Posts Tagged ‘jackson mcgovern

11
Nov
17

Nineteen

Nineteen 

Brisbane Powerhouse & Wax Lyrical Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 9 – 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Barry Stone

 

 

Barry maintains that he doesn’t write reviews, but I love hearing what he has to say about what he sees in Brisbane since he sees everything he possibly can, out of genuine support and passion for the Performing Arts. I’m so pleased he’s agreed to allow me to share his thoughts with you here. Feel free to add your own, below in the comments section. Xanthe

 

Award-winning company, Wax Lyrical Productions, presents the world premiere of Nineteen, a dark comedy about four young men, Noah, George, Adam and Josh, living in a share house. From the outside they seem like fun, loveable larrikins but underneath the bravado and binge drinking lurks something more sinister.

 

Nineteen – For me, a play that has been needed for a while. Young men deciding if they will make it to adulthood. The trials of insecurity, the passions of relationships, the recognition of urges and the deceit amongst friends and for one’s self. It is a scary world trying to be what you imagine you should be. Will you be ‘like father – like son’. What is love and what is sex. What is friendship and what is a man supposed to be. The obsession with the physical, the boredom and the drugs and alcohol. Escape or pleasure. A lot is there in the loneliness of growing up.

 

For many years I have bemoaned the lack of suitable role models for the young man. I have a particular abhorrence of several things proposed as that which should be emulated, such as ‘Be a man’, ‘Stand up for yourself’, ‘Did you fight back?’, ‘Did you win?’, Don’t be a girl’ and ‘Don’t be a poofta’. There is always that obsession – which sport do you follow, don’t dress like a sissy, you know nothing about the kitchen, back-slap but never hug, never show or declare your emotions… Add this to the image in American film and television that all is solved with a gun or a punch. Young men in most sit-coms are portrayed as immature idiots, and selfish like Bart Simpson. Some call it satire, but I bet the vast majority see it as an example. Just like 1984 was a warning not a user manual, as it is now seen.

 

This original play examines the inner workings of a house of young boys. Their closeted affections, homophobia, misogyny, disappointments, and how they cope, or fail to cope. It is about the need they have for each other, but never let it show. The anger is loud and flies rashly and the can or stubby is opened one after another. No, they are not the great successes in life, but our suburbs are full of them and largely they are ignored. Why are they like this and what is society teaching our young men?

 

There is a line and a common attitude propagated that all men are either ‘Rapists or Paedophiles’. Read your newspapers and listen to your media. Accusation alone is now guilt. Aspirational victims are everyone’s 15 minutes. Vigilante justice, trial by media and innuendo leave everyone feeling guilty. To me, all freedoms require a generation to sink in. Apartheid, recognition of indigenous importance, women’s liberation, gay liberation…all have been taking time and when the world swings from one to another it usually leaves someone else behind.

 

Kindness and understanding, acceptance and example are better than accusation and revenge.

 

I seem to have waffled but this is what for me came out of Nineteen. Writer and Director, Shane Pike, has begun a conversation that I hope is joined with true compassion. He has exposed the private life of some of the young Aussie male. The ignored and dismissed. Fewer trips to Bali and more trips to the theatre, where life is thought about.

 

Jason Glenwright gave a wonderful theatrical focus on the action, the narration , the asides. And the peak performances of the cast were gripping. The silences most effective, as I recognise that state of severe boredom and inability to articulate what I have seen in the flesh. Diverse as any group of people can be, the actors both differentiated the characters and united them in a common confusion, loneliness and simply being afraid. Scared little boys lashing out at each other because they are so disconnected with the reality of the world and exactly what a relationship should be, who they are and where they need to stand.

 

Bravo to to the great and gripping talents of Daniel Hurst, Leonard Donahue, Jackson McGovern and Silvan Rus, and thank you for a very fine evening which I do hope both lives on and provokes discussion and a real attempt at true understanding, for from truth will evolve genuine progress.

 

Queensland in particular needs this big discussion. Less talk about how a sportsman is a role model (no matter how many mistakes he makes) and a little less testosterone, greater respect for the arts and acceptance of the rich diversity we do have. The world or the media seems to be promoting a gender war to add to the class war, the race war, the religious war. Calm the fuck down and stop trying to find which persecuted minority you can join. I am over the victim mentality. Be human and cope. You need not be scarred for life. it is not a fate worse than death, it may be none of your business, you are responsible for your own actions. We all have problems but we are all born with the responsibility of developing a conscience. Choose which battles (not all) you want to fight but educate yourself with facts and then give it 100 percent.

