Tag: Alice Bishop

REVIEW: Jane Miller’s CUCKOO

Unsettling funny

By Narelle Wood

Cuckoo, written by Jane Miller and presented by 15 Minutes from Anywhere, is a dark comedy that delivers on both promises of darkness and humour. It’s an ordinary night, Mel and Leo are having an ordinary conversation until a knock at the door reveals the unexpected: the return of their long ago lost son J. Over the next 90 minutes the plot teeters on tragedy as it explores the effects of such monumental events on those involved.


Miller’s script is something quite unique. Most of the dialogue seems like benign chatter, with characters often talking to themselves, and over the top of each. However this is actually a cleverly disguised ploy for plot exposition as each seemingly random utterance reveals small details about the characters, their relationships and how those relationships are shifting. Under Alice Bishop’s direction these layers of conversations are perfectly timed and interspersed with just the right amount of pause.

The lighting and character movement are also used to establish story and character dynamic. Lighting changes are used to denote flashbacks that only give glimpses into the past, never really revealing too much. And while the characters are always moving, it never appears too busy, but rather adds to the understanding of where this story is and perhaps where it is going.

The ensemble cast of Natalie Carr (Mel), Matthew Molony (Leo), David Kambouris (Dan) and Samuel Russo (J) are exceptional and just one more element that makes this play work so well. The chemistry between the cast heightens the uncomfortable feeling that something is not right and that perhaps one or more of the characters is being manipulative, but you’re never quite sure who or what they are up to. Russo’s portrayal of J is both infantile and calculating, which borders on the sociopathic and is completely intriguing.

The subject matter of Cuckoo could have been harrowing and potentially offensive. But instead what it accomplishes is an honest, unsettling and thoroughly humorous account of life in the face of tragedy. Everything about this play works, and I walked out slightly disturbed but thoroughly entertained.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 flinders lane
Season: 8th to 26th July
Tickets: Full $36 | Conc $28
Bookings: fortyfivedownstairs.com ph: 96629966

Image by Lachlan Woods

Review: VIEUX CARRE by Tennessee Williams

A rare classic performed with real finesse

By Tania Herbert

Fortyfivedownstairs must be one of the more atmospheric venue spaces in Melbourne, and the conversion into a seedy New Orleans rooming house for ITCH Production’s Vieux Carré was an impressive use of space. Add the live blues artists to the side of the stage for score, and the stage is set for a fully immersive theatrical experience.

In the Midsumma festival of extremes, subtlety is the new black, and the piece still manages to capture a feeling of controversy by running a delicious line between sensuality and crudity.

Photo by Julian Dolman

Noted as Tennessee Williams’ most autobiographical coming-of-age piece, Vieux Carré follows the awkward character of “Writer” who ends up destitute in the rooming house. Who doesn’t love the tried-and-true Williams model of fast-paced humour descending into heart-wrenching angst? – and despite the obscurity of the play, this is Williams at his best.

The quiet entry of Thomas Blackburne as the everyman “Writer” captured the audience from the opening moment, and his beautiful albeit self-conscious presence plays in contrast to the dramatic and colourful individuals around them who find commonality in their individual tales of loneliness.

For an opening night, this was an astonishingly polished performance, and there was a veteran command of the stage by all performers without exception. The immaculate timing and flawless build-up of intensity plays sentiment to the skill of director Alice Bishop, and her tale in the program of having visited New Orleans in preparation for the played out in the authentic feel.

While difficult to single an individual in such an impressive ensemble, particular highlights included the gut wrenching despair of Stephen Whittaker’s performance, Samantha Murray’s exceptional ability to spout a running monologue without breath and Kelly’s Nash’s wonderful range throughout the play.

Vieux Carré is a little piece of life in a box. Not for the dramatically faint-hearted, ITCH Productions have done true credit to Williams and to Midsumma. Highly recommended.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane

Dates: 17th Jan – 3rd Feb, 2013

Tickets: $40 full, $35 conc, $35 groups 6+

Bookings: www.midsumma.org.au or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com