Tag: Stuart Jeanfield


Strong performances in intriguing cemetery lodge location

By Myron My

Performed inside the historic Gate Lodge at Melbourne Cemetery, TBC Theatre’s production of Mr Naismith’s Secret is an intriguing and entertaining piece of immersive theatre. At a gathering at Edward Naismith’s residence to celebrate some news between he and Jane Adair, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone wishes the happy couple good tidings with a number of guests and staff within the house having their own schemes and plots to attend to…

Mr Naismith's Secret.png

We enter the house interacting with the characters, but we are soon ghost-like creatures that are left wander the rooms and observe interactions and eavesdrop on private conversations. Secret letters are read out and locked rooms are explored in our ignored presence but there are also times when characters stare directly at you as they deliver their lines or perform in a scene. It is somewhat unnerving but works extremely well in heightening the tension of the narrative.

The difficulty with immersive theatre such as this – where you only get to see some of a full story – is ensuring that by the end your audience has enough information to be able to fill in enough of the empty pieces. Writer H. Clare Callow is aware of this and does a good job of keeping the characters focused on a single narrative, and when they are then speaking with other characters, discussing or repeating things that have been mentioned earlier by other character for our benefit. There are a few instances however where I felt the language used was not entirely suited to the era and environment we were in, as when a servant obscenely swears at a man of a higher class than him.

Past experience with immersive theatre has taught me that it is best to stick with roughly three characters and follow them around. In this instance, I was drawn to Trudi Boatwright‘s portrayal of Agnes, where you’re left questioning what her intentions are and whether she has her own nefarious agenda at play. Similarly, Vaughn Rae as the snide Abercrombie brutally masters the death stare and displays his callousness well. Stuart Jeanfield as our host Edward Naismith and Jennie Dibly as Mrs. Cutter the cook (while not directly embroiled in the story itself like the other characters) also deliver some strong and convincing performances.

Much like a Choose Your Own Adventure book,  your choices and the characters you follow determine the story you experience in Mr Naismith’s Secret. While the climax of this gothic tale did not have as strong an impact as I suspect it could, possibly because of the characters I chose to follow, it is still a highly enjoyable piece of theatre that challenges and changes the role of the audience.

Venue: The Gate Lodge, Melbourne General Cemetery,Cnr College Cres & Princes Park Dr, Parkville
Season: until 13 November | Tues – Sat 8pm, Sunday 6pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: TBC Theatre


Irish ninjas and gang politics

By Myron My

You wouldn’t expect the seedy underworld of Dublin to have much in common with martial arts, but in Mark O’Rowe‘s dark comedy Made In China, these two worlds collide for three men who are all facing their own power struggles with each other and within gang politics. One wants to get out, one wants to get in, and the other one wants to remain on top.

Made In China

Unfortunately, this promising story moves at an incredibly slow pace, with nothing happening until roughly the final twenty minutes of this two-hour play. Even when the plot reaches its climax, it still feels drawn out and lacks any suspense. There is very little in terms of character development, which has these people come across as monotonous beings. Even by the end of the show, there is very little that has actually changed for these people in the greater scheme of things.

High up in the gang food chain, Kirby (Stuart Jeanfield) is such a weird character that his menace and aggressiveness is farcical, and not in a good way. In fact, I found a lot of the humour scripted in this to be quite a miss, particular the cringe-inducing sexual overtone scenes with Kirby and his Nik Naks crisps. Hughie (Vaughn Rae) is more or less a passive pawn in his power struggle with Kirby from beginning to end. Damien Harrison as Paddy is fortunate enough to play a character that at least gets to go on an emotional journey and is somewhat changed by the end of the proceedings, even if the way it occurs seems forced.

Despite these issues, first-time director Fleur Murphy works well with the actors to produce highly committed performances, and some physically demanding ones too with the choreographed fight scenes by Myles Tankle. Murphy does her best to keep the action on stage engaging, but given the confines of the space and script, it results in a lot of repeated pacing around and sitting down.

I have to say the set design failed to excited me aesthetically and the random lighting effects during the fight scenes felt contrived. The vocal coaching by Suzanne Heywood proves to have worked soundly with all three actors consistently keeping to their accents. However, the strong accents and the added slang used throughout the play admittedly made it very difficult to follow what was happening at times.

Walking out at the end of Made In China, I must confess I did not feel satisfied with the pay-off we received as an audience. Despite the interesting premise, this is ultimately not the most exciting story, and as written, the characters feel boring and one-dimensional. There appear to be some talented minds behind TBC Theatre however, with the choice of their current production, that does not come across successfully.

Venue: Q44 Theatre, 550 Swan St, Richmond.
Season: Until 25 July | Wed- Sat 7:30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: Q44 Theatre