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Artist borrows the lyrics of Paul Kelly to etch a man's soul

  • July 15, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Linda Morris for The Age.

After graduating from art school, sometime in his mid-20s, David Frazer tried emulating the revered balladeer Paul Kelly.

Frazer wanted to write the kind of songs that would make people cry, and win public adulation as a rock star idol along the way.

It turns out Frazer was too impatient for songwriting, and he couldn’t find subjects he cared enough about to write the kind of poetry that would bend an audience to his will.

Frazer instead became a karaoke act, and then moved on to acting, but didn’t find much success there either beyond a few bit parts in films and commercials.

”I was really bad at showbiz,” says Frazer. ”My last gig was as a gorilla spruiking customers outside a cafe in Sale, and I thought, ‘I can’t get any lower than this’, and that’s when I retired and thought, ‘maybe art is something I’m best at’.”

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Arts Review: Mein Kampf

  • July 11, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Tim Byrne for Arts Review.

Central to George Tabori’s extraordinary play Mein Kampf is the notion that laughter is the only sane response to unspeakable horror. It’s certainly a refutation of the famous line by Theodor Adorno that ‘to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’. Humour, black as burnt coal, is here seen as humanity’s only weapon against unsurpassed brutality.

Set in Vienna in a hostel for the homeless, the play tells the tale of Shlomo Herzl [Steve Gome], who with the help of his friend Lobkowitz [David Kambouris], is attempting to write his memoir. They have just come up with the title of Mein Kampf when a short, irritable Austrian [Glenn van Oosterom] turns up, determined to apply the next day for a place in the Vienna Academy of Art.

It doesn’t take us long to realise we are at a pivotal moment in history, the rejection from Art school that supposedly set Adolf Hitler on a path of genocidal destruction and hate. What makes the play so disturbing is the unwitting but undeniable facilitation that Shlomo gives Hitler, the sense that Jewish kindness and amelioration lends succour to the future mass-murderer of the Jewish people. The moment when Shlomo washes Hitler’s feet is one of the most chilling in recent memory.

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Melbourne.Arts.Fashion: The Seafarer

See article in its original context here by Melynda von Wayward for Melbourne.Arts.Fashion.

The Seafarer by Conor McPherson

Hoy Polloy presents the Victorian premiere of The Seafarer by Conor McPherson, directed by Wayne Pearn and featuring Barry Mitchell, Geoff Hickey, Adam Rafferty, David Passmore and Michael F Cahill at fortyfivedownstairs from Wednesday, 30 July to Sunday, 10 August 2014.
Hoy Polloy founder and artistic director, Wayne Pearn, describes The Seafarer as “a really intimate observation of male dereliction – it’s about us needing darkness in our lives so we are able to grasp the light.” 

The Seafarer is set in Baldoyle a suburb on the coast north of Dublin on Christmas Eve James ‘Sharky’ Harkin is battling alcoholism and has returned to live with his hard drinking older blind brother Richard.

As the night rolls on and the storm clouds gather the brothers are joined by an assortment of friends – one of whom brings an unfamiliar guest insisting on a game of poker.

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Arts Review: On the Couch with Maude Davey

See interview in its original context here by Arts Review.

Who is Maude Davey?
I’m an actor and a director. I work in the theatre, that pretty much sums me up. It’s what I love most.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I think about this quite a lot. I have achieved pretty much everything I set out to achieve. So when I think back and imagine what I might do differently, it is simply this. I would aim higher. You get what you are able to imagine for yourself, or you become what you are able to imagine yourself being. I wish I’d wanted more, imagined more for myself.

Who inspires you and why?
Hmmm. I’m inspired by people around me more than by international celebrities or movie stars. People who have kept going with dignity and courage and purpose, through the bad bits as well as the good. Ponch Hawkes. John Romeril. Jenny Kemp.

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ArtsHub: Mein Kampf – Review

See review in its original context here by Robert Chuter for ArtsHub.

