Short & Sweet: Newtown Wildcards Week 2

A brief look at Newtown’s Short and Sweet Wildcards for week 2.

Short & SweetNewtown Theatre, SydneyJust Seven Minutes Saturday, January 16, 2009  Just Seven Minutes to Go A meteor the size of France is about to smash into Earth, and the governments of the world have only given the general public an hour’s notice in order to prevent mass panic. Three friends – a beer-swilling bogan, a nerd and a girly-girl who does all the housework – spend their last seven minutes discussing their bucket list. Writer/Director Craig Delahoy has a good set-up for looking at how people react when faced with their own mortality, but he doesn’t really pursue these possibilities. There’s no sense of tension, no despair or resignation, not even a bit of irrational bargaining with unseen deities that you’re entitled to expect in such a situation. Instead we’re just presented with three mismatched flatmates sitting around having a bit of a chat.  Securing A Place Craig Delahoy also directs Faith de Savigne’s piece about a rigorous examination process. Ro Dempsey plays an upper-crust lady being put through her paces by Steven McGrath’s Pee Wee Herman-esque examiner. De Savigne lets you believe that you’re witnessing some sort of dystopian future, with the woman being grilled on medical and financial records, physical stamina and moral qualities, apparently to obtain a place in some sort of special program. The reveal as to what is actually going on is nicely done. Good writing, performances and directing all round, my only quibble would be that the last couple of minutes could have easily been cut.  Auckland Alex Broun’s script about an Afghani refugee’s misadventures doesn’t really add anything new to the whole shameful Tampa episode, but Subramaniam V’s interpretation of this piece is quite moving. Using a blanket as a stand-in for clothing, shelter and transportation, he gives an elegant performance that lends dignity to a people who have been brutally dehumanised.  Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore Gunter Swoboda’s piece on mental illness doesn’t really cover new territory, but this play about a young man returning home after a suicide attempt does have its moments. Matt Orchard’s Johnny is being torn apart in all directions – the pleas of his worried mother and doctors compete with the voices in his head, demanding that he make a decision. There are some creepy moments before these imaginary friends gain a voice, with demonic Eliza St John growling and hissing, and angelic Michelle Sewell cooing softly, both waiting to re-invade Johnny’s cranium at the first sign of weakness.  Erlkonig This seemed to be an interesting take on a dementia sufferer’s fight to retain some sense of autonomy, defying the inevitable as it takes the shape of a malevolent figure from ancient folklore. It was difficult to ascertain exactly what was going on though, because at certain key moments the performers’ voices would drop so low as to be completely inaudible. Apart from this issue, Penny Day, Ron Hadley and Mel Grob all perform well, but it was a shame not to hear all of Elizabeth’s Ban intriguing script.  The Bed of Anthony Brunsdon Another Alex Broun script, this one about a young music student who has been invited to assist a famous composer. It starts out well. Discussing the invitation with a sceptical friend, two possible scenarios are imagined – both involve an attempted seduction, but only one involves a beer gut. Thanassis Boulis and Chris Lewis are both entertaining as the suave and dirty-old-man versions of Anthony Brunsdon. The play loses steam at the end, unfortunately, with a sense of last-minute improvisation, as if, having had fun for the first few minutes, no one is really sure how to end things.  Man From the Bar An interesting play that unfortunately, like Erlkonig, suffers from an excess of sotto voce. Victoria Hopkins monologues as a woman going through a horrific experience, and for the most part her performance is quite compelling. Yet with her voice becoming low and inaudible at important junctures, I wasn’t sure if I was missing something. Was I supposed to believe the friend she talks about exists, or is she a figment of her imagination, formed as a self-defence mechanism? Another small issue with a big reveal at the start – Hopkins has her back to us and suddenly turns around, showing a face half-covered in bruising. With the dim blue lighting being employed at this point, the makeup on Hopkins’ face was virtually invisible, again leading to a distracted feeling of having missed something. Hopkins and writer Phillip Kavanagh produced something interesting here, and fixing these technical points would make it truly compelling.  Going Down A New Age guru finds herself stuck in a lift with some of her followers/victims. The lift gets stuck, and of course this leads to general panic seasoned with a big pinch of truth-telling. The guru has relationship issues, the hot young guy is only going to New Age seminars to get into the hot young girl’s tie-dyed knickers, and the miserable older guy is miserable because the New Age seminars turned his wife gay. Or something. Spirited performances by Ursula Paddon, Bianca Newton, Alan Baikie and Rob Ekstein, but ultimately Going Down is all sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Narrate This Andy Piper’s fractured fairytale gets off to a promising start, with a pompous storyteller being critiqued by the characters in the story she’s telling. However this funny look at storytelling conventions and stereotypes quickly loses shape and ends in a bit of a flabby mess. It’s a shame because, with a bit of discipline, Piper’s writing could show some promise. Entertaining performances from Adam Boys, Mark Humphrance, Aileen Beale and Laura Hughes.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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