All posts by Mark Pigott

A memorable part of Mark’s childhood, in Sydney in the sixties, was spent queuing up in George Street to watch the latest movies. Mark remains an avid cinema and theatre goer, and believe that the essentials of great drama remain the same in both ‘'genres'’. Mark’s other interests are photography, cricket and rugby. He is happy to discuss the finer points of swing bowling at any time.

BEGUILED

A scene from PACT theatre’s current production, BEGUILED

BEGUILED is described as “a performance installation experience” and at the start of the performance the artists invite the audience to accept the magic and essentially open themselves to possibilities. This indicates one should not expect conventional theatre and, within that construct, BEGUILED is entertaining and engaging.

There is no stage or audience seating, instead the audience is invited to enter the space and observe vignettes occurring in different components of the space. Not all audience members observe the same aspect at the same time. There are different rooms with different activities occurring simultaneously.

The lighting and soundscapes are beautiful and rich and innovative. Billowing tent like structures create different areas in the main space. Parts of the audience are shepherded through the areas divided by the illuminated cloth walls to view the different activities.

Engagement is the key to this piece. It is all about a response to the colours, sound and movement. At times there is an urge to touch the actors or parts of the set, such are the feelings evoked. After the opening scene in the foyer there is no dialogue, but the expressive faces of the actors stir up emotional responses as the various scenes unfold.

There is a disturbing scene in a beautifully illuminated & decorated stairwell in which a very distressed lady shakes & vocalises to the extent one was conflicted whether to offer assistance or to wonder about what was happening. Trying to understand what is happening is probably futile but one would be better served by letting go and just feeling the experience & emotion as it washes over you. One actor responds to a short video, another moves around inside a large box like structure unfolding & rearranging the structure and herself, and another goes through a series of keys hanging from the ceiling in an attempt to open a door.

The directors, Cat Jones and Julie Vulcan, have brought together designer, Lucy Thornett, lighting director, Emma Lockhart-Wilson and sound director Melissa Hunt in a production that appeals to the senses more than intellect. Generally theatre is about engaging the mind and from that engagement evoking an emotional response but with BEGUILED the appeal is directly to the senses. Some people would not see the point of this performance but others will be fully engaged with this alternative theatre experience.

The performers are Taryn Brine, Kate Brown, Madison Chippendale, Cameron Ellis, Sam Koh, Annabelle McMillan, Lucille Lehr, Tanya Thaweeskulchai, Emma White and Amber Wilcox. BEGUILED is a great opportunity for them to extend their craft.

BEGUILED opened on Thursday 24th November at the PACT centre for emerging artists, 107 Railway Pde, Erskineville and plays until Saturday 10th December, 2011.

© Mark Pigott

26th November, 2011

Tags: SYDNEY PLAY OF THE WEEK, BEGUILED, PACT theatre Erskineville, Cat Jones, Julie Vulcan, Lucy Thornett, Emma Lockhart-Wilson, Melissa Hunt, Taryn Brine, Kate Brown, Madison Chippendale, Cameron Ellis, Sam Koh, Annabelle McMillan, Lucille Lehr, Tanya Thaweeskulchai, Emma White, Amber Wilcox.

HEAVEN

Thomas Conroy, Geraldine Hakewill and Akos Armant who with Julia Billington star in HEAVEN

Kit Brookman has written a clever and entertaining play that is performed well by the young actors in the cast. Through the use of simple and minimal props a sense of intimacy is created with the characters who share a cathartic experience with their audience.

Angela Farnsworth, played by Geraldine Hakewill is a high school student, who has been run over by a baker’s van. The response to this tragic event is seen from the perspective of three classmates whose relationship with Angela was marked by friendship, ambivalence and hostility. Her classmates use a spiritualism book to make contact with Angela, both to assuage their guilt for how they treated her when she was alive and as a means to discover what the afterlife is like.

Much of the interest in this play centres on the relationships between the four characters. Elements of conflict, power plays, affection, lust, self-interest and duplicity are all conveyed and examined through Brookman’s rich dialogue.The bravado, insecurity, posturing and language of 16 year olds is well captured. Considering what a diverse & constantly changing demographic teenagers cover, it is a well met challenge to realistically portray these aspects.