4 ½ out of 5 stars

Expert direction, dynamic performances, dazzling writing and design create a biting, clever and inspiring comedy.

Ever been stuck with a nightmare roommate who harbours delusions of grandeur? Most of us have a few horror stories about those we’ve lived with in the past. Imagine that situation multiplied to the point where the setting is Vienna and the nightmare roommate in question is a young enthusiastic art student (or applicant anyway) named Adolf Hitler… and his closest ‘friend’ is a Jewish hawker! Throw in God (or his nearest equivalent), a Catholic lover and even Mrs. Death and we have the extraordinary black comedy Mein Kampf. In this zesty, hilarious, and disturbing encore season by 15 Minutes from Anywhere this time at fortyfivedownstairs, talented director Beng Oh has crafted a sharp and multi-faceted production that combines farce and satire with a great ‘what if?

Writtenby Hungarian writer George Tabori, the play was a sensation at its premiere in 1987 and achieved the near-impossible task of making the Germans laugh at the Nazis. It is still a riot, taking pot shots at the Führer and his ideology with the accuracy of a sniper. (Tabori’s family were killed at Auschwitz, with his mother the sole survivor).

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Stage Whispers: Mein Kampf – Review

See review in its original context here by Michael Brindley for Stage Whispers.

By George (György) Tabori. Presented by La Mama and forty-five downstairs. Production Team: 15 Minutes from Anywhere (Beng Oh & Jane Miller). At fortyfivedownstairs (Melbourne). 2-13 July 2014.

On first meeting the poor would-be art student, Adolf Hitler, in a Jewish flophouse, Bible peddler and would-be writer, Schlomo Herzl, remarks, ‘Strange, you don’t look at all Jewish.’  The line got a laugh at the play’s premiere and has done so in numerous productions and many languages ever since.  Mein Kampf is a very black comedy, a mixture of farce, insight, erudition, slapstick, crude jokes (both sexual and scatological), real wit and devastating ironies.  When Hitler is rejected by the Vienna art school, it is Jewish Schlomo who advises him to go into politics – and helpfully trims his ridiculous moustache to the familiar ‘toothbrush’.

Can we laugh at Adolf Hitler?  How about Hitler’s victims?  George Tabori, who believed that the joke was the most perfect literary form, says ‘yes’. Laughter is necessary – or anyway, better than tears in order to understand and bring perspective to life’s tragedies.  Tabori was, after all, an admirer, translator and director of Bertolt Brecht.

Mein Kampf (also the title of course of Hitler’s autobiography) was first performed at the Vienna Akadamietheater in 1987.  The play gave permission, as it were, finally to laugh at Hitler – without saying that he was anything less than a monster, but one who was also ridiculous.

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Theatre Alive: Monday Musings with Mary Lou Jelbart

See interview in its original context here by Theatre Alive.

La Mama and fortyfivedownstairs have joined forces in an exciting new venture, aptly titled ENCORE, and are working together to bring two of La Mama’s most popular 2013 seasons to fortyfivedownstairs in 2014.

Through the program, these two well-known and highly respected arts venues highlight a commitment to delivering must-see theatre, and extending the lives of some of our most outstanding productions.

We talked with fortyfivedownstairs Artistic Director Mary Lou Jelbart about the reason for the season, the shows involved, and future plans.

Tell us a bit about ENCORE and how it came about?

I’ve always loved La Mama, and in fact the very first show at fortyfivedownstairs in 2002 was a La Mama production; Sailing on a Sea of Tears. It was my original dream that popular shows from La Mama should have another season and extend their audience here, but it has been difficult to plan.

This year I thought “now or never!” and Liz Jones was wonderfully supportive of the idea.

How did you choose the two shows that were to be a part of the inaugural season?

Last year I’d been unable to get a seat for Mein Kampf, and only just managed one for My Life in the Nude as both shows totally sold out, turning away audiences.

Malcolm Robertson, the theatre guru who sees everything in Melbourne, said that Mein Kampf was his top pick for 2013.

