No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Nescha Jelk

Review: Random

Zindzi Okenyo. Photo by Sophia Calado.

Zindzi Okenyo. Photo by Sophia Calado.

debbie tucker green’s Random is a mammoth of a play for an actor to take on. It runs at under an hour, but asks a lot from its performer emotionally as she moves through the textually dense piece. Over the course of a day we follow a family – Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister – as they start their days, and then hear the news of a brutal, random knife attack on Brother.

Here director Nescha Jelk, making here State Theatre Company debut, also rests a lot on performer Zindzi Okenyo’s shoulders. In the first half of the play, Jelk places Okenyo in almost utter silence. Compounded by Ben Flett’s lighting that keeps Okenyo only lit from the waist up, Jelk is asking a lot of her audience, too, to train in and engage with the language of green’s text.

But lean in we do. green’s text brings a crammed, rhythmic poetry to everyday speech. This rhythm is intensified with the accents of the characters: the soft Jamaican lilt of Mum, the different tonal slangs of Brother and Sister. Some words are lost, particularly in the voice of Mum and at times it feels like the rhythm of the piece is more important to Jelk than the specific words.

In the first half, Okenyo fells most at home in the body of Sister – closest physically, but also the character she goes on to spend the most time in. Jelk gives Okenyo a breath between each character; transitions at first seem to be made too slowly, disrupting green’s internal rhythms. Lit by projections of blurred, muted colours as well as the rig, occasionally, too, transitions in the projection screens take away from the pace of green’s text. As the play develops, though, Jelk and Okenyo find the rhythms that speak through and they take over the performance.

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Review: Alice and Peter Grow Up

Every now and then I have a moment where I realise that maybe – just maybe – I’m actually a Grown Up.  They’re few and far between; not because I see myself as a child, but because to be an adult seems all at once huge and scary and unobtainable and certainly doesn’t seem like something I will be at any time soon.  More often, I suppose, I feel like I am playing at being a Grown Up.  I’ve managed to convince people that I can have proper jobs and proper responsibilities, and it’s all a farce which is great fun.

At the entrance of Format, we are passed a questionnaire: how grown up are you? Downstairs in the slightly awkward basement, we are introduced to Subject One and Subject Two, working their way through a modulated course, giving their audience the skills they need to grow up.   Alice (Aston Malcom) has a Grown Up score of 9 out of 50.  Peter (Sebastian Freeman) has a Grown Up score of 12. The apathetic Alice and the cocky Peter must make their way through each of the sections, learning, among other things, how to have a conversation, how to date, how to be married, and how to act at work.  It’s trial by procedure rather than trial by error.

This devised theatre piece by a young team under the direction of Nescha Jelk hilariously and charmingly winds its way through the bed of uncertainty that is these years of trying (or ignoring the fate) of being an adult.  From the jokes that hit too close to the bone, to the sublimely ridiculous, Malcom and Freeman embrace the essence of struggling with your burgeoning adulthood, even if it is in a course and not in the real world. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Days, Five New Local Plays

Last week ended up being quite the week for new local playwrighting!

Wednesday I made my way down to the Bakehouse to see Molly’s Shoes, which I did not enjoy, and you can read my review of here at Australian Stage Online.  I would also like to draw your attention to the commenting form there, rather than here, if you have things to say.

Thursday I went across town to the Director’s Hotel to see Duende Presents: PLAY OFF!, where three local short shows battled it out for further development and a spot in the 2012 Fringe.  It was a great event, they packed out the upstairs space in the hotel, and everyone had a fun time just celebrating theatre.  My affections were drawn between The Fortitude of Samuel Clemens by Caitlyn Tyler, directed by Dee Easton, for its humour and “fringyness”; and Helen Back by Elena Carapetis, directed by Nescha Jelk, for its power and particularly the performance of Jacqui Phillips.  After three nights of audience and industry votes, the pick of the event was The Fortitude of Samuel Clemens, so look out for that work (or perhaps another work from the team?) at next year’s fringe.

Friday I hung out in a rehearsal room of the Adelaide Festival Centre, where I was invited to a moved reading of Little Borders by Phillip Kavanagh, directed by Corey McMahon, which was a fantastically powerful piece in which Elena Carapetis (demonstrating way too much talent for just one week) blew me away.  I owe the playwright an email of thoughts, but that’s it in a nut shell!

Review: The Lesson

Arriving eager and keen to start her first day of lessons, the young pupil (Elizabeth Hay) has dressed herself up nice and smart for the event. Wanting to sit for her Doctorate (“both of them”, she insists), she finds herself under the tutelage of the increasingly manic Professor (Guy O’Grady), and, well, it is written by Eugene Ionesco, so I guess you can suppose sitting for her Doctorate never happens.

I have tooth ache! Photo Ben Galbraith.

With costuming (Ben Galbraith) setting the production in the 50s, Nescha Jelk’s production of The Lesson is in many ways a traditional reading of the text. But it is the casting and direction of a young Professor– not only cast young, but played at the actors age, which gives this production its added level of intrigue. When he disparagingly glares at his maid (Chrissie Page) and announces “I’m older than 21!” you get the idea that he in fact just turned 22 and is relishing in the fact that he is a big boy now.

Written as an elderly man, a closer approximation to how we perceive a professor to look, the casting of O’Grady creates the image of a young man who is clearly very bright, but always molly-coddled, creating a socially isolated man who has ideas above his worth. One gets the idea that this man never had any friends at school; and perhaps that is why he is so bright – if you whittle the hours away in the library, there is no one to notice you don’t have any friends.

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Review: Tusk Tusk

Graduating from the Drama School at Flinders University at the end of 2010, for her final student piece director Nescha Jelk has directed Polly Stenham’s Tusk Tusk in an outstanding achievement.

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind, and another, his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.

The summer day after the family moves into their new London flat, siblings Elliot (Andrew Thomas) – fifteen, Maggie (Alyssa Mason) – fourteen, and Finn (Walter Buckley) – seven, find themselves alone, again, surrounded by boxes, and a  £70 train-ride from their old home and friends.  Mum has left, they have only the money they found in boxes, and they have no choice but to turn off the lights, turn down the noise, turn on the phones, and wait to know she will come back for them, and everything will be okay.

As Mason alternatively bounces with energy, then lies with lethargy, Maggie almost bursts with insatiable energy until she does burst, and collapse.  Maggie feels the loss of her mother more acutely than her bothers: where Elliot escapes, and Finn finds his parents in his siblings, Maggie must stay and be the “adult.”  Mason shows the jubilance, and mainly the weight, that being alone and scared – scared of what will happen if mum doesn’t return, and scared of what will happen if she does – and fourteen does.

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