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Thursday, 11 April 2013

COLLIDE & GRIFFIN INDEPENDENT'S 'GIRL IN TAN BOOTS' dissected by me

How refreshing to see a really well written, directed and performed all female ensemble piece.

Tahli Corin's 'Girl in Tan Boots' is a tale of the desperate need to be noticed, to be loved in this contemporary world of social media and 140 character offerings of anonymous admiration or vitriol and a chance to reinterpret who we are and who we want to be.

Corin is a bright talent whose writing demonstrates a sophisticated ability to make you think and laugh whilst maintaining tension and intrigue.

The first half of the play is particularly strong. Director Susanna Dowling has served the writing and found a lovely blend of humour in showcasing the self-obsessed iDisorder of modern society, I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes between shop assistants Katie (Madeleine Jones), Lucy (Francesca Savige) and my personal favourite, Mandy (Zindzi Okenyo) who channelled every queen bee bully of the workplace I've ever known. This great ensemble share the stage and allow each other to have their moment to shine and will set up those moments for each other with skill and flair.

Linden Wilkinson as Detective Carapetis had a solid first half and brought a calm to the storm of personalities, although the pacing and shuffling on stage sometimes felt forced and her improvising at the end with the audience certainly felt like she was out of her comfort zone. But it is a minor criticism of what is a generally careful and considerate  playing of loneliness and passion.

Odile Leclezio (mum) and Sara Zwangobani (Antoniette) should not be left out of the equation. Whilst Leclezio gave us all the reasons why your daughter would want to disappear, Zwangobani served the function of filling in the narrative gaps for our detective in order to advance the story. Yet it is her character Corin and Dowling still need to flesh out to be more than a foil for the plot.

Kudos to the versatility of Katren Wood's set and what it allowed to appear and disappear behind the neutral sliding doors and Ally Mansell's costumes captured the personality of each of the diverse characters found in the play. Even Teegan Lee's lighting was a smart use of filling and hiding spaces and faces.

'Girl in Tan Boots' is well worth a visit to the theatre. Whilst there's a bit of reworking that needs to happen in the second half, especially once they stop looking for our 'girl in tan boots' and the play starts to lose its harmony and energy slightly, I would still highly recommend it to all.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

GRAVAS PRODUCTIONS’ ‘TRAPPED IN MYKONOS’ dissected by me

Gravas Productions debut of their play ‘Trapped in Mykonos’, currently playing at the Reginald Theatre in the Seymour Centre, is an adaptation of Euripides’ ‘Iphigenia at Aulis’. Directed by first time director Antoinette Barbouttis and written by first time playwright Nicole Colantoni, this production smacks of inexperience. It’s a limited version of the original and encounters plenty of bumps in the 75 minute ride of the show. Whilst it has a few good ideas and moments, it’s hindered by a team who don’t know when to park the scooter and get on with delivering the play.

This review is not going to be nice so please, Gravas Peeps, if you’re sensitive to criticism, read no further, I implore you, because from what you’ve delivered in this show, I don’t think you’re going to take this very well… This production frustrated me because whilst the potential was there to turn it into something good, it just wasn’t.  

The script fell flat, especially in the first half. The stilted dialogue, the tenuous connections in trying to fulfil the original story and give it a modern edge, all seemed to result in a half-baked show. Colantoni and Barbouttis struggled to find the piece’s identity and appropriate style, wavering between classicism, realism, comedy, melodrama and often without rhyme or reason. This is a show that needs the experience of someone who can look at the potential of the production’s good ideas and then edit. Barbouttis has yet to find that so the show is strewn with movement when you need stillness, high emotion when it needs belief and there’s a little too much stage business from a cast that think you can’t just engage in what the characters are saying but must have your own performance happening at the back of the stage. What seemed like a good device in other moments, such as that scooter, becomes the antithesis of that idea when you flog it to death or when they work against each other- like one actor declaiming dialogue in a conversation with another actor trying to deliver realism. If Elaine Hudson was there as an associate director, what was she doing? 

If this production is meant to show the ‘fusion of the elements brought by contrasting the different time periods…to make for a surreal and yet recognisable world’, I didn’t get either. And here’s a thought, if you want to modernise the play, then what are the real issues that resonate with us today that are present in the original? What about the disposable nature of women who must always sacrifice in order for men to succeed? What about the gratification and curse of reputation and the extremes we go to for fame? Instead the play tries to border between a direct translation and a whole lot of modern language often gratuitously used in order to do what? Shock? Label? Remind us that it’s set in contemporary times? If you’re going to adapt or re-write a play, make it count. What’s your ‘something to say’ and who are you saying it for?

The lack of insightful direction and writing has probably not done the cast any favours and there was a disconnection between intentions and dialogue. Consider Clytemnestra’s (Dimity Raftos) pleas to Agamemnon (Anthony Hunt) about her sacrifice of husband and baby, murdered at his command so she could marry him and his laughter and dismissal of those words. Sure, he’s the big man on campus and you can highlight his disregard for her but if he doesn’t care about the murder and acquisition of women and children, who cares if he has to sacrifice his daughter so the ships can sail? He shouldn’t and we won’t. It seems pointless going through the acting stakes- they might be good actors but they’ve been given poor direction so why kill the cast when it falls on the shoulders of an inexperienced eye in interpretation.

On the bright side, there are some good design choices in dressing the modern Mykonos night spot. Tom Bannerman’s set promised great things, dropping us in the clich├ęd tradition of the tourist mecca. Catherine Steele’s costumes firmly placed us in the contemporary Greek world with a homage to the war and violence contrasted to the innocence and playfulness of the characters. I liked the helicopter drop as shown through the sound (Helen Grimley) and lighting (Larry Kelly). It’s just that Barbouttis didn’t know what to do with them to make it work at its potential and that’s a pity because the overall design aesthetic would not have been cheap.

I know this review is harsh on a company that is only getting off the ground and is trying to establish who it is. But if this production is anything to go by, they haven’t figured that out yet and it needs to be more than a vehicle for ‘up and coming talent’ because it won’t sustain an audience beyond family, friends and a sympathetic Greek cultural community if it doesn’t step up its game.

Get some experience through your doors and learn from it. Anyone can stage a play. It doesn’t mean that it’s good.