Posts Tagged ‘libby munro

21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

Advertisements
25
Oct
16

Disgraced

Disgraced

MTC & Queensland Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

October 14 – November 6 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

disgraced5

BELONGING IS IN OUR DNA

Brené Brown

 

The moment Disgraced was over I wanted to see it again, right away. It’s the most challenging and confronting play of the year, electric and impossible to leave behind. It’s our past, our present and an opportunity to ponder our future. It serves our confirmation bias yet dares us to see beyond what we think we know and what we keep telling ourselves is important. In the most delightfully bold and entertaining way, Disgraced reinforces everything we’ve been led to believe we’ve got to be carefully taught…and everything we feel sure we’re yet to learn.

The pre-show jazz is deceptively upbeat and sexy, and with Shaun Gurton’s Upper East Side aesthetic, pristine and spacious, and Nigel Levings’ pointed lighting in front of us, we instantly find ourselves not in QPAC’s Playhouse but in a New York City apartment, looking out at the skyline. The mood is privileged, warm; the picture of a perfect life. A perfect couple’s passion is put on hold for the sake of a portrait and plans for a dinner party. Emily is an artist (Libby Munro), and Amir a lawyer (Hazam Shammas). They extend a dinner invitation to his colleague, Jory (Zindzi Okenyo), and Jory’s art dealer husband, Isaac (Mitchell Butel). What begins as a pleasant evening marks the end of an era for these friends. It’s an eventful night!

disgraced2

In this Pulitzer Prize winning text, Ayad Aktar tears open every racial and religious vein, leaving us bleeding on the floor with gaping wounds, our hearts in our mouths, and without answers on our tongues. You might be mistaken for thinking, at first glance, that over its 90 minutes Disgraced barely scrapes the surface of its ancient-current issues, but look closer. Make the decision to engage and really listen. The text is structured so that we get a hint of what’s coming and yet at every turn, at every spike, we’re met with a shocking, unexpected truth. It’s as if we’ve narrowly escaped saying something aloud ourselves during pre-dinner drinks, and we get to stay standing safely on the edge of the group, watching while somebody else squirms in discomfort for committing what might just as easily have been our own social sin.

Hazem Shammas is Amir, the Pakistani-Muslim carving out his success in New York by hiding his heritage to fit in and get ahead in a Jewish law firm. Having recently binge-watched The Fall, I’m reminded that we never completely know someone. The ordinary behaviour packaged neatly within our everyday routines and the original affection we may have felt for a person hides more than we care to uncover, often to the detriment of our own self-discovery, and our mental, emotional and physical state. Shammas fully embraces the complexities of this role, making empathy a possibility and distrust a certainty.

disgraced3

Libby Munro (Grounded, Venus In Fur) worked with this cast for just 2 weeks after seeing the show in Melbourne, and with Director, Nadia Tass, for three hours the week before opening in Brisbane. Munro’s Emily, the white American artist and wife of Amir, is the voice of reason, vulnerability and compassion, exposing enough discrepancies in the popular diatribe to prompt our many questions (and make us think twice before posing them to the opening night after party friends). She is also the figure of appropriation – or misappropriation, depending on your perspective – and with these gentle prods and pokes towards the race, religion and gender politics at play, Munro is striking; poised and precise, and perfectly placed within this stellar cast. When she unravels and suddenly begins to shrink, almost disappearing before our eyes (an incredible accomplishment for an actor, to give up the space and the light and let oneself become less present whilst staying completely present in the story), we’re in the room with her. And we want to leave with her. You can guess the moment. The older woman in front of me gasps, she’s visibly shaken… I wonder, did she read the trigger warning? I also wonder, do we need a trigger warning? Imagine the impact of the truly unexpected! (And the further impact of a perfectly choreographed and executed strike! This far into the season, I’m sure the moment has been remedied). In this role, we see Munro continue to work quietly and humbly at presenting intelligent, fearless, unforgettable women on our stages. This is no rave, it’s just the simple truth, which you can see for yourself. There is no one else on the Australian stage consistently nailing the strength and softness of a woman as well as Munro; she’s in a league of her own. What a complete contrast she must offer in the upcoming award winning one shot independent feature film EIGHT. I can’t wait to see this next incredible work. 

disgraced4

Likewise, Zindzi Okenyo, brings a fierce, self-assured energy into the space as Jory, the lawyer wife of the art dealer, Isaac (Mitchell Butel). With magnificent strength and grace Okenyo’s performance offers another lens, and plenty of razor sharp one-liners in case we forget to remember the history of the black percentage of America’s population. With perfect comic timing and scene stealing stage presence, Mitch Butel is one of the country’s most relaxed and dynamic performers, a superb Isaac. He’s a cliche but he’s not, he’s a Jew but he’s not, he’s afraid but he’s not; he’s a complete anomaly, playing by the rules and pushing all the buttons.

