Tag: Jason Cavanagh


A true story beautifully told

By Joana Simmons

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”– Martin Luther King Jr.

In Journey of a Thousand Smiles, Jessica Hackett takes thousands of steps of faith, bravery, compassion and wisdom. This show by Hackett and the 5pound Theatre Company presents the heart-rendering story of her walk from Melbourne to Canberra gathering signatures for a petition to give to the House of Representatives in the hopes that asylum seekers and refugees can finally be treated with dignity and respect. It’s a true tale told with beautiful raw emotion, cleverly crafted and interwoven with multimedia, music and charming audience involvement.


Jessica Hackett turned her anger at the Australian Government for the way they treat asylum seekers into a positive thing, and her story, as told in the show is equally delightful in the content as it is in the delivery. She is an endearing stage presence, and uses her dry conversational humour to help the audience members meet each other. The sparkle in her eye and smile on her face lights up the room, and she steps into our hearts from the get go. On a stage adorned with gum leaves, clad in an Akubra, Kathmandu shirt and backpack, she takes us on her journey across 35 days, 710 kilometers, and the gathering of 17,000 signatures. Colin Craig plays a great role accompanying her on the guitar, which subtly adds tone and brings the energy up as the story builds. I was especially impressed with all the wonderful theatrical moments cleverly thrown in to help lighten the mood around what is a very heavy issue. Jessica’s physical comedy as she acted out the silent film was particularly fantastic.

She pushed us as we sat in the dark listening to voiceovers of real stories of the asylum seekers she had met talking about their escape from their countries. She made us comfortable then uncomfortable showing 5 ways to make a person feel welcome or unwelcome: big bold and beautiful statements strongly made in a clever way. She bought up her real tears and emotion worrying that her cause was not going to make a difference, that she wasn’t smart enough or brave enough and it was all for nothing. It’s memorable and inspirational. I wanted to yell out “No Jess, keep going, you are doing an amazing thing!” and the audience was on her side as there were tears and sighs and stillness. She made us smile and gave us hope telling us with a look of joy about the generosity she was shown by all the people in the small country towns.

Director Jason Cavanagh has artistically transformed this remarkable story into a remarkable and wonderful show. I must also mention the lighting was used in one of the best ways I have seen in that space, adding first-rate dimension.

While for me, ‘There’s Nothing Like a Cabaret’ and I’m a stickler for comedy, choreography and costumes, this is one show that stands out from the rest in its own special way. Told by a very extraordinary person, who met some wonderful people and did a very powerful thing, it shows how theatre and art is a strong platform to initiate change. I am so happy I managed to catch A Journey of a Thousand Smiles at the end of its season; check out http://www.thewelcomepetition.com/ for more information and please see it next time it comes around.

Journey of a Thousand Smiles played at The Butterfly Club from 18-22nd January 2017


Two dark and hellish tales

By Myron My

It’s not as an easy thing to go and explore the darker side of your humanity. For most, it’s the potential repercussions of those actions that prevent us from going any further than a fleeting thought. Citizen Theatre, in association with 5pound theatre and Attic Erratic Theatre, present Inferno: A Double Bill, two distinctly different yet thematically similar plays that question what it is that makes us human and how far would we go to get what we want.


The first play by Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe, Crestfall, follows three women living in a tough and brutal town who are dealing with the abuse and hardness that characterises their location. While the performances themselves by Freya Pragt, Marissa O’Reilly and Marissa Bennett are highly committed and convincing, it was very difficult to engage with and remain engaged with the show the whole time.

Although the material is harrowing, and it therefore becomes difficult at times to listen to the women’s stories, the main issue for me was that the actors do such a good job with the accents, that at times you miss out on what is being said while trying to understand the thick brogue. It doesn’t happen often but it happens enough that I found it prevents you from being completely absorbed by what is happening.

With a minimalist stage design of bare white walls and a white-painted ladder, an unfortunately ineffective lighting design, and – while not a fault of the show itself but more to do with the choice of venue – the noise coming from the Speakeasy occurring one floor above, it was very difficult to stay absorbed in this world and fully comprehend the plight these women faced.

