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Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival: day 2 adjudicator’s comments

Adjudicator’s Comments – Karen Crone

Day 2: Saturday August 20th

Session 1

Sometimes on Saturday morning things take a bit longer to get going. Mornings are difficult: we used to have a half hour call. It’s now an hour call. A company warm up is important.



  • Leave behind the outside world. We’re in the world of magic & illusion
  • Re pace and energy: sometimes we actually hit “driving”
  • Interesting choices…
  • Audiences have to tune into accents so what we have is pedestrian time v theatrical time. You can afford to take more time.
  • Re use of props unnecessarily: Interesting choice of the motorbike onstage. If you bring something on stage you must use it.
  • Re ends of lines: a very natural Australian way of speaking; the dropping of the energy at the ends of lines
  • Emotion, feeling & humanity is passed across this magical space
  • Actors are telling a story collectively

Death of an Anarchist


  • Peta, who played the maniac, was amazing. That big voice!
  • Ensemble, consistency, focus, accents
  • Really strong, strong visual pics
  • If it weren’t for our playwrights writing the dialogue we’d have very little to say up here. Be absolutely exact with the words
  • Loved the idea of control and chaos
  • Use of unison (we all give together, we all look together) the power of unison (we love unison as human beings)
  • We need to be able to see the person’s face. Loved the idea (entry via side door) but they needed to step further in. It’s all about the storytelling
  • Balance. A lot of the action happened OP
  • Sight lines
  • Our auditorium almost reflects the stage
  • Re Prompt & OP: Alan Edwards’ influence. It can only ever be Prompt & OP (saves confusion). It’s base stuff but it’s important to me to pass it on
  • As an ensemble they worked really well together, they were very tight
  • Asides are hard (the journo). If we can’t hear it we can’t laugh
  • Farcical, OTT characters; build on the chaos and make it even more chaotic
  • Stage combat is like learning a dance. You have to learn it until it’s inside you. eg So! Where Is It? Importance of rehearsal (re-hearing) is so we can play. We are so comfortable, so strong that nothing can throw us.


Brown Paper Projects & BATS Inc

  • I love the title, love the idea of it!
  • Stakes not high enough. Really wanted to feel for George. We didn’t feel for him.
  • Always trying to get there and never quite being there.
  • Re energy: work from centre
  • be careful, especially “whispering”. We need to hear what’s being said.

Session 2


JPC Productions

  • Some lovely work by those 2 actors
  • Re stagecraft: remember, there is pedestrian time and theatre time
  • At times, you were getting too close to one another in profile. A little bit more of…well, there’s something when an actor looks out and we see them looking. eg Michael when talking about the deceased wife. Eyes averted but I actually wanted to see his pain.
  • Re long runs: you have to come to these lines the very first time. Pre-empt and audiences see that. And we don’t want to see that.
  • Re beats and changes of pace: we got into a bit of a rhythm. The game was an opportunity. Be Tony Barber! And then go back sometimes to being Harry.
  • Too close together too much of the time.
  • Re setting: angle the bed or put it long-ways
  • Re breathing: You learn it (a play) the same way as you learn a song. Find where you breathe and drive thru to the end of the line. Often the end of the line is what we need to hear.
  • Re dynamics: looked really, really smart
  • I loved the idea of the mirror. Was there another way to have done that? We knew it would happen. Slower or more stylised…


Noosa Arts Theatre

  • Great camaraderie between Frank and Michael. This has developed since Noosa (National Playwriting Competition)
  • Re details: Fiona announced that her beer is the “last soldier” but then there was more beer n the esky. Audiences notice these things.
  • Meegan’s character, Fiona, was a fantastic foil for the two men.
  • Re gags: Wait to get your gag. It’s about time. We are hearing it for the first time.
  • Re pace: pace is not going really, really fast; it’s sandwiching the cues, cues on top of each other.

Session 3

Talk about the two faces of drama!


Hills Players

  • Incredibly confronting. Quite astounding. Jenny & Robert actually transported me. A very compelling performance by Robert. A strong connection between the two.
  • Actors have to make decisions. Robert made good decisions. When we internalise it, it draws us in and actually scares us.
  • Re set pieces and props: If it’s on the stage it’s got to be there for a reason
  • Re light and shade: sometimes it could have been lighter, which would have taken us deeper.