disgraced6

And then there is Abe. As Amir’s nephew, Kane Felsinger represents the worst of humankind: the angry, politically engaged minority, determined to make his mark on the world by transforming it into the vision he’s gleaned from the descriptions found in the Quran. It would be easy to slip into a caricature but Felsinger resists and only gradually allows the true nature of his character to seep through, affecting and alarming us by degrees. His final moments harden us against the stereotype. My heart plunges into my stomach – I feel physically sick – and I wonder what on earth is the writer playing at? Abe represents the extreme violence we’ve been taught to fear. The shock and sadness and confusion and compassion that sweeps across Munro’s face as the final difficult conversation plays out in front of her mirrors my conflicting thoughts and feelings.

The beauty of Akhtar’s text is the ugliness in it and Tass, always the actors’ director, delves courageously into the intricacies and nuances of each human being and their deeply felt – and sadly marred – connections with one another. They are each as real and as flawed as they can be. They insist on blaming and shaming and yet expect to come out unscathed. They are beautifully, brilliantly thrown together into a melting pot that serves to shame us too, or else inspire us (you decide), into making choices every single day that derive from a place of love and empathy, rather than from ignorance and hate and fear. 

Disgraced is a pleasure, a power, and a terror; a terrible and timely reminder that nothing changes unless we show up, speak the words and take decisive and committed action to change what we cannot abide to see in our world.

05
Aug
15

Opening Night Style at The Greenhouse: Grounded

 

Grounded_libbymunro

 

Opening night style at The Greenhouse Diane Cilento Studio: Grounded

 

A comparatively casual opening night affair (we’d dressed up for La Boite’s 90th birthday ball the night before), for some Grounded meant jeans and sweaters and jackets. Still in party mode, I took out the “Noosa Festival Red” stretchy Kookai number and Sachi sandals for the theatre, and later – it got cold at Greystone – my little Red Riding Hood cloak cum coat dress, which I picked up at Woodford Folk Festival a couple of years ago.

 

Grounded has been extended until August 22 so there’s really no excuse to miss the sensational Libby Munro in a stunning, game-changing role. Read my review here.

 

Wearing

 

Dress: Kookai

 

Cloak: Shovava

 

Shoes: Sachi Melissa Black Boot (be quick to get them at sale price!)

 

Jewels: Blue Illusion

 

 

IMG_2516

 

 

 

IMG_2534 IMG_2535

 

 

 

IMG_2484

 

 

04
Aug
15

Grounded

 

Grounded

Queensland Theatre Company

The Greenhouse Diane Cilento Studio

July 29 – August 22 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Grounded_libbymunro

 

If you want to see this year’s best performance and be part of the crowd who’ll say, “I saw her first” when she accepts an Academy Award one day, don’t miss Libby Munro in Grounded.

 

It’s an intense slow-burn one-woman drama and Munro is thrilling in it.

 

libbymunrohero

2013 WINNER of the Matilda Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

 

You might have missed her in Venus In Fur – directed by Andrea Moor in 2013 – and wondered why ever since, since it’s one of the productions we haven’t stopped talking about.

 

Wesley Enoch explains simply, “A diva is a celebrated woman of outstanding talent…and Libby Munro is such a woman.”

 

George Brant’s brilliant insight into drone warfare from the female fighter pilot’s perspective is the best kind of contemporary poetry, without much of the punctuation you’d expect to see on a page, allowing the actor to find the natural cadence of the piece. On many levels it’s a quietly political piece but Grounded will endure and enjoy greater global success because it keeps the human story, like the heartbeat of Tony Brumpton’s soundscape for this superb production, at its core.

 

We walk into the Diane Cilento Studio – used for the first time in performance mode for Grounded – and hear the low hum of either the air con or the soundscape (it’s impossible to tell) and then see the indelible image of a woman in fetal position at the top of a small raked stage, a flight suit set below her. The suit, just for these opening moments, enjoys the most light. When she puts it on she doesn’t want to take it off, and says so. It’s part of her, her identity. It’s how she knows who she is. Later, she admits to having had sex in it. But only once.

 

The body becomes electric, the face becomes animated, almost like a child’s as she tells us with stars in her eyes, and Maverick arrogance and religious reverence, about the thrill of soaring through “the blue” in her Tiger, and laughing and drinking beer with the other Top Guns, her boys, at the end of each shift.

 

Then suddenly there’s the shock, surprise and delight that comes with love and the pink stripe of pregnancy, and the birth of a beautiful baby girl…who needs “attention”. We feel her confusion and commitment to both the family and the air force as she tries to adjust to the military’s version of “work-life balance”. We watch, dismayed, as she takes her place behind a screen every day for 12 hours at a time to become one of the Chair Force, wirelessly controlling a death-dealing reaper drone from a dark trailer in the Nevada desert. You can’t make out their faces but from their movement you can identify, without any doubt, The Guilty. Suddenly, we miss the blue too.

