Brand Spanking New



Eight plays are in the mixed bag on offer for this first week of the season of new writing. There was a nice start with a montage of all the cast on an artfully arranged set consisting of suspended pieces of writing.



New Theatre, Sydney


Week One

Saturday 30 October 2010

Eight plays are in the mixed bag on offer for this first week of the season of new writing. There was a nice start with a montage of all the cast on an artfully arranged set consisting of suspended pieces of writing.
Black and White (written by Ned Manning, directed by Augusta Supple) explored the theme of biased history over the major prop – a book of black and white photos. Michael Howlett and Jennifer White were the couple at loggerheads on what importance we place on social commentary, what we should find important and what may be worth fighting or even dying for. The use of the book as pivotal to limited action made the piece ponderous at times, with some preachy moments.
Ham and Eg (written by Joanna Erskine, directed by Beverly Callow) tells the story of two children locked away/deserted and their attempts to normalize the situation through magical thinking and childish fantasies. Felix Jozeps and Anya Puokchanski play the brother (aged 9) and younger sister. Erskine directs the adults playing children well (always a challenge) and these two actors, particularly Anya manage to channel the inner child.  
Yolk by Phil Spencer was one of the strongest plays of the night. A clever mix of satirical humour based on unlikely subjects and set within an AGM it sent up journalism, perceptions and spin in funny juxtaposition. Andrew Johnston does a lovely job of this monologue, keeping masterly focus and audience attention throughout even though his character could be called a ‘negative space’. Ngaire O’Leary directed the material with panache and excellent pace.
Chicom by Kate Mulvany was another strong offering with a simple but effective plot. Four soldiers are on tour of duty when it appears one of them has stepped on a landmine. They cannot move until each is instructed to remove the foot which may result in an explosion. Each reveals themselves in their last words. Alex Bryant Smith, Luke Carson, Matthew Charleston and Amy Matthews work well as an ensemble and director Augusta Supple does a nice job of keeping the tension front and centre.
Band Practice (writer Fleur Beaupert) is about a chance encounter which holds some promise for the couple who meet randomly in a park. Thomas Mittleheuser was a standout as the young man, with great comic timing and delightful stage presence. Kaliah Cabanas makes a nice contrast as the masterful yet romantic girl. Caroline Craig directed with a good use of the space and non–verbal moments.
Ascend written by Rebecca Clarke was difficult to follow. The relationship between the initially seemingly unstable older man (Jim Godsen) and a young street wise boy (Sonny Glover) was unclear. At first the thought is that they are strangers, then it is revealed they know one another and the woman, Anna to whom the older man intends to propose. This distresses the boy- but we are not really sure why. In the middle of the play is a long motivational speech about hitting rock bottom and clawing your way up and out, which contains some nice writing and was well delivered by Godsen and directed by James Winter but did this speech did not flow with the earlier characterization or advance the understanding of the plot.
One Percent by Katie Pollock started slowly and with seemingly random dialogue and involved an Autistic boy, beautifully played by Adam Roberts who is obsessed with numbers and counting. A man (Bruno Xavier) who is walking on the same street is attacked and bashed because of his ethnicity. The boy does nothing to help but is only upset that the routine has changed and the man is not there. Later the boy’s hand is hit by a meteor and in the emergency it transpires the man who was attacked is the doctor. The strength of this piece comes about through the understanding of motivations and actions and is well built by Pollock and directed with intensity by Lisa Eismen.
The Pash Off by Anna Lise Phillips explains why the set is a display of letters- they are love letters and evoke the school relationships between a now grown-up boy (Tim Walter) and girl (Georgina Symes) who are at different crossroads in their lives. Through a chance accident they meet and rediscover some aspects of themselves and each other. Shannon Murphy directs with a mixture of direct speech and interaction with asides to elaborate on thoughts and feelings. The writing is mixed and tangential with too many themes obscuring the essential plot.
Until November 6, 2010

Bookings: New Theatre 1300 306 776


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