Tresise, has a performing-arts qualification. McCarthy, Wotherspoon and Warner started undergraduate courses at the Victorian College of Arts in 2009, where they met, and left to make their own theatre.
This year Mutation will perform two original works - These Are The Isolate and Happiness, which is a follow-up to its 2009 work Habitat.
23 March, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Andrew Fuhrmann [Crikey]
Winner of last year's Theatre Works Melbourne Fringe Award, These Are the Isolate is restaged here as part of Theatre Works' exciting 2011 season. Well, anyway, I’m pretty excited — they’ve got Hayloft, Duck House and more Magnormous all lined up in season one.
These Are the Isolate is the work of a young company called Mutation Theatre, and specifically the team of Katy Warner (performer, writer and winner of the 2010 Victorian Writer’s Centre Award for Best Emerging Playwright) and Tim Wotherspoon (performer and director of the 2010 version of this play). This re-staging is directed by Marcel Dorney, whose directorial chops you may also vide this May as he puts up a version of Kassandra at the VCA.
Ed McCallister (Tim Wotherspoon) comes home early from work. He has just flunked an interview for a promotion, it seems. His wife (Katy Warner) is around, maybe, with a glass of Scotch, maybe, and their son … or not. It is, to say the least, uncertain. Ed’s reality is wobbly. But one thing is clear: a terrible thing has happened.
The title comes from Sylvia Plath’s Elm:
Its snaky acids hiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults,
That kill, that kill, that kill.
So while isolation and alienation here are key, death, too, is integral. But when I saw TAI during the Fringe (and this review borrows from what I said about it then), death was far less enigmatic as an influence. The theme of suicide, specifically, was way more overt and defining.
Back then I felt this emphasis on suicide had the unfortunate effect of inhibiting the really interesting formal interrogation of that strange psychic space Katy was opening up, a space between life and death, uncertainty and certainty.
Although there is no major remodelling of the text, I think that Dorney’s staging pushes a lot of the more obvious and limiting references to suicide into the background, emphasising instead the narrative and dialogic recursions and making for an overall more satisfying experience, even as the key events in the story become less clear.
There is still a lot about this play that is frustrating. But Wotherspoon turns in another captivating performance. His performance in the original was a masterclass in handling an intimate space; here he shows that his wonderful technique can equally command the cathedral-like space at Theatre Works.
23 March, 2011
PRINT - Review: Katie Weiss [Melbourne Weekly - Port Phillip]
It's a man's world.
Playwright and actor Katy Warner has no trouble thinking like a man. After conducting extensive research on male depression and physical isolation for her play These Are The Isolate, Warner has gained insight into the nature of male consciousness. "Getting into the male psyche wasn't too hard because of the things I've seen and heard," she says. Warner became surprised upon discovering men who are isolated in today's world of hyper-communication.
Her decision to make the male character the lead was pivotal to the play's underlying intention of tackling issues like seclusion and suppressed emotions. "I don't believe, in my play, that it would be as truthful with a female character if I hadn't put Ed in," she says. On the surface, Ed McCallister (played by Warner's partner, Tim Wotherspoon) is a seemingly happy "everyday man", married to both his wife and his work. But Ed lives a double life. In the midst of this traditionally domestic scenario, he is on the brink of discovering a part of himself he never knew existed.
The stage is stripped back and the two characters, Ed and his wife, played by Warner, perform on space occupied by only a birthday cake and a candle. Voices echo and whisper eerily, too soft to be understood. "It's a lot to do with shadows of dark and light, but there are moments of levity," Warner says of the unsettling mood she creates on stage.
Warner also attempts to tackle conventional plays by presenting clues to the audience and inviting them to solve the mystery by themselves.
"I just think it's nice to leave room for an audience. Sometimes you feel as an audience member you're not given that room to make your own judgments," she says. By working with independent company Mutation Theatre, Warner is able to explore unconventional theatre styles without being limited by the rules of traditional theatre companies.
Although a male character is at the centre of her play, Warner also calls for more women to participate in Melbourne's theatre scene.
"There's not enough women writing, not enough female directors being taken to the same heights as male directors. It seems very male-dominated, so I think it's a good time to be involved," she says
20 March, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Alison Croggon [Theatrenotes]
On Thursday night I eschewed Dance Massive for These Are The Isolate, a show by the young company Mutation Theatre. This was one of two works that Mutation Theatre premiered during last year's Fringe: I saw their other piece, an adaptation of Shaun Tan's The Arrival at Docklands that demonstrated their energy and potential, but missed this one. And this was the show that garnered the praise and prizes, including the Theatre Works award which led to this production.
These Are The Isolate, written by Katy Warner (who also performs) is a text that, rather like Falk Richter's explorations of corporate capitalism or Martin Crimp's Attempts on Her Life, tracks the collapse of the individual self in an alienated social world. A man (Tim Wotherspoon) is seeking a promotion, which is denied because he is married. Or because he isn't married. But is he married? Is there a child? Has his wife left him, or is she dead, or is she present? All the possibilities are presented as undecided until this short duet for voices reaches its climax, whereupon we witness a singular reality that collapses all the fantasies that have animated the play.
The writing is seriously promising, witty, concrete and detailed, but it doesn't quite match its ambitions. I regretted the urge towards significant narrative that undermines the suspension of its best moments. It might have been a far stronger play, and have headed in less expected directions, if Warner could have stuck to the banality of the crisis it was exploring and resisted the temptation of dramatic flourishes. But there's no doubting the promise it reveals, especially in the bold poetic of its theatrical attack.
Marcel Dorney's production effectively exploits the cavernous darkness of Theatre Works to evoke a shifting inner world, with Katie Sfetkidis's stern lighting picking out or concealing the performers in an abstract theatrical reality. Mutation Theatre has been marked as one to watch for the past year or so, and rightly so. Well worth checking out.
20 March, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Tammy Shmerling [Stage Whispers]
During the excessive ten minutes waiting for Mutation Theatre's, "These are the Isolate" production to begin, I felt conflicted: how can a play that boasts the Victorian Writer's Centre Award for Best Emerging Playwright also boast a grammatically incorrect title?
Scepticism and English language book aside, I entered the Theatre Works auditorium greeted with harsh light on the audience, presumably to afford the theatre-goers blessed final moments to indulge in their conscious thoughts. For we were about to be taken on a journey down the dark recessions of protagonist Ed McCallister’s mind.
