All posts by David Kary

David Kary completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts (BCA) at Wollongong University between 1990 and 1992 majoring in Arts Journalism and Theatre Studies. Since completing his degree in 1992 he has been writing continuously about the performing arts. He has contributed to a number of publications including Stage Whispers (16 years), The Messenger, South Sydney Bulletin, Tharunka, Sydney Observer, Latte Life Double Bay, and the Australian Jewish News. Since 2005, he has been the publisher and editor of the online Arts magazine Sydney Arts Guide:- http://www.sydneyartsguide.com.au/ He is a member of the Australian Journalists Association (AJA) of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts (AACTA), the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA), and is a member of the Helpmann Awards Voting Collegiate.

One Day Of The Year

The Sydney Theatre Company brought back Alan Seymour’s classic play ‘One Day Of The Year’ to the Wharf theatre.
Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Director Robyn Nevin helmed the production and brought together a strong cast for the production intent on proving the play which was first performed to much controversy in 1961 has lost none of its edge.
Everyone knows ‘The One Day Of The Year’ as that play about Anzac Day with a son calling his father on how he sees Anzac Day as just an excuse for a big piss-up. What makes Seymour’s play so good is that it is also about much more….
This is a play about Hughie just starting to come out of his familys’ shadow, and forge his own identity. He has never really questioned his parents’ authority before and struggles deeply with it.
If there is one emotion that typifies Hughie through the play it is angst! And this is the through-line of Nathaniel Dean’s performance.. Hughie’s choices are hard; should he be loyal to his parents, to his new girlfriend, follow his new cerebral, political approach or follow his heart. Indeed is he still a boy or a man?!
Some in Australia in the 1960’s would have viewed Australia as a classless society. Not Alan Seymour!
The working class Cook family just can’t handle Hughie’s new friend, Jan Castle. She’s a North Shore girl. What would she know about life in the Western Suburbs?! Whenever she’s in the house, the Cook’s are ill at ease.
The role of Jan Castle is a meaty role for an actress to play, and talented NIDA graduate Eloise Oxer takes up the challenge well. Oxer plays Jan as intense and cerebral and a touch insensitive and unconscious. In a revealing scene, she describes Mrs Cook as a bit working class before she realises the slip’ she has made.
In the 1960’s more kids were going to University hoping to give them more opportunities in life. Working class families like the Cook’s were wary of their kids going to university because they then found that they started to question everything.
Max Cullen’s infused his portrayal of Alf Cook with a kind of nobility. A hard living, gruff, bulldog of a man, he was still the father, that when push came to shove, insisted that Hughie continue at University, despite everything. He wanted his son to become more than a lift driver, which was his fate.
Kris McQaude’s role as Mrs Dot Cook was that of a peace broker in between making cups of teas. She was in that zone that all mothers dread, when sons grow up and feel its time to stand up to and square off with their Dads.
Ron Haddrick completed playing the cast, playing salt of the earth Wacka, a little oblivious to the family drama happening around him.

Love Child

The Stables theatre recently was privy to a special theatrical event with a mother and daughter performance of style featuring Belinda Giblin and her daughter Romy Bartz, fresh out of graduating from NIDA. They performed a season of Joanne Murray- Smith’s most well known play, ‘Love Child’, with Jennifer Hagen directing.

Murray-Smith’s play is a fierce one. Anna, an attractive, middle-aged professional woman consents to a meeting with a young woman, Billie, who claims to be her daughter who she gave up for adoption some twenty five years ago.

‘Love Child’ was an appropriate vehicle for the actresses to show their talents. The play gave mother and daughter the chance to let fly, and show their dramatic range in the intimate Stables space.
In the program notes director Hagan likened ‘Love Child’ to a boxing match with ‘two ill-matched contestants fighting it out-each determined to go the distance. There can be no decision either way until the bell sounds, signaling acceptance’.
It is a fitting metaphor. Romy’s Billie is the aggressor, trying to land as many blows. Belinda’s Anna is in the corner defending the blows, till she gets the opportunity to free herself.
Belinda plays Anna very cold to begin with, reminiscent of a mother like Mary Tyler Moore in ‘Ordinary People’. Her frostiness can’t last long under Billie’s continual barrage. Billie forces Anna to open up and take stock of her life and decisions.
Romy plays Billie with rage, empowered with the moral high ground, but then she has to take some backward steps.

