Tag: Ruby Duncan

REVIEW: Punk Rock

Powderkegs in school uniform

By Owen James

Simon Stephens is one of my favourite contemporary playwrights, his works electrifying and always relevant. The raw, confronting story of Punk Rock tackles the escalating and debilitating final three months in the lives of seven teens in their last year of grammar school.

Stephens’ extremely realistic characters are taken to their most energetic and explosive extremes in this production by Patalog Theatre, with director Ruby Rees ensuring they are infused with equal measures of juvenile rebellion and adolescent uncertainty. Rees’ direction is powerful and pacy; the interval-less lengthy runtime passes in a flash, and the Breakfast Club-esque pressure cooker setting is used to its full advantage with intimate, imaginative staging. Rees has included punctuating frenzies of fantastical violence, sex and desire as scene transitions, which are for the most part effective at disrupting our comfort and expectation.

There is not a weak link to be found in this tight ensemble of eight, who all expertly commit to the violent, often terrifying world they are trapped inside. They are a joy to watch. Audience favourite Laurence Boxhall as timid Chadwick gives us many of the play’s most hilarious and crushing moments, and is perhaps the most successful of the group at combining the tropes of his character’s clichéd stereotype with authenticity. Ruby Duncan is a powerful presence as Cissy, fearlessly launching into many conflicting emotions with endless gusto and wavering stability.

Stephens has written a challenging, tormenting character in mutinous kingpin William, who Ben Walter brings to life with nuance and glimpses of delightfully unrestrained anarchy through every cautious powerplay. Walter’s William is as distressing as Stephens has written him to be, building to the play’s final crescendo with disturbing composure.

Annie Shapero is electric as deceptively simple Tanya, and Flynn Smeaton as Nicholas is the perfect blend of studious and smarmy. Karl Richmond brings depth to provocative maverick Bennet, suggesting deeper personal discomfort that may be prompting this genuinely intimidating bully to act out as he does. New student Lilly is our initial line-in to this world, portrayed by Zoe Hawkins with sass and a brazen disregard for conformity. Jessica Clarke’s brief stint as Dr Harvey in the final scene is strong and considered.

Patalog Theatre are leaping from strength to strength with every production. They are one of the most important companies to watch for us theatregoers who enjoy contemporary, boundary-pushing evenings of grit and dynamic gusto. Patalog and Punk Rock embody everything good theatre should be.

Don’t miss this gripping rendition of thunderous retribution, playing at fortyfivedownstairs until December 15. (Beware of blood splatter for those in the front row…)


Photography by Craig Fuller

Melbourne Fringe 2016: BOMBSHELLS

Impressive performances of women on the verge

By Margaret Wieringa

Down a few side streets in Brunswick in an art space called Wick Studios, ROARE Productions are staging the classic Australian play Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith for this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival. The work is a series of six monologues from women pushed to the edge, and Kaarin Fairfax has directed this group of six young performers to find interesting and different interpretations of the collection of characters


The show starts strongly with Ruby Swann playing Meryl Louise Davenport, the young mum struggling through the constant, frenetic monologue, judging herself and comparing herself to everyone around her. It’s such a bittersweet, tragic and yet very hilarious piece and Swann balanced the humour and pathos beautifully – in a magnificent white jumpsuit, and literally at the end of her rope.

Next, Ruby Duncan was Tiggy Entwhistle, a recently separated woman who is discussing how succulents changed her life. Duncan’s performance was extremely still and monotonic throughout, which was both a strength and a weakness- it gave the writing a far deeper sense of pain, but at times, missed the humour. Certainly, it was a strong performance from Duncan in an unexpected interpretation of the piece.

The first act finished on Anjelica Angwin’s school talent performance as Mary O’Donnell. We’ve all known these young, extremely self-confident teens who are ready to take on the world of the stage. Perhaps we may have even been her… Angwin captured the arrogance and outrage of the teen performer beautifully. And her dance number was delightful.

Returning from interval we meet Theresa McTerry, portrayed by Emily Riley. Starting on stage dancing in her underwear and drinking champagne, we watch Riley go through a wide variety of emotions as she ends up in a magnificently large wedding dress marrying Ted. As the character became more and more overwhelmed by the day, Riley’s performance became bigger and louder and funnier and more tragic, as needed.