The blurb provided to the audience is simple: "Ed McCallister is a happily married man who is neither happy nor married. When overlooked for a promotion at work he returns home to find a woman, possibly his wife, baking cakes and contemplating suicide. All he wanted was someone to remember his birthday". Ambiguous? Abstract. Headed by director Marcel Dorney, written by Katy Warner and performed by Tim Wotherspoon and Warner.
Stage right, Warner initiates the narrative with a spotlight and a monologue pondering the small creatures in her mailbox. Stage left, McCallister has just been overlooked for a promotion at work because he’s not married. But then McCallister crosses the stage and repeats that he’s just been overlooked for a promotion at work – because he’s married. And so the disjointedness begins.
More questions were brought to the fore than answered such as: What took place before this play? Is the female character an illusion or a memory? What is real, and what isn’t? Does Wotherspoon know his next line? He looks tentative.
I was not tentative about the contextualised theme of isolation. It was weaved nicely into the exploration of a contemporary relationship, where the guise of a happy marriage sends both parties to the edge of a chasm. Mutation Theatre attacks this nicely, but then it is their mission statement to create “engaging, challenging, entertaining, disturbing and high quality theatre”.
Warner barks many of her lines, which becomes ironic as she later speaks of a dog. However she moves nicely around the space, and provides opportunities for Wotherspoon to appear anxious and tormented: a feat he pulls off effectively.
A winner of the Theatre Works 2010 Melbourne Fringe Award, director Dorney was asked to move the production to the much larger space of Theatre Works, as part of the 2011 Selected Works Season. This move was validated by Katie Sfetkidis’s innovative and unspoiled lighting design, which – unlike costume, props and set – was not minimalistic. It was punchy and seamless, and ensured the whole use of the stage.
There are many opportunities to see this production at Theatre Works until its closing, on 27 March. This is especially handy for those have a spare 50 minutes up their sleeve and require a second viewing. However before attempting to find parking in the busy St Kilda area, understand that a play that is “critically acclaimed”, and described as “a surreal exploration” is not often suitable for the masses. Also understand that you’ll probably walk away with a hankering for cake.
20 March, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Liza Dezfouli [Australian Stage]
Mutation Theatre's These are the Isolate garnered a lot of attention after premiering in last year's Fringe. There is significant talent evident here and the playwright, Katy Warner, is one to 'keep an ear on.' This play aims high in its portrayal of a man (Ed, played by co-creator Tim Wotherspoon) whose psyche fragments following the breakdown of his marriage. Ed has been repressing grief, repressing awareness, to the point of inevitable fragmentation if he is ever to fully understand what has happened to him. As horror is slowly illuminated in Ed's consciousness we understand that his wife has become part of him, the voice he is forced to finally listen to.
This play suffers from the weight of its own ambition. It is dealing with such major issues that, ultimately, it all becomes too much. It is not easy on the audience, this production. The set is minimal and the space mostly in blackness. We are to understand that the blackness is the protagonist's unconscious. The death of romanticism, the death of a relationship, of a marriage, is more than enough. The play's trajectory could easily have dealt with these things without overburdening itself with self mutilation, the death of a child and a suicide as well. In going to such extremes the play alienates its audience; it takes us to another realm of tragedy so that we are watching it but cannot especially engage with it. Each of those things demand its own weight, its own story, and colectively they seem almost crammed into the play. Too much tragedy doesn't easily fit into this sort of time or space; comprising as they do the background to Ed's unhinging. Although it makes the best and bravest of attempts, the play isn't quite up to its own story.
The scenes where Ed and his wife are to-ing and fro-ing with what did or didn't happen, work well and again, the destruction of a marriage can be sufficient for a man to lose his mind. Tim Wotherspoon is the stronger performer here, manifesting of raw emotion in language that is fresh and believable. There is no doubt that this team will continue to impress.
19 March, 2011
RADIO - Review: Peter Green [Accidental Arts - 3MBS]
The expression "a short show's a good show" was brilliantly realised for me on Thursday night at Theatre Works by Mutation Theatre's production of These Are The Isolate.
Katy Warner who wrote this gem and play’s the woman, Audrey in this production, notes in the program;
"I was free falling for a while. Tim (Tim Wotherspoon) suggested I write. I wrote a short scene about a man, a woman and a birthday. It grew."
Fortuitous growth from short scene about an ordinary event to a script I liken to Pinter with narrative or homage to Raymond Carver, but keeping an integrated ssense of itself.
[?] was added by an excellent production; clear and full characterisation from Tim Wotherspoon as Ed, Katy Warner as Audrey and good and full use of the large Theatre Work’s space.
Ed/Tim Wotherspoon remembers or recalls, a terminal interview at work, for a job which requires a married or alternatively a single man. Which is he? Has he a wife, Audrey and a son, William?
Ed: “Graham said they’re looking for a married man for the job. It shows a certain maturity I suppose – a man with responsibility, loyalty. All that – stuff. I said, Graham you know I have that. Look at my resume. Call my referees. Graham, I said to him, you’re one of my referees, you can call yourself and tell yourself right now how loyal, committed and responsible I am”
but then later;
“F-k ... Honey, Honey I think I made a mistake. F-k Graham said they’re looking for a single man for this job” ...
Earlier I suggested shades of Pinter;
“Happy birthday dear ... you ... happy birthday to you”
“Who am I?”
“You’ve forgotten my name”
“You forgot our marriage”
Audrey speaks, then appears from the darkness and adds to Ed’s [?] in his overloaded [?] memory;
“William, William! Have you seen my son? He was wearing – he was wearing – damn it, what was he wearing? Can you remember? You dressed him. Didn’t you? Or was it me?”
Despite this conversation, Ed remains the isolate;
“I was going to call ... I thought I might be able to call ... A person ... A living breathing human being who might listen and respond and give some f-ing advice. Or something. Anything.”
Marcel Dorney has directed this jewel (a short story vivid before our eyes and in our ears) tightly and clearly and like all good direction, no ? of an assumed style; his direction honours the writing and the performers.
Marcel Dorney puts it well in an intelligent program note – a relief after so many of the usual self-congratulatory puffs I have read elsewhere;
“Katy Warner’s script not only offers a sensitive and humane portrait of this isolated man, but she has written (and is portraying) a female character, constructed by that man from shards or memory, whose rebellion against her creation amplifies the humanity of her creator”
True – so what do you intend to do about such a gem on your doorstep?
