More to follow
More to follow
Anna (Aisling Loftus) has a story to tell.
We are in the minimalist office of a pair of filmmakers Jennifer (Indira Varma) , clearly the more driven part of this work and pivate relationship, and Andrew (Julian Ovendon), the more hedonistic part, where they both try to find a new treatment for a movie.
There’s Clifford (Ian Gelder) , who once wrote a play that made it to broadsway and since then has written a new play each year in the hopes of recapturing his erstwhile success. He lives for this but has to sell his last valuables just in order to survive, not that he would actually say that, even though he tells everybody who stops at his flea market stand his story.
The story he wants to sell to Jennifer and Andrew for quite a while now, is about an artist who paints a pair of lovers after he watches their love making with their consent. When he is run over by a bus, his apartment is sold to a religious woman, who, after discovering his secret studio, destroys his masterpieces because they offend her religion.
Anna’s story is different. She tells about her life, clearly traumatised, of being tied to a chair by her husband, being worshipped, being told stories. Not being allowed outside… Jennifer tries to spicen up the tale by alleged sexual assaul, violence, but Anne is adamant: nothing like it happened. She’s just being kept like a treasure in a safe place.
As she tries to run, she meets an apparently blind taxi driver, who navigates the streets of New York seemingly by sound only. Still, he’s sunny and friendly, an aberration in an otherwise cold world.
It’s now that Jennifer and Andrew call Clifford to get Anne’s story in the form of a treatment. The story has already changed significantly due to Clifford’s input, and the ideas a director – apparently Jennifer’s ex lover – offers.
By the time Andrew seduces Anna while Clifford is watching in the shadows, Anna’s story has merged into Clifford’s story and taken on a new life. A life Anna hadn’t lived. A life distorted from reality. It’s then Anna’s husband finds her, changed, more mentally hurt and violated than before, and he accepts her challenge. He blinds Clifford to avenge Anna.
The movie is a huge success. Jennifer basks in it until she realises that her secretary, who played Anna, is the star – and the director’s new fling. Andrew is on his way to search for Anna. He finds her, sitting in a chair as if bound, waiting for her husband to come and cook for her. When he arrives a fight breaks out and she flees this violence. A gunshot rings. Jennifer has killed Anna. Her panic had made her blind to the fact that it was Anna running towards her.
The blind cab driver has a new client. A client he’s very proud to have. It’s Clifford who finally and thanks to his script for the movie is famous again.
How do we perceive truth. Is my version of my truth the right one or even the only one? How much are we all influenced by preconceived notions of “truth”? How much are we letting ourselves be influenced by the truths od others? Hwo much are we destroying others when we pin our truths onto them?
The play gives us a lot of questions and some answers but it is the actors who make us believe and think and feel with them. Indira Varma as the cool, high heeled domina like interrogator was just brilliant. Julian Ovendon creeped me out – so that’s a thumbs up as well. I liked Aisling Loftus but got put off by some of her mannerisms she probably created for her character. And I absolutely adored Ian Gelder, who incorporated the needy, talkative, lonely writer, who who had to sacrifice his sight for his lifelong dream. There’s a scene where the cast is celebrating and dancing – utter perfection.
Yup, saw it more than once. Even met Ben Daniels, when I tried to not fall out of a taxi, when he was in the audience just like me.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
With these words Gloucester introduces himself to his audience, a crippled man, unloved, unsightly and unattractive, yet charming, oh so charming when needs be, and cruel and calculating in order to get what he wants, what he sees as his birthright.
Once again Richard was cast with a woman, the incredibly awesome Kate Mulvany, and once again the audience forgets that a woman is playing a man’s part because as it often is with Shakespeare’s characters, it is the archetype of someone lusting after power, after approval, after recognition that becomes a character – and because Mulvany is just so brilliant in the part. While baring her soul to her opponents, Mulvany literally bares all, standing naked, with just a loincloth like panty, back to the audience, proudly in front of a phalanx of Lords and Ladies, and shocks them into silence. A mesmerising scene.