I fell in love with Maude Davey’s performance, and everything fell into place.

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Aussie Theatre: Mein Kampf – Review

See review in its original context here by James Jackson for Aussie Theatre.

Mein Kampf, written by Hungarian playwright George Tabori in 1987, examines a moment in history, namely, the existential calm before the onslaught of the Nazi regime – the calm before the storm.

Set in a flophouse in Vienna, it’s the story of Shlomo Herzel, a Jew attempting to write his magnum opus, called Mein Kampf, and quietly trying to survive. Chaos ensues when a young artist attempting to enrol in Vienna’s renowned fine art academy enters; his name is Hitler.

Mein Kampf deals with compassion. It parallels innate humanism with the obsessive and opportunistic features that have come to characterise the figure of Hitler. The work prefigures the historical events to come and maintains a skilled balance between the comic and the tragic. This is achieved through the audience’s insight. We all know what’s going to happen; nonetheless, we laugh at the childlike features of the young Hitler and cry at the compassion and endless optimism of Shlomo.

Between chaos and order, Mein Kampf shifts at times into allegory, a representation of the inability to ‘represent’ the horrors of these moments in history, or perhaps the inability to come to terms with our historical baggage. The space of fortyfive downstairs gives the piece a site-specific feel and merges perfectly with the simplistic set.

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The Sydney Morning Herald: The Seafarer

  • June 25, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Sonia Harford for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Soul searching: The drink flows in The Seafarer, but the prize for the winning hand is greater than any normal card game when a new face turns up at the table.

A mysterious stranger is the wildcard in many a play or film, usually amping up our sense of unease.

Menacing or benign, the new player at the poker table arrives to upset the status quo, portending any number of cathartic events.

In theatre, Irish writers have long staked a claim on such atmospheric drama. Poetic stories seem to ferment in their peat bogs.

Conor McPherson is one of a modern breed of acclaimed Irish playwrights, along with The Leenane Trilogy writer Martin McDonagh. Mythic and supernatural themes characterise McPherson’s early works such as The Seafarer, soon to be staged by Melbourne’s Hoy Polloy ensemble.

‘‘The Seafarer is the most out-and-out religious play I’ve written,’’ McPherson acknowledges, on the phone from Ireland. ‘‘It sits very comfortably in the Christian myth. But it is is also very much a pagan play, harking back to very primal fundamental forces. The play takes place on Christmas Eve but also the winter solstice, the shortest day in the year – in this part of the world anyway. It’s about darkness and light, inner darkness and being delivered from that and trying to transcend that.’’

The Seafarer positions its late-night visitors around a poker game in a Dublin house. They arrive to join two brothers, one an alcoholic, one blind. Lingering, drinking, the men in this marooned group reveal their natures, the working-class idiom belying grander forces at stake. Cue an expensively dressed stranger.

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Arts Review: On the Couch with Beng Oh

  • June 25, 2014
  • news

See interview in its original context here by Arts Review.

On the Couch with Beng Oh

Who is Beng Oh?
Beng Oh, n. 1. a gay Asian-Australian director who resists labels. 2. a stubborn craftsman and persistent artist. 3. a work in progress.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Package my personal narrative for ease of consumption. Create a body of work which, for better or worse, is inextricably identified with Beng Oh.

Who inspires you and why?
French director Ariane Mnouchkine and her company, Théâtre du Soleil. They work collectively and collaboratively, often with writer and philosopher Hélène Cixous , and produce epic spectacles for the stage. Their work is rich in detail and draws on many influences, not least their ensemble of actors from over 20 countries. They are passionate, political and not afraid to grapple with ideas and intractable problems. Their work embraces complexity and is unforgettable ex. Le Dérnier Caravansérail (The Last Caravan Stop) which was seen at the 2005 Melbourne Festival.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Keep a small carbon footprint and keep making theatre. I subscribe to Ronnie Burkett’s definition of art as your personal contribution to the ever continuing conversation about life.

