Posts Tagged ‘a doll’s house

11
Apr
16

When One Door Closes

 

When One Door Closes

La Boite Theatre Company & Circa

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

April 6 – 23 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

breathing. running. pink hair swishing. resting. gasping. pink hair running. falling, clumsily. bewildered. resting, but not. unsettled, but not. unwilling. undone. unfinished.

and then the men…

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It’s Nora Helmer (Britannie Portelli), in sweet pink, hot pink and sparkling, sequinned pink. Pretty, and unpredictable, in pink. One day she decides not to settle for less and she’s gone. In unapologetic orange, Hedda Gabler (Bridie Hooper). In bold red that belies every moment of “hysteria”, every insecurity, Miss Julie (Nicole Faubert). Unless you’re well acquainted with the women, or even if you’re well acquainted with the women, these three are any women. Every woman. Everywoman.

Late in the 19th Century they burst on stage and quite literally changed the world. Their presence called into question assumptions about women and their role in male dominated society.

They were of course written by men. They live within the conventions of the well-made play. In a sense they are trying to escape their forms as well as their men.

The circus we make is definitely not a well-made play. Rather it is abstract, shifting, elusive. Meaning occurs for sure but exactly where or how are mysterious.

– Directors, Yaron Lifschitz & Libby McDonnell

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The problem with abstract, shifting, elusive forms is that we are often left dissatisfied by the lack (or mysterious placement) of dramatic meaning, but the real problem here – if we are to discuss openly and honestly (and we do that here) – is that the product doesn’t match up to the sales pitch. It’s not what I expected. And that’s okay but I’m left feeling slightly confused because the production doesn’t do what I thought it said it would. I think I thought wrong… To be fair, the only claim was that the women would meet in a “visceral force of extreme acrobatic theatre.” And they do.

A door slams. A shot is fired. On the other side, unseen by the audience or by the befuddled, inconsequential husband and lovers are the three great heroines who created twentieth century drama: Miss Julie, Hedda Gabler and Nora.

What if they all ended up in the same room?

What if they couldn’t speak?

What if the room was full of scratched recordings of A Dolls House, Hedda Gabbler and Miss Julie, plus a dash of Freud?

How would they navigate each other, their own pasts and the future?

La Boite and Circa join forces on this new creation. Three masterpieces of turn-of-the-century drama meet the visceral force of extreme acrobatic theatre.

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 Circa is one of our country’s most highly regarded contemporary circus companies and at first glance, in this first stage of development (it’s officially a finished product but what is ever really finished?), this work is not nearly as exceptional as we have come to expect from Circa (they raised the bar with Il Retorno), however; presented by La Boite, When One Door Closes is also an experiment, relating the stories of the women – or, their frustrations at least – via varying levels of tension and court jester comedy, through acrobatics and high-risk tricks, some of which are symbolic of what the characters are going through.

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Not always the case, at times the tricks are arbitrary, included in the show because they can be, and executed in such a literal way as to bring out the comical, as when one of the men tips Nora upside down so that she becomes a broom, her hair used to sweep the stage. It’s a strange way to reiterate what we already know; these women exist in service roles only. No wonder they feel as if they’re choking, hanging, dead…

Oonagh Sherrard’s original compositions lead us in and out of the women’s heads, while at times, it’s odd; the men get comical musical numbers to lip-synch for seemingly no reason other than to provide the girls with a drinks break and the audience with an easy laugh. The collective physical strength and sheer force of the men’s presence underlines the power that men have held within each of these women’s lives. Perhaps the David Armand inspired parodies are an attempt to truly balance the stakes. (I love that the women claim their power, hand-balancing in the end, but I hate the male playwrights using “sickness” and suicide and the abhorrent act of leaving the children to do so).

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Hedda has the strongest presence, her chalk outline creating a devastating, enduring image, as she contorts herself to reach all the way around her body. She marks her own end on the glossy black floor. This routine, and the most arresting, disturbing straps routine I’ve ever seen (that’s a good thing; it’s brilliantly conceived and executed), keep Hedda at the centre of the story-not-story, and for me, provide the strongest thread, that is, if we are determined to see one running through the piece.

