Posts Tagged ‘steven tandy

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.

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28
Apr
17

ENGLAND

 

ENGLAND

Nathan Booth, Matt Seery & Metro Arts

Metro Arts Gallery

April 19 – 29 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward / Meredith Walker

 

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LOOK.

The floor creaks comfortingly (or disturbingly perhaps, if it’s your first time here), and the walls are almost completely bare, except for selected works by up and coming Brisbane artists, their pieces, for me, neither relevant nor irrelevant to the play, which is about art and heart and perspective.

The ink on the concrete stairs has worn off in some places, barely reminding us of who lives here, and who lends support to the place. The lift is out of order. I never used it. But others need to…

I’m flying solo, as I often am in galleries, when I take myself off on an “artist’s date”, to gather myself and spend time in spaces dedicated to nourishing us, rather than robbing us of feeling, of seeing, of soul.

In a post-show Q and A session to his 2013 Brisbane Festival show I, Malvolio, Tim Crouch described his advocacy of asking new questions about the artform through increasing consciousness of the alert and alive relationship between audiences and theatre makers, united in a live situation. Those who saw Crouch’s An Oak Tree at the Bille Brown Studio in 2011 will expect no less from the experimental theatre maker, given that work’s failure to play by ‘the rules’ by including a guest actor, without script familiarity, being guided through the performance by stage directions fed through an earpiece.

This is the world of Tim Crouch and of his 2007 work ENGLAND, which rejects typical theatrical conventions and, instead, invites its audience to help create the work. Perhaps as a consequence, the provocative text has only ever been performed once before in Australia. But this only makes the Queensland premiere of the tricky work from Nathan Booth and Matt Seery, the Hamish and Andy of the Brisbane theatre scene, all the more impressive.

Certainly there are easier challenges in theatre than taking on a show like ENGLAND. The script allows for anything; lines are not allocated to performers and there are no stage directions or indications regarding set or lighting. Yet, in Seery’s directorial hands, the scatter becomes a sophisticated performance work that starts as a gallery tour before becoming so much more in its look at life and impending death.

The story is well suited to the intimate venue of Metro Arts’ Gallery and the staging is well managed to account for the limitations of the space, which sees the action move from Brisbane to London and from a clean-lined gallery to a shabby sitting room. It begins with two attendants who share a duologue in talk of a wealthy art-dealer boyfriend in need of a heart transplant and as guide of the audience through a contemporary art exhibition (the work of artists Amelia K Fulton, Brigid Holt, Dana Lawrie, Charlie Meyers and Damien Pasquale), with comment on the works’ amazing colours and how art should be for all. As the audience is urged to look at the lines and colours and even the wood of the floor, we are reminded of the beauty of life’s little details, even as description moves to what’s on the walls of a doctor’s surgery and then in the search for health at any cost. It is a work of two acts at either end of the stylistic spectrum and yet it works, more because of, rather than in spite of, its contrasting forms.

Give the site-specific nature of the work, audience members should aim to arrive early to wander around the gallery until the work begins with performers Barbara Lowing and Steven Tandy take place to part the crowd and take command of the space. A two-hander from Lowing and Tandy is weighted with expectation; each brings a wealth of experience to the show and, accordingly, in their hands, the dialogue flows easily without overwhelming the delicate nature of the production.

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LOOK.

I end up sitting rather than standing, so tired, in the darker end of the space beyond a wall, waiting for the play to begin (are they late to start? It feels like they are late to start), and with a number of other guests, I’m asked to move back to the central, well-lit space, which is where we’ll start, standing for perhaps 25 minutes. I suddenly regret the decision to bring a tote that I must hold with both hands, rather than a little Miss London clutch. My wrap, in case it’s cold, for the record, does not fit into the clutch, so…..

Steven Tandy and Barb Lowing, all in black except for Lowing’s statement floral scarf, enter the space with the authority of tour guides or gallery owners. They are the same person. But we don’t know this right away; the realisation drops in later as we process the strategically shared narrative. It’s a lovely surprise, quite unexpected, because who else but our Tom Holloway can write like this, with lines left unsaid and many more overlapping and repeated? LOOK. We have a sense that some theatrical cleverness is at work, but without any pretentiousness or actual theatricality whatsoever, writer (and actor) Tim Crouch simply delivers the story. The actors simply deliver the story. It’s rare that high expectations are met.

