Tag: Matilda Woodroofe

Red Stitch Presents SUNSHINE

Dawning potential as four lives interweave

By Caitlin McGrane

There’s something about Red Stitch that always keeps me coming back. It might be the way their plays seem to be selected deliberately and with precision, or the very, very fine performances that they nearly always seem to produce. Sunshine by Tom Holloway opens with four performers lying on the ground on stage where they seem to come to life one-by-one and speak their lines lyrically and with intense musicality.


Each player moves in their own world; even when it becomes apparent later that they’re interacting with one another, it’s like they’re in layered alternate universes. I was reminded of the ‘real’ world compared to the ‘Upside Down’ in Stranger Things in the way the characters moved around each other, near and almost touching but never quite. Direction from Kirsten von Bibra was superb and sublime – the delicate and precarious way the actors spoke and moved around each other was masterful. The four-hander cast, Ella Caldwell, Philip Hayden, Caroline Lee and George Lingard, are all tremendous, very much each making the most of their character’s individual trajectory.

For me, however, the writing was disappointing. The dialogue was highly stylised, and for a time it was really interesting and beautiful, but after about half an hour my head began to ache and I found I was having to do a lot of work to remember what was happening with each character. As my head whipped back and forth trying to keep up, I started to lose interest in the onstage goings on.

The dialogue would have been easy enough to let go if the individual stories amounted to more than the sum of their parts, but for my money the playwright missed an opportunity to look at a really interesting relationship between Man 2 (Philip Hayden) and Woman 2 (Caroline Lee). Hayden and Lee had far and away the most nuanced and interesting characters, and their limited interaction showed the kind of writing of which Holloway is capable.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention that embedded within the writing is the character of a homeless man who ostensibly lives in the same universe in which the play takes place. He has no lines, no face and is referred to only as a plot device (to do what exactly, I’m not sure). Homelessness is an increasing problem in Melbourne, and it was extremely disappointing to see yet another misrepresentation of homelessness as male, drug-affected and living in a park. People who are homeless deserve better and fairer representation, and it smacks of lazy writing to use people who are already socially invisible in this manner.

All that said, there was a lot to enjoy. The set and lighting were expertly crafted by Matthew Adey – the staging in particular showed real ingenuity. Elizabeth Drake made some interesting choices for the play’s composition and sound design; her dreamy ethereal sounds were reminiscent of Blade Runner. Costumes (Matilda Woodroofe) were simple, fitting the minimalist theme of the play, and didn’t distract from the drama. Overall Sunshine shows great potential, not least from Holloway who I hope will continue to grow and experiment as a writer.

Sunshine is now showing at Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre until 5 November 2016. Tickets and more information: http://redstitch.net/gallery/sunshine/

REVIEW: Jane Cafarella’s E-BABY

A tale of two women

By Myron My

For some people, giving birth and becoming a parent is the most beautiful experience in life. There are unfortunately women who are unable to carry a baby to term and so turn to surrogacy. In Jane Cafarella’s ebaby, inspired by interviews with infertile women and surrogates who share their stories online, we meet an accomplished lawyer who has been trying unsuccessfully for her own child for seven years. She finds a surrogate to carry her baby and we follow the relationship of these two women over the course of the pregnancy.


Both Carolyn Bock (Catherine) and Sarah Ranken (Nellie) do a solid job in portraying the often-tense relationship between these two women. Whilst it initially and naturally took a few scenes for them to appear comfortable with their characters on the preview night of e-baby, their performances feel realistic and honest. Bock finds the right balance in showing a woman who is excited about the prospect of being a mother but also depicting the desperation and shame that she would feel in fear of being seen as less of a woman. She does this both subtly and powerfully through the most miniscule of actions: a fleeting stare, a taut smile and a twitching, fidgety hand. I would have liked to see her more emotive however in the moments where Catherine appears at her weakest and most frustrated.

Ranken similarly finds her stride as the somewhat chaotic but laid-back surrogate, Nellie. The vlogs she posts online to her surrogate community are used as a confessional for the Christian mother of two to express her doubts and uncertainties about being a first-time surrogate. Ranken organically brings to surface Nellie’s naivety in not fully comprehending what she has agreed to, and the conflict this then provokes with her religious beliefs.

Cafarella’s script examines the ‘forced’ friendship between these women, and the profound difficulties that each face after  signing such a contract become apparent. The few repetitive scenes can be forgiven due to Cafarella’s tackling of the subject so sensitively and expertly, which is no surprise considering she has been exploring and writing about surrogacy for over 25 years.

There appears to have been great collaboration by production designer Matilda Woodroofe, lighting designer Siobhain Geaney, video designer Brian Cohen and sound designer Kahra Scott-James, as the various technical elements of e-baby come together well in building on the emotions of the characters, but never detract from the characters’ stories or leave us feeling overwhelmed. The poignant illumination of a pregnant woman on to the set’s wooden boxes was particularly effective in showing Catherine’s yearning for motherhood.

e-baby is a good character piece about two women who form an unlikely bond through the blurred lines of commercial surrogacy. The preview performance shows that there is a lot of heart and thought in this work from everyone involved, but the play stays resolutely away from sentimentality to bring to stage an affecting story that is all too real and sad for many people.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 15 March | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm, Tuesday 10 March and Saturday 14 March 2pm

Tickets: $40 Full | $35 Conc

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000