Jennifer Hagan staged the contest well, helped by Tony Youlden’s lighting design, and Axel Bartz’s compact set.

King Lear

The Genesian Theatre Company made a good fist of The Bard’s greatest tragedy,‘King Lear’ in a recent production.

Under director and designer Gary Dooley it was quite a physical, intense production. The fight scenes, choreographed by Felicity Steel, were violent enough to have some of the young people in the audience gasping.

There was clearly a lot of effort put into the production with one of the most intricate set designs I’ve seen at the Genesians for a long time. The set included a pond and fountain. The lighting design by Eric Bicknell and Roger Gimblett added to the drama.

The performances were of a mixed quality with some stand-outs. It was a case of the men outdoing the women. Keith Potten gave a strong performances as Lear. Jason Murdoch was a confident, evil villain Edmund, Andrew Purches was a very animated, tall and gangly Fool. The finest performance came from Rohan Maloy in an energized, colourful performance in the double role of Edgar and Tom of Bedlam.

Inheritance

The Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Ínheritance’ has made it to Sydney, performing a season at the Sydney Opera House.
Raison uses the vehicle of a family reunion to create her drama. The Hamiltons and the Delaneys gather to celebrate the 80th birthday of long time matriarchs of the Malee district, twins Dibs Hamilton (Monica Maughan) and Girlie Delaney (Lois Ramsey). The children and grandchildren are returning to the family home, Annandale, which Dibs won ownership of many years ago through the toss of a coin. With Dibs’s husband Farley (Ronald Falk) on his last legs there’s competition amongst the two families as to how the property will be divided up if she decides to sell up.

With ‘Inheritance’ Raison has clearly set her sights on some targets which she polishes off efficiently. Raison hones in on the right wing elements in the country. There is no room to move for Nugget Hamilton, the Hamilton’s adopted Koori son, about whom rumors abound. On the other hand there’s plenty of room for right wing extremist Ashleigh Delaney to form her own successful political party. Geraldine Turner gives a charismatic, broadly comic performance as Delaney, a take-off of Pauline Hanson.
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I don’t know whether Raison was in some way inspired by the classic play, ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, but there was a certain insidious, even evil quality about the two matriarchs. The scene near the close where the twins gathered to decide how the sale of the property will be divvied up, sent chills up my spine

Howard Katz

‘Howard Katz’ is the second play by British playwright Patrick Marber that the Sydney Theatre Company has produced, following on the success of its production of the bitingly contemporary ‘Closer’. This Sydney Theatre Company production was directed by Michael Kantor.

Howard Katz is a world weary showbiz agent who represents the ‘flotsam and jetsam’ nobody wants, a confused Jewish person who is questioning his faith- and is extremely funny and rude.
Katz is hit for six by a mid life crisis. He leaves his family and is coerced into taking time off from his job. With his life spiralling into chaos, Howard ends up on a park bench contemplating suicide.

Billie Brown, best known in Sydney for his performance as Oscar Wilde in Belvoir Street’s ‘Judas Kiss’,played the lead, coming in at the eleventh hour after Gary McDonald bowed out. took over the role from Gary McDonald He delivered a strong performance,and was well supported by a strong cast including Vanessa Downing, Kirstie Hutton and Frank Whitten.

This was a bleak night in the theatre. It was tough watching this pugnacious man fall deeper and deeper into the great chasm.

Chicks will dig you

There was no agonizing for some deeper theme in the Silver Productions presentation of Toby Schmitz’s new play ‘Chicks will dig you’. This was just good fun entertainment for the younger set.

Schmitz’s main character Jasper is single and out to find some women. His best friend and smooth talking womanizer Sebastian puts him on to the latest pick-up guide, ‘The Hunt’ and its guru, the charismatic Chase.The play sees Jasper making his moves on a variety of women with the dominating Chase forever in his shadow, trying to coach and cajole him.

The production values were basic with a simple set design and some use of a video screen showing Chase espousing some of his philosophies.

The script was a springboard for some good acting roles. Josh Lawson impressed in the leading role of the unconfident, klutzy Jasper. Drayton Morley reveled in the role of the conceited, egotistical, dogmatic Chase. Ewen Leslie played Jasper’s smooth talking friend, Sebastian.
Four young actresses, Lauren Steenholdt, Natasha Beaumont, Larissa Rate and Natasha Beaumont, had the minor roles of playing the unfortunate objects of Jasper’s affections.

