Posts Tagged ‘thomas larkin

27
Feb
19

Death of a Salesman

 

Death of a Salesman

Queensland Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

February 9 – March 2

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

THE REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM THAT DEFINED THE 20TH CENTURY

 

What is a human life worth?

 

I saw the very first preview performance (this is the first time the play is seen by an audience outside the privacy and security of the rehearsal room) and two and a half weeks later, one of the final performances of the season. Despite my knack for writing really interesting and insightful and particularly generous preview reviews because I can imagine that a show will be exactly where it needs to be by opening night (I keep telling them that!!!) we tend not to write up previews – in fact, we’re asked not to – because at this stage the production is still in its infancy, and things can be a little clunky, or not quite clear. There’s still time before opening night to make changes and tweak things, and this is why you’ll often pay less for a preview ticket…and why it’s often a good idea to make a return visit to experience the show all over again, as the director intends it to look and feel, before closing night.

 

 

And so, in true teacher guise, I experienced Queensland Theatre’s first offering for the year, Death Of A Salesman, not once but twice: the first time, at the end of an excellent and entertaining day of professional development with Andrea Moor, analysing the text and remembering tricks to try with drama students to get realistic scenes on their feet without any fuss or (ironically) theatrics, and the second time, with our senior drama students after a chat with the director in the Playhouse Lounge. As  you can imagine, if you know the play at all or anything of it, there were some strong reactions to the matinee performance on Wednesday February 27, and some tears.

 

 

Arthur Miller’s seminal text from the 1940s remains as disturbingly relevant now as ever. With society’s emphasis on mental health, the worth of a man or woman, our best advice coming to our newsfeeds in the form of funny memes, the #metoo movement, and the somewhat token efforts to overhaul our education and health systems, Jason Klarwein’s faithful production for Queensland Theatre stands firm and strong. This version is a towering warning sign, as we continue to veer towards our own self-destruction as a workaholic, weary society. Sounds dismal, doesn’t it? Well, we know there’s not going to be a happy ending. Willy Loman is not a happy man. His failure to attain for himself, and deliver to his family the fabled American Dream sees him broken, unable to celebrate the success of others or relinquish his stranglehold on the past, defeated and eaten up by envy, self-loathing and regret, unable to go on.

 

 

Peter Kowitz lives and breathes every complex, tragic aspect of Willy Loman. Every haunted look comes from somewhere we wish we could see into more clearly so that we might know the ways to help him to see for himself the good that his long-suffering wife, Linda (Angie Milliken), still sees in him, and that we want to believe is at the core of every man. It’s a slow-burning, heartbreaking performance, challenging us to withhold judgement and simply accept that he’s always done only what he’s always felt he had to do. Kowitz has boundless energy in the moments spent in Willy’s mind, literally leaping and dashing about the stage, in stark contrast to his downtrodden state each time he returns to reality. Kevin Hides leaves his indelible mark on this production as the distinguished, rich, dead, older brother, Ben, and what a settle-back-in-your-seat pleasure it is to hear his beautiful, distinctive vocal work again. Likewise, elevating this role into another realm entirely, Charles Allen holds our attention, and in his voice and powerfully still presence, brings both ancient wisdom and boyish joy to the role of the neighbour Charley, the man whom Willy recognises – while Charley does not – as his only friend. “Now, isn’t that remarkable?”

 

 

 

Thomas Larkin’s finely layered performance – perhaps the best we’ve seen from him; certainly it’s the most demanding role he’s been gifted and he rises to every challenge – is just as heartbreaking, the measure of a man made clear to Biff by his father and Biff’s perception in turn made clear to us, that he will forever fall short of expectations. Larkin and Kowitz find something so raw and real in their father-son relationship that even the toughest teenaged boys in the audience are visibly affected, finally shifting in their seats after their perfect stillness throughout the savage shouting, and tears around the kitchen table, and awkward embraces by the sink, and end-of-the-night promises on the stairs.

 

 

Jackson McGovern, the perfect foil for Larkin’s Biff, is his younger brother, Happy (really, this is such superb casting, these two), and for a whole disquieting scene, he is also Willy’s heartless employer, Howard.

The audience reaction to this scene is something else, taking the travesty of Willy’s situation beyond even the mood the actors have established.

Each of Willy’s offers to take a pay cut are met with audible sighs of disappointment, shock, immense sadness. The air in the Playhouse gets heavy. The pauses on stage start to get uncomfortably long and it’s perfect. I’ve never heard or felt anything like it. The energy of the entire audience is with Willy, wanting desperately for him to see his worth and to sell that.

