The subject of Steve Rodgers play, adapted from the novel by Peter Goldsworthy, is not Jesus. The subject is family, how devoted we are to it and how we will give everything to it.
Linda and Rick Pollard are a happy couple. They have two children, Ben and the younger child, Wol. Life is going smoothly.
The couple try and protect Ben and Wol from the harsher realities of life. They want them to be ‘bathed’ in love. They even banish the tv from their house as an unnecessary distraction from .the peaceful environment they are determined to live in.
Then one day, their girl Wol takes ill. They take her to the Doctor. The Doc organises a battery of tests. The results come back. Wol has leukaemia.
The perfect Pollard family world is rocked. The family goes into damage control. It isn’t helped when, in one scene, Wol completely ‘loses it’ and screams out that she doesn’t want to be alone, she doesn’t want to die.
Darren Yap very sensitively directs this production and wins good performances from his cast. Matthew Whittet plays the idealistic Nick. Liam Nunan is Ben who just wants to see his sister get better. Grace Truman gives a touching performance as Wol.
Valerie Bader doubles up as Grandma and Doctor Eve. Mark Lee plays Grandpa and the local priest.
My performance of the night was Emma Jackson’s as the very gritty, earthy mother, Linda.
Emma Vine’s compact set and costume design worked well as did Max Lambert’s soundscape, underscoring the action.
A touching, sensitively wrought drama, JESUS WANTS ME FOR A SUNBEAM plays upstairs at Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills until Sunday 8th March, 2020.
Featured image : Matthew Whittet and Emma Jackson in ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’. Pic by Brett Boardman.
The play starts with Oscar enjoying a cards night with his friends. This is a mens only club and they behave in a very relaxed and slovenly way. They are one man down.
Late in the night Oscar receives a call to say that his friend Felix has been thrown out of his house by his wife and is roaming the street like a lost soul. The group ate very worried about him, knowing what a sensitive soul he is. They conspire, in the event that Felix comes to the door, to pretend to know nothing about Felix’s drama. Continue reading THE ODD COUPLE : WHEN OPPOSITES CLASH, GREAT COMEDY ENSUES→
Belvoir Street Theatre hosted a full house for the launch of its 2020 season which comprises 11 plays.
Before unveiling the plays chosen Artistic Director Eamon Flack described the selection process. Despite what many people thought the plays included were not there to serve an over arching theme. Rather they were selected on the strength of their own merits. Once listed as a whole, there is an irresistible urge to find that all encompassing theme. One of the playwrights put it succinctly that the theme of all of the plays had the strong message of ‘how can we do things better’.
Amidst growing controversy of a perceived male dominated theatre, Belvoir Street Theatre has opted for a year where the majority of the plays are either written by, adapted by or directed by women. Some feature women in the lead role,
The 2020 season is not didactic or message driven. Like all good theatre there is a leavening of both tragedy and comedy, compassion and insight.
In a first for a Belvoir launch either the writer, director or adaptor were briefly interviewed by Tom Wright in relationship to their particular play giving subscribers further insight into the choices they will have to make.
In brief, here is the list of plays that have been chosen :-
Every Brilliant Thing: 10th to 26th January
Steve Rodgers will reprise his role in this return season of the 2019 smash-hit production, Every Brilliant Thing. A warm, deeply-felt show that gleaned both awards and applause, Every Brilliant Thing is heartfelt, generous and original. A real gift that builds hope and joy – with help from the audience – every night.
Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam: 6th February to 8th March
After garnering accolades for its premiere season at Riverside Theatres, Belvoir presents National Theatre of Parramatta’s production of Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam, based on the novella by Peter Goldsworthy and adapted by Steve Rodgers. A powerful reminder of what we do for those we love, this show is an unmissable family story – raw, honest and beautiful.
Dance Nation: 14th March to 12th April
Somewhere in America, away from the bright lights, a group of young teen girls prepare for the most important event of their lives – a dance show contest. A comic play of memory, feminist power and a subtly subversive exploration of the time of life when the demons can get in. Dance Nation will star an incredible line up of talent, including Mitchell Butel, Emma Harvie, Chika Ikogwe, Yvette Lee, Rebecca Massey, Amber McMahon, Louisa Mignone Tara Morice and Tim Overton.
A Room of One’s Own: 18th April to 17th May
Rippling with passion, Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own is arguably one of the finest pieces of writing in the last hundred years. Woolf’s essay has been painstakingly adapted by Belvoir’s Carissa Licciardello and Tom Wright, and stars Anita Hegh (The Wild Duck, STC’s The Harp in the South: Part One & Part Two).
Escaped Alone: 23rd May to 21st June
Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill (Top Girls, Serious Money, Cloud Nine) and directed by Anne-Louise Sarks (An Enemy of the People), stars an impeccable line up of four of Australian theatre greats on stage together – Judi Farr (STC/Steppenwolf’s August: Osage County), Kris McQuade (The Sugar House), Heather Mitchell (STC’s Harp in the South) and Helen Morse (Malthouse’s Picnic at Hanging Rock). Funny, complicated and sinister, this is one production not to be missed.