Typical teenage personalities are well portrayed with subtlety, robustness and sensitivity. Stewart (Akos Armant) is a sportsman, a vandal and a bully. Armant portrays him as being full of bravado but also troubled by an array of insecurities.

Max is an intellectual, poor at sport and troubled by a guilty conscience. Thomas Conroy admirably performs this major role.

Sally (Julia Billington) like Max is an outsider. She is seen by others at school, including by Stewart, as a goth or an emo and as a threat. Sally rarely attends school and when she does, she only attends French, History and English classes. Billington portrays her as maturely confident about her place in the world but also yearning for friendship and understanding from her peers.

When Angela is brought back from the dead she rapidly loses the qualities and experiences that make people feel alive. While Angela’s ability to experience sensations, emotions and recall memories is waning, in other ways she has becomes much more alive. Angela’s response to her surroundings is more intense and full of wonder than her class mates, and she has a greater sense of agency (philisophically) and with this empowerment.

Initially, Geraldine Hakewill plays her with the detachedness, aloofness and naiveté, one could expect from the recently dead, but having the knowledge that her embodied experience will never again be the same, she carries out an act of retribution from a place of deep inner strength.

Through a clever script and admirable acting both the experience of being a teenager and the metaphysical possibilities of being a human (both alive and dead) are explored.

This current production played at the Old 505 Theatre, Surry Hills, an interesting space located on the 5th floor of an indistinct building which you enter through a non-descript door. You may need to buzz to enter. Once inside this building you enter a world of enthusiasm and possibilities. Walls are adorned with artwork and the stairs leading to the theatre display an intriguing collection of Polaroid snapshots. The old 505 Theatre itself is a small and intimate space with very friendly and welcoming staff.

I enjoyed and recommend HEAVEN. Kit Brookman’s HEAVEN opened a the Old 505 Theatre, Surry Hills, 505/342 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills on Wednesday 16th November and runs until Sunday 27th November, 2011. For more information please check the website- http://www.venue505.com. HEAVEN is playing as part of the current NovemberISM Writer’s Festival.

© Mark Pigott

20th November, 2011

Tags: Kit Brookman, HEAVEN, Writer’s Festival, NovemberISM Festival, Old 505 Theatre, Geraldine Hakewill, Julia Billington, Thomas Conroy, Akos Armant.

WOMEN, POWER AND CULTURE-NOW

A scene from DREAMING OF A KISS ON A PIER. Pic Bob Seary

There are six plays under the WOMEN, POWER & CULTURE-NOW banner.

DREAMING OF A KISS ON A PIER is written by Suzie Miller and directed by Alice Livingstone. This very funny play is the best written in the WOMEN, POWER & CULTURE season. In a clever role reversal five men meet for morning tea and discuss relationships, unsupportive wives, preparing school lunches and doing the school drop-off and the boorish behaviour of a group of women at the bar.

Alice Livingstone’s measured direction elicits convincing performances from the five actors; Wade Doolan as Andre, Radek Jonak as Cameron, Paul-William Mawhinney as Barney, Nick Curnow as David and Nadim Kobeissi as Eric. The men could easily have played caricatures of women but it is a more genuine experience than that, and very amusing.

I THINK THE INTERVIEW WENT WELL MUM is written by Van Badham and directed by Sama Ky Balson. It starts with the actors appearing from all corners of the theatre simultaneously spruiking facts about female oppression, discrimination and harassment.

This felt a bit like being lectured to, but the narrative then changes scenes to an all male theatre board discussing staging a theatrical production.. The pitch is made by a talking vagina that encounters resistance from the patriarchal club. The talking vagina and the inflatable woman, unsurprisingly, give us some humorous moments. This play raises important issues but a stronger focus on drama and the story would be more entertaining and better serve the cause.

RED RIDING HOOD is written by Maxine Mellor and directed by Carla Moore. It ostensibly tells the tale of a high school power struggle for School Captaincy between Julianne (Sonya Kerr) and Bevyn (Robert J Edwards), while reflecting on the political machinations of Julia Gillard & Kevin Rudd. This is brought to our attention by Julianne’s red hair and Bevyn’s reading THE ART OF WAR. Sonya Kerr’s enjoyable performance conveys deviousness and empathy, in her entertaining repartee with Bevyn.

