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Review: Short and Sweet - Week 4 at the Tom Mann Theatre

Review By Lee Sarich

A lively buzz on Saturday night sees the next instalment of Sydney Short and Sweet theatre festival at the Tom Mann Theatre, Surry Hills. With 4 weeks to go if you haven’t been already, get yourself there, if you have been, go again, you’re sure to be entertained, delighted, inspired and thoughtfully provoked.

ALL THE WORLD LOVES A CLOWN Written by Kel Vance / Directed by Taufeeq Ahmed.

British Flower as the Clown in a superb costume carries the air of high energy children’s entertainer into deeper introspection as she discusses with princess character colleague Mansi Gandhi the virtues of their art. The princess costume is also impressive but pales bedside the discussions about princess stereotypes, and systems of inequality it may support. At times I found the pace of Gandhi’s dialogue difficult to follow, but gripping writing grappled with several issues at an easily digestible pace. Serious issues well treated with painted permanent smiles and big funny shoes.

COMPLEX Written & Directed by Davo Hardy.

The show starts with ‘volunteers’ being selected from the audience.

Ethan Taylor as Lachlan is interviewing potential flatmates. His can holding drinking hat provides good insight into his quirky character. Jem Rose Bartlett as Debra is the first candidate but she’s quickly deemed unsuitable and sent on her way. Enter Davo Hardy as Travis, he’s a good fit and moves in immediately. To Travis’ surprise he finds Lachlan likes to ‘rock out with his cock out’ Lachlan is a naturalist and conservative flatmates be damned. With great poise and courage Taylor continues his unfaltering performance naked and is soon joined by the volunteers, also naked as they converse relaxedly on the couch. Debra returns and wastes little time before she too is au naturale. Travis can bear it no longer, and bares all to his own consternation. Whatever vibe Lachlan and his friends have though, Travis apparently doesn’t understand as they leave him for somewhere more accepting. For six people naked on the stage the sense of normalcy was somehow maintained. A testament to confident actors and directing.

DISPATCH Written by Andrew Cooper / Directed by Alyssa Gillgren.

A 911 call centre operator takes us through the perils of vicarious trauma. Starting with a sincere desire to help we watch the operator decline as a series of endless emergencies take their toll. Good writing and directing enhance the urgent building of tension. Standout performances from the stab victim, the surreptitious call for help from someone experiencing domestic violence, the young girl and the fire victim. The fireman and paramedic provide good authoritative contrast to the many varied and panicked victims. Great make-up for knife and violence wounds. Powerful ending left me considering the overlooked ‘first responders.’

LETTING GO, Script and Performance Facilitated by Peter David Allison.

Georgia Drewe is Jenn Macro, a young woman waiting to see a doctor in a hospital emergency department. Tsu Shan Chambers is Patricia Elgort, taking a moments rest from visiting her dying husband she sits next to Jenn. They recognise each other. Patricia’s husband taught Jenn piano. Drewe navigates masterfully the transitions between reluctant secret holder, confused hurt, to empowered anger demanding answers. ‘Did you know?’ A relevant question for our times. Patricia confronts the answers, for Jenn and for herself. Maybe for us all. They part uplifted, uplifting.

LOVE ME TINDER Written by Melinda Jensen / Directed by Stephanie Reeves.

Melinda Jensen is Woman, earnestly searching for love on Tinder. Mark J Wilson and David Hodgkins play Man numbers 1 through 11. Quick changes and distinctively different characters are well presented in different costumes and affectations providing a quick view into several varied Tinder nightmares. Woman maintains her humour and composure through every flavoured disaster. Things are looking up when Man number 12, Steve Stojcevski presents as an attractive and possibly acceptable option. Awkward and genuine, quickly relaxed and comfortable, Man number 12 and Woman meet with convincing ease, proving that love really will triumph over all, even the many vagaries of Tinder.

Written by John and Kay Longhurst, MUM'S THE WORD looks at interfering mothers setting up a blind date between two unsuspecting singles. A simple set of a table and chairs is any café anywhere, and Ally O’Brien is introduced as Kate, who is waiting, she thinks, to meet her mother. Nathan Moss as David enters from the audience, a nice touch from Director Steven Tait, anything adding to capturing the audience in a ten minute play pays off. David and Kate bump through the palpably awkward anxiety of a surprise first date developing into warm comfortable affection with some good laughs. Light and fun.