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If I’d decided not to write it up, I would have viewed When One Door Closes through a completely different lens, enjoying much more than I did on Opening Night, its circus and its comedy, and not needing any further structure or story. But because, perhaps foolishly, we went in with the expectation that this would be circus that was somehow more “theatrical” in its form and nature, my expectations weren’t met. To put it simply, I would have left feeling more satisfied if I hadn’t had to think too deeply about it! This is often a critic’s struggle, and not something general audiences will experience. It’s important to note because my opinion is no more valid than anybody else’s, but because I choose to share it widely I (mostly) feel the need to justify my conclusions. There are times when I simply respond to the work, without looking at it very critically at all, and this style of “review” could be said to be far more valuable to both audiences and artists. In fact, by not discussing the way the different elements work together, we indicate perhaps even more clearly the success of a piece. (Don’t tell that to the Drama students who must master the art of academically arranging their thoughts and assessing the way in which a director has created meaning by manipulating the Elements of Drama).

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Regardless of the reviewer’s style (and we follow those whose style we like, and whose opinions confirm our bias), a considered written response is always a valuable addition to the conversation. A star rating not so much, but easier, certainly, for publicists to use…

It could be reasonably assumed that because this is a circus show it can be sold under a family friendly banner, but I’d advise parents to consider the meaning that (mysteriously) comes across and ask yourself whether or not your child will question, as my child has done, “Which is the husband and which is the lover?” “Does the chalk outline mean she’s already dead or that she’s dead inside?” and “Are the straps the rope she hangs herself with?” And in response to my whisper, “Well, why does she have a straps routine if she shoots herself?”

If you bring children to the theatre, be prepared to discuss the themes and historical contexts of the original texts as well as those within the final work. Always.

(Or, everyone can simply enjoy the sequins and lifts and balances for what they are and avoid talking about anything else).

Circa is more successful than most in its exploration of blurring lines between forms. And with greater theatrical input (Todd MacDonald as Co-Director – or Director – rather than, or in addition to Dramaturg, for example), When One Door Closes might make more creative and contextual sense. Let’s look forward to the company continuing to experiment with form and style.

Without thinking too deeply about it, or expecting too much from it, the first production of La Boite’s 2016 season is perfectly engaging and entertaining. But let’s hope it’s not indicative of all they have to offer this year.

Performers: Nathan Boyle, Todd Kirby, Martin Evans, Duncan West, Nicole Faubert, Bridie Hooper, Brittany Portelli.

Production pics by Dylan Evans

07
Apr
16

When One Door Closes – a quick chat with Circa

 

When One Door Closes opens at La Boite tonight!

Season continues until April 23

 

A door slams. A shot is fired. On the other side, unseen by the audience or by the befuddled, inconsequential husband and lovers are the three great heroines who created twentieth century drama: Miss Julie, Hedda Gabler and Nora.

What if they all landed up in the same room?

What if they couldn’t speak?

What if the room was full of scratched recordings of A Dolls House, Hedda Gabbler and Miss Julie, plus a dash of Freud?

How would they navigate each other, their own pasts and the future?

La Boite and Circa join forces on this new creation. Three masterpieces of turn-of-the-century drama meet the visceral force of extreme acrobatic theatre.

 

In between rehearsals we asked Nathan Boyle and Todd Kilby some STUFF…

 

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Stretch or cardio?

NB: I’m about 75% stretch and 15% cardio. If i had to run away from something, I would be dead… Should probably change that.

TK: A healthy combination.

 

Base or fly?

NB: Base, although there are some times when I fly.

TK: Another deliciously healthy combination. (Middle)

 

Describe your weekly training routine.

NB: Every week is different, but it is generally along the lines of a 9 to 5 day except I don’t work at a desk. The first hour is a warm up. Then we move into skill training/skill development or we work with our Artistic Director. We have an hour break from 1 till 2 for lunch. Then generally have a light warm up and get back to work either working on specific skills or scenes from shows. At the end of the day we have a 30min cool down which we call ‘Body Love’

TK: My training routine will change a lot depending on where in the world I am, how long I have and what shows/skills I am doing. It usually begins with an hour long warm up consisting of some light cardio, stretches, strength and a bunch of co-ordination exercises/games (fun is very important). Then I usually train through the skills that I need to train for a specific show followed by any other skills and ideas that I am keen to learn and explore.

 

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What if not circus? (And how did you come to it?)

NB: I have only ever done circus, So if I was no longer able to be a performer I would love to get into some sort of design. I love architecture but I also have a passion for costume/fashion design. So maybe that?