The Jungle and the Sea: 4th to 26th July
From the team that brought us the 2019 acclaimed Helpmann award winning Counting and Cracking comes The Jungle and the Sea. Written and directed by Belvoir’s Eamon Flack and S. Shakthidharan, and presented in collaboration with Lingalayam Dance Theatre, the story leans on two pillars of classic literature – Antigone and Mahābhārata – to forge a new story with the power to heal.
Miss Peony: 1st August to 6th September
A brand-new comedy from the writer who brought us the smash-hit 2018 production, Single Asian Female. Michelle Law’s (SBS’s Homecoming Queens) Miss Peony is a glitzy, glamorous and slightly unhinged comedy about being caught between two generations and two cultures. And what happens when the ghosts of generations past come back to haunt you, for real.
My Brilliant Career: 12th September to 18th October
My Brilliant Career written by Miles Franklin, adapted by award-winning Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) and directed by Kate Champion (Every Brilliant Thing), is a great tale of emancipation and identity starring the irrepressible Nikki Shiels (The Sugar House, They Divided the Sky) as Sybylla.
Cursed!: 24th October to 15th November
From 2019 Balnaves Fellow, Jaru/Gija writer Kodie Bedford (ABC TV’s Mystery Road) comes Cursed!, a madcap, liberating play. Thehilarious story of a mixed-up family – are they cursed, or can they change the way they see themselves and how the world sees them?
Summerfolk: 21st November to 20th December
Summerfolk iswritten by Maxim Gorky, and adapted and directed by Belvoir artistic director, Eamon Flack. A coastal town, somewhere in Australia, with a skeleton population in winter and swollen with the holiday crowd in summer. This particular bunch have been coming to their beach houses for years. They’ve got the money to enjoy themselves, they always have. Why should it be any different this year? Why should it ever change?
“There’s this pervasive siege mentality in the world right now and this season is designed to be an antidote.” said Belvoir Artistic Director, Eamon Flack. “Everywhere you turn someone is after your taxes or your identity or your religion or your body or your beliefs… It feels like everyone’s living on the back foot, all trigger-happy and pissed off. The best way to fight against an uptight zeitgeist like that is to open things up, be generous in your thinking and your ideas.
We have to work from the position that if we all sit down and pay attention we can figure things out. And Belvoir is uniquely set up to do that. Watching great artists live on stage in the company of strangers is the purest dose of that social contract you can get. So we chose these shows and these stories to help open things back up again, to help calm things down and give everyone some more damn trust in each other.
“This season mixes optimism with searching critique. It offers complex new theatrical work alongside time-tested classic theatricality. There’s an abundance of new stories and Australian stories, a mix of legends of the Australian stage and new talent. It’s an optimistic season. More is possible! The world can be better than this! That’s the spirit of our 2020 season”.
If the creatives’ visions are fully realised then it augurs well that the coming season may top this year’s record breaking 13 Helpmann awards .
Featured image : Courtney Stewart and Michelle Law at the Belvoir launch.
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→
JESUS WANTS ME FOR A SUNBEAM is an extraordinarily moving night at the theatre, with performances emotionally pitched to the narrative movements of the work, accessible writing which strikes at the heart and a multilayered thematic examination of a very difficult subject. But there is an underlying reality to this National Theatre of Parramatta production: it’s not about what happens in the room. It is about issues that will haunt the watcher’s sleeping and it’s about what the play begs of us, empathy inside the judgements and assumptions when a story hits the headlines.
In one room in a family home we meet the Pollards, a tight knit somewhat unusual family. They have been so, we understand, from the time Linda and Rick met. With the perfect family unit of an older boy, Ben, and a younger daughter, Emma known as Wol, the parents are very aware of the perils in life. In a presumption of protectiveness they have closed themselves off without withdrawing completely. Especially not from Linda’s parents, and Grandma and Grandpa are frequent visitors. And witnesses.
Because something has happened here and Ben, now grown, is trying to work out why. Through his eyes and the reminiscences of his father, the audience is slowly made aware of what has been sacrificed in the name of the children. It is never as it seems, this play, and such is quality of the writing from Steve Rodgers (adapted from the Peter Goldsworthy novella) that the narrative carries consistency of line yet is unpretentiously mysterious. The characters are completely understandable and the moral questions are enriched by this engagement. Continue reading JESUS WANTS ME FOR A SUNBEAM. GO.→
They watch. They lurk and lean and linger in doorways. We watch the men. And we watch ourselves watching. In KING OF PIGS there is a mirror at eye level to the audience and we see our watching selves reflected. Somewhat frozen by the confrontation of self-perception, our right to silence is invoked by the setting, yet we are implicated in the events. It’s a stunning metaphor in a play of reach and power which exhorts us to bear witness and be better. To confront our understandings and analyse our responses and speak of these hidden, skulking things.