 

 

I always feel when I read this play on the page as if not enough attention is paid to Linda, who chooses her suffering and enters graciously into a life of it. (Imagine the contemporary sequel! Again I say, Bubnic it!). She can get a bit lost, but attention must be paid to Milliken, whose magic is in her seemingly effortless embodiment of the woman behind the man and the mother of their two hopeless, lovely boys. Her attempts to gently influence, and interrupt and disrupt the train wreck of family events / non-events are well measured, and her outbursts are as magnificent as her quieter, more nuanced, more devastating moments. We feel kids and adults alike, all around, cringing and squirming, and the couple in front include me in their parenting discussion during interval (they’d seen on the news that our College has banned mobile phones on campus).

 

Meanwhile, Miller’s words out of Milliken’s mouth have never been truer. 

 

 

The slightly jarring, suddenly changing lighting states to signify Willy’s altered state of mind happen seamlessly now, making what has always been a little confusing in the text abundantly clear on stage. The new wave design team here include: Verity Hampson (Lighting Designer), Justin Harrison (Composer/Sound & Projection Designer), Anthony Spinaze (Associate Designer/Costume Designer) and Richard Roberts (Set Designer). No, no one is new to their job but there might be a lovely new combination of aesthetic and abilities right there.

 

If I could, I would even see this production a third time. The play is a masterpiece. By leading us into their world and onwards to the crescendo of their lives, we recognise something of ourselves in these characters – these humans – and in their choices, and in the story they tell. It’s actually our story and there is medicine in its darker aspects, its shadows, if we are willing to look beyond what we are led to believe is best and real and right.

 

16
Sep
17

I Just Came To Say Goodbye

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye

The Good Room

Theatre Republic – The Block

September 13 – 23 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

 

Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defences must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.

 

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt…

 

David Whyte

 

In 2002 a DHL cargo plane and a Russian passenger jet collided in Swiss-controlled airspace over southern Germany, killing 68 Russian school students, two pilots and Mr Vitaly Kaloyev’s wife and two children. This story is told plainly and simply, chillingly, in tiny pieces, using surprisingly little text. Intricately interwoven along the way are numbered anonymous apologies and offers of forgiveness (or refusals to forgive or to be forgiven) selected from hundreds of online contributions to The Good Room’s website for their newly devised show, I Just Came to Say Goodbye. All the elements come together perfectly, which is no surprise to those who know The Good Room’s previous productions. We know the formula works; we adored I Want to Know What Love Is, which premiered during Brisbane Festival 2014 and enjoyed a return season at Brisbane Powerhouse in 2015, and I Should Have Drunk More Champagne at Metro Arts in 2013.

 

The Good Room has never let the vampires get in the way of making an original show.

 

Directed by Daniel Evans and co-created with Amy Ingram, Caroline Dunphy, Lauren Clelland and Kieran Swann, this is the work that’s consistently disrupting Queensland’s arts’ ecology, demanding more from artists and audiences, and offering a richer, more complex, lingering and affecting theatrical experience.

 

I would like to have the time to sit in on the company’s creative process and tell you more about it because not enough theatre is being dreamed onto our stages in this way, and not enough of our theatre makers believe they can do likewise. This is largely because our training and our theatrical tradition is still so text-based. (We could argue that The Good Room’s trilogy of shows is text-based, but that would be over-simplifying the work and under-valuing the creative process).

 

 

The company’s next work (I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You) will involve young people in its creative development and performance. For some, it may be their first foray into devising from scratch. (Can we note, it’s simply not soon enough to be exploring the work of companies such as Gob Squad, Frantic Assembly and Complicite at a Masters level!). I hope The Good Room’s process becomes a preferred model of devising theatre with students especially, so we might see the process included in the curriculum for Years 10 – 12. Sure, something like it, within “physical theatre” vaguely happens now, depending on the awesomeness of the teachers involved and the cooperation of admin, however; even with an abundance of new work, we’re still seeing chasms in this country between theatre, physical theatre and dance. (Within an intelligently programmed arts festival the gap is less apparent).

 

The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.

– Brené Brown

 

Despite closing with a burst of silver glitter and opening with an eighties’ daggy dance team dressed in Brisbane Festival hot pink (choreographed by Nerida Matthaei, hysterical!), I Just Came to Say Goodbye is necessarily dark. It delves into a place we don’t like to go, exploring the vulnerability that lies at the heart of our anger and our resistance to forgiveness. Can we ever really forgive another? Can we ever forget the things another has said or done to make us feel such anger/betrayal/bitterness in the first place? What happens when we choose not to forgive? In the case of Mr Kaloyev and – spoiler alert – the family and friends of his victim, there’s no happy ending.

