Posts Tagged ‘STC


The Effect


The Effect


The GreenHouse Bille Brown Studio

June 7 – July 5 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


Depression and anxiety are common conditions.


Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.


On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.


Anxiety is the most common mental condition in Australia. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety.


Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the year following birth. Almost 1 in 10 women experience antenatal depression, and 1 in 7 in the postnatal period. Anxiety is likely to be as, or more, common.


At least six Australians take their own lives every day.








Dee and I have joked about our chemical imbalance; as if it’s a collective thing from which women-who-do-too-much suffer (of course it’s not just the women). When I remember the stats and think of everybody I know I have to wonder…which of us are NOT depressed!?



Act 1 of Lucy Prebble’s The Effect is upbeat, fun and funny. It doesn’t take long to establish the four characters that tell an amusing and then very moving tale about a highly controversial couple of subjects. Despite everybody being a little too sharply drawn to begin with, it takes just ten minutes for the production to settle and for the characters and their relationships to develop into warm and interesting enough stories. And I love getting not-quite-the-full-story. There is much to establish in the first act – the participants of a clinical drug trial, the trial itself, the clinicians, and the premise – can happiness (and depression) be attributed to an altered chemical state in the brain?


By the end of the production there are almost two plays at work, which seems to be a sign (or symptom) of new work. I wish I’d written enough to tell you that from personal experience, but it’s only through seeing the work of other new playwrights that I can safely say we’ve seen before, two tales in one.


Act 2 takes a (not entirely unexpectedly intense) turn, challenging us to consider more seriously our choices and the ensuing consequences. It balances dangerously between conversational and preachy tone, with an extended scene between the medical professionals almost giving us too much of the debate, and repetitively so. I notice myself beginning to turn off, tune out and think, “So when is the pedophile thing going to come up? (This is not my spoiler. It’s within a quote in Prebbles’s bio. This marks the first time ever I wish I hadn’t read the program notes before seeing the play). The debate itself is an oldie but a goodie: do we medicate for depression or not? If not, why not? Can we heal ourselves of the epidemic sadness sweeping the world? You could get depressed just thinking about it! Or you could come up with, let’s say, a lucrative online project and collaborate with a popular stationary line. Yes, of course I have the books!



The space is glossy; so glossy it’s highly reflective and we see ourselves in the sterile black walls. White floors are harsh, cold, and blue shiny chairs offer a false sense of security and a superficial level of calm around the edges. Cruel fluro light is emitted from above and a light box dance floor features below. I’d love to put it into my kitchen (we’ve always danced in the kitchen). But more on lighting later.


Eugene Gilfedder, in one of his strongest roles to date, gets the balance just right. He’s the once flirtatious, now serious, always ambitious professional medic turned motivational speaker, Toby (a phone call away from a TED Talk!), and he makes a good case for the sensitive, older, Noah style long-term love interest. If you ever picked up the sequel to The Notebook (no, it’s not a film; you’ll have to read the book), it’s to that Noah I refer, the Noah who quietly, persistently and courageously conspires to reignite his wife’s love for him after many years of a “happy” marriage.




Toby’s foil is Dr James (Angie Milliken), who has endured childhood abuse and feels as if her old flame has done her a rather ironic favour by putting her in charge of the clinical trial of a new super anti-depressant. Her story, I think, is the second tale told and could be more sensitively treated under its own title.


Anna McGahan (always gorgeous to see her on stage) and Mark Leonard Winter (bringing gorgeous, lively new energy to this stage) are the unlikely punters who enter into an agreement with the imagined pharmaceutical company Raushen to trial for four weeks, a so-called happiness drug. Winter’s character, Tristan, has done this before – the money the drug companies pay him per trial allows him to travel the world – but for McGahan’s character, Connie, this is the first time, perhaps as some sort of escape or respite. But who is actually on the drug and who is given a placebo or some other concoction? How do we know if the emotions are real or merely the side effects of the drug? And if everybody is happy, in love, does it even matter?