Cavalcaders

Billy Roche’s ‘The Cavalcaders’ looks at the lives and loves of four likely lads in contemporary Ireland.-
Terry (Patrick Dickson) Rory (John O’Hare), Ted (Sean O’Shea) and Josie (Danny Adcock) work in an old fashioned cobbler’s store. By day they mend shoes, by night they are the cavalcaders, stars of the local charity circuit.
Two local women, Breda (Jeanette Cronin), an ex of Terry’s and Nuala (Susan Prior), Terry’s current girlfriend, are regular visitors to the store.

‘The Cavalcaders’ was a deceptive piece of entertainment. For the first while I thought this was going to be a comfortable nights’ entertainment. Some Irish lads sitting around, sharing plenty of anecdotes, doing some folksy stuff, and even breaking into some song and dance. Good fireside entertainment.

Playwright Roche’s intentions were more than folksy. ‘The Cavalcaders’ also featured a tragic love story between Terry and Nuala. Terry came across as an emotionally crippled man. Hurt and betrayed in love when he was young Terry never lets any woman get close to him. With Patrick Dickson’s portrayal Terry is a character full of charm on the outside, but thorny once you get to know him.

Contrasted with Terry is Nuala, who wears her heart on her sleeve. A pretty, vivacious young woman she wants Terry or nothing. When Terry rejects her, she doesn’t have the emotional maturity to handle it. Susan Prior plays Nuala with her outer shell full of sensuality and bravado yet her inner core as thin as tissue paper.

Birthrights

David Williamson’s new play‘Birthrights’ played a season at the Playhouse at the Sydney Opera House, as part of the Ensemble’s subscription season.

Australia’s leading playwright. Williamson’s plays are always worth looking at. When he’s on fire there are few more incisive playwrights. Williamson always has a meaty issue to tackle. With ‘Birthrights’ Williamson takes on the issue of women’s fertility and its consequences. Young sophisticate Claudia makes a decision that will dramatically turn her life around. Claudia’s older sister Helen is devastated when she is told that she will never be able to have a baby. Her marriage to Mark is on the rocks.

Claudia decides to take action to help her older sister. She chooses surrogacy- and has her brother in laws child via artificial insemination and then immediately hands her daughter Kelly to her sister for adoption.

Claudia’s decision ends up biting her…when she and her partner Martin later find out that they can’t have a baby, and Kelly becomes the only child that she will ever have.

I have to say that I did not rate this play as one of Williamson’s best. The issues were certainly there. There are few more heart rending issues than a woman who has problems conceiving, together with the whole issue of adoption.

A Williamson quote for the play has good relevance:-‘The clash of intellect and our emotion, our sense of fairness and our capacity for bastadry, are at the heart of all drama. It’s what makes life difficult. It’s what makes us human’. In ‘Birthrights, Claudia’s battle in the play turns out to be between wanting her own needs met, and maintaining her own sense of fairness.

My problem with ‘Birthrights’ is that it never really connected on a gut level. I never really went under its spell!

The Ensemble production directed by Sandra Bates was faithful enough. Michelle Doake as Claudia as always bestrode the stage effortlessly and confidently. Katherine Jones was strong as Helen’s screwed up daughter Kelly. Andrew Doyle was effective as Helen’s wealthy, conservative, controlling husband, Mark.

Wonderland

What a depressing film! ‘Wonderland’, directed by James Cox, is about the life and times of American porn legend, John ‘The Wad’ Holmes.
The film looks at his ubiquitous life post his blue movie period when he was purported to have sex with some 20,000 women.

I didn’t find ‘Wonderland’ engaging. Holmes was basically a bland character who fell into a nasty crowd and reveled in its seedy world.
I guess Holmes is owed his own bio-pic as a result of his involvement in the gruesome murders of four people in Wonderland Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. His involvement in the murders gave him even more notoriety. A homicide detective investigating the crime at the time described the murder spree as on the same gruesome scale as the Manson/Tate murders of the 1960’s.