 

 

To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.

 

The inability to forgive seems more often than not to lead to violence, a person lashing out against another, staged literally by The Good Room in an impressive extended fight sequence. Choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr it must be the longest continuous fight sequence we’ve seen on a Brisbane stage. It’s violent and tender and funny and tragic. Caroline Dunphy’s movement is always captivating but this performance is next level neo-butoh. She’s a wicked nymph, leaping and climbing and crawling all over Thomas Larkin (who has his own stunning image making moments at the beginning of the show), and hanging from him to create a disturbing, broken picture, to be read as a moment of grief, or the resolve of a ghost, or simply, and complicatedly, a reference to some degree of Stockholm Syndrome in the relationship. (Are there degrees of Stockholm Syndrome?). Or it’s something else entirely, depending, I suppose, on what sort of day/week/month/year/life you’ve had. The intimate moment that precedes this suffering though, is unmistakably a representation of the couple’s abject despair, beautifully, tenderly realised. This sort of intimate connection between performers takes time to develop and direct, and skill to replicate, or discover again, each and every night of the season. It’s so desperately sad. Meanwhile, Amy Ingram is a wildcat, and Michael Tuahine is both fierce and funny in attacking and being attacked. Satisfyingly, everyone ends up fighting everyone; it’s horrifying and highly entertaining. There’s certainly a little schadenfreude at work here.

 

 

Anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete but absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

– David Whyte

 

Jason Glenwright’s apocalyptic lighting comprises search lights and pin spots and a whole lot of blackness. At times, through the haze, we barely see faces but the voices and the silences between the words convey anything we think we might have missed with our eyes. And played in traverse with the audience seated on two opposite sides, we may well miss something from time to time. Just as in life, this is okay; we see what we want to see precisely the way we want to see it. At the other end of the technical spectrum and across the Theatre Republic at La Boite are the bright lights of Laser Beak Man, also designed by Glenwright. The guy is versatile to say the least! Underscored by Dane Alexander, I Just Came to Say Goodbye wouldn’t work nearly as well without its lights to pierce the darkness and a soundscape to scrape our souls (it’s absolutely terrifying, jarring; try not to be affected).

 

FORGIVENESS is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

– David Whyte

 

I Just Came to Say Goodbye is a stunning result from what would seem a simple process on paper, but actually, in anyone else’s hands could be a colossal disaster. What Daniel Evans and Amy Ingram appear to do is to throw everything onto the floor – a vast collection of ideas and feelings and responses to real events and crowdsourced verbatim material – pour fuel over it, and set it on fire to create a spectacular event and food for thought, for a life outside the theatre that demands our burning presence.

 

20
Feb
15

Opening Night Style at Brisbane Powerhouse: Sex With Strangers

 

sexwithstrangers_imagebyjoeldevereux

 

Opening Night Style at Brisbane Powerhouse: Sex With Strangers

 

Loved this show so hard! Here’s my review. With any luck, we’ll see it return yet again…

 

Sex With Strangers

 

Dress Code: Smart & sexy

 

Pre-show drinks: Bar Alto

 

Wearing

 

Top: Mesop

 

Leggings: Black Milk Clothing

 

Shoes: Guess

 

 

openingnightstyle_sexwithstrangers_feb2015

 

 

20
Feb
15

Sex With Strangers

 

Sex With Strangers

Brisbane Powerhouse, Thomas Larkin & Troy Armstrong Management

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 11 – 21 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

sexwithstrangers

 

Thomas Larkin is Ethan, a sex blogger turned book author who falls in lust with Veronica Neave’s Olivia, a gifted and complicated novelist. When they meet at a writer’s retreat, romance and the digital age collide, as the pair confronts the dark side of ambition and the near-impossibility of reinventing oneself when the past is just a click away.

 

NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Independent Production

 

NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

 

NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

 

The Matilda Awards Night will be held on March 09 2015. See you there!

 

Laura Eason’s Sex With Strangers was one of last year’s hottest shows and it’s back! Well, only for another couple of performances, but I’m sure you heard about it already and went right ahead and booked! DIDN’T YOU? If you missed it last time, as I did due to Noosa Long Weekend Festival commitments, and you’ve missed it a second time, you’re a fool.

