Posts Tagged ‘alex broun

11
Jun
12

The Truth About Kookaburras

The Truth About Kookaburras

La Boite Indie & Pentimento Productions

The Roundhouse

6th – 23rd June 2012

On Saturday night, the men in the audience at The Roundhouse far outnumbered the women. Had they seen The Truth About Kookaburras at Metro Arts in 2009? Had they heard about it? What had they heard? I’d heard that there would be many naked men on stage but that the play “isn’t about the nudity”. It’s about a murder that occurs during a buck’s party, held in the locker room of the Gold Coast Kookaburras Football Club and the mystery of “what it is to be a man”.

I daresay I’ll be the only person in the world to feel this way about this incredible play. Or perhaps I’ll be the only one to say so. You see, it’s absolutely brilliant. But it’s not quite there yet. It seems it’s esteemed playwright, Edward-Who’s-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf-Albee, who is to blame for the issues I have with this, the first production of La Boite’s Indie program for 2012, Sven Swenson’s re-worked epic, The Truth About Kookaburras.

Apparently, when workshopping the play with Albee, Swenson was advised, “Never permit it to be done without nudity. Don’t allow yourself to be talked into cleaving it into two acts. Don’t ever shorten it. Don’t become convinced to amalgamate roles and reduce the cast.”

Let’s look at these pearls of wisdom, shall we?

Nudity

The play opens on an empty locker room at the Gold Coast Kookaburras headquarters, which gradually fills with naked men. And by fills, I mean that there are enough of them to literally fill the small space that is the La Boite Indie stage. The play would work better in the round (or in Jupiter’s Casino) but that means – surely – another creative development phase before it earns a mainstage season. It’s an indulgent but rather clever, multi-layered text that you can read yourself, thanks to Playlab’s new digital publication series (Playab Indie).

For fifteen minutes, naked men appear from out of the showers, one after the other after the other and we look at – or try not to look at – the many, many flaccid penises on stage. It’s not a pretty sight. Sorry, boys but it’s not. Swenson recently told Zenobia Frost, in an interview for RAVE magazine that he believes “the most compelling and arresting visual image of masculinity is surely an army of naked men.” Perhaps it is…if that army of naked men is as ripped as QTC’s Romeo and Juliet boys were (credit where credit’s due) and their members stand as erect as the men themselves, sure. But try putting an erect penis on a Queensland stage. Twenty-two of them in fact. And for fifteen minutes! In this case, the “army” more closely resembles a sad, impotent, insecure gang of little boys who need to perform dick tricks and indulge in gratuitous antics to prove their (false) bravado to the fellas who are supposed to be their “mates”.

The Truth About Kookaburras

Image by Kate O’Sullivan.

And I’m sorry but I don’t get the penis humour. I don’t understand the culture of the male locker room. I know that there’s a demographic in every city who do appreciate this brand of comedy – I used to sell cigarettes to them in dodgy clubs and pubs – but personally, I’ve never understood how people can speak to each other the way that these guys do, with so little regard for another person’s feelings. What does it prove? What sort of man is it that treats a person so appallingly? I can see that we’re trying to understand men and their insecurities. I can see that it takes time to establish the confusion and complexities of being a man. We don’t often talk openly about the way men fit into the world and clearly we need to. But is this play the vehicle for it? Will it reach enough people? Would it work better as a screenplay? Would it get closer to the truth if it were Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman discussing the big issues on the big screen? (Well, of course it would!). Does it really get us any closer to, “What it is to be a man”? As it is, it certainly gets us talking so perhaps, on that point alone, it serves a valuable purpose and the potential to take it to the broader market will be recognised eventually.

It certainly reveals more than you might expect but if it’s really just the full frontal nudity you’re after, I think your money might be better spent on a night with the Chippendales or on some of the better Internet porn sites. (Trekkie Monster was right all along!).

