Intimacies: Sweet Thing

intimaciesBilled as “a hilarious satire and disturbing premonition of where society is headed”, Intimacies is made up of two thematically linked one-act plays – Sweet Thing and I’d Rather Be The Pope.  Unfortunately due to a cast member getting injured during rehearsals, the latter play could not go ahead on opening night.

Sally is a middle-aged woman who is emotionally scarred and has grown bitter from a less than ideal childhood but at the start of the play it looks like she is in the process of putting things right.  The reunion with Mum appears honest and heartfelt until Philip, Sally’s brother, shows up.  We soon discover that their mother is dead but Sally has cloned Mum as a way to deal with the unresolved issues from her childhood.

As the narrative unravels, so does Sally.  The events that unfold become progressively more ludicrous and like a fly on the wall we watch as Sally subsequently becomes increasingly unhinged. Rima Te Wiata is brilliantly cast as the over-dramatic Sally while Lynn Waldegrave and Ross Brannigan are equally credible as the devoted mother and eager-to-please brother.

Under the superb direction of Elena Stejko, the cast of three bring to the stage a truly warped sense of reality that is both outrageous and quite disturbing.  This story is written by award-winning local writer Stephen Sinclair and is an excellently crafted piece with great comedic moments woven into the narrative.  It also delivers some clever social commentary on modern technology, specifically what would happen if we (mis)used it for selfish reasons.

Sweet Thing is a highly entertaining piece and a comical exploration on how new technologies can distort the way we interact with one another.  It’s a shame I did not get to see the second play as the plot sounds just as intriguing but I am hoping to catch it before the season ends!

The Whimsical Banana rates Sweet Thing: 4/5 bananas!

Intimacies is produced by Sweet Thing Productions and is at the Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre until July 27th.  For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Review: Death of a Salesman

This iconic play by Arthur Miller may have been written back in 1949 but the message remains as relevant as ever.  We all have aspirations – some come to fruition while many unfortunately surmount to nothing more than pipe dreams – and the American dream in particular is still something many people chase and desire to this day.

Death of a Salesman was penned in a post-war world of emerging hope and rising opportunities, but yet takes on the pessimistic perspective that not everyone is meant for success, fame and fortune – that sometimes all we are destined to be in this lifetime is ordinary.  We follow Willy Loman, a sixty-year-old burned out, world weary salesman who is fast losing his grip on reality.  He is prone to talking to himself and often relives past events through vivid flashbacks.  This naturally causes great concern among his family – his doting wife, Linda and middle-aged sons, Biff and Happy.

Presented by Peach Theatre Company, this production is masterfully crafted with the structure mirroring a stream of consciousness.  The narrative shifts seamlessly between present time and the past through effective lighting cues and subtle changes in score.  The lines between reality and hallucination increasingly blur as the story develops; whether intentional or not, I thought this fit perfectly with Willy’s progressively deteriorating state of mind.  As Willy delves deeper in to his subconscious, his mistakes, failures and frustrations bubble to the surface and eventually everything in his life unravels.  What unfolds is riveting, heartbreaking and incredibly thought-provoking.

I love a good story with depth and this one is certainly one of them.  Almost everything is symbolic of something or has an underlying meaning.  This story tackles a lot of things which we can all relate to on some level.  Annie Whittle’s haunting laugh from the shadows is a particularly chilling symbol and constant reminder of an infidelity from Willy’s past.  Uncle Ben, his older brother, represents the man he wishes he was and the American dream that has eluded him.  Then there’s his ruthless boss, Howard Wagner, played credibly by Dwayne Cameron, who is the epitome of the cut-throat nature of the corporate world – one that disregards loyalty and is devoid of sentiment.

 

This complex play is brought to life by a stellar cast, many of which are veterans in the industry.  Jesse Peach is clearly a skilled actor’s director as he has really succeeded in bringing out the best in this talented ensemble.  George Henare portrays Willy with great heart and conviction, once again proving what a chameleon and exceptional stage actor he is.  Catherine Wilkin also put on a solid performance as the loving matriarch of the family.