After a short intermission, the second of the double bill, Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio is performed, which, to be perfectly frank, is brilliant. Directed by Celeste Cody, it has the markings of an Attic Erratic performance with its emphasis on creating flawed and authentic characters that drive the plot.

Purgatorio finds a couple that must atone for their sins and learn to forgive each other if they are to be set free. The intelligent stage design for the show helps build the isolation and uncertainty that the couple find themselves in. The audience is split in two, sitting on either end of the stage and with a black scrim screen between the two performers, there are substantial periods of times where you can only hear and not see the other performer.

Pragt returns as the Woman and is just as focused and committed as she was in Crestfall. There is a moment when Pragt is handling a knife, and watching how she held and interacted with it displayed the level of skill and nuance she has in allowing the character take her over. Jason Cavanagh as the Man manages to convey a broken figure who is devastated but at the same time angry at what has been done to him, and finds the perfect balance of difficult emotions in his portrayal. The interactions between the two are gripping throughout and demand our attention.

While both plays in Inferno: A Double Bill take a look at what it is that makes us be human and questions why we do the things we do, i found the overall production of Crestfall to be rather disappointing. It seems rely too much on the skills of its excellent actors and not enough on creating the environment and mood of the piece. Purgatorio, on the other hand, brings together a variety of theatrical devices and creates a unique and visceral theatre experience. 

Venue: L1 Studios, 1/377 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, 3000
Season: Until 14 February | Tues -Sun, Crestfall 7.15pm, Purgatorio 9pm
Tickets: Both shows: $42 Full | $38 Conc, Single show: $28 Full | $22 Conc
Bookings: Citizen Theatre

REVIEW: The Owl and the Pussycat Present FLESH EATING TIGER

Story gone wild

By Myron My

The Owl and the Pussycat returns for its 2015 season with the Australian premiere of Flesh Eating Tiger, written by Amy Tofte. I’m not going to beat about the bush with this one, I was sorely disappointed by this production and it is not at all what I have come to expect from this theatre venue.

Flesh Eating Tiger

My biggest issue lies with the script. When looking at individual scenes, it can be funny and sharp, but as an overall story it is just one big mess. Flesh Eating Tiger follows the relationship between two people, “A Woman” and “Some Drunk” and the destructive nature of obsession and love. However, before we can even get to know who these people are, the narrative is going off in so many frenetic directions that I could not keep up, and halfway through I frankly stopped caring enough about these people to even try.

The story is incredibly convoluted, which is surprising given how the scenes just seem to repeat themselves throughout the duration of the play. It almost reached the point where if  “A Woman” cried one more time or “Some Drunk” got angry and shouted, I probably would have done the same thing.

Zak Zavod (Some Drunk) and Marissa Bennett (A Woman) show promise for what is some demanding character work but it did feel like the story was controlling their character’s choices rather than the other way around. There were moments where they did well but overall the performances still lacked the emotional depth and complexity needed to sustain such roles.

It is under the watchful eye of director Jason Cavanagh that Zavod and Bennett manage to deliver some great moments in Flesh Eating Tiger. He’s clearly pushed them to get to the level they do and has built some incredible trust between them to perform some of the more intimate scenes. Cavanagh brings some great moments to life and the film-noir scene sits firmly in place as one of the highlights of this show.

Unfortunately though, I walked out of Flesh Eating Tiger not having learn anything or felt anything other than frustration and confusion. Sadly, this production feels more like a big presentation on pretentious self-gratification than the destructive capacity of relationships.

Venue: The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Swan St, Richmond
Season: Until 7 March | Mon-Tues & Thurs-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: http://www.owlandcat.com.au

REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre Presents THE JUDAS KISS

Bravado and betrayal in the fall of Oscar Wilde

By Ross Larkin

The Judas Kiss

It can be difficult to associate one of the world’s most iconic, hilarious comic writers with tragedy and betrayal, and as such, a play about Oscar Wilde’s life behind his witty penmanship is confronting, and a harsh reminder of how brutally he was treated.

The Judas Kiss, written by David Hare, has been staged by Melbourne’s own Mockingbird Theatre, and directed by company member Jason Cavanagh. The play examines the hours leading up to Wilde’s arrest for partaking in consensual sex with another man, followed by post-prison life in a filthy, run-down apartment in Naples with former lover, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas. The before-and-after contrast surrounding Wilde’s two-year sentence is stark as the audience are made privy to the life and mind which was drained from him for supposed crimes and the consequences thereafter.