For me, Kookaburras contains too much nudity for too long without good reason. It doesn’t last long enough “for people to realise what a big deal it isn’t,” it lasts long enough to be ineffective dramatically. It loses impact. The dick tricks, the narcissistic mirror play (do let me know if all that mirror acting works for you), the play fights and the real fights are quite simply uninteresting after the first six or seven minutes. (That’s not to say that the simulated footy, choreographed by Brian Lucas and the fight sequences, choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr are lacking in any way. They just need more space to make them look spectacular). And while I appreciate that there has been some research done and that conversations with legitimate footballers have taken place, I find it hard to believe that there is not even a modicum of modesty amongst this group, who are not, as we discover, all that they seem. So many characters and so little, when they are naked, to differentiate one from another; I would just like to have seen the extent of male nudity be used to better effect than to try to prove a political point.

On that (political point), I was surprised to see later, the female stripper do her thing…topless. Only topless. Now, I know this play is not about her (far be it from the stripper to become a distraction in the midst of all that male soul-searching) and I know Swenson feels that women and not men have been made to get their gear off in plays for too long (“He didn’t think that was fair.”) but I think an entire truth was missed there. Again, dramatically, it was an interesting choice. “Perhaps having more male nudity on stage might legitimise the relative frequency with which we ask it of women.” No, Sven, the authenticity of the story telling and the believability of the acting within the context of whatever story is being told is what legitimises female nudity in the theatre.

Warning: shameless self-promotion.

For a case in point, if it interests you (call it “research”), see Erotique at Noosa Arts Theatre during the Noosa Longweekend, in which nudity is not gratuitously used but, within the context of the story telling, becomes a vital element, both in character and plot development. Right. Shameless self-promotion over. Back to Kookaburras, which is not even about the nudity but phew! What a relief it is to see everybody dressed! “We see much more clearly who each character is once they are dressed and wearing the garb that identifies them to the outside world.” True. The stellar performances in the end come from Cameron Sowden (Mick), Jason McKell (Two-Shoes), Zachary Boulton (Goony) and Kieran Law (Toaster). You can read the complete biographies of all cast members by downloading the online program.

Jason McKell. Image by Kate O’Sullivan.

Don’t allow yourself to be talked into cleaving it into two acts. Don’t ever shorten it.

Mr Albee, why would you say that?! The play is too long! Act 2 is superfluous and once the premise has been established during the opening fifteen minutes of the play, it is reinforced ad nauseam for the next fifty! Seriously, an hour of swinging dicks and putting down mates is too long! With a more concise story, the police investigation incorporated as it is – a clever device and less of it would work even more efficiently – one interval would suffice.

When we were in Sydney in 2011 for the Sydney Children’s Festival, I booked tickets and took our troupe to see Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of Alex Broun’s 10 000 Beers, directed by Lee Lewis (Director of La Boite’s last production, A Hoax). Other than my husband, who grew up in a sports-mad household, none of us even knew which code we were about to see. Football is football is football, right? That’s right. Footy novices. Mixed reviews, from us and from the Sydney critics, discussed the value of accurately reflecting the typical Australian loutish and lewd behaviour on stage (ie what can be gained from it apart from appealing to base humour?) and dispelling the myths of men in sport. Neither Broun’s 10 000 Beers nor Swenson’s Kookaburras successfully dispel any of the myths or media hype (both perpetuate the myths and reinforce the stereotypes), however; the latter tries harder. Without offering an answer, in Kookaburras, we take a look at male identity, feminine and masculine roles in society, pack mentality, the notion of mateship, male depression, homophobia and homoeroticism. This piece could start with Act 3 and delve deeper into some of these issues.

Image by Kate O’Sullivan.

Don’t become convinced to amalgamate roles and reduce the cast.”

If I were producing, I would want the roles amalgamated and the cast size reduced. Why not cast fewer actors who can capably play multiple roles? (Some of the actors in this production, unfortunately, struggle to believably portray just one). In its current form, Kookaburras is positively Chekhovian and it need not be. We might get to know the characters a little better and care a little more for them, if we see fewer of them, in greater detail, for (just a little bit) longer.

The strongest of the three acts, the final boasts the best acting of the night and allows us to get to the bottom of the story and understand more about the lives and motives of a couple of the characters. It’s what we’ve been waiting for! The mystery is solved but nothing is really resolved. Men (particularly men involved in sport) are still a mystery and will continue to behave badly, despite their private revelations and their efforts to nurture healthy relationships and a noble – or something – identity. What is it to be a man? Well, I don’t know. And I don’t think you’ll know either, from seeing this play but at least you’ll be challenged to think on it and discuss the big issues with some mates over a few beers.