 

As I have said over and over, I do not do reviews, but I record what comes to me by attending a performance. This is just how it affected me. This one really did provoke thought and unleashed me.

 

P.S. As if that is not enough there is also some nudity.

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09
Sep
17

[title of show]

 

[title of show]

Understudy Productions

Hayward Street Studios

August 31 – September 10 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Jeff and Hunter, two struggling writers with nothing to lose, have decided to put everything on the line and create a show for New York Musical Theatre Festival. With the deadline for submissions a mere three weeks away, Jeff and Hunter decide to follow the old adage, “write what you know,” and set off on a unique musical adventure: writing a musical about writing a musical. With the help of their friends Susan, Heidi, and Larry on keys, they make a pact to write up until the festival’s deadline and dream about the show changing their lives.

 

[title of show] is one of the funniest productions to have been staged in Brisbane in a long time. I don’t know if this company saw Oscar Theatre Company’s production, directed by Emily Gilhome, in Brisbane in 2010 and Noosa in 2011 but this cast, directed by Ian Good, can hold their own.

 

 

Alexander Woodward’s Understudy Productions threw into the MELT Festival mix at Brisbane Powerhouse earlier this year an original cabaret (Boys of Sondheim), and now with Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell’s [title of show] the company continues to provide professional work for local, Australian-based talent in another production that is LGBT and gender friendly. In the current political climate, a show about two gay guys writing a show about what matters to them and stuff that happens to them couldn’t be better placed.

 

Jackson McGovern plays an adorably goofy Hunter and Woodward is the perfect foil, an unassuming, charming Jeff. Together they go through the tumults of a working relationship and the closest kind of friendship, earning wide smiles, lots of laughter and our genuine affection.

 

 

 

Aurelie Roque is a wry, self-effacing Susan and Lauren McKenna a bold, bright and bubbly Heidi. Joel Curtis on keys is MD and an appropriately pacified Larry, and once again I feel like Larry should have more to say! Some of the best moments are in fact when the characters have nothing “scripted” to say. The girls soak up the spotlight during Secondary Characters during which they discuss what happens when the writers leave the room.

 

 

 

Die Vampire Die is still the best song of the show, possibly because it rings so true for artists, and Roque knows how to sell it. She easily elicits plenty of laughs and pathos within this number’s satisfying harmonies and hilarious lyrics. Curtis has ensured that each musical number is tight and while the pace lagged at times during the opening weekend, it will have picked up during the too-short season. It’s an exceptional cast; there’s no weak link and everyone has their turn to shine.

 

From Untitled Opening Number to Nine People’s Favorite Thing, this heartfelt, upbeat show is fun, irreverent and intelligent, and the perfect vehicle for these super talented triple threats. If you’re new to this musical, or to musicals in general, it’s likely you’ll miss some of the references to exisiting shows and Broadway stars, but that’s okay. While there’s nothing actually new happening here and the Hayward Street Studios’ space is a little unkind to such an intimate production, this [title of show] features five of our brightest. It’s highly entertaining and worth stealing a ticket to see tonight’s final performance; you’ll laugh out loud and leave grinning.

 

 

26
Aug
17

Understudy Productions do [title of show]

 

A chat with the cast of Understudy Productions’ [title of show]

Hayward Street Studios August 31 – September 10 2017

 

We haven’t seen anyone tackle the hilarious cult hit [title of show] since Oscar in 2010 so it’s about time we saw it again. Ahead of Understudy Productions’ season, which opens next week, we chatted with the company’s founder and AD Alexander Woodward, and let the other cast members chime in…

 

We love [title of show]! Can you talk about the creative process, from the idea to bring a humble YouTube-Broadway surprise smash hit to Brisbane, to your independent company securing the rights to the show, to finding space and casting incredible talent, and preparing to put on a show? 

