Tag: Jane Miller

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.

Cuckoo

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: True Love Travels on a Gravel Road

Exciting new theatre is right on track

By Christine Moffat

True Love Travels On A Gravel Road is billed as a comedy-drama, but this interesting new work leans more towards a modernised tragic-farce romance.  This is by no means a bad thing.The play was entertaining, funny and surprisingly moving.

True Love Travels - Photos by Sophie Dewhirst and Glenn van Oosterom

The key to this work succeeding (and it does) is the skilful collaboration of writer Jane Miller and director Beng Oh.  With the assistance of a very capable cast, they have created a world where the characters can exist and be real.  These characters rely heavily on classical theatre archetypes and as a result are all slightly larger than life, leading to many comic moments.  Interestingly though, they are also well-drawn human beings, especially demonstrated through the use of everyday dialogue which on the whole made them very relatable. The set (by Christina Logan-Bell) is a stylised, neutral-coloured corrugated iron shed, allowing the location to be anywhere at any time.  This clever device results in some great plot reveals that could have been pre-empted if the set had given too much away.

The stand-out performances on opening night were by Elizabeth McColl (Glenda), David Kambouris (Richard) and Glenn van Oosterom (Jake).  All of these actors pushed the scope of their performances to the outer edge of realism, but their risk paid off with three of the most affecting characters in both the comic and dramatic moments.  That being said, all performances were strong.  The entire ensemble filled the piece with energy and emotion, and the audience responded positively to every character.

Unfortunately this reviewer feels that by inserting an interval at a critical point in the action the sense of tension was lost, and it took time to regain that atmosphere once the show recommenced.  The play is roughly standard length (90 minutes), and modern audiences are well accustomed to sitting through an entire performance without interval.  The production is compelling enough to risk removing the interval to keep its pace, for overall, True Love Travels on a Gravel Road is inventive and fresh, and a great blend of comedy and pathos.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season dates: 17 May to 2 June 2013

Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $37 Full, $30 Conc, $33 Group 6+

Bookings:      03 9662 9966

                        www.fortyfivedownstairs.com