Short and Sweet Newtown: Wildcards Week 4

Another full house Wildcard Saturday at the Newtown Theatre saw a great range of short plays in the usual humid space. 

  SHORT + SWEET THEATRE SYDNEY 2011WILDCARDS – WEEK FOURNewtown Theatre Saturday, 29 January, 2011 Another full house Wildcard Saturday at the Newtown Theatre saw a great range of short plays in the usual humid space. 
1. THE EUREKA LOUNGE REBELLIONThe Eureka Stockade is paralleled in this play with a Ballarat household who, during an animated discussion about the historical event, play out the similar actions in their very own habitat. Whilst the premise was an interesting set up, the dialogue fails to progress the ideals and a circular form of action occurs making it impossible to follow the point the piece was making. As much as the characters were regional Australians, the overly ocker Aussie accent did not enhance the play at all and made them a little too heightened to believe. The play needs to find its path and make each point clear and then build rather than a roundabout succession of arguments going nowhere.
2. SUPREME BEINGS CREATED THE WORLDThis was a joy to watch from start to finish as the creators of the world, two angels, daggy dance their way in to decide how to create people. Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy wrote the piece and their recognisable styles shine through the characters they created. Both actresses Holly Lee Meyer and Silvana Lorenzo de Shute gave the Australian touch to the piece brilliantly and performed well. Upon reflection however it really is a scene from a sketch show, and as brilliant as it is, it’s not really a short play. The actresses also directed themselves and one can’t help but wonder if the original writers’ performance was the main resource used for the direction. I was rather confused how the piece qualified for this program and will be following that up.
3. FLAT PACK BLUESThe concept of this play is inventive and clever as a man tries to build a cot from IKEA using the confusing instructions that are in broken German/English. The instructions come to life by James Belfrage who stands in the scene giving voice to the nonsensical assembly instructions in a German accent. The central male character appeared chauvinistic and unlikable in his blue singlet and the plot was quite predictable including the ending. There was no need for the second female character, a daughter, as she flops in and whines a bit and flops out again. Perhaps it was just my dislike of the disaster farcical comedy style but it just didn’t work for me. The incorrectly placed baby bump on the main female character was very noticeable as well – you really do need to get the basics right.
4. OPENESSJason Dunn has conceived a good idea for a play here but doesn’t quite deliver a plausible or purposeful plotline in this thriller involving a woman being visited by a hit-man who has been hired to kill her. The offender fails to hold the status of power throughout the scene, even though he holds a gun. Yet from what we see, he does indeed carry out his instructions to kill her in the blackout. Performed by husband and wife team Sarah and Brad Loxley there is a lack of tension and edginess for most of the play and this detracted from any chance of believing the severity of the situation. Sarah Loxley also directed this piece which again is very hard to manage successfully whilst an actor in the same play. 
5. DEAR DIARY, TODAY I…I must confess I am unable to give an accurate review of this play as I was constantly distracted by the ill behaviour of two young audience members who talked, laughed and fidgeted constantly throughout the piece. So maybe it’s a good time to review theatre etiquette instead – teach your children how to behave at the theatre and to show the deserved respect to the performers and other audience members by being quiet and still during the entire performance. That being said what I could enjoy of the piece was the strong use of movement and the well executed mix of dialogue with choreographed actions. The three performers Stephanie Ward, Rachel Weiner, and Erin Youngblutt showed commitment and great understanding of the piece. My apologies to Georgia Symons who wrote and directed the play however, I did give the boys a stern word after the piece and they were good as gold for the rest of the afternoon. 6. FORECASTThis play was one of those rare occasions when all the elements of theatre fused together in this shocking tale of a fire bug and his lust for flames. The writing by Karent Parker of Victoria details the profile of this fire bug thoroughly and openly with no judgements. We first get to share the joy the main character has for the day ahead, a scorcher of 45 degrees and strong winds. We soon realise it’s because they are great conditions for spreading enormous bush fires. Lisa Eisman showed imaginative and precise direction as every element of the character is revealed clearly and proportionately. Andy Madden has given the most impressive piece of acting thus far in my visits to Short and Sweet, in his well researched and convincing portrayal of the drug addicted, down trodden firebug. The cocaine snorting was highly detailed and the highs and lows of the mood swings were clear and in perfect context every time. It certainly got my vote.
7. THE FACE MIRRORThis play written and directed by Julie Danilis follows the outcome of plastic surgery and the trend of people wanting to look like celebrities. The play is intriguing for the fact that we all want to see the bandages removed and once they are, the plot just goes around in circles of argument. Renee Campbell gives an honest portrayal of a disappointed patient and Justine Lesu is a very convincing plastic surgeon possessing all the right skills to charm and talk around their patients. The piece needed another pair of eyes and another creative outlet to advance it to the stage and not remain the voice of the writer.
8. PLAYING WITH KNIVESNatasha Carter has written a dark comedy about the mugging in the streets of New York of an elderly couple. The couple played fairly convincingly by Carols Silvalingam and Wendy Knight are opposite in nature with the wife placating the attackers and wanting to yield and the husband using his cane to jab them and refuse to give in. Damien Sommerlad was an endearing and likable flawed bandit, whilst Geordie Robinson was more edgy as the successful mugger. The title is called “playing with knives” and it’s the knife playing that let the piece down. There is no power or intention behind the threats with the knives and too many threats and no action made it hard to believe muggers would be this patient in reality. There needed to be a strong sense of reality to plant the humour of the action successfully. There was a lack of momentum and purpose and this resulted in a weak ending with no resolution.
9. MASQUE OF THE RED DEATHIn an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, Alex Broun has written a very artistic piece and incorporated dialogue into orchestrated verse. The actors were all very young in this piece and worked tirelessly with very difficult writing to master. Pablo Woodward was captivating as Prince Prospero and was well supported by the other cast members. However, from an audience perspective it is very difficult to understand sentences when they are broken up into words and spoken by different actors one after the other, particularly when errors are made. 
10. MOLLYCODDLEDThis was a well written and well crafted play written by Georgia Symons and directed by James Sheppard about the coming of age of a young girl and what really makes a person grow up. The captivating story was made credible and convincing by the three young actors who were all equally strong in their own characters and showed great understanding of the piece. Maddy Steadman showed vulnerability and awareness as Molly, while Camilla Turnbull gave a realistic and convincing portrayal of a girl already of age. Diego Retamales was both endearing as Mitch before alcohol takes its course, and accurately out of control afterwards. With a successful ending and committed individual performances it was well done and an audience favourite judging by the response afterwards.
11. THE FALLOPIAN CHANNELThis was a strange concept by Kathryn Yuen that follows an Italian mafia husband and wife and two of the sperm that live inside of the husbands…. you know. Peter Adams and Kathy Urukalo worked strongly on the physical comedy of a cliché Italian mafia couple whilst the two sperm displayed cliché macho and homosexual characterisations of sperm. Nick Richards was quite convincing as the gay sperm and his adoration for the macho sperm was humourous. It was mostly engaging for its oddities but ultimately it didn’t seem to have any visible spine. Perhaps it is another illustration of the importance of a director that is neither a writer nor actor in the piece which seemed to be a common thread today.

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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