They’re more than competent, assured enough to trust and let the text do its work (other actors say they do this, but rarely do they let things be and actually do this), and directed by Matt Seery (his Directing Mentor, La Boite’s Todd MacDonald), which lets us experience, moment to moment, at the core of the work, at its heart, sensitivity, beauty, patience and grace. And then there are the political layers; layer upon layer upon layer…what IS beneath the niqab, anyway? Only the eyes… LOOK.

This is a wake-up call for some, and palliative care for the not-knowing-they’re-already-dead set.

These actors are no less than iconic in our industry, both adored, genuinely respected; their performances in ENGLAND are testament to their ability and sensitivity as performers. These characters – this character, which they share in the first act – is someone gravely ill, waiting to die…waiting to live. Waiting to live, given a new chance to do so, given a new heart… An Islamic heart, which has become available through diabolical means, and accepted with basic, innocent gratitude. 

Lowing is a tour-de-force on any stage and Tandy gives a finely balanced performance in counterpoint to the vulnerability and strength of her presence. Indeed, it is testament to the craft of both the artists that they are at most captivating when seated in a conversation of sorts for second half of show, when travel is made to an unnamed country to thank the widow of a heart donor with a gift of a valuable painting. The ambient sound design and intricately composed score, are similarly memorable in their frame of the story’s essential emotions.

 

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In Act 2 the narrator offers the gift of a valuable work of art to the widow of the man whose heart she/he has within her, and a translator reduces the conversation to its essence. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch Tandy ponder, mentally processing what he must say aloud to make the conversation between the two women possible, plausible, relatable, reasonable. It’s heartbreaking to tumble into Lowing’s abyss of ignorance and misconception and wistfulness and wonderment, and frustration and anger and guilt and pity and……. for some reason, I’m thinking about My Name is Lucy Barton, another extraordinary piece of writing, and then, with fireworks, a display that’s fierce and frightening and shocking, before I can think any more about anything at all, the play is suddenly finished. But nobody moves. Nobody applauds. Nobody can move. And then, finally, after several deep breaths, there is applause. And we can go. And I do, because it’s a slightly earlier night than usual and, we are done. But not. This piece will stay beneath my skin for a bit, like ink. A reminder. Art permeates life. And love. And life.

ENGLAND is a wonderful show of little details and big thematic ideas about, for example, the effect of art and what constitutes its meaning. Much like last week’s Australian Stella Prize annual literary award winner, The Museum of Modern Love, it captures art’s ability to ‘wake you up, break your heart and make you fearless’.

The creators of the exhibition/performance/gallery tour that is ENGLAND have crafted something very special from its most arbitrary of guidelines. At once beautiful, powerful and devastating, it is an affecting and rewarding theatrical interaction, layered with meaning for contemplation and conversation about the difference between looking and seeing and the need for art in all its manifestations to enrich, sustain and lift us out of life’s hardships. 

This is a provocative piece for galleries…and for humans. It comes boldly, exquisitely from a team of creative hearts to yours.

13
Apr
16

Bastard Territory

 

Bastard Territory

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

April 6 – 16 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Everyone I spoke with before attending this play was terrified by the thought of a 3-hour commitment! But Bastard Territory doesn’t feel too long, thanks to a reasonably fast pace and light-hearted moments landing amongst some heavy themes. Playwright, Stephen Carlton, explores thoroughly and fairly efficiently, identity, belonging, and not.

While Act 1 takes its time to establish the human context, the detail is probably necessary to give us a complete picture of Russell’s world and its inhabitants. He’s on a mission to find out who he is and who his biological father might be. He tells his story from within, and from just outside of it.

A different set of eyes on the text (or the luxury of a longer rehearsal period –  just two weeks were available for the remount of this production) might allow the time and space for Carlton or Dramaturg, Peter Matheson, to take to it with a red pen. Act 2 is the tightest and most engaging of the three, exposing the truth about complex relationships and identity. It seals the deal: if we’re not with Russell by now we never will be.