17 March, 2011
ONLINE - Audience response : Ricci-Jane Adams [Blog comment]
Last night I dragged my old lady self over to Theatre Works in St Kilda on the direct request of a young man named Tim Wotherspoon. I get many invitations to see theatre and I am generally crap at attending. I have many great excuses but the reality is theatre is my business and it is totally moronic that I don't go very much (a recent resolution made this year is to ATTEND!).
I am not a theatre reviewer but I am a playwright and there are two things I particularly like seeing. Plays by women, and plays that in some manner subvert realism. So when I see something I like I want to support it in anyway I can. It can be cold out there in EmergingTheatreMaker Land. So I am writing this record of my experience now in the hope that someone may take it upon themselves to go and see this play. It is worth the drive.
These are the Isolate is a tight, claustrophobic, oppressive two-hander. It was hard to breath for the 45 minute duration and this highly visceral experience is evidence of how well this writing works. The fact that there were moments that I was laughing out loud amidst the feeling of drowning in despair is proof of the writing's subtlety and beauty. The play, by Katy Warner, has a muted lyricism and a masterful use of repetition. The words are used against themselves. They contradict and undermine their speaker. Meaning is constantly shifting. I adore this sophisticated, disciplined use of language. Every word matters.
My only issue with the writing is about how much is revealed in terms of cause and effect. I didn't need to know quite so much about what had brought this man to his knees. It is life happening, and people have thrown themselves off cliff tops for far less.
The revelation of the evening was Tim Wotherspoon. His performance was understated, devastating, outstanding. Last week, in an effort to support my aforementioned resolution, I saw Apologia with Robyn Nevin. That was the first time I had seen the Grand Dame of Australian theatre in action and she was as brilliant as I anticipated. Watching her perform was weightless. By this I simply mean I could float along with her, no crashing back to Earth with a badly delivered line or a dropped accent. I was wrapped up in her performance. Dare I say it, Tim Wotherspoon's performance was comparable. It was deeply satisfying to watch him.
The other outstanding element of the production is the use of the cavernous space that is Theatre Works. Set-less, the performers are supported only by light and shadow and I was captivated. A single candle, at moments, was all that lit the performers face, and deep, menacing shadows acted as backdrops to the action. It was a revelation that so much can be achieved with so little. I am an avid supporter of theatre being, at its best, bodies in a space, and this production demonstrated that without losing out on aesthetic. This was a beautifully realised mise-en-scene. The play fit the space. The great black emptiness drowning the isolated man in his own oblivion. Beautiful.
Do go and see it. There are moments of greatness in this piece, and for certain many more to come from this group.
16 March, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Daniel Coghlan [BEAT Magazine]
From Isolate To Award Winner
At one point during last year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, Katy Warner had three people turn up to a performance of her new play These are the isolate. Now she has won awards for the piece and has been invited to renew the season at St Kilda's Theatre Works.
It all started when Katy Warner, originally from Perth, decided to leave the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) where she was training as an actor. "Personally I was in a situation where I felt very isolated … I went from having a lot of friends and a big network to really being a little bit on my own. So writing the play was, in a way, a bit of therapy for me to get through those sort of feelings," she explains.
Inspired by Sylvia Plath's work, Katy named the play after a line from Plath's poem Elm and while not directly related to the poem itself, explores similar themes. "Whether that’s a conscious or a subconscious thing I’m still not sure," she wonders.
From this point, Katy went on to research about social isolation and found that there was a lot of interesting stories about middle-aged men and the effects of social isolation in their lives including anxiety and depression. "It’s such a current issue and it’s really good that we’ve started talking about it now. … I don’t think [the play] is going to teach anyone about depression but I think that it definitely will make people talk about it. I hope so," she says.
Katy was able to explore the themes of the piece further, performing in the two-person play herself. "It’s really difficult writing a piece and then being in it and I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it is. It’s been a bit of a learning experience for me." “As a writer you’re always wanting to make changes to your script and you can’t do that to your director and fellow actors,” she laughs, “It’s just not fair.” These are the isolate received generally positive reviews, especially from theatre critic Cameron Woodhead who referred to the piece as “astonishing theatre”. “I’m really excited by the response that we’ve got … just getting people to believe in your work like that is fabulous.”
As the recipient of the Theatre Works Melbourne Fringe Award Katy, in conjunction with Mutation Theatre, will stage These are the isolate this month at the St Kilda venue. “The Theatre Works award has just been incredible in that someone would invest so much into an emerging company like Mutation Theatre and give us a go. We wouldn’t really be able to afford the Theatre Works space our self,” she says describing the experience of working with the professional company.
Now Katy hopes that with the added exposure and larger performance space These are the isolate can reach a new, wider audience. “We’ve got a lot more interest because a lot of people heard about it during Fringe but missed out on seeing it. By the time word got around the season was coming to an end.” “We’ve also got a lot of people coming back who saw it during Fringe because they’re really interested to see the changes that we’ve made.”
The issue of female playwrights lack of exposure has become a hot topic in the theatre scene. With playwrights such as Lally Katz and Sarah Ruhl becoming increasingly featured in Australian theatre seasons, Katy (who was recognised with the Best Emerging Playwright award at last year’s Fringe Festival) believes it’s an exciting time for her to be a new female playwright. “I think I’m coming into it at a good time when people are taking notice of the issue. I’m just trying my best, … I’ll keep writing and getting my work out there.”
ONLINE - Announcement: [2011 Adelaide Fringe Festival]
A huge congratulations to Gravity and Other Myths for winning the Tour Ready Award supported by Melbourne Fringe for their show Freefall which you saw here first as part of our 2009 Circus Works season. So if you missed it last time it graced our city, this will be the perfect opportunity to see this brilliant show!
To stay tuned to details, make sure you check out their website.
Katy Warner wrote and performs in
These are the Isolate with Tim Wotherspoon.
Photo: Roger Cummins
15 March, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Robin Usher [The AGE]
Return of menacing dialogue
Robin Usher reports on a prize-winning play featuring rapid-fire word games.
KATY Warner is proof of the vitality of independent theatre in Melbourne, even as she is committed to enriching it further. In just two years since arriving from Perth she has written a play, performed in it and won several awards.
As a result, she has been able to fine-tune the script before the return season of the work, These are the Isolate, which premiered at last year's Fringe festival, where it won the Fringe award, the prize for best emerging playwright and the Theatre Works award.
