Psychiatry is surely the most nebulous and volatile of all the chosen medical careers and the gravity of the profession played a substantial part in the extensive media coverage during our recent Mental Health Week.
English playwright Joe Penhall takes an adventurous leap into the complexities of psychiatry and mental health in his multi-award winning play, BLUE/ORANGE.
The underlying seriousness of the play is counterpointed by Penhall’s clever humour, – his ability to use razor-sharp wit and exotic ideas to keep one step ahead of his audience.
Director Anna Crawford, (with the help of assistant director Jo-Anne Cahill, a wonderful production team and outstanding cast of actors), has created an energetic and balanced production, containing all the elements of raw emotion, perplexity, humour and neuroses, enabling the audience to ponder, – who’s mad and who’s sane? Continue reading Blue/Orange→
With his new play DARK VOYAGER local playwright John Misto taps into something pretty much universal, the passion, more to the point obsession that people have with everything to do with celebrity.
Misto piques our interest with this tantalising scenario:-
We are in Hollywood. It’s 1962. Right wing gossip columnist Hedda Hopper sure has a lively sense of wanting to live dangerously. Hedda invites the two leading ladies, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, over for supper in her swanky Beverly Hills apartment.
The duo had just completed their latest film, ‘Whatever happened to Baby Jane?’ and word from the set is that the co-stars had been fighting like cat and dog through the film’s entirety and that the film had not turned out well.
Both the women arrive true to form. First Bette arrives and is so rattled by Skip, Bette’s house boy, not recognising her, that she gets into the whisky very early on…Then Joan strolls in, in a resplendent blue dress, having managed to get through her crowd of fans. Continue reading Dark Voyager→
“It is in everyone’s nature to try and protect yourself and the people you love, but I think taken to the absolute extreme, that can be quite isolating, counterproductive and even dangerous. Ayckbourn has done a brilliant job in exploring that theme in a hilarious play. It is so funny and so dry and I think it’s one of his best works.” Anna Crawford, Director, NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH
A well crafted cautionary tale which catches audiences ‘on the hop’, often not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, awaits theatre patrons who make their way across you to Kirribilli’s waterfront Ensemble Theatre.
It is one thing for brother and sister pair Martin and Hilda to start up a Neighbourhood Watch group after an unpleasant incident takes place shortly after they move in to the plush new Bluebell Hill housing estate which is unfortunately situated close to a Council estate, populated by some less than charming individuals.
It is something altogether more bizarre, after tensions escalate between the group and riff raff from the council estate, that a mere fortnight after the Neighbourhood Watch group’s first meeting, Bluebill Hill has become a full-on gated community with security fences and armed patrols. The committee members, no longer believing in the ability of the police to enforce security, have taken the matter into their own hands and become their own erstwhile vigilante group.
It is a dark world that Ayckbourn shows us, where people’s small mindedness and pettiness dominate. Anna Crawford’s production, (the play had its world premiere in Scarborough in the UK in September, 2011),serves this incisive play well. Designer Amanda McNamara and lighting man Peter Neufeld set up the play’s world well, and Crawford wins strong performances from a good cast.
Brian Meegan and Fiona Press play the leads, Martin and Hilda, a rather precious, conservative pairing who get rattled far too easily.
Bill Young and Jamie Oxenbould have the most colourful roles ,playing ‘headcases’ former security guard Ron and unemployed engineer Gareth who almost take a para-military approach to the escalating conflict.
Douglas Hansell plays the menacing, volcanic Luther. Lizzie Mitchell gives a touching performance as Luther’s mistreated, fragile wife, Magda.
Olivia Pigeot performs the role of the promiscuous, sharp witted Amy- unfaithful wife to Gareth- with verve, as does veteran performer Gillian Axtell who plays Bluebell Hill gossip queen, Dorothy.
Recommended, the Australian premiere production of NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH opened at the Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli, on Wednesday 18th December and runs until Saturday 24th January, 2014.
If you want an exciting experience for your children during the school holidays, take them to see A YEAR WITH FROG & TOAD at the Ensemble Theatre. The young audience yesterday were mesmerised throughout the show’s 60 minute duration.
The play had its first run in 2008 at the Ensemble, winning the GLUGS Award for Best Children’s Production. Director Anna Crawford has brought back her enigmatic and delightful show for a return season.
The cast are all very competent actors, singers and dancers.
The timid and cautious Toad (played by Jay James-Moody) is reluctant to come out of winter hibernation and is goaded by the swashbuckling and adventurous Frog (played by Stephen Anderson) to greet the spring. They are visited by an amusing and colourful array of forest creatures,– (played with great flair by Jonathon Freeman, Crystal Hegedis and Lizzie Mitchell) – the elegant birds, the meddling moles, a mouse, a turtle and the hilarious snail with mail – played appropriately with a slow southern USA drawl by Jonathon Freeman.
The play originated on Broadway, followed by its world premiere in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It has had 3 Tony Award nominations in the USA, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.
