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

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Theatre Review: Daylight Saving

Daylight Saving by Nick Enright

The Guild Theatre Ltd, Rockdale

15 Feb – 9 Mar

Director: Lyn Lee

Daylight Saving. Saving what? Time? Summer? The sunset? A relationship? The 1980s? Rockdale’s Guild Theatre opens its 2019 season with a hilarious production of Nick Enright’s enduring comedy, Daylight Saving.

Since it premiered in 1989, Enright’s play has seen waves of production ebb and flow across the country. A slice of life, Enright’s acute observation of people and events are translated in a time capsule masquerading as a stage. From the tape deck, VCR and communal living room phone – remember that thing- through a focus on tennis, throwaway references to Colonel Raubuka, jokes on the names of then, exotic Japanese food, to the wide belts, boofy hair, wicker furniture and technicolour artwork, the 1980s are brought vividly to life by the script, the set and the costumes. We don’t laugh at the 80s, the text is too strong for that, the 80s render an entertaining, lightweight tale.

Tom (Tye Byrnes) and Felicity (Rosemary Ghazi) the challenged couple.

Tom (Tye Byrnes) and Felicity (Rosemary Ghazi) the challenged couple.

Under the capable direction of Lyn Lee, the characters are brought to life in heightened proportions that are recognisable and easy to sympathise with. Felicity, a successful restauranteur, is forced to examine her marriage after she is interviewed on TV and comes off unfavourably. Being questioned about fidelity particularly piques her. At the outset we are presented with a typical married couple, which is how Enright reaches out to touch his audience – this could be anyone’s marriage. Self-examination brings Felicity to the realization of how unfulfilled and neglected she is. With husband-Tom away, and her first lover, Josh, calling on her she allows temptation an opening. Unfortunately for Josh’s brazen attempt at seduction, he has to weather the sudden appearances of Felicity’s neighbour, mother, a famous tennis player and then Tom as well.

Tennis Pro (Brayden Palmer), Tom (Tye Byrnes), Reignited Love (Haki Pepo Olu Crisden) and Neighbour, Stephanie, (Susan Stapleton)

Tennis Pro (Brayden Palmer), Tom (Tye Byrnes), Reignited Love (Haki Pepo Olu Crisden) and Neighbour, Stephanie, (Susan Stapleton)

Rosemary Ghazi heads a well-cast ensemble. Her portrayal of Felicity bubbles with warmth, vulnerability, feistiness and humour. Tye Byrnes is suitably absorbed in his client’s career and by extension his own. Haki Pepo Olu Crisden exudes American confidence and charm while Susan Stapleton’s Stephanie is a recognisable member of many a female fraternity of friends. Newcomer Brayden Palmer shines in a sparkling cast as the immature, self-absorbed tennis prodigy while veteran, Deidre Campbell’s Bunty embodies the adorable, well meaning, clueless mother.

Josh the Lover (Haki Pepo Olu Crisden), The Mother, Bunty (Deirdre Campbell) and Felicity (Rosemary Ghazi).

Josh the Lover (Haki Pepo Olu Crisden), The Mother, Bunty (Deirdre Campbell) and Felicity (Rosemary Ghazi).

An Aussie classic, Daylight Saving may be, but don’t expect a laid back, concentrated essay on manners flavoured with Australiana. More, a fast paced comedy with plenty of laughs delivering timeless and straight forward marital advice – don’t get so caught up in your work that you lose perspective on your relationship. It, in this case, she, needs care and attention, too.

Daylight Saving is a polished production that delivers a fun night out.

Walz St, Rockdale – turn right from the west side of Rockdale Station

Bookings 9521 6358

theguildtheatrerockdale@gmail.com

Review First Published on the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader website as Relationships Under the Spotlight in Classic Aussie Comedy, Daylight Saving

1. Community Theatre: The Turtle and the Empty Stage

This year I’ve attended and reviewed a lot of community theatre. I love it. I love it that there is so much of it around Sydney. I love it that it brings people together to create theatre and to watch it. In our smart phone world, the physicality of live theatre is fresh and vital and compelling. Done well, it’s a wholly engaging form of storytelling that pulses before you.
It’s not always perfect and there are certain foibles that recur across different forms of community theatre and styles of presentation. I thought at this time of the year I’d reflect a little on them.