''It is great that people believe in the work enough that I can look at it again with all the benefits of extra resources,'' she says.
Warner, 30, worked as a secondary-school drama teacher in Perth before quitting to concentrate on performing and writing in youth theatre. This led to her attending the French Woods drama festival in upstate New York for three months in 2008.
''When I was back in Perth, I knew I had to go somewhere that was like New York but where I didn't need a visa,'' she laughs. She moved to Melbourne and enrolled in the Victorian College of the Arts because she was impressed by its focus on producing autonomous actors.
''I wasn't interested in getting on Home and Away,'' she says. ''I wanted to be involved in theatre-making.''
At the VCA, she met Patrick McCarthy, who had founded Mutation Theatre in 2008. ''He put on a one-man show, The Corpse of Hamlet, and I admired his gumption for doing it,'' she says.
McCarthy was impressed enough by Warner that last year he invited her and a fellow VCA student, Tim Wotherspoon, who was originally from Brisbane, to join Mutation as associate directors. This created the environment that resulted in the company's sixth production, These are the Isolate.
The story was inspired by Warner's experience of male depression in her family, which led to extensive research on internet blogs.
''It was as if people who couldn't talk to anyone during the day would go on the internet and let everything out,'' she says. ''There were stories about men who left to go to work every day when they no longer had a job. It was upsetting and moving.''
The play is about lonely Ed McCallister (Wotherspoon), who keeps up appearances at work and returns home to his wife (Warner). ''It is meant to be elusive but I was interested in the truthfulness of memory that can be altered and romanticised or twisted to turn ugly.''
Warner's dialogue is made up of rapid-fire word games.
''I was able to see what worked and what needed more attention as a result of the Fringe production. It was not intended to be about suicide, although some people thought it was.''
The extra resources at St Kilda's Theatre Works mean the production is able to make better use of shadow, emphasising the uncertainty of the female presence, which Warner says was inspired by Jung's concept of the anima in the male unconsciousness.
This is the start of a busy year for Mutation and for Warner. The group has been offered use of the Melbourne Theatre Company's Lawler Studio in May, and McCarthy and Wotherspoon are working on new plays.
Warner is exploring the role of women in war. ''War seems even more horrific when the perpetrators are women,'' she says, citing Lynndie England, who was photographed with the Iraqi torture victims in Abu Ghraib prison in 2004, and a female Israeli soldier accused of torturing Palestinians. ''Such cases turn the archetype of women as nurturers on its head.''
''But I don't like blood and guts - I prefer to rely on language,'' she says. ''One of the things I admire about Pinter is the menace he conveys through his use of dialogue.''
ONLINE - Announcement: [2011 Australian Dance Award]
Congratulations to Rochelle Carmichael [Liquid Skin] for her nomination for OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN CHOREOGRAPHY for The 499th Day, part of our recent Girls At Works season.
Congratulations to the rest of her team too, Jenny Robinson, Anna Simm, Kelly Way, Mick Foster, and Michael Kopp.
We're very excited for you all and wish you great success.
ONLINE - Review: Dan Giovannoni [Theatre Alive]
Unspoken Lives "Hilarious!" "Such great performances from so many young people." "Dark, twisted, funny."
You know something is not quite right the moment you sit down to watch 'Unspoken Lives'. Sheena Easton's 'Morning Train' kicks in, and you know it's only a matter of time before shit gets real. It does. In two forty minute halves, the shiny veneer of two sets of couples is stripped away - they start all sexy-legs and bright smiles, but by the end there may as well be blood on the boards.
Harold Pinter's 'The Lover' is like watching a car crash in slow motion; Vaclav Havel's 'Private View' is a well-styled session of torture. Directors Jemma Gurney and Jeffrey Jay Fowler are in command of their texts, delivering precise, sharp pieces of work with strong peformances from a host of wonderful actors (Ashley Ricardo and Katie McDonald are standouts). Whilst the concept of exposing the private worlds of the seemingly perfect is not new, 'Unspoken Lives' does it so well - you'll be haunted by Sheena Easton for days.
* Full disclosure: Dan studied alongside the team behind each of these shows, and also saw their premiere productions last year in Sydney.
February 15, 2011
ONLINE - Announcement: [The Green Room Awards]
Congratulations to Nicola Gunn for collecting 4 Greenroom nominations for her 2010 Selected Works season of AT THE SANS HOTEL.
Nicola and her team have picked up nominations for best Female Performer, best Design, best Sound/Composition and best Production in the Independent Theatre category.
A big congrats too to Scott Gooding, one of our fabulous staff for his nomination for Best Director in the Cabaret category for First Against The Wall.
We're so very proud of you all.
February 15, 2011
PRINT - Article: [The Age]
Hayloft adds humour.
The Hayloft Project is renowned for its vibrant interpretations of such classic authors as Wedekind, Chekhov and Gorky, as well as its sometimes brutal treatment of contemporary themes. It is branching out to include humour with Delectable Shelter at St Kilda's Theatre Works in Aprils Comedy Festival. Written and Directed by Benedict Hardie, it is set in an imaginary future where capitalists declare war on those poorer than them.
The play is one of four productions in Theatre Works' Selected Works program, which begins on March 16 with Katy Warner's These Are The Isolate by Mutation Theatre. Warner won the Victorian Writers Centre award for emerging playwright last year.
14 March, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Rebecca Martin [Dance informa]
Collaboration the Project's latest work started with a bang. Or almost didn't start! At the last rehearsal before opening night, one of the performers, Monique Dawes injured herself and was deemed unable to perform. A frantic email was sent out from the company’s publicist to inform us that due to the complex nature of the choreography, the season would have to be postponed. Fortunately for all involved, at the 11th hour, a replacement was found, and Stratagem opened only one day later than scheduled.
It was not hard to see how one could get injured performing in this piece, as it was violent, intense, relentless, fearless and chock full of complex choreography. Full credit must go to Amy Vaughan who pulled off the seemingly impossible task of not only learning the work in one day, but performing it as though each movement was as natural and familiar to her body as walking. Credit is also due to Kim Adam and Ashleigh Perrie who worked all day in order to get the production onto stage.
The premise of Stratagem centred on a virtual reality game show that had swept the globe. Each week, the program saw four contestants "battle the virtual prowess of the mind in heated combat challenges for the chance to win six million dollars." In a theme reminiscent of The Matrix, the contestants were plugged in, yet no matter how real the simulation appeared, no harm could come to the players. A virtual death created a re-setting of the program and the next challenge would begin.
