Tag Archives: Helen Thomson

MARY STUART : A POWERFUL ELIZABETHAN DRAMA

All the good scriptwriting theory says  that conflict is always at the heart of every good drama. Let it be said that there was plenty of conflict and heat in this production. This play explores one of history’s great rivalries. A battle of wits, blood and broken hearts, reinvented for the stage – the iconic tale of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth 1 of England.

Following an uprising, Mary has fled Scotland, gone to England and has been imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. The Queen her Imprisoned because Mary is younger, more beloved, and has her own claim to the throne.

The play starts after Mary has been languishing in prison for some 19 years and has now been found guilty of treason. She is told that the Queen can now sign a warrant for her execution.   Continue reading MARY STUART : A POWERFUL ELIZABETHAN DRAMA

Sydney Theatre Company Announces Patrick White Playwrighting Awards

Back row- STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton, Playwright Debra Thomas. Front row- STC Literary Manager Polly Rowe, Playwright Kate Mulvany. Pic by Hon Boey
Back row- STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton, Playwright Debra Thomas. Front row- STC Literary Manager Polly Rowe, Playwright Kate Mulvany. Pic by Hon Boey

Kate Mulvany is the new Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellow and Debra Thomas has won the 2014 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award Kate Mulvany has been announced as the latest recipient of STC’s Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellowship at a special event held at The Wharf last Friday, 22nd May.

Now in its fifth year, the Fellowship is a position for an established playwright whose work has been produced professionally in Australia within the last four years. Mulvany receives $25,000 in recognition of her body of work and previous artistic achievements. As well as including a commission from STC which she will develop during the year-long tenure, the Fellowship provides opportunities for her to share her skills with other playwrights and artists. Continue reading Sydney Theatre Company Announces Patrick White Playwrighting Awards

After Dinner @ The Wharf

After Dinner
Anita Hegh and Rebecca Massey in Andrew Bovell’s AFTER DINNER.Pics Brett Boardman

This new  production of Andrew Bovell’s brilliant debut comedy AFTER DINNER makes a perfect fit  for the wonderful Sydney summer that we are having.

I strongly recommend a  visit to the Wharf, one of Sydney’s finest  theatre venues, enjoying a wine before the show and taking in the lovely view of Sydney harbour from the balcony, and then heading into the theatre to see five of Sydney’s finest thespians playing very well drawn characters and presenting a night at the theatre imbued with humour and pathos.

The time period is the nineteen eighties, the setting is the dining room of an RSL club. The play shifts action between two tables as they wait for the local band to fire up, which only takes place very late in the proceedings. Continue reading After Dinner @ The Wharf

THE WINTER’S TALE

Pic Michele Mossop
Otis Pavlovic as Prince Mamillius and Myles Pollard as Leontes in THE WINTER’S TALE. Pic Michele Mossop

This can be called one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’ as it is full of both intense psychological drama yet also is lyrical, rustic and has a romantic happy ending. In some ways it is almost in effect two separate plays, with massive shifts in mood and tone. There is lots of doubling of roles by the excellent cast and fine ensemble work.

It is all seen through the imagination of young Prince Mamillius (Otis Pavlovic or Rory Potter) who controls and manipulates everything. Mamillius acts as lynchpin, questioner and observer throughout. The ’nursery’ /fairytale set as designed by Stephen Curtis was light and airy with bunk bed with ladder, a cradle ,small child size stools, a wonderful mobile…

Continue reading THE WINTER’S TALE

MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION

Eamon Farren and Lizzie Schebesta in Shaw’s classic. Pic Brett Boardman

Prostitution as a means of empowering women is a contentious notion even now, let alone in 1893 when MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION was written by Dublin-born social reformer George Bernard Shaw (who also wrote PYGMALION). No wonder it was banned from being performed in the UK by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office (a power which the office had until 1968); and that Sydney Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Andrew Upton describes the play as a ‘very modern’ one.

The profession of Mrs Warren (beautifully played by a loud and blowsy Helen Thomson) is that of brothel owner, and it is a lucrative one that has allowed her personable daughter Vivie, recently graduated from college, to lead a comfortable life. To date anyway…

The play opens in a sunlight garden, the backdrop of which is a high, cream-coloured wall dappled with thousands of pink and red rose-like blooms, its idyllic summery atmosphere a tribute to the set design skills of Renee Mulder and the lighting expertise of Nigel Levings.