Alex: Directing is Ian Good, from the UK. We originally met when he came over while I was at the Con. He’s an outstanding director who’s fallen in love with the country and I trust him more than words can express. I’m a big believer that if i’ve put somebody in a position its for a reason, and after I’ve brought somebody in I just trust and believe in that persons judgement. This is the company’s third production and so far so good, so I’m going to stick with this attitude.

Rehearsals are amazing, better than could be expected. We’ve had such a quick process I thought it would be a scramble to the line but we are a week out and still have so much time to play so I’m beyond happy.

The process? Well I’m constantly on the search for theatre to put on. I heard about title while at uni and loved the concept; it’s such a theatre lovers’ show.

Putting on theatre is HARD. It’s expensive, and risky and really hard to get right, but I love doing it. Origin Theatrical are amazing and I love dealing with Kim there. She’s a theatre lover and is always so helpful getting us independents off and running.

 

Tell us about Understudy Productions.

So basically Understudy Productions was formed because I thought it was crazy that people thought they had to move cities in order to be involved in professional quality work. I also thought we have so much music theatre and acting talent coming out of Brisbane, let’s use it and create some shit hot theatre. There’s no reason Brisbane can’t have an independent theatre scene like what’s seen at the Hayes, or Chapel off Chapel.

 

Tell us about each cast member (or they can tell us about themselves!). What drew each of you to this show?

Alex: Jackson is a stupidly good actor. I remember being at uni and thinking, yeah, this guy is going places.

 

 

Jackson: Well it’s a bloody funny show, for a start. I didn’t actually know it before I started looking up stuff when I saw the audition brief for this production, but I remember listening to the soundtrack for the first time and laughing my tits off. It’s completely ridiculous, but has a real heart to it.

 

 

Lauren: My name is Lauren McKenna. I’m a Sydney based music theatre gal who has worked in Brisbane a lot in the past couple of years. I played the double of Martha/Ms. Fleming in the smash hit Heathers which played at QPAC and have been in Harvest Rain’s latest touring Arena productions of Hairspray (Tracy) and Grease (Jan). My nine favourite things are picnics, fresh flowers, tall humans, new stationary, sleep-ins, high belt, snail mail, edamame beans and salon manicures. I was drawn to this project because some friends told me I’d love [title of show]. They were right! Also, I have a massive crush on Brisbane so any excuse to work up here I jump at!

 

Joel: I’m Joel and I am the Musical Director and play Larry (the unfortunate forgotten pianist) in the show.

 

Will you tell us your real-life vampires?

Alex: Not being good enough, not getting work, letting people down from family to friends to ticket buyers. I always think its funny that performers are often highly strung/stressed/emotional types and here we get on stage and basically say, “Please like me, and please let me invoke some form of emotion on you”. Plus being poor…god, theatre makes you poor! Haha!

Joel: I’m terrified of not being good enough. That’s actually something that Jeff says in the number. One of these days someone is going to work out that I’m a fraud and I can’t do all the things that I’m employed to do/say I can do and then they’ll tell everyone and I’ll be fired, never work again, all my friends will hate me and I’ll end up penniless, lonely and miserable. Or something…

 

Will you share with us that show idea you’ve stashed in the bottom drawer?

Alex: Well, I’m pretty excited to putting on an Adults Only Christmas Show later this year at Brisbane Powerhouse. Every year of my adult life I’ve done “friends’ christmas” where we drink and dance, and be merry. I wanted to recreate that kind of idea for theatre. I think it sucks that the only option at Christmas is to go to church! I want to do the polar opposite of that.

 

Will you each share how you came to be a performer and what it is that keeps you in the industry?

Lauren: I’ve been doing musicals since I was 10 years old. There’s no other industry for me.

Jack: Storytelling is such a primal part of being human, and live theatre to me is one of the most rewarding ways of being part of that, either as a performer or audience member. Live theatre is different every time. I honestly can’t think of anything cooler than 5, 10, 200 or 1000 people going into a room together and having a storytelling experience that is completely unique to that group.

Alex: I used to play in bands and – long story short – went to visit my brother living in London, saw a show in the West End and went, “Wow, music theatre can be amazing,” and then knew I wanted to get involved. I came home and started doing courses and then I scored an amazing first gig with STC.

 

Joel: To be honest, I rarely perform anymore. I prefer my day job as a singing teacher, with the occasional MD gig.

 

Favourite / challenging / exciting roles thus far?