I was really impressed with Ian Hughes’ heartfelt and earnest performance as Biff and I thought Richard Knowles was a great choice as the younger brother; his more jovial energy complemented Ian’s perfectly and the chemistry between them really translated in the many brotherly moments they shared.  Outside the Loman family, the supporting actors do an excellent job depicting their characters too.  I felt the entire ensemble instinctively knew how to play off each other and everything just came together brilliantly, forming an overall superb stage performance.

Death of a Salesman is intense and a sombre piece so is not for everyone, particularly if you enjoy your theatre on the light-hearted side.  But if you want a gripping and compelling story you can really sink your teeth into, this one packs an emotional punch and delivers a powerful message of life and the death of a dream that will resonate with you.

The Whimsical Banana rates Death of a Salesman: 4/5 bananas

Death of a Salesman is playing at the Maidment Theatre until 27th October.  There are only six more shows so get in quick!  Click here for tickets.

Thank you to Elephant Publicity!

TRIBES: Stop Arguing. Start Talking.

Anyone who thought they had a dysfunctional family will eat their words once they see TRIBES.

Written brilliantly by Nina Raine and performed by a mere cast of six under the excellent direction of Shane Bosher, TRIBES is a compelling and poignant play that will change your perspective on what it really means to communicate.

Billy’s family are eccentric, egotistical and bring dysfunction to a whole new level.  As soon as the lights come on what starts off as a seemingly normal family dinner quickly turns into a heated family feud – brother is arguing with father, sister is harassing brother, mother is yelling at father…it’s probably not even in that order, the point is everyone is bickering with someone.

We soon find out that this is perfectly normal behavior in this household.  There is one member of the family though that is a quiet spectator to this chaos – Billy.  Born deaf, he has learned to adapt exceptionally well to his family’s many idiosyncrasies and quarrelsome ways.  Billy skillfully lip reads and was taught how to speak because Billy’s parents did not want him to be defined by his inability to hear and wanted to give him as normal an upbringing as possible.

The family are clearly very set in their ways but their bubble of complacency is popped when Sylvia comes into the picture.  She encourages Billy to embrace the deaf community and this opens up a whole new world to him, one he had not known existed.  One his family had inadvertently sheltered him from.  He learns sign language to better communicate with Sylvia and eventually instills a vow of silence towards his family until they learn to sign too.

Like a fly on the wall, we watch on as this family unravels and come to grips with Billy’s new attitude towards being deaf.  The journey is far from a smooth one as Billy struggles to be heard and understood in a household where people rarely listen.

TRIBES is simply superb and an absolute triumph.  There will be plenty of funny moments that will have you laughing but there will also be the times of heartbreak where you may shed a tear or two (I know I did!).  It is highly engaging, incredibly entertaining and delivers a powerful and inspiring message about family, love and life.  The narrative is paced well and flows seamlessly from scene to scene; I also loved the way the set was utilized and the way music and select subtitles were used to drive the story.

I was completely blown away by the cast who were all just outstanding!  Leon Wadham impressed me the most; his heartfelt and very believable portrayal of Billy was remarkable and so moving.  Emmett Skilton (Daniel) and Jodie Hillock (Sylvia) were other standouts for me; they captured the heart of their characters perfectly and delivered such excellent and emotive performances.

While they were all fantastic individually, it is the scenes where everyone was on stage together where I felt the magic really happened.  The cast have an undeniable chemistry with each other which is evident in the way they effortlessly play off one another, particularly during the many arguments that take place.

There is still time to see this fantastic Silo Theatre production and I strongly recommend that you do because it is an unmissable experience!

The Whimsical Banana rates TRIBES: 5/5 bananas!

Engaging, thought-provoking and just bloody brilliant!

TRIBES is playing at the Maidment Theatre until the 30th of June.  For more information and to purchase tickets, go HERE.