Posts tagged ‘Belvoir St’
presented by Company B, Belvoir St Theatre, Upstairs, May 2012
The black-on-white imagery of the first key scene between the main players of this bizarre love-triangle capture a starkness and distant emotional sterility evident in the portrayal of Nina in this modernisation of the O’Neill psychodrama (for want of a better word – tragicomedy is woefully insufficient). As the actors shift around the stage your retinas find ghostly remainders of such high contrast as to resemble the very same spirits of the lingering past that haunt these central characters so doggedly. The effect is disconcerting at first. Detached, and endemic to the director’s style of timeless, placeless mise-en-scene. For an audience it becomes necessary to reach into their own memories to find context, and as such it becomes an easier reach to empathise into what is indeed a strange dark interlude of sacrifice and solipsism.
It’s that detachment of self which recurs throughout her journey, buffeted by the choices of the men in her life until the final, sinking, cyclic glimpse of a freedom found not but a moment too late. In his adaptation Stone has tapped into probably the most difficult undercurrent in modern Australian society, and the most pervasive: that of mental illness and depression. The metaphor is simple enough, to be free – truly free – we must abandon the ghosts of our histories, our genealogies, our experiences. So long as these things yoke us unto submission to the world’s expectations we can never take true responsibility for our lives. This is the tragedy of Nina’s story that irrespective of her being right, wrong or ill-advised in her choices; the legacy of self-doubt seems to be passed on whether she likes it or not. The closing scene and accompanying questions that are posed make that perfectly clear even if (or perhaps because) they don’t spell out the kind of closure an audience might crave after investing so much in this woman’s journey. One woman’s sense of relief is another’s looming anxiety – for so long as she’s defined by the relationships she has with men there will be no self-determination. And the legacy is passed on in the touching – if altogether unsettling denoument.
There are some jarring moments in the script which switches between naturalistic dialogue and the internal thoughts, and a few cuts here and there wouldn’t go astray – but it’s our severe privilege to second guess writers from the armchair position. Fine performances all-round make it well worth your time and exploration.
STRANGE INTERLUDE presented by Company B, upstairs at the Belvoir St Theatre. Written by Simon Stone after Eugene O’Neill. Directed by Simon Stone. Featuring Akos Armont, Emily Barclay, Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke, Mitchell Butel, Callum McManis, Kris McQuade, Eloise Mignon, Anthony Phelan, Toby Schmitz and Toby Truslove. Playing until June 17th.
presented by Company B Belvoir, August, 2011
When I was a small boy, back in the early 17th Century, I used to look at the strange people on the street as we went past in our carriage and wonder about the lives they lead, their fears, hopes and the many different stories they all had to tell. It’s a fascination I have always had with the city, and the strangeness that comes with being in such proximity of strangers. It’s an affliction I’m guessing is common to storytellers the world over, when they look at their local area, and think things like “where do all these people come from?” or “how many others are there in the world with dreams like mine?” But there’s that convention, that social nuance that prevents us reaching to find out about those who surround us, that business that keeps the mind’s eye focused inward, stuck on our own little world of problems, not so much on the manifold difficulties of the rest of the world.
And this is where things break down. Try as I might, I can’t help but see this production in the context of extraordinary events as have happened in London in recent days. Even though it’s ostensibly about street communities in a suburban city of Australia, it’s about so much more. How the personal is political, how we can carry so much weight of the world – together yet somehow alone. How this culture of picket-fenced segregation leads to whole communities alienated from each other and themselves. How this self-interest leads to the loss of wisdom between generations, which might seem some small thing but can become catastrophic.
Lally Katz has crafted a rare morality fable imbued with modern wit and fear; set around this unlikely friendship between an impressionable young woman Catherine and the indomitable, effusive, charismatic, irresistible Ana across the street. Within simple this framework are such leaps of imagination, magic, music and mystery that draw in its audience, stealthily as I have ever seen, teasing out the empathy with delight and genuine moments of horror or surprise throughout. You know it’s working when your feelings toward a character flare simply because they turned up. Or shift and flip at the behest of a single line – it’s an intoxicating brew of kindness and strangers.
I can say no more without making spoilers. The understated direction from Simon Stone allows the simplest detail of costume or voice to transport us anywhere – almost at the actor’s whimsy; which in harmony with Stefan Gregory’s gorgeous soundtrack and sound design has helped create a new entry to the modern canon. This play will go far. It’s Australian in context – but these are universal stories, set locally, but they could be the voices of any two women, across the street or across the world. It barely matters these days. Global, local, personal, political – everything is connected.
Neighbourhood Watch, By Lally Katz, directed by Simon Stone, featuring Charlie Garber, Megan Holloway, Kris McQuade, Ian Meadows, Heather Mitchell & Robyn Nevin. Playing at Belvoir St Theatre until August 28.
presented by Company B Belvoir, June 2011
I have always maintained that the most cogent critiques about art come via the art itself – a theory which may explain why (unfortunately) few stage practitioners will bother to engage in the essay style short-form criticism that makes up the majority of theatre comment on the interwebs and occasional news broadsheet. A mere thousand words is inadequate when one’s ideas about the form reflect a full complement of overt and internalised sensibilities that can only truly be expressed in the unique metaphorical context of live performance. Critics will invariably cast their aspersions or approvals on the various aesthetic or cultural merits of any given work but these comments are secondary to the actual creative conversation happening between artists at all levels who seek to change or improve the conventions of theatre. That is the real battleground; between the traditional and the experimental forms of theatrical language. Everything else is academic.
Some commentary on recent developments at Belvoir St Theatre
As reported, the big news this week is the shifting fortunes of the downstairs theatre, which has such a place in our hearts that scarcely an artist in Sydney hasn’t been involved in a show there at some point in the last ten years or so. So it’s no surprise that it sort of feels like ‘our’ space. Well news flash: it ain’t no more, and never was. The good folks at Belvoir have been kind enough to let independent companies operate through their B Sharp season over the years – and it’s been a win-win scenario in many ways; diversifying the audience for Company B and allowing the sector to flourish. But like all plants raised in fertile ground, in twelve years it’s grown bigger than anyone could have imagined. So the powers that be have taken what they see as a necessary pruning measure. And haven’t the howls rung out as what was never really ours to begin with gets taken away. I’ve only got one thing to say about that for now. Get over yourselves.
REVIEW: HAPPY DAYS
Belvoir St Theatre, November 2009
This is not theatre as you know it.
Belvoir St Theatre, September 2009
…one anticipates a feast of the mind – although the result is more like a meal at one of those very expensive restaurants, it’s good, but not quite as much on the plate as you’d like.