Tag: The Brunswick Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre

Matchstick Theatre Presents TRUE WEST

Fraternal feuds and open emotions

By Margaret Wieringa

The audience enters to see a tidy, perfectly-kept kitchen and lounge with an array of houseplants on one side and the entrance hall on the other. Haunting country music plays as the lights dim and the actors enter. Austin, played by Charlie Mycroft, sits at the typewriter, working, while his brother Lee, played by Michael Argus, drinks beer and challenges him from across the room.


Sam Shepard’s True West is a play about relationships and families, as shown through these two brothers. Seemingly opposites, Shepard’s work takes us on a journey where each brother is challenged to question his relationship with each other as well as their place in the world.

And it is a journey that leads to intense emotions for the characters. This was difficult to capture in full in this performance as everything started at such a high level of energy. Mycroft did start the show quiet and restrained, with only very subtle movements, and this needed to be contrasted by  Argus – and he did play a very opposite character – but right from the start, he was loud to the point of almost shouting, not leaving either character far to go. It felt as though we had arrived at the climax of emotion and it took the story a while to catch up. Des Fleming was great as Saul, the powerful producer who could make their dreams come true. He had a cheesiness that only just hid his power, and a flash of that charming smile could win just about anyone over. The end of the play should leave the audience somewhat exhausted, but I think it would have had even more impact had there been a gradual build-up throughout the performance.

Jacob Battista, who put together the beautiful set in a way that could be slowly destroyed quite spectacularly, was also responsible for the costuming. While I felt that the homeless look for Lee was a bit much for the character, especially the rope belt, the rest of the costuming was spot-on in creating a sense of middle America in the late 70s/early 80s.

This production of True West is an interesting and intense interpretation of this modern American classic, and is well worth a watch.  The performance was thoroughly enjoyed by its sold-out audience, and tickets are selling fast. Matchstick Theatre has only been around for about a year, and so far they are proving themselves to be a company to watch.

When: October 12 – 22, Tues-Sun 8pm

Where: Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick 3056

Tickets:  $20 – $30

Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=193998

Metanoia Theatre Presents MILK BARS

Engaging and evocative nostalgia

By Narelle Wood

Just as the title suggests, Milk Bars explores that iconic Australian fixture of the milk bar, its place in Australia’s past and its potentially questionable future.

Milk Bars

This is not your average theatre show though; it’s performance art. Over the course of an hour and a half, the audience are guided from room to room to witness different performances and art installations that all, in some way, explore the idea of the milk bar.

The performances range from Elnaz Sheshgelani’s exploration of pre-Islamic Persian storytelling to Janette Hoe’s movement and mime pieces to a heart-felt talk presented by Domenic Greco, the executive Director of CAMBA. Each performance adds another perspective to the milk bar experience. Hoe transforms herself into a milk-bar owner, contrasting the talkative and perky behind-the-counter persona with the personal struggles that occur behind the scenes. Shane Grant’s monologue, beginning with advertising catchphrases that he and Zayn Ulfan shout at each other from across the room, documents the sacrifice and hard work of milk bar owners especially in a time of modernisation.

The theme across all performances is definitely this hard work and sacrifice in the face of an unknown future, thanks to globalisation and giant supermarket chains. But amidst this are stories of new immigrants finding their place in new communities and the sense of community and belonging that a milkbar can provide.

Each of the performances in themselves were fantastic, and as an ensemble, left me profoundly nostalgic for the local corner store where you could buy a massive bag of mixed lollies for 20 cents and buy your mum a packet of ciggies because the shop lady knew you. This is in no small way due to the setting of Milkbars, which under the artistic direction of Gorkem Acaroglu, transports you back to what appears to an authentic  1970’s milk bar. There are Big M calendar ads on the wall, an obligatory Chico Roll ad, Tarax pineapple soda in the fridge, and you can also purchase your very own bag of mixed lollies.

This isn’t the sort of show I’d normally gravitate towards, but the mixture of art installations, performances and movement between spaces was a really fascinating way of reflecting upon what the milk bar means to you personally, as well as to the performances and Australia culture.