This was a bold subject for a contemporary dance company, particularly one that is renowned for Paul Malek’s incredible lyricism and fluid choreography. Stratagem was a stark departure from Malek’s previous works with Collaboration that addressed more traditional themes of love and sex.
The piece started promisingly with the sound of thunderous drums and the arrival of the dancers in costumes reminiscent of WWF fighters mixed in with 80’s glam punk. The choreography was massive and the stage was not, so I would like to see this type of production in a more appropriate setting in order to give it the space to breathe that it deserves. At times the flurry of movement and the sheer intensity of the choreography, coupled with the furious pas de deux, made the dancers seem larger than life.
The strength and stamina of the dancers was astounding. Their energy never faltered despite the majority of them being on stage for the full duration of the 45 minute show. Gone was the dream-like beauty that Malek has made the audience accustomed to, and in its place was a far more daring piece that succeeded in pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance, albeit with a few obtuse and clunky moments of choreography due to excessively angular shapes.
The piece worked when the intensity was at its peak, such as the scene with strobe lighting and the entire company performing in unison. The effect was mesmerizing. However, Stratagem began to lose a little steam towards the end as the ferocious battles that were so compelling gave way to melodramatic faux death scenes and the use of screaming from the dancers. The beauty of contemporary dance is that movement can be the storyteller, and I feel that the use of pantomime is unnecessary. In a piece like this when so much can be interpreted from a single movement, it can be best to show, not tell the audience what you wish to convey.
Nonetheless, Stratagem was atmospheric, exciting, daring and provocative. It proved that Collaboration the Project is absolutely vital to the Australian dance landscape. We need more artists willing to be this daring and more choreographers as talented as Malek to pull it off.
RADIO - Review: Peter de Groot [The Cabaret Room Joy 94.9]
"There is no such thing as society: there are individuals, men, women, and there are families" - Margaret Thatcher
"Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism" - Sex and the City
Stratagem asks these questions and more in the 45 minute performance - the show's high light's are the ability of the dancers to express complex questions in dance enhanced with the great light effects too produce a great show. Well worth the visit to Theatre Works in StKilda.
February 14, 2011
RADIO - Interview: Paul - The Cabaret Room [JOY94.9]
Host, Paul quizzes choreographer Paul Malek about his new dance show 'Stratagem'
Download: Paul Malek2.mp3
ONLINE - Article: Sasha Petrova [BEAT Magazine]
What do Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal have in common? Are you finding it difficult to answer this question without treading on some delicate, politically-correct toes? The widely-known truth is that most stereotypes have a basis in reality and the three comedians have built a reputation on successfully exploiting theirs. In fact the label of the 'neurotic Jew' is not easy to dispel when much of the male, Jewish comedy, centres around self-deprecation, neuroses and an unhealthy love for one's mother.
For Jewish comedian and human-rights lawyer, Jeremie Bracka, "self-deprecation is one of the remedies to all ailments after chicken soup." But taking the piss out of yourself is not only a Jewish form of shtick. As Jeremie notes, it’s also very Australian. "I consider myself really blessed that I’m both an Aussie and a Jew. Australians see the world with objectivity because we’re so far away from everything. We get the idea that life’s a bit too serious to take too seriously and I love that."
His attitude is evident in his new production Arafat in Therapy which deals with the very serious and unrelenting situation in the Middle East. Yet Bracka has found a humorous avenue in which to look at the crisis, one where he doesn’t stray from making fun of his cultural perspective which was methodically concocted by the overbearing upbringing of his adoring, “ignorant Eastern-European” parents. In this way it’s an autobiographical piece set against the backdrop of the Palestinian conflict. “I put the show together as the narrator,” says Jeremie. “I’m actually in therapy, so a lot of the narration comes in my therapy sessions with Arafat as the therapist. “
As well as self-deprecation being a remedy, the comedic form also holds a practical advantage which lies in the fact that in mocking yourself, you gain the creative licence to deride others. “I make fun of the media, I make fun of the human rights world, the diplomats the UN,” he lists. He even makes fun of his previous boss, Uri Savir who “was a serious character once upon a time in Israel.” Indeed Savir was the chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords – a major milestone in the ongoing Isaeli-Palestininian peace talks in the 90s. Now he is the head of a peace organisation, one which used to employ Bracka’s skills.
“What’s been very lucky for me is that my professional career actually feeds into my comedy. The two central characters in the show are an Israeli and a Palestinian who are an amalgamation of people I had interviewed when I was working at the peace organisation. They’re the ones who sorta get sidelined from all the other action.” And yet, the truth is that “they’re the people who are the conflict. What you hear about in the news is the UN passing this resolution and that resolution, but actually for the two characters to really reflect on what’s going on [in the political world] seems to me as improbable as Arafat lying on a couch in therapy.”
Speaking of Bracka’s legal career, let’s move onto the other popular stereotype, the one with a more positive spin - namely that all Jews are smart. Generally this means that they are either lawyers or doctors. In Jeremie’s case it became apparent at the age of five, when he had a hysterical reaction to his first sighting of blood that he was never going to be the latter. He painfully recalls his concerned mother’s reaction in a beautiful Eastern European accent: “It’s okay darling, don’t cry. You can always study law.”
Luckily, for his clients and possibly for the world, Bracka is the kind of lawyer who sees “past the bullshit”, so to speak. He gets the farce of diplomacy, just like we get the stupidity of Miss Universe candidates exclaiming that they want nothing more than 'world-peace'. “In our generation and certainly in my circles, human rights is a fashion and I think it’s really important that I’m aware of the extent in which that fashion has influenced me in my life.”
And in that fashion, or perhaps in opposition to it, he makes fun of “that middle-class, do-gooder, armchair socialist stuff.” One of his characters in Arafat in Therapy is Doreen, a South-African housewife who runs an organisation called Socialites without Borders. “She’s in the West Bank teaching Palestinians how to mingle as a way of bringing peace,” laughs Jeremie.
“The Middle East is like a spectator sport,” he continues, “where people like to watch what’s going on but nobody’s really concerned with what’s really going on with the day-to-day lives of people. There’s this major gap between idealism, human rights and international law and the UN and diplomats, and people on the ground living their day-to-day lives. And I make a comedy of that, a lot.”