The final act deals with new and renewed alliances, the tatters of the old torrid relationships, post-independence political fragments and new possibilities, but a sudden ending leaves us unsatisfied. This is perhaps intentional. There’s a feeling that Russell’s quest must continue and yet…it feels rushed, contrived. In fact, the final scene undoes a lot of good, with the token reappearance of a suitcase Russell had packed when he was eight years old, and the gift of a CD, the original vinyl record broken by Aspasia in a fit of childish rage. But surely she would have thought of giving that gift already, when CDs first became available years before, and she, older and wiser, first felt inclined to replace it? It’s illogical. Following this clumsiness, I would like to have seen the mother return home, to simply appear at the door. An even bigger cliche? Well, she has her Nora moment, but honestly, who else but Nora actually leaves her children? (Lagertha always returns to hers)…

Lauren Jackson is a vibrant and emotionally vulnerable Lois, the mother of our narrator. At first forlorn, conservative and entirely dependent in Port Moresby, she embraces the freedom of a more bohemian lifestyle after dabbling in the local amateur theatre scene and art class.

Witnessed by Russell, she meets men whom, one after another, he supposes in hindsight could have been his biological father. She learns to live silently with her husband, Russell’s “dad”, Neville; the younger, Peter Norton & the elder, Steven Tandy. Norton is inconsistent in applying the after-effects of a tragic event he chooses to endure in the line of duty; he’s more convincing later, in the less obtrusive role of Russell’s boyfriend, Alistair. Tandy is a stern, self-righteous father at the end of his political career, conflicted, and stubbornly keeping a firm grasp on a long string of lies as it begins to unravel. By the end of the play he earns our sympathy as only Tandy can, with a single poignant line.

Bender Helwend makes a sincere, if somewhat insecure Russell, conversing directly with us and leaping in and out of his additional roles with aplomb. A drag act may come across more confidently by the end of the season (after all, he’s rehearsed it or performed it every Friday night since he was eight years old! It should be of Priscilla standard), and the references to Tennessee Williams’ work will probably sound less obvious and more natural in this time too. Additional roles (Cleo/ Tinneka/Aspasia) are played by Ella Watson-Russell, another Corrugated Iron Youth Arts (pre-drama school) product.

Nanette (Suellen Maunder) represents the unavoidable small town type and makes this character appropriately annoying. A caricature, larger than life, like the people from the past our parents tell us about; constructed memories, formed piece by piece from the stories told time and time again. Everyone knows a meddling, smiling assassin like Nanette.

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The style, sweeping across three eras, is very meta from the outset, letting us in on the making and staging of a play, with frequent reminders that it’s just a story being told and the details could be inaccurate, but it’s Russell’s story and this is the way he tells it. I love this relaxed style of writing, casually, persistently working its way around vital political and personal issues, the things we most often gloss over in real life.

It’s an epic story, spanning oceans and decades to remind us just how complicated real life – and the relationships that really matter to us – can be.

Sean Pardy’s warm lighting makes available every space, although the economic direction forgets sometimes there is an upper level, to which eight year old Russell sometimes retreats. Director, Ian Lawson, plays nicely with pace and handles with care the high stakes and political points, bringing our attention neatly to the plight of anyone under someone else’s rule, including the wives of colonial community military leaders. His respect for the work and the writer is clear. No red pen will have made it into his hand.

Penny Challen’s set design is immediately interesting: the 2-storey timber floored skeletal structure serves abstractly as the basic Port Moresby accommodation, the Darwin bones after Cyclone Tracy has hit, and the vaguely flamboyant renovated gallery and bar. Challen’s costumes are more authentic in form, with the men in shorts and long socks (the – a-hem – trend at the time, which my father adopted, day after day in the DPI. You’ll still see it if you’re lucky, in some government departments and state school staff rooms), and the women in floral frocks and later, the kaftans of the seventies. Guy Webster’s super cinematic soundtrack successfully takes us through the years.

Bastard Territory precedes another new Australian (and abroad) family and political saga, Motherland, written by Katherine Lyall-Watson and staged originally at Metro Arts. These essential tales are boldly told and not easily forgotten. It will be fascinating to see what has become of Motherland with the bigger state theatre company budget behind it. In the meantime, Carlton’s Bastard Territory is thoroughly enjoyable; well worth the three hour commitment to Bille Brown’s seats, which are much more comfortable than those elsewhere.   

