Theatre Review: Ken Ludwig’s, The Game’s Afoot or ‘Holmes for The Holidays’

Arts Theatre Cronulla: 7th May – 12th June

Like mystery? Like Hollywood goofballs? A satire on genre? A sendup of preening thespians? Big comedy, big acting, big laughs? Then head down south to the Arts Theatre Cronulla.

Director, Tom Richards, Assistant Directors, Meili Bookluck and Caitlain Cowan, and the ensemble cast and crew of Arts Theatre Cronulla have delivered another polished, hilarious production with Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot.

Hilarious hijinks – The Seance scene, From left to right: SImon Bright (Luke Austin), Martha Gillette (Narelle Jaeger), Aggie Wheeler (Rachele Edson), Daria Chase (Margareta Moir) standing, William Gillette (Gary Clark), Felix Geisel (Michael Barlow) and Madge Geisel (Jayne O’Connell) – Photo: Port Hacking Camera Club

The play opens with the closing scene of a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery beautifully hammed out by a cast of actors portraying a cast of actors and thus heralding in the scale of the comedy. It’s physical, it’s big and entirely believable.  As the players playing players take their bows a gunman from the audience shoots the lead actor, William Gillette (Gary Clark). This instigates an invitation to his fellow actors and the theatre critic, Daria Chase, to his Connecticut Castle for a Christmas get together and his amateur sleuthing into the attempt on his life.

Set in 1936 the play sends up not only Sherlock Holmes but whodunits, séances, a delusional actor who dons his character’s profession in real life, stage actors, theatre critics and fandom. Set in America, a challenge is posed to maintain the US accent which is mostly met. Another challenge is in the delivery of Willam Gillette’s character. Here we have an Australian actor portraying an American actor with a fixation on a famous English character. Having referenced Sherlock Holmes in the title, the advertising and in the stage life of William Gillette, an expectation to see him parodied on stage isn’t quite met. Does it detract from the flow of the show or the laughs – in no way.

Co-conspirators perpetrating laughs – Felix Geisel (Michael Barlow) and William Gillette (Gary Clark). Photography: Port Hacking Camera Club

The show is a rolling farce delivered by a very capable ensemble cast. Where the script has been extended with mime and stage business it becomes hilarious – a real treat. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink takes on a whole other meaning in the eyes and shoulders of William (Gary Clark) and Felix (Michael Barlow). Their physical comedy is perfectly timed.

Inspector Goring (Arianne Hough) processing William Gillette’s (Gary Clark) mother’s (Narelle Jaeger) ‘evidence’. Photo: Port Hacking Camera Club

Among a talented and cohesive cast it’s hard to single out a particular performance, they all do so well. Narelle Jaeger as Martha Gillette has just the right amount of motherly immersion and sangfroid as a foil to her son’s desperation; there’s the plasticity of Arianne Hough’s facial features and her comic timing; the way Margareta Moir, as the despised critic Daria Chase, commands the stage with her presence and then diminishes to a human prop with the problem of her absent presence (no spoilers); Jayne O’Connell’s delivery of brassy American stage starlet Madge Geisel could set the era with her performance alone; and then there’s the séance – you’ll die laughing. The cast is rounded out with strong performances from Rachele Edson and Luke Austin.

The talented ensemble cast of Arts Theatre Cronulla’s production of the Game’s Afoot, from left to right: Narelle Jaeger, Gary Clark. On the sofa: Michael Barlow, Margareta Moir, Jayne O’Connell, and standing from left to right: Arianne Hough, Rachele Edson, Luke Austin and shooter/stagehand, Daniel Ison – Photography: Port Hacking Camera Club

Aiding the comedy is the clever set of James Bruce, Tom Richards and Neil Moulang. They have gone all out including a revolving room, a staircase and a scenic balcony extending upstage through a central door. It’s not just pretty but functional as the revolve’s capabilities are milked for comic effect.

Witty one-liners, clever banter, acerbic wit peppered through a funny, well-paced plot that’s extended with delightful stage business: the game’s afoot and running with plenty of laughs.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.artstheatrecronulla.com.au/thegamesafoot or over the phone after 10am 95232779

This review was first published in the Sydney Arts Guide on 13th May as:

THE GAME’S AFOOT (HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS) : A FARCE FOR THE AGES

Learning Greek with Karagiozis

Hello, hello, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. What can I say? Life can make a nuisance of itself, getting in the way of cyber reality.

