Posts Tagged ‘todd mcdonald

14
Jun
18

The Mathematics of Longing

 

The Mathematics of Longing

La Boite, The Farm & The Uncertainty Principle

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

June 2 – 23 2018

 

Reviewed by Nicole Reilly

 

 

My passion is to translate, if you will, the beauty of maths and physics into something visceral, narrative, human, ‘emotional’ if I dare. This play The Mathematics of Longing is an expression of that desire to merge two of my worlds, two of my ways of seeing, and to invite everyone to share the wonder of mathematics in a completely different and experiential environment. And it is also very much about uncertainty, not just the physics theory of The Uncertainty Principle, but uncertainty as it comes up close and personal, opening up possibilities, emotional journeys, tears, laughter, sadness and joy in human lives.

– Suzie Miller, playwright and co-creator.

 

An ambitious experiment in collaborative play-building between La Boite, The Farm and The Uncertainty Principle, The Mathematics of Longing is a fast-paced 60-minute non-linear collision of art, mathematics and humanity. As promised by playwright, Suzie Miller, the audience is invited to share in the wonder of mathematics. This is for some a frightening concept, but thankfully it’s tackled through the familiar lens of love…between a physicist (Todd McDonald) and a playwright writing about physics (Ngoc Phan), and their daughter (Merlynn Tong), and a rockstar and his artist girlfriend (The Farm’s Gavin Webber and Kate Harman, who are both thrilling to watch in these demanding physical and emotional roles).

 

 

 

Each scene, or event, opens with a monologue detailing a mathematical theorem, providing a framework within which to contextualise the on-stage actions. And assumedly, due to the collaborative nature of the work, the designers (lighting by Ben Hughes, sound by Regurgitator’s Ben Ely and set by Ross Manning), are able to incorporate the beauty of mathematics into all aspects of the show quite effortlessly. It is somewhat apt, however, that after outlining a mathematical theorem, what follows is an experiment, executed with varying degrees of success. One such success is of attachment theory, with the rockstar and his girlfriend entangled in red cabling whilst below them, the physicist and the playwright attempt to divide their belongings as they navigate their separation. Even in relative stillness above, allowing our focus to go to the physicist and his wife as they collect and sort the domino-effect-fallen books surrounding the stage, the entanglement of the two dancers is nothing short of entrancing.

 

 

In an earlier scene, an alternate universe sees the physicist and the playwright lament the loss of their daughter. An attempt at profundity is made, but this is an example of when a director is necessary, rather than five co-creators. Full of potential, primed to be heart-wrenching, it fails to reach the emotional heights needed to affect the audience, or even to portray a real experience. The scene lacks vision and clarity, and feels as though every line between the physicist and the playwright was chosen for its profundity, lacking authenticity as a result. An underplayed scene that when revisited later and re-contextualised to take us into a different universe with a different set of circumstances, never offers stakes high enough for us to care.

 

 

 

 

By far the most satisfying experiment of this new work is between the physicist and his daughter, as he explains the sheer beauty of maths with such passion and intensity that the audience can’t help but smile and be swept up in his delight. Miller’s writing of her lived experience is poignant and emotive, carried with ease by both McDonald and Tong. The additional layers, in the transformation of the stacks of books lining the stage into dominoes and a helix, as well as the installation-like floating and spinning tubes of light, vividly illustrate the beauty of mathematically seeing the world. Cleverly, as the lights spiral above the audience, that sea of faces, now lit and enlightened, is revealed.

The Mathematics of Longing, in its debut season, is a promising first draft, enjoyable and full of potential, though at times it feels like an unfinished version of Nick Payne’s brilliant Constellations.

 

 

 

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13
Jun
15

Medea

 

Medea

La Boite Theatre Co

The Roundhouse

May 30 – June 20 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

  

Medea is a strategic, ambitious, political woman; sharp, quick and strong. In Jason she meets her ambitious and strategic equal, as well as a lover. The passionate union between the misunderstood foreigner Medea, and the all-Greek golden boy Jason was unlikely, but allows Medea to invest in the very empire building she was made for.

 

When Jason betrays Medea, she is outraged. He has betrayed her as a husband, but more importantly he has also betrayed his oath, their pact, and their very empire. His desertion denied Medea all sources of power in this patriarchal Greek world of Corinth. So too has he set in motion the fate of his sons, who are now, unacknowledged by him, relegated a latent threat in this land.

 

Medea will not abide by injustice or broken oaths and is compelled to balance the scales. So we watch as this modern character plots to cut Jason down and to protect her sons from the horrors of torture and death. 

 

medea_candles

 

 

If Suzie Miller had written a one-woman Medea Christen O’Leary could do it.

 

 

This is O’Leary’s show, with Helen Christinson getting a good look in, thanks to the playwright’s astute version of the story (commissioned by Chris Kohn), and The Australian Voices largely contributing to the atmosphere, pace and shape of this piece. It’s powerful and magical, and it’s the best we’ve seen at La Boite for a long time.

 

 

In Todd McDonald I have found a director who embraced this furious version of Medea, and interrogated it with great insight and talent.

Suzie Miller

 

 

It’s well and truly time to see a production in The Roundhouse that actually fits the purpose built space, and not only does Sarah Winters’ gothic design fit (lit and un-lit superbly by Ben Hughes), it sits so well within the space we almost feel like we’re home again, breathing in the old wooden floorboards of Hale Street. This may be an entirely unrelated design choice but I’m going to imagine that the stripped-back boards are a magical, subliminal message that this Artistic Director is here to stay for a while. If you don’t believe in signs from the universe or the bones of the city telling our story as they’re sung (and smudged) over, you can just appreciate the raw, earthy, honest quality that this floor brings to the production.