 

This is an incredibly neat and deep (as in thought provoking… THOUGHT PROVOKING. WHO ARE YOU?) little show that absolutely deserves the attention it’s attracted thus far. And if recent funding round success stories are anything to go by, it deserves not only this return season but a solid national tour. It’s been the most talked about show of 2014! If you do manage to catch it before it closes on Sunday,  you’ll need to stop by the bar for plenty of that lovely Rymill Dark Horse. If you’re not drinking, too bad; it will be like re-watching the first season of Sex and the City without cigarettes and coffee on hand. You may come away shaking. Just saying.

 

Sex_With_Strangers_wine_2015

 

Coming away (without shaking, more like melting) from this one, I realised just how much I’d enjoyed seeing a “real” play, and not a musical or a comedy or a cabaret or any variation thereof, but a straight-up play, boasting a succinctly written, completely compelling and challenging story delivered by two terrific, totally honest actors bathed in beautiful light (Jason Glenwright & Tim Gawne) and sound (Dane Alexander) in a sharply designed space that actually serves the purpose and structure of the play (Troy Armstrong). Yep. I’m actually that easy to please. Get all the elements right and you got me. All the elements here are exquisitely balanced in simple, beautiful assembly, making this show a special little sexy treat, not unlike the goodie bag Sam brought home after the Fifty Shades of Grey preview event at Event Cinemas last week. (Edmo & Ash; I KNOW YOU ALSO HAVE GOODIE BAGS! BUT YOUR SECRET IS SAFE WITH ME!). Um. Thanks ever so, Totally Adult. Delightful. You can never be sure what will come out of the bag next! Experience it yourself!

 

It’s no secret that I love Thom Larkin. Like, I LOVE Thom Larkin. Is there actually anybody who doesn’t? (If there is they’re JEALOUSSSSS).

 

I ‘reckon we can safely say that Larkin is Australia’s answer to Alexander Skarsgard, with more than a passing resemblance given the right pool of luscious light, and, clearly, the same level of dedication when it comes to maintenance. He’s finally settled into his sun shy skin in Sex With Strangers (Is he goddamn GLISTENING? Like the OTHER OTHER VAMPIRE?). Larkin perfectly embodies the irresistibly brash blogger turned book writer, Ethan, who has made the title of show his, er, business…and pleasure for a year.

 

Paired with the slightly shy, sweet and suddenly sassy properly writerly character created by Veronica Neave, these two radiate the pure unadulterated joy and LUST you wish you’d discovered in Fifty Shades (don’t worry, you didn’t miss it; in Fifty Shades this brand of magnetic attraction doesn’t exist!).

 

sexwithstrangers_kiss

 

Eason’s script has Neave’s complicated character stay quite cold towards Ethan Strange for some time, and Jennifer Flowers’ slick, unencumbered direction keeps Neave at some distance from him until we get to the inevitable romp and removal of shirts and pants and all of those boring inhibitions and what ifs and oh no; I can’t…but I could…oh wait I want to…okay I will! (She’s not silly, and she’s certainly not naive – well, perhaps a little – but she’s certainly conflicted. There is the age difference, there are Internet and IP issues…well, whatever. The thirty-somethings know what I’m talking about!). The frequent sexual interludes (in which Lisa Wilson has had a hand, no pun intended, obvs, but really, seriously; how does he flip Neave like that?!), are just glimpses of what you might imagine happens next, very tastefully, very artfully done. Each teaser is just enough to curl up the corners of your lips (and maybe your toes. WHO ARE YOU?) and inhale the quick, quiet breath you think you’ll have to hold…and then the lights fade and the deceptively simple plot continues with a beat change worthy of senior theatre syllabus inclusion. No, really! Is there a better, clearer example? (You’re right. There’s going to be a more appropriate one…). But wait for the twist! Not altogether surprising, it nevertheless comes as a shock, and we have to reconsider (or not!) our – a-hem – feelings for the sexy rock star blogger boy. Poor Olivia.

 

 

WHAT WOULD SOOKIE DO?

 

 

 

 

YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

Warning: some viewers may experience several degrees of frustration by this stage of the play… Sex With Strangers is quite simply The. Hottest. Show. To. Hit. The. Visy.

 

There might be a few bewildering mixed messages for our younger viewers, but let’s not examine too closely the free love/tap that/blog this/steal that/Tweet this/Facebook that/publish this/claim that/consensual v non-consensual content. Let’s just dive on in and enjoy the STORY and the CHARACTERS and the PASSION, shall we? (And there is well-matched passion on many levels). It’s much more fun that way, like enjoying while it lasts, an illicit affair with a gorgeous someone who has a thing for very public places. What?