 Milk Bars was performed at The Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, from July 27 – August 6, 2016

REVIEW: Christopher Durang’s LAUGHING WILD

Slick satire performed with aplomb

By Myron My

In Christopher Durang’s satirical comedy Laughing Wild, we meet two socially marginalised people struggling to survive in the modern world. They are known as The Woman and The Man. A chance encounter over tuna forces them to look into themselves and each other and attempt to find what it is they really want.

Laughing Wild

Laughing Wild is mainly set up in three scenes – it begins with a monologue by The Woman, a mentally-ill person obsessed with television. Gradually, her fragility and vulnerability begin to come through amid all the humour and jokes. This is followed by a monologue by The Man, a queer and quaint person who is looking to better himself and remain at peace with his spirit.

The third scene is where things get a little more complicated and surreal and there are some great moments including a number of backwards scenes and a hilarious interview in the style of Sally Jesse Raphael with the Infant of Prague which was quite something to witness.

Rani Pramesti carries a certain distinct charisma with her that I’ve not seen on stage for quite a while. Her embodiment of The Woman is more than impressive and the naturalism with which she delivers her lines – often at ridiculous speeds – is testament to the time and effort she must have put in perfecting this role. Her mannerisms and movement all served to construct a woman who is slightly unhinged and erratic.

Similarly, Daniel Last as The Man does exceptionally well in humanizing a character who is hell-bent on remaining positive. While The Woman was more loud and animated, Last did well in showing the restraint of The Man and exploring many of the same fears and worries as his female counterpart but in a fascinatingly different way.

Despite being set in the 80s, the themes of mental illness, loneliness, sexuality and politics are all still prevalent issues today and Durang’s work has clearly passed the test of time. Laughing Wild is a great character piece by two strong performers who are more than capable of carrying this comedic but demanding production.

Venue: Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Season: Until 1 March 2:00pm, 7:00pm.

Tickets: $20 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/71486

REVIEW: Mockingbird Theatre Presents THE TEMPEREMENTALS

Unmissable Midsumma fare

By Ross Larkin

“Before Stonewall, a braver bunch of us stood up to the plate… before there even was a plate”.

The Temperamentals is a curious little piece based on true events. Written by Jon Marans in 2009, it made a significant impression off-Broadway, and has maintained a cult following and critical respect since. Local favourite Mockingbird Theatre provides the perfect team to re-imagine this important story as an inclusion in the 2014 Midsumma Festival and a Melbourne premiere.

The Temperementals

The Temperamentals is set in the USA in the 1950’s, when homosexuals were forced to lead secret lives of façade and repression in a society of bigotry. However, five young men dared to reveal their truths and confront the world around them, by founding the first gay rights organisation called the Mattachine Society. The group is accelerated into ambition when its member, Dale Jannings (Sebastian Bertoli) is arrested by an undercover cop in a public toilet.

Bertoli is exceptional as the unassuming Jannings, with the ability to maintain striking presence and poignant subtlety at once. In fact, director Chris Baldock’s casting overall is outstanding. The small ensemble of five, most of who play a variety of characters, exhibit genuine versatility and chemistry with highly accomplished direction.

Tim Constantine in particular, who plays Austrian fashion icon Rudi Gernreich, engages charisma, shame, passion and hurt with an understated three-dimensional beauty that allures audience members during his journey. Angelo De Cata, as Mattachine Society protagonist Harry Hay, is also a solid centrepiece, embodying a brave but pained man with excellent conviction, while supporters Angus Cameron and Jai Luke add a kick of colour and humour to the otherwise intense circumstances.

The Temperamentals is a slow-burner, with more telling than doing, and may not grab you until you’ve truly fallen for its beloved characters. However, it’s most certainly worth holding tight for, because fall you will – in another highly praiseworthy example of Chris Baldock and Mockingbird’s ability to stage some of the most noteworthy theatre in town.

The Temperamentals is playing now at The Brunswick Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre (corner of Glenlyon and Sydney Roads, Brunswick) as part of the 2014 Midsumma Festival.

Tue 21 Jan – Sat 25 Jan at 8pm
Sun 26 Jan at 5pm
Tue 28 Jan – Sat 1 Feb at 8pm