Tag: Travis Handcock

1812 Theatre Presents RUBEN GUTHRIE

Facing demons in powerful Aussie play

By Sally McKenzie

Ruben Guthrie, written by Brendan Cowell, is a hard-hitting Australian play which deals with the perils of alcoholism and drug abuse as experienced by Ruben Guthrie himself and the people around him.

ruben-guthrie

In this production, presented by the 1812 Theatre in conjunction with FizzWack Theatre Company, Travis Handcock played the lead role of Guthrie, as well as taking on the role of director – an ambitious project indeed, and Handcock managed to satisfy both roles quite successfully. Guthrie rarely leaves the stage, and Handcock was quite masterful in his portrayal of the struggling Creating Director of ‘Subliminal’ Advertising Agency. He opened the show by immediately breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience as though we were members of an ‘alcoholics anonymous’-style meeting. I felt Handcock was a little more hesitant in these moments. He really hit his stride when connecting with the other characters on stage, as he dealt with his struggle with sobriety.  It was difficult not to empathize with his feelings of helplessness as those close to him failed to support him. Handcock did a superb job of handling the enormity and sensitivity of this role.

Jeanette Coppolino played Guthrie’s Czechoslovakian fiancé Zoya. Her accent was strong and consistent and her role well-executed. As was the intention, I felt much distaste for the manner and business-driven character of Guthrie’s boss and father-figure, Ray, played by Andy Mellor – a job well done! David Runnels as Peter, Guthrie’s father, was perfectly suited to his role, all the way down to his safari shorts and loafers. He depicted the wine-loving, self-centred, mid-life-crisis Aussie male with just the right balance of realism and humour.

Stephanie Morrell as Virginia (Guthrie’s second love interest) served as a great contrast to the conservative super-model Zoya. Her opening scene with Guthrie was particularly lovely with one of the few heart-warming and more light-hearted scenes as they faced those first few ‘awkward’ moments signalling the start of a relationship. Steve Young played Damien, one of Guthrie’s best friends: a great casting choice, as he was impressively consistent with his over-driven personality and ‘unlikable’ corruptive influences on Guthrie. Stephanie King gave a good performance as Guthrie’s alcoholic mother, and her final scene as a confessing alcoholic was particularly poignant.

The set was simple: a series of white vertical wooden panels in colourful graffiti, reminiscent of the chaos of Guthrie’s life, a couch, and the occasional stool or chair. Cast appeared between the panels as providers of props, extra clothing items, and then the various forms of alcohol, profoundly symbolic of Guthrie’s ‘enablers’, while lighting and sound was most effective in illustrating the abrupt change from the meetings to Ruben’s real life. This was all that was needed. The focus was where it needed to be – on the actors, their personal demons and the ways they dealt or chose not to deal with them.

For me, the only questionable direction decision was the choice to include nudity. I felt this was unnecessary, and only a distraction to the overall tone of the play. In addition, a fault of the script was its length: the play had well and truly made its point, whereupon I felt the last 20 minutes only served to almost disconnect us from the characters, and added choreographed movement and montages that seemed out of style with the rest of the production.

Overall however, this was an insightful and thought-provoking production, with a highly impressive cast – well worth a visit to the foot of the Dandenongs this week.

Ruben Guthrie is playing at the 1812 Theatre, Rose St, Upper Ferntree Gully for one week only – from Wed 7th-Sat 10th Sept. Tickets at www.1812theatre.com.au or by phoning 9758 3964. Please be warned that this play contains violence, drug and alcohol use, nudity, sexually explicit action, coarse language and adult themes.

REVIEW: Moreland Theatre Company Presents THE ODD COUPLE

Classic comedy revisited

By Margaret Wieringa

Oscar is a happy-go-lucky divorcee who has his mates over every Friday night to play poker in the squalor of his apartment. When Felix his uptight buddy suddenly becomes single, Oscar saves him from his despair by allowing him to move in. However it is clear that Felix’s obsessive cleanliness and Oscar’s carelessness cannot exist together happily for long.

In this production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, the poker game is underway as the audience comes in, and once the show starts, we meet four likable New Yorkers, wisecracking and ribbing each other (Lloyd Bissell, Travis Handcock, Nick Lawson and Riley Nottingham). It’s the scenes with these guys I liked the most, especially when Oscar and Felix are thrown into the mix. The accents are good and consistent and the characters are held strongly by all throughout. Unfortunately however, at times some of the jokes seemed to have been sacrificed in order to keep the accents accurate. But with a Neil Simon script, if you miss one joke, you only need to wait a moment for another.

The Odd Couple

Brian Edmond does a fine job playing the slobby Oscar, capturing the sarcastic humour and the element of nastiness of the character but still allowing his heart to shine through. His performance is contrasted nicely with the entrance of David Lawson-Smith as Felix, especially with the variety of ailments he suffers in his first fifteen minutes onstage. These two were able to draw the audience in to the lives of the men, but were the most enjoyable when interacting with the larger cast. The delightful English accents of the two extremely fashionable ladies (Andrea Mentlikowski and Teresa Noble) were a breath of fresh air, just when the tension between the two men was getting to be enough.

While there seemed to be something odd with the floor (many of the characters were literally sliding about in a distracting manner), the set was fabulous, especially the wonderful wallpaper and the scruffy crocheted couch cushions that captured the life of a man living amongst things his wife abandoned.

It’s worth braving the wonderful Melbourne winter we’re loving at the moment for an evening of laughter.

When: July 17-19 & 23-26 at 8pm with a 2pm matinee on July 19
Where: Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Tickets: $20 full, $15 concession, groups 8+, $15 on Weds 23.
To book: call 0426 577 346 or www.trybooking.com/FBVE