Production pics by Stephen Henry

 

27
Jul
15

Happy Days

 

Happy Days

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio, The Greenhouse

July 18 – August 15 2015

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Winnie has a brave heart first and foremost. We are all trying to make our way through life as best we can and Winnie uses all the resources that are available to her, wisely husbanded, to get through the day. This script is like a piece of music and you must let yourself feel it through to the end, and then consider the journey.

– Carol Burns

 

 

Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days centres on a woman in the autumn years of her life buried to her waist – and then neck – in a mound of earth.

 

Joined only by her quiet husband Willie, Winnie passes each “happy day” combing her hair, brushing her teeth and babbling away until the bell for sleep rings. Her plight is familiar – a common theme in Beckett’s work and the work of several other Absurdist playwrights where man (or in this case woman) tries to find meaning in a meaningless world.

 

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In this production, directed by Wesley Enoch, we are once again at the mercy of Beckett’s darkly humorous world. The isolated world of Happy Days is displayed as bleak but warm by Penny Challen’s design: a large rock structure is set against the unchanging backdrop of a sunset, and Ben Hughes’ lighting design evokes images of the scathing sun. These design elements remain true to Beckett’s assertion that the whole setting should present “a pathetic unsuccessful realism” as the backdrop is poorly hung and the stage is quite literally framed by a large golden border. With this we are constantly reminded of our position as a voyeur, hesitantly peering into Winnie’s monotonous life.

 

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Carol Burns’ performance in the demanding role of Winnie is simply phenomenal: she is engaging, versatile and expressive throughout the 90-minute monologue.

 

Her portrayal of the eternally optimistic Winnie is simultaneously heartwarming and harrowing, especially when all that remains of Winnie is her head above the earth. What is most remarkable about Burns’ performance is the meticulousness with which she treats every word, every syllable and every pause, thus unlocking the musicality of Beckett’s text.

 

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Despite the density of the text, Enoch ensures there is never a dull moment, carefully monitoring the ebb and flow of the play and foregrounding Happy Days’ funniest moments.

 

In particular, Steven Tandy’s performance as Willie is playful and humorous, and his presence is always felt even when words fail his character.

 

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Queensland Theatre Company’s Happy Days is an engaging and enjoyable production – and no doubt an authentic realisation of Beckett’s text – however I am left questioning its relevance in our modern age. Why this play now? One could argue the timelessness of Beckett’s exploration of existence, however fifty years on I am left wanting more: what else can be brought to the table? Where else can this play take us?

 

 

Production pics by Rob Maccoll

 

19
Mar
13

Travels With My Aunt – Win a Double Pass to Thursday’s Preview!

To win a DOUBLE PASS, courtesy of Noosa Arts Theatre Member Sharon Grimley, to this Thursday’s preview of Travels With My Aunt, simply tell us below in 25 words or less why you’d love to see the show! Thanks, Sharon!

 

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Travels With My Aunt – Preview Thursday 21 March

The preview on Thursday 21 March is great value at $20 but you can spend that at the bar if you comment below and win the double pass!

 

The previews at Noosa Arts, unlike the previews on main stages in the city, are exactly the same as a normal performance. They are not a dress rehearsal. Every show has a full dress rehearsal before the preview. Previews are used by many theatres to encourage more people to come to the theatre and to get people talking about the show early in the season.

 

This is a perfect piece to enjoy in the intimacy of Noosa Arts Theatre. It sparkles with the legendary Graham Greene wit and repartee. It is full of slightly eccentric and sometimes outrageous middle to upper class English characters and it takes you on tour around the world delving into the shadier sides of life in an ever so proper way.

 

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Henry Pulling, a mild-mannered retired banker is drawn from the safety of his flower beds into a series of absurd, exotic international adventures by his rather outrageous elderly aunt. Among her many pleasures she enjoys men ‘who have a bit of the hound in them’!

 

This Olivier Award winning adaptation of Greene’s book by Giles Havergal with four men playing upwards of 25 roles is an exquisite example of actor technique deployed with impeccable precision.

 

892444_601459999881659_1910235980_o-1Director, Liza Park, has chosen a cast in Steven Tandy, Stephen Moore, Frank Wilkie and Callum Hamacek to deliver a show which The Guardian described as ‘a miracle of lightness and wit’.

 

Performances are on March 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30 at 7:30pm with matinees on March 24 and 30 at 2pm.

 

 

Adults $29, Concessions $25, Members and Groups $23, Children $20. Preview 21 March $20.