Golden Glove Productions

  • Surprised that there wasn’t more laughter. It’s very funny. Play with that opening image and see what you can find.
  • Fantastic bond between the two actors.
  • Accent work was great
  • Raise the stakes. The stakes need to get higher and higher. They needed to peak just a little bit each time.
  • Comedy comes in threes. Great comedy in Kate’s three attempts at busking and we really enjoyed the payoff. We loved the dance.

Session 4

I think we have to thank Sam. His energy is infectious!


Excalibur Theatre Company

  • I had the most fantastic time with VECTURA. When I read it, I couldn’t wait to see it and it didn’t disappoint.
  • Re the placement of everything on stage, direction & performance: fantastic work, Mark; you’re a champion.
  • What an ensemble! Good choices made by all of the actors. I just wanted a little bit more of the stutter (Michelle).
  • Shirley, I thought you were fantastic holding your own with those three
  • All of the elements came together. Fantastic.
  • When you do your response to boom tick a boom, I wanted to see your face.
  • Re stylised work: sometimes I don’t get into really highly stylised work but the attention to detail was key here. When I put on a show I start with broad strokes and build, build, build more and more…all of the elements come together.
  • The detail that you put into that work was just fantastic.


Miranda’s Dressing Room

  • Two beautiful performers. Great story. We were all intrigued. It touched us because in each family closet there are secrets.
  • Different rhythms of Jenni’s character from the city and Sue’s character from the country but at times I wanted Sue to just smack Jenni! It needed a dynamic at times but that grew.
  • Stage directions are very important, the description of the set, you must at least read the stage directions. If the stage directions suggest that you shout, at least try it. It’s (the playwright’s) code.

It’s been a long day!  See you tomorrow!

Adjudicator, Karen Crone


sunshine coast theatre festival: Day 1 Adjudicator’s Comments

Adjudicator’s Comments – Karen Crone

Day 1: Friday August 19th

Session 1

A fantastic start to the festival. Very strong performances.

  • Be aware of the balance of the stage
  • We are like a picture in the frame (proscenium)
  • Re profile: we need to see the face
  • Re non-verbal: actors may feel it but we – the audience – have got to feel it
  • Each play was well-staged in terms of production value in the time allowed, set up and struck efficiently
  • Re the engagement of actors: acting is listening
  • Consider the notion of acting vs being
  • “I loved the idea of being God!” (God Goes to a Shrink)

Session 2

What an interesting second act!

  • Strong performances
  • The relationship between the two (Jacqui & Rainee) was strong
  • There was space between characters and relationships
  • When Beth (Rainee) broke through the 4th wall, her light could have been smaller
  • The use of props in the last two plays was exceptional
  • In The Bough Breaks, there was a lot to pack and most of it was played upstage. Consider where you have the suitcase
  • So! Where Is It? was really quite remarkable! It was an interesting read but I was looking forward to seeing it staged…
  • The stagecraft was really quite fantastic
  • The stage combat was amazing
  • Man 3 (Simon) showed us that acting is listening. He read his newspaper, he drank his coffee, he didn’t have too many words. At one stage, he was almost out of the picture, on the cross, eating the apple and I felt that perhaps he could have come in a bit
  • It had a real A Clockwork Orange feel to it
  • The china cup smashed and “I left the play and became a human worried for the human. A person concerned for a person.”
  • And the end! It was a pretty good pash, really!
  • Were you on the edge of your seats, like me?!
  • See you tomorrow!

N.B. I may or may not have paraphrased some comments. It was late.



Interview with the director: Sam Coward

Sunday 17th April 

Influence opened in Noosa on Friday night. You’ve had 3 sold-out performances to start the season. How do you feel? 

Very satisfied, especially considering where the show is at, where ticket sales are at and the level at which the public and critical responses have been. We’re in a good place!

Were there any obstacles or hiccups to overcome to get to this stage? 

It’s been a relatively painless process. Illness at the eleventh hour made me a little nervous but generally speaking, with the level of competence in my cast and the level of wisdom in Williamson’s words, it all went pretty smoothly.

Opening Night highlights?