19
May
12

short + sweet sunshine coast

SHORT+SWEET BRISBANE+GOLD COAST+SUNSHINE COAST

10 DAYS UNTIL DEADLINE!

 

Submissions for Actors, Directors and Independent Theatre Groups close on May 31st 2012

 

Got a 10 minute play? Sure you do!

 

Simon Denver adapted So, Where Is It? from the original one-act play, which he wrote for a festival in a matter of days after Sam Coward said one day over a few beers, “WHY NOT? WE’RE GOOD AT VIOLENCE.”

The 10 minute version only came about when I received a phone call during rehearsals for our gig at The Sydney Children’s Festival inviting us to submit something to Short + Sweet and Sam said, in the dressing room of the Seymour Centre, “WHY NOT? WE’RE GOOD AT VIOLENCE AND IT’S JUST 10 MINUTES.”

So, Where Is it? won Brett Klease Best Actor at last year’s Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival and the 10 minute version took out 1st place in the Gold Coast & Brisbane Short+Sweet competitions. It then went to Sydney (thanks to some of YOU! THANK YOU!), where it won third place.

With so many one-act play festivals happening across the Sunshine Coast, why not do the same? Or register your 10 minute play from the recent season in Buderim. IT’S JUST 10 MINUTES! YOU CAN DO IT!

You CAN do it. But do you need some help taking the red pen to your script? Register first! Just do it and then let us know! We can help edit and workshop your one-act play down to just 10 minutes or help you find a new script to work on.

Check out the vast collection that the 10 Minute Play Master, Alex Broun, has made available online for FREE.

The Short+Sweet QLD 2012 Brisbane+Gold Coast+Sunshine Coast theatre season runs from 1st August to the 19th August at

The Loft (QUT Creative Industries)

The Arts Centre Gold Coast

Lind Lane Theatre, Nambour

 SAVE THESE DATES

June 16th Director briefing and welcome drinks

 

June 23rd Sunshine Coast auditions

 

June 30th Rehearsals commence

ACTORS, DIRECTORS AND INDEPENDENT COMPANIES REGISTER NOW!

Remember, it all starts with an idea….. 

This one was just so crazy…it worked!

 

04
Mar
12

Fast Forward: a collection of short plays

Fast Forward: A Collection of Short Plays

BATS Inc.

Buderim Memorial Hall 

03.03.12 – 10.03.12

Bookings livetheatre.com.au

Away from Home

By Ian Pullar 

Directed by Madeleine Johnston

Cast:

Roland: John Woodrow

Steve: David Coleman

Plotting to escape from the nursing home.

A common room in a nursing home is indicated with the placement of 2 chairs and a TV set. The actors speak with measured “aged” speech and one of them, Coleman, uses a decidedly whiney tone, which somehow suits his British accent (such is our conditioning, when Brits sound whiney). A funny, light, wry two-hander, this was a great opener. We enjoyed the return to child-like behaviour (as Jaques, in As You Like It, so eloquently describes, in his famous seven ages of man monologue).

With regard to movement, Coleman could have picked up on some of Woodrow’s mannerisms, at times overplayed but generally suitable. Woodrow is well practiced in front of an audience and he certainly knows how to get a laugh or two. With regard to proximity and staging, Woodrow standing for so long, so closely to Coleman in the small space creates an imbalance on stage and therefore, a slight status issue. Not a biggie, just something for the director to keep in mind. On Saturday night, the audience enjoyed this play, offering the actors their gift of plenty of out-loud laughter. Don’t ever underestimate your power to influence the performance, dear audience! We find humour in those characters and situations with which we can relate, so the gift of a good writer (and a good theatrical team), particularly when dealing with comedy, is to present a familiar story, about which we can comfortably laugh. This is the wonderful exchange that exists in live theatre.

It takes 5 of the 10-minute duration to establish these two comical characters as well as their context before there is any suggestion of escape. Following witty reference to a series of famous escape movies, this play concludes neatly, satisfactorily, pleasing the audience.

Something Better than the Spoons

By Bruce Olive

Directed by Kate Cullen

Maureen: Jan Meade

Arthur: David Haviland

Jasmine: Sam Fazldeen

Organising a fund-raising concert.

