Posts Tagged ‘nadia tass

22
Feb
17

The Flick

The Flick

Queensland Theatre

QPAC & Red Stitch Actors

QPAC Cremorne

February 10 – March 5 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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One of the last old movie houses in America to use 35mm film, The Flick in Massachusetts, becomes a microcosm of the world when three young people show up to their shifts in their dead-end jobs. And that’s really all they’re doing; showing up and showing each other who they think they are and who/what/where they want to be when they “grow up”. We’re struck by their humanity, and the simple intimacies revealed in Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning writing.

…she writes in a way there doesn’t seem to be one defining moment where that transition takes place. It’s more like you watch the play and you feel really moved, something shifts inside but you can’t pinpoint when it happens, really powerful, that’s more like life.

– Ngaire Dawn Faire

The Flick is acclaimed Director, Nadia Tass, honing in on the delicacy and vulnerability of the human condition, moving her actors through the space as if they belong there, as if they are really there and we are not. This is what theatre can be, and what fourth-wall theatre is supposed to be, but very often is not.

The run-down, down-and-out aesthetic is expertly, lovingly created by Shaun Gurton (set), David Parker (lighting), Russell Goldsmith (sound) and Daniel Nixon (sound & AV).

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Featuring the exquisite talent and insight of Kevin Hofbauer (Avery), Ben Prendergast (Sam) and Ngaire Dawn Faire (Rose), with appearances by Dion Mills (Skylar / Dreaming Man), Tass’s production of The Flick was always going to be one of the most highly anticipated and richly rewarding plays in QT’s 2017 season. It exceeds expectations. 

AN EXQUISITELY OBSERVED MEDITATION ON LOVE AND CHANGE

When Rose appears in the golden light of the projection box I see her dark hair and her pointed chin and her pale skin and she’s my brother’s wife…ex-wife. But not. But hot tears stream down my cheeks anyway because I forgave her so long ago and never told her. And we loved her so much. Still, we love her. From across an ocean and right in the middle of all our lives, as humans do. And I take a breath, and when she reappears it’s through the old red swinging doors and onto the stage and into the brighter white ugly lights of the cinema between the seats, and she says something, which is funny, and we laugh, and the conversation and the scene continues, and she’s just, beautifully, Rose. It’s theatre. It finds a way to reach right into your heart and not let go if you let it.

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In this way, incrementally, The Flick lures us in and holds us in space and time, a continuum that stretches across hours – 3 hours – and we don’t notice how long we’ve been sitting there, in the darkness, on the other side of the movie screen. The closing credits of each old film flicker above us, projected onto the ceiling of the Cremorne, each time indicating the break between sessions, during which the employees sweep the floor and take out the trash. It’s so ordinary and lovely and hopeful and silently , secretly devastating, and for me, a gentle reminder to value the people in our circles for whatever it is they have to offer. And what do we offer them? What value do we add to the lives of the people around us?

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Avery joins the small circle of friends as a new employee, is shown the ropes by Sam, and they too become friends, picking up discarded popcorn together, discussing favourite films and marvelling over the projectionist, Rose. They play a neat game, citing the degrees of separation between two actors at a time. They quote Ezekiel 25:17 as per Pulp Fiction. They resell movie tickets to make their dinner money. When a love triangle develops, things get complicated, and when Sam has a weekend off to attend his brother’s wedding, things get more complicated. When Sam returns, the final outcome seems very simple and regrettable, and real. It’s fascinating, the way alliances form and dissolve, isn’t it? And I can’t imagine a more satisfying and disturbing ending to bring the message home. 

This is exceptional theatre, keeping us mesmerised on the edge of nothing other than the comedy and tragedy of the very ordinary, and leaving us with our own ordinary extraordinary lives and relationships to consider.

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25
Oct
16

Disgraced

Disgraced

MTC & Queensland Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

October 14 – November 6 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.