TK: If not in the circus, I would love to be involved in the worlds of both theatre and music. Working in the creative process and the performance element. I came to do circus when I was 13 through two sources at the same time. One was the guidance of a high school drama teacher and now friend, who ran a circus school and the other was at a Newcastle community circus called ‘Circus Avalon’

 

Favourite place in the world?

NB: Favourite place in the world would be New York.

TK: I don’t have one favourite place as that would be quite rude of me considering that this beautiful planet we are lucky to call home is host to a plenitude of magnificence, but here are three honourable mentions: NEWCASTLE (Home), BERLIN (City of my dreams), Bhutan (Carbon Negative)

 

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What are you reading?

NB: The latest XS Entertainment piece *Wink Wink*

TK: Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan

 

What are you listening to?

NB: I admit, I have the world’s most eclectic and somewhat bad taste in music, I will listen to anything. I basically have Spotify on random and go from there.

TK: Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia by Aram Khachaturian.

 

Define feminism.

NB: That one gender should not be raised above another, they are both equal.

TK: Feminism – The advocacy for woman’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

 

Are there commonalities within the roles you play across the stories of Hedda Gabler, Miss Julie and Nora Helmer (A Doll’s House)? 

NB: Yes and no, sometimes I’m a male and sometimes I’m female. It’s all very gender fluid.

TK: Commonalities are everywhere. I am man. I am woman. I am man/woman. I am woman/man. I am control, freedom and support. At one point I am even Hedda Gabler. This may sound confusing but through the dramaturgy of the show roles are free to exchange and create a whole.

 

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Without dialogue, how much of the original stories & characters will we get? What’s the most important thing for us to get?

NB: There is some text, but instead of being spoon fed the plays we have used our physical bodies to encompass the roles of the women and men from the play. It’s quite obvious who the characters are as they are all so different from each other, come to the show with an active imagination and go with it from there.

TK: The characters, you will definitely get. That much is clear. As for the original stories, we have extended beyond them in time and space, whist exploring the thematics of the three plays.

 

What do we need to teach boys (and girls) about the roles of men (and women) in society?

NB: We need to teach everyone this. Each sex can be just as ignorant as the other. Your sex or sexuality shouldn’t define where you stand in society. If everyone is granted the same rights and same social status that question would be redundant. What a world that would be!!

TK: I’m not too sure about the ‘we’ and the ‘need’ in this question, but my view on our roles as human beings extend far beyond just boys and girls and men and women. Let’s just have care and compassion for each other regardless of gender, race, sexuality and religion. Let’s care for this planet. Let’s make people laugh. Xx

 

Directors Yaron Lifschitz & Libby McDonnell

Dramaturg Todd MacDonald

Lighting Designer Jason Organ

Costume Designer Libby McDonnell

Performers Circa Ensemble 

Composer Oonagh Sherrard

 

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 

12
Sep
14

A Doll’s House

 

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A Doll’s House

La Boite & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 10 – 27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo

 

Writer, Lally Katz, and Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, have recreated A Doll’s House for a new generation.

 

I’m not sure exactly what the new generation will get from it though because I feel the conclusion is slightly skewed. Is it just me? I always wonder what other people will take away from a show. I think the opening night crowd loved it! But the ending? Not so much.

 

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The feminist message is so overstated by the conclusion of this production that I feel sure I would have been happier to miss the final gear change and escape before the end, still anticipating, as Lally’s mum’s English teacher put it, “the door slam that was heard all over the world.”

 

 

The end of the three acts is an anomaly, completely at odds with the style and sophistication of the rest of the piece. The poorly matched bag and shoe colour-blocking fashion statement takes us defiantly back to the eighties, the music brings us well and truly into the nineties, and its strangely staunch feminist diatribe, after the fluid, modern, poetic language of the play, transports us stubbornly back to the seventies, when women’s lib was a thing. Okay, so it’s still a thing (it’s always been a thing), but in a very different way. In this country at least, we’ve been talking intelligently for a while now about equal rights, without having to burn our Honey Birdette bras and shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, I listened last weekend to Tara Moss talk very intelligently about it. (She’s actually my new favourite public person, right up there with our Cate).

 

At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to explain. I don’t want you to avoid seeing A Doll’s House because the ending is wrong for our time and place.