Haviland and Meade establish characters and context from the outset, a husband and wife relationship that has, perhaps, seen more intimate days (or nights) but nevertheless, is a close and supportive one. Arthur needs a new act for his charity gig at the end of the month and Maureen needs to go to bed.

This play, by local playwright Bruce Olive, has a local flavour (the Buderim Scout Hall gets a mention), which the audience likes and it has a funny premise; Arthur, a retired spoons player calls the Good Time Hotline, on the other end of which is Jasmine; husky, freshly showered good-time-guaranteed-call girl (Fazldeen). Miscommunication allows for a host of quick one-liners, though at times they are not delivered quite quickly enough.

The curtains closing were misleading for those not looking at their watches and suddenly we had Maureen step out in front to introduce her husband and the good time girl in a spicy spoons act that the senior audience won’t be forgetting too soon. Sweet Charity’s Big Spender was the winner here, in an under-choreographed performance, for which there is really no excuse; good choreographers appear to be breeding on the Sunshine Coast at the moment so we must use them (or they will go away).

Here’s a challenge to all community theatre groups: if a script calls for singing or accents, put out a call for a vocal or dialect coach. If a script calls for dancing, ask a dancer to take a look at what you’re doing and invite them to contribute to the piece. If a script calls for dramaturgical work or simply a fresh set of eyes to see it, ask for help. Don’t be shy. Community theatre begs collaboration and in this community there is no doubt we have the talent. Find it and ask if you may borrow a bit of it.

Bugger the Trip

Written & Directed by Alice Rea

Henry: Wayne Neuendorf

Julie: Kerryl Johnson

Waitress: Isabelle La Macchia

Has Henry bitten off more than he can chew? 

This is a strange play. It’s almost two plays that need to be split (or else it is, indeed just the one play, going through an identity crisis). An Italian restaurant setting, helped by Leaning Tower of Pisa clip art projected onto the cyclorama.

Neuendorf recites the lines he’s learned for an utterly deplorable character, Dr Henry Baulderstone, who leers at the waitress as well as his date, spills drinks upon himself and others and flings spaghetti to cover floor and diners alike (props to the extras, playing diners, who stayed sufficiently in the background and yet reacted and retreated appropriately at the right time). His date, poor Julie, boasting a stylish blonde cut and a bold blue dress, takes a bit of dialogue to settle but when she does, her reactions are terrific and she brings the energy this piece needs. It’s pleasing to note that props are handled well (it’s a very messy setting), however; water for champagne in a wine bottle doesn’t wash. “Nice champagne,” I don’t think.

An unexpected twist is over-explained and for me, this seems a fault of the play and nothing to do with the actor, who has enough on his plate as it is, if he is to develop any sort of depth or versatility across his wide-ranging roles on Sunshine Coast stages. The conclusion might have been funnier had it ended with the phone call made by Baulderstone, rather than have him continue into lengthy and unnecessary exposition. As I say, there’s a second play right there. A playwright needs to know when to wrap it up.

Certainly, the characters are drawn pretty clearly and audible gasps from a woman in the audience, at Baulderstone’s every obscene comment and ghastly trait, drew stifled laughter from those around her. I bet the casts wish for an audience as relaxed as this lot every night. When it comes down to it, this play very nearly works. As tends to be the case for so many new comedies, the actors need to keep playing around in it for a bit. As directors (and writer/directors), how much are we asking – or allowing – our actors to play?

 

Life in an Envelope

By John Saint-Smith

Directed by Paul Barrs

Meg: Jacqui Mata Luque

Reminiscing.

“They’re all oldies…” and “Are they trying to tell us something?!” were the audience remarks as Mata Luque shuffled on stage.

A decent study in “aged” movement, Mata Luque takes all the time in the world to enter the space, collect a parcel at the door, cross to the table, make a cup of tea, cross to her chair and gingerly sit down. Without the fourth wall, she addresses the audience directly, reminiscing; the vivid memories of an eighty year old.

This is a poignant piece and it was distracting to see the PowerPoint icons displayed on the cyc. I’m not sure I know how to get rid of them. But I would find someone who did. And get rid of them. A small detail but for a fabulous piece, worth fixing.

