The Homosexuals or the Faggots, March ’17

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Please, dear reader, bear with me. I have the ultimate pleasure to see this play multiple times, thoroughly enjoying it every time and being totally overwhelmed by the sheer talent of Simon Burke. Yes, I am a fan, but I think I would be able to be critical as well. It’s just … he – and the cast as well – are amazing.

The play by Declan Greene is new, strives, and succeeds, to be provocative, is over the top crude at times, but drives home its points with directness that sometimes hurts. Because it’s not just”Homosexuals” that recognise themselves in the words of the play. If we all listen closely, we all recognise ourselves to a degree.

 

You see, it’s all about Warren (Simon Burke) . He is a successful blogger (thedailybulge.com and yes, there are various blogs of that name but sadly none of them is affiliated to the play), he owns an apartment in tres chic Darlinghurst, he’s happily married and quite admired for his erotic photography.

The opening scene lays the grounds for what’s going to come. A very upset Warren tells us about this dreadful evening he’d had. Husband Kim dutifully delivers encouragement and the proper adjectives. Because it’s been a farce! First paying 120 dollars for tickets to impress Warren’s guests from Yahoo (big deal), then sitting through an – English – farce with according to Warren only one redeeming scene (which Kim didn’t like at all), and finally trying to find some food at 11pm in The Cross in Darlinghurst. They make it to a British pub and there it was. In the menue. Written there between Spotted Dick and Wiggly Squids: Faggots! A farce, really. Both Warren and Kim take immediate offense which results in a flying plate, an enraged pub owner (they’re minced liver meatballs!!!!!) and a devastated Warren feeling powerless (Kim: you felt impotent.. Warren: NOT impotent!!!) . They decide to boycott the place.

 

 

Chorus Line Sept.17th, ’16

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The precision of the actors/ dancers just blew me away. We all know that the musical is one long audition where the candidates have to open up about their innermost – often childhood – dreams. We get to like them… and it breaks our hearts when they get injured or fail. Which is of course what the play wants: to make you feel for each person on stage in two short hours. And Donna Feore’s direction does exactly that. Also she has a great and accomplished cast that lives up to what is expected of them.

But what really got to me: Juan Chioran – the night before I’d seen him in little night music, as furiously jealous Count, in one scene hobbling around with his pants down to catch Fredrik to press him into a duel, and there he was Zach, the man who is hiring, dancing and kicking in perfect unison with the other dancers. It freaked me out how talented these people on stage actually are. May I never forget that again.

A Little Night Music Sept. 16th, ’16

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It’s great to see Ben Carlson on stage in a comedy. His timing as the clueless husband of the too young trophy wife was just irresistibly funny. The story is I think well known (also I saw it before on Broadway so you can find it in my own blog. It’s about a husband finding out he married the wrong woman (girl, in this case), about a successful actress realising she needs more than another fling outside her profession and a child watching the night smile three times – once for the young, (as the young wife finds love with her husband’s son and two servants indulge in a fling) once for the adults, (the actress (Yanna McIntosh) and the married man(Carlson as Fredrik)  coming together for good this time, the married lover (Juan Chioran) getting back to his understanding wife(Cynthia Dale)) and once for the old(Rosemary Dunsmore), who smile over long gone stories while they slip into the last sleep.

With a great cast and an incredibly elegant choir the Avon also outdid itself with a lavish stage design. Sondheim’s songs never sounded better (I’m absolutely certain that this is not a musical but something so much greater) and “Send in the clowns” brought me to tears. It’s a wonderful production with lavish costumes.

An absolute winner, unless you sit next to a continuously farting man who stank to high heaven. Sigh. Oh well.

John Gabriel Borkman Sept.15th,’16

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In a world of ice and snow, the cold creeps inside you and kills.

This is a play about responsibilities and acceptance – we delve into the ugly hidden depths of a pathologically dysfunctional family with no sense of belonging, to the music of pacing to and fro, all the time, every day and night, and it hurts.

John Gabriel Borkman (Scott Wentworth) is a bank manager who got caught embezzling money – a lot of money – from his clients. After five years in jail he has been home for eight years but his desperate, futile,and ineffective attempts at proving his “innocence” have kept him locked and pacing in the upper ballroom of his once grand mansion which now is derelict and filled with papers, letters and files. The lower floor belongs to his wife Gunhild (Lucy Peacock) who hasn’t spoken to him since his trial. She too is trying to prove something. She feels betrayed – she’s better than being the wife of a criminal. so her son Erhart (Antoine Yared) will have to rectify the situation, he must restore the house to former glory and therefore must sacrifice his life to that cause.