What price happiness?


The relationship between Connie and Tristan comes across as a warm, immediate and very genuine thing, despite its corny start in the waiting room of the facility they share for the duration of the trial. It’s actually every girl’s worst waiting room nightmare, trapped in a small public space with a random trying to crack onto her. But love – or the effect of the drug – brings them together and we enjoy some lovely early dialogue to establish the attraction and later, a choreographed sex scene that depends as much on its lighting states as its posturing.




These two handle it well and the scene becomes very cinematic, beautifully so, but it’s still so strange to watch even a slightly dressed sex scene, isn’t it!? I know, I know, what do you do? It kinda’ works!


Much of the effect of the drama can be attributed to Sarah Goodes’ astute direction and the collaboration with lighting designer, Ben Hughes, who creates with Designer Renee Mulder, a dream-like version of a hospital nightclub. It exists somewhere between a mental asylum and a sci-fi galaxy government headquarters, ideal in this studio space, especially after relaxing pre-show in the gorgeous, cosy new library area of The GreenHouse. Guy Webster’s soundscape keeps us in a perpetual state of nothingness, or as I like to think, openness, and I love it and loathe it, like Camille’s album. It’s fascinating that not everybody hears it – Dee didn’t until I mentioned it – it’s that inner ear vibration that exists behind everything else and if it’s the wrong pitch (for you) it might override everything else and become seriously irritating. There are times when I blame it for the onset of a migraine, but not this time.


As much as I love the fun and vibe (and Veuve) of opening nights, I don’t mind seeing a production a week or so into its run, when all the elements have settled and the actors are well and truly back into storytelling mode, rather than, “Aargh! It’s opening night!” mode. You have until July 5 to catch The Effect before it heads to Sydney and you should, not just for the challenging conversation it will spark during the days following but also, for the private thoughts conjured as you catch yourself in the mirror it holds up to each and every one of us.



Tim Minchin and Toby Schmitz: interview


The fabulous Jo Litson, with whom I had the pleasure of chatting at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival this year, has put up an awesome interview with Tim Minchin and Toby Schmitz.


I loved Toby’s Hamlet, at La Boite in 2010, and I’m glad I got to see Tim’s Judas this year at Boondall. I ‘reckon these two together on stage in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead will be absolutely the best thing about STC this year (and I can say that, after seeing The Maids and Mrs Warren’s Profession. No. I still haven’t written about them). It is indeed “a casting coup”. Do you have tickets?


Of course I’m just as excited as everybody else about seeing Matilda in Australia, but also, I just love the tone of this interview, so I wanted to share it here.


If you follow this blog you must already follow Jo’s – Scene and Heard


Toby Schmitz and Tim Minchin. Photo: James Penlidis/Ellis Parrinder


Tim Minchin and Toby Schmitz: interview.



bloodland opens next thursday


Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present



Concept by Stephen Page

Story by Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Stephen Page and Wayne Blair

Written by Wayne Blair

A Sydney Theatre Company and Adelaide Festival production in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre 

A partnership between Queensland’s premium performing arts centre and state theatre company will bring a significant new Australian work by high profile Queenslander Stephen Page to Brisbane this March.

Bloodland is a Sydney Theatre Company production created by Stephen Page, Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre and award-winning choreographer, in collaboration with writer, director and actor Wayne Blair and Bangarra artist-in-residence and cultural consultant, KathyBalngayngu Marika.

Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) Chief Executive John Kotzas said that Bloodland is the first production to be presented as part of a three year commitment between QPAC and Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) towards the development and presentation of Indigenous work.

“We are proud to present this culturally significant and unique performance piece which follows a successful première season in Sydney.”

QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said that Bloodland is one of the most complex cultural projects created in recent time, conceived by the cream of Indigenous theatre making talent.

“It is a landmark production and part of our partnership with QPAC to build significant Indigenous works and a long term strategy to expand the current scope of audiences, artists and producers,” he said.