10 people on stage, waiting in the richly decked out salon, where the play takes place, the men taking on multiple parts, interchangeable just as their hunger for power is. The women play one part each, though, their motivations are allowed to change. Whenever a battle scene is on, we see – in slow motion – a wild almost orgy like festivity play out in this salon. First I didn’t like that, I was too caught up in the “traditional” way of portraying the battles, but in retrospect I think the idea to not move from that salon is genius. The hatred, the scheming and the fights can be identical, no matter what kind of battlefield you choose.
When Richard finally dies because everybody turns against him and his cruel reign (and isn’t it fascinating that hundreds of years after this was written the world waits for exactly this kind of end to yet another nepotistic dictator? nothing changes, it seems), Shakespeare gives him the most pathetic words: A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. And then Richard is killed.
Not so in this version (and I freely admit I had to look it up and found it in the Sydney Morning Herald – thank you for that!): because Kate Mulvany – who also directed (is there anything this woman can’t do???? she is marvellous!) – gives Richard a final chance to explain himself, to make him understood, even pitied even though pity is probably the last thing he wants. With a monologue plucked from the last act of Henry VI, part III she shows us his warped soul, his defiance, his non-acceptance of his defeat and his final pride:
“I have no brother, I am like no brother;
And this word ‘love,’ which graybeards call divine,
Be resident in men like one another
And not in me: I am myself alone.”
standing ovations were had. and rightfully so. Ms Mulvany is incredible, as is her direction. I hope she’s on stage again the next time I’m in Sydney. I will make time for whatever play she’s in.
Chimerica – a fusion of the words China and America coined by academic historian Niall Ferguson and economist Moritz Schularick to signal the intertwined economies of those two countries (watch the pronounciation!) – is not just a play about that iconic photography of a man standing in front of Chinese tanks at Tien an men in Beijing. (click on this link for the original coverage by CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeFzeNAHEhU ). In fact, this picture is just a starting point for how much the US and China are diverted by culture, by upbringing and by social norms.
It all starts 20 years ago, when young Joe (Mark Leonard Winter, whose character is given his name to reflect the “average Joe” moniker often given to Americans in general), a photographer on his first boring assignment – an economy conference – in Beijing, is caught in the riots of Tien an men and by pure luck looks out the window of his hotel room just in time to see a single man, holding a plastic bag in each of his hands, standing defiantly in front of the rolling tanks, forcing them to avert him. He takes a photo and quick witted hides the film in the toilet.
At home in the US he is immediately famous. In America the lonely man facing the force of China’s army is a symbol of a new dawn in a dark country, the force of the people against an oppressive regime, something that fits the narrative of the US perfectly.
20 years later, now, Joe is still in touch with his then interpreter Zhang Lin (played by Jason Chong), having been back in China often, yet still not speaking the language… Zhang Lin teaches English in Beijing, trying to instill a feeling of freedom in his students, but mostly being a bit weird, shouting from rooftops (literally). He lives next door to a woman with a severe lung infection caused by working in bad conditions. When she dies, he tries to make the government change said conditions. He’d be in need of some backing, but Joe doesn’t get that he’s supposed to help Zhang Lin. Joe hasn’t had any new successes – he still lives off that one photo he had taken in that hotel room decades ago. When a cryptic message shows up in a newspaper, Joe hopes to finally find that elusive stranger.
Back in Beijing we see in flashbacks, how that photo came to pass: Boy meets Girl at one of the student protests there. Boy and Girl fall in love. Girl gets pregnant, they are happy. But then they get caught in the riots, the girl is hurt badly, dies at the hospital. a tired nurse hands the boy two plastic bags with the girl’s clothes, her shoes, the necklace he gave her. With a bag in each hand he walks away, numb, finds himself standing in front of tanks without even realising it.