EVE is written by Zoe Hogan and directed by Alice Livingstone. Poor Eve (Natalie Rees) has a lot against her. She has an exploitative boss (Peter McAllum) and the collective advice passed down to women over the ages, specifically in this case by Examiner (Cheryl Ward), is depressing. She is told, amongst other wretched advice, to be clever but not too clever. Her escape from this miserable situation will have to come from her inner strength.

COUNTRY MATTERS: A FRAGMENT is written, directed and performed by Danielle Maas. This is essentially a stand-up routine and contains lots of laugh. The Shakesperean reference in the title gives us a clue but who would have thought a disabled vagina could be the basis of a comedy routine. It is let down a little by Danielle’s delivery. Some phrases were rushed and unintelligible and some asides were inaudible. In a comedy club performed with a microphone these faults would be alleviated. It was a shame this minor fault detracted from a funny routine.

THE SEX ACT is written by Alana Valentine and directed by Augusta Supple. This play has several threads running through it and the actors playing multiple roles. A main theme concerns the historic passing of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. I liked Stephen Wilkinson’s portrayal of the pragmatic Bob Hawke, accepting he had to compromise to appease the religious lobby. Kate Skinner is adept as Doug Anthony’s wife and Susan Ryan.

THE SEX ACT addresses the dilemma for today’s younger women of supporting the feminist cause and the need to avoid succumbing to a victim mentality. Can one always act as an individual to cope in a discriminatory society and not rely on legislation to guide human behaviour?!

NOW plays at the New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown until Saturday, 5th November, 2011.

© Mark Pigott

30th October, 2011

WOMEN, POWER & CULTURE: THEN

A scene from Verity Laughton’s O JERICHO. Pic Bob Seary

A series of short plays, written & directed by women, are being presented at the NEW THEATRE in Newtown under the auspices of artistic director Louise Fischer.

They are presented as two separate collections: THEN and NOW.

There are five plays under the THEN banner:-

YOU AWAKE LOVE, written by Katie Pollock and directed by Annette Rowlinson, is set in the patriarchal society of the sixties and considers the impact of women joining the workforce, birth control, differing levels of enthusiasm for wife swapping and the gender imbalance in housekeeping.
At times it feels like being lectured to but overall it is an amusing and entertaining piece. One hopes the intrinsic argument of subjugation of women is being preached to the converted in inner city Sydney. Christine Greenough gives a fine performance as Mrs Smith, the initially downtrodden character that achieves growth by the end of the narrative.
The set, designed by Jessica Martin, features an upright double bed so that the actors remain standing and addressing the audience. This very practical device increases the audience’s feeling of involvement.

THE NIGHT WE LOST JENNY, written by Vanessa Bates and directed by Augusta Supple, is a captivating monologue. The realistic depiction of the group dynamics of young people making their first steps into an adult world is both poignant and humorous.
The characters described pretend to care about each other, but in truth it is a shallow level of care and substantially just posturing.
Jane Phegan delivers with authenticity, and charmingly dances the audiences back to our recent, but probably largely forgotten, time of growing up.

O JERICHO, written by Verity Laughton and directed by Louise Ficher, weaves together several story threads about an archaeology dig, conflict in the middle east, a backpacker tracing her roots, an Anglican bible scholar – there could be more stories contained in this play as it was hard to keep track. It was a cluttered and confusing piece that would work better as a full length play or movie rather than the quarter of an hour that was presented here.
There are many good performances in this play. Josipa Draisma as Ameera is one of the star performers, simmering with underlying emotional intensity and she sings beautifully. Shameer Birges as Joshua has a sublime voice.. Did I mention this short cluttered play also has time for a couple of brief songs? Samantha Roylance is suitably annoying as the pompous Dame Kathleen Kenyon.
The historical figure Dame Kathleen Kenyon was a courageous and remarkably innovative woman, but this is not sufficiently conveyed in the narrative.
Jennie Bazell as Vivienne Catleugh and Georgia Woodward as Lina both give excellent performances.

