Posts Tagged ‘shari sebbens

08
Feb
18

Black Is The New White

 

Black Is The New White

Queensland Theatre presents a

Sydney Theatre Company production

QPAC Playhouse

February 3 – 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Two politically powerful families at war. A son and daughter helplessly in love, defying their parents. You’ve heard this story before – but what if Romeo was white, Juliet was black and the war mainly fought on Twitter?

 

“It’s about a successful Aboriginal family called the Gibsons who are activists and very proud to be Aboriginal and who also happen to be quite financially successful,” Lui says. “Their youngest daughter, Charlotte, is just back from being in Europe for three-and-a-half months and she’s bringing home her boyfriend for the first time – he’s white and a poor, struggling musician who also happens to be the son of her father’s arch nemesis. “It’s kind of what happens when you get together with family over Christmas – you laugh, you fight and you talk about all the things you’re not meant to talk about in a very intimate and flippant way.” – Nakkiah Lui

 

Nakkiah Lui’s script is razor-sharp in its unbridled observations of race and human nature, and Paige Rattray’s precision production is masterfully handled, fast-paced, funny and highly entertaining. There’s a dance break AND a dance off AND a food fight! I wonder what this work would look like, sound like, without Rattray’s light hand? The characters are heightened, delightful and painful, completely believable, (mis)behaving exactly as our family members (mis)behave at Christmas, and the sense of the work is at first light-handed, hilarious. But don’t think that means you won’t cringe at times, faced with your own pre-conceived notions and beliefs. Is this just a mirror of Australian contemporary society or a hammer to shape it? No stone is left unturned, with each character either delving into or narrowly avoiding addressing the misconceptions surrounding the mistreatment of our Indigenous peoples, privilege, gender roles, rich vs poor, cultural sterotypes, the courage of individuals and the common interests of communities – and sparking bold conversations around the emergence of an Aboriginal middle-class and the re-rise of a feminism that sees an older generation of women – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – claiming their sexual identities and political ideas.

 

Unless you’re at a Williamson, you might not think it possible to pack such a wealth of material into 2 hours and 20 minutes of theatre, and yet there it is, and with deep insight, the off-hand and humorous remarks hitting hard, getting under our skin and challenging everything we think is Australian. Human.

 

 

Luke Carroll (the Spirit of Christmas disguised as the Narrator) is probably the least essential element, and tells us more than we need to know, particularly in the second act. His performance though is highly entertaining, and I come to love his omnipresence and subtle interactions with the family members. However, it must be said that Carroll’s perfectly clipped consonants are either the stuff of over articulated nightmares, or that he’s the very model of a trained-within-an-inch-of-his-life stage actor (no comment on his screen performances, which have been well received, earning him Deadly Awards and a Bob Maza Fellowship). This is not to be unkind, but to make a point: Carroll is excellent and can afford to employ a more relaxed vocal style. Once the initial nerves/disparate energy of opening night disappear there’s not one amongst this stellar cast whose performance misses the mark. Comic timing is spot on, beautifully crafted by Lui and polished by Rattray, leaving us in no doubt of the fun and playfulness of the creative process.

 

Tony Briggs (Ray Gibson) and Geoff Morrell (Dennison Smith) narrowly avoid playing political enemies for laughs, and leave us in horrified hysterics from the outset of their ongoing sandbox dispute. Briggs brings particular wit and wry humour to this role, which could just as easily have turned into caricature.

 

 

Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, as wife, Joan, reaches our hearts on multiple levels. It’s she who has penned her husband’s speeches, and she finally feels she deserves some recognition for her part in his story. Vanessa Downing as Dennison’s wife also steps up at a crucial moment, demanding that her life preferences be respected.

 

 

Miranda Tapsell joined this cast for the Brisbane season, and she brings hilarious headstrong energy to Rose, the millennial entrepreneurial sister of Charlotte (Shari Sebbens, straight up and sensational) and wife of Sonny (Anthony Taufa, in his element here), as does Tom Stokes as Francis, the (wonderfully awkward!) struggling artist and fiancé of Charlotte.

 

Renee Mulder’s stunning design, beautifully enhanced by Ben Hughes’ lighting, is a pristine playground for these Christmas shenanigans, with Steve Toulmin’s soundtrack an easy invitation to simply enjoy the ride….for now.

 

This crafty contemporary farce – poised for a film option – has a strictly limited Brisbane run. See it, and join the conversation.

 

Production pics by Prudence Upton

Advertisements
16
May
12

A Hoax

A Hoax

La Boite & Griffin Theatre company

The Roundhouse 

5th – 26th May 2012

In a pristine white setting (Designer Renee Mulder), against a photographer’s backdrop used in conjunction with images projected onto 2 screens (Music, Sound & AV Designer Steve Toulmin) to create “hotel room”, we meet four mismatched characters, each with their own issues and their own perfectly acceptable selfish agendas. One is a literary agent and one is her PA. One is a writer. No one has heard of him because he’s a middle class, white skinned social worker. One is an Aboriginal girl. No one has heard of her because she’s a lower class, black skinned Indigenous chick. They are all desperately unhappy in their ridiculous situations (ie normal life) and seek success and happiness via that dodgy vehicle, fame. And why not? Everyone’s a star! Aren’t they?

Now, don’t go blaming Andy Warhol! He was talking about 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES, PEOPLE!

