TICK TICK BOOM is a new work by Melissa Lee Speyer and it is a play with a great deal going for it. The themes, characters and narrative are well woven into an entertaining drama with two richly written women characters, a plot which carries an intellectual mystery within it and a lightly lingering existentialism. But it is also a show which will benefit from genuine feedback in this, its first outing. Despite some slightly flawed direction, this production by subtlenuance is a satisfying watch particularly for the performances which display a lovely truth in the intimacy of this small venue.
Jodie and Clara are an odd couple of high schoolers somewhat trapped in Jodie’s room by their well-meaning mothers. They know each other from school, were friends when they lived on the same street as primary kids but it doesn’t appear that they now have anything in common, except the past. Jodie is suffering from a severe illness which is best managed in a confined space and Clara flits in and out of her tiny environs. Initially they are Fern and Cactus but their relationship to each other will change them both. Continue reading TICK TICK BOOM: THE FERN AND THE CACTUS→
Writer, director Paul Gilchrist has achieved a lot with his production of CHRISTINA IN THE CUPBOARD, now showing at the TAP Gallery in Darlinghurst.
Described in the program notes as “an experiment in comic magic realism”, the play is primarily effective due to the richness of its dialogue and powerhouse performances by a mainly young and exuberant cast.
Christina (Sylvia Keays) has retreated from the world, locking herself in a cupboard in her bedroom and apparently “withdrawing” from life, in part to do battle with her own “Leviathan”, a shadowy monster of the mind.
This has a profound effect on her family and friends who are all attempting to process the supposed abnormality of her actions, what role they played in her decision and what can and should be done to get her to come back to reality. They then embark on a number of strategies to coax her out of her situation.
Whilst those closest to her seem overly concerned about her well being, Christina herself seems strangely inured to their concerns, seeing nothing overly wrong with her desire to shut herself off, for a time, to disengage as a way of re-engaging with the world. As she says, “there are 7 billion of us out there” and her situation is undoubtedly being repeated elsewhere in the world somewhere.
This was this reviewer’s first trip to the TAP Gallery theatre and its surroundings left me not expecting very much, if the truth be told. Yet having seen plenty of Sydney theatre over the years full of lavish sets and big-name thespians, this show turned out to be a surprise joy on a number of levels and the sparseness of the set meant that all that was left were the words and those delivering them, and neither disappointed.
Keays shines in the lead role, where she is thankfully not confined to a cupboard but is free to roam the stage expressing the complexity of a character much wiser and worldly than her age would suggest.
She is constantly making comparisons with Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed taking the necessary time out to “find” themselves, and as absurd as these comparisons initially seem, they certainly provide the fodder for some of the play’s more amusing exchanges.
Alice Keohavong delivers a passionate performance as little sister Anna, beset with her own issues but needing her sister to be there for her.
Sonya Kerr and Sinead Curry are particularly memorable and provide much of the comic relief as Christina’s “best” friends Erica and Belinda, whose puerile competitive streak and obsession with social media and their number of Facebook “friends” offer a striking metaphor for the banality of the so-called real world, the one in which Christina is trying to escape from.
Helen Tonkin (Gwen) and Peter McAllum (Robert) put in first-rate performances as exasperated parents trying to process the notion that their daughter is in some way abnormal and that they had done something wrong to bring about this situation.
The parental perspective also gives the production a powerful counterpoint to the youthful perspective of the rest of the characters, and they are not afraid to ask some of the tougher questions, both of themselves and the others: are we any wiser just because we’re older? Is parenthood something people enter into out of a sense of obligation, because they are taught that it is the right thing to do, because it satisfies a primordial urge? Do mothers by definition love their children more than their children love them?
McAllum also provides some of the most memorable comedic moments, replying to Christina’s references to God with a very loud “Christ”.
Stephen Wilkinson as Christina’s nervous ex boyfriend Gabriel and Kelly Robinson as the somewhat enigmatic Lucinda are also highly believable.
Aside from the acting, what really makes this production work is the way in which Gilchrist’s dialogue has successfully captured so many aspects of life in a 90-minute timeslot: the struggle for acceptance, what constitutes normality, the need to conform to feel accepted, the struggle against loneliness, what is responsibility and what are the consequences of shirking that responsibility, all of which are explored through a myriad of characters within the confines of one small stage.
The theme of normality is one that underpins the play from the get go and what is particularly interesting is how some of Christina’s soliloquising constitutes some of the most level-headed thinking in the play.
