All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

THE BED PARTY: EXTENDED SEASON

Truth in advertising, the set of THE BED PARTY is a bloody big bed, big enough for a quintet of quilt comrades to congregate for a party of polemics and queer politic.

It’s the boudoir of Jasmine and Finn, but it becomes the platform for their flatmates to trundle out their troubles and woes.

First to claim the cot, in a coitus interruptus moment, is Tara, equivocal and prevaricating in her sexuality, insisting she is bi, but bemoaning the fact that blokes abuse her. She is anxious to debrief about her recent dud date, which incenses Jasmine to the point of furore.

Into the fray comes Bri, former flatmate, who has just fled her new lover, Kelly, over issues of procreation. Kelly craves parenthood which is anathema to Bri. Continue reading THE BED PARTY: EXTENDED SEASON

SYDNEY CZECH & SLOVAK FILM FESTIVAL

Dendy Cinemas are once again hosting the Sydney Czech and Slovak Film Festival.

The festival begins on March 27 with the opening night film Jan Palach at Dendy’s Opera Quays. The evening will commence with a cocktail on arrival and the opening night party after the film. The rest of the festival will then take place at Dendy’s Newtown venue
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This year’s festival features an impressive line up of films from Slovak and Czech Republic cinema. Highlights include, Jan Palach, the 2018 Czech Film Critics Winner, a reenactment of the last months in the life of a history student who ultimately became a part of history himself.

David Ondříček’s DUKLA 61, one of the most remarkable Czech TV productions of recent times examines the largest Czech mining disaster of the Communist era through the eyes of a man working at the mine along with his son.

In contrast to these big, epic presentations, there are a number of little gems, including BEAR WITH US and FREEDOM.

A sort of Czech Chekov, BEAR WITH US, is a charmer, a chimera Cherry Orchard, of family reunion and fallout, and a touch of the absurd. Continue reading SYDNEY CZECH & SLOVAK FILM FESTIVAL

GROUNDED: MAJOR MARVEL

Captain Marvel is rocketing up the multiplex box-office at the moment, but, for my money, there’s a major marvel playing at Riverside Theatres at the moment that beats the kapow! out of that CGI blockbuster.

Like Captain Marvel, GROUNDED features a female Air Force top gun, a fighter pilot, highly trained, with an abiding love for the big blue, the limitless sky, the ecstatic freedom of flight.
She’s smart and sassy and has attained the rank of Major, a veteran of the Desert Wars.

Then, drinking with her mostly male aviator cohort in a bar, she is approached and wooed by a fella that fells her with one sweet swoon and a wild weekend in the sack.

Bliss blooms in her womb. She wants the child and so does the man. The only drawback to the pregnancy is that she will be grounded.

She finds being wife and mother wonderful, but yearns to take to the skies again, resume her career.
Husband is supportive, so much so that when she is stationed in Las Vegas, he relocates, finds a job, sets up the domestic majestic.

Her home life is grounded, in the best sense of the word – secure, loving, supportive – but her career is grounded in the worst sense of the word – curbed, static, stalled. Instead of taking to the air she is given a chair, an assignment to pilot drones. Out of the blue, and into the grey. Literally and metaphorically.

From Air Force to Chair Force, she sits in one desert while waging remote control war in another.
This assignment changes the whole dynamic of her vocation, taking her from confident and committed combatant, an actor in kill or be killed confrontation, to desk chair assassin anonymity, morally and physically disarming her.

George Brant’s script is grounded in complexity, compassion, empathy and exhilaration. If the play was a plane it would be admired for its grace and agility and in the National Theatre of Parramatta’s production it is piloted by an ace actor.

Emily Havea gives a soaring performance, aerodynamically adroit in physical and vocal presence, knowing when to steep and bank, go full throttle, and glide. Quite simply, she flies.

Director Dom Mercer expertly traffic controls the production navigating plenty of air space for his performer and marshalling the exceptional talents of John Hindmarsh, set and costume designer,
Alexander Berlage, lighting design, and sound designer Mary Rapp.