‘Wonderland’ was shot in a quasi documentary style. It unearths that, as a result of volcanic rage Holmes and another crime figure Eddie, were responsible for the murders.
In a reflection of the Los Angeles criminal justice scene, both the main protagonists were acquitted of the murder charges at their trial. Whereas Eddie is still alive and well, Holmes has since passed away from related AIDS illness.
The performances were satisfying including Val Klimer as Holmes and Lisa Kudrow as his long suffering girlfriend.
I found ‘Wonderland, for its dark biographical genre, unremarkable cinema. Maybe this had something to do with John Holmes being a pretty unremarkable person apart from his amazing tool!

Spanish Apartment

If you want to see a film that makes you feel young again, then the French film The Spanish Apartment should do the trick.
It was so easy to relate to the personality and adventures of young French student Xavier who decides that it’s time for a change. He leaves his family, and his long time and aggrieved girlfriend behind, and heads to Barcelona for a year.
After his mother’s arrangement in Barcelona, fails to materialize, Xavier takes up a flat-share, sharing an apartment with people from six different countries.

What an eventful year ensues. Xavier has an affair with a married woman, bored by her recent marriage to a career obsessed man. He quickly adjusts to the over stimulation in his home life, and loves his tiny, poster filled bedroom.
Xavier even learns some new skills such as fending off the grumpy landlord, when he makes an unexpected visit.
On happier occasions, together with his flatmates, he paints the town red.
The year abroad also has its growing up pains. His girlfriend visits him, and the feelings between them are no longer the same. When he finally does go home, it will be something he will have to finally resolve.

There was a hint towards the films’ end that this film was autobiographical in nature. If so, writer/director Cedric Klapisch has created a warm and immensely entertaining memoir to his younger years.
With such a large cast the performances were a little varied. Romain Duris was an elegant and confident lead, the pick of his flatmates was a fetching performance by Kelly Reilly as the lone Englishwoman, Wendy, the default head of the household.
The Spanish Apartment has some truly funny scenes that will fondly stay in the memory.

Summing up, this was an immensely likable film, and one that does bring back that exciting period in life, when one breaks out on one’s for the first time, and gets to sow some of those wild oats.

Something’s Got to Give

It’s pretty easy to work out what the filmmakers’ mission statement would have been for the new film ‘Something’s Gotta Give’. Make a damn good romantic comedy! I guess it helps when you’ve got two of the finest actors in the business, Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, to play the leading roles.
The scenario…how does one get two middle-aged people, who have skirted romance, find it.?
Diane Keaton plays Erica a middle aged and middle class, responsible and respectable playwright. She is busy with her career, her friends, and her grown up daughter. She doesn’t even turn her mind to romance.
Jack Nicholson plays Harry, a middle aged and well to do playboy. His life is governed by a paramount principle that he doesn’t date women who are over thirty years old. That is, he doesn’t want to get involved.
They meet when Diane’s daughter brings Jack home for a dirty weekend wrongly expecting mum not to be home. Jack stays past the weekend and when the daughter has to go away for a short time a chemistry develops between them.
Writer/director Nancy Meyers comes up with a big box of tricks before
Jack and Diane get together and live happily ever after.
She has Diane dreamily walk around naked in her bedroom when Jack embarrassingly walks in on her.
In a clever set-up to their romance she has Diane give Jack mouth to mouth after he collapses with a cardiac arrest in her daughters bedroom when they were about to get up to some hanky panky.
The inevitable time comes when the pressure becomes too much for Jack and he exits ‘stage left’. A crunch scene happens when Diane happens to be at the same restaurant as Jack and sees him dining with a young babe and storms off crying.
In Nancy’s bag of tricks there’s a brilliant set up and pay off. Early on Jack teases Diane about her turtleneck tops, inferring that they reveal her as an inhibited, repressed character.
Jack and Diane end up in the cot. Diane hasn’t had it for a while, and she gets all hot and bothered. In a well played out erotic scene, Diane asks Jack to get a pair of scissors and he cuts into Diane’s top right through the middle.
‘Something’s Gotta Give’ is not the kind of film that operates on any deep level. It is a well crafted tale of romance. The closest it gets to some deeper message is when Jack, after decades of weaving around any chance of his heart getting involved, has to go through some dramatic changes. Whenever things aren’t going too well with Diane he develops heart pains and gets rushed to hospital. In the end he gets the message from the hospital medic that nothing is actually wrong with his heart, it’s just his heart feeling things again!
And the verdict on ‘Something’s Gotta Give’… The filmmakers worked towards and achieved their mission statement. The film wasn’t great, memorable cinema, however it was good, old fashioned entertainment.