 

If you think there’s a more electrifying connection between two actors on stage during the love month of February you must be at the Lyric Theatre. Larkin and Neave need to fly with this one, and take it everywhere. It’s too hot to keep here. Share the love! Don’t we all desire theatre as thrilling as sex with strangers Sex With Strangers?!

 

Final Performances:

 

Today (Friday) at 7pm

 

Tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm & 7pm

 

Sunday at 4pm

 

sexwithstrangers_imagebyjoeldevereux

06
Aug
12

Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Queensland Theatre Company & Matrix Theatre

Kawana Community Centre

Thursday 2nd August 2012

Reviewed by Poppy & Tayah 

If buccaneers and buried gold

And all the old romance retold

Exactly in the ancient way

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of today

So be it.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island is going everywhere, all over Australia. It’s a famous show. It’s a famous book. Did we read the book? We didn’t read the book. There would be boys who already read the book because it’s a boys book, about pirates. It’s a pirate ADVENTURE! But it’s not just for boys, this show, is it? It’s for mums too. It’s definitely for mums because our mums liked it, didn’t they? And it’s for girls too because we liked it, didn’t we? It was excellent!

The story starts with the story being told. It’s a clever start because you know it’s a story and it’s not real. It seems real but it’s not. It’s a play. And that’s the job. To make it real.

It was a little bit scary because they looked like real pirates. They’re actually actors, wearing costumes especially from the theatre. I liked the costumes. There were lots of coats. Pirates wear big coats. And hats. And boots. But Thom had just boys shoes on because he’s a boy in the show.

It was a big surprise to see the skeleton! It scared me out of my skin! I jumped up on mum’s lap and hugged her around the neck!

We could hear the gun shots and the canons. There were real guns. Well, not real real guns but just like the real ones. At the end we found out that that’s a replica. They were nice to take the time to answer kids’ questions. I didn’t have any questions. I just wanted a photo with the actors.

It was excellent!!!!!!!

It was interesting and really exciting. It was so funny. They were really funny.

Tayah’s favourite part was:

at the end when we got photos taken and we got to have a look back stage.

Poppy’s favourite part was:

after the show, when we got to meet the actors and explore back stage. It was all my favourite, I loved all of it but going back stage was my favourite part after the show.

Notes from the Mama:

    • Treasure Island is good old-fashioned fun and fanciful storytelling.
    • QTC’s touring version, by Helen Howard and Michael Futcher, reminds parents and teachers to get the kids away from the screens – big and small – and back into the theatre, where the real excitement is and where the best stories – those that shape our imagination and dare us to dream big – are brought to life on stage in front of our eyes. We believe it. It’s the Tinkerbell factor.
    • This production boasts two generous, energetic and dynamic actors (Joss McWilliam and Thomas Larkin), who portray a multitude of roles between them with an abundance of good humour and a great deal of physical prowess. Ducking in and out from behind the fourth wall and swapping between roles at a rapid pace, these guys give us (Kevin Kline) Pirate King style antics and the kids (and mums) love it!

  • For the really little ones, take some (quiet) snacks and expect them to get a little restless 30-40 mins in (at 55 mins run time, this one’s a bit of a stretch for some under eights. The target audiences are Years 4-7 and Years 8-10).
  • For the older kids/students, read Treasure Island online before you go or BUY OR BORROW THE BOOK. I noticed some secondary school students looking a little underwhelmed (sure, there’s a lot of exposition but there’s also a lot of action!). There were others in the group who were just as excited as the six year olds, to be part of a pirate story for the afternoon! Remember, neither Matrix nor QTC have messed much with the text so the beautiful, rich (old-fashioned) language has been left alone and begs discussion or a revisit if you’re taking a class.
  • There is plenty of scope for follow-up activities, teachers (and parents)! A study of Treasure Island provides such an overwhelming abundance of rich opportunities for further discussion, play and in-depth learning, stemming from its language, history, geography, technology and design, science and arts… let me know if you need an obscure curriculum link!
  • Have you MYO pirate hat with Thomas Larkin? Get the man a Playschool gig!
  • This Treasure Island is not just for the kids. If it’s coming to a theatre near you, take the whole family. Everyone will love it!
  • You might remember the Disney version?! HO-HUM!

Also on tour for Queensland Theatre Company (until the end of August) is Stradbroke Dreamtime, which we saw at Out of the Box.




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