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Theatre Alive: ENCORE

  • June 23, 2014
  • news

See interview in its original context here by Theatre Alive. LA MAMA AND FORTYFIVEDOWNSTAIRS JOIN FORCES FOR ENCORE ENCORE is an exciting new creative partnership between two of Melbourne’s thriving independent performing arts venues; La Mama and fortyfivedownstairs. The inaugural ENCORE program will allow audiences…

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Toorak Times: The Three of Us – Review

  • June 20, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Matthew Grant for The Toorak Times.

★★★★

Wandering up and down the fortyfivedownstairs staircase to an open warehouse space that twists and turns and reinvents itself with each new show is a fun, Melbourne thing to do.

fortyfivedownstairs is currently playing The Three of Us , a Deany-Martini stirred n shaken, kinda show. You can rock along and be assured of a good night out. It’s a bottle of bubbles, a gaggle of giggles and a “yabba-dabba-dadda-dabba said the monkey to the chimp”, hoot of a good time.

The Three of Us showcases the works of three of Melbourne’s up-n-comin’ players: Michael Dalton, Luke Gallagher and Rachael Dunham. Essentially it’s a pint-sized Rat Pack cabaret show.

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Toorak Times: ENCORE

  • June 18, 2014
  • news

See article in its original context here by Jo McMahon for The Toorak Times.

ENCORE is breathing new life into Melbourne’s performing arts

ENCORE is the new creative partnership between two of Melbourne’s most successful independent performing arts venues, La Mama and fortyfivedownstairs.

Creative director of fortyfivedownstairs Mary Lou Jelbart explained that the program intended to give another run to some of La Mama’s most successful shows, this time being George Tabori’s Mein Kampf and Maude Davey’s My Life in the Nude.

“These two shows weren’t just picked because of their popularity, but more importantly because of their superior quality and their originality,” Mary Lou Jelbart said.

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TimeOut Melbourne: The Leenane Trilogy – review

See review in its original context here by Tim Byrne for TimeOut Melbourne.

★★★★

This back-to-back trilogy, starring Noni Hazlehurst, recaptures Martin McDonagh’s childhood filled with humour, darkness and violence

Martin McDonagh is often mentioned in the same breath as Quentin Tarantino, and indeed the poster for his Connemara trilogy invokes the filmmaker directly. I guess it’s the deliberately uncomfortable mix of violence and humour, the deadpan nihilism, which brings the cult director to mind. Of course, it could just be the body count.

McDonagh has a few films of his own under his belt now, but his career began with The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Set in the county in which his father was born, his first play drew heavily on the cultural and linguistic nuances of Connemara; bleak and insular, full of petty and long-standing grievance, made up of people struggling to live with themselves and each other.

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THE AGE: The Lonesome West – review

See review in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.

★★★★

The Lonesome West review: Family feud heats up in compelling black comedy

Kin Collective’s production of the The Lonesome West, the final leg of the Leenane trilogy, brings to life a brutally amusing Cain and Abel story set in the same shit-splat Irish town as the first two.

The Connor brothers, Coleman (James O’Connell) and Valene (Mark Diaco), are always at each other’s throats. They can’t help themselves. Even freshly returned from their father’s funeral, with the parish priest (Dean Cartmel) in the room, they’re at it hammer and tongs.

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The Age: A Skull in Connemara

See review in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.

A Skull in Connemara is the second and least well-known play in McDonagh’s Leenane trilogy, and the most ghoulish and macabre of the three. It delves (quite literally) into the graves of the unquiet dead of Leenane, whose estate is rightly to be envied by those still living in the town – riven as it is by small minds and wagging tongues, crushing boredom and endemic malice.

Every year, the town’s gravedigger Mick Dowd (Chris Bunworth) exhumes the remains in a section of the local cemetery. It’s a murderous chore made worse by the presence of the thick-skulled chatterbox Mairtin Hanlon (Tom Barton), and his dour copper brother Thomas (Pete Reid).