Love Actually

Richard Curtis’s film Love Actually, his previous films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral have been as scriptwriter, is a fine film.

Curtis stamps his mark on his film right from the beginning. He narrates the start of the film by sharing the sentiment that whenever he feels down he takes himself to Heathrow airport, and stands by the arrival gate. As he watches the people arriving, and the embraces, the humanity of these scenes inspire him to keep on going. (Perhaps we all need to have these airport moments!).

During Love Actually cupid’s arrow strikes the hearts of people from very different walks of society and circumstances…The British Prime Minister, with his ‘posse’ stringing along with him, knocks door to door in a working class suburb to track down the woman he loves.

An unlikely romance develops between two cynical blue movie stars who are busy putting together their latest bland movie.

A newspaper editor has a midlife crisis choosing between his long time wife and his spunky young secretary who has her eye on him.

There’s no denying that Love Actually is a schmaltzy kind of film but thankfully it is not all Hollywood. Not every storyline has a happy ending! Love doesn’t always win the day, and the effected characters do take it on the chin!

‘Love Actually’ was a great vehicle for its fine cast of actors. The cast were given so many wonderful scenes to flex their talents. And they do so with great style. Just watching the cast make their moves was much of the pleasure. And what a talented cast including; Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney. Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson.

My verdict…’Love Actually’ was one of those films that gets you in the heart like a delicate song.

Goodbye, Lenin

The drive to protect a loved one from a difficult reality is a basic and very human one.
Writer/director Wolfgang Becker has used this basic impulse as the springboard to create his quirky, uninhibited and entertaining film, ‘Goodbye, Lenin’.

In ‘Goodbye, Lenin’ a young East Berliner Alex takes on the protector’s role. His mum had a heart attack and has woken up after being in a coma for nine months. Whilst his mother, Christiane, has been asleep dramatic changes have taken place in the city. The Berlin Wall has collapsed and communism has fallen. Alex does not believe that his mother, an ardent communist, would be able to cope with the news.

What does Alex do?! He puts his mother up in a room in his house, and then does everything in his power to keep the world the same as she knew it.

Director Becker squeezes every plot angle out of this scenario. Alex does everything to hold up the illusion. He buys foods that have been imported and then wraps them in old communist produced labels. Alex arranges some of his mother’s old friends to visit and recite old songs. A mate of his produces fabricated socialist news bulletins for his mother to watch on television.

‘Goodbye, Lenin’ works on many different thematic levels. Here are just a few descriptions..…A rich comedy in the bizarre solutions Alex comes up with…A touching love story between a mother and his devoted son….One man’s desperate attempt to salvage the past.

This was a very political film. ‘Goodbye, Lenin’ showed East Germans having great difficulty coping with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and unappreciative of the freedom and opportunities that had become available. After all, Alex did spin the whooper to his mother that the changes his mother was seeing were the result of the German Democratic Republic offering political asylum to those fed up with capitalism. Quite a reversal!

Well directed by Wolfgang Becker and with good performances by the cast headed by Alexander Kerner as Daniel Bruhl, Goodbye, Lenin was a treat!

CAPTURING THE FRIEDMAN’S

The American documentary ‘Çapturing the Friedman’s’ was, in its own way, a frightening experience. How to describe it?! It’s a documentary that hones in on a middle-upper class family in Long Island, New York, and provides a startling portrait.

A buzz phrase in pop psychology is the notion of dysfunctional families. Director Andrew Janecki’s portrait of the Friedman family is of extreme dysfunction.The Friedman family home is raided by the police, and father, respected and award winning school teacher Arnold Friedman and youngest son, Jess, are handcuffed and led into custody, with television cameras filming the event. Arnold and Jess Friedman are charged with hundreds of pedophile offences.

Janecki’s film captures the Friedman family as the whole familys world unravels. There is nothing remotely comfortable about this documentary. It involves more than cerebrally and detachedly viewing newsreel footage and interviews with different people involved.

The Friedman family, and especially patriarch Arnold, loved making home movies. The family gave Janecki access to all their videos. The stunning thing is that the family continued to keep the camera rolling at the time of the arrest, and for many years after. The audience sees the family from the inside out. It makes the documentary a lot rawer.