So, I didn’t totally shut up in the time I’ve been missing. I have written a guest blog post over at the Ergastirio Skiwn Kouzaros website which has been posted in both Greek and English about how wonderful Karagiozis is as a tool to teach Greek language and culture. You can pop over and have a read at:

https://ergastirioskiwnkouzaros.com/μαθαίνοντας-ελληνικά-μέσω-του-καραγκ/

Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing is available to watch on the Ergastirio’s YouTube channel. The performance is in Greek, retaining the nuances of each character, and carries English subtitles underlining the movement of the plot.

The wonderful performance of the play begins after my short introduction.

Characters from Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing in different stages of production

Meet the Cast – Sior Dionysios aka Nionio

Sior Dionysios aka Nionio the Dandy, risks life and limb climbing the Saray walls for a glimpse of Fatme, the Vizier’s daughter. Will he retrieve the goats in time to get the girl?

Signor Dionysios of Zakinthos, the down at heels, italianate aristocrat

Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing

is

N O W S H O W I N G

on the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros YouTube channel.

Nionio is the creation of the seminal Karagiozis puppeteer of the Modern Greek era, Mimaros (fl late 19th Century) With his creation of a fast talking but naive young man of a once well-to-do and well connected family from Zakynthos he satirised that portion of Greek society that was overly influenced by Western European manners, dress and behaviour.

He is easily recognised by his top hat. Originally he spoke a mixture of Italian and Greek and had his own theme song that could be recognised by its mandolin.

He is inclined to boast of his family’s noble line but ultimately is naive and easily led by Karagiozis. Traditionally, he loses out in love. ( Being such a big romance fan, I struggled to keep true to this requirement – no spoiler here)

To see if Nionio gets his girl tune in to the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros YouTube channel …

this Sunday at 9pm

Australian Eastern Standard Time ( that’s 12 noon in Athens, 10 am in London – with apologises to the USA 2am and 5am) …

for the premiere of Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing

Sooo Exciting!!!!!!!!

Karagiozis figures and merchandise can be purchased from the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros e-shop.

Meet the Cast – Fatme, the Vizieropoula

Fatme, the Vizieropoula, is resigned to marrying the random who returns her father’s golden fleeced goats… please don’t let him SMELL!!!!

Fatme, the Vizier’s daughter, not the traditional Westerner’s image of what a lady of the Seray should look like but a modern European woman – svelte and conservative.

The Vezieropoula is the daughter of the Vezier, a high-ranking official who was a counseller to the Sultan of the Ottoman Court. She can be thought of as a Turkish noblewoman.

Her name is a play on words that capitalises on her objectification as a male’s prize and fantasy. While ‘vizier’ is a foreign title, it is a homonym for the Greek word meaning ‘boob’. The ‘poula’ is a suffix added to Vezier to indicate that she is the ‘daughter of’ but is also a homonym for ‘many’ or ‘much’. So she is the daughter of the Vezier but also the woman with plenty big boobs.

Originally, her pantaloons and bustiere marked out who she was on the perde. She may have acted cunning or sweet, but always she was, and remains, the object of desire for the male cast of the repertoire.

Fatme and the contenders for her hand clockwise: Nionio the dandy; Barba-Yiorgo the goat-herd; Morfonios, the mummy’s boy; and Stavrakas, the urban cowboy. But who has got the goat? Figures from Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros

Today, she is represented as a modern European woman of impeccable and conservative style.

See who gets the goat and wins her hand, in Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing, in Greek with English subtitles!!!

N O W S H O W I N G

To the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros YouTube channel.

Karagiozis paraphernalia available in the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros e-shop.

Don’t miss out on their BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

Meet the Cast – Stavrakas

The colourful figure of the  Stavrakas  shadow puppet  shown in reverse
Stavrakas, hero-in-his-own-mind and oily urban cowboy, denizen of the by-ways of the Port of Piraeus

Stavrakas, the oily, hero-in-his-own-mind knows where the Vizier’s goats are & will give them up for the gold coins & the Vizier’s daughter.

