Tag: Siobhain Geaney

Twelve Angry Presents BACHELORETTE

Satisfyingly dark and disturbing

By Caitlin McGrane

Bachelorette by Leslye Headland is a razor-sharp tragi-comedy that exemplifies what I have been saying for years – we need more unlikeable female characters on stage and screen. The 2012 film of the same name is a classic in my house, although its final act never quite seemed able to live up to the saltiness promised in the set up. This latest version from Twelve Angry more than fulfils those promises.


Twelve Angry is a Melbourne-based independent theatre company with the specific aim of championing the creative voices of women. In this production, director Matilda Dixon-Smith has created something so dark and twisted, yet utterly brilliant, in its illumination of how society treats women. Bachelorette is fucked up – none of the characters are likeable and, unlike the film version, they are irredeemable in this stage show; I promise this is a good thing.

The play opens as Gena (Rebekah Robertson) and Katie (Lucie Gavanon) enter a hotel room heavily stockpiled with booze and cocaine. They mope about, complain about their lives and discuss the upcoming nuptials of their “friend” Becky (Sara Tabitha Catchpole). The repeated references to Becky’s weight (she is almost exclusively referred to as ‘Pigface’) demonstrates how women are often valued only in relation to their fuckability – none of her high school friends can believe she is the first one to get married. Gena and Katie are kind of fine as characters, but I felt the show only really got interesting when Regan (Holly Brindley) showed up. Regan amps up the chaos and brings back the repugnant Jeff (Joshua Monaghan) and the pitiful Joe (Conor Misson).

Carnage reigns supreme in Headland’s script, and set designer Gabby Lewis (supported in the construction by Nick Sanders, Eva Stacey and Hanna O’Keeffe) has cleverly mirrored the depravity in the play in the set as the place actually starts to fall apart.  Costume designer Hannah Crone and wardrobe assistant Bec Hill’s carefully chosen outfits fit the characters well. Lighting design (Siobhain Geaney) and sound design (Jess Keeffe) was fine, but could probably do with some more subtlety to help enhance the performance. There was a notable and awkward lack of sound in the opening scene, which might easily be rectified.

It’s always a delight to see productions that support women in creative fields (in fact it’s ways good to see women supported in any field), but Bachelorette does something unusual in showing how nastiness and aggression aren’t the exclusive preserve of men, and unlikeable female characters reinforce the idea that women don’t need to be likeable – we’re not here to help you deal with your feelings and/or guilt. Katie, Regan, Gena and Becky are unashamed of their shortcomings, drug and alcohol abuse and disordered eating, but rather than glorify these traits, the play shows how truly tragic it is that we expect women to shut up and deal with this stuff – our problems aren’t any easier just because they’re unseen. In fact that might be the most tragic thing of all.

Twelve Angry presents BACHELORETTE

6-11 December 8.00 PM \ The Stables, Meat Market, North Melbourne


Bookings: chook.as/twelve-angry/bachelorette

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

Review: FLAME TREES at Theatreworks

Glowing moments show much potential

By Myron My

Flame Trees deals with the return of a young woman, Tess Ashley, (played by co-producer Hannah Gott) six years after she was convicted of starting a bushfire which killed her best friend. Clearly not everyone is happy to see her and there are still a few secrets that have been kept after all this time.

Wayne Tunks’ script is beautifully written with some honest and real dialogue that has you feeling not like you are watching a play but as if eavesdropping on some private conversations.

Flame Trees

Yet with so much work put into creating the tension and suspense of the first half, it was quite disappointing that during the second this all dissolved when it should have been heightened. The problem was trying to resolve a lot of stories in a short amount of time and this resulted in characters having to change their earlier strongly-held convictions within a matter of minutes. Without giving too much away, I really struggled for example to see how Val (Sally McLean) could so easily and quickly come to change her mind – an issue with the script, not the performer.

However, there was still a very strong performance by James Mason as the local fire-fighter hero Matt Sutton. Mason works hard to clearly define relationships with all the other characters and the scenes with his brother (Matthew Candeland) have a sense of authenticity to them. Wayne Tunks’ portrayal of Nathan, Tess’ older autistic brother, is well-researched and articulate. It’s always admirable to see actors who portray people with additional needs as a person and not as a generalisation.

The stage was divided into three sections: a police station, a living room and a pub. They were simply designed and were used to support the scene rather than control it, thus allowing the actors to tell us the story. Lighting designer Siobhain Geaney has worked hard at creating the subtle changes to the mood, from having fluorescent light in the police station to give the scene more harshness and using a hanging lightbulb to create a warmer feel in the pub scenes.

The world premiere of Flame Trees is definitely a display of great Aussie theatre but with a little bit more fine tuning in the second half could have been much more special.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 16 March | 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $29 Full | $25 Conc

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au