 

Like all good drama, the play speaks for itself. We don’t need the contemporary voice here to sum it all up in case we missed the point, in case we’re stupid. It just doesn’t ring true. Until this point Lally’s version is exceptionally clear – there’s no missing the message in this fresh and insightful adaptation – and when the essence of Ibsen’s original play (illuminated more brightly than ever through the beautiful, subtle changes in text and Mitchell Wright’s unnerving, alienating staging), is lost in the explanation, it’s like listening to the host of the party trying to break down a joke when someone doesn’t laugh at the punchline. Look, seriously, sorry, but the thing is this: if you’re having to explain a joke at your own event you need a) a new guest list and/or b) new material.

 

Admittedly, I was feeling slightly wary of Steven Mitchell Wright’s treatment of Lally’s updated text. (Wary is my defense mechanism. I don’t like to be disappointed). By this I mean, after recently experiencing The Danger Ensemble’s very challenging Caligula, I went into A Doll’s House not knowing what to expect! (N.B. This is a good thing in theatre). This neat team comprises Lally Katz and Steven Mitchell Wright, and Designer, Dan Potra, Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, and Composer & Sound Designer, Dane Alexander. Hughes’ lighting states and Alexander’s soundscape whisper discreetly together, with NCIS ad break clunks to punctuate plot points and the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters, until the ambience morphs into some sort of subterranean club scene. I’m already freezing and by the time I begin to visibly shiver I have to get out. I’ve never been so cold in The Roundhouse. The temperature and the volume are moving in opposite directions, forcing me outside into the marginally more comfortable night air of the Theatre Republic. It’s so discomforting it’s brilliant. Talk about experiencing the theatre! When I go back in, the space is still too loud and too cold and too small. It’s claustrophobic and if it were hot it’d be cloying. Because I’m still freezing I’m tapping my foot in spite of myself. It’s so not tapping-your-foot-to-the-music music. It’s music to go mad to. (And the bass clearly takes others to the point of madness about three quarters of the way through the final act, persisting underneath something classical, but I don’t mind it. I’ve slid down venue doors and heard that beat for hours longer. It’s sort of vaguely comforting, and it makes me think, responsibly, “THE BATON PASSES ON!”)

 

The company has achieved something extraordinary with this play (because let’s just forget that dreadful ending ever happened), which is to create an entirely new experience of one of our greatest feminist (or rather, free choice) plays. I always loathed it until I read it so many times I loved it. Nora annoyed me, and yet I chose A Doll’s House for an extended study unit in Senior Theatre (back when we called it just Drama). I designed costumes and a shoebox set, complete with actual doll’s house furniture. I didn’t consider this to be cheating; I thought it demonstrated my initiative, and an uncanny ability to source precisely whatever it was the production needed. It’s taken years for my skills to be truly appreciated in an actual theatre. Anyway.

 

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Potra’s creepy Grimm Brothers’ fairytale hair cum forest trees and tendrils (Wisteria Lane, anyone?) literally trap the inhabitants of Torvald’s house – a sort of a Sleeping Rapunzel Beauty effect – and the first few times our actors break into song, I expect to hear the princes’ refrain from Sondheim’s Into the Woods. (When they don’t sing it, I hear it inside my head anyway!). It’s a device that allows the opportunity for melodrama and many mini comedic moments. Each song also offers a glimpse at the complex machinations of the characters. But what I suspect is that it may simply be a bemused statement on musical theatre. I could be wrong…

 


 

I love the clever, slightly untidy action leading into the final moments of the play, when the actors connect additional power sources to light up the pallet parquetry floor from beneath, only to reveal its cracks. The cracks in the floor (in the faces, in the hearts and minds and souls of so many men and women), were always there, but until they’re illuminated it’s possible to stubbornly/naively/foolishly/destructively ignore them.

 

It’s brave, of course it is, to stage something so known so drastically differently, to trust your actors so completely to bring new aspects to each character, giving us new insight into an age-old story. If you’ve never seen A Doll’s House, originally staged in 1879, a month after Ibsen penned it, this one is a fascinating production, well worth making the effort to get to. And interestingly, when much younger members of the audience laugh (well, let’s say they are not that much younger), I feel a rush of sadness for Nora and still, despite our “progress”, a tenderness for women everywhere. I overhear an older couple discussing whether or not the young people are “getting it” and I can only conclude they are “getting” something completely different from the show. Or maybe not so different at all. It’s in that (and in my own response to the work), that we see the real magic of this version of the play.