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Toorak Times: The Leenane Trilogy – Review

See review in its original context here by Leonard Miller for the Toorak Times.

REVIEWER RATING
Overall rating:
9
Amazing
Experience:
9
Amazing
Quality:
9
Amazing
Recommend:
9
Amazing
Usefulness:
9
Amazing

Martin McDonagh is something of a wunderkind playwright. At only 44, he is remarkably accomplished with successful film adaptations, West End and Broadway productions and Laurence Olivier and Critics’ Circle Theatre awards under his belt. In staging the entirety of his trilogy of plays set in and around the Irish coastal village of Leenane, the Kin Collective has made an ambitious choice which succeeds in doing justice to his well wrought epic.

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ArtsHub: The Leenane Trilogy – Review

See review in its original context here by Jennifer Porter for ArtsHub.

Tackling themes of co-dependency, alienation, escape and faith, the trilogy is superbly executed by the Kin Collective.

The Kin Collective is currently staging Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’sThe Leenane Trilogy at fortyfivedownstairs. The three plays are set in the first half of the 1990s in the district of Connemara, a small community on the west coast of Ireland.

The trilogy tackles themes of co-dependency, alienation, escape and faith. McDonough (best known for the film, In Bruges) explores how dependency can engender hatred and cruelty and lead to degradation of the human condition until its humanity is almost unrecognisable. In this world, escape comes only with alcohol (clung to and coveted like a like a life-giving elixir), migration away from homeland and family, or more tragically, through mental breakdown or death.

Image: Dean Cartmel, Mark Diaco and James O’Connell in the Kin Collective’s The Lonesome West. Image by Lachlan Woods.

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Onya Magazine: The Beauty Queen of Leenane – review

See review in its original context here by Jess Sykes for Onya Magazine.

The Leenane Trilogy – The Beauty Queen of Leenane

The first instalment of the KIN Collective’s Leenane Trilogy was so beautifully done that it has created an almost unbearable amount of anticipation for the next two plays.

Even as we entered the theatre, the wonderful Noni Hazlehurst was waiting on stage. She certainly created a far cry from her much-loved Playschool days, looking like she’s been passing the time shooting up with Jemima, after kicking the stuffing out of Big Ted.

She inhabited the role of Mag; the bitter, self-pitying, manipulative mother to Michala Banas’ Maureen so fully it was enthralling to watch. Martin McDonagh’s words and story were as dark and hilarious as always, but it was each of the four actors on stage that created such an intense and beautiful play to watch.

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THE AGE: The Beauty Queen of Leenane – Review

See review in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Beauty Queen of Leenane review: Noni Hazlehurst stuns in Irish revival

To stage the trilogy of plays that launched the career of Martin McDonagh (In BrugesThe Pillowman) is an ambitious project, especially for an independent theatre company. If the KIN Collective’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane is any guide, you should rush to snap up tickets to all three.

McDonagh’s imagination can be morbid, violent and grotesque. He has the darkest kind of sensibility – so dark it doesn’t feel right to call The Beauty Queen of Leenane a “black comedy”. The play’s utterly classical sense of structure, and the blighted rural Irish lives he draws, might place it closer to tragedy, but that doesn’t feel quite right either. Even “tragicomedy” would feel like an evasion.

No question you’re in the presence of a formidable drama, though, and some superb acting. The abusive relationship at the heart of the play is a gift for performers. Noni Hazlehurst and  Michala Banas dominate the stage as Mag and Maureen Folan, a mother and daughter bound together by mutual loathing and need.

If there’s any justice  Hazlehurst will win some sort of award for this star turn. The detail and presence she brings to the wounded, malicious, manipulative old matriarch are just staggering. She sits in her armchair like a noxious toad, consuming every atom of available oxygen.

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HERALD SUN: The Beauty Queen of Leenane – Review

See review in its original context here by Kate Herbert for the Herald Sun.

Rating: ★★★★

Theatre review: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (part one of trilogy), at fortyfivedownstairs

MARTIN McDonagh’s grim comic-tragedy, The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, seethes with the suppressed rage between a controlling mother and her hapless, middle-aged daughter.