It was the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to sit in the bio box and see the audience’s immediate reactions and feel the buzz – it was electrifying and very satisfying.

So what’s your role during the run?

Because I’m a control freak and because, for the technical accuracy of this show, a degree of intimacy with the script was required, I decided I wanted to manually operate the lights for Influence.

When did you stop giving notes?

 Today. Today the show reached a level that I felt couldn’t be enhanced or improved upon. This is not to say that I won’t be giving any further notes during the run, this just means I’m giving no more notes, at this stage, until further notice.

What’s your favourite thing about this show?

I would have to say that’s it’s probably that the end result is so close to the vision I had from the outset. This production has stayed true to the original picture and it’s exciting to see that a) we’ve been able to do that and b) other people like it too.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I would have put somebody else in the box early enough to learn the cues.

I really think the time invested in character early on is shining through now. We used the time we had very well. The performances are genuine. 

I’ve felt very confident, almost relaxed, which is really rare. Usually tech week is all horror but it was seamless. It’s been a relatively easy ride. I feel like I just had to sell the vision and then discuss characters with the cast, design…in fact, the biggest part of my job was at the front end. 

The playwright, David Williamson, is attending on the final night, a special gala evening to celebrate his 40 years’ involvement at Noosa Arts Theatre on April 30th. How do you feel about him seeing the show?

I’m very excited about that actually, because from our first discussions with him, he was intrigued as to how we were going to do this. Even Michael Futcher acknowledged that he’s not heard of anyone trying to do a Williamson in this way. I’m interested to get David’s reaction and I hope we can do his 40 Year Celebration justice. I’m quietly confident that we will. The way in which we are staging Influence is truly honouring the text and trusting that Australia’s greatest playwright is acknowledged as such for a reason. I don’t have to hide anything or do anything with smoke and mirrors because it’s enough on its own. And while I’m arrogant, I’m not arrogant enough to think there’s anything I can do with it that will improve on what’s already there. So with a text and a cast of this caliber how could I go wrong?

What’s next for you?

Hmmm. It’s a mystery.

David Williamson’s Influence continues at Noosa Arts Theatre until April 30th. To enquire about any remaining tickets, please call the box office (07) 5449 9343


Uncle Vanya

I’ve been catching up on the the last couple of episodes of Rake and whilst watching Richard Roxburgh, it occurred to me that I really should tell you how wonderful it was to see him on stage as Uncle Vanya, for STC, last week. Interestingly, my mum (and others) didn’t agree; she took issue with (Director) Tamas Ascher‘s whole vaudeville-esque approach and is of the opinion that something (or someone) akin to Roxburgh’s Rake character, Cleaver Greene, would make a more likable fellow in the title role in Chekhov’s classic play. To me, Roxburgh played a Vanya on the verge (some would say broken already) and shared with us the full gamut of human emotion, winning our sympathy early…well, clearly, not my mother’s sympathy! But that’s ok! Because this is Theatre! This is Art! And we are each entitled to our own opinions!

Interesting to read, as I do, some other opinions. Let’s look at them later, shall we? The overall impression I got from this production was that it was reinterpreted and staged to entertain, rather than to educate, a new Chekhov audience. This was, I think, Chekhov’s original intent (the humour is very much embedded in the text) and has been forgotten by various companies (and universities) over the decades, who have given us the impression that the classics should be highly regarded, carefully considered and deeply felt, rather than recognised, appreciated and enjoyed. I was so glad to see (IMHO) STC treat it as a gift to be enjoyed.

My opinion about Cate Blanchett hasn’t changed. I admire and adore her. She is surely one of the most consummate actors of our time (this, when Judi Dench has been named best stage actor of all time). Her beauty is incandescent, her voice is sublime and her collective skills – employed seemingly effortlessly – to portray even the slightest hint of emotion, both on stage and on screen, cannot be contested. As Yelena, Ms Blanchett was beguiling and SO beautifully bored. In fact, I have decided that it is my ambition to be that beguiling AND that beautifully bored one day. Also, I would like, one day, to casually and seemingly effortlessly fall backwards through an open doorway without causing any injury or humiliation to myself or to anybody else whatsoever. Just saying.

