There’s a favourite Cat Stevens song that goes ‘Oh baby, it’s a wild world/you can’t get by just upon a smile, girl’. The song was going around in my head more than little as I watched this latest David Williamson play, THE BIG TIME.
The great man’s subject is the entertainment industry, a world which he has inhabited for nigh on fifty years. How true Williamson’s program note is when he says, ‘I know that in the industry that creates fictional drama, that real life drama can be intense.’
Williamson is an ever astute observer of relationships and this is the engine which drives THE BIG TIME. We see the very fractured relationship of Celia and Vicki, two girls who went through NIDA together and whose careers have taken them off in very different directions.
Vicki is doing a lots of independent theatre gifs, whilst Celia has had a long standing role in a soapie, or as she calls it ‘a continuing drama series’. Whenever the girls meet for a cuppa Vicki baits Celia to leave the soapie and do some serious acting. After all, she was the star student at NIDA. Celia is a little torn, she would like to venture out but she loves the regular pay cheque she receives.Continue reading THE BIG TIME : OH BABY, THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IS A WILD WORLD→
In 1958, Reg Livermore became a founding member of Hayes Gordon’s Ensemble Theatre, alongside Lorraine Bayly, Don Reid, Jon Ewing and Clarissa Kaye. This year, during the 60th anniversary of the Ensemble, Livermore has returned to the boards with his latest one-man show, THE WIDOW UNPLUGGED (OR AN ACTOR DEPLOYS). His triumphant entrance on opening night inspired a well-deserved round of applause !
Since his early shows, ‘Hair’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, his amazing Dr Frank’n’furter in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ and the fabulous ‘Betty Blokk Buster Follies’ one-man show series in the 70s, Livermore has won many distinguished accolades, including the Sydney Critics Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and an AO in 1996! Continue reading REG LIVERMORE RETURNS TO THE ENSEMBLE WITH THE WIDOW UNPLUGGED→
I was a little wary before I went to see this latest show at the Ensemble. I’ve seen a few Shirley Valentine’s over the years, and like many have seen the very popular film version. I’m pleased to say that the freshness and naturalness of Sharon Millerchip’s performance made for not only a bearable but a very pleasurable night at the theatre.
Willy Russell’s well crafted mainstream play is cleverly divided into two very distinct two halves. In the first half we see the very frustrated Shirley complaining about her boring, married life in suburbia and being under the thumb of her lacklustre, rigid husband. After interval she has at least temporarily leaving behind her dull life. She is living it in Greece, and amongst other things having a brief but exciting affair with a very accomodating Greek guy called Kostas.
Mark Kilmurry’s direction is clear and to the point. Simone Romaniuk’s set and costume design are very effective. A highlight is the large ‘wallpaper’ postcard from a Greek island which greets audiences when they take their seats after interval. Continue reading SHIRLEY VALENTINE @ THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE→
Featured image-Carolyn Lowry, Mark Kilmurry, Francesca Savige, Sandra Bates, Shaun Rennie, John Clark.
All images by Ben Apfelbaum.
Ensemble Theatre’s Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry recently announced the two winners of the 2ndSandra Bates Director’s Awards supported by the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation at a function in the theatre’s waterfront foyer.
Francesca Savige and Shaun Rennie were thrilled to be the recipients of this prestigious award. Both will work as Assistant Director on two plays each in the Ensemble Theatre’s 2017 season. They will also direct a lunchtime play reading each as part of the theatre’s Boatshed events.
MY ZINC BED, by award-winning and provocative playwright David Hare, made its debut at The Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2000. Its carefully crafted eloquence and finesse continues to attract audiences. Mark Kilmurry’s current production is vibrant and funny with an appropriate underlying sadness throughout.
Husband Victor Quinn is a masterful raconteur whose colourful past had its roots in the communist party, at one time greatly popular with intellectuals and philosophers. His transformation over the years brings him into the corporate world as a highly successful founder of an IT company. Despite this success and wealth, Victor has not lost his penchant for the less fortunate and vulnerable.
Mark Kilmurrry’s production takes us deeply into this Willy Russell world and its two loveable, vulnerable, very recognisable characters who stay in our hearts long after the house lights have come back up.
We walk into the theatre to be greeted with music from the nineteen eighties, the period in which the play is set, and Anna Gardiner’s finely detailed set of an academic’s chamber.
As part of this year’s 100th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand troops landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in an offensive against the Turkish Army during World War 1, the Ensemble Theatre has developed and is now presenting its production, THE ANZAC PROJECT- HELPING US REMEMBER.
As we all know only too painfully, the campaign was a disastrous one. The troops were largely cannon fodder but the camaraderie, sardonic humour and bravery of the Australian and New Zealand forces launched a legend, henceforth known as the ANZACS that continues to be recognised every 25th April since 1916.