And for the man who speaks both fluent Hebrew and Arabic, sides are irrelevant. People are people, regardless of whether they live on the Muslim or Jewish side of the Jerusalem divide.
Besides drawing inspiration from his day job, he is stimulated by other comedians such as Sasha Baron Cohen, who Bracka has been likened to in the past, especially after he performed his last show, Enough About Me... Let’s Talk About Jew! But one of his “bigger inspirations for this show is actually Billy Crystal. What I like about his work altogether is that he’s very funny and can do a lot of hysterical characters, but at the same time he’s got a lot of pathos and a lot of empathy for the characters and for the audience. So his comedy can move you as well as can make you laugh.”
It sounds like with his own admirable mix of unbiased compassion and amusing perspectives, Jeremie may be able to do just that.
February 10, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Liza Dezfouli [Australian Stage]
This guy is brilliant. Jeremie Bracka, a nice Jewish boy from Caulfield, is currently employed as an international lawyer in Israel. He is also an excellent mimic with an evil ear for detail, nuance, dialogue, accent, and an outrageous, campy talent for inhabiting the physicality of his characters. The inviting title might lead you to expect a show about Arafat but the play comprises Bracka's presentation of his life as a series of sketches, ranging from his travels in Morocco, Israel, Gaza, the States and beyond, including his studies in Arabic and his work with the UN, the Peres Centre for Peace and for Israel's Chief Negotiator at Oslo, and more.
It has to be said that (the early parts especially) of Arafat in Therapy are so very Jewish with so many insider jokes and references that I felt somewhat excluded. Pure delight for anyone from the culture (as it pertains to Melbourne), with the wonderful idiosyncrasies and expressiveness of characters we all recognise from Jewish humour (the ubiquitous guilt-bashing mother, the father with his constant, often irrelevant references to Israel) creating a rapid-fire and intelligent hilarity. Don't be put off by the play's cultural specificity but be aware that many one-liners you might not get if you’re not 'a Jewsh’ (as one of the Arabic personalities says).
And the one-liners come thick and fast: here is his mother teaching him the alphabet: "'A’ is for Auschwitz. 'B’ is for Büchenwald. 'C’ is for a country to call our own." "What was I doing in the West Bank?" Bracka muses ... "I hadn’t even been to West Melbourne. I thought Jews living in Doncaster were refugees. And the only wall I’d been close to was a good coffee on Carlisle Street." Israel sits between Italy and Ireland at the UN: "The Italians know food. The Irish know suffering. Basically they’re Jews ..." “Jews are so used to being uprooted that we say ‘shalom’. It means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’”. “Just don’t mention Interflora,” says Doreen Kugelmanne, the South African founder of Socialites without Borders .
Bracka is a comic genius in the same league as Chris Lilley, Sean Micallef and John Safran; someone Melbourne should be immensely proud of. There is so much of interest to learn in the show, too; Bracka’s observations are perceptive and very funny and he has a wide variety of experiences to draw on and characters to portray against the backdrop of the most highly emotive, contentious international issue there is. He makes us laugh about it. Arafat in Therapy is clever, insightful and light in tone. Never trivialising the issues of Israel/Palestine, the play presents a refreshing comic overview without positioning an audience by moralising. His characters are mostly pragmatic (“we have a saying in Hebrew: it is better to be clever than right”), and philosophical; the immensely tragic nature of the conflict is swiftly (almost too hastily), slipped in with immense poignancy at the end of the show. In an almost perfect moment one character asks another “How can you shake the hand of a man who killed your son?” “I have another son,” replies his companion. “And I don’t want to lose him.”
Febraury 3, 2011
ONLINE - Media Release: K.E Weber [Theatrepeople.com]
Theatre Works announces Season 2011
This year Theatre Works will offer a fresh and exciting selection of the best and brightest independent theatre from Melbourne and interstate … the very best of contemporary practice across drama, dance, physical theatre and music theatre.
Suzanne Chaundy, Theatre Works acting manager, explained that this year's program is a mixture of world premieres and remounts of successful productions - "we welcome companies from Perth, Brisbane and Tasmania to our theatre, making Theatre Works a true hub for independent theatre in Australia. In 2011 we will also maintain our delivery of new developments, artist support programs, master classes and workshop opportunities," Chaundy said.
This year, Theatre Works will continue to curate ongoing successful key initiatives, which include:
• Selected Works that assists independent companies to present new, exciting and challenging work in a supported environment;
• Musical Works is a new special program for 2011 which involves the selection of two new Australian musicals that will receive a creative development period – 28th Sept to 8th October.
• In The Works which allows independent companies a week long creative development period in the Theatre Works space, including an informal presentation and feedback session.
Theatre Works is pleased to announce the following companies and productions as part of this year's SELECTED WORKS programme:
THESE ARE THE ISOLATE – Mutation Theatre * (16-27 March 2011)
Ed McCallister is a happily married man who is neither happy nor married. When overlooked for a promotion at work he returns home to find a woman, possibly his wife, setting up an elaborate suicide machine…all he wanted was someone to remember his birthday. THESE ARE THE ISOLATE playwright, Katy Warner was the recipient of the 2010 Victorian Writer's Centre Award for Best Emerging Playwright. * Recipient of the inaugural Theatre Works' 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival Award (to be renamed The Caz Howard Award in 2011).
DELECTABLE SHELTER – The Hayloft Project (31 March – 17 April 2011)
Taking cues from Moliere, Brecht and Chris Morris, DELECTABLE SHELTER lampoons the prejudice ingrained in our prosperous Western society, as it declines from dominance in the twenty-first century. A grotesque comedy of the not-too-distant future, crammed with sex, opera, fear and bodily fluids. This premiere production is part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
THE BEARSKINNER – The Duck House (15 June – 3 July 2011)
Set amidst a lounge bar forest of fake Christmas trees THE BEARSKINNER is a dark comedy that incorporates live music, bad poetry and outrageous innuendo to tell a haunting tale of the relentless human struggle between good and evil, and the power of love. In 2009, THE BEARSKINNER was nominated for Best Production (The Blue Room Theatre season awards Perth) and recipient of the Audience Development Award (The Blue Room Theatre) for its sell-out original season.
THE ROCK – Kurunpa Live Arts (26 October – 5 November 2011)
30 years after her disappearance this bold new company from Brisbane re-examine what happened to baby Azaria in this premiere production. In THE ROCK the mythical and the mundane collide in an epic story of the desert, Aboriginal spirituality and the lost child. Traditional Indigenous song, text, contemporary dance forms and physical theatre combine to tell this famous Australian tale of a nation's search for truth.
