Tag Archives: Richard Cotter

MARBLES : WHEN A FAMILY’S LOVE IS PUT TO THE TEST

Marbles or more to the point losing one’s marbles is what has happened to poor Stanley. The play starts on Stanley’s 77th birthday. Stanley has Alzheimer’s. Natasha, his oldest daughter, has invited his two other daughters over to honour his birthday. The youngest daughter Amelia lives locally and has just had to leave her husband Rod and family for the day but Frances the middle daughter has travelled in from overseas for the celebration, if it can be called that.

The plot hinges on the fact that three years previously Stanley made, or more to the point, got his daughters to agree to signing a letter saying that if he lost his independence and became a ‘vegetable’ that they would find a way to put him out of his misery. Continue reading MARBLES : WHEN A FAMILY’S LOVE IS PUT TO THE TEST

THIRTY THREE @ THE OLD FITZ

 

oldfitz-1A good dose of theatre verite takes over the top tier of the Old Fitz pub as resident production company curate the first of a new series of performances, THIRTY THREE.

THIRTY THREE is not only the title of the play but the capacity of audience allocation as viewers sit along three walls and watch a dinner party thrown by Sas to celebrate her thirty-third birthday degenerate into a debauched debacle. Continue reading THIRTY THREE @ THE OLD FITZ

Journey’s End

RC Sheriff’s play Journey’s End theatretroupe
Andrew George plays Captain Stanhope and Jermey Bridie plays Officer HIbbert in R.C. Sherriff’s classic war drama, JOURNEY’S END

British playwright R.C. Sherriff’s drama JOURNEY’S END presents a detailed and harrowing account of the hell that is war fought in the trenches.

A classic of its genre, Sherriff’s play was wrought out of his  experiences as an officer in the trenches during the First World War. The play was first performed on the 9th December 1928 at London’s Apollo Theatre, in a production by  the Incorporated Stage Society, and starred a very young Laurence Olivier.

The setting is Saint-Quentin, Aisne, France, at a British Army infantry officers’ dugout located just 75 yards from enemy trenches during four days, between the 18th March and the 21st March, 1918, poised very close to the end of the War. It focuses on the interactions between five officers and the Colonel, and depicts the camaraderie between the officers with poignancy. Continue reading Journey’s End

PLAYTHING

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How often do you see a funny existential play that examines the reason and nature of theatre, life, death, meaning and the sheer randomness of the universe?

A man, played impressively by Heath Ivey-Law, walks into a comfortable middle class lounge room, mistaking it for a toilet, sees the audience and is embarrassed. He attempts to go back out of the room but the door will not open. He unsuccessfully tries the doors on the other two walls which only leaves the invisible fourth wall. After some deliberately predictable miming the fourth wall does turn out to be impenetrable. The man is joined by a woman, played with confidence and humour by Jodine Muir, who mistakes the room for a toilet and similarly cannot escape the room. As they can see the audience they begin to wonder if they may be in a play. Neither character can remember anything prior to entering the room. In a profound and revealing question the woman asks, “Perhaps I didn’t exist before I walked on stage?”

The actors discuss the motivation and philosophies of the playwright, Simon Dodd, from various perspectives. The masculine and feminine perspectives are explored, and in this case the man is the more philosophical and cerebral character, whereas the woman is much more practical and grounded in this world. Plaything directly questions the relationships between playwrights, the actors, critics and the audience. Does the audience come for escapism, philosophical musings or for a challenging and thoughtful evening?

Plaything contains many theatre jokes and references. The actors attempt to work out what the next plot point could be and try to trigger events by calling out cues. Peter Adams performs well in his brief role and is one of these critical plot points. The young couple are joined on stage by an older couple, played with elegant and appropriate ham acting by Richard Cotter and Tricia Youlden, which gives the play another level of dynamism and an opportunity to explore youth, optimism and exuberance and to compare these attributes with experience, wisdom and the jaded acceptance of ones fate.

