Tag: Tom Conroy

George Orwell’s 1984 at The Comedy Theatre

Big Brother lives

By Bradley Storer

In their adaptation of George Orwell’s classic cautionary tale of totalitarianism 1984, co-adaptors and directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan (with Australian associate director Corey McMahon) throw us instantly into questions of what is real, opening on what first appears to be the protagonist Winston Smith opening a forbidden blank writing book while the opening narration of Orwell’s text is read overhead before we are tossed into several alternative scenarios – are we watching instead an English bookclub examining the diary of Winston Smith and excavating its ambiguities? Is our ‘Winston’ merely a mentally feeble individual who has confused the book with his own identity? Frequent and craftily staged blackouts and scene changes do little to definitively answer these questions, and they drag us deep into the dark heart of Orwell’s story.

1984_Tom Conroy 3_c Shane Reid.jpg

Chloe Lamford’s intricate and layered set combines the cramped space of both an office and a typical flat as the actors pile onstage and off through various entrances, evolves handily into a movie screen for the more confined scenes in Winston and Julia’s romantic hideaway, and deconstructs completely and seamlessly into the blank, sterile holdings cell of the sinister Ministry of Love. The softer, more intimate moments are the highlights of the production, becoming cinematic closeups projected high above the stage which allow us to fully take in the characters’ mental anguish and budding romance in ways that might not otherwise have landed in this brisk, 100 minute adaptation. This becomes handily reversed in later scenes where the set is opened up into huge, harsh spaces that rub the audience’s nose in the brutality of this imagined world – Icke and Macmillan do not shy away from depicting this bloody violence onstage with gruesome detail, and on the night there were audible gasps from the audience at some of the things they saw.

Tom Conroy is incredibly compelling as Smith, the symbolic ‘everyman’ whose quiet rebellion against Big Brother is the focus of the narrative, delineating every step of Winston’s journey with precision and nuance, taking the character’s neuroticism and anxiety and making him intensely magnetic, a bundle of repressed passion and rage. Ursula Mills as Julia, the fellow party member who allies with Winston, takes her character on a huge journey – appropriately dark and mysterious to begin, morphing into a sharply seductive and cynical figure before softening into a hopeful and romantic counterpart to Winston’s bleak but optimistic intellect. As the ambiguous Inner Party aristocrat O’Brien, Terence Crawford brings a booming resonant voice and a paternal authority that is wielded to maximum effect (both benevolent and terrifying).

The ending here is layered with another level of ambiguity and horror in addition to Orwell’s original irony, and it would be a shame to spoil it here – rather, get in and see this thrilling and chilling tale given new life in this wonderful adaptation.

Venue: The Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000

Dates: 31st May – 10th June

Times: Tues 6:30pm, Wednesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Thursday 11am, Saturday 2pm

Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or at the venue

Image by Shane Reid


Disappointingly flaccid

By Ross Larkin

Cock by Mike Bartlett is essentially about an egocentric, painfully nervous and confused young man named John, who ‘must’ decide whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, and more importantly whether he will choose his male partner of seven years, or a new woman who has caught his attention. Staged in one small room on a floor of wall-to-wall cushions, this production is a dialogue-driven piece directed by MTC’s associate director, Leticia Caceres.


Primarily a three-hander between John (Tom Conroy) and his two love interests (who are never referred to by name, presumably to emphasise John’s self-absorbed world), Cock is perhaps so-called to describe John in nature, and not solely in reference to the play’s sexual explorations.

In fact, the character of John, who keeps his admirers (played by Angus Grant and Sophie Ross) dangling like puppets while he agonises over what he wants, who he is and who he will choose, is so excruciatingly frustrating and unlikeable that ‘who cares?’ might seem the more apt question.This subsequently begs the question of how plausible it is then that two intelligent, attractive and grounded people would loathe themselves so fully they allow such a dithering idiot to toy with their emotions so blatantly.

This is milked to the point of the three meeting for dinner to discuss (read, ‘bitch about’) who deserves John most, who is better suited and ultimately, who will win him over. All the while a bumbling mess, John has the audacity to believe he is worthy of such idolisation, and that the situation he has created is by no means ridiculous, unfair or narcissistic.

Yet, he also has no qualms about taking Cock’s 100-minute duration to decide as the story goes back and forth ad nauseam, with the all-too-occasional laugh, and the incredulous trivialisation of sexuality which is not only insulting to women, but also bisexuals. Thankfully, Sophie Ross’s portrayal of John’s female counterpart is understated, beautiful and perhaps the only likeable character, who might put you in mind of an Aussie Jennifer Lawrence. Likewise, talented songstress Missy Higgins has provided some beautifully haunting music played throughout the odd interlude: however it simply doesn’t belong.

Unfortunately Cock isn’t dark and beautiful: it’s irritating and shallow, bitchy and clichéd and the same point has never been drilled home more than it is with the disappointing Cock.

Cock is playing now at the Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, until March 22, 2014 at 8pm with some 4pm Saturday matinees and a 6.30pm performance on Tuesday March 4. For more information or to book tickets go to www. artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on or phone 1300 182 1831300 182 1831300 182 1831300 182 183.


Into the darkness…

By Myron My

night maybe

Entering the theatre space at Theatreworks for night maybe felt like I was venturing into an ethereal world. I immediately felt the stillness of my surroundings whilst a swirl of fog hid much of the set; all I could see was grass and I half-expected some zombies to come staggering out like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, such was the intensity.

Instead, two siblings Tom and Sasha (Tom Conroy and Sarah Ogden), appear and they are lost in a park. They argue and Tom disappears leaving Sasha alone. From there, she meets a variety of characters, and it’s up to us to determine if they are real or imaginary. It’s like Alice has stepped into Wonderland again but the darkness dial has been turned up a few notches. It’s a world where time seems to be ignored: watches are broken and people are running late.

Both leads are strong and show their versatility with a demanding script that could easily have resulted in them getting too caught up in the complexities and rushing through or losing their momentum, but they stay true to their characters and the themes of the show. The supporting cast of Marcus McKenzie and Brian Lipson further solidify the remarkable acting in night maybe.

Kit Brookman’s script is like a cloud of black smoke which slowly envelops us as it deals with issues of love, being alone and abandonment. The lines are delivered fast, which is a nice contrast to the minimal action happening on stage. This is a wordy play with lots to think about so it’s good not to be too overwhelmed especially with the technical styling.

Mel Page’s set creation is one of the simplest yet most effective ones I have seen for some time: there is real grass laid out covering the stage, with three leafless trees hidden in the mist and darkness. Richard Vabre’s lighting design and his use of shadows, darkness and depth suggests that the park we find ourselves in extends for eternity, adding a supernatural overtone to the show. I particularly enjoyed the effectiveness of characters coming out from within the shadows and disappearing back into them.

However, it was James Brown’s haunting music and sound that really and aptly struck a chord with me. From eerie soundtrack moments to a lone piano key being played – there is reason and purpose to everything he creates. Without giving too much away, one particular scene had me almost gasping for breath and provoked a very strong visual response from me too.

It is rare when all the elements of a show come together in such a perfect way to create a special piece of theatre. night maybe is a glorious example of this.  

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 1 September | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $30 Full | $25 Conc

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