The new Australian psychological thriller and Scream-Fest International Film Festival winner, SWEETRIVER– distributed by Filmink Presents – will make its debut in Australia and New Zealand as a Netflix Film.
In the haunting SweetRiver, Hana (played by British actress Lisa Kay, who has appeared on TV’s Heartbeat, Vera, DCI Banks and Indian Summers, and now calls Australia home with roles on Neighbours and Home And Away returns to the sleepy town of Billins, nestled deep in the sugar cane fields, where her 4-year-old son Joey was abducted by notorious serial killer Simpkins (Jack Ellis) and is now presumed dead. Continue reading ‘SWEET RIVER’ TO STREAM EXCLUSIVELY ON NETFLIX→
Tony Kushner is the author of the ground breaking play Angels In America Parts 1 and 2. This is his first musical with Kushner penning the book and lyrics and Geanine Tesori composing the music. The play took them four years to write and is based on Tony Kushner’s reaction to growing up in the Deep South, identifying as a southern Jew, and living in the vicinity of impoverished Afro Americans.
Elenoa Rokobaro stars as Caroline Thibodeaux, a poor Afro American divorcee working as a house cleaning maid in a southern jewish home belonging to the Gellmans. She is sad and bitter, realising that any hopes or dreams she has had have been crushed into dust. Her only purpose in life is to provide for her three children on a $30 a week wage.
Young eight year old Noah Gellman has transferred his affection for his deceased mother onto Caroline. He bonds with her by sharing a cigarette.
Noah’s father Stuart Gellman has acquired a new wife from New York, Rose Stopnick-Gellman. She is totally bewildered by her transplantation to Louisiana, unable to cope with its oppressive heat, her inability to develop a relationship with her stepson and has constantly bungling behaviour in an attempt to be both gracious to Caroline as well as being gently assertive as her employer.
Rose has been brought up to never loose change in her clothes and Noah always leaves loose change in his clothes. As a form of punishment Rose insists that Caroline keep any loose change she finds in Noah’s pockets.
Reluctant to take money from a child she nevertheless succumbs so that her children can buy a few trinkets at the local dime store.
At a Chanukah party hosted by Rose, Stuart and Grandma Gellman Rose’s father Mr Stopnick, down from New York, gives Noah a twenty dollar note. Noah leaves it in his pocket, Caroline retrieves it and threatens to keep it. This leads to an explosion of hateful remarks revealing deep prejudices on both sides of the racial divide.
Meanwhile on the sidelines a Greek chorus of Motown like Supremes urge Caroline to break out of her oppressed situation.
A moon goddess is always trying to calm the situation and a red suited, lascivious devil is trying to tempt Caroline with no prospect of success. Adding to her woes is a rebellious, outspoken daughter Emmie who clashes with her mother over her mother’s submissiveness.
All this takes place with background music which ranges from gospel, blues, soul, rhythm and blues, funk and klezmer through to operatic like ballads. These musical styles are gorgeously navigated by Lucy Bermingham, the Musical Director who leads a five piece band squashed somewhere backstage.
Elenoa Rokobaro is dazzling as Caroline Thibodeaux. Her soaring gospel vocalising nearly lifted the rafters off the Hayes Theatre.
The trio played by Ruva Ngwenya, Emily Haver and Alexandra Fricot are not so much a harmonising Supremes but are more like the grunting and grinding funk of the Ikettes featuring a young Tina Turner. They also play multiple roles all of which are performed with great accomplishment.
Amy Hack as the bewildered, vulnerable, prickly Rose Stopnick Gellman evokes both sympathy and at times awkward embarrassment.
Andrew Cutcliffe as Stuart Gellman has a dramatically thankless role in that he must be zoned out from everybody and everything around him, including his son, seeking consolation in clarinet playing.
Daniel Harris and Ryan Yeates alternate the role of Noah Gellman. At our performance Ryan Yeates played the naive, idealistic, sweet and at times self centered Noah which he plays with great brio and establishes a strong chemistry with the Caroline character.
Nkechi Anele plays Emmie, the rebellious daughter of Caroline, with passion and fire.