The work vividly dramatises a bitter tug-of-war taking place in a community which, despite being wracked by pain and division, divided by moiety, nevertheless hums with hope.

From three photographs that formed the seed of an idea, Stephen and Wayne developed this original work for over a year, collaborating with local storytellers in Arnhem Land.

A groundbreaking piece of theatre, Bloodland examines the classic theme of forbidden love, while also exploring issues of black-on-black conflict, and the challenges of observing traditional lore in a community permeated by Western culture.

Featuring an Indigenous cast of twelve including established urban actors as well as traditional Yolngu storytellers; the production fuses traditional languages and Pidgin English as well as dance and song to tell the story.

“The language of this production is not restricted to the verbal, Bloodland incorporates spiritual and physical languages, ceremonial traditional dances and mimicry of modern western culture, filtered through aboriginal tradition,” Stephen Page said.

Director: Stephen Page. Set Designer: Peter England. Costume Designer: Jennifer Irwin.

Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper. Composer/Sound Designer: Steve Francis


Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Elaine Crombie, Rarriwuy Hicks, Banula Marika, Noelene Marika, David Page, Hunter Page Lochard, Kelton Pell, Tessa Rose, Meyne Wyatt and Ursula Yovich.

Queensland Theatre Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre present a Sydney Theatre Company and Adelaide Festival production in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre


When: 14-18 March (5 performances only)

Where: Playhouse QPAC Cultural Centre, South Bank

Tickets: From $42 to $79, Youth $33

Booking: or call 136 246

Warning: Mild Violence

*Ticket price includes GST and Booking Fee. Please note transaction fees will apply











Britney Spears: The Cabaret

Britney Spears: The Cabaret

Brisbane Powerhouse

08.02.12 – 12.02.12

Christie Whelan is a goddess. She’s the girl-next-door goddess and, as Britney Spears, she is everything we recognise in the pap’s (that’s paparazzi’s) portrayal of the poor girl who did it again…oops.

Britney’s journey has been a public one but in Dean Bryant’s brilliant comi-tragedy cabaret, with musical arrangements by Matthew Frank, Whelan lets us into the private world of the pop star. It’s imagined, though the anecdotes are mostly true versions of every situation we’ve ever seen plastered across the print media and shared across social media – and the truth hurts.

This is a role that fits Whelan as well as her tank bandage LBD (very Herve Leger). With spray-tanned legs up to HERE and her shiny silvery-pink nails and blonde, blow-dried hair, Whelan looks and sounds enough like Spears for us to suspend disbelief.

She isn’t trying to look just like Britney and she isn’t trying to sound just like Britney but, just as any A-class actress can do, she’s able to convince us that she IS, just for an hour, Britney Spears. The mannerisms are unstudied and real, the movement is the character’s show of bravado constantly foiled by faltering self-confidence. This Britney is more real than the real Britney. This is the Britney Spears who stumbles – even in the spotlight – and is okay to talk about it barefoot.

The creative team behind Britney Spears: The Cabaret could be onto something. There is a new genre here, not only a reinvention of cabaret during massive cabaret resurgence but also a fresh approach to telling the story – real or imagined – behind the star. Imagine Christina: The Cabaret, Robbie Williams: The Cabaret, Lady GaGa: The Cabaret. What about Whitney: The Cabaret? Too soon? The format is deftly crafted cabaret and it has a sizable audience.

The real tragedy of Britney’s story is that her original vulnerability, her genuine innocence, was so early questioned and wrapped clumsily in tabloid pages for sale to the masses. News today, trash tomorrow. We are drawn into Britney’s journey because we are so familiar with it; not through our own similar experiences (though I can’t speak for everyone) but through the unforgiving eyes of the media. We feel like we know her, we feel comfortable judging her and now we feel compelled to join her for what we know will be a tumultuous ride. We almost feel guilty that this total train wreck of a life is a source of amusement and entertainment. And yet we continue to read about it, talk about it, laugh about it, tweet about it. We feel some sort of despair, some strange pity, for a creature made entirely by the media. It’s not a circus in which Britney stars but a freak show.

