Wherever you look there’s something happening in Australian playwright Oriel Gray’s neglected classic THE TORRENTS. The play is set in a community newspaper called the Argus in the 1890’s in Koolgalla. The newspaper is run with an iron will by Rufus Torrent.
A new journalist JG Milford comes through the door. Rufus was expecting a young man and is taken aback when a young woman, Jenny Milford, walks through the door. Rufus wants her to leave but Jenny says she isn’t going anywhere. Will Jenny survive Rufus’s wrath, and the boys only culture at the Argus?!
Rufus not only has to cope with a headstrong young woman on staff but also with the protestations of Kingsley who wants the paper to get behind his scheme to make Koolgalla more economically sustainable with an eye to agriculture to give it a better chance to survive now that the gold mining is petering out. Rufus’ hands are tied. A mining magnate John Mason gives the paper a lot of financial support and without his money the paper might fold. Mason refuses to see any future for Koolgalla that doesn’t involve gold mining.Continue reading THE TORRENTS @ THE DRAMA THEATRE→
“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”
― Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Understanding Orlando andVirginia Woolf, the first in a a new series of inspirational and informative talks presented by the Sydney Opera House, under the umbrella title CULTURE CLUB, took place in the wonderful setting of the Utzon Room and featured the glorious backdrop of Sydney Harbour with sea-craft sailing by and a jeweled, gently billowing and pulsating sea.
In a dirt-dry town in rural Australia, a shot shatters the still night. A mother and her two daughters have just slain the man of the house with a bullet to the neck. Their dilemma, how do they dispose of the body?!
This is the set up to Melbourne playwright Angus Cerini’s play THE BLEEDING TREE, the 2014 Griffin Award winner, now given its Australian production directed by current Griffin Artistic Director Lee Lewis and starring Paula Arundell as the mother and Shari Sebbens and Airlie Dodds as her two daughters.
In British playwright Lucy Prebble’s play THE EFFECT two game young people, psychology student Connie (Anna McGahan) and charming drifter Tristan (Mark Leonard Winter) are volunteers in the clinical trial of a new anti-depressant super drug. Forties something psychiatrist Dr James (Angie Milliken) administers the trial over a four week period under the supervision of Dr Toby (Eugene Gilfedder) in residential quarters inside the pharmaceutical company premises.
Connie and Tristan spend a lot of time in each other’s company and, against all the rules, they start to fall for each other. Their romance threatens to play havoc with the rigor of the trial.
It’s an intriguing scenario for what turns out to be an engrossing night in the theatre.
The play’s intense tone is set very early on when Dr James comes on stage with a human brain in her hand, a moment that brings to mind the classic graveyard scene in Hamlet.
The audience is drawn in to following the four feisty characters and the conflicts that emerge between the two pairings. Tristan and Connie argue as to whether the feelings emerging between them are natural or the result of being under the influence?!
Dr James and Dr Toby come from polar opposite positions of the psych drug debate. Dr James sees drugs as often being the soft option, Dr Toby believe they are the genuine balm for depressive illness.
The four actors, Angie Milliken and Eugene Gilfedder as the medicos and Anna McGahan and Mark Leonard Winter as the bold youngsters, ‘hold’ their characters well.
Sarah Goodes’s production serves the play well. Highlights from the design team were Renee Mulder’s set which clearly portrayed the play’s very clinical, hospital setting, and Guy Webster’s edgy, contemporary soundscape.
The effect of Prebble’s play is that the arguments and debates between the characters reverberate long after the show has come to an end.
To end on a quote from the Bard.
‘What a piece of work is man…how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals- and yet, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me-’
I guess Shakespeare would be on anti-depressants if he was alive now. A diluted Shakespeare. An awful thing to contemplate.
Recommended, a joint Sydney Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company production, Lucy Prebble’s THE EFFECT opened at Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company on Saturday 12th July and is playing until Saturday 16th August, 2014.
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.
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