(Thank you, that’s all we need today).

If you must create this future for yourself, here is what you’ll need:

  • A bit of ambition (it doesn’t take much, just enough to make you brave enough to take the first steps towards your new, incredible life as a famous person)
  • A supportive somebody (it doesn’t matter who it is as long as they promise to stick to the script)
  • A tough skin (never mind those cynics, they’re delusional themselves. Don’t they see what the public sees?)
  • Access to the media (and a YouTube account, a Twitter account and a Facebook page that are all regularly updated by your brazen manager, agent or their PA. See below)
  • A brazen manager or agent and their marginalised-in-whatever-way PA (none of them have to believe in you they just have to make others believe in you. They’re probably jealous of you anyway and will skim as much as they can off the top so you’d better be famous AND crazy wealthy)
  • A story to make ‘em weep (or cringe in horror. n.b. it doesn’t need to be true it just needs to be SOLD)

So, you see? Achieving fame and notoriety is easy! Everyone’s a winner! So we are led to believe. This modern restoration comedy smashes that perception and then, strangely, disturbingly, reinforces it.

The star of the show is the brilliant premise and it’s a doozy! Inspired by some of the great contemporary literary hoaxes (the misery memoir or fake autobiography), A Hoax proves that Rick Viede was not a one hit wonder with his Premier’s Literary Award winner in 2010, Whore but an up and coming ROCK STAR. I can perfectly envisage his career catapulting, at the same rapid pace and in the same general upward direction, as the fictitious character Currah’s does during the course of the play. Let’s hope there’s no mistaking his identity though!

Remember Barry Levinson’s 1997 film, Wag the Dog, about the creation of a war hero? A Hollywood producer and a spin-doctor dream up a fictitious war to distract the American public from a presidential sex scandal. It works! It’s marketing! It’s ALL marketing. Of course, on the other end of every successful hoax, there’s human nature. In any context, we all want to believe.

I love the play – with some reservations because any variation on Stockholm syndrome is unnerving and the notion of anyone taking delight in the horrendous abuse she’s suffered is completely unsettling – it’s refreshing, raw work of heightened realism, allowing a great deal of profanity and non-PC-ness (sexism, racism and issues surrounding homophobia are rife), which means it is bound to work equally as well, if not better, as a screenplay. Viede states in the program notes that he is happy with the political shocks in the play but at times the heightened delivery does him (and the play) a disservice by sanitising the shocking truth of our modern media-run world.

I found the world premiere a little clunky. We could feel the gears shifting, as if a Learner driver had gotten their hands on a shiny new Ferrari! Shame! A week into the run, I have no doubt that this will have been remedied. I feel that, in its baby state, the piece is overwritten and I expect the red pen will come out before A Hoax goes on in Sydney. Interestingly, in conversation during the interval, with Griffin’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, he commented that it was good to see the work getting “a bit of a clean up” on the Brisbane stage. Director, Lee Lewis, has clearly allowed for some play time during the rehearsal process and now her actors need to settle in and play!

Overwritten, slightly self-indulgent scenes in Act 1, that languish over a singular point, sometimes feel drawn out and a little repetitive. Act 2, at a cracking pace, works better. The climatic scene works like a shock to the system and it visibly affected the audience on opening night. In an instant, uncanny silence replaced uneasy laughter. We know what is going to happen, we’re dreading the cruel inevitability (it’s set up extremely well) but even just the sense of it is enough for me, without having to sit through the entire humiliating scene. Truly squirm-worthy, perhaps that’s the point. Overload the senses, boost the shock factor, get the people talking and get the sales!

Shari Sebbens is a wonderful, real and really pretty shocking Currah. She’s the brash, loud-mouthed (foul-mouthed) stereotypical Indigenous kid, with a fabricated past and a bright future, as long as she can gain – and retain – control of it. Sally McKenzie is at her best, in her driest version of the stereotypical Sydney literary agent, Ronnie Lowe. There’s a plum role for Sally in David Williamson’s play, Emerald City. I know because I played opposite Robyn Nevin in the role in Noosa for a special event produced by the Corrilee Foundation and Noosa Longweekend. Interestingly, Glenn Hazeldine directed the Melbourne production of One Night in Emerald City at the Malthouse.

The arc of A Hoax gives Tyrell Parks the biggest journey and Eric Morris trained Charles Allen doesn’t let up or let us escape from his side for a moment. He gets under our skin as we bear witness to his meteoric rise from rags to rehab to riches. He who dares wins! There is some brilliant, crude comedy from Allen before he reveals Tyrell’s darker side. It’s Hazeldine however, as Dooley, who impresses most, quietly simmering and staying hidden in the shadows, supporting his “ward” as far as the public are concerned but sticking his white, middle class nose in where it’s not wanted, according to Tyrell and Lowe. In this role, Hazeldine demonstrates how to beautifully underplay the pivotal character.

It’s taken me almost a week to write this review (sorry), because I really loved it but didn’t really LOVE it, you know? But A Hoax is so real and at the same time, so OTT that others are bound to love it. If you don’t, let me know and we’ll discuss it over a drink. Viede has my utmost respect and A Hoax gets my vote for most surprising new work – there’s no doubt it’s a sure-fire hit – but it hasn’t got all my love…yet.




Advertisements