Recipient of The RE Ross Trust Playwrights’ Script Development Award 2009 makes its debut at fortyfivedownstairs.
“What is refused in the Symbolic Order returns in the Real,” wrote Jacques Lacan, referring to a patient’s hallucinations described in one of Freud’s famous case studies. For Rhonda, whose Symbolic Order has been stolidly refusing to accept quite a lot these past five years, the return is a particularly dramatic one in this entertaining but ultimately anti-climactic psycho-drama by Bridgette Burton.
THE death of a child is a low-rent, low-risk device with which to ratchet up an audience’s sympathy, so it’s something of a shock to see such an incident mentioned almost in passing within this confident play’s first minutes.
Chemistry lecturer Rhonda is in session with the latest in a string of counsellors and the passing of her five-year-old, Jamie, doesn’t rate for much of an airing.
It’s unclear what school of thought this therapist adheres to, but a psychoanalyst might point to Jamie as the structuring absence of this drama – a total enigma almost never referred to, yet whose short life dictates almost every thought and action. Rhonda’s relationships with her gentle, bearish husband Lief, her second child Arabella, and the guileless young student with whom she has a loveless infidelity are all infected by the grief she’s unable to articulate.
THE pain of loss is sweetened by a little gentle humour in Rhonda Is In Therapy, Bridgette Burton’s play about a successful woman who grieves after the accidental death of her five-year old son.
Rhonda, played with brittleness and untamed passion by Louise Crawford, is a professor of chemical engineering who is driven by her work, compulsive about her therapy, unable to bond with her second child and unwilling to share her grief with her husband.
Ben Grant is warm, engaging and totally credible as Lief, Rhonda’s stoical, good-humoured but emotionally abandoned German husband, who is also a professor of chemical engineering but chooses to stay home to raise their child.
Rhonda’s grief and despair drive her into a clandestine, foolhardy and lusty affair with her student, played by Jamieson Caldwell with youthful exuberance mixed with coyness and blind adoration.
Burton’s script keeps us guessing about Rhonda’s secrets and compulsions, although we do not like or sympathise with her as much as one would assume when we witness her neglect of her living child and loyal husband.
If the words ‘gothic camp music theatre revue’ don’t get you into a tizz then a) what is wrong with you? and b) let me tell you why it should.
Mademoiselle, currently playing at Melbourne’s fortyfive downstairs, is set in the boudoir of an unnamed billionaress, who has gone out for the evening. While the cat’s away, her valets play… everything from middle management, to Germans, choir boys and debutantes.
I was not sure what to expect from the world premier season of Mademoiselle, advertised as “a gothic camp music theatre revue” with two satirical manservants singing tunes about what could have been, but I knew I would be in for a treat.
Our two manservants, played by creators Michael Dalley and Paul McCarthy, sneak into their employer’s boudoir and let loose some glitzy musical numbers revolving around fantasy, regret, power and servitude. The very opening song relaxed the audience and assured us that we were in for a night of cheeky laughs.
Michael Dalley’s newest work, Mademoiselle, was the most vulgar, crude and amazing display of comedic theatre I’ve ever seen. Dalley and Paul McCarthy embodied two sparkly, overdressed, flamboyant man-servants that had the crowd in stitches from beginning to end.
Heading down into fortyfivedownstairs, I had no idea what to expect, the promo description of ‘gothic camp’ meant I was in for something unique to say the least. I got my tickets, grabbed a wine and headed in, ushered by a lovely older man to our seats. The audience, which was very ranged in age, gender and level of flamboyance, filled every seat. All we could see from the performing end was a small podium with a toilet in the centre. Lights dim and I’m anticipating a small time, pleasant little show… how wrong could I be? I suppose the toilet should have been a give-away.
Mademoiselle is a whirlwind of political incorrectness. Michael Dalley’s witty hour-long script had the packed audience in Flinders Lane laughing and gasping in its assault on the “lower middle-class”.
Michael Dalley and Paul McCarthy feature as two effeminate man-servants of a certain Mademoiselle, who get creative in her absence in “an orgy of ridicule” and “a litany of abuse”. The irony of their relentless and superior sneering is that it’s dished out at the expense of their own social class, even as they attempt to position themselves apart from it.
Hailed in the 1970’s as Australia’s answer to Jean Genet, prisoner turned playwright Jim McNeil was destroyed by the very fame that saw him released early from a 17 year jail sentence. Without the strict routine of prison life, McNeil’s violent alcoholism soon got the better of him, and he never wrote again. He died in 1982, aged 47.
The McNeil Project at Melbourne’s fortyfivedownstairs, features two of Jim McNeil’s one-act plays: The Chocolate Frog – a relatively simple work – and the altogether darker, more complex The Old Familiar Juice.