While in the US, Joe follows lead after lead until he finds the owner of a flower stand, who seems to be connected to the “brave man in the photo”. It turns out the brave man was his son, riding the tank, not standing in front of it, avoiding collision with a lunatic. And while China spun a story about how humane its army was, the young man driving the tank was later shot because he didn’t roll over the protester.
The audience, of course, knows – thanks to the flashbacks – that Zhang Lin was the brave young man in the photo, something Joe would’ve caught on as well, had he even tried to learn more about his interpreter who had been a friend to him even when they sent him to prison for “colluding” with Joe.
So we look at two lives at dead ends – one in democratic America, where you have to follow orders given to you because of monetary motifs in a more concealed way perhaps, just like in “non-democratic” China. Who are we to say that Democracy as we know it – being executed by rich white men – is so much better or so much more just than any other form of rulership?
The play doesn’t give us answers, but asks great questions and did have great impact on me. With the help of personal stories (Joe’s finding and losing love, Zhang Lin’s having and losing all hope) it depicts the differences but more often the commonalities of two only outwardly different countries that probably won’t ever understand each other. I didn’t warm up to the actors that much, though. I “recognised” Joe’s failures from a lot of distant colleagues, who live off lost glory, but Mark Winter didn’t make me care about him, he rather instilled a vague feeling of discomfort in me. I rather sided with Jason Chong, who did capture the life of someone who was eaten by his grief very well.
All in all it was another great night of theatre thanks to the Sydney Theatre Company in the Roslyn Packer Theatre. If you ever get there, try the restaurant. They serve yummie stuff!
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. At least that’s the picture he presents to the world.
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. Slurred at by a menue!!! 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, just to clarify!!!) . They decide to boycott the place.
Fast forward months to Mardi Gras in Sydney. Warren has invited a gorgeous Twink (a twentysomething year old straight boy) to do a “photoshoot” he clearly wants to expand into something else. But while the unsuspecting Lucacz tells stories about how he and his model agency friends had been hiking naked and then drove home – naked (and Warren has no idea how to hide his naked lust) – Kim comes home early from a summit, because he had been cyberbullied. So in between hiding the Twink, ushering Kim upstairs and having to take up an interview with Bae Bae, a highly political blogger with a web series, Warren is being tugged in every direction. Only with the help of his old friend Diana he manages to avert immediate crisis, but it doesn’t end there. Bae Bae turns out to be the bully that had hurt Kim. Kim suspects – correctly – that husband Warren had more in mind than just a photoshoot, and had forbidden Warren’s hobby when they married (It’s not even legal, some dyke wooshed a stick over you both on the beach, ladida, says Diana) and Lucacz has lost his baggie of cocaine in the folds of the couch.
Bae Bae turns out to be half blind and only thus another terrible crisis is averted, because the internet VIP takes offence at anything even remotely racist. Luckily she has to run out in support of a friend surrounded by the village people.
The parade starts (and can only be seen from a window over the loo in the bathroom) so everyone still present runs in there.
Enter a burglar. By now Warren – trying to convince Kim he didn’t have a photoshoot planned – wears a too small police costume, Kim has donned a Caitlyn Jenner costume, Diana wants to go to the politically incorrect party a friend is throwing and the burglar looks just like Bae Bae and has lost her previous job as a sous chef because some idiot threw a hissy fit and the pub had to close down because of a boycott.
Lukacz comes back for his “baggie”. Unfortunately the burglar was faster, the coke is gone. Madness reaches its farcical boiling point with doors opening and smashing closed, a couch turning into a wall and hiding people, and the kitchen going up in flames. Warren and Kim’s quarrelling reaches another highpoint when Kim throws mashed potatoes in Warren’s face and knees him in the balls. Those mashed potatoes make another appearance when Lucacz, being jewish, empties the bowl over Kim in his Hitler Drag Queen costume. and then Bae Bae comes back.