GROUNDED delivers thrilling theatre, from take off to landing. A major marvel. Come fly!

THE DIVORCE PARTY: A MINI INVERTED DIMBOOLA?

How many NIDA graduates from 2017 does it take to put on a play?

In the case of THE DIVORCE PARTY, the answer is three.

Set in a dingy forecourt of a Chinese restaurant, four disparate people commingle whilst taking a break from the divorce party being celebrated inside the restaurant. Bashed and bleeding, Gene is the first to arrive, coming through a gap in the fence into the designated smoking area.

He is soon joined by Dora, entering from the more conventional way of the premises’ door. She is talkative and inquisitive, he is quiet and reticent. Their banter is kept at a canter by the gregarious, extroverted Dora, until the emergence of Frank, official photographer of the event.

We learn that Frank’s usual gig is official photographer of funerals, but that divorce is kind of like the death of a marriage, so his present assignment is not much of a departure from filming the dear departed. Continue reading THE DIVORCE PARTY: A MINI INVERTED DIMBOOLA?

SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER: THE END IS NIGHY

A
L
W
A
Y
SOMETIMES

NEVER is a triple word score of a film, literate, eloquent, elegant and laugh out loud sartorial mix of syntax, vocabulary and word play.

Bill Nighy plays Alan, a stylish tailor and Scrabble hustler. He has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son, Michael, who stormed out tile-less after a game of Scrabble.
Frank Cottrell Boyce’s elegiac screenplay is an idiosyncratic retelling of the The Prodigal Son parable. Michael has disappeared, but it is younger son, Peter, who has been invisible to Alan in the years since Michael’s absence.

Absence, it’s been said, makes the heart grow fonder, and when Alan recruits Peter as possee in pursuit of possibly clearing up the mystery of Michael’s disappearance, the absence makes for a rebonding between remaining son and father.

Words worthiness has seldom been more worthwhile or mirth while, simultaneously whimsical and steadfast than in SOMETIMES, NEVER, ALWAYS, with ideas and emotions so exquisitely expressed.

And the script is beautifully expressed by a troupe of peerless performers – Bill Nighy restraining some of his trademark ticks and tricks to play the tailor and logophile, Alan, scrabbling at any semblance of hope of finding the missing Michael. It’s a finely measured performance, a bespoke characterisation of focus and fancy as he follows the tiniest threads that may fashion a finish to his quest while relishing stitching up Scrabble players with obscure lexicon.

Sam Riley is perfect as the perplexed Peter, puzzled not only by his father’s pursuit of pinpointing the prodigal, but by the changing landscape of his own family relationship with wife, Sue, played with sublime comic timing by Alice Lowe, and son, Jack, Louis Healy, making an impressive feature film debut.

Jenny Agutter and Tim McInnerny play a couple, Margaret and Arthur, who have lost their son, a simpatico acquaintance evolves, culminating in Alan measuring Margaret’s inside leg.

The articulate and eloquent script is augmented by an arresting visual style by director Carl Hunter and his cinematographer, Richard Stoddard. The composition of father and son in the frame, the use of back projection and lo fi animation emphasise the emotional time capsule the pair are trapped in.

Tim Dickel’s production design and Lance Milligan’s costume design beautifully enhance the world created in the screenplay, as does the score by Edwyn Collins.

Sometimes screwball, never boring and always captivating, SOMETIMES, NEVER, ALWAYS is an absolutely unmissable cinema experience

RUSSIAN TRANSPORT: A HUMAN TRAFFIC JAM

Imagine Brighton Beach Memoirs evolving into Little Odessa, and you have something of the tone of Erika Sheffer’s RUSSIAN TRANSPORT.

The play begins with established Russian Jewish emigre couple to Brooklyn, New York, Diana and Misha, welcoming Diana’s brother, Boris, newly arrived from Russia.

The couple’s son, Alex, and daughter, Mira, are a little put out by this latest addition to the household, especially Mira who has to give up her bedroom for her uncle. It’s the first inkling of the toxic male supremacy that hangs over the old culture, perpetrated in this instance by the house matriarch, Diana.