Simon Dodd’s PLAYTHING manages to be entertaining and philosophical whilst cleverly exploring why playwrights write, actors act and audiences go to the theatre.

PLAYTHING was performed at Factory Theatre, Marrickville as part of this years’  Sydney Comedy Festival.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE LAWYER

Geoff Sirmai and Brigid O'Sullivan
Geoff Sirmai as Ahmed and Brigid O’Sullivan as Rhonda in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE LAWYER

Henry Crowley is a prominent Sydney CBD lawyer.  Pompous and pragmatic, he lives with his wife, Margaret, in the safe, conservative suburb of St. Ives.

Henry, unaware of his wife’s previous job with ASIO, is also unaware that it is Margaret who wears the trousers in their marriage.  She announces, over several martinis, that she has decided to take in an Iranian refugee from an Indonesian boat, awaiting the outcome of his asylum application, and introduces Ahmed Zahedi, a mathematics professor with a penchant for the theatrical.

Ahmed has already moved in, much to Henry’s horror, particularly as Henry is being interviewed for a feature article by a ruthless journalist from the Financial Review, Rhonda Harper.  Before Rhonda arrives at their home, Henry’s cousin from Queensland, Micky Crowley, also arrives at their usually tranquil doorstep.  Micky is a harmless, but obnoxious chronic gambler, badly dressed in shorts and thongs.

This is a wonderful entrée into a very effective comedy of errors.  The actors all bring fresh and funny idiosyncrasies to their characters.  Mark McCann is particularly enjoyable as bombastic Henry, Tricia Youlden brings great comic timing to her calm and controlling Margaret.  Geoff Sirmai plays a quirky, eccentric Ahmed, Marc Kay brings vulnerability to a reckless and clumsy Micky and Brigid O’Sullivan is fabulous as the scheming journalist Rhonda.

This play is the 13th collaboration between writer Tony Laumberg and director Richard Cotter.  Ten of these have been the well-known ‘Lawyer’ comedies, which have developed quite a cult following, particularly amongst Sydney’s theatre-going legal fraternity.  Laumberg is not only a talented writer, but has a legal practice in his spare time!  The play is well written and highly enjoyable under the clever direction of Cotter.  What impressed me about the play is the lack of racism and clichés.  The humour is inoffensive to all the characters that are represented, bringing a sense of balance to the comedy.

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE LAWYER plays the Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst, from Thursday 10th October to Sunday 27th October.

 

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

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What’s in a name? A rose by any other would smell as sweet. Call a spade a spade but you’ll still shovel shit if you pick a name that digs up contentious connotations.

In western culture, names such as Jesus, Atilla, Adolph, and Osama are eschewed from birth registers, but more mundane reasons are raised among family and friends at the imminent patter of tiny feet, where naming rights can produce near riot.

Appellations of those who are unliked from the past or the present, or carry with them some sort of high falutin’ allusion or pretention is the most likely impediments to nixing a moniker.

When Forty-something father to be Vincent announces to his family the nomenclature of his unborn son he figuratively flings that shovelful at the fan.

What should have been a civil celebratory occasion devolves into a dinner where the stable door of secrets is left so far ajar that the stampede of revelations seal the deal of unable to conceal.

Based on a super successful stage play, WHAT’S IN A NAME? (LE PRONOM) makes for a marvelous movie where the comedy has sparkle and bite and the story’s spine has a vertebrae full of funny bones with slipped dramatic discs.

Blessed with a fine ensemble cast that relish in spitfire delivery and comedic timing, WHAT’S IN A NAME is reminiscent of the golden age of comedy where character and situation combine to power the turbine of intelligent entertainment.

What’s in a name turns into what’s in a joke and at whose expense as this clever comedy illustrates the thin line between social decorum and civil disintegration.

Marie Cheminal’s production design is exquisite. Almost all the action of the film takes place in an apartment and it looks and feels so real, so lived in that it’s a marvel – so marvellous and fully dimensional that it becomes a key character in the film.

From the opening credits where all the collaborators are identified by their first names only through to its colossal conclusion, this fabulous film is a joy to the ear and the eye.