It was a treat to see John Bell as the Professor, Jacki Weaver as Nanny and Anthony Phelan as Telegin. In fact, Mr Phelan reminded me of a delightful, gentle friend, with whom I used to work, so tender and amusing was he. It was a disappointment to me that Hayley McElhinney, with her long list of credits, including the honour of being one of the 12 contracted to The Actors Company, completely lost the depths and layers and contours of the final monologue, which I have always loved as it is written and loathed as it is delivered, in that classically-trained, dark and dismal, typically university-interpreted Checkhov voice; empty of the hope that underlies the acceptance of the working poor that life does indeed go on and thus, work must also, quite simply GO ON. There was the hard determination in her voice but none of the subtle, gentle joy and love and light simultaneously, which I have always felt needed by the end of Chekhov, in order to let us leave the theatre looking forward to the next day rather than dreading it. And I wanted her to have loved and lost and retained something. I’m thinking of Pippin’s Grand Finale. Not because I think every show should finish with flash pots and glorious death but with the hope that there are still the simple joys to be found in every day, if only we look for them, even in the face of despair. And after her tumultuous journey, I expected more…contrast.

To put Cate Blanchett on stage with Hugo Weaving was pretty much a stroke of genius. For me, the relationship between them MADE this production. What I want to see in any production is the connection between the characters and for each, a clear journey. The connection between Blanchett and Weaving was pure magic. Each had a journey of epic proportions, made up of the most minute detail. To join them for 4 acts meant a masterclass for actors, for the cost of a coveted ticket.

The tickets were booked a year in advance, as part of an annual sojourn to Sydney “to see Cate”, which, each year, involves my mum, my sister, various friends from editing and publishing as well as a bunch of other friends, who are now known in literary circles at least, as The Family Law.

We did not get (we did not try to get) anywhere near Oprah while we were there but we did spend hours wandering through Annie Leibovitz‘s life, at the MCA, which was inspiring and incredibly moving. In a room holding a series of photographs of her dying father and another series of her dying long-time partner, Susan Sontag, I was moved to tears and unable to look away…

This Vanya failed to stir in me the same emotions. Despite this, I loved it. For me, that is great theatre. For Jason Blake, of The Sydney Morning Herald, same (read his review here). Not so, for some of his readers and these are the comments I find fascinating. Hint: read Blake’s review first…

Then read…

Couldn’t disagree more with this review. The production was a travesty of Chekhov’s work.

The adaptation, with indulgent Shakespeare references to boot, managed to lose all the depth of the Russian original replacing it with a Carry On! version full of slapstick. All the beautiful monologues washed over the audience and many of us left feeling gravely disappointed. Checkov should give you a kick in the guts by the end but all the beautiful monologues washed over to nothing and I left the theatre feeling gravely disappointed.

Bill Peters | Sydney – November 15, 2010, 8:29AM


Some sanity – thanks Bill Peters!

I sadly feel as though many theatre makers are guilty of grossly underestimating the sophistication of their audiences and therefore feel the need to ‘panto’ shows up. You do not have to be a theatre buff (which I am not) to realise when you are being condescended to and when this occurs walking through the liminal door that good theatre (so I am told) should open is next to impossible.

The sycophants in the crowd irked me no end. It is as though they are all playing the part of theatre goers, all in on this bizzare conceit instead of ever truly engaging with the work. My relief upon leaving the theatre earned my sanity five stars!

Chris Hanrahan | Sydney – November 17, 2010, 3:51PM


Embarrassingly, those ‘sycophants’ in the crowd were my fellow students from NIDA.

They were laughing up at every opportunity so people would look at them.

I too was bored with this show. If anyone saw the production from Maly Theatre a couple of years ago you’ll know what I mean. That production had me in tears, digging around in my bag for tissues, a cloth, anything.

I think everyone’s a bit starstruck.

NIDA Grad | Sydney – November 19, 2010, 8:07AM


I was determined to get over my starstruckedness because, let’s face it, I’m a forum bunny and you can imagine how excited I was about being there on the NwtA (Night With The Actors). I actually had a question! So I asked it! I asked, after a lot of other fussy queries about the inclusion of Shakespeare and about working with a non-english speaking director, about the company’s general approach to text and to working with each other. It was was important to me to verbalise what we have been getting nearer to defining as XS Entertainment‘s approach to our own creative process. Who better to answer than the Co-Artistic Director of the Company, Cate Blanchett?! She said, “Text is the bedrock. And then, as actors, we each bring to it what we will.” And I am so glad it is as simple as that!