I saw ‘Capturing the Friedman’s a few weeks ago, and I can’t shake it. There are moments and images that stick! Go see, and you’ll know what I mean.
Be haunted. I was, above all, by the face of Arnold Friedman. He looked like such a typical, ordinary man. He has such an ordinary look, and yet he is responsible for so much suffering.

A HEART ELSEWHERE

The new Italian film A Heart Elsewhere was a fine, delicate film, written and directed by Pupi Avati.

Avati has charted a poignant journey for his main character, Nello Balocchi. Nello’s wealthy family is desperate to see him hitched. He is shy and plain looking and his ambitious father want to see him wed and hopefully produce a heir for the family’s successful business, a Papal tailor’s shop in Rome. Nello is sent away from the family’s nest to take up a teaching post in Bologna in the hope that he’ll find someone.

It was easy to get inside Nello’s journey. There were so many landmarks …His battle with his madly possessive and condescending family, his terrible shyness and physical awkwardness, his first, intense, deeply fraught love affair with a beautiful, young blind woman, Angela.

The performances were finely tuned. Neri Marcore portrayed Nello as a soft voiced, intellectual, deeply sympathetic young man. Spanish model Vanessa Incontrada played Angela, the object of his affections. Incontrada’s performance was well realised, portraying as a willful, self centred, vain young woman who also had to contend with a dominating parent.

Avati’s film rounds off elegantly in a heart felt story that has been told with fine craft.

(c) David Kary

Bookkeeper

Sidetracks’s Don Mamouney and Carlos Gomez’s revived their production of ‘The Bookkeeper’ for this year’s Carnivale. ‘The Bookkeeper’is a dramatization of the life and times of enigmatic 20th Century writer Portugese writer Fernando Pessoa.
When Pessoa died in 1935 he had left a trunk containing some 25,426 items,.a huge collection of poems, fragments, plays and journals, variously typed or scrawled in three languages in notebooks, scraps of paper, serviettes, the back of envelopes and even used envelopes.
Pessoa led a classic double life. In the daytime he led a dull, conservative life as a bookkeeper in a busy office, at night in his flat he let his imagination run wild at his writing desk.

‘The Bookkeeper’ was directed with plenty of vigour by Carlos Gomes. The set was simple with the main part of the set comprising the office, and then a little to the right, his little flat.
The cast gave good, energetic performances. Arky Michael played the energized Pessoa, and the rest of the cast, Adam Hatzimanolis, Georgina Naidu and Silvia Ofria, were his work colleagues who played a large part in his dreams.

‘SKYLIGHT’ AT THE NEW

Part of the New Theatre’s New Directions program, Alex Broun’s production of David Hare’s ‘Skylight’ was a memorable night at the theatre.

Through the eyes of the main character Kyra we are taken into the dark but fascinating world of a very complex relationship.

Kyra is busy getting on with her mundane but bearable suburban life when she is visited by her former lover, Tom, along with his grown-up son, Edward. We find out that Kyra was a housemaid at Tom’s marital home when Tom and her fell in love and Tom had a passionate affair behind his wife’s back. When his wife finally finds out, she breaks up their marriage.

Kyra and Tom have very different natures. Kyra’s story is that she is working class and has a very giving story. Tom’s story us that he is very upper class and arrogant.

Alex Broun’s direction was exemplary, and the cast, Jacinta John, Beejan Olfat, and Laurence Coy, performed well.

(c) David Kary

8th January, 2005

Club

David Williamson’s ‘The Club’, first performed in 1977, has still got what it takes and is very entertaining. The Sydney Theatre Company’s revival of ‘The Club’, directed by Bruce Myles, was an accomplished and highly successful one.

The production was marked by some strong performances. John Wood reprised his previous performance as Jock, the former star player with a mountainous ego and lack of sensitivity.
Paul Goddard played the Club’s shrewd administrator. Steve Bisley, a regular performer on the Sydney theatre scene, was superb as the salt of earth coach, devoted to his players, and being seriously undermined by management. Jeremy Sims was the cantankerous Club President warring with Laurie. Conrad Coleby had the plum role of crash new recruit Geoff who was a regular under-performer. The role reminded one of the bratty tennis player in Nick Enrights ‘Daylight Saving’.

Together, Conrad Coleby and John Wood, share the best scene in ‘The Club’ when Geoff tries to convince Jock that he is the ultimate deviant.