Stavrakas

Stavrakas in front of Karagiozis ‘ hovel
Stavrakas of Piraeus by the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros, held against the perde

Tzimis Stavrakas is a braggart and liar from the Port of Piraeus. He has seen the underbelly of society and thinks much of himself and his worldly ways. Styling himself outlandishly as an outlaw/cowboy, he is a coward at heart, running and hiding in the face of danger.

He was added to the repertoire around 1900 by the puppeteer, Yiannis Moros. (http://www.karagiozis.gr)

See Stavrakas in the upcoming for YouTube production of

Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing

by the Ergatirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros (Script by me, Stella)

N O W S H O W I N G

on YouTube

Shadow puppets are available to purchase from the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros e-shop

Meet the Cast – Barba-Yiorgo

The noble, land-owning shepherd who represented honourable and admirable qualities of the Greek character

Barba-Yiorgo, the smelly goatherd wants a wife but his grass is being cleared by ravenous, hairy, mud-besplattered monsters in the purview of a resident serpent in his olive grove.

Black and white work in progress shot of Barba-Yiorgo.

Barba-Yiorgo is the tallest character in the Karagiozis repertoire and also the fiercest. He alone can best the Vezier’s personal cutthroat, Veligekas.

Barba-Yiorgo is the biggest land-owning shepherd from central Greece. He has the greatest flock and carries his shepherd’s crook with pride. He is Karagiozis’ uncle.

Honest and earthy, he holds the respect of the people. Karagiozis calls him uncle.

Barba-Yiorgo before Karagiozis’ hovel, from the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros

He is dressed in the traditional garb associated with modern Greece. With his great height, his foustanella – 100 panelled kilt – tights, kaltsothetia – stocking ties- and tsarouhia – traditional slipper/shoes he is dressed like the national guard of Greece.

Added to the Karsgiozis repertoire around 1897 by the puppeteer, John Roulias, he may appear with a moveable arm (www.karagiozis.gr) Like all of the characters in the repertoire he speaks with a distinctive accent. If he has any shortcomings they are a propensity for stinginess and a superstitious nature.

Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing

is

N O W S H O W I N G Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros YouTube channel – in Greek with English subtitles.

Beautiful puppets and Karagiozis merchandise can be purchased from their E-shop on their website.

Meet the Cast – Veligekas

Torso shot of Veligekas
The Vizier’s guard, Veligekas

Veligekas, the Vizier’s guard will chop off the hands of the thief who has taken the Vizier’s Golden Fleeced Goats & anyone getting too close to the Vizier’s daughter, the Vizieropoula.

Veligekas the Albanian Guard
Veligekas on the perde before the “footlights” from the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros

Meet the Cast – Veligekas

With the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros hard at work filming scenes for the upcoming YouTube production of Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing, it’s time to meet the cast.

Veligekas is the Vizier’s formidable, intimidating, ruffian of an Albanian guard. He strikes fear into the hearts of all comers except Barba-Yiorgo – who is the only character who can best him. Even Karagiozis fears him.

In the repertoire he seems to be a hanger-on from the days when Karagiozis was played in the Ottoman Empire.

Ergatirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros’ production of

Karagiozis and the Golden Fleecing

Now Showing on YouTube

Karagiozis shadow puppets can be purchased from the Ergastirio_Skiwn_Kouzaros E-Shop.

Don’t Dress for Dinner

By Marc Camoletti, adapted by Robin Hawdon

Cronulla Arts Theatre

14th February – 21 March, 2020

Most marriages bare at least the pretence of a HEA – a Happily Ever After – but not in Bernard and Jacqueline’s case. Their HEA is more like Hilariously Entangled Adultery in Cronulla Arts Theatre latest production, Don’t Dress for Dinner.

Playwright, Marc Camoletti, draws on tried and true tropes of farce with a convoluted storyline built on deception, cross purposes and mistaken identities to keep the marriage of Bernard and Jacqueline from foundering. This slick and pacey production boasts strong comedic performances and flawlessly delivered slapstick from its talented ensemble cast.