The two new works, commissioned by the Ensemble Theatre for their 2015 season, and written by experienced playwrights Geoffrey Atherton and Vanessa Bates, have many overlaps and similarities in style and content. With them being presented by the same quartet of actors playing quite similar characters, and both directed by Mark Kilmurry, using the same set, there tends to be a blurring of stories and images into one whole. Continue reading The Anzac Project- Helping Us Remember @ The Ensemble Theatre→
In Alan Ayckbourn’s ABSENT FRIENDS (1974) big hearted and good natured soul Di has organised an afternoon tea for Colin, one of her husband Paul’s best friends.
She has been worried about how Colin has been going after his recent tragic loss of his newly wed wife Carol in a drowning accident. With this in mind Di invites two of Colin’s best friends, John, along with his wife, Evelyn, and Gordon, along with his wife Marge, to join her husband and her in their family home, and hopefully this will help to cheer him up…
Oh…if only Di had a crystal ball! The afternoon soiree turns out very differently to how Di had hoped. Her husband Paul has come home from golf in a grumpy, cantankerous mood. He is rude, belligerent, even abusive to her.
Gordon doesn’t even turn up, his wife Marge attends and says her husband couldn’t make it. He isn’t feeling well. An absent friend as per the play’s titlle.
John is edgy and can’t stand still, his wife Evelyn is droll and bitchy. To top it all off, Diana has heard rumours that Paul and Evelyn have been having an affair.
With his play OTHER DESERT CITIES, nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, American playwright Jon Robin Baitz tackles some major subjects the most interesting being the fall-out that takes place, as it often does, when a brave soul, particularly one in the public eye, decides to put pen to paper and write a tell-all autobiographical piece.
I am sure that Mr Baitz would be highly impressed if he saw Mark Kilmurry’s current production at Kirribilli’s Ensemble’s theatre. The five member cast poignantly bring to life his very well drawn and easy to relate to characters.
With nods to both the legendary Olivier and the McKellan versions, this is an extraordinarily beautifully spoken version of Shakespeare’s play, but I am afraid it just falls short of the mark. You can certainly see what this production is attempting to achieve, however it still leaves us feeling a little emotionally uninvolved.
This is a pared back abridged version with cuts, and many of the cast playing several different characters as required throughout the play, which can be a little confusing.
This production, directed by and starring Mark Kilmurry, is framed as a dangerous act of theatre, in which six players gather in a dark, sparsely furnished bunker to perform Shakespeare’s Richard III. There is a sense of suspense, of wartime desolation, of destruction.
Barely acknowledging each other upon flurried arrival, the cast set straight to work ,at first rehearsing short, key snippets of scenes, the sword fight in particular. Costumes, props and a set of benches, a table and dead TV sets have already been assembled. Kilmurry straps on a hump, picks up his gloves, assumes the now stereotypical gait and a clandestine performance begins, rather quietly and at a nervous pace.
What then develops is a sturdy presentation of an abridged text, occasionally interrupted by the menacing sounds of barking dogs, loud bangs on the door (which is monitored via CCTV) and patrolling helicopters overhead, all adding intensity and suspense, in what is a highly stylised production.
The cast speak in a broad range of accents, that dip and change as characters and alliances change.
The abridgements work well, as do some deft touches of theatrical shorthand – taking glasses on and off to demonstrate a quick-change between multiple characters played by a single actor.
Some key set piece moments do not really catch fire and we feel little for Clarence (Matt Edgerton) as he hurtles towards his death. Also the build up of circumstances towards Bosworth Field is rushed through and barely indicated.
As King Richard III, while beautifully spoken and with a very expressive face, Mark Kilmurry portrays him as shallow, calculating and manipulative rather than darkly villainous, and it is hard to care for him. The King’s wooing of Lady Anne is played straight and with plenty of feeling. This is in contrast with some of the set piece/famous monologues which did leave me unmoved.
Danielle Carter of the exquisite alabaster skin was tremendous as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Edward. I liked the effect for the Princes in the Tower of having them in brightly striped, very posh school blazers and boaters, but it also in some ways made them look like a vaudeville act.
Patrick Dickson as Buckingham gives a strong, splendid performance. Matt Edgerton is terrific in his many roles as assorted characters. Amy Mathews was most impressive.
At the finale, Kilmurry pauses for a tense, dangerous moment. He looks at the crown. He then drags on his coat. The ominous helicopter sounds increase in volume and appear to be coming much closer. He grabs a piece of chalk, defiantly writes the date, hurriedly scribbles ”Richard III” and vanishes out the door. They were there and this performance happened. We, the audience, were with them.
Running time – roughly 2 and a half hours including one interval.
”RICHARD III” runs at the Ensemble until July 19 and then transfers to play at the Parramatta Riverside theatre between July 22 and 26 .
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