After, of course I was totes inspired to spend a heap of money at the bookstore downstairs while my sister and co posed for pics outside by the poster…

I’m finally posting this on Christmas Eve and I hope Christmas and New Year’s Eve are wonderful for you. Poppy and I have just watched It’s A Wonderful Life and it really is the ultimate reminder of the season.

Next week, keep up with what’s happening out at waterlogged Woodfordia by following XS Entertainment on Twitter!


I Can Do That!

“Youth Theatre” is the bane of my life. It hooked me at 15 years of age, it kept me busy on stage and off until I was 30, and now, er…with another birthday coming up, it wants to take over my life again. But to Youth Theatre, I say NO! There are others! The grown ups have me now! I will coach you but I will not direct your productions! Unless, of course,  you pay me and then I will happily direct anything your young, enthusiastic, untainted hearts desire.

Please note: Youth Theatre is different to “Theatre for Young People“. The latter enjoys (a little) government funding and (some) support in (some) schools and venues.

In the Australia Council for the Arts Review of Theatre for Young People in Australia (December 2003), the Executive Summary states:

Among other factors, early exposure to positive arts experiences correlate to later interest in and engagement with the arts. It is one of the reasons that Theatre for Young People (TYP) is so significant, why the nature and quality of contact with this work matters. For some, the rationale for engaging with young audiences, and supporting other specialist theatre companies to do so, is enlightened self-interest—the cultivation of tomorrow’s audiences. But there is an equally cogent argument—that children and young people are entitled to the same cultural rights as adults. They are not the audiences of tomorrow, they are the audiences (and participants) of today. On this basis, the same resources should be devoted to TYP and other means of providing access to quality theatre experiences as are devoted to adult, mainstream companies.

About one-third of Australian school children take part in organised cultural activities outside of school hours, according to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006. Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, theatre was just that other thing; the organised activity we did if we were not doing one or most of the following:

  • Swim Club
  • Surf Club
  • Netball Club
  • Rugby League Club
  • AFL Club
  • Soccer Club
  • Little Athletics
  • Ballet, Jazz and Tap
  • Gymnastics
  • Callisthenics’s

It’s a very sporty place.

N.B. The Callisthenics’s kids never really fitted in either.

There was only one place to go – if you really wanted to be taken seriously as a performer – and that was BATS (Buderim Amateur Theatrical Society). Those were the days! We would get hot chips, tomato sauce and tubs of Homer Hudson ice cream from the shop on the corner (the site is now home to a fancy French restaurant, a salon and a couple of old lady boutiques), which we shared outside, lying about on the grass, just as we did later, at uni…hmmm. There was nothing better for young voices! And faces! And figures!

We had cool teachers, who let us finish our ice cream inside. It was fun. And I learned early that you didn’t have to face the audience to say a line, which was a point of contention at school. (At school, I also argued about beginning sentences with capital letters. Thank you, Veny. And the existence of God. Thank you, Lutherans). We gained confidence, friends from other schools, regular performance opportunities and some of us even got our homework done in between rehearsals! We really did have some fun at BATS.

Some might say nothing has changed. I would say a hell of a lot has changed, however; BYTE (Buderim Youth Theatre of Excellence), based at the same hall in Buderim, run by Robyn Ernst for over 10 years has stayed the popular option. One of those cool teachers of mine, Ian Austin, had this to say, back in the days when he was given a say, about BYTES:

BYTES offers students from 5-18 professional studio training in acting, dancing and musical theatre with several public performances every year.  This esteemed training ground, enriches and builds talent and perhaps more importantly personal character.  BYTES showcase presentations add the imperative gloss.” Ian Austin Review Sunshine Coast Daily

And he’s right. I get to their shows pretty irregularly and when I do, I see this to be true. Basic character is evident, as is the self-confidence (some might say over-confidence). The kids learn their lines, they deliver them in well-projected voices, they sing mostly in tune (thanks to the talented teaching team, Scott and Libby Gaedtke) and they are always dressed magnificently and lit quite adequately. I am aware that there are other productions throughout each year, which might showcase a wider range of acting ability, however; I haven’t seen any lately and the last one I did get to – I think I mentioned in a post at the time – had cast members blacking up for To Kill a Mockingbird at the same time a production of Miss Saigon went on in Hobart without any Asians in the cast! Just saying! Nevertheless, the productions provide the performance opportunity and the gloss that kids need, to feel the magic of the theatre and to be able to say, when they see something they like and aspire to, “I can do that!”