In their isolated and dilapidated cottage in Connemara, on the windswept coast of Ireland, Mag (Noni Hazlehurst) and Maureen (Michala Banas) live out their miserable, repetitive daily lives of sniping, cruelty and mutual loathing.

Hazlehurst totally inhabits the manipulative, whining and contrary old harridan, Mag, delivering a superbly nuanced performance that makes us laugh and wince at Mag’s sneering secretiveness and shameless cruelty.

Michala Banas and Noni Hazlehurst in The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Picture: Lachlan Woods Source: Supplied

 

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AUSTRALIAN STAGE: The Beauty Queen of Leenane – Review

See review in its original context here by Melita Pereira for the Australian Stage.

Left – Michala Banas and Noni Hazlehurst. Cover – Linc Hasler, Michala Banas and Noni Hazlehurst. Photos – Lachlan Woods

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is the first play in Martin McDonagh’s “Leenane Trilogy”, a series of plays that confront the sometimes gruesome mediocrity of domestic life in rural Ireland. The Beauty Queen of Leenane portrays the story of Mag and Maureen Folan, and exposes the depraved cruelty of a mother-daughter relationship that has been pushed beyond the extremes of loathing.

The play opens with the sight of disheveled Mag Foley, sitting in her rocking chair with cantankerous anticipation. Her mouth twists in animated complaint as her daughterMaureen enters the house. The younger woman hunches slightly, acceding to the demands of her mother, her vibrancy vanishing under the oppression of her mundane responsibility. With this first caustic scene, the fictionalised world of McDonagh’s Leenane clicks into action.

Presented by Kin Collective and performed at fortyfivedownstairs, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is an edgy and confrontational theatre experience. Built on the solid foundation of McDonagh’s exuberant and razor-sharp dialogue, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a raw black comedy, always playing in the shadows of violence and grotesque honesty.

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CRIKEY: The Beauty Queen of Leenane – Review

See review in its original context here by Ben Neutze for Crikey.

3 1/2 stars

There’s something delightfully ‘90s about the way Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s 1996 play The Beauty Queen of Leenaneunfolds. The blend of black comedy, horror and heightened drama/melodrama emerging from domestic situations which McDonagh trades on is constantly familiar and feels pretty retro. But it’s the precision with which McDonagh pulls the elements together, the (somewhat predictable) twists and turns, and his undeniable wit that makes The Beauty Queen of Leenane a thrilling and enduring piece of theatre.

As the first play in McDonagh’s The Leenane Trilogy, it brings to life the people of Ireland and the community of the small, but beautiful village in Western Ireland, surrounded by sweeping green hills. It’s also where McDonagh spent his holidays as a child. Mother and daughter, Mag (Noni Hazlehurst) and Maureen Folan (Michala Banas), are living, or rather, surviving, in McDonagh’s Leenane. Maureen, a 40-year-old virgin who’s had to overcome her fair share of hardships is stuck looking after her sick 70-year-old mother. Their relationship is strained, to say the least, with Mag manipulating her daughter and doing all she can to prevent Maureen’s happiness and keep her to herself. We know that there’s beauty outside the front door of the Folan’s claustrophobic cottage, but it’s a beauty that’s trapped the people of Leenane.

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Herald Sun: Kin Collective present Martin McDonagh's The Leenane Trilogy

See article in its original context here by Michelle Pountney for the Herald Sun.

Kin Collective tackles theatre marathon with Leenane Triology

THREE plays, back to back, will test the skills of independent theatre group the Kin Collective.

The 10-member group will tackle Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy over little more than two weeks, including three marathon Sundays when all the plays will all be performed on the same day.

The three plays, set in rural Ireland, are described as being “flamboyantly gruesome dark comedies” with murders, spite, and complicated relationships aplenty.

Each play — The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull In Connemara, and The Lonesome West — will have its own short season as well as the triple-header Sunday performances.