 

March 27 performance at 7.30pm is a special fundraiser for the RSPCA. All tickets $34 incl. supper at interval.

Bookings 5449 9343 or online

26
Apr
12

Travelling North

Travelling North

Noosa Arts Theatre

 4th April – 21st April

Reviewed by Mel White

I am a big fan of David Williamson:  he is one of Australia’s most enduring playwrights and I always find the content of his plays socially relevant.  In saying this, I have always maintained that undertaking a David Williamson play is a real challenge:  he is renowned for his political undertones found within a highly verbose text that investigates the ugly side of human nature and it is this verbosity that presents the challenge for any director.  How do you make so much dialogue interesting to watch! So it was with great interest (and morbid curiosity) that I went to see one of Williamson’s self-confessed favourites, Travelling North, which ran for three sell-out weeks at Noosa Arts Theatre.  Directed by Steven Tandy, this latest re-incarnation of Williamson’s classic struggles to make the dialogue interesting to watch.

Williamson’s plays focus heavily on human interrelationships and the complexities that come with them, and Travelling North is no exception.

The play revolves around themes of aging and obligations.  Main characters Frank and Frances have a twilight love affair and travel north to find a new life together away from burdensome family obligations.  Their escape is short lived, however, when Frances’ family issues and Frank’s ill health intrude on their idyll.  Whilst the content of this play is still highly relevant in today’s society, Tandy’s presentation of it is a little stale for my liking.

The action of the play is mostly limited to three locations:  Frank and Frances’ holiday getaway positioned at stage right; Helen’s (Frances’ daughter) house situated at upstage left and Saul’s surgery, cleverly divided by the mid-curtain, at downstage left. The use of set to represent these 3 locations enhances the realistic nature of the play and is well designed by George Courtney (Set Designer).  Scenic painter, Lyn Roberts, brings the northern idyll to life at stage right, with vibrant colours and a realistic depiction of a countryside view, whilst the chilly climes of Melbourne and Helen’s troubled personal life are simultaneously symbolised through the saddening blue hue of the walls of Helen’s house (at upstage left), coupled with a sterile, lacklustre decoration.  The set certainly presents a successful interpretation of time and place, offering the actors an effective springboard to bring the themes of the play to life. However, it feels as though Tandy’s direction of his actors within this hopeful set is lacking and this leads to the play’s downfall.

Actor movement within the set is somewhat limited and this renders Williamson’s work stagnant. Whilst this limited movement works well for the elderly characters of Frank and Frances (and is essential for the scenes where Frank’s health is rapidly deteriorating), this slowed tempo is applied throughout the whole play.  Tandy fails to recognise the much-needed changes in tempo and pace and this is particularly evident in the scenes involving Helen and Sophie.  Williamson appears to include these younger characters in his text to give a lift to the pensioner pace of the driving narrative: it’s a clever insertion by Williamson upon which Tandy fails to capitalise.

I found Xanthe Coward, as Sophie, to be completely under-utilised in this production.  As the lighter character, Sophie presents as pseudo comic relief from the unbearably self-absorbed Helen: she provides a softer edge to contrast Helen’s brashness.  Additionally, Sophie’s youthfulness and calm demeanour provide further contrast against the aging and petulant Frank.  She provides themes of hope and renewal to counteract the somewhat depressing themes of aging and inevitable death but Tandy’s direction does not allow for this counteraction.  He positions Coward awkwardly within in the set in most of her scenes; no more is this evident than in the scene where Sophie, Frances and Helen are in Helen’s living room, discussing Frances’ impending journey northbound.  Sophie and Helen verbalise their concerns regarding Frances’ departure yet Coward sits almost facing full front, with her back to the discussion, giving the appearance of disinterest, when in fact the dialogue suggests otherwise.

This genre of awkward positioning again presents itself when Sophie herself travels north to introduce her mother to the new addition in Sophie’s life:  her baby.  The scene is quite short but is nonetheless rendered useless by an obvious lack of direction, as Coward stands overlooking the baby’s bassinette, with next to no movement.  This lack of movement also spills over in the direction of Andree Stark in the role of Helen.