Into this oppressive, cold and sickly family barges Gunhild’s twin sister Ella (Seana McKenna) with a plan of her own. She was the only client of Borkman who didn’t lose money. She was Borkman’s love. A love that got sacrificed for the career Borkman had, advancing from the simple miner with the urge for a better life than listening to the or sing when it comes loose, to a banker with status. Now she wants Erhart – the son she never had but whom she took in for years because Gunhild couldn’t cope – to care for her – in exchange for money.

Ella is the catalyst that brings everything down. Gunhild reveals her controlling, bitter self, Borkman is deluded enough to hang onto his shiny past to make it right there instead of trying to start anew. And Erhart has found a more cheerful prospect on life in the arms of a “naughty” ill reputed woman and won’t fulfill his mother’s dreams of justice, nor his father’s dreams of work, nor his aunt’s dreams of having a carer in her last days.

The tragedy is that neither of them actually advances. Ella will be clinging to Gunhild who in return will inherit money. Erhart goes from one dependency (his mother) to another (the woman of ill repute who takes him with her) and Borkman? When he finally leaves the upper ballroom to breathe in the fresh cold air he sees his plans before him again. Imprisoned in a past that never happened he envisions an or- fuelled future that already started without him. An icy iron hand clasps his heart… alone , even though Ella is with him, he dies in the snow, only finalising what had already happened years ago.

The two sisters try to grasp each other…

 

The play was so riveting I went to see it twice. A stellar cast feeding off each other on stage is a rare thing and should be worshipped like that. Wentworth once again dominated the play, his self assured delusions frighteningly real. That he takes his bows jokingly in the rhythm of the dance macabre did make the transition from wintery Norway back to Stratford easier. His warm demeanour towards this still awestruck fan was a huge bonus.

As you like it Sept.15th, ’16

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Yes!!! Interactive Shakespeare!!! Everyone in the audience got a little baggie with a twig, a blue fan (the colour is of importance), a clothes pin, a poem, a paper crown, but also stones, carrots,stars. And then we turned into trees, waves, we got glowing stones for a barbeque, little boxes that made sheep sounds and bells, so that we could play goats. We clapped, sang along with the actors, some audience members even got on stage to dance. To say that was brilliant would be underselling this event.

Add to that a fantastic cast, led by the goddess Hymen (Robin Hutton) who directed the audience both on stage and in the rows and magic is happening.

Set in the 1980ies in Newfoundland (one actor spoke the dialect but was mercifully translated … damn, it’s a totally different language) you have daring costumes (yes, we did wear that kind of atrocities in public. May those times never return!!) the story about a disgraced duchess who runs into the woods, a young woman, Rosalind, who is cast out by her uncle (Scott Wentworth) and flees with his daughter into the woods while dressed as a man, followed by Orlando, another cast away younger son,who’s in love with Rosalind, meeting a Shepard and his shepardess, finding shelter, becoming better versions of themselves and finally finding the love they all were looking for – with a little help of a goddess of course. It could be a fluff piece but it fits right into the festival’s theme of fugitives, finding new home and happiness despite large obstacles being shoved at the individuals.

Robin Hutton was a brilliant Maître d. , organising the audience with the help of the actors, so that in the end we all were part of the play.

I also love to see actors doing Macbeth one day and As you like it the next (or like Scott Wentworth As you like it as a matinee and John Gabriel Borkman in the evening) – it shows off the great range of talent this rare company possesses. It was an amazing play and is definitely must see theatre in the best Shakespearian way.

 

Macbeth Sept. 14th, ’16

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Another Macbeth! This time without transporting it into the now (or rather the 60ies in South Africa, even though I liked the idea back then)

No, this time it’s the classic approach with lots of thunder, lightning, howling, three exceptionally frightening wise ladies, and a cauldron that is cooking up some dangerous, evil things. It’s truly a nice change to all that “adapting” that happens in the Aeneid. Again the cast is great, the interaction between Macbeth Ian Lake and his lady Krystin Pellegrino reminded me a lot of that one scene in “slings and arrows” 💬👇- in other words: brilliant. Scott Wentworth as Banquo was fantastic – no surprise. I have up until now loved everything he’s done at the festival so far. Again he is tackling a father’s part (merchant of Venice was one of his strongest parts and I loved him in it) and it’s great to see him change from warrior to doting parent. The chemistry between the actors works, therefore a great evening is had by all.

No great surprises, but a solid performance and a credit to the festival.

 

☝💬 The scene I was referring to: in the TV show, when Macbeth returns from war, his wife – unbeknownst to the actor playing the lead – starts kissing him, then in a surprise mone rips off his pants to the deafening applause of the audience. Well, the pants stay on in this production,but boy, that shirt off scene… is it getting hot in here???