Featured image-Carolyn Lowry, Mark Kilmurry, Francesca Savige, Sandra Bates, Shaun Rennie, John Clark.
All images by Ben Apfelbaum.
Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry recently announced the two winners of the 2ndSandra Bates Director’s Awards supported by the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation at a function in the theatre’s waterfront foyer.
Francesca Savige and Shaun Rennie were thrilled to be the recipients of this prestigious award. Both will work as Assistant Director on two plays each in the Ensemble Theatre’s 2017 season. They will also direct a lunchtime play reading each as part of the theatre’s Boatshed events.
MY ZINC BED, by award-winning and provocative playwright David Hare, made its debut at The Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2000. Its carefully crafted eloquence and finesse continues to attract audiences. Mark Kilmurry’s current production is vibrant and funny with an appropriate underlying sadness throughout.
Husband Victor Quinn is a masterful raconteur whose colourful past had its roots in the communist party, at one time greatly popular with intellectuals and philosophers. His transformation over the years brings him into the corporate world as a highly successful founder of an IT company. Despite this success and wealth, Victor has not lost his penchant for the less fortunate and vulnerable.
Mark Kilmurrry’s production takes us deeply into this Willy Russell world and its two loveable, vulnerable, very recognisable characters who stay in our hearts long after the house lights have come back up.
We walk into the theatre to be greeted with music from the nineteen eighties, the period in which the play is set, and Anna Gardiner’s finely detailed set of an academic’s chamber.
As part of this year’s 100th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand troops landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in an offensive against the Turkish Army during World War 1, the Ensemble Theatre has developed and is now presenting its production, THE ANZAC PROJECT- HELPING US REMEMBER.
As we all know only too painfully, the campaign was a disastrous one. The troops were largely cannon fodder but the camaraderie, sardonic humour and bravery of the Australian and New Zealand forces launched a legend, henceforth known as the ANZACS that continues to be recognised every 25th April since 1916.
The two new works, commissioned by the Ensemble Theatre for their 2015 season, and written by experienced playwrights Geoffrey Atherton and Vanessa Bates, have many overlaps and similarities in style and content. With them being presented by the same quartet of actors playing quite similar characters, and both directed by Mark Kilmurry, using the same set, there tends to be a blurring of stories and images into one whole. Continue reading The Anzac Project- Helping Us Remember @ The Ensemble Theatre→
In Alan Ayckbourn’s ABSENT FRIENDS (1974) big hearted and good natured soul Di has organised an afternoon tea for Colin, one of her husband Paul’s best friends.
She has been worried about how Colin has been going after his recent tragic loss of his newly wed wife Carol in a drowning accident. With this in mind Di invites two of Colin’s best friends, John, along with his wife, Evelyn, and Gordon, along with his wife Marge, to join her husband and her in their family home, and hopefully this will help to cheer him up…
Oh…if only Di had a crystal ball! The afternoon soiree turns out very differently to how Di had hoped. Her husband Paul has come home from golf in a grumpy, cantankerous mood. He is rude, belligerent, even abusive to her.
Gordon doesn’t even turn up, his wife Marge attends and says her husband couldn’t make it. He isn’t feeling well. An absent friend as per the play’s titlle.
John is edgy and can’t stand still, his wife Evelyn is droll and bitchy. To top it all off, Diana has heard rumours that Paul and Evelyn have been having an affair.
With his play OTHER DESERT CITIES, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, American playwright Jon Robin Baitz tackles some major subjects the most interesting being the fall-out that takes place, as it often does, when a brave soul, particularly one in the public eye, decides to put pen to paper and write a tell-all autobiographical piece.
I am sure that Mr Baitz would be highly impressed if he saw Mark Kilmurry’s current production at Kirribilli’s Ensemble’s theatre. The five member cast poignantly bring to life his very well drawn and easy to relate to characters.
With nods to both the legendary Olivier and the McKellan versions, this is an extraordinarily beautifully spoken version of Shakespeare’s play, but I am afraid it just falls short of the mark. You can certainly see what this production is attempting to achieve, however it still leaves us feeling a little emotionally uninvolved.
This is a pared back abridged version with cuts, and many of the cast playing several different characters as required throughout the play, which can be a little confusing.
This production, directed by and starring Mark Kilmurry, is framed as a dangerous act of theatre, in which six players gather in a dark, sparsely furnished bunker to perform Shakespeare’s Richard III. There is a sense of suspense, of wartime desolation, of destruction.