Bernard (Gary Clark) is married to Jacqueline (Margareta Moir) but is having an affair with Suzanne (Rachele Edson); Robert (Michael Barlow), Bernard’s closest friend, is secretly having an affair with Jacqueline; Bernard presses Robert to fake a relationship with Suzanne so that he has a cover story while they all spend a social night together; Suzette (Meili Bookluck), the hired cook, is mistaken for Suzanne by Robert and is employed to pretend to be his lover; Suzanne, clueless as a cook, is manoeuvred into the kitchen as if she is the late arriving chef; and George (Robert Hill), Suzette’s jealous, strong-arm husband, won’t let any man stand if he suspects them of cheating with his wife.

While safe-keeping his marital bond Bernard tries desperately to throw suspicion from himself while orchestrating to somehow, somewhere in his house, keep his assignation with Suzanne. Jacqueline has a similar motive with the added complication of having to endure the threat of Suzette’s position with Robert. 

Do you follow? Don’t worry if you don’t, neither do the characters in this tangled web of deception. Every time they stop to make sense of it all another thread is spun.

Mistress (Rachele Edson) and Wife (Margreta Moir) give faux-mistress (Meili Bookluck) and lover (Michael Barlow) their comeuppance.
Mistress (Rachele Edson) and Wife (Margareta Moir) give faux-mistress (Meili Bookluck) and lover (Michael Barlow) their comeuppance.

In a production built on big comedic performances, Bookluck’s plucky Suzette steals the show. Edson’s sultry Suzanne is portrayed with intellect so this beautiful bombshell never deteriorates into caricature. Moir never disappoints – Jacqueline’s every thought is translated in the plasticity of her facial expressions. The verve in the energetic exchanges between Clark’s Bernard, Barlow’s Robert and Suzette carry the pace and the humour. Hill, a newcomer to ATC delivers George with just the right enthusiasm.

Director Tom Richards and Assistant Director, Arianne Hough offer a very entertaining night out at the theatre – the laughs are on a roll throughout. It’s a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

Don’t Dress For Dinner is playing at the Cronulla School of Arts, 6 Surf Road, Cronulla, until 21 March, 2020.

Book tickets online artstheatrecronulla.com.au or phone 9523 2779

To Thine Own Self Be True

Managing Carmen by David Williamson

The Guild Theatre

Walz St, Rockdale

17th May-8 June, 2019

AFL Player Brent (Russell Godwin) is being counselled by psychologist and voice coach, Jessica (Donna Randall).AFL Player Brent (Russell Godwin) is being counselled by psychologist and voice coach, Jessica (Donna Randall).
AFL Player Brent (Russell Godwin) is being counselled by psychologist and voice coach, Jessica (Donna Randall).

How can we ever be happy if we are not true to ourselves? True to who we want to be, who we enjoy being and who we would relax into self-fulfilment with? If we had the adulation of an adoring public, over-arching success in our dream career and enormous wealth, would cynicism, aloofness and a disconnect with those around us dog us? Famous footballer, Brent’s, problem is compounded by his fame. He is an incredibly talented AFL player who is acclaimed for his prowess on the field and admired for the glamorous life he is reported to have. No one suspects that he nurses an incongruous peccadillo, that once exposed, could threaten his career.

The Guild Theatre tells us that David Williamson wrote the Managing Carmen, ‘as a protest about the lives of AFL players and the game itself and as a plea for the tolerance of diversity.’ Williamson’s enormous talent brings to bear such hefty social issues with a light touch: we are too overtaken with laughter to realise we are being taught with a modern-day parable. He incites personal courage to live beyond others’ expectations calling for bravery to be who we are, and appeals to our society to accept the difference in others that we may not understand.

AFL Player Brent (Russell Godwin) is being counselled by psychologist and voice coach, Jessica (Donna Randall).
AFL Player Brent (Russell Godwin) is being counselled by psychologist and voice coach, Jessica (Donna Randall).

Russell Godwin brings a sensitivity to Brent whose private persona is both vulnerable and aloof. His transformation in the hands of psychologist Jessica (Donna Randall) is organic and believable, however, the burgeoning relationship between the two is a little downplayed. Brent is the money making prop of his agent, Rohan, played with oozing smarm by David Hines, and the target of maligning sports journalist, Max (Chad Smith), who actively searches for shears to cut down this tall poppy. The strong supporting cast is rounded out with Clara (Caitlin Gleeson), Brent’s opportunistic girlfriend.

