Tag: A.J. Steele

REVIEW: La Mama Presents BEERS AND TREES

Promising new work ponders who needs to save the world

By Myron My

Performed as part of La Mama Theatre’s 2015 Explorations season and developed with the assistance of Theatre 451, Beers and Trees by Allee Richards is a humorous yet thoughtful look at not only what makes a person strive for good, but what makes a ‘good’ activist and just how important this activity is. We all want to change the world and make it better for everyone, but we also want to be happy and fulfilled by our own needs and desires. It’s a fine balancing act to get it just right and the question of where this balance lies is what the five characters presented here attempt to answer.

Beers and Trees

Adrian Del-Re is the standout performer in the cast, with his portrayal of Brad being highly natural, nuanced and convincing. The delivery really highlights the comfort that Del-Re has found with this character, and his scenes with Julia Hanna (Ruby) are the most entertaining of the show. Playwright Richards has succeeded admirably in finding clear voices for these two characters, and really fleshing them out.

Relatively new to the independent theatre scene, Luke Costabile delivers a solid performance as Wes who, despite his activist ways, is just as confused as everyone else. The script falters a little in the development of Violet and Isaac (Caitlin Lavery and A.J Steele) however. While the two performers do well dealing with their characters, I found much of their dialogue didn’t seem to drive the point that was trying to be made, and the conversations ending up being more of a tool for Violet and Isaac to antagonise each other.

The direction by Lisa Inman and Tref Gare is consistent throughout, with meaningful actions and body language opening the possibility for much interpretation. With regards to plot however, Beers and Trees starts out strongly, but towards the final stretch it does become a little confusing and too wordy. The climax is missing a strong build-up and the abrupt ending goes against the mood the rest of the show seems to have so carefully focused on.

I am eager to see how Beer and Trees progresses in its next incarnation. With a few small changes in the storyline and some characters, there is potential for this to be a stronger and even more engaging production all round.

Beers and Trees was performed at La Mama Theatre between 6 – 8 November 2015.

Image by Ed Gorwell

REVIEW: Avid Theatre Presents TENDER

Abandonment, emotion and mystery unfold

By Myron My

We all love, have loved and have lost: these are the times where we are at our happiest, but also then our saddest and most vulnerable. But when you open up to someone and plan a life together, what happens if your partner strangely disappears and you have no memory of what happened? Presented by Avid Theatre and written by Nicki Bloom, Tender is a tale of moving on when it seems impossible to do so.

Tender

The past/present/future structuring of the narrative is used effectively with scenes shifting adroitly between before the event, the night of the event and after the event. This gradually provides pieces of information to the audience to draw us into the unfolding narrative, and also shows the characters in different and revealing lights. This in turn builds on the intense emotional states explored throughout Tender, which would prove challenging and rewarding roles for any actor to take on.

Unfortunately on the evening I attended, Tania Knight and A.J Steele as Sarah and Michael never seemed to quite grasp the complexity of their characters, especially with the difficulties of Sarah. This was their preview night so understandably, nerves may well have been the cause here, but I felt there were not enough nuances in their respective characterisations and the ensuing lack of chemistry between the two resulted in lessened emotional investment for me in the audience. Hopefully the actors can find that spark as the season progresses, as there is certainly potential there. On the other hand, Josie Eberhard and Peter Hatherley’s portrayals as Yvonne and Patrick are highly convincing as the desperate parents trying to find out what happened to their son. Theirs is a very natural and instinctive dual performance that resonated strongly.

Despite its compelling premise, the prose of Bloom’s script is quite difficult to connect with its constant shift between full sentences and natural conversations to rapid firings of short incomplete dialogue. For most of the show, I felt this prevents the characters from coming across as real people going through a genuine loss, which was an additional pressure for the performers. Many scenes are also question after question, and while I don’t expect everything to be revealed, it is frustrating when you can’t even have one answer.

Tender is an ambitious piece of theatre, both in its writing and in the demands on the actors. While the promise of these  aspects in this preview performance from Avid Theatre is not quite there, as the actors become more comfortable with the text and each other, I am confident this will improve greatly.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 25 October | Thur – Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club