“Travelling North” is Stark’s debut as an actor and whilst it would be easy to place blame on her lack of stage experience, I firmly believe she has not been directed properly to really tease out her potential in this role.  Similarly to Coward, for a character that demands attention, Stark’s movement around the stage space is limited.  Helen is a very assertive and self-absorbed character but she also carries the continual sub-text of a deteriorating personal life.  Tandy does not effectively highlight this bubbling sub-narrative of a Sophie’s collapsing marriage, evident within Stark’s acting.  Her movement and gesture are too infrequent to suggest an inner turmoil and she is often presented much like a “talking head” – standing still on stage whilst delivering her dialogue.  For someone with such expansive theatre experience, Tandy should know better.

It is his lack of direction with these two, fine actors that really lets Williamson’s work down in this production.

The remaining actors in this production do a fine job in portraying their characters but I do feel that some of these actors are falling into the typecast category.  Tim Murfin is his usual superb self with his portrayal of the pontificating Frank, however; I feel that I have seen this performance many times before.  Stephen Moore, in the role of Saul, provides the much-needed comic relief and he certainly utilises his facial expression to its full potential to show his exasperation with Frank.  I did find, however, that Moore’s accent wavered from time to time.

Overall, Noosa Arts’ production of Travelling North appeals to older audiences who appreciate classic Williamson and will, no doubt, identify with the content.  However, I feel that director Steven Tandy fails in effectively bringing that content to life in an interesting way.  It’s a little too stale and slow-going for a more contemporary audience.

07
Apr
12

on audiences

Source: The Guardian


Mum and Dad came to see the show last night. That’s right. On Good Friday. There was no bar due to licensing laws. So it was a very quiet audience. I told them after the show that they were a very quiet audience. I joked that they could have done with a drink before the show because, at first, we weren’t even sure they were out there.

Travelling North is not a comedy but we were beginning to get used to quite a few laughs since the preview on Monday night. David Williamson’s writing is witty and the characters are funny because we recognise them (and their flaws). Without being a comedy it can be quite a comical play.

My parents don’t usually see my shows because they typically book international flights during the week leading up to opening night. I know. I know how it looks. I’m sure it’s not a calculated gesture, it’s just a terrible error, which has, admittedly, happened several times. They once flew out of the country the day before opening night and returned to drive back to the coast from Brisbane International, only just catching the closing night of La Ronde in Mooloolaba (I miss doing a show in a shop! Nathanael Cooper missed it too so that link is his review of Erotique, which you’ll see is happening again NEXT)! This indicates that they don’t always mean to double-book. Or that they finally felt bad enough to make sure they got there.

Their feedback after the show last night? All positive. They enjoyed the lighter moments that came from the daughters’ involvement/interference (Andree, Julia and I). Remember, we didn’t have drinks so any criticism will come up at a later date, I’m sure! Mum’s comment was that the whole thing was “a little too close to the bone.” She was clearly affected. My grandparents in Toowoomba both have their problems at the moment and she and her sister have taken turns to care for them, particularly for my grandpa, for years. As is always the case in a Williamson, the reality of the situation hits home pretty hard if you’ve been there yourself. Of course, every single person in that audience will have had a different response to the story. Each audience is unique, in their reactions and in what they take away from the experience. They’ve all come from right out of their own stories and into the theatre having had a good, bad, great or indifferent day. And they must all go home to their own stories. In between, there is a little bit of magic that we can offer. I love when an audience surrenders to the magic. You can hear it, feel it; that moment when most of them have let go and melted into our world, happily (or even reluctantly) leaving theirs behind for a little while. That’s when, backstage, we look at each other and smile: “Got ’em!” (I’ve noticed, at Noosa Arts Theatre, the FOH volunteers really do look after their audience too. It’s all part of the experience, part of the magic).

Keep an eye out here for Mel White’s review of our production of Travelling North. I haven’t spoken with her. I don’t know what she thought of the show. I guess we’ll see. However, you’re unlikely to see any more arts space in the local rag (I was bemused to see a Bundaberg story in there today, despite them knowing that our boys won third place at the Sydney Short + Sweet Finals) and now that The Weekender is gone, you’re just going to have to get online more often to find out what’s happening at your local theatres. Follow this blog, follow us on Twitter, find us on Facebook and check out livetheatre.com.au to keep up with Sunshine Coast theatre. Don’t miss any of the magic!

Due to demand, an extra performance of Travelling North has been scheduled for

Wednesday April 18th.