Crawford has put together a great crew. A fabulous set by Anna Gardiner, razor sharp choreography by Shondelle Pratt, atmospheric and beautiful lighting by Matthew Marshall, fine costumes by Margaret Gill and sound design by Daryl Wallis.
The dialogue and song lyrics are simple, clever and easy for children to digest. It is a show well worth seeing.
A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD plays at the Ensemble Theatre from Sunday September 29th to Sunday October 13th.
American writer Theresa Rebeck’s 2011 play SEMINAR, the new production at the Ensemble Theatre, is well worth catching.
The play features a very lively clash,- Rebeck pits four very keen, ambitious young writers in waiting against a brilliant but monster of a a writing coach. The writers,-Kate, Douglas, Izzy and Martin, each put down 5 thousand to take a 10 week writing course with the acerbic Leonard. Kate is so keen that she offers up the living room of her stylish New York as the venue for these seminars.
SEMINAR starts with our young writers starry eyed and full of enthusiasm, chatting away in Kate’s apartment as they wait for Leonard to arrive to deliver his first class.
Their enthusiasm soon takes a bit of a fall. Leonard’s first Seminar is a nightmare for young Kate. She shows her new work to Leonard and he tears it to shreds. Rebeck has set up her play deftly. We, the audience, are thinking. How is this going to work out? Are we going to see blood on the floor, stemming from one of these writers?!
A highlight of SEMINAR is the way that it constantly changes direction….We are never quite sure how the play will ‘land’,- in a dark place or a place of light?!
Anna Crawford’s Australian premiere production serves Rebeck’s play well. Crawford’s strong creative team is headed by designer Alisa Paterson who has come up with a memorable, finely detailed set, inspired by the show’s original design.
A good cast bring Rebeck’s vibrant characters to life.
William Zappa delivers a master class in acting, as well as in writing, in his portrayal of Leonard.
Matilda Ridgway shines in the pick of the other roles. Her character, at first, comes across as a delicate, fawn like woman however as the play moves on, we see a much stronger person emerge.
Michelle Lim Davidson, who some will know as a regular presenter of Playschool, revels in playing the role of the racy, manipulative Izzy, Felix Gentle plays the priggish, highbrow Douglas, and Matthew Zeremes plays the introverted, tentative Martin.
Recommended, Anna Crawford’s production of Theresa Rebeck’s SEMINAR opened at the Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli, on Wednesday August 21 and plays until Saturday September 14, 2013.
Anna Crawford’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s laconic comedy ‘My Wonderful Day’ is a well crafted and performed night at the theatre,
‘My Wonderful Day’ features two black actors in leading roles. The scenario sees a nine year old black girl Winnie Barnstairs (Belinda Jombwe) take a day off school and accompany her heavily pregnant mum Laverne (Shareena Clanton) to work. Laverne is cleaning the house of a cantankerous television personality, Kevin Tate (Mark Owen-Taylor), Laverrne tells Winnie that she must be quiet and do her homework, which is to write her essay/journal that she entitles ‘My Wonderful Day’.
Life in the Tate household is far from serene! Tate is a difficult man whose life is made more difficult by his BAFTA award winning wife Paula (Danielle Carter) having left him. His ditzy secretary Tiffany comes to his aid and things are more than a little chaotic.
A sweet natured young girl, Winnie is also bright and astute, and as the day unfolds, with director Anna Crawford, (an Ensemble theatre director’s fellow), flashing the changing times on the back wall, Winnie witnesses the adults’ comical, and at times, irrational behaviour first hand. Winnie will never look at adults in quite the same way!
‘My Wonderful Day’ runs straight through for ninety minutes without interval. Typical of Ayckbourn’s plays, as ‘dramatic’ as the action is, the playwright’s trademark one liners are interspersed through the play with lines such as ‘I married an angel/ I divorced a monster’, and the young Winnie with her ever present pen and exercise book is jokingly portrayed as a young Emily Bronte.
The roles are neatly played. Mark Owen-Taylor is well cast as the highly strung, comical Kevin Tate. As Paula, Danielle Carter makes a major impression in a scene where she discovers infidelity. Shareena Clanton gives a warm performance as the good natured, hard working Laverne and has a funny, chaotic scene where her waters break in the living room. Young actress Belinda Jombwe plays something of a leading role as Winnie who is trying to discreetly fathom what’s happening. Belinda’s timing is first class. Matilda Ridgeway gives a typically assured performance as the ‘accomodating’ secretary. Brian Meegan plays Kevin’s gregarious mate who tries everything to protect him.
‘My Wonderful Day’ features good production values. Anna Crawford’s direction is clear and relaxed. Rita Carmody’s set design is sparse but suffices. featuring a few chairs, a long bed sofa, and top left is the main bedroom. There are some lovely lighting moments by lighting designer Gavan Swift. Claire Maloney’s character revealing costumes work well, and dialect coach Jennifer White gets the cast working with funtional British accents.
An Australian premiere, and master British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s 73rd play, ‘My Wonderful Day’ opened at the Ensemble theatre, 98 MacDougall Street, Kirribilli on Friday 20th May and runs until Sunday 26th June, 2011.