No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Nick Pelomis

Review: Pornography

There have been three major terrorism attacks in the past decade which significantly cut through to the Australian media, and thus our own dialogues about terrorism. The first, the 9/11 attacks in the USA. The second, the Bali Bombings, targeting Australian tourists. And the third, the London Bombings.

Each year, we notice their anniversaries. Eleven years after 9/11, much of the currency around the discussion of the remembrance focused on the choice of major US newspapers to no longer carry the anniversary as front page news. Ten years on from the Bali Bombings, the event was carried with significance.

The London Bombings perhaps though, held the most currency looking back from 2012. Occurring the day after the announcement the 2012 Olympics would be held in London, the two events would be inextricably linked.

Simon Stephens wrote Pornography in the aftermath of the bombings, in a city which was very much in repair and recovery. His work distills the event down into stories of a handful of people in the week leading up to the event, at the same time almost makes a point of the fact that this bombing was just one day in the lives of people which are frequently full, and complicated, and messy.

The impact of the bombings, the immediacy of the event, the knowledge that these characters lives will now forever be tied up in a narrative of what occurred that day is at the forefront throughout Pornography. Directing the work for the State Theatre Company, Daniel Clarke holds tension throughout the work: relief in humour is short lived, as audience members we are privileged in knowing where the work is taking us. Jason Sweeney’s composition, too, weaved throughout the production, holds the audience on teter-edge.

And yet, the bombing is almost the least important part of the work and the stories. While these characters stories culminate in this event, more pertinently Stephens writes about a fractured England.

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Review: Holding The Man

Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo met in the mid-1970s at their all-boys school in Melbourne.  He was an aspiring actor; he was the star football player.  He went on to study at NIDA and work as an actor, theatre maker and writer; he went on to be a chiropractor.  Together since high-school, Holding The Man was Conigrave’s memoir of their relationship of fifteen-years, ending with the death of Caleo from an AIDS related illness in 1991.   Conigrave passed away with the same disease a few months before his book was published in 1995.

The memoir was adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy, and is being presented in a new production directed by Rosabla Clemente for the State Theatre Company of South Australia in their final production for 2011.

Covering twenty-two years in just over two hours, at times Murphy’s script can do little but cover the most basic surface level of the relationship.  The most satisfying aspects of the script is how Murphy not only plays with a balance of comedy and drama, a comically heightened act one giving way to dramatically heavy act two; but also balances naturalism with theatricality.

Rather than shying away from existing in a live theatrical medium, Murphy’s script fully embraces the theatre.  The action takes place over twenty years in countless locations and with dozens of characters, and this is all presented in the one space with a cast of six.

Joining Luke Clayson as Tim, and Nic English as John, are Catherine Fitzgerald, Nick Pelomis, Geoff Revell and Ellen Steele, taking the men on their journey through high school, university, theatres, and hospitals.

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Reviews: The Event and The Good Doctor

With more plays on at the Bakehouse Theatre on Angus St this week than at the Festival Centre, I reviewed two of the plays that were on (with the third being one I saw at the Fringe). Wednesday night was The Event, directed by Daniel Clarke, and Thursday was The Good Doctor by Accidental Productions.

It was really a quite surreal experience, watching The Good Doctor the day after seeing The Event.  I feel as if I am quite tuned in to directorial and actor’s choices under normal circumstances, I can understand the technical side of theatre while being swept away by the emotional side, but in this case every choice, every moment, every moment was seemingly amplified:  a play about the technicalities of theatre completely transformed my way of experiencing another piece.

This review of The Event originally appeared on

The Event is a curious thing to write about on paper. So simple, so purely a derivative of theatre, it does seem like an extraordinarily strange job, to be a stranger, a professional observer, who sits in the audience and listens to the words written by a man in order to go home and write my own words in response to those words.

There is a stage, empty. There is a pool of light and in it stands a man. The man is an actor, the man is Nick Pelomis. But of course we’re not supposed to know that. To us he is just a man. And the man stands on the stage and speaks to us the words he memorised by another man, John Clancy. But we shouldn’t know that either. For weeks, the man on the stage read and spoke the work of the writer, and another man, Daniel Clarke told him how to say the words and how to stand and how to act. Just another thing we shouldn’t know, that should be obscured by the magic of the theatre.

And while The Event doesn’t introduce us to these particular people, it does introduce us to the curious curiosities which is theatre, drawing back the curtain of artificiality and narrating what exactly it is that makes a piece of theatre. The lines, the direction, the measured movements and the repeated choice, that manipulative change in the lighting: the performance of the thing.

With your attention brought to be so closely focused on the rehearsal, on the deliberate choice in every movement, every move the man makes is questioned: is this a choice? Is this rehearsed? Is this how he has done it before, will do it again? Or did I catch a moment of spontaneity? That couldn’t possibly have been rehearsed, that was here and now. Wasn’t it? Was it?

This is a testament to Pelmois and Clarke that even when constantly told this is theatre and this is not real, you buy into the character presented. I know, you say to yourself, that the play they are talking about is invented, but since this man is talking about that play, this play is real. Surely?

The counter to this, of course, is the audience becomes hyper aware to each stumbled word, each slight flub: ah, a mistake! I caught it! Under Pelomis’s hand there may be few victories in this game, but they become much more amplified than under any normal circumstances.

Clancy’s script succeeds the most when it is talking directly about the acting process and the audience (and the reviewers in the audience). At times, when steering away from this most elemental form, the primary message of the piece can get a bit lost, as the man goes into deeper reflections on theatre and society and the play stalls. But when it is at its best The Event is a side-achingly funny and clever look into stagecraft.

One which will probably never let you look at a man, standing in a pool of light on stage, in quite the same way again.

This review of The Good Doctor originally appeared on

A sneeze on the back of the head of General Mikhail Brassilhov in the theatre doesn’t turn out well for Ivan CherdyakovPeter Semyonych, seducer of women, attempts to show us how to sleep with a man’s wife, by using the husband to do the deed. Mrs Schukin is hardly impressed with the fact her husband was fired after five months of being unable to work, and she expects something to be done about that.

Funny and light-hearted amusement, The Good Doctor is modern American playwright Neil Simon’s take on the classical Russian works of Chekhov, as the Writer takes us through a series of sketches of his writings.

The further director Hew Parhman (forced to make a guest appearance on opening night as the cast missed their opening cue) and the five-person ensemble push the humour and clowning, the more successful the play becomes. Andrew Pantelis has a tendency to give too much reverence to his lines, particularly in the role of the Writer, but loses some of the stiffness as the play progresses.

Working in the small and inflexible Studio Space at the Bakehouse Theatre with limited sets and lighting the play truly rests on the shoulders of its cast. All actors need to work on development of their characters: including creating a bigger distinction between roles that doesn’t rely on simply changing accents, a rather inexplicable choice.

Regardless, the production belongs to Kyle Kaczmarczyk and, at times, Eddie Morrison as they demonstrate their ability to find the extremities of the comedy in Simon’s text. From the awkward and gangly physicality ofKaczmarczyk, to the overbearing or nervous energy of Morrison the biggest laughs are brought.

While the production has some shortcomings and the youth of the ensemble shows, ultimately it achieves a night of jovial and farcical entertainment. One hopes that through a dedication to creating self-produced works, the artists involved in companies such as this are only going to grow.

Daniel Clarke presents The Event by John Clancy.   Directed by Daniel Clarke.  With Nick Pelomis.

Accidental Productions present The Good Doctor by Neil Simon.  Directed by Hew Parham.  With Andrew Pantelis, Emily McMahon, Lucy Markewicz, Eddie Morrison and Kyle Kaczmarczyk