THE STOCKWOMAN, written by Kathryn Yuen & directed by Susannah Thompson, is a fleshed out version of the Ted Egan song, The Drover’s Boy. Richard Hilliar as The Drover and Thea Perkins as The Drover’s Boy give very strong performances as the central characters.
I initially thought Thea Perkins performance was uninspiring but as the play unfolded it became apparent that her weakness was the embodiment of the oppression of aboriginal women, and her performance was exactly what was required.
The physicality and the ocker characteristics of the stockman, Zach McKay, Tim Reuben & Robert Zavaszky, is well realised and very entertaining.

PLAY LIKE A GIRL, written by Gina Schien and directed by Ngaire O’Leary, is entertaining and well balanced. It delivers the message about the expected roles of women without being preachy. Jane Thomson, as older Kate, wisely presents what we all cringe about and lovingly reminisce about our younger selves. The younger Kate, played by Chloe Schwank, develops from an inarticulate innocent drummer to a more complex human being, through musical successes and some negative experiences that life throws in her path. This is a beautifully written piece that stays with you.

THEN plays at the New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown until Saturday, 5th November, 2011.

© Mark Pigott, 2011

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

The countdown is on in AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

Agatha Christie fans will be entertained by The Bump In Theatre Company production of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at the Zenith Theatre at Chatswood.

Set in a house on an island off the Devon coast, eight guests receive vague invitations to the isolated house and after arriving are accused by an unseen voice of causing the deaths of various people.

In apparent retribution the guests and the staff, a butler and a housekeeper that make up the ten of the title, start to be murdered, one by one. Tension increases as the reducing number of suspects realise that one of them is the murderer. The second half of the play is more frenetic and there are touches of humour and melodrama that are woven into the narrative.

The director, Adrian Barnes, has caught a lot of the style of the era with exaggerated delivery of dialogue reminiscent of plays & movies of between the wars England. The set design complements the space and with the background sound of the sea creates the feeling of a luxury villa by the sea. The actors capture enough of the English accents to convince the audience we are watching events in 1930s England.

Sandy Velini, as Miss Emily Brent, a Christian tee-totaller who dislikes young people, gives a captivating and stern performance. Shannon Ashlyn, Mrs Owen’s young secretary, gives a wide ranging performance, starting flirtatiously but she soon displays fear and despair as an atmosphere of terror descends on the luxury villa. Christopher Sellers, as the dashing young Captain and romantic interest, has fun entertaining the audience in one of the play’s major roles.

For the many fans of English detective dramas such as MIDSOMER MURDERS, MISS MARPLE, HETTY WAINTHROP and BERGERAC, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE will be an entertaining evening at the theatre.

The cast is Ali Aitken, Shannon Ashlyn, Peter Bishop, Anthony Campanella, James Collette, Andrew Flanagan, Errol Henderson, Bec Martin, Tim Page, Christopher Sellers, Peter Talmacs & Sandy Velini.

Adrian Barnes’s production of Agathie Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE opened at the Zenith theatre, corner McIntosh and Railway streets, Chatswood on Thursday 20th October and plays until Saturday 29th October, 2011.

© Mark Pigott

27th October, 2011

Tags: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, Agathie Christie, Bump In Theatre Company, Zenith theatre, Chatswood, Ali Aitken, Shannon Ashlyn, Peter Bishop, Anthony Campanella, James Collette, Andrew Flanagan, Errol Henderson, Bec Martin,Tim Page, Christopher Sellers, Peter Talmacs, Sandy Velini.

THE HUNTER

A scene from Daniel Nettheim’s new film THE HUNTER

William Dafoe stars in a moody, atmospheric film about a search for the Tasmanian Tiger. There have been recent sightings and an evil multinational wants to find the tiger first. Martin David (Dafoe) is told to bring back hair, blood or organs.

He travels to the sublimely filmed Tasmanian wilderness and encounters hostility from the logging community, who assume he is an environmentalist, from what they presumably heard on the grapevine.

Sam Neill and Frances O’Connor play the other main characters with naturalness and empathy. The children, played by Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock, give wonderful performances. We are drawn into their lives of precociousness and suffering. They have been given a lovely script and deft direction by Daniel Nettheim.

Several of the characters have shades of good and evil, which gives the film unexpected richness.

Events in the wilderness bring tension to this beautifully understated film. I recommend it highy.

©Mark Pigott

29th September, 2011
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