We meet a woman, we meet 4 men. There are narratives around the men, all involving a woman, not one woman but, yet, the same woman. The men speak of past events. She speaks in the past tense of injury and love and violence and desire. The 4 stories will interweave to create a multilayered exploration of male violence, overt and covert. There is a mystery in the stories, what has happened and how did this woman get here. Continue reading KING OF PIGS: TIME TO CONSIDER→
“Never in my life has the right thing happened at the right time.”
Katherine Thomson’s iconic Australian play is revived by director Darren Yap at the Griffin Theatre Company for their 2017 season. Set in Wollongong, Diving for Pearls inspects the economic rationalism of the late ‘80s and the effect political decisions of the era had on opportunity and income for the working class, still impacting some today.
Ursula Yovich is brilliant as Barbara, a woman going through a rough patch who despite this, is eager to learn and immerse herself in the new job market while approaching 40. Steve Rodgers is the gentle Den, a steel work labourer adjusting to the new demands of the times. Together they compliment each other’s opposing personalities and form a wonderful (and at times comic) dynamic on stage. The range of passion Barbara and Den exude for one another reaches an ugly dramatic climax in Act 2, contrasting their affection during the first Act. Ebony Vagulans is another stand-out as Barbara’s intellectually disabled daughter Verge, who moves in to live with Barbara and Den, much to their surprise. Michelle Doake is the hilariously uptight Marj, sister of Barbara with an accent attempting to allude to higher status, particularly compared to the working class status of the other characters. Jack Finsterer is the serious Ron, Den’s brother-in-law and industrial consultant.
Griffin is well known for having a small stage, and the use of space was innovative. Set and costume designer James Browne had wonderful attention to detail, leaving no part of the stage unused. From small model houses lining the industrial pipes and dresser, to the grassy knoll that could then be flipped-up into the underground industrial areas of the town was a great transition from the natural to man-made modern world.
While having the ability to find humour in the often dark parts of the story, director Darren Yap reflects, “In the end, the hard thing this play says to me is: if you don’t change you will be changed.” Certainly Diving For Pearls is a comment on the ever-evolving world we live in, from the changing job market to the increasing over-reliance on technology. Our work is to adapt. Yapp believes we should “remember and cherish the past, but don’t live in it. We have to move forward. As I get older, I find that a harsh reality.” And perhaps this is the harsh reality of all the characters within Diving For Pearls. Life goes on for better or worse.
Diving For Pearls is on at Griffin Theatre Company from the 15th September – 28th October at 7pm Monday – Friday with additional 2pm shows on Saturdays and Tuesday 24th October.
On Friday, 30th January 2015, Steve Rodgers was awarded the inaugural Lysicrates Prize, receiving a full $12,500 Griffin Theatre Company commission, as voted by audience at Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The Lysicrates Prize was founded by Patricia and John Azarias, in conjunction with Griffin Theatre Company and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Mike Baird – Premier NSW, Luke Foley – NSW Opposition Leader, and Industry Leaders were amongst the audience.
Steve Rodgers was amongst three finalists who were shortlisted to submit the first act of a new play. The two runners-up Justin Fleming and Lally Katz each received a $1,000 cash prize. This innovative new Australian playwriting competition was inspired by the imminent restoration of an historic monument in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden: The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates.
Merry is not quite the word for A CHRISTMAS CAROL playing during the Festive Season at Belvoir. The show is definitely Christmassy, definitely snowy, but it is the faithfulness to the original text which gives the show its dimension. Modernised in places and with Australian accents, the production retains the Dickensian darkness to give a depth of thought to stay with you after the flurry has melted away.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Robert Menzies) is hunched over a large ledger when the audience enters the space. Bob Cratchit (Steve Rodgers) is working faithfully beside him. After an uncomfortable visit from his nephew Fred (Eden Falk), Scrooge reluctantly closes up for the day and heads home to his bed as Bob joyfully heads home to his family. It is at 1 am, in bed, that Scrooge encounters the tortured ghost of his dead business partner, Marley (Peter Carroll).
Rest will not come easy to Scrooge on this Christmas Eve. He will be visited by Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. These apparitions bring him back to the love of humanity he knew as a small boy. In this way, will he avoid the fate of his dead partner? Continue reading A Christmas Carol @ Belvoir→
This frank photo by Brett Boardman, one of Sydney’s leading stage photographers, of Steven Rodgers and Andrea Gibbs, gets to the heart, the essence, of the Griffin Theatre’s current production, Declan Greene’s, EIGHT GIGABYTES OF HARDCORE PORNOGRAPHY, far more than the show’s controversial, attention grabbing title.
Greene’s play is about the struggles, and intersecting journeys of two very ordinary, what could be more ordinary then anonymous, people. As Boardman’s photo shows- with the their slumped, dejected expressions, their zest for life is draining away. It is like neither of them have seen the sunshine for a long time. Greene’s play charts the journeys of these two people as they try to step into some sunshine, companionship and love.