The pain, the terror and later, the shame, is almost tangible; the audiences’ laughter reflecting our discomfort with the bizarre truth, rather than hilarity at the situation (you can’t laugh at that)! The tales are told and the songs are sung as if through the eyes of an older, wiser Britney to the eight, ten, sixteen, twenty year old girl. Dear Me. Dear Sixteen year old me…

Whelan has returned to this role after stepping off the STC stage as Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest. Before that, she was the roller-skating star of the short-lived Xanadu. She says that performing cabaret is a stepping-stone and she feels that vocally, this is her most comfortable gig to date. Little wonder, with arrangements written for her, by talented composer and accompanist, Matthew Frank. Whelan’s talent is such that she sings Britney’s hits better than Britney does. Even Britney’s worst efforts, live and sweaty, sans auto-tune, are made bearable – and absolutely hysterical – in Whelan’s hands.

Whelan scintillates, Michelle Pfeiffer Fabulous Baker Boys style, singing Toxic on the piano top. Slave to You becomes a disturbing pageant number, complete with baton twirling, tapping and the biggest little Miss America smile we’ve seen since JonBenet Ramsey’s and it changes the entire tone of the show, setting a much darker course. We’ve had dark moments before this point but all of a sudden, Bryant’s story takes us down into the grim, dark depths of Hollywood childhood. We’re in subterranean levels now and the edges are sharper. It’s Whelan’s razor-sharp rendition of Womaniser that is testament to her empathy and skill as a performer. Between Brisbane and Sydney appearances, Whelan won over a whole new audience, gifting viewers of Channel Ten’s The Circle with the final number of the show, Baby One More Time.

Britney Spears: The Cabaret, much like the real story, doesn’t have a happy ending, it just has an ending for now.

And since this act has left town, I can only advise that, in future, you see anything that any of these artists have touched! It’s guaranteed quality.


Dickens 200th Anniversary: Dickens’ Women

Did you know it was Charles Dickens’ birthday on Tuesday? He would have been 200 years old!

The British Council has an exciting schedule of events in 2012, to celebrate worldwide, Dickens’ 200th anniversary. We are lucky enough to welcome the return of the extraordinary BAFTA®-winning actress, Miriam Margolyes, in her one-woman show, Dickens’ Women.

Andrew Denton is a big fan of Margolyes:

Miriam Margolyes is just a little different to most actors. She has done Dickens … she has been a penguin, a sheepdog and a glow-worm. You may also know her as Professor Sprout from Harry Potter. Her CV is as unlikely as the woman herself.’ 

In Dickens’ Women, Margolyes will bring to life 23 of Charles Dickens’ most affecting female (and male!) characters, including Mrs Micawber from David Copperfield, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations and the grotesque Mrs Gramp in Martin Chuzzlewit. “They are real to me,” she says.

“Dickens’ women were chosen not only because they are some of the most colourful and entertaining characters in his writing, but because they were based on real people in his life; people he fought with and cared for, loved and hated,” explains Miriam. “In this way, the play is as much about the man himself, as it is about the 23 characters. These characters are drawn from his novels & sketches, including his most popular such as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and Nicholas Nickleby. Some characters are famous & iconic, others are lesser-known creations from Dickens’ books, but all offer a unique glimpse into the real-life Charles Dickens.”

For Margolyes, it all comes down to the voice. She once said, “Voices are people,” and recently, when speaking with Sharon Verghis of the Weekend Australian review (February 4th -5th 2012), “Voices betray people perhaps in ways they never imagine.” This reveals a lot about the woman (more vulnerable than one would think, according to Verghis) and about her characters (“the mixture of evil and comedy that is particularly Dickensian.”)