Barely acknowledging each other upon flurried arrival, the cast set straight to work ,at first rehearsing short, key snippets of scenes, the sword fight in particular. Costumes, props and a set of benches, a table and dead TV sets have already been assembled. Kilmurry straps on a hump, picks up his gloves, assumes the now stereotypical gait and a clandestine performance begins, rather quietly and at a nervous pace.
What then develops is a sturdy presentation of an abridged text, occasionally interrupted by the menacing sounds of barking dogs, loud bangs on the door (which is monitored via CCTV) and patrolling helicopters overhead, all adding intensity and suspense, in what is a highly stylised production.
The cast speak in a broad range of accents, that dip and change as characters and alliances change.
The abridgements work well, as do some deft touches of theatrical shorthand – taking glasses on and off to demonstrate a quick-change between multiple characters played by a single actor.
Some key set piece moments do not really catch fire and we feel little for Clarence (Matt Edgerton) as he hurtles towards his death. Also the build up of circumstances towards Bosworth Field is rushed through and barely indicated.
As King Richard III, while beautifully spoken and with a very expressive face, Mark Kilmurry portrays him as shallow, calculating and manipulative rather than darkly villainous, and it is hard to care for him. The King’s wooing of Lady Anne is played straight and with plenty of feeling. This is in contrast with some of the set piece/famous monologues which did leave me unmoved.
Danielle Carter of the exquisite alabaster skin was tremendous as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward. I liked the effect for the Princes in the Tower of having them in brightly striped, very posh school blazers and boaters, but it also in some ways made them look like a vaudeville act.
Patrick Dickson as Buckingham gives a strong, splendid performance. Matt Edgerton is terrific in his many roles as assorted characters. Amy Mathews was most impressive.
At the finale, Kilmurry pauses for a tense, dangerous moment. He looks at the crown. He then drags on his coat. The ominous helicopter sounds increase in volume and appear to be coming much closer. He grabs a piece of chalk, defiantly writes the date, hurriedly scribbles ”Richard III” and vanishes out the door. They were there and this performance happened. We, the audience, were with them.
Running time – roughly 2 and a half hours including one interval.
”RICHARD III” runs at the Ensemble until July 19 and then transfers to play at the Parramatta Riverside theatre between July 22 and 26 .
Most of us have been camping at least once in our lives, vulnerable to erratic weather and ghoulish nocturnal animals.
Gary Baxter’s new play, CAMP, which opened at the Ensemble Theatre last night, delves boldly into the despair, disunity and desperation of a group of friends eager to unwind in an over-popular and noisy camping site.
We meet the argumentative and stressed couple, Maggie and Jack, (played enthusiastically by Michelle Doake and David Terry), so disorganised, they have to borrow much of their tenting gear. Jack, however, manages to remember to bring copious amounts of alcohol.
In contrast, easy-going couple Cynthia (Karen Pang), breadwinner of the household, and droll and amusing Danny (Ben Ager), happy househusband, are mostly oblivious to the problems around them, bringing much needed peace amongst the trauma.
Both of these couples are accompanied by their children who remain offstage. This works well as we hear their occasional voiceovers.
Our third couple is the funny and compulsively neurotic Peter – “where’s my hammer!” – (played with some great comic moments by Jamie Oxenbould), and his professional housewife spouse, Julie (Jennifer Corren), striving to live with her husband’s timetable.
Not all three married couples are happy. Their marital problems are not extensively explored, but remain secondary to the farcical, almost slapstick genre of this play. The humour of turmoil in a supposed ideal holiday gone wrong. Some of the argument scenes could perhaps be pulled back in volume and intensity to reach their maximum effect.
People will identify with CAMP, the human error that plagues us, especially at critical times. Those who love or hate camping will remember the uplifting spirit of adventure and the downright annoying obstacles that occur in the outdoors – sharing the showers, the incongruent weather, the exposure to neighbourly noise – it’s all here in Baxter’s play, drawn from his own personal experience. The play is directed with great energy and verve by Mark Kilmurry.
The lighting by Matthew Marshall is superb, the warm sunsets, the glow from inside the campervan. So too is the set design by Anna Gardiner, very Australian landscape colours and props, which lend themselves to such a recognisably Australian play.
The appropriate choice of music, from modern to bombastic, was well orchestrated by Daryl Wallis.
Gary Baxter’s CAMP runs at The Ensemble Theatre from Thursday September 26th to Saturday October 26th.