The initial scenes of The Judas Kiss are driven and ‘bolshie’, as Wilde’s comrades argue about whether he should flee to the continent or not, while Wilde, after feigning indifference, finally admits he lacks the will to try. As these quieter moments set in, the script becomes more engaging and the ensemble cast begin to showcase just how rock-solid they are.

The challenging, changeable role of Wilde is played to perfection by Chris Baldock, who simply nails the part, capturing beautifully the witty and charming bravado of the man prior to his arrest, and the pained, tortured soul thereafter. Oliver Coleman as Wilde’s literary executor and long-standing friend Robert Ross is equally impressive, cleverly demonstrating presence and commitment with an understated fury.

Nigel Langley as Bosie and the supporting cast are all worthy of mention in Mockingbird’s version, which director Cavanagh has succeeded in reimagining with simplistic charm and poignancy. The lighting in particular is beautifully designed by Rob Sowinski and made powerful use of.

The Judas Kiss is another fine example of why Mockingbird Theatre continues to fire along with the big guns, and save for the excessive duration of the final scene, this production is one of Melbourne’s not-to-be missed theatrical experiences.

The Judas Kiss is playing now at TheatreWorks, Acland Street, St Kilda until March 22, Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, and Saturday 2pm and 8pm plus Sunday March 16 at 5pm.

Bookings at www.theatreworks.org.au or (03) 9534 3388(03) 9534 3388(03) 9534 3388(03) 9534 3388.

REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre’s HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE

Steering audiences into daring but dark theatre

By Ross Larkin

Melbourne’s Mockingbird Theatre are fast building a reputation for tackling challenging, confronting and somewhat heavy-handed works – a risk for even the most iconic and established theatre companies to consider.

Drive - Jason Cavanagh and Sarah Reuben jpg 2

It would be reasonable to question whether such a choice were wise in a relatively young collaborative.

Incest, mental illness, homophobia, sex and violence have been the hot subject matters of late for Mockingbird; the mere suggestion of which would drive the less brave to contemplate a Wizard of Oz remake.

An astonishing relief, therefore, to not only feel comfortable Mockingbird can pull it off, but to know they can, and have, knocked it out of the park.

How I Learned to Drive, by American playwright Paula Vogel, is arguably the closest to the bone Mockingbird have ventured to conquer thus far. The 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning script, examines perhaps the heaviest and most controversial of issues imaginable. Pedophilia.

Not a subject many of us care to discuss, let alone be subjected to head on in theatrical format. However, herein lies the success of the play. It delicately and subtly unpacks the story of a teenage girl, affectionately referred to as Lil’Bit, growing up in Maryland, during which time, her uncle Peck teaches her to drive.

Some of the most poignant moments of the play evolve from the insinuating language, as Uncle Peck warns her of the dangerous drivers on the road, and how to defend herself as a driver. Truth be told, the real monster is right beside her in the vehicle, grooming and brain-washing, to later take advantage of her in various calculated ways.

While her Aunty insists Lil’Bit “knows exactly what she is doing”, and cries about wanting “her husband back”, How I Learned to Drive becomes Lil’Bit’s struggle to defend herself against, not only her predator, but the scorning, victim-bashing tongues of the time.

Sarah Reuben is exceptional as Lil’Bit, portraying innocence and fear with a believability that moves and disturbs, while the equally engaging and nuanced performance by Jason Cavanagh as Peck, will send tingles down your spine.

Meanwhile, viewers battle between hatred and pity over such an unhinged, yet somehow frail character as Peck, who is, apparently oblivious to the horror of preying on the teenage girl he claims to love.

A remarkable supporting cast, and the usual firm direction from Chris Baldock, makes How I Learned to Drive another proud notch in the Mockingbird belt, and one certainly not to be missed.

How I Learned to Drive is playing now at the Mechanics Institute in Brunswick, Tuesdays to Saturdays 8pm from May 3 – 18, 2013. Bookings via Trybooking.com or bookings@mockingbirdtheatre.com.au