The Stage tells a Story – Creates a Theatrical Illusion
Key to creating good theatre is the aim to immerse the audience in the glamour – the make-believe illusion of its reality. All the actors onstage have to be engaged with this reality whether they have an action to convey or not or whether they are speaking or not. If a performer is on stage they must always remain in character.
It may sound obvious and automatic but it’s not.
Active Listening is Important
Active listening happens when a performer being spoken to listens and response with their entire being to a speaking actor or action onstage. If you don’t have a speaking part – how attentive is your character to what is being conveyed – can the audience see with your stance, posture, gestures how the information / action is affecting you? Are you conveying the importance of what the speaking performer is saying by your attentiveness?

Lonely hearts, Katherine (Peggy Leto) and John (Barry McMaster)

Lonely hearts, Katherine (Peggy Leto) and John (Barry McMaster) photo credit: Craig O’Regan

At the current production of Rockdale’s Guild Theatre’s Silent Night, Lonely Night I was thrilled by the performance of lead actress, Peggy Leto. Her character listened to monologue after monologue of text and was absolutely engaged by it – we saw it in the way her character was affected by what was being said in her gestures and facial expressions. When her character’s turn to audibly respond came, her words didn’t gush out like a newly released dam. In keeping with her character, her responses were measured and timely. When she spoke on the phone, the silences in the half imagined-dialogue had a natural duration – the audience could make out the exact responses of the invisible, inaudible other side of the phone line.

Being this comfortable on stage comes with the confidence of knowing lines early in the rehearsal process so that your character and her/his relationships with other characters can be shaped in rehearsals and continue to grow in performance.
Advice to actors – know your lines as early as possible in the rehearsal process – when you don’t it shows.

A mark of a good performance – the mark of a good cast – the mark of a confident director is the use of pace and silence. If your cast can maintain the illusion of the story when they are silent on stage, the stage can support great moments of dramatic tension that come with silence. A dramatic high or low has been reached – the playwright is making his/her big statement – then let it sink in. Don’t denigrate it by rushing over it. Silence has impact – so long as all on stage remain in character.

See Peggy Leto in Silent Night, Lonely Night at Rockdale’s Guild Theatre until 24th November 2018

Next – in 2. Community Theatre- The Turtle and the Empty Stage acting appendages – accents, disabilities and the empty stage

Can Romance Thrive over the Course of a Marriage?

Silent Night, Lonely Night by Robert Anderson

Director: Jim Searle

26 October – 24 November, 8pm

The Guild Theatre, Rockdale

Lonely hearts, Katherine (Peggy Leto) and John (Barry McMaster)

Lonely hearts, Katherine (Peggy Leto) and John (Barry McMaster) Photo Credit: Craig O’Regan

Can romance thrive through the course of a marriage? What happens when it takes a sabbatical? Does infidelity necessarily spring solely from wanton abandon?

In 1959 sex could cast a long shadow away from a dawning horizon and into the lingering night. Love, sex, marriage and fidelity were inextricably bound. Indulging sexually could set your life’s course because of the pervasive belief that sex belonged wholly in holy matrimony. Extra-marital liaisons were considered wanton at the very best. To partake outside the circumscription allowed social expectations to dictate the “what’s next” in your entire life’s path.

Robert Anderson’s play delves into the nature of romantic love, the consequences of sexual relations in a society scaffolded on Christian morality and contrasts these traditional notions with the uninhibited ability of the sexual act to be a source of comfort and communion with another person. In 2018, with our freedom to speak and explore, and the offering of life choices in pluralistic plethora, the play still holds a message. It explores the fragility of romantic love in a long term relationship and loneliness, in its absence.

Off to see a movie reel, Barry Mc Master (John) and Peggy Leto (Katherine)

John and Katherine, off to see a movie reel, Barry Mc Master and Peggy Leto, Photo Credit: Darren McDowell

It’s Christmas Eve. One of the loneliest nights of the year for many. Katherine (Peggy Leto) has come to visit her son in a small American town where he attends school. He is in the school infirmary and she must see him off to meet her husband in London. She won’t be joining them. She refuses her husband’s call. We aren’t told why.

Having already asked the newly-weds also staying in the hotel to join him that night, self-professed widower, John (Barry McMaster) loses no time in infiltrating Katherine’s solitude and dinner in her suite. An incurable romantic he regales her with the story of his great love for his wife and his loneliness, his pain. She listens. Her experience of marriage is contrasted with his, and so is her personality.