Mata Luque is one of our most experienced performers and it shows. She is relaxed, confident and charming as the eighty-something year old Meg, who is sent a letter from a woman she once knew, the daughter of a friend of hers, now deceased. Having bequeathed some items to Meg, we see (projected) a page from a Ration Book, which spurs Meg’s memories of the government telling the people during the war years, “We had to live a simpler life” and “We were all in it together”. She recalls saving every last scrap and laughs with us at her own funny-because-it’s-true wisecrack, “There weren’t too many fat people around during the war!

A precious Dance Card draws forth some fonder memories, of the boys who would ask her to dance during her youth. This story is expanded upon beautifully, with tenderness and new love for her main man, Vince. Mata Luque is an actor who reminds us of the importance of simply telling the story. She talks to us like an old friend and we feel welcome to stay and listen to her tales. A black and white photo reminds her of bonfires and more intimate times on the beach, though, “not like the young hussies today!” A portrait of Vince, “when the boy became a man,” on the eve of his departure to war leads to a letter, which we hear read through Meg’s tears, confirming that she lost the love of her life, recipient of the Victoria Cross no less, to the war. Meg pushes herself up out of her chair and shuffles to find her handkerchief. We hear the same woman in the audience, through her own tears, utter something indiscernible and feel a sense of relief when the lights come up for interval. That one has visibly affected us and it’s time for a cup of tea.

 

INTERVAL – listen to reflections from Director, Paul Barrs

 

Over

Written & Directed by Catherine Steer

Woman: Kathryn Barnes

Man: David Coleman

Girl: Bronte Latham

Boy: Dominic Morley

A couple is reminded of what once was.

This is another interesting offering from writer/director Catherine Steer. I’ve not seen her original work before but I find her take on known works just as interesting. Over is ever so slightly absurd and slightly more Brechtian, featuring two actors out front, a male and female, sharing their thoughts on what their relationship has become, as two younger actors – a male and a female – recount in mime, their memories.

If you entreat an audience to remember, you must be genuine. It’s interesting, almost deadpan delivery instead, that serves to alienate us.

Man: “How do you get from that … To this?”

Woman: “It takes years.”

Suddenly the deadpan delivery and the staging work and we get a laugh. It’s the laugh of recognition of the familiar. We’ve been there. Well, a younger audience may not have been there at all but for those who have felt the absurdity at times of a long-standing relationship, this sort of self-deprecating humour is appreciated. What was once an embrace is now “being within an iron fortress.” (The discipline of the young couple, wrapped in an embrace for a good length of iron fortress time, is duly noted.)

“We were like that once…weren’t we?”

“We’ll just keep going, pretend we’re still in love; keep everyone happy.”

“One day you find love just doesn’t live with you anymore.”

“Oh well. At least we still have each other.”

The irony. The flip sides of the coin.

“Familiar,” “Scary,” and “Is that us, do you think?” were the audience remarks I overheard at the conclusion of this play. Steer’s is theatre that inspires thought and initiates discussion.

And then there was the raffle – because somebody forgot to draw it at interval – gotta’ love community theatre.

 

The Mysterious Case of the Man with the Seven Deadly Sins

By Bruce Olive

Directed by Madeleine Johnston

Psychiatrist: Pedau Grabbe

David: Alex Tillack

We hear the Looney Tunes theme to open. It sets a certain tone.

A tall, lanky, suit and spectacle wearing, clipboard-bearing doctor welcomes into her office, an urban jeans and t-shirt clad kid who suffers from schizophrenia. This character allows Tillack to explore several characters and the extremes of each personality. Tillack could push the envelope a little further with these and play a little larger. This role is a terrific opportunity to showcase the versatility of an actor; Jekyll and Hyde style and an abridged version would make a great audition piece.

I felt that Grabbe missed an opportunity here or perhaps the director missed seeing something in her because the doctor, in questioning David (and Mr Envy, Mr Pride, Mr Glutton, Mr Sloth, Mr Lust et al), had more to explore than the static, stereotypical psychoanalyst. As an actor, we have to remember that the character is not just a psychiatrist but also a woman (and maybe a mother and almost certainly, she is someone’s daughter or sister or partner). She has opinions and a life story and she’s already – before we see her – had a good or a bad day. We create back-stories and history to give our characters depth. We spend time exploring voice and movement to make our characters appear real.