The Pirates of Penzance was perhaps an odd choice, with so many male roles and – typically – very few males available to fill them. I always loathe girls playing boys unless the context can be updated and we get to enjoy the legalisation of gay marriage for the finale. Obviously this messes with the original book and a particular demographic in the region.

In the show that I saw on Saturday afternoon, the cast featured Brandon Maday (Frederic), Eloise Mueller (Mabel), Robert Steel (Pirate King), Daniel Moray (Major General), Brianna Schlect (Ruth) and Phoebe Sullivan (Police Sergeant). I have to tell you a) I know Eloise and b) Eloise was the stand-out. Her mature vocal work was matched by Brandon’s (and what a relief that was)! The ensemble were enthusiastic and the company clearly enjoyed themselves. And that is really important. Some parents would say that their child’s enjoyment of the activity is the most important thing. But what if that fun, enthusiasm, confidence and the opportunity to perform can be tied in with some basic stagecraft and performance etiquette?

That is precisely what my friend, Mary Eggleston, is doing at SODA (School of Dramatic Arts). She runs classes in Buderim and Coolum and she is really, for youth theatre, the hottest new kid on the block. SODA’s inaugural showcase, on Saturday morning, was testament to Mary’s ability to use original material and the talents of those kids involved. We saw younger students share The Rime of The Ancient Marinater, which is like giving your primary school production of Alice in Wonderland a bit of a Tim Burton slant! It’s not light stuff and the 7 performers handled the text and the context well.

A cast of 16 slightly older students re-told the story of our local lass, Eliza Fraser, as penned by Sue Davis. The material, Figments of Eliza, was originally performed by Mary as part of the NeoGeography project  and it was interesting to hear her voice-over relay some of the story as part of this re-interpretation. And it was a pleasure to hear the familiar qualities of another of Leah Barclay‘s original compositions as their underscore. As well as teaching these students basic stagecraft, voice, movement, discipline and performance etiquette, Mary has encouraged one of the students to develop his technical skills and so Tully Grimley, for this show, became Lighting Designer and Operator.

Mary works with young people in the same way that Sam and I work with adults. I know this because as well as seeing the results in performance, I’ve taken classes for her a couple of times and these kids respond in the same manner. They are keen to perform and even keener to learn everything they can about themselves and the craft along the way. This is perhaps the difference that we are noticing now on the Sunshine Coast. The performers we seem to attract want it all. Those who stay away want just to be recognised for their performances, regardless of the end result. So we play, we have fun and we make up stuff all the time, just like those kids! We also notice what it is that the individuals bring to the ensemble, how they are connecting with themselves and how they are able to connect with others.

Kids who want more than just the gloss of the final performance should check out SODA.

Adults looking for something fun, interesting and a little more challenging should check out Sam Coward’s production of David Williamson’s INFLUENCE for Noosa Arts Theatre.

John Waters as Ziggi Blasko


Information Night: Friday December 10th 7pm at Noosa arts Theatre, Weyba Rd, Noosaville

Audition (Workshop): Friday December 17th 7pm at Noosa Arts Theatre, Weyba Rd, Noosaville

Season: April 20th – April 30th 2011


Ziggi Blasko – early fifties, talkback radio “shock-jock”
Carmela Blasko – twenty-nine, Ziggi’s second wife, narcissist ballet dancer trying to return to form after childbirth
Vivienne Blasko – seventeen, turns out to be manic depressive
Tony – a taciturn man in his forties
Connie Blasko – forty-seven, social worker
Marko Blasko – dignified Croatian man of eighty-two
Zehra – forty-two, a slim Turkish woman


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