It’s a cool and drizzly Brisbane winter night, the wind is blowing off the river and I’ve scooted back in quick time from my current-neighbourhood playhouse – the Bille Brown Studio at 78 Montague Road. I’ve been disturbed rather more than I would have thought possible by Dennis Kelly’s Orphans, a play out of contemporary Britain that lays bare another part of the barbaric underbelly of the carefully manicured middle class. I wanted to get home, turn the lights on and clear my head.
Orphans‘ action is relentless, and it doesn’t let go for its 105 or so minutes’ playing time. Ithooks you from the get-go as the blood-stained figure of Liam bursts in on his sister Helen at home and eating dinner with her husband Danny. Their young son Shane is away – being baby-sat, and they’re having a quiet night at home – a ‘celebratory dinner’ cooked by Danny. We learn Helen is pregnant. The couple appear to be reasonably well-off; they live in a tasteful, beige on beige apartment which is interpreted with spot-on minimalist restraint in Sam Paxton‘s design.
Kat Henry directs this production for Queensland Theatre Company’s Studio with pace and flair. The starkness of Ben Hughes‘ lighting design and the cinematic atmosphere of Guy Webster’s sound composition create a stage world that beautifully complements the play’s dialogue – fragmented, naturalistic sounding yet meticulously crafted to reflect all the tempo-rhythms, poetry and ambiguities of everyday speech. Continue reading Review: Orphans – Queensland Theatre Company (Studio) @ Bille Brown Studio
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the ugliest one of all?
I spent last night (Cheap Tuesday) in the theatre-company of lots of clever, good looking, thrifty people watching four other good-looking, artistic people playing Marius von Mayenburg‘s The Ugly One directed by Kat Henry. What a fun time we had watching other people watching us watching characters watching themselves – the production is set in one of !Metro Arts upstairs galleries, and the white seating around the thrust-configured playing area meant you could see every bit of the action up close – really up close – including certain … umm … thrust moments from the actors; some debate ensued post-show amongst the voyeurs in the audience as to who had the best or the worst view of said moments.
The Ugly One plays with notions of face value, and Jessica Ross cleverly exploits the play’s thematics as well as the challenges of the space in her design lit by Hamish Clift. Jeremy Neideck‘s sound composition of unseen, metallic, nerve-grinding operating room horrors complements the up-close and live wall-projections from the pov of the patient while the bright, sterile-white performance area come forensic examination room creates the space and mood for a romp which, along the way, dissects society’s foibles and follies and hangs them out to dry.
With this show 23rd Productions has, once again, brought a gem of a play to Brisbane theatre. Thank the theatre gods for 23rd Productions, the little indie company that could and does. This was a canny choice for them. The Ugly One has been enormously successful in its native Germany, in the UK and elsewhere in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. The English translation by Maja Zade permits much freedom of stylistic interpretation – in Ms Henry’s case, a reading closer to the classic modern English Monty Python school of farce, where wit and physicality combine to produce marvellous grotesquerie. It’s a great choice, and she gives her cast full rein to explore Von Mayenburg’s existential, farcical fable. The four-part ensemble company of experienced actors (Kevin Spink, Kathryn Fray, Norman Doyle and Dirk Hoult) are all terrific – playing multiple characters or variations of themselves with skill, intelligence and obvious relish.
Lette (Mr Spink) a widget-maker is ugly – horribly, dreadfully ugly – but he’s a really nice guy. His wife persuades him to become beautiful with a face change. He does, and the results are spectacularly successful; he is no longer shunned, he becomes an object of desire and his face becomes the most wanted in the world – he is transformed in more ways than one. What ensues is a hilarious post-modern comedy of manners which dishes up all its favourite obsessions for our delectation and demolition: celebrity, sex, avarice, power, money, greed, exploitation …
As Chaplin once famously noted, ‘Comedy is a very serious business.’ Von Mayenburg’s morality tale is absolutely clear in its satiric intent – make ’em laugh, but get ’em all.
And who’s the ugliest one of all? We all are.
The Ugly One
by Marius von Mayenburg
Translation by Maja Zade
Directed by Kat Henry Featuring: Norman Doyle, Kathryn Fray, Dirk Hoult and Kevin Spink Set Design: by Jessica Ross Lighting Design: by Hamish Clift Sound Composition: by Jeremy Neideck
Season: Wednesday 6 to Saturday 23 April, 2011 Preview: Tuesday 5 April, 7:30pm Opening: Wednesday 6 April, 7:30pm Artist Talk: Wednesday 13 April – join the actors and crew for a drink and post show chat. When: Tuesday to Thursday, 7:30pm Friday to Saturday, 7pm and 9pm Where: Metro Arts Galleries Tickets: Adults $25/ Conc. $22/ Preview $15/ Group (10+) $15 Cheap Tuesdays: $15 (door sales only)
Much of the talk in town and on the interwebs right now concerns gender equity in the theatre. Women playwrights and directors and actors continue to battle what many are calling, perhaps intemperately – but who can blame them – ‘the boys’ club.’ It’s not just here either; American and British women have their dander up as well.
When a woman succeeds in securing a paid job as a director or actor, or when she wins an award for playwrighting, then it’s cause for celebration. So it was last week when expatriate Brisbane writer (she now lives in Melbourne) Shannon Murdoch won the prestigious Yale Drama Series award for her play New Light Shine. As they used to say before digital technologies arrived to spread news in a flash, ‘the wires hummed’ with the news. Shannon was congratulated, contacted, and readings were being set up just-like-that. Hoorah! I’m told New Light Shine was one of the ‘must see’ works at this year’s National Play Festival. I wonder if it has been secured for an Australian production yet and, if so, who will direct? Whatever the answers, it’s a thrill to see Shannon Murdoch’s work being recognised in this way.
There are two women directors currently at work in Brisbane on productions: Andrea Moor on Water Falling Down for Queensland Theatre Company, and Kat Henry on The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg for the independent company 23rd Productions. Greenroom interviewed Andrea last year when she was working on Tender – you can read the review here. I was delighted to meet Kat Henry a week or so ago at the theatre and to get her to agree to an interview. Continue reading Kat Henry (Interview 16)