Tag: Wayne Tunks


Funny, engaging and satisfying new theatre

By Ross Larkin

While writer and producer Wayne Tunks’ latest venture, The Girlie Show, is in some respects an homage to pop’s most famous diva Madonna, the play is more accurately a universal story about relationships, pain and self-discovery.

The Girlie Show.JPG

Directed by Josh Karlik, The Girlie Show revolves around a vibrant group of teenagers in the 90s, who, while queuing to purchase tickets for a Madonna concert, become close friends, bound initially by music and idolisation but ultimately by love and passion.
As the teens navigate their own personal challenges including infidelity, sexuality and the smothering of strict religious parents, the group’s bond widens against a backdrop of song, dance and humorous pop culture references.

Charlotte Fox plays songstress Natalie, who must choose between career and self-worth, while Sam (played by Adam Haylock) deals with a broken family and an addiction to risky habits. Oliver Bailey and Adam Noviello play Jason and Derek respectively, both faced with the conundrum of their feelings for each other versus Jason’s struggle to come out of the closet. Meanwhile, shy and meek Mary (Caitlin Spears) is forced to confront her controlling parents as she rebels against a life of repression.

Fox is particularly excellent (her solo ballad is a highlight), while most of the comical moments are provided by the supporting cast including Tunks himself, who plays Sam’s jovial dad, Tony. Geoff Wallis is hilarious as Vic, a toupee-wearing, sleazy record company executive and also as Jason’s densely naive father, along with his wife, played by Perri Cummings (among other support roles) whose performance and stage presence is strong and engaging.

One of the show’s best moments is a dance number (choreographed brilliantly by Kristen Adriaan-Benton) featuring the whole cast in a slew of outrageous, Madonna-inspired costumes as a centrepiece to the show.

The Girlie Show is a satisfying, coming-of-age mixture of comedy, drama, music and dance whose themes are universal and is, as such, most certainly not just for Madonna lovers!

The Girlie Show is playing now as part of the Midsumma Festival until January 31st, 2016 at La Mama Courthouse Theatre, 349 Drummond street, Carlton.

Tickets via lamama.com.au or (03) 9347 6142.


Dark stories unfold

By Myron My

Home Invasion is a play that looks at obsession and disconnection. It’s about people dealing with destructive behaviours in their lives: a housewife who is haunted by JonBenét Ramsey, a schoolgirl with violent tendencies; and a mechanic who feels guilty for the death of a young woman.

Home Invasion

The cast of six – Kristina Benton, Nathan Burmeister, Trelawney Edgar, Ashleigh Goodison, Wayne Tunks and Grace Travaglia – worked well in exploring their characters and allowing them to go down the dark path. There were some well-crafted moments among them, with especially strong scenes between Benton and Goodison and Edgar and Burmeister.

Unfortunately, the direction by playwright Christopher Bryant was sorely disappointing. There was too much sitting or standing and not enough doing in this 90-minute show. The long scenes had no differentiation between them and the acting seemed stifled because of this. Bryant however is a capable writer and it was interesting to see how the separate threads from each story slowly began to weave in together, although I felt the musical interludes with the cast singing could have been cut.

The stage set up was also lacking in Home Invasion. With no “backstage” area, when the actors were not in the scene that was being played out, they sat on stools directly behind the performance space. The proximity of how close they were proved to be very distracting with every drink they took from their water bottle, every itch that was scratched or any readjustment that was made being done in plain sight of the audience.

The extremely minimal set design did not help with either, and seemed to actually be hindering the show from building the environment these people lived in. Apart from the wall painted pink, there was nothing visually stimulating about the show. The venue may be small but I’ve seen many productions performed in this theatre where some simple set pieces and discreet visual touches helped immensely to bring their worlds to life for the audience.

Whilst the writing and the acting in Home Invasion are admirable, I ultimately felt the remaining elements of the show still need to be further developed to allow the audience to build a stronger connection with the characters and the chilling world they are creating for us.

Venue:  La Mama Theatre, 205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Season: Until 7 June | Wed 6:30pm, Thurs-Sat 7:30pm,

Tickets: $25 Full | $15 Conc

Bookings: La Mama Theatre

REVIEW: Midsumma Festival’s SILVERTOP ASH

Raising the profound issues

By Myron My

Upon walking out of the theatre after having seen Wayne Tunk’s Silvertop Ash, I was left feeling quite conflicted as to my thoughts on this production. I want to like it and say it is powerful and important theatre because of its focus on gay youth suicide, which absolutely needs more coverage and attention but at the same time, there were some intrinsic problems with the show that stop me from feeling so.

Silvertop Ash

Most of my issues with Silvertop Ash arose from the script. The dialogue with the characters often felt forced, and it seemed that everyone was nothing but a mere cog in the machine to tell the story that Tunks wants to tell rather than the characters being allowed to tell their own story. The play was written in 2007 and perhaps now, eight years later, audiences have progressed in terms of what we expect from these types of narratives.

The shocks and twists that were included could unfortunately be anticipated well before they occurred, and the stock character are familiar from a multitude of film, TV shows and stage productions to the point where they stop being real and vital: the macho father who is disgusted his son would rather read Austen than watch a car race for example, and the homophobic bully who harbors a secret of his own.

However, there are some good performances in the play, especially by James Coley as our protagonist Hamish, and Perri Cummings as Penny, Hamish’s mother. The scenes they share are poignant, heartfelt and often imbued with subtle humour. Despite not being overly convinced by Geoff Wallis’s portrayal as Hamish’s father, in the final few scenes he is in he came through with the goods and took my breath away with how powerful his performance then was.

Designer Hannah Gott has done a great job of using and filling the large space the show was performed in and yet was able to maintain the intimate setting required for the characters to function together. The backdrop projection of the town was a brilliant touch that built on the environment and remained there as a constant reminder of where we were.

Silvertop Ash is an all-too-tragic story of bullying and suicide amongst gay youths. Discussion needs to be maintained and promoted in order to have any effect in overcoming the rising statistics of youth suicide – and the show must be congratulated for doing that. However, as a piece of theatre, I ultimately wanted more from the writing and more from the performances.

Silvertop Ash is being performed as part of the 2015 Midsumma Festival.

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park
Season: Until 31 January | Tues – Sat 8:00pm
Tickets: $25 /$21 Conc
Bookings: midsumma.org.au

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