Jim McNeil, not your everyday, bleeding-heart playwright, was gaoled for armed robbery and shooting a policeman in 1967 and, while incarcerated in Parramatta Correctional Centre, he wrote several compelling and shocking plays.
IMPRISONMENT and modern drama have an intriguing relationship. Arguably the first audiences to ”get” Beckett’s Waiting for Godot were the inmates of San Quentin, in the famous 1957 jailhouse production. These men were living at the sharp end of the fiction that we’re all at liberty to act rationally in our own self-interest: they knew the ways in which we’re radically unfree.
According to the quotable G.K. Chesterton, all slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry. By this memorable formula, along with sailors and Cockneys, few subcultures can claim to be as poetically fecund as prison culture. Both The Chocolate Frog and The Old Familiar Juice, one-act plays currently being presented as a double bill at fortyfivedownstairs, are fine examples of this.
MALCOLM Robertson’s connection to Jim McNeil and his celebrated prison plays dates back to 1971, when Robertson conducted drama workshops at Parramatta jail, then directed the first professional production of The Chocolate Frog for Q Theatre.
Two years later, he directed a double bill of it and The Old Familiar Juice for the Melbourne Theatre Company.
These one-act plays combine well. The polemic of the first, which, on its own, might seem naive and too bluff, is counterbalanced by the finesse and tight focus of the latter.
Four decades on, Robertson plays The Chocolate Frog absolutely straight. Thanks to its archaic slang, its references to “the permissive society” and the Latin mass, the play is a period piece. But, if anything, it stands up better now than it did when previously presented in Melbourne in the late 1980s.
Karen Coombs reviews The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet for Stage Whispers. See the review in its original context here.
A modern adaptation of a classic is not uncommon. Zoey Dawson’s version of Romeo and Juliet, however, takes on the challenge of using a young, all female cast to play the mostly male characters of the Montague and Capulet battle. And it works well. If anything, it takes the focus off the famous, tragic couple and puts the spotlight onto the young and in love Juliet; also aided by the fact that Juliet is played by the one actress, Brigid Gallacher, whilst the rest of the cast; Nikki Shiels, Naomi Rukavina, Devon Lang Wilton, Laura Maitland and Carolyn Butler, takes turns in playing Romeo. What is achieved therefore is an eye-opener into the angst of a young teenage girl in love – albeit a modern one.
Chris Boyd reviews The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet for the Australian. 6/3/2012 Zoey Dawson's all-female "Teenage Dream" production of Romeo and Juliet dispenses with a great proportion of the testosterone-driven horseplay and filthy humour. This…
Aleksia Barron reviews In Vogue: Songs By Madonna for ArtsHub. See the review in its original context here.
The subterranean haven of fortyfivedownstairs is the perfect place to settle down with a champagne and suspend one’s disbelief at a man, sans costume and makeup, announcing that he is, in fact, Madonna. So does Michael Griffiths, who doesn’t bat an eyelid when declaring that he is, in fact, Madge herself, before merrily launching into a night of musical and comedic repartee.
Kate Herbert reviews In Vogue: Songs By Madonna for the Herald Sun. See the review in its original context here.
WHO CAN EXPLAIN why pop divas such as Madonna, Bette Midler and Kylie are gay icons – they just are.
Singer-pianist, Michael Griffiths, directed by Dean Bryant, performs Madonna’s hit songs, speaking in first person as Madonna but without any drag-queen costuming, accent or attempted impersonation of that feisty, Italo-American pop idol.
The Burlesque Hour Loves Melbourne was written by Alison Croggon and published on Theatre Notes on Friday 8 July. Please see in its full context here.
Right now, just after the winter solstice, Ms TN is struggling. The skies have been grey for too long, the news has been bleak for too long, and human beings have been stupid and destructive for too long. Nary a light gleams at the end of the tunnel, and actually doing things – like, say, getting out of bed – seems impossible and futile. Yes, I know despair is a sin – I suspect I am on my way to discovering why – but the fear of God’s wrath is little use to an atheist.
Interview and review by Christina Amphlett for Beat Magazine, see it in it’s full context here.
Forget those tired old burlesque dancers swooning on stage, all dolled up in sequins and feathers galore. The Burlesque Hour brings a far more surreal experience to the table, startling and exciting audiences through a rather whacky method of seduction. Feathers and all.
The Burlesque Hour Loves Melbourne was reviewed by Louise Parsons for Theatre People, please see it in it’s full contect here.
After being seen by more than 50,000 people in over 8 countries The Burlesque Hour returns to Melbourne the city in which it premiered back in 2005.
bur•lesque(noun) -An artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.