Written for the screen and directed by MATTHIEU DELAPORTE & ALEXANDRE DE LA PATELLIÈRE from their original stage play, WHAT’S IN A NAME? is arguably the best comedy to grace our screens since Roman Polanksi’s CARNAGE.

 

RUSSIAN RESURRECTION FILM FESTIVAL 2013

gentleman of fortune
A scene from the poignant GENTLEMEN OF FORTUNE

Celebrating a decade of détente, a veritable glasnost of cinema, The Russian Resurrection Film Festival kicks of July 24 at the Chauvel Cinema for a fortnight of fun, thrills, thought provocation, and soul searching.

Opening with LEGEND 17, an ice hockey extravaganza that made the Russian box office give a puck , Russian Resurrection Film Festival continues its ten year tenure with a myriad array of movies including dramas, documentaries, and even a disaster flick. Two of the selections, MARATHON and THE GEOGRAPHER are screening here ahead of their Russian release.

One of the highlights is the short and bittersweet THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME, a superbly succinct study of the slings and arrows of ordinary lives set on New Year’s Eve, as two brothers contemplate their father’s imminent demise after receiving a devastating diagnosis on his behalf.

One of the siblings is a city slicker navigating the slippery slide of ambition whilst the other has remained in the less cosmopolitan country town of their birth. Both have moribund relationships with their partners, the mundanity and mendacity of modernity grinding them down.  the hope of the New Year, when things are born anew, the chance of fresh starts and new beginnings lends a poignant motif, especially when The boys become surrogate dads to a disenfranchised teenage girl, neglected by her real parent.

Set to the music of a Seventies Soviet classic, THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME has the tonal ambience of Dorothy Parkers poem, Resume.

The disintegration of the filial paternal paradigm is explored in THE CONDUCTOR, the story of a Moscow maestro taking an orchestra to Jerusalem to perform The Passion of Matthew. The conductor is not there just to make music but to organise the funeral of his estranged son. Disapproving of his son’s apparent lack of discipline, the devastated dad must deal with the grief and guilt of surviving his son. Vladas Bagdonas is majestically monolithic as the maestro, brilliantly conveying the inner turmoil of his distress; a granite like gravitas, sturdy stoicism in the face of despair. To add to his woes, members of his orchestra are experiencing psychological and emotional meltdowns as well, and there is the palpable danger of extremist action in the streets of the city.

A lighter tone is struck with LOVE WITH AN ACCENT, a multi story apartment movie which takes its template from Love, Actually. It could easily have been called Georgia on My Mind as all the stories are set there, eschewing any recent dispute or conflict between the state and Russia, and concentrating on the whimsical and ephemeral. The mountains and valleys and general Georgian scenery are gorgeous and give ample armchair traveller payoff even when the rom com flags.

Also in a lighter vein, GENTLEMEN OF FORTUNE – both the original 1971 film and the remake from 2012. The original concerned a kindergarten teacher recruited by the police to pose as a notorious criminal in order to reclaim an iconic treasure. It was pitched as a family film and had a lovely naivety and charm. The remake is a brasher, bigger budgeted affair, still charming thanks to its leading man, now a children’s entertainer, but it’s certainly more violent and mildly malevolent in comparison. It’s also 12 minutes longer and doesn’t need to be; movie makers whether in Moscow or Malibu all seem to suffer from the malaise of bloated runtimes, especially with comedies that should be bright and breezy and brief.

Some 28 films make up the festival with about half a dozen being retrospectives, reminding us of the difference in style and content from Iron Curtain days to the present.

So crack open the caviar, sip from the samovar or kick back with a vodka, and submerse yourself in some subversive cinema. Screenings at the Chauvel, Paddington from July 24 – August 7, with sessions at Event Cinemas Burwood on Saturday and Sunday August 3 and 4. Tix through MCA or at the Cinemas

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shine again in BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shine again in BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Thankfully, Richard Linklater’s third instalment in the “Before” trilogy is a triumph.

