No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: David Mealor

Review: The Call

A man crouches downstage, staring into, or out of, a cage. He is talking to the chicken about to be slaughtered and plucked. What is his responsibility to its fate? Can you apologise to something before you kill it? In what circumstances is it okay to kill?

His workmates appear; rather less impressed with his philosophical bent. They laugh at his falling in love with a chicken, in wanting to fuck a chicken; the women of the bunch is offered up – fuck her instead.

Three men drive through night streets, doing coke off the dash-board. They yell and scream: about dads, about life, about women.

A man sits outside a night club: he’s not really feeling it tonight. A woman comes out and talks about running away, of having adventures, of seeing more of the world. Nah, he says. He’s okay here. They talk more, and soon, instead of discovering other countries and other cultures, they are exploring each other: hands touching material of silk, falling into bed together.

Three men stand on the edge of a bridge and try to get the nerve up to jump. They fail.

A young woman realises, despite all her plans for the future, she’s pregnant. This changes everything.

And finally I realise this is a play that does have a throughline, and it isn’t a series of isolated short stories. Patricia Cornelius’ The Call is written for four actors and thirteen characters: Gary (Tim Overton) is trying to find his way in a world where he doesn’t quite fit in with the crowd, and he suddenly finds himself with a baby on the way with his new partner Denise (Renee Gentle). In this new world he grows apart from his friends Chunk (Nic English) and Aldo (Guy O’Grady); and finds himself out of step with the new workmates (Gentle, English, O’Grady) in an ever cycling round of new workplaces he comes across in trying to provide for his family and find himself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Buried Child

And so begins David Mealor’s director’s statement, showing us that Buried Child can be summed up with the same plot as 90% of plays set in rural Midwest and Southern America.

The ideal or criticism of the Great American Dream runs through much of that country’s literature.  Written in the late 1970s, Buried Child came off the back of a nation recovering from the Watergate scandal, deep in recession and high in inflation, a country unhappy with the war in Vietnam. In his script Shepard is extremely critical of the mythology a country burying its past, looking forward to a new day.

In a gothic farm-house in Illinois, rain pours down.  Matriarch Halie (Jacqy Phillips) yells down the stairway onto the largely un-listening ears of patriarch Dodge (Ron Haddrick), as he sits and coughs on the couch, watching the television and swigging from a hidden bottle of whisky.  Their son, the lumbering and slow Tilden (Nicholas Garsden) appears, in his arms an old sack, bushels of corn plucked from the depths of the yard.

Over years, the family has become destroyed, fortunes trapped in a rural farm-house, dreaming of what has been lost and hiding away from what can never be regained.  Their other remaining son, Bradley (Patrick Graham), is an abusive lout, and Halie pains for the now dead son who was her great hope.  Halie and Dodge have for many years lived in separate rooms; her dreaming of a happier life that was and escaping the house for a happier life in town; he alive perhaps only by a stubbornness to not leave the house to anyone in his family.

Read the rest of this entry »

2010, You’ve Been Good To Me

A Thank You, and the obligatory Best Of Worst Of lists

To everyone who has supported me and my blog and my other writing this year: thank you.  This year has been truly magnificent, and getting so much respect for my writing has played no small part in that.  When I decided to not pursue my Honours degree I knew I was making the right choice; I could have never grasped just how right that choice was.  To everyone who has read, commented, subscribed, or talked to me about something I’ve written, you blow my mind.   To the companies and artists in particular who have taken me on as part of the community, in my strange hybrid of administrator / writer / reviewer / blogger / fan, I am eternally grateful.

Even those of you who have given me bad feedback, the overestimation of the impact of this blog warms my cockles.  Those of you who got here by searching for naked pictures of actors or Plain Janes, you creep me out a little and don’t get my thanks, sorry.