Alex: My first job ever was also the first thing I ever auditioned for. Spring Awakening with Sydney Theatre Company, it was like being thrown into a pool and it was sink or swim…. But I loved it. The most challenging role would have to have been Mickey in Blood Brothers, emotionally such a draining and in-depth role. You basically have to put yourself though a rollercoaster every show.

Lauren: Playing two characters in Heathers was incredible- an actors dream! Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray was so challenging stamina wise (especially in arena style) but ridiculously fun! Heidi in [title of show] is definitely up there with my favourites!

 

Roles you covet and would kill for?

Alex: Cliff in Cabaret, Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen, Anything in Book of Mormon. Plus any role that has the power to invoke thought and change in people.

 

Other jobs? Your first job (perhaps it wasn’t in the performing arts industry)?

Alex: Professional Uber Driver and drink slinger.

 

What did mum and dad want you to do? What did teachers think you would do?

Alex: My parents are incredible and always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. My mum has been working with the ABC for 30 years now, and my parents met while my mum did drama and Dad studied photography, so the arts was pretty much always engrained in them.

 

 

What else do you want to do?

Alex: I want to help create an independent theatre scene in Brisbane. I want there to be a Brisbane Hayes. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be.

 

How does everyone keep fit and maintain healthy voices?

Alex: the show for me is a huge sing. Basically, 10 years of practice and semi-okay technique. (Still a long way to go!).

 

Why do we wanna’ see this show (again)?

Alex: Because it’s fun, it’s moving, and it speaks to everyone who’s ever been involved in performing. It’s just very music theatre.

 

Jack: [title of show] speaks to anyone with even the tiniest creative bone in their body. Rehearsing this has been an experience in uncovering relatable quality after relatable quality within all four of these beautiful, twisted, genius characters. Whether you are a musical theatre fan, a theatre fan, or you’ve never even stepped foot in a theatre, you will love it as much for its relatable charm as its ridiculous comedy.

 

Lauren: Because it’s awesome and I have to take my top off for the first time onstage… so you don’t wanna miss that!

 

What’s next?

Alex: After this I go full steam into producing A Very Adult Christmas…

 

 

27
Oct
16

American Buffalo

American Buffalo

Brisbane Powerhouse & Troop Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

October 25 – 29 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

american_buffalo_feature_image_2_2016-1178x663

Find your mark, look the other fellow in the eye, and tell the truth.

James Cagney

Actors used to be buried at a crossroads with a stake through the heart. Those people’s performances so troubled the onlookers that they feared their ghosts. An awesome compliment. Those players moved the audience not such they were admitted to a graduate school, or received a complimentary review, but such that the audience feared for their soul. Now that seems to me something to aim for.

David Mamet, True and False

It’s not often we see a Mamet and it’s not often we see a Mamet done well. Despite a couple of rookie errors, Troop Productions’ American Buffalo delivers much of what we would expect from this bold American drama and brings an ambitious new company to the arena. 

Director, Kieran Brice, brings together Ron Kelly, Derek Draper and Jackson McGovern in the roles of Donny, Teach and Bobby, three desperate men in a 1970s Chicago junk shop, in cahoots to secure a rare buffalo nickel from a coin collector whom Donny believes conned him of the coin’s real value. We don’t see their shenanigans outside of the shop but we’re privy to the planning of the crime and in fact – spoiler alert – it never happens. Instead, ambitions are questioned, loyalties challenged and friendships tested. Brice shapes and builds tension nicely, and avoids letting the pace lag, unlike another wordy contemporary classic across town. Still thinking on that one…

americanbuffolo1

George Greenhill’s jumbled-by-design, down-and-out junk shop looks as if the play has already happened and the Stage Manager (Shane Kumer) is due to appear next. We see all sorts of grimy, dusty trashy treasure beneath the dim yellow light (Tim Gawne) and it’s a shame we don’t hear a soundscape that includes the street noise each time the shopfront door opens with the jangle of its bell. Kumar adds only the noise (and headlights) of a vehicle pulling up out front. And is it rain hitting the roof during the second act? Difficult to tell so we won’t mention its inclusion… While Greenhill’s attention to detail across the set and costume design (and, it must be said, the use of the space by Kelly and McGovern), go a long way in creating the “world” of the play, a considered, comprehensive soundscape would add an additional immersive dimension to the production.