 

I didn’t think I could ever sit through another production of A Doll’s House. We just don’t accept anymore that a woman relinquishes the right to answer back to her husband, or to manage her own affairs, but in this entertaining and moving production, it’s entirely believable. Of course this is largely due too, to the superb cast, comprising Helen Christinson (Nora “Hummingbird” Helmer – a delicate and precise little kewpie doll creature, like our Wife in Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, whose silent scream is loud and clear and whose Tarantella is, for one moment in time, just as wild and desperate as it should be. It’s at this point that a new production might find its finish. Christinson makes me ache for her…and wonder what it is the redheads in Brisbane theatre circles have been taking. I want some is all.), Hugh Parker (Torvald Puppet Master Helmer), Chris Beckey (Krogstad), Damien Cassidy (Dr Rank) and Cienda McNamara (Kristine).

 

If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman,
don’t worry, there is still time.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

We continue to see Steven Mitchell Wright create the most incredible original work, and with the support of La Boite Theatre Company and Brisbane Festival, this time he’s turned straw into gold, pulled Granny from the belly of a wolf and planted a magic bean at the end of the rainbow. I’d say this production marks Steven Mitchell Wright as being well on the way to joining our country’s directing giants.

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Director, Steven Mitchell Wright

 

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We asked Director of La Boite & Brisbane Festival’s A Doll’s House, Steven Mitchell Wright, to drop everything and tell us about the show and his process and he did! Hooray! You HAVE booked now, haven’t you?

 

Steven, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

We don’t need to but the work is rich.  It’s deeply relevant still.  The work has undeniable feminist readings. I believe (despite recent social media phenomena) that we are in a world that still requires an argument for feminism and equality. Nora’s position within this work is not just about an individual but also an entire culture.

 

For me, it’s also a story about individual happiness, and about the sacrifices we make for other peoples happiness and the cost of our own.  Particularly in Love and the ways that in relationships we can love someone so much that we lose ourselves or when we spend so much energy on making sure our Love is ok that we forget to make sure our lover is. I’m not sure that will ever fall out of a place of relevance.

 

What’s different about this production?

Well, Lally made it a bit of a musical. Well, not a musical, a show with songs.  For me, the inclusion of songs shifts the form in a really challenging way.  I abhor domesticity in theatre and I don’t really believe in realism so that makes this production different to the way it is often perceived and presented in the majority of the works theatrical history.  That said, Mabou Mines and Pan Pan have both presented very experimental versions of A Doll’s House in Brisbane in the last decade or so and our version is in no way that irreverent… but it is also not a domestic sitting room drama, we are playing with time and space in a different way.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

I believe I read it when I was at university but I have little to no recollection of having any feelings about it. I saw Mabou Mines production at Brisbane Festival many years ago but really my first deep engagement with it was reading it last year when we were in early discussions about programming the work for La Boite.

 

Can you relate to any of the characters?

I relate to all of them, I think that’s one of the greatest things about the work and one of the reasons the work has endured time.

 

What do you think made Lally Katz the ideal writer for this gig?

Well, I don’t think there is such a thing as an ideal artist, the creatives on the work make them what they are.  Had it been a different writer it would have been a different show entirely.  What I think is great about Lally though is her rhythms, her sense of poetry and the idiosyncrasies she writes with, it marries with my philosophies.  I don’t like watching theatre that asks us to forget that the actors are acting.  I like theatre that is undeniably theatrical and Lally’s writing is great at keeping the theatrical bouyant and the poetic in her work is unexpected.  I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time so it’s an honour to be working with her.
What do you think would happen in the sequel? What does Nora do next?

I think the power in A Doll’s House comes from the potential and possibility at the end, I would never speculate as to what becomes of Nora, I think that could kill and crush A Doll’s House.

 

Which directors do you admire and why?
I feel like I’ve answered this question for XS Entertainment before, and I’m scared that my answers haven’t changed. Jan Fabre, Robert Wilson, Simon McBurney, Robert Lepage, Tadashi Suzuki, Barry Kosky, Anne Bogart, Tim Etchells – I admire them all for different reason – largely they give me something to aspire to.

 

Locally, Daniel Evans‘ work constantly inspires and challenges me.  I’m really interested in the work of The Rabble and The Hayloft Project but I haven’t seen enough of their work.

 

What made you start directing and keep directing?