Margolyes’ career began within the BBC Drama Department, in radio roles and voiceovers and quickly spanned TV (Blackadder), film (The Age of Innocence) and theatre (she was Madame Morrible in the original West End production of Wicked).

Miriam Margolyes as Madame Morrible in the original West End production of Wicked

“Directors are always saying to me, ‘A bit less, Miriam’.

And with Dickens, you don’t have to do that.”

Miriam Margolyes in conversation with Sharon Verghis

Dickens’ Women was developed by self-confessed “Dickens’ tragic”, Miriam Margolyes and Sonia Fraser for the 1989 Edinburgh Festival. It has since travelled worldwide, including London, Jerusalem, Santa Cruz, New York, Boston, Sydney, and all over India. In 1992, Dickens’ Women was nominated for the prestigious Olivier Award. 2012 will be busy for Miriam Margolyes; she is also appearing in the ABC’s new series Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries based on the best selling series by Kerry Greenwood and set in the 1920s in Melbourne. Miriam will play Mrs Prudence Stanley, Phryne’s Aunt.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Miriam Margolyes live on stage, only at the QPAC Playhouse and the Gold Coast Arts Centre in March.

What:             Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women in BRISBANE

                           Presented by Andrew McKinnon Fine Entertainment

Venue:           Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)

Date:              March 22 – 24



What:             Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women – GOLD COAST

                           Presented by Andrew McKinnon Fine Entertainment

Venue:           Gold Coast Arts Centre

Date:              March 21



Miriam Margolye – Biography

She is a British award-winning actress who has achieved success on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in Australia. Winner of the BAFTA Best Supporting Actress award in 1993 for The Age of Innocence, she also received Best Supporting Actress at the 1989 LA Critics Circle Awards for her role in Little Dorrit and a Sony Radio Award for Best Actress in 1993 for her unabridged recording of Oliver Twist. She was the voice of the Matchmaker in Mulan & Fly, and the mother dog in one of Australia’s most successful films Babe.
Major film credits during her long and celebrated career include Yentl, Little Shop of Horrors, I Love You To Death, End of Days, Sunshine,Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, Cold Comfort Farm and Magnolia. She starred in Stephen Hopkins’ The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,Modigliani, Istvan Szabo’s Being Julia and Ladies in Lavender (dir. Charles Dance, with Dames Smith & Dench). Margolyes was Professor Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Most recently, Margolyes appeared in The Dukes, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (with Simon Pegg) and Blind Man’s Bluff.
Most memorable TV credits include Old Flames, Freud, Life and Loves of a She Devil, Blackadder, The Girls of Slender Means, Oliver Twist, The History Man, Vanity Fair and Supply and Demand. Her 2004 BBC TV documentary series Dickens in America was a worldwide success. In May 2010, she starred in the UK TV series, MERLIN.
In 2002, H.M The Queen awarded Miriam the Order of the British Empire for her services to Drama.

In the early years of the twenty-first century, we still sometimes see the world as a ‘Dickensian’ place. On the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth, we look at how his example and his creations live on. Dickens was one of the greatest of Victorians, but this seminar is about the Dickens who continues to be our contemporary. What do today’s writers still learn from him? What do readers of fiction expect because of him? What would he write – and what would he write about – if he were alive today? Dickens was a writer who broke the rules of tasteful composition. He revelled in caricature and hyperbole; he rifled the language for absurd idioms and resonant clichés; he loved the grotesque. Are his stylistic freedoms still available to writers today? He was also a satirist who was confident he knew the difference between good and evil. He was always ready to step into his novel to exhort or lecture his readers. Can contemporary novelists draw on the same moral fervour? He wrote novels that seemed to be about what was called ‘the condition of England’; he sometimes seemed to anatomise a whole nation. Do we still hope that novelists will take on such a task? Is it even possible to do so?