Three directors lead three separate casts, including some big stage and television names who formed the Kin Collective after meeting at an acting masterclass with US acting coach Larry Moss.

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TimeOut: Mein Kampf

See interview in its original context here by Andrew Fuhrmann for the TimeOut Melbourne.

Glenn van Oosterom on Mein Kampf

Tom Shilling, Noah Taylor, Bruno Ganz and now Glenn van Oosterom. They’ve all played Hitler

After a sell-out run at La Mama in 2013, George Tabori’s controversial comedy, Mein Kampf, directed by Beng Oh, returns for an encore season at fortyfivedownstairs. Twenty-seven years after it premiered, Tabori’s farcical take on the sorrows of young Hitler is still as impertinent and improbable as ever, a play crammed with pratfalls and poignancy. Time out speaks to Glenn van Oosterom as he prepares to reprise his role as the frustrated-art-student-cum-tyrant-to-be.

Hi Glenn, how does one prepare for playing Hitler?

Phew. I don’t know? You take a really long time to decide if you want to do it, decide against it, and then you throw yourself into it. You do research, you study the script, you learn about the playwright.

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TOORAK TIMES: Review- The Consul

See article in its original context here by Lisa Romeo  for the Toorak Times.

3 1/2 stars

The Consul is a Pulitzer Prize Winning opera written by Gian Carlo Menotti; its first performance was seen in 1950 in Philadelphia and two weeks later it opened in New York City where it enjoyed a successful run of nearly eight months.

The Gertrude Opera welcomes to the stage its own season of The Consul now showing at Fortyfivedownstairs. It may be stripped bare of ornamentation, with no elaborate costumes, no thick, velvet curtains or fancy props, but this English speaking adaptation has all the drama and tragedy expected of an opera – the splendid soprano voices, the expert conducting of Rick Prakhoff and the great acting by a large cast of performers. It doesn’t have an entire symphony orchestra but none the less the piano playing of Katherine Day is so sweet and sublime that it assists the story in all its dark and compelling truths.

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THE AGE: The Consul Review

See article in its original context here by Barney Zwartz  for The Age.

3 1/2 stars

Anyone who thinks opera is an elitist art form should visit Gertrude Opera’s new production of The Consul by Menotti: the budget was apparently so tight that an oily rag would have been a luxury. Yet, by dint of fine singing and intelligent direction, the Gertrude Opera – the performing arm of the Melbourne Opera Studio – has pulled together a compelling account, and performed it most ably. I can’t say entertainingly, not for any flaw but because this opera is so unrelievedly grim and tragic.

Written in 1950, The Consul is about a callous and indifferent bureaucracy whose refusal to treat like human beings the people desperately seeking visas is pointedly and disturbingly reminiscent of Australia’s refugee policy.

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HEIDELBERG LEADER: The Consul

See article in its original context here by Natalie Filmer for the Heidelberg Leader.

American soprano Alissa Andraski lives in Ivanhoe East while doing The Opera Studio program, performing in Gertrude Opera’s The Consul at fortyfivedownstairs

AMERICAN soprano Alissa Andraski has travelled the world for her career for the past seven years.

After classical voice training at the famed Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan in the US, Ms Andraski completed a vocal performance degree in Italy.

She then moved to Germany to study voice and language, and performed there as well as in Austria, Switzerland and Holland.

The 27-year-old’s pursuit of her craft has now brought her to Ivanhoe East, where she will live for eight months while undertaking The Opera Studio’s performance program in Melbourne.

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THE AGE: Treading the Boards

See article in its original context here by John Bailey for The Age. Another tour in the nude When Maude Davey performed her My Life in the Nude show at La Mama last year, it was supposed to mark the retirement of the famous…

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Theatre People: Dylan Watson Talks The Beauty Queen of Leenane

See article in its original context here by K.E. Weber for Theatre People.