In 2011 the theatre Works IN THE WORKS programme will support the development of HELLO MY NAME IS by Nicola Gunn, ANNA by Forty Forty Home, GRIMRA by Drill Performance Company, THE YELLOW WAVE by Gadfly Theatre.
MUSICAL WORKSis a new special program for 2011 which involves the selection of two new Australian musicals that will receive a creative development period. Aaron Joyner, Theatre Works MUSICAL WORKS coordinator and mentor, explained, "The selected pieces for MUSICAL WORKS will present a short season to industry peers, potential presenters and the general public in the supported environment that Theatre Works offers."
Applications are currently open for independent musical theatre companies and ensembles to be considered for this year's MUSICAL WORKS – submissions are due Monday, 28 February 2011.
The Closer cast: (l-r)
January 30, 2011
ONLINE - Review: Rochelle Cogdan [Laneway Magazine]
Yet, surprisingly, this is what Jasper Bagg and his cast have managed to achieve in their unflinchingly honest adaptation of Patrick Marber's Closer.
First performed in London in 1997, Closer has been received by audiences internationally to critical acclaim. Nominated for countless awards, its daring, edgy look into the complex web of human, heterosexual relationships has, and still does, leave audiences hypnotised.
The cast and crew of Avid Theatre have thrown themselves willingly into this multifaceted script, and have managed to successfully pull it off.
Kendal Rae, who plays the young, yet highly developed, Alice, was the stand out performer. Her ability to adapt to such a naked character, whom often experienced anguishing, raw emotion, was true and real. She gave Alice a blunt, fearless exterior with ever emerging layers of unspoken softness and gentle naivety.
The extensive theatre experience of director, Jasper Bagg, was clearly evident throughout. Innovative uses of space to dictate time lapses, but more importantly character interconnectedness, plus combined, rolling scenes which highlighted the carnival of human emotion, added an exciting dimension which guaranteed the audiences undivided attention.
For a relatively inexperienced performer, Michael Fenemore-Cocks' portrayal of Larry was exact, providing the comedic relief for the evening with his quirky arrogance. But it was his ability to develop a relationship with the audience through adopting true dimension and attention to detail, which left a lasting impression.
It was easy to see that on this rather warm summer night the audience of Theatreworks also left with an impressed aura about them. And so they should have – Melbourne's very own adaptation of Closer is certainly worthy.
29 January, 2011
RADIO - Review: Peter Green [Accidental Arts - 3MBS]
Summer this year, with its catastrophic unseasonable weather has also brought with it some strangely out-of-kilter theatrical endeavours. Last week it was the very bad "The Anorexic Chef" at La Mama, and on Thursday night it was "Closer" at Theatre Works.
Before I went, I thought I should see what Google could yield about Patrick Maher's 1997 multi-award winning “comedy of sex, dishonesty and betrayal” and “a quartet of strangers in a sexual square dance in which partners are constantly swapped, caught between desire and betrayal.
Well, that's what Google told me I should expect on Thursday night but the reality was, unfortunately, very different. From what I saw and could hear, intermittently, only the broad outlines of what I am led to believe is witty text, emerged.
Any production design, set design, lighting design- in fact any overarching concept for this production was to my eyes and ears, absent, and as the evening moved, (it seemed to me, slowly) through what text I could hear, the play lacked clear and dynamic directions.
Like the curates egg, there were one or two scenes which worked, particularly two between Dan (Johnny McNamara) and the pliant Alice (Kendal Rae) where the action was focused and the competitive and combative nature of the encounters which included raised voices, established a strong and clear stage relationship.
For much of the evening the women in the cast were inaudible and I was in the second row. Not trusted my admittedly ageing hearing, I asked my companion, aged 27, if she could hear, and reported the same fault.
To add to my confusion, the play seemed at times to have been directed with no logical stage geography, characters entered and exited past other characters scenes – was this, I thought, a deliberate attempt at some new theatrical post modern effect?
Patrick Maher’s text for 'Closer’ is divided, almost cinematically into short scenes that shift pace and time abruptly; scenes that require frequent scene changes. A simple but clever unified stage design would have obviated the need for the movement on and off stage of furniture in the dark, - non-dramatic action that slowed the performance down – fatal in a comedy, however bleak!
If I thought so poorly of this production, why this review?
Avid Theatre presented themselves in the well-designed coloured program (complete with the actors head shots and bios) as a professional outfit and 'Closer’ is a professionally written play, and Theatre Works, now 40 years old, a long time venue for professionally mounted productions in Melbourne. Given all the above then, this production deserves a review; however disappointing to see what talent the actors had so misused.
January 20, 2011
ONLINE - Article: Meisy Cheong [Laneway Magazine]
First performed in 1997, Patrick Marber's Closer, was described by Time Magazine as "a bruising dissection of modern relationships".
Since then, it has received overwhelming international success, being translated into thirty languages and adapted for the big screen in Mike Nicol's 2004 film starring Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen and Jude Law.
For a very short season this February, independent theatre company, Avid Theatre, will bring the acclaimed play to life. The cast, which includes Johnny McNamara, Kendal Rae, Michael Fenemore-Cocks and Tania Knight, are stoked to be a part of the production.
Rae, who plays Alice, was drawn to the script's fearlessness.
"There is no holding back. The power play,the underpinning of the human condition, the rhetorical motif of love. The characters are all very strong as individuals, but put them together, and they fall apart," explains Rae.
In a similar vein, McNamara is excited about the flawlessness of the play and the depth of its characters.
"It's a flawless script, perfectly drawn characters, a dream-role, no matter who you are playing. I also like the journey that all characters go on, and love the fact that no-one gets what they want," says McNamara.
Directed by Jasper Bagg, Closer promises to be an "edgier, sexier" take on the award-winning play.
PHOTO: JASON SAMMON.
January 18, 2011
PRINT - Article: Jenny Ling [Caulfield/Port Phillip Leader]
Closer provides gritty roles for two stage couples
ELSTERNWICK actor Johnny McNamara is prepared to delve into the depths of his psyche for his gritty role in Patrick Marber's Closer.