In this garden Vivie is studying her law books when the first of a succession of single men enters, a middle-aged chap called Praed (Simon Burke), who is a friend of Vivie’s mother. Before long they are joined by Mrs Warren and Sir George Crofts, a late middle-aged buffoon. Much banter ensues. And then Frank Gardner (Eamon Farren), the spendthrift son of the local rector (Drew Forsythe) arrives.

Frank initially comes across as a harmless Wodehousian fop but becomes increasingly obnoxious and irritating — and a good shot to boot — almost to the extent of hindering one’s enjoyment of the play. Thankfully he is offset by Vivie, played in a delightfully feminine way — albeit in a slightly bookish and stilted late Victorian manner — by Lizzie Schebesta. Sir George too is not what he initially seems, and reveals a calculating, black heart convincingly played by Martin Jacobs. Thanks to Vivie’s steely determination of purpose however, some morality is finally imposed on an immoral world in the closing scene.

Veering dangerously close to farce at stages — Vivie is romantically pursued by three of the four principal characters and the other has had a fling with her mother; while Vivie’s paternity is the source of much ribald speculation — there are plenty of laughs to be had, mainly before the interval. There are probably one or two too many lengthy monologues for the liking of some, but not enough to spoil a vivacious evening’s theatre directed with as light a hand as the script allows by Sarah Giles.

MRS WARREN’S PROFESSION opened at the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 1 Theatre on Tuesday 19th February and runs until Saturday 6th April. Due to popular demand there is a return season, at the same venue, between Thursday 4th and Saturday 20th July, 2013.

In the Next Room or the vibrator play

 

Jackie McKenzie listens at the closed door

Prominent contemporary American playwright Sarah Ruhl chose a great subject, a quirky, little known medical sidelight from history, for her new play ‘In the Next Room or the vibrator play’ and out of it has created a tremendous, often hilarious play from it.  

In the late 19th century, some modern thinking physicians were trialling women who were suffering from hysteria by using a new electronic invention, the vibrator!  Ruhl has one such a Doctor as the protagonist in her play. Dr Givings (David Roberts) has created a separate room in his family home for his surgery. The play opens with the Doctor taking on a new patient, Sabrina Daldry (Helen Thomson). Together with her husband Mr Daldry (Marshall Napier) she comes to the surgery, complaining of  hysteria and a lack of satisfaction in her marriage. The treatment begins and after the initial shock Sabrina is soon rushing back for more!

Ruhl’s play turns on the fact that Dr Givings has kept his wife Catherine (Jacqueline McKenzie) in the dark about his new treatment technique.  A young mother who spends most of her time at home, Catherine notices how Sabrina and her husband’s other female patients come out of her husband’s treatment room muh chirpier than when they went in! Her curiousity is pricked, what actually happens in the next room?!  She starts prodding some of his patients, what actually happens in there?! Sabrina is a bit cagey about it but one day, when her husband is out on an errand, they manage to get access and his secret world is revealed!

‘In The Next Room’ works beautifully as high pitched comedy of sexual mores. This play’s  achievement is also that it works, just as well, as a poignant study of a  marriage that has lost its way, of a wife who is deeply lonely and miserable, and of a husband who is totally self and career focused.

Pamela Rabe crafts a very satisfying Australian premiere production. Tracy Grant Lord set and costume design places us beautifully in the Victorian  era. The performances are a treat. Jackie McKenzie plays the waif like, neglected wife beautifully. David Roberts impresses as the emotionally disconnected husband. Mandy McElhinney is hilarious as the good Doctor’s deadpan faced assistant. Helen Thomson shines, giving a great comic performance as the ‘born again’ Sabrina. Marshall Napier plays her archly conservative husband. Josh McConville plays Dr Givings first male patient to receive the new treatment and his scenes are hilarious.

 A great night out, Pamela Rabe’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s play ‘In The Next Room or the vibrator play’ opened at the Drama theatre, Sydney Opera House on Friday 11th February and plays until Saturday 2nd April, 2011.