After much hemming and hawing over how (and if) to do a Best/Worst of The Year, I eventually decided to just go for the traditional top and bottom five.   Not necessarily the best and the worst, but in a completely subjective analysis my favourites and my biggest disappointments.  I loved 54 of the 88 productions I saw, and most of the rest leaned towards the love over the hate side, so it’s been a pretty fine year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Blackbird

Misaligned expectations?  Perhaps.  After True West blew me away last year, so I was telling everyone with ears they must go and see it at the Fringe, and then running back to see it myself, Blackbird was always on my list of shows I was most excited to see this year.  It was disappointing.  I believe this team is better than this production shows, and therein lies the rub: this production doesn’t show it.

Looking at other reviews now, I don’t even understand what Peter Burdon from The Advertiser is saying in his review: miscast, yet must-see?  A very bizarre read.

In other news, I saw Ruby Bruise again, brought more people to share her with, and loved it even more.   Can’t get it out of my head.  If you want to treat yourself, go and see it.

Both of these play until Saturday.

This review originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au

David Harrower’s Blackbird is a script intended to be inflammatory, confusing, filled with heightened and varying emotions on behalf of the characters and audience members. Fifteen years after forty-year-old Ray abandons twelve-year-old Una in a boarding house, she returns into his life to find out: was it a malicious act of pedophilia, or was it more, was there a real connection?

Playing around within this, within the questions of can a grown man truly have feelings for a girl, regardless of questions about legality and morality, the play is intended to make the audience question themselves, to question their reaction to being told this was a true relationship.

It is a curious thing, being able to hear these beats in the script as written, but not being able to see them as performed in this production directed by David Mealor. As Terrence Crawfordplays Ray as the nervous, shuffling, pedophilic character with constantly halting language from the outset, the production does not have an opportunity to travel anywhere.

In UnaKsenja Logos takes more opportunities to show variance in character: in moments a tough exterior briefly gives way to show a traumatized young woman, but a true connection between Una and Ray is never felt. In Crawford’sinterpretation, Ray has nowhere to grow and change over the course of the production, and so emotion of the piece is essentially flat. This is not helped by Mealor’s direction that has monologues, moments of extreme emotion in the text, delivered to the audience.

The simple lunchroom designed by Mary Moore, bound in realism from the ugly institutional colours and cheap furniture down to the gratifying stick and squelch made of shoes in contact with spilled sugary drinks on the floor, is bordered by an external space of strewn garbage bags and rubbish.

For the first half of the play, it appears the fourth wall exists between the boundary of the stage proper and this border, until Logos steps out of the main space for her monologue. After this wall is broken, it is never mended, as the characters move freely between the lunchroom and the garbage, creating a confused stage.

Sound design by Andrew Howard and composition by Quentin Grant is overwrought, as the entry and exit of synthesized notes are jolting, detracting from the story and highlighting a theatricality which in this play perhaps shouldn’t be seen. Choices in sound are also confusing: twice the characters reference the clock striking midnight, as a clock strikes three times.

Ultimately, it is not that Blackbird is a particularly bad production; it’s just that it is particularly monotonous. To buy into the conceit that Harrower tries to set up the play needs to show the audience the raw connection of characters. Unfortunately, this ineffectual production misses the mark.

Flying Penguin Productions present Blackbird by David Harrower.  Directed by David Mealor,  set and costume design by Mary Moore, lighting design by Mark Pennington, sound design by Andrew Howard, composition by Quentin Grant.  With Terence Crawford, Ksenja Logos and Scarlett Groom-Ransom

Review: The Price

The Price
by Arthur Miller
Directed by Adam Cook
Presented by the State Theatre Company of South Australia

Pip Miller and Michael Habib showing they can act with a concerned face.

Moving away from the involved, complex pieces Adam Cook directed at the State Theatre Company in 2009 (both brilliantly directed – Mnemonic a work of art, and King Lear explosively amazing), Cook’s fist show for 2010 is a much quieter and subtler affair, with just four characters, a single room and a plot which happens in real-time.

Arthur Miller’s The Price is unmistakably set in New York City of the ‘60s.  I sometimes come out of plays thinking, “why did they even bother putting on those accents?”, but there is no way this dialogue would work without the heavy New Yarwk accent.  While not perfect, nor perfectly consistent, for the most part they were carried by the cast just fine, who were all solid in their roles and character’s development.

Read the rest of this entry »