It’s hard to believe that it’s eighteen years since we were introduced to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) at their first meeting on the train hurtling through Austria. BEFORE SUNRISE chronicled their night exploring Vienna and their burgeoning romance.  Nine years later, BEFORE SUNSET witnessed their reunion in Celine’s home town, Paris. Now, we have BEFORE MIDNIGHT, with the couple going through a mid life crisis in Greece.

True to the original template, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is a travelogue talk-fest shot in long takes that serves an inherent honesty and truth in narrative and performance.

Credited as co screenwriters, Hawke and Delpy have coalesced their characters into a compelling coupling that has the verisimilitude that comes with genuine, grounded relationship. It’s like 7UP but polished and honed. Jesse and Celine take us to the coalface of long term  relationships as the mundane mendacity of domesticity assails the ramparts of romance gives it the dramatic frisson. We fell in love with the previous movies as the couple fell in love with each other. Now nine years on, we still love these characters, even though they might not be still in love with each other.

At the film’s beginning, Jesse is farewelling his son from his first marriage, and is considering returning to the States to spend more time with him.

Celine seems to have become shrill, disappointed with how the relationship has panned out, motherhood and marriage having marginalised her career ambitions. Jesse, always the greater romantic, to the point of fashioning a fiction around their lives, turning their love story into a tale for mass consumption, remains the incurable romantic, desperately trying to allay any derailment of their relationship.

Intelligent, mature and funny, boasting the best dialogue from an American picture this year, BEFORE MIDNIGHT nevertheless has the worm of worry built into its title. Will this midnight summer dream turn into a domestic nightmare, growing darker before the dawn, the fairy tale ending faltering and fading?

Here’s hoping there will be BEFORE DAWN  nine years hence, but if not, we’ll always have SUNRISE, SUNSET, MIDNIGHT as one of the great trilogies in movie history. Give me middle age over middle earth any day!

 

THE LONE RANGER

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If THE LONE RANGER is an attempt to rebirth the Western, I’m afraid it’s still born. With its unwieldy length, imposition of an old Tonto retelling the story, a dreadful deadpan Depp bordering on dull, this poisons the well of Western box office as devastatingly as an asbestos inhaler.

The best thing that can be said of THE LONE RANGER is that its set pieces are worthy of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, but are so mismatched in the feeble narrative as to be puzzling rather than palpable.

The originators of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise probably thought it a no brainer to swap Jack Sparrow’s tri-corner for Tonto’s ornithological chapeau and have Johnny Depp work his magic, but whereas the buccaneer was funny in his flamboyance, the Injun is under the bottom, the dead pan just plain dead, like he’s smoke signaling his performance in.

Armie Hammer – what a name – is asked to look chiseled and no more and so that’s what he does. He is more the lame ranger than the lone – and anyway, he’s certainly not lone, he’s saddled with the annoying, filthy paint faced Comanche. Armie hasn’t been in a movie worth his talent since The Social Network – let’s hope his turn as Illya Kuryakin in the upcoming Man From UNCLE is a better outing.

Helena Bonham Carter is fun but under utilised as the one legged brothel keeper Red Harrington, who keeps a peacemaker in her prosthetic.

Tom Wilkinson is cliché ridden railway mogul; William Fitchner is the vile Butch Cavendish, and Barry Pepper as a Custeresque cavalry man rounds out the cast in search of a script.

This is the first real misstep for director Gore Verbinski ( Mousehunt, The Mexican, Rango)–hopefully he will correct himself and not fall into the Michael Bay abyss. Because this movie looks like it has been made by that brat of bombast.

The Lone Ranger was born of radio – with respect to this pictorial presentation, it’s where he belongs.

Hi ho Silver? Tarnished.

 

 

WE STEAL SECRETS

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It’s interesting, ironic even, that the Fourth of July is the release date of Alex Gibney’s remarkable documentary WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS.