Elijah Williams gets to demonstrate his multi talented acting skills playing in the roles of a lascivious devil by the dryer in Caroline’s laundry, a shocked bus driver announcing the assassination of President John F Kennedy, Joe, Caroline’s young son, and the Navy man who beat up and left Caroline.
Special mention must be made of the veterans in this otherwise young cast. Genevieve Lemon slips into the role of Grandma Gellman who is always trying to appease family arguments with an authentic Jewish touch and warmth.
Tony Llewelyn Jones as Mr Stopnick, a fiery left wing sympathiser, brings passion, conviction and a slight naivety advocating that Afro Americans should protest with violence. Yet his very tender and loving when talking to his daughter and grandson.
This is a night of powerful and challenging theatre evoking joy, revelling in the gospel, soul, rhythm and blues music of the first half to sadness and tears in Act 2 as the tragedy of Rose’s oppression is fully spelt out.
The change in the title has a dual meaning, both corrosive. The first change refers to the change in Noah’s pockets leading to conflicts with his stepmother and Caroline. The second meaning refers to all her friends urgings to change from her trapped, embittered resignation to her lot in life, and aspire to greater heights in fulfilling her dreams.
Director Mitchell Butel is a quadruple threat. He can sing, dance, act and direct As director he must deal with the swirl of emotions boiling on stage, contain it and hurl it with maximum impact into our exposed emotions. This is why live theatre is so thrilling.
The set design by Simon Greer is cleverly laid out on four levels with a giant disc at the rear representing the moon and the sun depending on the lighting from Alexander Berlage.
The bottom level represents the depression that is Caroline’s laundry. The middle level is used as a communal bus stop and Caroline’s home. The upper level represents the Gellman’s house. There is a fourth level which represents the Louisiana swamps on which the characters live so precariously.
Choreographer Yvette Lee works the three levels of activity with ease and grace maximising fully the space available.
Anthony Lorenz sound design brings the sounds of the band somewhere in the back of the theatre up to perfectly match the vocals on stage.
I have previously referred to the Hayes Theatre as Doctor Who’s Tardis, small on the outside and limitless in size on the inside. This production’s expansiveness encapsulates that feeling.
I must also commend the Hayes Theatre for unearthing unknown musical gems such as this platinum production.
Riveting, exciting, thrilling and dazzling, this Hayes triumph must not be missed. CAROLINE OR CHANGE is playing the Hayes Theatre until 21 September, 2019.
FOLK by English playwright Tom Wells, is a simple story of faith, loneliness, unlikely friendships and the healing power of music.
Delightfully irreverent and fun-loving Irish nun, Sister Winnie, (Genevieve Lemon), has befriended 50 year old Stephen, (Gerard Carroll), a reclusive, withdrawn guitarist and folk singer who is too shy to sing in public. Winnie loves a Guinness and a good time so each Friday night, she has Stephen over for some raucous slapstick and singing.
Genevieve Lemon as Winnie fills the stage with her excellent delivery of one-liners, compassion and infectious energy. After another Guinness and quick cigarette at the window, she quips to Stephen, “Sing me something holy – something wholly inappropriate”. Continue reading FOLK @ THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE→
I cried. That’s it really. Except perhaps to add that the younger woman sitting in front of me did too, and the elder lady beside me was quietly mopping herself off as the house lights came up. THE SECRET SINGER is a story of women. It has a huge heart and it has secrets of the heart to share. It’s a new work and might undergo changes after this first outing but what we see playing at the Eternity Theatre now is sweet, moving and empowering.
We meet Emjay. Teaching singing in a church hall with a cheap, beaten up, tinny, electric keyboard is not what gets her out of bed each day. Making a living, getting paid for this half-life of no engagement, that’s why she’s there. Rent looming and cancellations escalating, she needs to get her tish together in a myriad of ways. On the other hand Jenny is a woman on a mission. Cat obsessed and timid despite her colourful exterior display, she wants to sing in seven choirs on seven days a week and she has a night predator’s focus on Emjay as the person who can release her secret voice. Continue reading THE SECRET SINGER. FEMALE VOICES RAISED IN LOVE.→
THE SECRET SINGER is in all of us perhaps. After all, an engineer will tell you that bathrooms really do have better acoustics than the rest of the house. But only rarely does the secret inside burst into public spaces. On Sunday I got to meet Jenny. A woman whose persistence and determination to sing has not just flowered into a choral life but whose story germinated in the fertile mind of her teacher to bud and grow into a new musical for the Australian stage.