The play is delivered with humour, intellect and sensitivity. Barry McMaster’s gregarious portrayal of a middle-aged American man, confident in his ability to engage with people and unquestioning in his entitlement to do so, is vivid and convincing. His stories and his person fill the stage.

The Newly-Weds, Phillip (Russell Godwin) and Janet (Eloise Tanti)

The Newly-Weds, Phillip (Russell Godwin) and Janet (Eloise Tanti), Photo Credit: Craig O’Regan

Peggy Leto’s Katherine is John’s foil. Reserved and anxious, she gradually warms to John’s presence in her suite. Her delivery is subtle and restrained. Despite her American accent there’s a decidedly understated, Australian character about her delivery. She’s a joy to watch. Often silent for long stretches of John’s monologue Leto communicates with gesture and movement – silently acknowledging what she’s heard, urging him to continue with a nod or questioning his veracity with her eyes to comic effect. They are joined by a capable supporting cast.

Director, Jim Searle delivers a reflective night at the theatre with quite a few laughs thrown in. Silent Night, Lonely Night is just the play to ease you into the fast approaching Christmas season as you join John and Katherine in a small rural inn in New England.

Bookings can be made online at www.guildtheatre.com.au or (ph) 9521 6358.

Review: I’ll be Back Before Midnight

The Guild Theatre, Rockdale
Director: Jennifer Gilchrist

This was first published in the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, online edition.

The coals are lit, the broth is brewing, the Guild Theatre cauldron is fed a dash of Beetlejuice, a flower from the attic and a sprinkle of Sherlock Holmes to offer up Peter Colley’s international smash, I’ll be Back Before Midnight. This black comedy, sans satire, is seasoned with a little drama, plenty of plot twists and a revelry in horror movie tropes.

I'll be back by Midnightcouch

Lani Crooks as Jan Stapleton and Robert Mason as George Willowby, photo courtesy of the Guild Theatre

Jan Sanderson (Lani Crooks) is a neurotic wife who has just been discharged from mental care after a nervous breakdown. In spite of her anxiety, her husband, mild mannered archaeologist, Greg (George Gleeson), takes her to the country. It’s Jan’s hope that they will reinvigorate their marriage. Laura (Natalija Karna) arrives with a mind to renew her relationship with her brother as well. George (Robert Mason) is the hands-on landlord/caretaker with an incorrigible black sense of humour, an easy yarn and a wicked laugh, who checks in on them from time to time.

Jan and sister-in-law, Laura (Natalija Karna)

Jan and sister-in-law, Laura (Natalija Karna), photo courtesy the Guild Theatre

What begins, somewhat, as a psychological drama soon develops into a thriller as we question where the action is really taking place – in reality or in Jan’s head? Is her sister-in-law really playing with her mind? What’s really going on between the siblings? Natalija Karna’s Laura is needy and conniving. George Gleeson cruises along evenly as a likable Greg, until… da, dah, daaaah – no spoilers. Robert Mason embodies the rustic farmer with country charm from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. He has a lot of fun with George and so do we.

Archaeologist, Greg Sanderson (George Gleeson) and his landlord, George Willowby (Robert Mason), photo courtesy The Guild Theatre

Archaeologist, Greg Sanderson (George Gleeson) and his landlord, George Willowby (Robert Mason), photo courtesy The Guild Theatre

Painted in sepia, Bill Ayers’ and Jim Farrow’s set design is deceptively ordinary. This 80’s living room comes alive with clever sound effects and various lighting techniques that complement each other to offer the kind of haunted house you’d experience watching an old movie. The house extends past the stage with exits in the usual places but each closed door or drawn curtain holds expectations as the house and performance gradually comes alive with suspense and sinister purpose.

The sound effects pervade the house spreading unease. Mundane noises, aptly timed and curtly delivered, are incorporated to help put you on the edge of your seat, and unexpected exits and entrances to jolt you out of them. The central sliding doors become a focus of suspense in the second act as Lani Crooks hits her stride when the canard woven around Jan begins to fray.

If you like haunted houses, old horror movies and plot twists you’ll enjoy, I’ll be Back Before Midnight. It’s playing at the Guild Theatre, Walz St, Rockdale throughout August, closing on September 1. Tickets can be booked on ph: 9521 6358 or online http://www.guildtheatre.com.au/2018-season/ill-be-back-before-midnight/

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