American Independence Day seems a suitable date to examine an act that has its perpetrator, Bradley Manning, on trial for treason against the United States under violations of Articles 92 and 134 (the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Espionage Act), the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, a capital offense. The court martial has commenced and may well continue past July 4.

In the meantime, Gibney’s doco is a brilliant background briefing to what has led to Manning’s trial and Julian Assange’s embedding in the Ecuador embassy.

www. Used to mean world wide web, but in the era of cyber secrets you could well think it stands for  whistleblower website wikileaks, a site dedicated to exposing unjust and secretive systems of government.

Since Wikileaks disseminated the dizzying array of diplomatic dossiers and defence documents, Assange and Manning have been entwined, tarred as traitors and terrorists by some, hailed as heroes by others.

Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney was first drawn to document the drama because he deemed it was a David and Goliath story. Then he discovered it was much more than that.

In the age of the Internet, Facebook, twitter etc, what is secret anyway? What is private? What is public? Another whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, has consequently popped up and alleged that Washington is spying on civilians. With the amount of facile baring that takes place on Facebook there’s scant nothing for spooks to discover.

The first casualty of this brave new world appears to be accountability. Assange believes government ought to be accountable but sees no personal accountability in divulging sensitive and classified information. Dizzying double standards apply.

The Swedes want Assange to be accountable to allegations of sexual impropriety. He claims political asylum. His supporters use cyberspace to insult, attack and sully the Swedish women who say Assange has a case to answer.

The power of the private citizen to attack lack of government transparency generates and promotes an uber public persona which appears to generate and promote paranoia that taints transparency in the company crusading against the politically opaque. It’s like the conundrum, hating hate. Zealotry against zeloutry makes you a zealot

Information is power. Freedom of information is empowering.  But with freedom and power come responsibility and accountability, and the contradictions are colossal, corruption a contagion.

 

 

RAISING THE CURTAIN

Geoffrey Rush is featured in this impressive documentary
Geoffrey Rush is featured in this impressive documentary about Australian theatre

An absolute must for any Australian, whether they are theatre goers or not, is the three part documentary RAISING THE CURTAIN available on DVD through Madman.

A celebration of Australian theatre, it mirrors Australia’s cultural and social evolution, performance being present in the penal colony from almost the raising the flag. Convicts and Corps craved entertainment and so the show must go on.

The gold rush brought an appetite, an economy and an opulence that gilded the industry, girded its loins, and an intense entrepreneurial flurry brought performers in tents out to the fields and finally into grand playhouses.

Through archival footage and interviews with existing veterans, this is a vibrant, compulsively watchable series that explores all facets of show business in Australia, from the indigenous, impresarios, vaudevillians, circus acts, imports, playwrights, hoofers, actors, and cross dressers.

Barry Humphries and Reg Livermore give frank and fertile interviews about their careers and inspirations for their iconic cross-gender creations, Dame Edna and Betty Blokk Buster, marvellously illustrated with fascinating footage.

Like so much of Australian society, the theatre was beholden to colonial roots and later to Broadway musicals and the programme examines the pros and cons of this reality, as well as the exhilarating emergence of home grown theatre, the first great and lasting success being Ray Lawler’s The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, with the baton being taken up in the Sixties by dramatists like David Williamson and Jack Hibberd, and companies like La Mamma and Nimrod.

The background to this burgeoning bombast of broad talent has commentary by those who were at the barricades, including Graeme Blundell, John Bell, and Jim Sharman.

Present day performance landscape features legendary larrikin ethos along with indigenous drama and dance, a corroboree of cultures coalescing into a contemporary scene that continues to entice, enthral, enrage and entertain.

Thoroughbred thesps like Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Robinson, and Robyn Nevin, reflect and ruminate on the past, present and future in a showcase of achievement and sheer exuberance.

Much more than just a luvvie fest, RAISING THE CURTAIN is a backstage pass to the rise and rise of Aussie theatre, both the show and the business.

RAISING THE CURTAIN,  3 x 54minute episodes, is available through Madman, SBS, and many retail centres.