I think I started creating first, I wanted to be a maker largely because I wasn’t seeing much work that excited me and I wanted to perform in work that excited me and audiences.  So I started making work and directing them so I could perform in them.  As my work matured and I was able begin to articulate my process more, I found performing and directing became too complicated and was doing a disservice to the work and the other actors.    I’m not sure why I kept directing, it’s in my blood I think. I don’t have much of a choice about it.

 

Describe your creative process and the rehearsal process for a production such as this.

I don’t know that I’m the best person to describe this – my process on this show was an evolution of some ideas I’ve been playing with in different processes over the last few years. This process has been very different for me as it’s the first time in years that I’ve been on the floor with a completed script at the beginning of rehearsals so I’ve had to reassess and relearn some processes.

 

I asked the actors to give me a line each to answer this question.

 

Hugh Parker said, “an intense physical work out that forced me to examine where I was skipping in my own process”.

 

Helen Christinson said, “an incredibly free process that was supported by foundations that encouraged creativity, specificity and nuance.”

 

Chris Beckey said, “it was a process that afforded me the opportunity to explore the minutiae of the text and it’s physicality, a luxury that few processes afford an actor”

 

Cienda McNamara said, “working for specificity and when you think you are being specific, you need to go specifikerer”.

 

Damien Cassidy said, “a rigorous commitment to placing the mundane and the default and the familiar with a precise yet fractured quiet virtuosity”.

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s lovely to be programmed as a part of the festival. To be programmed along works of national and international significance.  It gives local artists the opportunity to be involved in the international conversation, to contribute to our greater ecology.

 

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Steven Mitchell Wright

What’s next for you?  

I am directing a work as a part of Awkward Conversation curated and artistic directed by Daniel Evans at Metro Arts. The piece I’m directing is currently embargoed so I can’t spill that but it’ll be announced shortly and I’m really excited and terrified by it. After that it’s basically next year and The Danger Ensemble (the independent company I Artistic Direct) are going into development for a large new work for 2016 and you may see some of our existing works getting a redevelopment and another presentation.

 

I’m also looking to get back on stage next year as a performer and some conversations around that have also begun.

 

 

 

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Writer, Lally Katz

 

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Lally Katz has written a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for La Boite and Brisbane Festival. Of course you knew that. But have you booked yet?

 

Lally, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

I guess as a culture we’re still fascinated by a woman who leaves behind all the things that women are taught to value and base their identity on. Plus the characters and story are great.

 

What’s different about this adaptation?

There are songs in it. And time is used differently. But it also keeps very closely to the original structure.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

My mother told me about it. She said her high school English teacher used to say, ‘It was the door slam that was heard all over the world.’ That always resonated with me.

 

How do you relate to Nora?

I am very different to Nora in lots of ways. But I have hidden longings and dreams too, like Nora, like most people.   I have an almost opposite life to Nora, unlike her, I don’t have a husband and family. I have a career I’m obsessed with and I travel a lot. I don’t have to answer to anyone within my household, except my cleaner, who I really don’t want to lose. She comes once a week, and whatever she says, goes. I relate to Nora in that I wonder how can you have a family and keep yourself. I know lots of women must do it, but I have never worked out how to do it.. Sometimes I try to be like Nora in the beginning of the play. Sort of like a very happy housewife- because I think that will make me acceptable. But it never works. Often I find this heartbreaking, but relieving. I think there’s something women are still taught about how to see themselves. And we can go against that, but there is always a price. Also, like Nora, people sometimes treat me like a child. I can act like a child sometimes. I feel comfortable there. But I’m trying to change that. I’m currently learning to drive so I can leave that persona behind.

 

 

What do you think makes Steven Mitchell Wright the ideal director for this gig?

Steven has a brilliant theatrical imagination. He sees and hears theatre in a very unique way. I’m really excited to see the world that he creates. Steven and I talked a lot in the lead up to my writing this adaptation and he gave me these songs to listen to, that really brought me into the world and the heart of Nora and of the play. So I think we came to this together on the same wavelength. Steven makes arresting theatre, watching him in early rehearsals I was fascinated by the textures that he was building into the characters and the world. He has a very special and arresting way of seeing things. I think this will be fantastic for A Doll’s House.

 

Do you feel the need to write a sequel? What Nora Did Next?

No, not really. I like imagining lots of different stuff for Nora.