Angie Glavas played Winsome Webster, the button-down widow who has seemingly settled into a pattern that will last the rest of her life. It’s always difficult to have actors play characters so distant in age from themselves, and while it was impossible to ignore that I was watching a young performer, she had a weight to her voice, a pacing and a pitch that conveyed an older character. Glavas was able to do real credit to the humour of the writing with her performance – giving a sense of upright respectability with the occasional naughty wink.

The show ends with a showstopper – travelling Vegas-style singer Zoe Struthers played by Olivia Ramsay. I found this monologue felt somewhat out of place, as all previous five are relatively normal, everyday characters but Struthers is extreme – and Ramsay played it to absolute extreme, with smeared make-up and cartoon-like facial expressions. Possibly some of the potential tragedy of this character may have been lost through the melodrama of the performance, but it also was hindered by some technical issues. Unfortunately during the performance there were several technical cues missed which did slow the flow somewhat, but I am sure that they will be sorted as the season progresses.

There are a lot of choices at Fringe time, but if you are interested in checking out the work of some raw young talent, get yourself to Wick Studios for Bombshells.

Bombshells is playing in Studio A at Wick Studios, 23-25 Leslie St, Brunswick

Monday-Sunday at 7:30 and Sat-Sun Matinees 1:30 September 22-27

Tickets are available through melbournefringe.com.au

Preview $20, Full $25, Conc. $25 Cheap Tuesday $15

Owl and Cat Theatre Presents FLASH by Francis Grin

Powerful and disturbing

By Leeor Adar

You will flinch in Flash.

You will be unnerved, and that’s what Dutch playwright, and London-hailing Francis Grin, wants you to feel.

This play has come a long way from across the sea, but its resonance with youth shedding the skin of its innocence too soon resounds at a universal level.


The hours on the clock eerily inch back in time as we watch a group of teenagers initiate a naïve Laura (Casey Bohan) into their unflinching and remorseless world of non-consensual sex. Each tries to outdo the other in the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ stakes, and everyone loses in this soulless game.

Does it sound familiar?

Grin grew up within the affluent and private community of Sao Paulo, which fuelled both claustrophobia and feelings of invincibility in its resident youth. Although the play makes limited references to this world to its detriment, the sense of security one expects in the affluent family home does not extend to the minds of the youth who exact a cruel assault on their peers.

Carrie (Ruby Duncan), a veteran of the sticky fingers of entitled boyhood in the likes of Christian (Dominic Weintraub), carries a graceful numbness of the ‘cool girl’. The flicker of her evocative gaze betrays her empty accusations of what has been done to her as it pins its perpetrator on the move to his next victim. The strength of Duncan’s quiet performance drives the play, and this is beautifully juxtaposed with the spirited and sinister charm of Weintraub. The actors are incredibly competent. Quite frankly there was not a moment in which I felt that I was in a theatre. I felt deeply uncomfortable, and not just by the disturbing descent into understanding the events of these youth’s evening, but by the naturalistic performances that rendered the audience as voyeurs.

While director Carl Whiteside has piloted assured performances from most of his actors, there is a striking disconnect between the action of that night and the sequences between young Christian and what we are left to believe is an older, subconscious Christian (Brett Fairbairn). Unfortunately, the writing alienates and confuses audiences in these sequences, and the direction does little to navigate audiences to its depths.

Sonja Mounsey’s set design switches between the innocent bedroom of a teenage girl to the red paper-cup-strewn outdoor dining table where much of the emotional and physical violence is inflicted on its characters. The banality of the outdoor-area drinking session and the innocence of the bedroom covered with homework perfectly showcases how familiar places can become the perfect stage for trauma. And that is the nature of assault. It’s not always happening down the dark alleyway, but in the backyards of our neighbours and friends, and in the bedrooms where we rest our heads.

This is certainly a challenging work presented by the Owl & Cat Theatre, but the power of its message will have its audience thinking about it for some time after they leave the theatre.

You can catch Flash from 8pm Tuesday 12th to Friday 15th of July at the Owl & Cat Theatre, 34 Swan St, Cremorne.