Muckraking sports journalist, Max (Chad Smith) needling Brent's agent, Rohan (David Hines).
Muckraking sports journalist, Max (Chad Smith) needling Brent’s agent, Rohan (David Hines).

The Guild Theatre’s is an ambitious production with the integration of filmed shorts and live theatre. It makes effective use of multimedia techniques to create the sense of excitement that comes with celebrity and also to build the larger than life public persona that is suffocating AFL star, Brent. By swaying focus between the large screen and stage performers, a sense of the two lives Brent lives is highlighted but also how he is ever watched and scrutinised.

James Searle’s set maintains a nebulous space with token furnishings and on-point lighting to carry the flow of this play of short scenes and quick changes. Director Chris Searle has stitched together a lot of quick and pithy segments with seamless ease. She also makes good use of sight gags with her able cast.

Rohan (David Hines), treated to the clubbing antics of Brent's girlfriend Clara (Caitlin Gleeson) and her free-spirited intimate, Carmen (Russell Godwin).
Rohan (David Hines), treated to the clubbing antics of Brent’s girlfriend Clara (Caitlin Gleeson) and her free-spirited intimate, Carmen (Russell Godwin).

The Guild Theatre’s Managing Carmen is a big show, with big laughs and a big message, now showing at 8 June 2019. For bookings call 02 9520 7364 or online: www.guildtheatre.com.au

Images courtesy of The Guild Theatre, Rockdale

Review first published for The St George Leader

Mom’s Gift -Theatre Review


Mom’s Gift by Phil Olsen

The Sutherland Theatre Company

Sutherland Memorial School of the Arts, East Parade Sutherland

1st March – 10th March

Dir: Colleen Boyle

Mom’s Gift, to the Sutherland Shire is a comedy filled with wisecracks, witty one liners and running jokes that send up local erks and perks with esoteric Shire knowledge. The Sutherland Theatre Company have taken a very funny script and cleverly adapted it to reflect the local community with running jokes and local references adding that extra touch.

Mom’s Gifts, her eternal presence, permeates the lives of those she has left behind, her widower and two daughters. Her death after a car accident has devastated her family and in particular, her daughter, Kat (Belinda Balhatchet), who was travelling at the time. Kat’s relationship with her father (Tony Girdler) and sister, Brittany (Holly Johnston) lacks any kind of understanding or commitment. She has never really tried to get to know them or understand their motives. After an incident with the police resulting from her struggle with anger management, she is ordered to spend time with her family. She arrives home to celebrate her father’s birthday. The ghost of her dead mother (Valerie McMullan) has also arrived. Mom is there to prove herself worthy of angel’s wings but she is unsure of whom or what she is supposed to heal. Unfortunately, only Kat can see or hear her.

This is a sentimental story that looks at the broken relationships that can occur in any family, including a nuclear one. It shows the judgements we make and how they can limit our understanding and the depth of our commitment to each other. It takes the enforced confinement of the birthday celebration to reveal each character’s motives and eventually to lead to their reconciliation. Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear.

Director, Colleen Boyle, makes a smart move in setting this American play locally. The message is universal and is deftly delivered in our local twang with local colour. The action unfolds over the course of a Shark’s game and references to Hooters and Port Hacking High give the impression that it was written for the Shire.

Tony Girdler delivers Dad with the assured reality of a seasoned performer. Belinda Balhatchet’s Kat is very likeable despite her determined outrage. Christiane Brawley’s Trish, as Dad’s new love interest, injects warmth and a grounded Australianess to the production. The cast is rounded out with Paul Byrne playing Kevin, Kat’s childhood love interest and Sandra Archer is colourful neighbour, Mrs Norquist.

Mom’s Gift may be an award winning 21st century American comedy but this production has a very Aussie, very Shire, slant.

Now playing at the Sutherland School of Performing Arts until March 10.

Bookings ph: 9150 7574 or visit http://www.thesutherlandtheatrecompany.com.au/page2.htm

Review published by the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader as Mom’s Gift is a Gift to the Shire.