 

Which writers do you admire in the literary and theatrical worlds?

In Australia there are so many playwrights I love and admire. And they’re all so different from each other. Andrew Bovell, Joanna Murray Smith, Hannie Rayson, David Williamson, Wesley Enoch, Brendan Cowell, Andrew Upton, Jenny Kemp, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius, Nicola Gunn, Tommy Murphy, Tom Holloway, Simon Stone, Anne Louise Sarks, Kit Brookman, Nikki Bloom, Tom Wright, Angela Betzien, Rita Kalnejais, Melissa Reeves, All the people who’s work I’ve watched and learned from and my peers. I’m forgetting LOTS of people. But I love the work of the writers in the Australian theatre industry. Outside of Australia there’s lots I love too- I love Caryl Churchill, Thorton Wilder, Tennesse Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Sarah Cane. But so many others. I am also reading a Stephen King book at the moment. I love his writing, But actually I can’t read it because it’s too scary. And I love lots of new plays and playwrights, but I can’t think of all of them now.

 

What made you start writing and keep writing?

I always wrote. I have always had a passion, a hunger and a drive to tell stories. I live for it. And I still do it because I’m still obsessed with it and I still live for it. Even though I am always behind on all my work. So really I live to procrastinate….

 

If you could write a letter to anybody and be sure they’d respond, who would it be?

Leonard Cohen. I just love him so much. And I wish I knew him and that we talked all the time. And I think I would really get a lot out of reading his letters. He’d be a great letter writer.

 

Describe your creative process/writing routine.

It is very chaotic. I spend a lot of time getting inspired and getting experiences and living everything enough to be able to write it, then I procrastinate for months and/or weeks. And then I sit down in a panic and write the first draft very quickly.

 

How much time do you spend “in the room” with the actors and director?

It depends on the production. Less as I get older to be honest. When I was younger I thought they needed me all the time. But now I find that it’s okay if I’m not there. The show doesn’t fall apart- sometimes it’s better because if I’m there then I can keep re writing too much and it doesn’t let everyone settle into and commit to the script. But that being said, there are definitely productions that are better if I am there a lot. Especially if the script isn’t quite done, or there’s still a lot of mysteries people need insights to inside the world and the characters.

 

adollshouse1280x500_1280-500

 

What are you looking forward to seeing in this production?

I’m really looking forward to seeing the set and the costumes! And the actors in them of course!

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s really exciting for me. I love Brisbane and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a work in the festival. It’s thrilling.

 

What do you want to see/keep seeing in Australian theatre?

 

I want people to their rich imaginations. Australian writers have great texture and life in their work. But I think we can keep challenging ourselves more in structure and story.

 

 

2923_lally-katz-large

Lally Katz

 

What’s next for you?

I am going to be acting in an adaptation of my stage show STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON for ABC Arts.

 

 

 

21
Feb
13

A Doll House

A Doll House

Pan Pan (Ireland)

World Theatre Festival

Brisbane Powerhouse

13th – 17th February 2013

 

Featuring: Charlie Bonner, Pauline Hutton, Dermot Magennis, Áine Ní Mhuirí, Daniel Reardon, Judith Roddy.

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

This production is so interesting. I didn’t love it and yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I admire what the company has…gotten away with! It’s the strangest thing. Also strange, was the common audience response to Pan Pan’s A Doll House, seen at Brisbane Powerhouse last week. It’s the World Theatre Festival, and anything goes, right? This piece might have served to represent contemporary theatre making at its most innovative and daring (and damn the consequences!), were it not for the fact that we’ve seen braver and more imaginative works here, in Brisbane, in the last few years. That’s not to say that A Doll House is any less important or interesting. In fact, it’s getting us talking and that in itself is important. This updated version is, as Director Gavin Quinn notes, “an investigation of the first modern play… I didn’t like the translations that existed, I needed to rewrite the play to make certain idioms come out of the actors’ mouths.”

 

Pan Pan’s production of A Doll House challenges our perceptions of what theatre is, or can be. At times it sounds like Ibsen’s classic script is barely in tact but it’s just a neat trick, with characters interjecting using the latest lingo, and tossing around contemporary references to keep us diving in and out of a text that is so familiar to so many, and still widely performed. When a reference to Thin Lizzy goes largely unnoticed by the older audience members, my mum proudly tells me she didn’t miss it. “I know who Thin Lizzy is!” (Wait. Did she mean she knew the band or the brand of mineral makeup? You can never tell with my mum!).