ON THE WAY OUT Written by Wendy Hopkins / Directed by Kristelle Zibara. Madeleine Sykes as Common Sense flits impatiently around the stage waiting to be needed. Anjelica Murdaca as Manners is politely ever helpful and hopeful of being useful. Both characters appear somewhat neutral in subdued tones with white shirts proclaiming their Character. Tia Beale strides on as Truth, asserted by her own white shirt and blazing in bright red. Ron Mitchelson and Julian Herrera are passing through, but not if Manners, The Truth and Common sense can get a hold of them first. Personified inner dialogues are fun and this one works well.

THE BOYFRIEND, Written & Directed by Brian Haydon.

Rebecca Howarth is Rose, the mother, and Ruth Smoother is Paula, the daughter, the two discuss the imminent arrival of Paula’s new boyfriend. With few modifications the table and chair is now at home in a kitchen. Rose maintains a severe Eastern European attitude and accent, relentlessly grilling Paula about the boyfriend with intense distain. Paula circles around all the issues possible and imagined deftly allaying her mother’s fears. Pleasant and comical look at the complexity of our simplest relationships.

THE COUNSELLORS Written & Directed by Andrew Savreemootoo.

Emma Johnson as Cassandra is waiting at a train station, forlorn and lost, enhanced by faded denim. We know its a train station as Yvonne Balakian as the Train Guard announces the next train, ‘stay behind the yellow line.’ Richard Littlehales bursts on as Kevin, running from a crisis, his knuckles bloodied. Cassandra reveals she is a counsellor and attempts to help. As their story grows more serious and entwined the Train Guard gets drunker and announcements become more hilarious, providing stark relief and contrast to the developing tragedy. In spite of the Guards assertion ‘there’s no connections here’ connections are established but not as we’d hope. There was a moment of confusion when the tragic connection is revealed, had it not been revealed earlier and if so, how could it be a surprise now, but over all a great idea in a tight script well performed.

THE DATE Written by Chris Naylor / Directed by Swarada Patil.

Dhaval Pandya plays He, Riya Bhatara She, in a comical look at speed dating and how our minds can run away with us. Planning the divorce before the first date is over He and She take off on a fantastic journey of adventurous fantasy. Pandya and Bhatara bounce off each other through disasters and triumphs that never happen showing all the tensions, misunderstandings and striving for compromise of long term relationships. Lost dreams, second chances and renewed affections. Then the illusion is over and its ‘Next!’

THE MOUNTAIN Written & Directed by Susan Stapleton.

Donna Randall is Sian, Susan Stapleton is Kerry, two tourists led by Anne McMaster as Meg, their able tour guide. Meg and Kerry are decked out in appropriate outdoor gear for the two day mountain trek. Sian less so in leopardskin tights and white t-shirt. Inappropriate for outdoors but totally fitting for her definitely not outdoorsy attitude. Meg is calm and stoic as Sian and Kerry fight for the title of relaying the best/worst menopause experience. Kerry wins with an explosively impassioned declaration of menopausal woes. Urging equanimity to conquer the mountain, Meg leaves them to gather fire wood. She returns to Sian’s relentless demands that she share her own menopause story. Eventually Meg does, maintaining her even disposition she unnerves all with the best story yet. Funny and surprising.

UNEXPECTED TURNS OF EVENTS Written by Pete Malicki / Directed by Nathan Large.

Jean-Pierre Yerma is Least Favourite Parent, a term coined for him by his insufferable wife. With great energy Yerma expresses the desperation and exasperation of life with his wife as he tries to ready their son for school. Switching from frantic husband and father to mild and meek son Yerma pull us into and through a frenzied morning routine. Through obstacles immeasurable Least Favourite Parent thwarts his pint sized neighbour, board of directors and clients, survives being hit by a bus and manages to emerge triumphant. Frenetically paced enthusiastic entertainment.

WWW.SURVEYHONEY.COM Written by Seth Freeman / Directed by David McKay.

On stage is a large bed and bedside table, a bedroom. In the bed are Bob Deacon as Bob and Sandra Martin as Lois. Post coital musings are interrupted by a phone call. It’s a survey, it won’t take long.. Bob uncomfortably blunders through a series of questions examining his most recent intimate encounter. There seems to be a reluctance in the affection between Bob and Lois but Lois warms up as she starts to answer questions too. Heidi Pavlic provides the perfect Auto Phone Voice as she asks the questions. Clever props with the sex tip magazine and the survey ends with Bob and Lois ready for more research.

Images Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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