Tag: Chris Edwards

Review: This Bitter Earth

A triumph display of different voices singing the same tune.

By Sebastian Purcell

This Bitter Earth looks to provide an inside running track on the lives of six 20 somethings through powerful stories and interactions. This Bitter Earth is thoughtful; touching on themes of loneliness, lust, love, unrequited love, complicated relationships and friendship, exploring what it means to be gay in this modern world.

Writer Chris Edwards presents a smart, dark, sexy, sometimes rambling and neurotic show, yet it’s importantly grounded in heart-felt, self-discovery moments. There is a litany of pop references from Meryl Streep’s performance in The Deer Hunter to the iconic soundtrack of Titanic, My Heart Will Go On, allowing multiple generations to relate.

A simplistic, yet elegant lighting design by Phoebe Pilcher comes alive in the club and hostel scenes and works wonderfully with Grace Deacon’s sparse set design allowing the direction of Riley Spardaro to shine. Spardaro’s and Deacon’s staging and blocking combination creates an intimacy which allows the cast to deliver fresh, razor sharp and authentic performances.

Michael Cameron, Elle Mickel, Matthew Predny, Ariadne Scouros, Sasha Simon and Alexander Stylianou deliver engaging and believable performances and project clearly without amplification to a packed house. The dramatic to vulgar, to savage to poignant, are interjected sparingly with deadpan humour delivering the core message – that we are the sum of all our parts and not just our sexuality.

Most impressive is the final scene, a repeat from the opening monologue, but delivered collectively by the entire cast. This gives the effect of the many voices being internalised and at the same time that there will always be someone else who has had a similar experience to share.

This is a terrific opening act for Theatre Works in its 40th year. A must see for any LGBTIQ + or ally.

Appropriate for mature audiences, alcohol, sex, and drug references.

This Bitter Earth, part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival.  January 19 to February 02 at the Theatre Works, St Kilda. Tickets available theatreworks.org.au

Photography by Matthew Predny


Laying truths bare

By Myron My

A local football club has run out of funds and is at a loss at what to do. “What is it that we have that people want?”, laments one footballer shortly before taking off his top and showing off his toned body. And so The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar adventure begins. However, there are two parallel stories occurring in two other country towns: at Karandah Heads, two locals encounter a celebrity staying at their caravan park, and at Galshank, a gay high school student tries to figure out what he wants. Presented as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, the three stories in The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar explore sexuality, relationships and love, and the different ways these issues can present themselves.

The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar.png

Helendale – the most fleshed out of the three stories (pun intended) – focuses on Angus (Chris Edwards) who secretly (or maybe not so secretly) swoons over footballer Mason (Guy Talon). Edwards is well cast as the shy, nervous and incredibly sarcastic Angus, with his body language and mannerisms bringing to the surface his anxieties and desires. The support cast members do well with their characters and are given the opportunity to show multiple sides of their personalities. They’re not just footballers but also friends, brothers and boyfriends and Sam Nix as Angus’ brother Tom is a great example of embracing this chance for strong character development. There are scenes of bravado when Tom is with “the boys” talking football but there are sincere moments when speaking to his brother about life and reaching for the opportunities it has to offer.

Over in Karandah Heads, Reef (James Hardy) helps run his mum’s caravan park when a highly awkward and not-out teen Curtis (Linus Tolliday) arrives with his family. The two form a friendly bond until a world-famous celebrity (Wil King) arrives to stay and subsequently throws their lives into chaos. Tolliday is perfect as Curtis with his awkwardness and stammered speech and Hardy puts in a great performance of someone who has put walls up so high that he has completely closed himself off from meeting anyone.

Galshank introduces a group of schoolboys all dealing with their impending adulthood and attempting to figure out who they are. Conor (Patrick Cook) is in love with his gay best friend Heath (Dean Robinson) who is more interested in experiencing life, which includes an interest in his English teacher, Jack (Jack Matthews), who also happens to be Conor’s stepfather. While Helendale and Karandah Heads have a clear focus in their stories, Galshank falters a little, stretching itself thin in sharing too many stories and perspectives.

At the root of all these stories are loneliness and the fear of being alone. All the characters are searching for a connection with someone in a way that befits him, and writer Jake Stewart explores this truthfully and honestly. Stewart also has a great eye for comedy and while there are many laughs to be had, he ensures the heart of each story is not lost. A scene in Karandah Heads for example surprisingly transforms into initially jarring farce that actually works in further revealing the states of mind of its characters. It is refreshing to see that in no story is there a character struggling to come out or to accept his homosexuality. Furthermore, no characters in any story have issues with being gay, most notably in Helendale with hetero footballers treating Angus the same way they treat each other – and even openly talking about Angus’ sexuality in a positive way.

Stewart also directs the show and he manages to create some evocative moments on stage. There are instances where characters from one town seemingly acknowledge the presence of those from another, building on the shared experience of loneliness and love. Stewart’s use of the space to tell these three stories while having eleven performers coming on and off stage is executed smoothly and the transitions between the stories never distract or remove you from the moment. 

The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar is a moving yet entertaining exploration of what people will do – or not willing to do – in order to connect with people, to love someone and to be loved in return; intelligently wrought, and performed with warmth and appeal.

Venue: Bluestone Church Arts Space, 8A Hyde St, Footscray
Season: until 4 February | Tues – Sat 7pm
Tickets: $24 Full | $19 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival


One character – many voices

By Myron My

We have all loved and lost but sometimes it is difficult to move on from that loss. Presented at La Mama as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival, Jake Stewart’s Softly Pouting While Walking Into Breezes looks at how, long after it has long ended, one relationship can still affect us  – or in this case Ben, who is portrayed by a number of actors at different times of his life.

Softly Pouting While Walking into Breezes

Stewart manages to capture some genuinely honest moments in his writing, such as Alistair Trapnell and Sam Nix’s “pillow talk” and Chris Edwards’ nervous approach to Alasdair Huggett’s guitar-playing charmer. The rest of the script however is a mixed bag that is more miss than hit. Some scenes felt repetitive with the shy guy/confident guy moments, there were musical interludes that seemed out of place, and incidents that made little or no sense in the overall story arc.

There are some standout performances, including Ariadne Sgouros who brings a gentle authenticity to her scenes and Edwards, who nails the awkwardness and shyness in Ben. However, I was not fully convinced by the idea of having different actors playing Ben in this case, as I never felt a strong differentiation between one Ben and another Ben.

As an audience member, one of the most frustrating things I find in shows are blackouts. They break the momentum and it takes a lot of work for the actors to draw me back into their world. In Softly Pouting While Walking Into Breezes, I have found something even more frustrating; the actors calling out “blackout” and “lights up” between scenes, almost as if we would not be able to figure out a new scene has begun without this bit of information.

Whilst interesting in theory, Softly Pouting While Walking Into Breezes needs to slow down and focus more on the story it wants to tell and how it wants to tell it, because it currently feels like it’s shooting off in way too many directions. It’s not an easy narrative to tell in this style but I feel it can be done well with some more fine-tuning.

Venue: La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Season: Until 1 February | Wed 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 4:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

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