Saturday, July 16, 2011
Humour is fascinating, there are many shades and J.A.T.O is a play that explores the grey. Written by Vedrana Klepica it is set in Zagreb. A city which like the characters has a broken past, when a story is told about pigeons setting upon sparrows it is told with the bitter amusement of a people who know that massacres did and do happen and we would do well to remember it on some level. We as an audience are here to be reminded of this, we would do well to understand this humour, because this is what it is to be human.
We are presented with two narratives set for collision. A band of off cuts, endless travellers without music or cause and the security guards set to guard the arrival of an important dignitary.All the characters in this play have little if any control over what is to come. J.A.T.O, Bjorn and Helenna have a set to play but they are really a part of a more sinister game; Grey Eagle and Fatso are pawns in a system beyond thier control and Julia? Well Julia would like to think that with her wine she is in control of the game but she if anything demonstrates how out of our control our lives are. Incidently portraying these characters would be a challenge for any group of actos but playing them so comprehensively with accents is testement to the abilities of this ensemble. Tanya Dickson directed her vision of these characters very well and brought depth beyond the words in stylised movement.
Once again the MKA pop-up theatre in Prahan pays host to a fine piece of new writing in an completely transformed space. This time we are treated to a shifting floor that complements a text that dares you to pin it down. Designed by resident set designer David Samuel it was certainly a transformative canvas and worked well. It was a space of great potential and when it was integrated into the action there was a great additional dynamic to the work. Strong production values have typified Samuel's residency and he definately has a bright future in the industry. Complementing the sand was a stark lighting design by Megan Fitzgerald and deceptively grey costume design by Chloe Greaves.
Speaking of grey, back to the humour (!)
There is a harsh rasping texture to the humour of this play. J.A.T.Oscreams at times with violence and at others is deadened with the inevitable and yet through these incarnations it reamains acutely observed and tailoured to the situation. Whilst difficult to describe it as funny it is a play about humour as a refuge for the desperation of humanity and ultimately serves reminds us that it is most often the broken people that end up breaking through.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
[Centre is Peter Berzanskis as Stephen King with Mim Mim behind him. Photo credit: Tim Chmielewski]
King of Bangor by Lee Gambin.
Haunted by his life’s work Stephen King sits alone drinking at his typewriter. But is he ever really alone? For the ghosts of his fiction rise out of his subconscious, characters questioning his writing, his motivations and his direction as an author. King of Bangor by Lee Gambin is a dramatic one-act play that unravels the work and the man that is Stephen King.
Throughout we are treated to characters from his novels including Carrie, Misery, Salem’s Lot, Cujo, Christine and The Running Man. Their appearances are sometimes loud, sometimes creeping, perhaps ‘real’ for a moment before slipping into a fictional reality. Some are angry at Stephen King for his work, others upset, others mocking. It is testament however to the strength of the writing and the structural integrity of the work that not knowing all these references does not necessarily spoil the performance. It is an intriguing tapestry of characters and all are performed with considerable panache by the excellent ensemble cast.
Anchoring the play is Peter Berzanskis who as Stephen King is left helpless and a little reeling as his fiction unleashes its fury. As the focal point of the work he is a strong presence and manages to pull of inciting a mix of pathos and contempt for his character from the audience. Around him circle an excellent ensemble Tamara Donnellan is by turns cloying and bubbly; Mim injects powerful malice with a mallet; Nicholas Brien is affable but disconerted and Reville Smith enters the stage each time with a bang. Each actor brings unique elements to their characters and this distinction is aided by clever costume design by Gowri Paary.
Director Dione Joseph showed great talent in the staging of this play, particularly inspired was the decision to have violinist/composer Christine Munro onstage to accompany the action. The music is integrated with great precision and the live-ness it added gave a great vitality to the show. The work is also precisely choreographed to the space and the physicality that defines Joseph’s work is apparent and on display to great effect. There is a resulting dangerous energy to the entire play.
One-act plays need to strike an interesting balance of content, narrative and length. At just over one hour perhaps King of Bangor could have been fleshed out a little longer with the addition of a narrative for the character of Stephen King himself. As well as the interaction with his work there might have been the potential for King to move through his manic nightmare as it is we are left with him as stuck and powerless as he started. Perhaps this is the intention though – to make the point that during King’s drug and drinking days there was no escape and no movement forward. Structured as is, it certainly achieves that.
Although marketed to horror fans this play does have broader appeal. It is insightful, surprisingly funny at points and delightfully inter-textual. It is not a comfortable place to be sitting as Stephen King at his typewriter, but it sure is an absolute pleasure to sit in the audience and watch as both the play and his sanity unfold.
King of Bangor has a three week season at Bella Union. Get onto it and go and see it!
The Horror Face
By Glyn Roberts
The pop-up theatre at MKA is tucked into office space above the Prahan but entering the set designed by David Samuel the audience is completely transported into a clinical world where emotions are a commodity as much as humanity. This is a reality where enclosed within plastic sheeting we accept humans are synthesised into being and are at the mercy and under the control of their creators. It is an extension sideways from our own reality to reflect back growing concerns about eugenics.
The structure of this work was appealing and deceptively simple. It was nominally divided into parts A, B and C but the themes and atmosphere were consistent and anchored by the repeated motif of the self-help seminar. Playwright Glyn Roberts’ intricate weaving demonstrates considerable skill and subtlety in his writing. Linking lions into the content was inspired and it gave a lovely absurdity to the play.
Working also to connect the stories were the actors who were double cast throughout The Horror Face. The ensemble was very strong and they were able to demonstrate their talents with a variety of characterisations in the work. Matt Young played Ivan with endearing simplicity; Annie Last unleashed her inner animal to great effect in contrast to her otherwise restrained performance; Brendan McCallum was both in control and broken by turns and Soren Jensen demonstrated incredible voice dexterity across his roles. It was also quite nice to have him playing characters murdered by the lion in part A and B and then in part C finally having the opportunity to became a lion himself. Andrew of course deserves a special mention as part of Jensens’s performance. Inspired and excellently executed performance.
Felix Ching Ching Ho as director demonstrated a deft hand at confronting the surreal. She delivered a wonderful staging of a play that one can imagine would be a challenge to perform. Despite the structure, the action did not feel disjointed and it flowed smoothly between the scenes. There was also great integration with other production elements of lighting and sound demonstrating a holistic approach to the direction.
The Horror Face was surprisingly amusing at points; poignant at others and ultimately a very political play. The sense of foreboding that haunted the work did not explode into a terrifying climax; but that is the very insidiousness of eugenics – it creeps into society and before you know it we are living in a whole new world of horror.