Perhaps the biggest star of ‘The Club’ was Laurence Eastwood’s awesome set design. It drew immediate gasps from the audience. It contained the two main sets of Williamson’s play, the club’s executive room, and the club’s home ground, replete with spectator seating.

Great Divide

Tony Laumberg’s new play ‘The Great Divide’ was good, light entertainment.

The great divide was between a WASP couple and a Greek couple fighting over their own territories in St Ives. As soon as the Greek couple move in to the neighbourhood a merciless antagonism takes place. The Greek couple, Archimedes and Athena want to pull down the neighbourhood fence and put up a huge brick wall.

The plays’ strengths lay in the playwright’s considerable wit, and well defined performances. The actors all had their characters down pat…..Mark McCann as the uptight North Shore-ite solicitor WASP. Tricia Youlden impressed as his very drunk, awesomely flirtatious wife, Margaret, Manny Katz was good as the obsessive State Rail worker, Archimedes Christi, obsessed with timetable information, and Tula Tzoras she his devoted, assertive wife Athena. Peter Demlakian rounded out the cast as the set upon Greeh magistrate, Mr Poulos.

The sound design was good with suitable Greek instrumental music. Tony Youlden’s set design was basic but did the trick. Richard Cotter’s direction kept the action moving rapidly.

I will remember ‘The Great Divide’ for the playwrights’ quirky way of incorporating a game of Twister to finally resolve the neighbourhood dispute.

Nocturne

The B Sharp production of American playwright Adam Rapp’s ‘Nocturne’ has been one of my theatrical highlights of the year.
The play features a scenario that theatre regularly transverses. It captures a soul journeying back from the edge of darkness to some sort of stasis.
In ‘Nocturne’ the soul is a young man who experiences a terrible tragedy. Inebriated after a drunken University party he makes it all the way home in his car only to run over his sister in the driveway of his family home.
Rapp presents the tortured journey as a one hander with young Perth performer Gibson Nolte playing the role.
The drama starts with the young man, with his back to the audience, writing on the back theatre wall, ‘on such and such a day I ran over and killed my sister’. This confronting beginning sets the tone for night.
Production elements were strong with good lighting effects and appropriate sound design. Nolte’s performance is strong, intimate and sustained
‘Nocturne’ had some strong moments. The guy has set himself up in a big city flat, determined to live an independent life.
The largest feature of his apartment is the huge number of books, intellectual in nature, that he has accumulated. His passion in life is reading.
His life seems to pick up when he befriends a woman at a café, and it seems that he will have some romance in his life again. He beds the lady down and finds he is impotent. He can’t bear to see her again.
He comes home, and in one of the play’s most explosive moments he kicks all the books onto the floor from their makeshift shelves. One can see what he is feeling, what do books matter, what does anything matter, when life is so painful?!
There’s another moment, kind of encapsulating this man’s life, when he talks about how he can’t play the piano anymore. He had ambitions of being a concert pianist and would train for many hours. Now he can’t touch the piano. It’s too sorrowful. The sounds emanating from the piano go right through him.
Like a piano, ‘Nocturne’ is the kind of play that cuts through one’s defences, and provides a powerful dramatic experience.

Kimberly Akimbo

The new play at the Ensemble Theatre was the American play ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ by Los Angeles playwright David Lindsay-Abaire.
The play tells the story of sixteen year old Kimberly (Melissa Jaffer) who is a 16 year old teenager who faces two big battles. She suffers from a nasty disease where her body has aged severely and quickly, and is certain to cut years off her life. She also suffered from having to interact with a very dysfunctional family,
She has to cope with a heavily pregnant volatile mother, Pattie (Dina Panozza), a rarely sober father, Buddy (Rupert Cox), and a homeless scam-artist Aunt Debra (Anni Finsterer).
On top of this Kimberly has to bear the pangs of first love/crush with a school friend Jeff (Ben Mortley).