And everything is lost. Yahoo won’t be supporting Warren any longer. Diana is deeply hurt not just by Warren’s broken promise to go with her to the party. She fumes about how both Warren and Kim have left their LGBT family behind to become one of Them. One of the wealthy married people who moan about how hard they have it – even though they have it all – a life none of them could even picture in the 80ies when they buried two or three friends a week at the height of the Aids-epidemic.
When Diana runs out of the apartment, doors banging, the life Warren had, crumbles around him. Kim desperately invokes their broken love, and that they must stick together, and clean up the apartment. But Warren is just sitting there, in the midst of the shattered remnants of his life, everything gone that he cared for, his life with Kim a lie. Tears are streaming down his face as the stage grows slowly dark.
Farce is probably the most complicated form of theatre to play. If the timing is off, it doesn’t work. If one of the actors tries to be funny, it doesn’t work. If the darkness of/in the end doesn’t come, it doesn’t work.
that said: this farce ticked all the boxes. The cast is fantastic.
I’ll start with Diana – Genevieve Lemon. Her Bill Cosby is a riot. Her monologue at the beginning of the dark end is amazing. The way she goes from hysterically funny to broken by memories and feeling left out by her best friend is an amazing display of her talent.
Bae Bae – Mama Alto – fuck, she’s good as Bae Bae. Yes, words hurt. They have meaning. They are worth fighting for. Awareness is a must in times like these. We all must be alert. I hear, she worked with Declan Greene (the writer) on her part. Damn, she’s talented.
Mama Alto also was the drug addled burglar who looked unbelievably like Bae Bae, thus adding to the farce. I do admit that she did seem a bit too over the top sometimes, but her talent made up for that. I like her a lot and hope that I’ll be able to see her in her “natural environment” as a singer/entertainer sometime soon.
Lucacz – Lincoln Younes – it’s his first theatrical adventure (he’s been highly successful on TV) and he brings all the goodies a “Twink” needs – he has a body to die for, he oozes charm and he’s quite sexy when he’s freaking out on stage. Almost with wonder he confessed at opening night that he realised only during rehearsals that he could actually play with different aspects of his part and he seems to be doing a great job so far, even when he’s realising something doesn’t work and thankfully ditching that in the next show.
Kim – Simon Corfield – he’s portraying that really whiney overly sensitive femme man where everyone’s wondering – given Warren’s preference for young, sexy jewish boys – why he ended up getting married to him. Somehow he feels like the weakest part of the cast, trying to overplay more often than not, and I wonder if it’s an instruction from the director ( who is doing an amazing job, btw – she’s incredibly gifted and the way she’s steering everyone else I think it’s not her directing. Lee Lewis did a magnificent job, and jokingly referred to directing a farce as the anarchy of the rehearsal room). I have the suspicion, that anarchy might have taken over Kim.
Now finally to Warren – Simon Burke. His part is the Lothario of the farce, the charming adulterer, the man who has it all, wants more and loses everything in the process. His comedic timing is impeccable. He is everywhere at once, barely leaving the stage and even breaking the fourth wall in a funny, desperately charming way that makes you understand why everyone is always forgiving him. He does it with an almost magical easiness and skill that is a joy to watch. Yes, he’s playing a “bad” character, but he does it in a way that has you forget his flaws. And when his career, his life finally collapses, the emotion, the sadness, the loss is there in his eyes and his demeanour. There is that one scene at the end where Kim asks him “have you learned your lesson” – and his up to this point heartfelt sorrow for causing so much pain drains away in moments until he finally, much colder, says “Yes”. It seems the last straw his husband is dealing him – when he sits down, tucking his feet under him, hugging his legs, it is clear that he has nothing more to give, no love, no regret, no feeling at all, but also that he can no longer take love – he is utterly alone. Something has died inside him as he looks at his life that is lost and shattered. And his tears mourn more than just the loss of his apartment.
also I want to thank the theatre and the theatre family at the Griffin – they treated little old me like royalty and I admit I enjoyed that so much! xxx
This is what Lee Lewis had to say in the program:
This play is a cluttered, messy,cruel modern farce. And right now, in the