 

Through vivid description, though without morbid graphic detail (the economy of words and the measured pace saving us from the darkest corner of our imaginations), we see body parts flying through the air and what remains of the bodies merging with the grey sand on the screen as The Pilot “lingers”, safe from death, in her $11 million “eye in the sky”. The threat of death has been removed.

 

Can you imagine? The vivid pictures Munro paints with Brant’s prose will sweep you up and along on the journey so be ready; it’s one hell of a ride. You might feel your stomach turn – it’s the G-Force effect – or feel the need to shake it off and get your land legs back after such a tumultuous storytelling event.

 

Testament to the lasting impression this production leaves, on opening night there were many in the audience who stayed sitting in their seats after the curtain call, just sitting…perhaps hoping to be offered something stronger than champagne.

 

In what must constitute the acting masterclass of the year, Munro expertly shows us every tiny detail of her world, just as a “world builder” novelist does. We get a sense of the vastness, the magic of “the blue”, the comedy and tragedy of trying to schedule TV time, sex, sleep, and daycare drop-off “special time” in between 12-hour shifts surrounded by military males (staring at “military age” male targets). And all of this without the aid of over-zealous production elements, which are wisely kept simple, completely unfettered, thanks to an unassuming and super talented creative team, who have allowed the actor to take centre stage. No fancy projections here, just the blue-turning-grey of a quietly commanding abstract design to literally frame the actor…and the perfectly timed sound of a beating heart. (Designer Georgina Greenhill. Lighting Designer Ben Hughes. Sound Designer Tony Brumpton). Not that we can take our eyes off Munro for long to really study anything else in the room…

 

grounded

 

A flawless brunette beauty, tall, slender and strong, even in the most sensitive, vulnerable moments, Munro has the striking looks and arresting presence of a supporting actress envied by leading ladies who fail to cast a similar spell over captivated audiences and can’t for the life of them understand why. The rich, nuanced vocal work is superb and the pace, as we leap across the hours, days, years, is as real-time as it gets. The performance is beautifully shaped and layered by Director, Andrea Moor. The repetition is almost too much at one point, but it serves to help us appreciate the strange routine of virtual warfare, which allows a fighter pilot to get the job done and make it home in time for dinner.

 

When you see Munro’s tour-de-force performance in the intimate space of the Diane Cilento Studio you’ll understand I’m not exaggerating. You’ll come under her spell and know too that she’s something special. She must be the spunkiest, sexiest, most compelling actress on an Australian stage right now. Hers is a sublime performance of a hard-hitting, game-changing text that could mean we won’t see Munro on a local stage for a little while after this season closes on August 22. Better be quick to book. Grounded is not to be missed.

 

29
Jun
13

Venus In Fur

Venus In Fur

Queensland Theatre Co

QPAC Cremorne

27 June – 07 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Vanda: You dare to resist me?

 

Thomas: Yes, I dare.

 

Vanda: You little piece of nothing! You dust! You dare to resist a goddess?

 

 

“BRAVERY, WILL, AND COMMON SENSE ARE ALL AN ACTOR NEEDS.”

                                                                                                                 David Mamet

 

 

Libby Munro Vens In Fur

Libby Munro has all this and more. Much, much more. She’s the complete package, a goddess, which is so exciting; especially at this stage of QTC’s 2013 season, in this highly anticipated Australian premiere of David IvesVenus In Fur. Quite simply, actors of Munro’s calibre don’t come around often…and it was time. Just saying…no, but really! Wow! What a find! (Can we keep her?)! As Vanda, Munro completely spoils us; she’s the ultimate seductress, with strong principles and a Pilates-toned Honey Birdette clad bod to make even this gym bunny think about upping the weekly classes. If only I had the time to keep up with that kinda’ tone! If only I had the energy! That is commitment to the role.

 

Munro is the unequivocal star of this two-hander, and although Todd MacDonald does everything within his power to balance the power on stage it’s as if he can never do quite enough to get our attention for very long, David Ives has written Thomas this way and MacDonald does all he needs to as the adaptor and director of the play inspired by the erotic 19th century novella by Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch. When Vanda bursts in late for her audition, she brings with her a new perspective on the play, and the power struggle – and incredibly cleverly the play within the play – begins. The transformation takes place magically, in a single breath at the top of the stairs in a perfectly functional and evocative set designed by Simone Romaniuk (beautifully evocative lighting, including lightning, by David Walters and soundscape, complete with actors’ beats and thunderstorm by Guy Webster). When you see it you’ll see it. The transformation. And you’ll realise in that instant that this is the most perfect piece of casting we’re likely to see on a Brisbane stage this year.

