Tag: Nadia Tass

Red Stitch Presents UNCLE VANYA

Chekhov adaptation is both smart and stylish

By Leeor Adar

Nadia Tass continues her accomplished direction here in Annie Baker’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. It is one of the best things I’ve seen this year, and Red Stitch delivers some of the best Australian theatre once again. Having witnessed a number of Chekhov productions recently, it is a delight to see such an accomplished and stylish cast bring to life one of Chekhov’s more titillating works. Uncle Vanya brings the longings for life, for land and for love in a way that embraces the depths of the emotional life rarely written so well. The melancholy acceptance of our lot rings true, we almost feel like tearing down the walls of the little world on stage and freeing the characters from their own reverie and turmoil.

 Uncle Vanya - Rosie Lockhart & Ben Prendergast c. David_Parker.jpg

Baker’s contemporary adaptation of Uncle Vanya captures the larger-than-life torment of the characters in a way we recognise as an audience. From the plight of the forests to the plight of the loss of youth and vigour to sedentary living, Chekhov’s world continues to make sense to contemporary audiences. While admittedly his world tends to drag (why any work should go beyond two hours is increasingly beyond me), the Chekhovian drag perfectly symbolises the endless days that follow in the pursuit of living – so aptly considered by the character of Sonya.

Long-time resident of Red Stitch, David Whiteley portrays the title role of Uncle Vanya with humour, bitterness and vitality. It’s hard playing a lovelorn, broken man, but Whiteley does it with panache. Whiteley is accompanied brilliantly by Ben Prendergast’s Astrov, the country doctor-cum-man of the earth. Both fall prey to the bored wanderlust of the leisurely Yelena, portrayed with so much grace, guile and allure by Rosie Lockhart. Lockhart’s mystery is balanced well with Sonya’s earthy kindness, played by Eva Seymour with astonishing conviction. The supporting cast bring their own, with a special mention to Justin Hosking’s tragi-comic Telegin, who’s timing and awkwardness are utterly endearing. Marta Kaczmarek’s ‘nanny’ Marina’s watchful, wise gaze pervades the production with the kind of certainty that only comes with a life lived and observed. Together this ensemble cast seamlessly delivers this universal family drama with an intimacy and tenderness that does justice to the writer’s work. My only displeasure is with the Russian accents deployed with too great a variety by the actors to genuinely contribute to the overall work.

Sophie Woodward’s set and costume design captures the country home feel astutely. The little window gazing towards the countryside that only the characters can see out of perfectly encapsulates the unending longing. The lounge sofa converts so well from the bed of the exhaustingly self-important Professor, Serebryakov (Kristof Kaczmarek), to the melancholy place where Voynitsky drowns his sorrows. The set is utilised very well, and the carefully thought-out production is aided by Woodward’s style.

There is great humour and poetry to Tass’ Uncle Vanya, and the excellent direction kites its audience along, observing all the moments that rupture, and all those softer moments in between. Chekhov fans will endure, and they will enjoy. For those who are unfamiliar with the work, this production would be a great place to start.

Uncle Vanya continues to be performed at Red Stitch until December 17.


Image by David Parker

Amanda Muggleton in THE BOOK CLUB

Thoroughly entertaining

By Myron My

A book club: where everyone has great intentions to read the book but, for some reason, never seems to have the time. Either that, or the meeting itself turns out to be an opportunity to talk about everything – but the novel. In The Book Club, middle-class suburban housewife Deb Martin seems to have found the perfect literary social group, but a few indiscretions and a blurring of fact and fiction begin to create some interesting moments for Deb.

The Book Club.jpg

Amanda Muggleton is completely at ease with the demands of this production which, in her case, is portraying every single character – male and female – and relying on nothing but her spectacular facial expressions, body language and voice for differentiation. Her comedy timing and physicality is spot on and while she plays these characters as “big”, Muggleton still manages to retain an honesty and authenticity to them all. 

The story, originally written by Roger Hall and revised here by Rodney Fisher, is entertaining and fun for the most part. There are times when I felt the momentum slows a little and certain events occur merely as a device for making Deb feel even more low and ashamed of what she is doing. It’s as if the script wants to push Deb so far that we have no choice but to sympathise with her, rather than trust that the audience will like her despite her actions.

However, Muggleton’s impressive performance and Nadia Tass‘ playful direction, playing out in Deborah’s book-filled living room as designed by Shaun Gurton, greatly assist in getting the audience through the lags and in quickly building towards the numerous climaxes throughout the show – both literally and figuratively speaking. The times when Deb goes out to the audience or acknowledges a reaction from the spectators adroitly strengthen the relationship between us and the character, and allows for a deeper sense of empathy to be shared.

While it’s true what Deb says about finding happiness in a good book, you can also find it in a good show. The Book Club is an enjoyable 90 minutes of laughs that can boast a story that is well-grounded yet enticingly dramatic and scandalous, and a dynamic and engaging performance by Amanda Muggleton.

Venue: Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Season: Until 14 August | Tues – Sat 7.00pm, Sat 3pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets From: $70.45 Full | $65.35 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

Image by Casey Wong

Review: MTC presents THE OTHER PLACE

Compelling and wrenching theatre

By Christine Moffat

The Other Place by Sharr White is one of the best-written pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time.


It is a fabulous double mystery: the cause of the mental disorientation of Juliana (Catherine McClements), and the discovery of what really happened at ‘the other place’.  The answer to each is dark and gut-wrenching, but the play is a clever combination of bittersweet humour and authentic characters.

Tragic stories can sometimes be too brutal to be enjoyed, but director Nadia Tass has evoked a delicacy from the text, creating a production that is simultaneously saddening and relatable.  This makes for a show in which the audience invests; we want to watch because we care.  At opening night this reviewer and many other audience members of various ages were in tears, and more than once.

Due to the disjointed timeline of the play, it’s a tough journey for the actors.  All of the cast were superb, with McClements in the lead role of Juliana and Heidi Arena as ‘A Woman’ being the standouts.  McClements beautifully navigated the alternating acidity and vulnerability of Juliana.  Arena played several roles, all with great humour, one with incredible pathos, and jumped between the scenarios ably.  However, I believe that more could have been done visually to differentiate between her roles.  I think this would have been less distracting for the audience, as playing different people only moments apart is difficult feat to achieve through performance alone.  David Roberts’ performance of Ian was touching and at times confronting, making his portrayal all the more believable given Ian’s circumstances.  David Whitely as ‘A Man’ had very few scenes, but he was very engaging in the stage time they allowed him.

The set design by Shaun Gurton was minimal and incredibly well-suited to the show.  The transitions between locations were elegant and the sense of place was fantastic.  The use of multimedia, via a giant screen at the back of the stage, was well-integrated and added to each setting in obvious or subtle ways without ever being distracting.

This production has obviously benefited from the talent and hard work of every person involved.  I found the story almost unbearably tragic, but the telling of it is too well-executed to miss.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse

Dates: 2 February to 2 March

Tickets: From $58, Under 30 $33

Bookings: Southbank Theatre Box Office 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au; Arts Centre Melbourne 1300 182 183 or artscentremelbourne.com.au