Tag: Brenda Palmer

REVIEW: Melbourne Writers’ Theatre Presents THE MELBOURNE MONOLOGUES

Six glimpses into secret lives

By Margaret Wieringa

Melbourne Writers’ Theatre has been around since the early eighties, with a vision of developing Australian plays and playwrights, and The Melbourne Monologues is part of their annual Page to Stage season. Six monologues were featured, performed by five actors, all directed by MWT Resident Director and Dramaturg Elizabeth Walley.

Melbourne Monologues

Each monologue was extremely different to the others, yet there were some strong similarities; damaged people, often putting on a strong face to the world whilst things fall apart behind. At times, the performances could have used more space to let the drama of each situation settle. Certainly, each performer captured a particular essence of the character and while no character was totally lovable, the audience was on the side of each and every one. Christine Croydon’s take on Post Traumatic Shock Disorder in returning soldiers, with Alec Gilbert as the soldier attempting to settle back into civilian life, churned from calm and almost collected to explosive outbursts of distress and anger. Similarly, I’m a Certainty by Bruce Shearer had Sean Paisley-Collins, a wannabe winner lurching from affable and hopeful to aggressive and pained.

Lost saw Miliyana Cancar playing a somewhat undefined character who seemed to be totally in control and yet without any power at all, and it seemed the ambiguity in the writing allowed Cancar to take the character wherever she wanted. Many of us have experienced the Cry of a Forgotten Woman – whether it be dementia, or abuse, or simply age and incapacity, the plight of the aging woman is often ignored, and it was curious to see Brenda Palmer play a woman who celebrated both the good and tragic parts of her past.

It is always a challenge to have a character that is quite unlikable pluck at our heartstrings. Carmen Saarelaht has written a woman who has a powerful husband and stands by his side, regardless of her regrets. Carolyn Masson played up both the strengths and flaws of the character, but for me she took the night with her delivery of her final line.

The evening was rounded off with the humorous I Love You, written by Neil McGovern. Alec Gilbert returned to the stage rapidly firing lines through a wire door to a mysterious, unseen character who he both loved, yet could not let in.

It’s important to support these emerging and established playwrights, and I looked forward to seeing where their future endeavours take them.

Where: The Carlton Courthouse Theatre
When: Tuesday October 20 – Sunday October 25
Tickets: $20-$25


An intriguing time piece

By Caitlin McGrane

An intriguing presentation as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, the drama is uneasy and disquieting in The Fastest Clock in the Universe by Phillip Ridley. The play opens as Cougar Glass (Robert Ricks) lounges luxuriously in only his briefs under a sun lamp; his friend/man-servant/lover (?)/lackey Captain Tock (Ian Rose) appears as the portentous messenger to remind Cougar about his birthday party. The unsettling narrative continues apace as Cougar has invited only one person to his birthday, a boy of 15 named Foxtrot Darling (William Freeman). The obvious comparison is to The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the first act is certainly reminiscent of the young man who cannot bear to accept responsibility, while remaining perpetually 19. When Cougar’s age is alluded to it is only Cheetah Bee (Brenda Palmer), the landlady who lives downstairs, who can soothe him. Inside the tiny apartment, as the wind screams outside, Foxtrot arrives with an uninvited guest.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe

Each individual performance was excellent, but Scout Boxall really stole the show as the hilarious yet bonkers Sherbert Gravel in the second act. Ricks’ increasingly deranged Cougar almost became part of the furniture while she dominated the stage with her handbag, and Foxtrot, in tow. Rose’s Captain ratcheted up the tension; his glee mirroring Cougar’s insanity. It was clear the play was set in London, so I found Palmer’s Australian accent slightly out-of-place.

While the first act was dynamic, interesting and dark, the second act failed to live up to expectations. It is difficult to pin down exactly what didn’t work, but it felt like scenes ran on for too long, and after a particularly affective split-stage scene, the mood of the play shifted into absurdity as Foxtrot and Sherbert remained in a desperately uncomfortable situation. Was that the intention? One cannot be sure, but by the time Cheetah Bee delivered her final monologue, it was clear that something had gone awry. A moment that should have been poignant became somewhat clichéd.

However, overall this production is gripping and edgy; Director Robert Chuter has managed to create something both wildly funny and thrillingly tense. Robert Smith (Set Designer, Graphic Designer and Producer) has done wonders with the small space; the set is imbued with a sense of unwilling decay. There is similarly excellent work from Tom Backhaus (Sound Designer) whose soundtrack is almost reminiscent of Blade Runner. It may need some creases ironed out, but The Fastest Clock in the Universe certainly gives audiences pause.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe is showing until 31 January 2015 in The Loft at Chapel off Chapel. Tickets are $38 Full, $32 Concession, $30 Group 5+ (+ transaction fee) and available from http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/melbourne-comedy-theatre-art/melbourne-events/midsumma-festival/the-fastest-clock-in-the-universe-21-31-jan/.
Be advised: The Fastest Clock in the Universe does contain some nudity and scenes of violence against women.

REVIEW: La Mama Theatre Presents THE PLAY’S THE THING

The Bard has a lot to answer for

By Beth Cregan

Take one young, intense actor (Louise O’Dwyer) totally committed to perfecting her craft (she’s earnest in that ‘bring own thermos of tea and sandwiches’ kind of way!) Add an experienced, caffeine-powered matriarch (Maureen Hartley) who’s been around the traps. She’s seen it all but more importantly, she knows it all too! Mix in a tired theatre director, (Peppa Sindar) who would love her job, if it wasn’t for the damn actors.

The Plays the Thing

Cast all three characters in a performance, add a misplaced techie and an absent writer to take the flak and you have the makings of a playful drama set in the theatre world. From hilarious warm-up exercises to well-worn power plays, The Play’s The Thing shines the comic spotlight on what happens when words (and egos) collide. Thankfully, despite the conflict and constant coffee breaks, Shakespeare wins out in the end.

Clever writing and superb characterisation create this dialogue-driven drama. Set at La Mama’s Theatre, the close proximity of actors and audience help create the ‘fly on the wall’ intimacy that works so well for this comedy. Louise O’Dwyer and Maureen Hartley pair beautifully in this play and their strong characters certainly bring the script to life. Defined in opposition, their need to control ‘their patch‘  keeps the tension tight. Peppa Sindar as the Director skillfully balances the energy between them. Mind you, her character could circumvent a fair amount of the drama by stepping up to the plate a little sooner, but then we’d miss out on some classic and memorable scenes like Dwyer’s vocal warm-ups and Hartley’s demonstration of physical theatre.

This talented cast of actors not only earn the audience’s laughter, but they work seamlessly to perform a multi-layered, complex play within a play. Written and directed by Brenda Palmer, you won’t need any inside knowledge of the theatre world to enjoy this performance. You’ll recognise these characters anywhere.

The Play’s The Thing is playing at La Mama Theatre from February 20 – March 2, 2014. Tickets available online at http://lamama.com.au/summer-2014/the-plays-the-thing/