 

As housekeeper and nanny, Áine Ní Mhuirí gives us extensive notes, and stage directions from Ibsen’s text but in Act 1 her words are hard to hear and I’m not sure exactly what her efforts achieve, aside from setting up the traditional given circumstances, establishing our setting in the open space, with which the style and the action is inconsistent. There’s a doorway, and life size paper dolls, at first with their backs to us (later they are turned towards us and to finish, laid face down on the stage). Actual objects – a Christmas tree and a rocking chair – are brought on for Act 2 after they have already been imagined and the actions mimed. Did they forget them earlier?! No, of course not, it’s a style thing, a choice thing, like the girls we’ve seen recently wearing opaque tights as leggings…weird, and probably a poor choice (sorry girls but somebody had to say it), and they don’t seem to notice. It’s not about what it looks like, it’s about having the right to choose the image they are presenting to the world. Also, who can afford to keep up with blackmilkclothing.com?!

 

Then there are the random elements that add humour and make very little sense. An ironic extended rendition of The Carpenters’ Close to You draws bouts of giggles, murmurs and questioning faces from the audience. The acapella piece goes on for so long that it’s… awkward…and very funny, sort of, like a bad karaoke number at a private party…and it’s the birthday boy singing. Inexplicably, earlier in the piece, we had also enjoyed – sort of – the two girls singing together the second half of On My Own from Les Miserables. Why? Was it some symbolic nod to Nora’s original mental and emotional state preceding her self-empowerment and departure? I scold my inner voice. “Let’s quit questioning things and watch the show!”

 

The dialogue is a combination of direct delivery, turning heads and talking to us rather than to each other, and sudden emotional outbursts, also directed only vaguely at times towards the other characters. It’s as if, by manipulating text and proximity, they are alienating us, keeping us outside of a story that’s not nearly as relevant as it once was…or is it?

 

A Doll House

 

Ibsen’s title has been known through English translations as A Doll’s House. The Norwegian translation reminds us, “The house is not Nora’s, but the toy.” Nora is barely there but she puts on a good act, just like any good housewife: she’s happy and humming, skipping and dancing her way through the traditional Christmas celebrations; the hostess with the mostess. But like the shiny baubles that spill forth from the box she brings into the space, her world falls in pieces, and rolls away from her, glinting in a far corner. (Too much? So many aspects of this production were that much!). It’s as if she’s there, larger than life, to make up for the fact that in essence, she’s already gone.

 

As Nora, Judith Roddy is all there, and makes more of this role, in her physicality and her vocal work than I’ve seen from any other Nora. In short, so full of quirks and youthful exuberance, this production is all Roddy’s. But if there’s a deeper meaning, it comes and goes until the end.

 

A wonderful, sharply observed spiel about the merits of Wonderwoman and Lara Croft made a decent comparative study, and was one of the few intertextual surprises that worked. Not until the final conversation between Norah and Torvald, delivered from their positions lying in bed (on opposite sides of the stage), did we see beyond the facades created by odd costuming and over-the-top delivery modes.

 

It’s an unexpected dissection by Pan Pan and Quinn – certainly the most challenging reading of the play I’ve been exposed to in terms of its “contemporary” nature and the meta-theatrics exposed along the way – and it’s almost as if, once pulled apart and analysed, it doesn’t quite fit back together again. Imagine Mr G opening the high school wardrobe department with the class, and casting by offering costumes to whomever they fit! It’s a strong ensemble though, and there’s no mistaking each character for who they are.

 

A Doll House

 

If you look at Pan Pan’s history, and their intentions for this work, the company is creating theatre. That’s all. They’re not going out of their way to sell us a new, neat version of women’s lib here, but they’re making fun, zany theatre that asks us to reconsider the big issues. I don’t think they care whether we learn or grow or not. It’s theatre. It’s entertainment.

 

 

There are so many incongruous elements at work here that I’m sure some will hail this production as a work of genius, and others will see it more as a study of the fun, the ridiculous. Pan Pan’s A Doll House is an entertaining, moving, challenging night of theatre. And that’s why we continue to see as much as we can and enjoy these oddball gems with their classic roots. Sometimes that’s the best sort of theatre we can be exposed to. The unexpected, no-rules, ridiculous, fun sort!

 

A Doll House