CHRISTINA IN THE CUPBOARD is a must for serious theatregoers with a sterling cast, some of which may well be household names in the not-too-distant future. As an audience member, I entered a little theatrical cupboard in a gallery basement, and left with a feeling of being part of the grand magic of the theatre as an art form and with the philosophical duty of inquiring about, and answering the questions, of what it means to be human.
Subtlenuance Theatre Company’s production of Paul Gilchrist’s CHRISTINA IN THE CUPBOARD opened at the Tap Gallery on Wednesday November 6 and runs until Sunday November 17, 2013.
‘In wine there is truth and laughter’. So goes the promo line for local playwright Paul Gilchrist’s new play. One can also add now, – out of wine one can also make a very appealing work of contemporary theatre. BLIND TASTING works well with its combination of lyrical writing by Gilchrist, and a lovely, well measured, and warm performance by Sylvia Keays as the intrepid Sophie.
BLIND TASTING starts in a bright, winning way. Sophie walks out onto the stage blindfolded, a bright red mask covering her eyes, fumbling her way till she makes it to the centre of the stage, next to a wine barrel on top of which sit a couple of bottles of wine. She calls out for someone in the audience to lend her a hand and join her.
A willing volunteer raced on to the stage and starts things off by cracking open the first bottle of wine. Sophie begins her blind tasting, swigging the wine very enthusiastically, mouthing appropriate wine lingo, and then requesting refills. Clearly, this lady loves to drink.
When the volunteer summons up her courage and asks for a drop herself, Sophie quickly asks her to take her leave. She has no intention of sharing the good drop!
For the next hour Sophie entertains the audience with stories from her life. Wine tasting is one thing, but she talks about some of her experiences working as a telemarketer, of-course, for a wine company. Telemarketing is a hard call, and that’s exactly how Sophie tells it.
On a positive note though, the job gave her the bucks to go on a cruise that she goes on with her work colleague, Kirstie. For Sophie the highlight is a romance that ensues with the svelte smooth and super- organised Peter, which she tells us in vivid detail.
As well as being an avid wine drinker and raconteur, Sophie fancies herself as something of a philosopher. As her night of sharing comes to an end, she tells us that, in her life now, she is endeavouring to look beyond the labels on bottles of wine as well those labels that some may put on the people in her life.
A Subtlenuance Theatre Company production, BLIND TASTING has completed its season at the Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, having played there for two nights only, on June 25 and July 30. BLIND TASTING has previously had runs in Adelaide, Melbourne and Los Angeles.
Paul Gilchrist comes up with a clever situation for his new play ROCKET MAN.
Daniel Hunter and Sylvia Keays play two young, attractive single people, Neil and Veronica, who meet at a party and have a hot night of sex together at Veronica’s apartment (impressive set design by Rachel Scane). The play starts with them waking up the morning after, feeling great and still wanting more action. Maybe this could be the start of something beautiful, the relationship that both have been looking for?!
Not bloody likely- as George Bernard Shaw would have said- after the sexy strangers start finding out a bit about each other. Veronica jumps out of bed, apologising to Neil…she can’t lie in…she’s got an audition to go to… for the role of Lady Macbeth. Neil starts to mock her, he can’t stand actors and hates the theatre. Veronica is aghast. She then asks Neil what does he do. ‘I’m an astronaut’, he retorts. His answer throws Veronica..puts seeds of doubt into her mind…have I just spent the night with a loopy guy?! A match made in sexual heaven looks set for a short life span on planet earth.
No, the playwright does not end up delivering a variation of the ‘Looking for Mr Goodbar’ scenario…We end up with a complicated, intense play, delving into the difficult lives young people lead these days. Gilchrist throws into the plot mix, Veronica’s flatmate, critical curse, Claudia, played by Alyssan Russell, and her boyfriend, Justin, performed by Stephen Wilkinson, who just happens to have known Neil from high school days.
Gilchrist helms the play himself. The show plays straight through and the cast perform well.
My verdict. I wanted to like ROCKET MAN more. The narrative felt like it petered off, with the black-out being a little welcome. Maybe as a short, sharp piece this play would have worked better. The one level in which ROCKET MAN worked well was as a dialogue, a debate, about theatre…the importance of…the relevance…the craft…There was humour..insight…insider references…perhaps a few of the jokes a little too snide and self indulgent.
Subtlenuance’s production of Paul Gilchrist’s ROCKET MAN opened at the Tap Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst on Thursday July 4 and runs until Sunday July 14, 2013.
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