Sheffer channels Neil Simon with a first scene of bon mots and barbed ripostes as teenage son and daughter do sibling sniping and parental stoushing before the arrival of the too attractive to be avuncular Boris.

Diana is delighted to have her little brother under her roof, Misha breaks out the vodka, the kids think he’s an imposition.
Out of the mouths of babes.

What transpires is far uglier than anything Neil Simon put on stage and reminds one of one of the many great scenes in The Godfather II, where a Senator knows of Michael Corleone’s criminal empire and wants a payoff in exchange for letting the Corleone family expand their fronts of casino hotels. However while he is willing to engage in “business” with the Corleone family, he makes his disdain of them clear.“I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself. You and your whole fucking family,”he says. To which Michael replies,“We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.”

RUSSIAN TRANSPORT is red handedly, squarely, about the hypocrisy, we are all susceptible to, the practice of nepotistic blind eye and familial justification to smooth edges of morally jagged terrain.

An ensemble of five fine actors drive RUSSIAN TRANSPORT from a lumbering first half to an exhilarating final act, where, free of the gravitational pull of its exposition, it hurtles through space to destination denouement at dramatic warp speed.

Rebecca Rocheford Davies plays Diana as a domestic diva disdainful of her own family, adoration of her brother eclipsing her feelings for her husband, son or daughter.

Nathan Sapsford’s Boris presents a smooth, suave charm that is a veneer for a violent and vile predator.

Berynn Schwerdt radiates a basic goodness as Misha, a struggling working stiff trying to make ends meet for his family, the burden of being a bread winner made greater by Diana’s aspirations of material gain and status.

Ryan Carter injects the energy of youth in his portrayal of Alex, an energy fueled and spent on rebellion against his parents and establishing a burgeoning independence.

Hayley Sullivan impresses as Mira, sulky but smart pubescent, at first dazzled by her delinquent uncle but soon susses his dark matter. Miss Sullivan also doubles as a series of naive Russian girls transported to America by Boris’ connections, the characters that give he play its title.

Directed by Joseph Uchitel and boasting an impressive two-tiered set by Anna Gardiner, RUSSIAN TRANSPORT plays Eternity Playhouse, Burton Street, Darlinghurst till the end of March.

PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS: LITTLE WHITELEY LIES

Author Katherine Kovacic

Art dealer and accidental sleuth, Alex Clayton made quite a splash last year in her debut adventure, THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN. A follow up caper was much anticipated and with PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS, author Katherine Kovacic has followed through.

Whereas THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN was a split narrative between Melbourne in 1999 and Melbourne circa 1930, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS follows a single narrative stream which provides a narrower palette.

The setting is the early 21st Century, a couple of years on from her previous adventure, and involves murder and forgery, an ancient curse and a little known Brett Whitely.

The curse belongs to Edwin Landseer’s Man Proposes, God Disposes, a grizzly polar bear painting that is damaged when a packer has a turn. Credence for the curse is consolidated when conservator Meredith Buchanan carks it while repairing the canvas.

Alex and her cohort, art conservator, John Porter want to know the why and wherefore of Meredith’s demise, and the questions come up with some blood stained answers, mingled in the mess of Alizarin Crimson.

A whodunit romp through the avarice and exploitation in the art world,
PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS wears its scholarship – both art and veterinary – with fine, light strokes.

Kovacic sheds light on Alex’s backstory and teases out more of her relationship with John. And there’s ample time with Alex’s pooch, Hogarth.

A study in nice people with nasty streaks, people who aren’t bad for nothing, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS is a worthy sequel to The Portrait of Molly Dean, a stand alone plot-boiler but also a terrific teaser for a series to follow.

PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS by Katherine Kovacic is published by Echo

THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE: DRAMA AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY 1957-63

“There is a gap in Australian theatre history, which often leaps from the huge one-off success of Ray Lawler’s classic, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll in 1957 to the emergence, at the end of the 1960s, of the ‘New Wave” in Australian theatre, a period when Australian writing and a distinctive Australia style dominated local stages for the first time. Few commentators have paid any attention to the immediately preceding period, however: it is though artists of the New Wave swelled up from nowhere.”