– Professor John Mullan

Dickens' Dream (unfinished) by Robert William Buss (1804 - 1875)


Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

Reviewed by Sam Coward

La Boite and Sydney Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

Paul Bishop as Edward Gant. Image by Al Caeiro

“Boring the audience is the one true sin in theatre. We’ve been boring audiences for decades now…”Anthony Neilson (The Guardian 21st March 2007)

The most talked about show of the year opened last night at The Roundhouse…and was anything but boring. A colourful and enthusiastic full house enjoyed this most unique and unusual theatrical experience.

Brought to life by the collaborative geniuses of La Boite Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company, Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness lived up to the hype surrounding its Brisbane premiere. In this production, we find another example of a simple story told superbly, entertaining the ever-increasing appetite of the Brisbane theatre community.

First time main stage director, Sarah Goodes, has allowed her imagination to run wild and in her words, “everyone has been able to dive deep into their theatrical tool kit” to deliver this magical piece; the first-born for this joint venture between these two companies. Goodes has assembled an impressive team of creatives and has demanded a lot from the show’s production elements, which, without exception, surpass expectation.

Edward Gant explores the wondrous, grotesque, the beautiful and the bizarre; the scene is set as the vaudevillian freak show fills the room. Design and production elements, as you would expect from a production of this calibre, are brilliant. Renee Mulder (set design) has delivered a functional and gritty workplace, raw and open, yet magical and full of promise; the clever central rotunda serving as its main feature, with multiple traps and other hidden trickery adding to the carnival mystery. With exposed costume racks and gantry, we are informed that this is a travelling troupe; here only briefly to tell their tales, then tramp on with their small hands and cabbage cologne.

Lighting, by Damien Cooper, was a production element highlight, truly transforming locations and enhancing mood with precision and sensitive clarity. I loved the use of lead lights as footers and then as hand-helds for effect. On the same set and with light alone, we were taken to Nepal. Now, I am usually critical of these elements and often feel I am being asked a lot of, to go where the story leads, but in this instance I was swept up and away, utterly convinced.

Romance Was Born, responsible for the costuming and clearly settling into a relationship with STC that works like a charm, created a wardrobe that was, in a word, superb. Each character was clearly identifiable and the detail and degree of difficulty in some of the pieces was pure artwork. The pimple mask in particular. Special mention must also go to the stage manager (Sue Benfer) and hands involved in this production, as the many and complex effects and mechanics were seamless and most impressive.

Image by Al Caeiro

From the outset, we meet the troupe and are invited by Gant (Paul Bishop) to come along for the ride as they prepare to entertain us; we, the audience, are under no illusion that this is a troupe performing sequential stories in true vaudevillian style. As leader of the troupe, Bishop is outstanding. I was eager to see how he tackled this large contemporary character; I am happy to report it was with commitment and skill. Every subtlety and nuance clearly controlled but never contrived, his posturing and physicality embodying the snake oil merchant or travelling evangelist and portraying warmth towards his creation and his troupe. This was most noticeable when he was merely observing. There was a genuine quality about his performance that belied the show’s form, and yet like most things with this show, as head bending as that sounds, it worked.

Lindsay Farris. Image by Al Caeiro.

Lindsay Farris, playing Nicholas Ludd, brought a roguish masculinity to the stage. No sooner had this been nicely established, he proceeded to embody a more than believable gorgeous sister in the first of the two stories to be told as per the whim of the playwright, Neilson or by the director, Goodes; at this point, who can tell? Everything is spinning, up is down, left is right and pimples are full of cheese……wait, I’ll finish this later for reasons you will later learn. Farris provides the rebel factor and spars well with the experienced Bishop, we get to see the full gamut of performance in Farris; comedy, tragedy, real, absurd and even a black face Indian healer (yes, they use black face, yes it works, yes it fits the style and era that they are depicting and yes I and everyone else laughed and loved it. I thought I should make that clear before moving on). For me, some of the shows highest highs involved this exciting young actor and I will follow his career with great anticipation.

Bryan Probets, playing Jack Dearlove, provides the show’s funny bone, with a character instantly identifiable and akin to the dad in Strictly Ballroom. Probets’ physical humor, timing and pathos give a sense of the most comfortable stage professional I have seen. His loyalty to Gant and his own broken existence are displayed with pathetic perfection.