 

medea_helenandchristen

 

Miller’s Medea is a well crafted text with a strong feminist take that sits perfectly with the 16-year-olds we take to see the show a week after opening night. We talk afterwards, as we often do, about withholding judgment of the characters’ actions. Medea’s not mad, she’s vengeful and willful and stubborn and strong. She’s scheming, unforgiving and relentless in her bid to make Jason’s life a misery. She’s a murderer. She’s misunderstood. But she’s not mad. Somebody commented after the show, in true Roxie Hart style, “Why didn’t she just kill the bastard?” Well, because then he wouldn’t continue to suffer, as she has been made to do.

 

 

When we put Medea in a position where her children are about to be torn limb from limb by angry crowds, is it not the most compassionate thing she can offer them – a calm, kind and loving death?

Suzie Miller

 

 

O’Leary is absolutely spellbinding in gorgeous draped and gathered dogstar style garb to perfectly complement the new Ruby Rose/Alan Cumming inspired tough-chick haircut. All the costumes are fabulous, ready to wear, designed by Nathalie Ryner (The Danger Ensemble’s Caligula) and cut by Bianca Bulley & Leigh Buchanan. (I’d wear every piece!). O’Leary captures motherly tenderness and everywoman’s vulnerability, which is so often overlooked by actresses (and directors) who insist on making Medea only angry. In O’Leary, we feel her loss long before she’s committed the crime and whenever we get a glimpse of the love she once felt for her husband, she flips it and tosses it in his face with sharp wit and wicked humour. She’s brimming with brilliant, gleaming, delighted spite, and an indescribable grief that’s so well contained we would naturally think her monstrous if her story popped up in our newsfeed (before clicking “Like” on a friend’s Friday night #styleinspo photo. Just saying).

 

medea_helen

 

Speaking of style, as Nurse (although, perhaps more beautifully, innocently “handmaiden” than “nurse”), Christinson is attentive and warm. In stark contrast, as Glauce she is necessarily cold, overbearing and unforgiving. And wearing a sensational ensemble that I bet our Cate wouldn’t mind throwing on for the school run. Ryner should send it to her after June 20! This is the additional role, which Miller includes to highlight the struggle between powerful women. The scene between them is intense and Christinson shines, but it’s O’Leary, losing her composure and rolling hysterically on the floor at the foot of Glauce’s steps, which creates one of the lasting images from this production. It’s the sound of her laughter as much as the vision that resonates. Is that wrong?

 

medea_theaustralianvoices

 

Composer, Gordon Hamilton, has created the entire eerie soundscape and a stunning Greek Chorus using his own voice, a bit of techie trickery and four exquisite vocalists from The Australian Voices (Annika Hinrichs, Yasmin Powell, Simon Carl & Connor D’Netto). These four figures are present as onlookers, concerned citizens, warning Medea until she can’t stand their foreboding any longer, “Careful, careful, careful, careful!” I can’t explain the technicalities of the musical work as he does so here’s an extract from Hamilton’s blog, which is excellent by the way, and if you’re at all musically inclined you should probs be reading it/him on a regular basis. I love the almost subliminal inclusion of Never Tear Us Apart, working like a haunting and heartbreaking Judas kiss. This is a truly contemporary ancient chorus, used to breathtaking effect. The show would be really dull different without it…

 

 

Our chorus is partially but not completely based on Euripides chorus. They are worried onlookers, on Medea’s side, but not yet aware of her murderous intentions. They sing a mixture of English and Greek. Suzie Miller’s chorus text sometime echoes the lines of the characters, hurled back at the actors. They sing in modern Greek “mitera, politeftis, erastis” (mother, politician, lover), three aspects to Medea’s identity. Todd and I have borrowed the INXS song Never Tear Us Apart to woven into the fleece – usually to ironic effect – as a sad contrast to the literal and metaphorical tearing apart of this family.

 

Some sound is heard from speakers: I recorded myself singing the three aforementioned Greek words on a single tone, then digitally slowed it down to 90 minutes (the approximate duration of the play). We let this recording play for the entire work, at times faded up or down, depending on what’s going on. Thus, all sound heard in the thing is made by a human voice either speaking or singing.

 

I have the chorus sing in Greek scales: aeolian phrygian and dorian. I don’t know how the Athenians preferred their choral tonalities, but for me, the nod to these three Pythagorean tonalities is a satisfying connection.

 

medea_chrsten

 

Damien Cassidy seems a rather bland and gentle Jason, despite his harsh treatment of Medea. I love the moment he is brought undone, pressing himself upon Medea when she calls him out and pushes him away, having given us the silent looks of tedium ad infinitum. Yeah, you know the looks, guys. It’s a brilliant interpretation of the moment, making Jason an absolute rotten fool rather than showing Medea simply as seductress.

 

 

Indeed, it is too easy to make Medea “mad” – it is far more difficult to try to understand or unpack her reality.

Todd McDonald

 

 

medea_milk

 

 

While Miller’s Medea is not new in the way Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore resonates with a new generation via their own (#MOFO) lingo and activity, in the hands of this creative team it’s a version that’s easily taken on board, especially if you’re new to ancient tales theatrically retold, and so beautifully interpreted by O’Leary that it’s certainly worth a look.

 

 

O’Leary, trapped within her sorceress’s circle of curiosities and melted wax, and her mind made up to save her sons from a fate worse than any death she can orchestrate, delivers an incredible performance that shouldn’t be missed. Medea finishes June 20.

 

 

 

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans

 




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