Posts tagged ‘Alice Livingstone’



Presented by the New Theatre, July 2013

Top Girls. photo by Bob Seary

Top Girls. photo by Bob Seary

There remains no greater case to validate the work of the playwright than the presentation of their text as writ, no greater challenge to the actor or director to take on a cohesive writer’s vision and remain true to their intent. Such is the way at the New Theatre, no mincing about with rewrites or such periphery – their latest production in a series of good plays done well, opened to a well-earned third ovation and an opening night crowd (of the usual suspects) in a genuine conversational post-show buzz of ideas, politics, history and broad appreciation of the craft.

Still scalding some thirty years after its first showing, Caryl Churchill’s script treads between expressionism and vignette-realism. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, go and see this play immediately, for it remains one of the finest examples in the modern canon of bold social realist writing, with a representational aesthetic that forces audiences to examine what they see beyond the literal. The opening moments tell us thus, entering to a luxurious table setting in a dark parody of the famous game where one invites a group of historical figures for dinner. A shrewd device in this instance to create a socio-political context to shed light on the modern idiosyncrasies we will bear witness to in Acts II & III.  Churchill extending the metaphor in a truly fantastic (as in portraying the literal outcome of a fantasy) game of ‘what-if?’

In this case the women all represent different phases and elements of an historic and systemic patriarchal society.  Each reaching various dizzying heights of achievement within the worlds they inhabited, and yet always somehow defined by the male-dominated systems which surround them.  Much comedy can be found in the absurd expression of this familiar setting, the bristling and posturing of a dinner party made up of (shall we say) larger-than-life personalities.  We’ve all sat at this table at some point or another, although it’s arguable how many of these parties are held in the company of the famously dead.

The mercurial setting of the first scene thus offers a fascinating glimpse at history which allows the audience member to do their own excavation in light of the more immediately accessible second half. Paradoxically this modern account of the foibles of women’s liberation in the face of Thatcher’s Britain is a tougher theatrical journey to explore. Perhaps it’s the closeness to our own social experience which sits uncomfortably as social commentary?  Either way the expressionist grandeur of the opening salvo suggests the quiet familiarity of the domestic and workplace settings is not to be taken at face value. Churchill wants us to look at our own choices in the face of the impossible (as men or women) – whether it’s 13th Century Rome or Britain 1982, this sadly remains a markedly relevant question for Australia circa 2013. Especially 2013.

A simple, effective design scheme and some excellent dedication to the text from the cast make what seems short work of a very challenging and complex play. The careful dedication to the dialogue and timing and above all the engaging naturalism and warmth of the characters from the ensemble are, simply put: a joy to behold. We’ll be seeing it again.

Top Girls, by Caryl Churchill, directed by Alice Livingstone, featuring Sarah Aubrey, Claudia Barrie, Julia Billington, Maeve MacGregor, Ainslie McGlynn, Bishanyia Vincent and Cheryl Ward. 

Playing at the New Theatre until August 3rd.

12/07/2013 at 6:43 pm 3 comments

pay attention to the details…

Presented by The New Theatre, March 2012

Now in it’s final week, The Weir is a fine production in the vein of claustrophobic and comedic menace a-la Brendan Behan or (more recently) Martin McDonagh. The play is less action-heavy than one might expect of a play clearly influenced by the Irish Masters, instead drawing its narrative cloak across the past histories and ancient legends of the deathly quiet moors of the fabled green countryside. It gently fuses the staple small-town Irish foibles of boozing, frugality and pointless rivalry into a creeping series of supernatural mythologies of the land, gradually shifting from the worlds of fantasy (although one tends to believe every word) into the more familiar flights of fear that brush against us in the wee hours (usually to do with love and liquor – not necessarily in that order)… One forgets which metaphysical frights are more forboding; those of ancient lore, the night-faeries of folktales; or the modern banshees of the heart, loneliness and loss. Which send more chilling rhythms into your soul? With unobtrusive direction and an exquisitely detailed set, this small-town bar is a refuge against the dark and cold, one held together with the mortar of community, without which the really frightening question is just where would we be without it?

One cannot go past the lineup of actors for a great night’s entertainment. If you haven’t seen one or more of these fine thespians treading the boards in Sydney recently; then you haven’t been hitting the non-mainstream circuit (for shame!) and this production offers a fine taste of the talents available when one strays along the road-not-taken. To be sure, all are terrific storytellers on their own. This is the kind of performance when a simple anecdote becomes a world of its own and in ensemble; with the kind of half-nostalgic eeriness of the text you are guaranteed to be taken into another world. Catch a glimpse of this before it disappears…

The Weir, by Conor McPherson, directed by Alice Livingstone; featuring Patrick Connolly, Barry French, Lynden Jones, Peter McAllum and Amanda Stephens Lee. Plays at the New Theatre until March 31st.

25/03/2012 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment



presented by Focus Theatre, July 2010

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I wouldn’t recommend picking up any hitchhikers along the way. But I would recommend this biting take on the woes and wherefores of taking candy from strangers in Eastern Europe, ending up god knows where and possibly never to return. The twisting roadways of the plot are a joy to unfold, in the episodic structure you never know quite where you’ll end up next, or even if you’re heading in the right direction. It’s so wonderfully confusing to be lost sometimes.. and it’s not the destination but the journey that matters. Right? Well I suppose that all depends on who you’re stuck sitting next to along the way.

Continue Reading 26/07/2010 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Your email address is private and will not be passed on to a 3rd party.

Join 1,470 other followers

on twitter

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.

contact author:


since 2009

  • 26,442 hits