Emily Tomlins, as Madame Poulet, beguiled us as loyal player and aloof devotee of Gant. I saw Emily in last year’s Sydney Fringe Festival, in A Tiny Chorus and saw many of the traits from that character carry into her Madame Poulet. The consummate storyteller, Tomlins has the rare ability of being able to convey several emotions simultaneously; perhaps it’s the kind of multi tasking that is magnified by being the only female in this ensemble. Her characters: the ugly sister, the jam roll junkie love interest of Sgt Jack and (believe it or not) a teddy bear, Tomlins brings a truth to her work and an endearing quality that allows you to feel everything she does.

The characters traverse their inbuilt production landscape of the Carnival with the workman like commitment you would expect of a troupe in this era and form, the show rolls on from the first story to the next and is halted abruptly by Gant, who wishes not to pursue its telling and leaves the performance within and without at a stand still. Some poetic impro from Ludd attempts to stabilise the show but he is suddenly lost for words and Gant reappears as the Phantom of the Dry: another device of Gant’s trickery. As Ludd trudges on, we meet the teddy bear, now…stop…wait a minute…where this came from I have no idea and I am not a hundred percent sure that it worked as intended. Yes, the micro story of the life of a young boy’s bear was beautiful but what it was doing here in the play I can’t explain. Either it didn’t quite come off or it could simply be another example of Neilson’s mind intercourse at work. In any event it did lead us to the ultimate falling out between Gant and Ludd. Ludd decides he can no longer be party to such whimsical nonsense and chooses to go off in search of a greater truth, upon which all is revealed and the stories told are closer to home than you would have believed…or else missed altogether if it were not for one last, clever line.

The opening night audience was very vocal in their appreciation. In fact, the laughter came thick and fast and from my seat, often seemed unwarranted. For me this show was more beautiful than it was funny. Like any good Vaudeville, it had its share of innuendo, vomit, bum and gross jokes but the simmering undertones resonated louder for me than the giggle material. Perhaps that’s the genius of the writer: to concoct a script that can speak to several layers of each audience. The twist of form from Vaudeville to realism to clowning and beyond gives this show a sense of radical freedom and a true sense of creation.

All told, it is a very slick, sensational piece of theatre: bold, challenging, cheese-filled pimples and all. Perhaps Gant himself best sums up what was witnessed in The Roundhouse last night: “In a world where death is at our shoulder every hour, even the smallest act of creativity is a marvellous, courageous thing.”

Be sure to catch this marvellous, courageous thing before the caravan heads south to Sydney.

Emily Tomlins. Image by Al Caeiro.

P.S. Pimples aren’t filled with cheese; they’re filled with pearls. Everyone knows that.


Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

An Interview with actor, Lindsay Farris

Lindsay Farris. Photo by Al Caeiro

Can you tell us a bit about this amazing show and your role in it?

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness is an ‘amazing’ work in the very sense of the word. It is a play that really opens up the imagination through theatrically immersive storytelling in both naturalistic and surrealistic territories. To delve into those places of heightened narrative headfirst, as audiences and artistic collaborators, I think is something really spectacular, frequently hilarious and intensely thought provoking. I play Nicholas Ludd, the revolutionary new wave theatrical realist who acts as a counterpoint for much of the main narrative, whilst also acting as an enabler for scenes that depart into heightened theatricality.

Brisbane audiences are very excited about the Romance Was Born designed costumes, which are crucial to the show. Has the design of the costumes had an impact on the way you’ve approached character development or the telling of the tale? Did characters inform any of the costume designs? 