So write Robyn Dalton and Laura Ginters, two commentators who give rightful and detailed attention to the decade that produced the architects of the New Wave, undergraduates and recent graduates of Sydney University who were transforming drama on campus and the wider community.

Their book, THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE, is an informed and fascinating read, a sweeping saga of a massive swell of ambition, audacity and talent that powered the surge of creativity and cultural transformation we benefit from today.

The authors argue that this group had a bigger influence on Australian cultural life than any single group before or since, and when you see the roll call, there seems little doubt. Among their number are Clive James, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Robert Hughes, Mungo MacCallum, Madeleine St John, Les Murray, Bob Ellis, Eva Cox, Richard Brennan, Jill Kitson and Leo Schofield. Continue reading THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE: DRAMA AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY 1957-63

SEED BOMB: TICK,TICK,BLOOM

Mind change trumps tree change in Daniela Giorgi’s SEED BOMB, a subtle, combustible comedy.

Sleepwalking city slicker, Kat, thinks a tree change to the country is what she needs to get her life in order. She’s been living with her boyfriend, Toby, for five years, a relationship becalmed in the domestic doldrums. She is under the impression that a move to rural climes will see them live more happily every after.

She consults a financial adviser and is dissuaded. All her money is in super, locked away till she’s sixty at least, more likely ninety, and relocation would be economic suicide. Psychological unrest sees her somnambulant in a city street where a logical cyclist by the name of Pax narrowly avoids collision. Continue reading SEED BOMB: TICK,TICK,BLOOM

EVERYBODY KNOWS: JAUPO, JUAPA!

Everybody knows that wedding nights are for kid making not kidnapping, but in EVERYBODY KNOWS, everybody is clueless.
Or are they?
EVERYBODY KNOWS is the latest film from from Oscar winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, a gripping and jaupo thriller about abduction, adultery and jealousy.

Laura returns to the small Spanish village where she spent her childhood to attend the wedding of her younger sister. Her husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darín) has remained in Argentina to fulfil professional obligations. Laura is travelling with her free-spirited teenage daughter, Irene, and her young son. Also attending the wedding is Paco (Javier Bardem). Irene learns from a new friend that her mother and Paco were once in love—but he, too, is now happily married, operating a modest but successful vineyard with his wife, Bea (Bárbara Lennie).

With Laura’s large extended family gathered to celebrate the nuptials spirits are high and a sense of frivolity reigns. Everybody knows how to drink and dance and have good time. Even when it rains and there is a power outage causing a blackout.

But the wedding night descends from joy to despair when Irene suddenly goes missing from her bed. In the place of the sleeping girl are a selection of newspaper clippings, all with stories about a local child who was kidnapped years earlier in the town.

As time passes, the situation only becomes more fraught. Alejandro flies in from Argentina, suspicions mount, loved ones begin to turn on one another, and dark secrets long hidden threaten to come to light, revealing shocking truths. Ah, families……

Instead of a home invasion, could this abduction be an inside job?

EVERYBODY KNOWS is a simmering story of secrets and lies, elevated by the star power of Penelope Cruz, Javier Badem and Ricardo Darin.

Sure hope everybody goes so everybody knows.

ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FILM FESTIVAL: THIRTY YEARS STRONG

Vive la difference!
The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival turns 30 with a fabulous and diverse array of feature films, from frothy comedy to contemporary cinema verite, horror thrillers to Westerns.

Be en garde for EN GUERRE (At War), a bristling, bruising, robust and bravura drama of labour relations, an industrial strength conflict between blue collar and white colour, the chasm between shop floor and share holders.
Never has negotiation between management and workers been so elevated from the enervated as film maker Stephane Brize navigates his cinema verite approach to searing internecine heights. Board room discussion in lesser hands would be mere bored room argument, but Brize lets the banal bleed out and the film seethes with conflict and undercurrent.                    Continue reading ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FILM FESTIVAL: THIRTY YEARS STRONG