Martin McDonagh’s  disturbingly dark comedy, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, is coming to 45downstairs later this month as part of The Leenane Trilogy of plays.  Fresh from the new Angelina Jolie directed film Unbroken, actor Dylan Watson  joins Noni Hazlehurst and Michala Banas in the Irish village of Leenane.

Watson plays Ray Dooley who he describes as a young troublemaker. Ray lives under the shadow of his brother Pato who is a bit of a catch in the small town they live in. Ray has many aspiration but, unlike his brother, he seems locked into the force that is Leenane and is ultimately destined to live out his days in the kind of harrowing psychological pit that this small Irish town may symbolize.

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Theatre Alive: Monday Musings with Mark Diaco

See article in its original context here by Theatre Alive.

Melbourne independent company KIN Collective are gearing up to tackle not one, but three of Martin McDonagh’s brilliant plays in their next season.

The company features an eclectic mix of well-known actors from stage and screen, including the likes of Noni Hazlehurst, Michala Banas, Marg Downey and Keith Brockett.

We managed to nab some time with ensemble member Mark Diaco to chat about rehearsals, great writing, and the perks of working in the independent sector.

The KIN Collective is a fairly young company on the Melbourne Indie scene, tell us a bit about how and why you formed, and previous work?

I don’t know about young, this our third year as a company so as far as indie theatre is concern that would make us veterans I’d say!

In terms of work though, our only previous production to date isGlimpse; a self-devised piece written by the collective. It’s not out of laziness that we have only mounted one production, some of it’s got to do with availability, but I’d say when you have this many creative voices in a group it does tend to take time for a collective voice to submerge, and congeal.

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Toorak Times: HEX Review

See article in its original context here by Leonard Miller for the Toorak Times.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Celebrating its thirtieth year, the Next Wave Festival was established to foster creativity and experimentation with a focus on young emerging artists. In choosing choreographer James Welsby as a Next Wave Kickstart recipient and in programming his remarkable new work Hex, the festival has given everyone a birthday present. Full of energy and wit, the piece covers old ground in a new way and promises something of the grand new narrative which is the theme for this year’s Next Wave.

Hex is a discussion of the HIV/AIDS crisis which shook the western world from the early eighties to the mid nineties. It is a topic that has had many performative renderings, but Welsby still finds something new to say and a new way to say it. Lasting about an hour, the work draws strongly from the club dance styles of the period and almost uses them as its language. This also makes for a high energy show and all three dancers impress with their fitness and discipline.

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ArtsHub: HEX Review

See article in its original context here by Mark Brandi for the ArtsHub.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Hex explores the pain and struggle of fighting against adversity. Is is also a joyful celebration of what it means to be free.

For those who remember the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign of the 1980s, the Grim Reaper evokes a powerful emotional response. To this day, it remains a potent symbol of fear in our community.

With that fear, sadly, came much misunderstanding. Gay men in particular were stigmatised and singled out, as society tried to come to grips with a deadly pandemic.

In Hex, dancer and choreographer James Welsby ambitiously sets out to bridge the generational gap between those who lived through the crisis and Generation Y. He is determined that the struggles of activists in the 80s and 90s are not forgotten, and that his generation do not take for granted the relative liberalism they enjoy.

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TimeOut Melbourne: Interview THE THREE OF US

See interview in its original context here by Rose Johnstone for TimeOut Melbourne.

Spend a night among three cabaret stars to decide which one shines the brightest

On stage, Michael Dalton is best known as frock-toting diva Dolly Diamond. Rachel Dunham is the closest thing to Oprah you’ve ever seen – if Oprah had an incredibly powerful singing voice. Luke Gallagher is a storyteller with a swoon-inducing singing voice. We chat to the triple-threat trio to hear about the highs and lows of being in a cabaret supergroup.

You’ve all performed in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival before, but not together. How did this come about?

Michael: I perform as Dolly Diamond, but I wanted to do a gig as Michael. Luke and I wanted to perform together, and then we went to watch Rachel do Oprahfication, and fell in love with her. The girl can sing and the girl knows how to perform!

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