We were very fortunate that, pretty much since day one of rehearsals, we were given the opportunity to work with our costumes. Costuming is something that is usually left until well into the rehearsal process, or even a few days before opening, so it was a real gift to have their ideas since day dot. We had opportunities early on to engage with the design process as part of a workshop where we essentially let our imaginations run wild with the text and the worlds we might explore, and Romance Was Born and Renée Mulder have been incredible vessels for getting the play off the page and into the world. In such an imaginative piece of writing, any physical actualisation of those ideas as part of wardrobe, props or set design makes the process really exciting in seeing those ideas realised by another collaborator’s vision. I think the artists and designers inform each other, but the base work always comes from the script.

Lindsay Farris, Sarah Goodes. Photo by Al Caeiro

You’ve done so much now on screen, what is it about the theatre that keeps bringing you back to the stage?

I don’t ever really feel like I left! I’ve been working professionally on stage for about eleven years now, starting with a tour of the UK with the NSW State Drama Company. My creative engine room came from the theatre. The experiment that is a rehearsal process allows the discovery and exploration of a world of ideas that are then refined and transformed into a communion with an audience. It’s a real gift to be part of a storytelling process on screen, but even more so when you’re there in person to do it on stage.

Has the rehearsal process been particularly different or difficult in any way? Can you tell us about working with this cast and with Director, Sarah Goodes?

As I mentioned, it’s been really great to have a lot of the design with us since the first day of rehearsals, which has been a nice change from the usual. I think our real challenge in the rehearsal period has just been to set free the myriad ideas that are explored in the amazing feats. I think that’s all a rehearsal process ever is: to release and refine story in ways that are accessible, challenging, thought-provoking and invigorating. Sarah and the cast are incredible, and every day I really look forward to being part of such an awesome group of collaborators. I think one of the most challenging components for me so far has been to try and learn the accordion for the show. I hadn’t picked one up before rehearsals started, and we had a moment that went something like: “I reckon this bit would sound great on the accordion,” so we got one!

Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold, has said he finds this production “fantastically invigorating”. How do you think Brisbane audiences will respond?

 I think that this play asks that an audience open their hearts and minds to a world of imagination. It’s the sort of play that you experience and have an immediate relationship to. All of the people I know that have read it have felt invigorated in some way, and to see it in action with two exceptional theatre companies uniting is an opportunity to be in the theatre when it is at its least boring and most thought-provoking.

Emily Tomlins and Lindsay Farris. Photo by Al Caeiro

You created the National Youth Theatre Company (NYTC) to nurture young performing arts talent and give them a head start in the industry. Can you tell us how the company is going and what immediate and long-term plans you have for it?

NYTC is currently completing a documentary on young actors, as part of its most recent production season. It’s a pretty incredible project being filmed by Sunny Abberton (Bra Boys) that involves about 70 actors, over 150 staff and a team of incredible creatives that brought our most recent production to life. NYTC regularly offer development opportunities for regional and metropolitan people under the age of 25, most of which are designed to develop skills set for acting, creating and producing their own works. We have spent a lot of time this year developing relationships with a number of companies in Los Angeles and India for co-productions and representation and development for our artists.

We have been really fortunate in that NYTC has been incredibly well received by the theatrical, youth and education communities in seeking to develop emerging Australian artists. The next evolution of NYTC will see further expansion into QLD and the NT, as well as the development of some really exciting projects for cultural development in regional communities.

What advice do you have for Brisbane actors wanting to make it in our theatre and film industries?

I think that the sheer drive to tell accessible stories, and to tell them well, intrinsically sums up making work happen in theatre and film. The drive to tell stories means that limitations in work opportunities are always secondary to the ability to create work and learn new ways to create stories. Sustenance in this industry comes from the journey as much as the arriving.

What’s next for you?

I have a book that is finally on the verge of completion called A young actor’s guide to becoming a Wanker. My editor called me the other week and asked for the next draft, so getting that submitted is my next project. Following that I have a production and development season with the National Youth Theatre Company, with a few other projects penciled in for the end of the year, so once they’ve wrapped maybe a little bit of a rest somewhere sunny?

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness La Boite season 14 May – 12 June Bookings