My take on ‘Kimberly Akimbo’…this was a screwball comedy with the emphasis being on its oddball, screwball characters.
My gut reaction at that crucial time when the lights went down, signaling the play’s finish, was that this play was a winner.
The play had a delicious recipe. It featured such a strong, touching journey for its main character as well as it generally being great fun.
Opening night went down a treat. This Australian premiere production was a strong one. Kate Gaul directed the production confidently. This was such a strong cast with everyone making their contribution.
Veteran actress Melissa Jaffer was excellent in the main role. She meets the challenge well, having to tap into being so emotionally young but with a body so aged.
Dino Panozzo was a stand-out as Kimberly’s outrageous mother. She is such a volatile, extroverted actress and this is a perfect role for her.
Rupert Cox gave a strong comic performance as her father, a caring father but one who says the most inappropriate things.
Anni Finsterer had a good energy as her crazy, frenetic Auntie. Ben Mortley was fine as her nerdy love interest, Jeff.

How did I rate Kimberly Akimbo compared to like minded plays? Highly. I loved its quirkiness and emotional honesty.

Copenhagen

This counts as the second time that I have seen the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Michael Frayn’s play ‘Copenhagen’, and it still rates as a knockout.

Frayn’s play hangs on a meeting that is purported to have taken place in Nazi Germany between two of the world’s most brilliant physicists, German physicist Werner Heisenberg and the Dutch, half Jewish physicist, Niels Bohr.

The significance of their discussions centered on them coming up with the final parts of their formula for the world’s first atomic bomb. In hindsight it was more than a little fortuitous for our civilization that the two scientists did not come up with the solution before the end of the Second World War.

The features of this play were:-the quality of Frayn’s writing; the dialogue was as sharp as a tack, the structure was exquisite. A quality of the writing was that Frayn did not take sides politically. There was as much sympathy and understanding of the German people’s plight as there was for the allies.

The production itself was first class. British director Michael Blakemore’s direction was strong. I enjoyed how well orchestrated the characters were. The performances were exceptional. Robert Menzies was the stand-out as the passionate, extroverted Heisenberg. John Gaden had the less flashy role of the reflective, introverted Bohr. Jane Harders complemented the two male performances with a subtle, deft performance as Bohr’s wife, Margrette. Margrette came across as a soft person with however a steely strength underneath.

Summing up, ‘Copenhagen’ was a memorable night in the theatre and it stands as one of the Sydney Theatre Company’s flagship productions in the same way as the late Richard Wherrett’s production of ‘The Crucible’ was.

Why Kids?

One of Australia’s finest actors, Henri Szeps, performed his latest his latest play, ‘Why Kids’, at the Ensemble theatre. Szeps is one of the Ensemble’s favorite sons, being one of its early graduates, under the tutorage of the late Hayes Gordon.
‘Why Kids’ was a play that Szeps had work-shopped through various venues around the state. It follows up his previous autobiographical one man play- ‘I’m not a Dentist’.
With ‘I’m not a Dentist’ Szeps focused on his career, in ‘Why Kids’ Szeps concentrates on his other preoccupation, family life.

The plays’ recipe is a simple one, Szeps mixes his numerous anecdotes with musical breaks, with Szeps taking over the microphone and singing to taped music.
The verdict…well..I had mixed feelings.
I love Szeps as a performer. He is a great raconteur with an ability to reel an audience in with his warmth and charm. ‘Why Kids’ was always going to be a warm, entertaining night.
The stories are good stories. Undoubtedly he has had an interesting life. He had a tumultuous early childhood in war-torn Europe, starting life as an orphan in Switzerland. He grew up as a migrant in Australia, completed an engineering degree and then became smitten by the acting bug. The rest of the story kind of told itself.
Szeps revealed himself as something of a homespun philosopher. Interestingly he spoke about using his acting experiences to come up with the deeper truths in his life. One of the insights that Hayes Gordon taught his students was that what happened on stage was all about the characters making actions towards each other.
He spoke about this theatrical convention in the context of a real life crisis he had with his teenage son.
He spoke about how his son had, so to speak, turned off him. It deeply concerned Szeps, and he became very introspective. He said he found the answer when he looked at the actions that he had been making towards Amos that had been very negative and critical, and when he changed his actions to a more positive, giving note, his son came around for him.

Szeps’s musical interludes worked, well sort of… They successfully complemented the string of anecdotes. He has an average voice that worked ok. The song choices were pretty ordinary with standard ballads. At least, there was the great Michele Legrand tune ‘Windmills of your mind’ in there. And the songs did tie in with the narrative of the play, ending with the great song ‘What a wonderful world’.
Summing up, ‘Why Kids’ was by no means any work of art, and at times it was a little cloying, yet it was a warm, entertaining evening in the theatre.