Joanna Weinberg has written and will direct THE SECRET SINGER to play at the Eternity Theatre in August and SAG was there to get a sneak peek. The story begins with a jaded, cynical musician (Not me! insists Weinberg) who is being pestered by a student wanting to learn to sing. Genevieve Lemon and Kate Mannix play teacher and student respectively. And the work begins with the interior complexity of Emjay who really thought she would be a star by now and to whom teaching holds little appeal. Continue reading THE SECRET SINGER – SAG HAS A SNEAK PEEK AT THE NEW MUSICAL→
Featured image- John Bell and John Gaden in DIPLOMACY at the Ensemble Theatre. Pic Prudence Upton.
Paris, August 25th, 1944.As the Allied Forces move closer to the city, Hitler has decided, in his ever-increasing delusional state, that if Germany can’t have Paris, then no-one will.He has ordered the complete destruction of the city, so famous for its centuries of unique cultural history and beauty.
From this historical fact, French playwright, Cyril Gely, has created in DIPLOMACY, a fictional reason for Paris’ survival, a beautifully rich, philosophical and persuasive dialogue between two men – quite different by nature, but both very powerful in stature and personality.
Gely’s play was first performed in 2011 at Theatre de la Madeleine in Paris. It was skilfully adapted and translated into English for John Bell’s Australian premiere by Julie Rose. Gely also wrote the screenplay for the French movie based on his stage play, ‘Diplomatie’, which was shown at our 2015 French Film Festival.
Featured photo- The cast- left to right- Amber McMahon, Luke Watts, Sean O’Shea, Genevieve Lemon (obscured) and Garth Holcombe. Pic by Clare Hawley.
Fellow theatre lovers, try your best to get to see this show. With her play Nina Raine has come up with something special.
TRIBES tells an old story…A person who has been repressed, and lived under the thumb, comes out from under, and stands up and asserts themselves, much to the disbelief, and then the admiration of those around them.
Billy is deaf and has grown up in an all hearing, middle class, well established family. Parents Christopher (Sean O’Shea) and Beth (Genevieve Lemon) choose to raise Billy by treating him like any other child- and having as little attention drawn to his disability as possible.
Then, one day, as a young adult, at a party, Billy meets a young woman, Sylvia, who he falls in love with. Syvia, who is also hearing impaired, offers to teach Billy sign language which Billy accepts.
Billy’s parents are enraged- their beloved, youngest ‘baby’ suddenly using sign language and being identified as one with a disability. The battle lines are drawn, and to the surprise of everybody, including Billy’s older sister Ruth (Amber McMahon) and brother Daniel (Garth Holcombe), Billy is ready to fight for his right to live his life his way.
Director Susanna Dowling guides the action assuredly, and wins strong performances from an impressive cast. The stand-outs are Ana Maria Belo as Sylvia, Luke Watts as Billy and Sean O’Shea as Billy’s dad, Christopher.
Rita Carmody’s set and costumes are spot on. Benjamin Brookman, perhaps Sydney’s busiest lighting designers, lights the stage with his usual flair. Jeremy Silver’s soundscape underscores the action well. I enjoyed the use of ‘cuts’ of Janis Joplin music.
Particularly, when we left the theatre to the sounds of Joplin’s classic, rasping recording of Piece of My Heart. TRIBES sure took a good piece of my heart!
The Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of Nina Raine’s play TRIBES is playing the Ensemble theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli until Saturday 2 July.
Theatremakers are often adventurous people. They try to come up with a new slants, new approaches to their subjects, to make the theatrical experience brighter, bolder and more interesting. One has to admire their risk taking, their courage, though the results of this experimentation can be quite varied.
For his new play SEVENTEEN, Matthew Whittet has chosen a subject that, over time, has been popular for dramatists to explore, the experiences of young people on the verge/the cusp of adulthood. Through the play we follow the adventures/experiences of a group of teenagers as they celebrate their first night of freedom after twelve long years of schooling. A lot ‘goes down’ before the sun rises. Continue reading Seventeen @ Belvoir Street→
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