The play explores the complex, sometimes dark, relationships between two couples – later played by Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen in director Mike Nichols' 2004 film. McNamara, 31, plays writer Dan, who can't decide between two women – his girlfriend Alice or portrait photographer Anna. ''It's a very challenging role, there are some dark places,'' McNamara said. ''It's not a happy piece. No one's satisfiedwith what they've got. Everyone's looking for a better deal and the consequences of that is what the play dealswith.’’
The Avid Theatre production, directed by Jasper Bagg, will be performed at Theatre Works in St Kilda from January 27 to February 5.
It was first performed at the Royal National Theatre in London in 1997. McNamara, originally from Brisbane, has appeared in numerous short films and stage productions including the role of William Archer in Louis Nowra’s masterpieceThe Golden Age. McNamara said the characters were explored further and their journey was deeper and more harrowing than in previous works. ''Anyone who’s familiar with the film will enjoy the way the text
goes deeper and further,’’ he said. ''They’ll get even more out of the stage show.’’
PHOTO: Ben Johnson, 2vue Imagery
December 24, 2010
ONLINE - Article: Ian Nisbet/Ashley Weidner [Theatre People]
"The key element in pornography is the absence of love. What's new about Closer is that it's a play about love that's fighting fiercely not to become pornography," wrote Jack Kroll (Newsweek) about Patrick Marber's Closer.
Whilst Kroll may have been trying to push his article up the Google search ladder by including the word 'pornography' (as am I), he makes a fine point. The second law of thermodynamics states that: "In a closed system, all things tend toward entropy." Simply put: place a hot thing and a cold thing in a box, and the hot thing will make the cold thing warmer, until they are both equally warm. Apply this to people and relationships, and you have one person giving their energy to another person, until they create equilibrium of mutual appreciation. Is this enough? Is this what we all experience? Can we achieve perpetual emotion? To start to unravel Marber's intricate web of interpersonal connection, I sat down with the cast of Avid Theatre's Closer. Cast members Johnny McNamara (Dan), Kendall Rae (Alice), Michael Fenemore-Cocks (Larry), and Tania Knight (Anna) were kind enough to share a few moments out of a busy rehearsal to give me their thoughts on this piece, and their upcoming production.
At this point our waiter interrupts and asks why I, average looking at best, am sitting directly across from four attractive, photogenic people. I explained they are a part of a production of the play Closer, and I am the incredibly important theatrical journalist interviewing them. The waiter sneers at me, then turns to the cast and says "Ewwww, Closer? Isn't that Julia Roberts-based? Didn't Panic at the Disco name some of their songs after important dialogue from that? Why would you want to do that?" Johnny McNamara leans back on his seat and explains: "It's a flawless script, perfectly drawn characters, a dream-role, no matter who you are playing. I also like the journey that all characters go on, and love the fact that (spoiler alert!) no-one gets what they want." Tania Knight adds: "It's a good story. I like that it explores weaknesses that are exposed by human desire and the need for connection, in a way that’s real, raw and confronting, but also touching. As an actor it’s also an incredibly challenging and exciting text." The waiter turns away and leaves, without taking our orders.
Feeling slightly emasculated at being beaten to the punch by a waiter, I turned my attention to Kendal Rae, hoping to regain some lost credibility:
Theatre People – "Every play has a script..."
Rae – "You know your stuff."
TP - "Thankyou, I have read up on this. What do you like about this particular script for Closer?”
Rae – "It’s naked, that’s how I would describe it. There is no holding back - it’s fearless writing. The power play, the underpinning of the human condition, the rhetorical motif of love, it’s just brilliant. The characters are all very strong as individuals, but put them together, and they fall apart.
TP – “Did you say naked?”
Rae shuffles nervously so, embarrassed, I move on…
Michael Fenemore-Cocks arrived at our meeting direct from a massage, so I thought it pertinent to ask Michael if he believed happy endings in life existed as there appear to be none in Closer. “My own experience” Michael begins, “is I have loved deeply and lost completely. I have made mistakes and been granted the most generous forgiveness. The play is arguing that who we love is random, chancy, not star-crossed destiny... I live in hope”. I start to realise that getting a one-word answer out of these people is going to be tough!
Just when I was about to launch into a barrage of questions about the career trajectory of Patrick Marber post writing for seminal British comedy hero Alan Partridge, a woman at the next table throws her paella at the man sitting opposite, who is presumably the world’s newest ex-boyfriend. “You lying pig!” she wails, and exits the restaurant. Our waiter returns, suitably cool like he sees this every day, and says: “I am always honest to my partners, guess he wasn’t….” and leaves again without taking our orders. It is as if we have come to the restaurant from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life with the waiter serving us conversation, as the cast ignite with spirited opinion on this latest offering of discussional degustation. “Truth is the ONLY policy in life but it took me many, many years to get there,” offers Michael. Johnny asserts: ”There are some things that are best left unsaid, kept to oneself. As Larry says, if I may quote Michael’s character here: 'If you could see the stuff that runs through our [men’s] heads.’” What about you Tania, do you believe honesty is the best policy in a relationship? “Yes I do, not that it means you have to tell your partner everything, but the best relationships are always the ones where people can be really honest with each other and confront things, and I think that is the key to avoiding getting into situations like the ones in Closer, and the truth has a way of revealing itself eventually.” She then stared ominously at each of us in turn.
While I had Knight, I asked her to put her producer hat on (which is really just a promotional hat from The Producers with “The” and the “s” blacked out), and I ask her what is different about this production of Closer. She responds: “Our aim is to bring more truth to the text, and draw the audience further into the lives of the four characters. What we hope to present is not 'a play’ but an experience that invites the audience to join four individuals as they relive significant moments of their relationships, over a period of four years. This experience will start in the foyer with a 'Museum of Broken Hearts’ where objects representing previous relationships, close to the heart of each cast member, will be on display. It’s been a collaborative creative process, and the end result will be the sum of what we believe to be very well selected parts. What makes it different? Ultimately that’s up to the audience to decide.”
Ultimately there are infinite realities that exist in this universe. Yours, mine, your partner’s, that girl you like, that guy you saw this morning and were too afraid to talk to. You can never know just what that reality is, because by looking at that person, or interacting with them, you have changed their reality. The Butthole Surfers put it best in their song “Pepper:” “You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.” Closer takes a look through just a few people’s eyes, and those eyes look back, but, like Schrödinger’s cat, you won’t know unless you look yourself. So add Avid Theatre’s Closer to your reality, it’s the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off… but we all know it’s better if you do.