 

Venus In Fur

Director, Andrea Moor, who brought William H. Macy and David Mamet’s Practical Aesthetics actor training to Australia in 1988, has taken such a bold, intelligent approach that we can’t fail to get every message here, however; ultimately the corny conclusion lets us down on one level, reducing the entire brilliantly layered gender argument to a comic book style statement (It’s Barbarella Barbie proclaiming, Spice Girls style, “Girls rule!” I was going to pop in an image here, actually, but Google gave me some of the most disturbing Barbie images ever, and Munro presents a much better picture in the end, regardless of my opinion on the statement she makes!). This image appears to please the majority but I was left wanting more, which, like all good erotica, may well have been the intention. I felt her win would have been even more momentous if these two had had their night of passion. AND THEN SHE LEAVES HIM. But no, not even a pash at the post! You can only imagine my disappointment! The gun was on stage without being fired! I’d love to know what you think about the final moments of the play.

 

David Ives has threaded throughout the text, the most enticing political tidbits; nothing new, timeless in fact, which is why the sentiments seem to ring so true. It has always been thus! But what if Vanda were to return the following day to continue working on the production? I can’t help but wonder. What fantastic theatre it is, making us laugh and gasp and talk for days afterwards about so many different aspects of the production (including, to my surprise, the notion of offering a program to every patron, included in their ticket price, which astonished my sister from Melbourne, where coffee is cheap and programs are not!).

 

What a beautifully captured production, to make me want to read the original novella, the play, AND the director’s notes in the margins of her copy of the script. Each time I see something of Andrea Moor’s head and heart on stage I do wonder why we’re not seeing more from her. More Moor, please. It’s rich, intelligent, actors’ acting that appeals just as much to the masses, who are getting so used to seeing good live theatre in Brisbane we can’t expect anyone to accept anything less.

 

Venus in Fur is a coup for Brisbane and for our state theatre company. Let’s hope our friends in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide (at the very least) demand to see it too!

 

19
Jun
13

Venus in Fur: Afternoon Delight!

Afternoon Delight with the cast of Venus In Fur

Meredith McLean

Venus_in_Fur_13_event

I can’t wait to see this one. Venus in Fur has been lurking on the posters and walls around the city for a while now and the preview is finally here! This Saturday, Venus in Fur will have its first run with an audience. Have you booked yet?

 

I went to the afternoon tea with the company – conversations and drinks. It was good to mingle and see them just chill out before the five week run of this production starting this weekend.

 

The venue couldn’t have been better. Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall hidden on Caxton Street was superb. Very New Orleans-ish, dim lit with champagne ready. On one of the moose heads mounted on the ceiling I even spotted a bra hanging off the antlers, so no doubt fun times have been had here in the past.

 

Libby Munro, the leading lady in this erotic duologue for a show, was beaming the whole time. No doubt running on the adrenalin knowing the show is so soon. She announced that they were doing the tech bump-in tonight and that’s how you know it’s really happening. She even confessed she was counting down the five weeks until she could have a strong drink, because you really need your wits about you when you are the energy of the show.

 

The lovely director Andrea Moor got into a discussion more on the lines of Brisbane it self rather than the show when I spoke to her. We all agreed no one realizes how culturally geared Brisbane truly is. The beauty of these smaller theatres is that they can be daring and risqué unlike others. QPAC, though certainly not a small theatre, often chooses these smaller casted plays over others Moor said, because Brisbane can facilatate them faster and better than a huge 12-man or more production.

 

But regardless of everyone’s opinions on brisbane’s theatre scene there was a collective buzz about Venus in Fur. With drinks and posters going around, the words on everyone’s lips was “I want to see it.”

 

Venus in Fur will be running at QPAC from 22nd of June to 27th of July before it makes the move for the tour. Don’t hesitate to see this one. Just because I can’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t – I don’t doubt there are good things to come.

 

The end of a long day of casting, and playwright-director Thomas (Todd Macdonald) can’t find the right woman. He needs beautiful-sexy-articulate, young, with a “particle of brain”. He needs someone to play a mistress, but has endured a parade of 35 misfires.

 

Thomas is adapting Venus In Furs, the infamously kinky 1870 novel by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch –the etymological father of masochism. It calls for a purring, confident dominatrix.

 

He gets more than he expected when the raging storm blows in Vanda (Libby Munro) – late, frazzled, with the very litany of the flaws he just decried. She talks of Venus in Furs as one might talk of Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

As the director takes a chance and allows her to read anyway, the balance of power tilts between actress and director, mistress and slave. Thomas and Vanda become two people handcuffed at the heart in David Ives’ deliciously sassy, sexy, character-driven power-play.

 

Take direction: Submit, and spend an evening at the mercy of Venus in Fur.