That is not the character onstage. That is you onstage. Everything you are. Nothing can be hidden.

David Mamet, True and False

Ron Kelly is at the top of his game; this is his show, his most compelling performance to date. He resists complicating anything; we don’t see him “acting”, he simply heeds Mamet’s advice to “Give yourself a simple goal onstage, and go on to accomplish it bravely”. Jackson McGovern also exercises restraint and knows how to really listen. There’s something of Ed Norton in his look, and his timing and phrasing, his cleverly contained frenetic energy beautifully complementing Kelly’s calm and considered performance and at times, when these two hit their stride, we hear the rhythm of the Mamet-speak. At first McGovern’s physical peculiarities make us wary of a put-upon performance, however; it’s a long time since I’ve had anyone in my circles so devastatingly affected by addiction and in his characterisation, McGovern is committed and consistent, completely believable once he settles. His agonised writhing towards the end of the play is testament to McGovern’s ability to make bold contextual choices and perfectly underplay the big emotions, as we do, captivating us even as a whole lot of action is happening behind him. Kelly and McGovern demonstrate in American Buffalo everything Mamet purports is necessary to bring the story, made interesting by the playwright, alive onstage by the actors.

americanbuffalo_derekdraper

In stark contrast, Derek Draper seems to feel the need to prove himself as a performer, which does little in terms of presenting a relatable person onstage. (Don’t tell me you can’t relate on some level to his small-time hustle). Is he miscast or misdirected? And where was he for his opening night curtain call? I can only put his absence down to an injury, or else an extreme reading of get into a scene late and leave it early! It feels as if Draper is the odd one out, although not in the way the text demands and certainly not because he lacks the talent. Quite simply, his choices are questionable, his choices baffle me. He lays on the physical characteristics from the outset, including snapping his fingers too loudly and too often, and insisting on sitting and standing on an overly anxious shaking leg that doesn’t ring true and must be exhausting to sustain. He wipes his greasy hand not on his shirt but across the lapel of his leather jacket! And I don’t believe he’s a smoker. His entrance, during which he crosses the stage diagonally a number of times to find the empty space (whilst leaping with gusto into his best Anxious and Sleepless and Stressed and About to be Really Angry Acting), as if he were milling and seething during a Drama workshop warmup, should be fair warning. He makes it incredibly difficult for us to watch him and I hope he absorbs, perhaps through osmosis during the season, the value of stillness and simple truth. The space is too intimate, we are too close to him, and we know the play too well to be taken in by his unnecessary effort.

Nobody cares how hard you worked. Nor should they.

David Mamet, True and False

Ultimately, what we’re seeing is the insecurity of the actor (and, I believe, his director, with regard to the management of this role), impossible to conceal onstage, and only of value when the text is spoken through it, in spite of it, because of it. As Draper develops greater (actual) self-confidence and can relax a little about the job he’s doing, which is, according to Mamet, simply “Doing the play for the audience”, I think we’ll see a much more interesting performer emerge from beneath this very carefully contrived and choreographed walking-time-bomb character. And perhaps I’ve missed seeing Draper’s best work elsewhere, but here we don’t really see what he can do until Donny repeatedly tries to make a phone call and Teach insists he hang up. The looking and listening and reacting at this point, driven more by impulse than compulsion, is precisely what we want to see throughout. In this case it’s a lovely, light, comical moment during which the two appear to genuinely connect; it’s one of the highlights of the evening.

americanbuffalo_jacksonmcgovern

Another highlight is meeting producer and photographer, Ruby Newport; she’s sharp and humble and hard-working. Anyone with (somebody else’s) money and a couple of connections can be a producer, but there’s a sparkle and a savviness about Newport that’s going to continue to attract attention. Also, importantly, she got invites to the Matilda Committee judges in time to confirm our RSVPs not only for opening night but throughout the season. This means the points I’ve made about Draper’s performance, for example, may be moot, shouted down respectfully debated by the time everyone has experienced this production.

americanbuffalo2

Mamet is a tough gig, and American Buffalo among the toughest. This carefully, traditionally pieced together production bodes well for the future standing of the company, and guarantees a good night out.

 

What is true, what is false, what is, finally, important?

David Mamet, True and False