There is work here to be done on vocals. Some higher feminine voices are harder to listen to (hence we have successful news anchors of both sexes with lower pitch). The tone can be softened and the pace and inflection can vary. Take time to listen, absorb and respond accordingly, as you would do IRL (in real life).

David returns to the doctor’s office, apparently cured. The doctor is pleased that her prescription has had the desired effect. He looks puzzled. “Medication? What medication?” We hear – and see – that the other personalities have departed because they couldn’t stand the noise…from the cockatoo! This is a great, funny finish, though verging on OTT. This audience liked it and those nearest me commented, “He was very good! He was actually very good.”

Modern Life

By John Saint Smith

Directed by Paul Barrs

Jane: Anita Tillack

Peter: Carl Trocki

Another from the pen of John Saint Smith, Modern Life has an immediate eighties vibe (and a solid voiceover – look out, Bruce Hamilton – thanks to director, Paul Barrs.

He tells me at interval that the mother of an auditionee (Tillack) and another newbie, Trocki, rocked up and suited the roles and the play. Trocki’s American accent and his softer tone, typical of the humble, well sponsored and even better schooled, high-ranking tennis player sounds authentic and is lovely to listen to. Trocki, though, should watch his energy towards the ends of phrases so we don’t lose the text and Tillack must work harder to enunciate and to vary her pitch. I only make these notes now so that actors may bear in mind that which their audience is seeing and hearing so they might deliver a clearer message next time.

A heavy environmental lesson during a candid conversation seems to come out of nowhere and is explained later. The relationship itself is unclear at first – are they friends? He asks her out to dinner. “How am I supposed to resist you?” They seem an unlikely couple. We must be wary of unmotivated movement. If our intention is clear the movement makes sense.

An amusing twist and an explanation delivered directly to audience sets our minds at ease. “I tried dating real women…” and we have the “a-ha” moment; it’s a stepford wives story. The woman is “The perfect flatmate for the environmentally responsible modern man. Plus, think of the power I save!” Finally, in his last laugh line, delivered with aplomb, I decide Trocki is one to watch. His is an easy manner and he just needs to settle into the space. As actors, we must learn what our habits are and set about breaking them. It’s a director’s job to support this process.

  

The Job Interview

By John Saint Smith

Directed by Jacqui Mata Luque

Evan: David Coleman

Sue: Anna McMahon

The sound of a clock ticking while the audience chatters. We know it’s the last play of the program and it’s been a good night so we’re in high spirits. Curtains open on a couple of red sofas, a desk, a chair and a handwritten sign “Back in 5 minutes. Thanks.”

The actor entering this scene, Coleman again, though this time in a comfortable role that he rocks rather than doesn’t quite fit, builds tension nicely, anticipating a job interview situation and instead, getting a sassy chick in a hibiscus print mini skirt and jacket. McMahon is applying for the same position – apparently – and bustles in, all business (well, and perhaps a bit of play); it suits her.

This clever piece is nearly naturalistic, only some of the sarcasm and enthusiasm seems staged. Outbursts particularly were believable. For example, Evan’s incredulous, “Where the hell are they?!” got a great laugh because we were all wondering the same thing! Both actors played to nice reactions, finding a connection within their banter that we too could feel. Here we had the element of play that I was looking to see in earlier pieces. It’s community theatre! If it’s not fun – if you’re not having fun – why are you doing it???

Admittedly, we saw the twist in this one coming but we didn’t mind. We also know the Titanic will sink but it’s the getting there that’s exhilarating.

An evening of short plays like this will always be a mixed bag. That’s why I don’t mind supporting them. Like the Short+Sweet phenomenon (Sam Coward, Brett Klease and Simon Denver are set to take on Sydney next, having won the Queensland competition), there will always be something for everyone. And if there’s something you’re not enjoying, it’s all over in 10 minutes! Whether or not you’re a regular theatregoer and whether or not you know anybody involved, this is your best local night out. If you’re really keen to keep heading out, it’s over before 10:30pm, which means you can catch a cab, talk about what you’ve seen and no doubt make some drama (and/or comedy) of your own somewhere! Cheers!