Arising from a fifteen year partnership performance artist and writer Moira Finucane and theatre creator and director Jackie Smith are internationally renowned for their arresting mix of provocation and entertainment in performance works that both cherish and challenge their audiences. They create intimate theatrical spectacles that mimic old style entertainment genres and turn them into unforgettable visions of liberation, humanity, power and desire.
This review ofCafé Scheherazade was written by Andrew Fuhrmann on March 11 for Curtain Call. See it in its original context here.
This is a joy. It is a vast-hearted, gleeful riot of story, music, dance, wonderment and cake. It is a cosy transport from soulless metropolis to vibrant cosmopolis. It is an immersion into the twinned arts of memory and narration. It is a close encounter with profoundly mythical characters, survivors from another world, at once real and familiar to the present, but also fantastical, impossible in their courage.
This review ofSkin Tight was written by Penelope Broadbent for Australian Stage. See it in its original context here.
The term ‘emotional journey’ is liberally used (and misused) in many aspects of modern culture and in the performing arts it is a promise to the audience that is rarely fulfilled. On hearing, reading, or using this term, many of us cringe. This is a great shame because every so often there comes a work that really does take its audience through a range of emotions or to varying “places” of emotion, as they follow its story, characters, and mood. Skin Tight, a predominantly New Zealand production at fortyfivedownstairs, achieves just this, and it does so in a most intriguing fashion.
This review of Duets for Lovers and Dreamers was written by Cameron Woodhead and first published in The Age on Tuesday 23 November 2010. The full review is now published on Behind The Critical Curtain. Please see it in its original context here.
This shimmering suite of short scenes appears to take guidance Walter Pater’s well-known maxim: “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” A chamber piece composed in an elusive key, it bends every instrument of the theatre into ephemeral harmonies where love rises to meets death, and memory imagination.
Duets for Lovers and Dreamers By Simonne Michelle-Wells
Sunday, 21 November 2010
fortyfivedownstairs is one of my favourite theatres in Melbourne. I am yet to be disappointed by any of the shows I’ve seen there. You have only to walk down the stairs to the delightfully grungy space below to know you’re about to have your senses courted.
This review of Duets for Lovers and Dreamerswas written by Cameron Woodhead and published in The Age on Tuesday 23 November 2010. See it in its original context here.
A sentimental journey to the sound of music
Cameron Woodhead November 23, 2010
This shimmering suite of short scenes appears to take guidance from Walter Pater’s maxim: ”All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” A chamber piece composed in an elusive key, it bends every instrument of the theatre into ephemeral harmonies where love rises to meet death, and memory imagination.
This review of My Name is Rachel Corriewas written by Jeremy Williams for Laneway Magazine on 11 November 2010. See it in its original context here.
My Name is Rachel Corrie
November 4 – 14, 2010
For those who have followed the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict the name Rachel Corrie may well ring a bell, for others the name will be as meaningless as Joe Bloggs and Paula Brown. However, this one-woman production compiled by Alan Rickman (of Harry Potter fame) and Katharine Viner (deputy editor of The Guardian) is ensuring that Corrie’s legacy is not forgotten. On January 22nd 2003, the 23 year old American student flew to Israel to work as a volunteer for International Solidarity Movement, the pacifist Palestinian protest organisation. Less than two months later, Corrie was killed in the name of her cause when an Israeli bulldozer crushed her to death as she defended a Palestinian home.
I remember Rachel Corrie’s death in 2003. Well, I remember reading that an American student was killed by a bulldozer while protesting in Gaza. I felt for her family and suspected that youth and ignorance may have played a part. My Name is Rachel Corrie has ensured that I will never forget her name and I know her for much more than a headline about a conflict that – no matter how much I read about – I struggle to understand.
This review of My Name is Rachel Corrie was written by Cameron Woodhead and published in The Age on Tuesday 9 November 2010. See it in its original context here. By Rachel Corrie, edited by Katharine Viner & Alan Rickman,…
This review of Carnival of Mysteries was written by Christine Hill and published on Oz Baby Boomers on Saturday 16 October 2010. See it in its original context here.
The Carnival of Mysteries, created and directed by Moira Finucane & Jackie Smith
fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne | Until 30 October
Step right up folks. Be amazed, be surprised, be thoroughly entertained by this extraordinary spectacle, created and directed by Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith, and brought to you by the Melbourne International Arts Festival and fortyfive downstairs.
Finucane and Smith’s trademark mix of provocation and entertainment starts in the theatre lobby where, on arrival, everyone is rubber stamped, issued a ‘passport’, and given 30,000 carnival dollars. A suitably sleazy spruiker (David Pidd) explains the rules to the bemused but eager audience-in-waiting before we troop down the stairs to enter the world of the Carnival.
This review of Carnival of Mysteries was written by Jordan Beth Vincent and published in The Age newspaper on Saturday 9 October 2010. See it in its original context here. IN THE 19th century, the carnival would tail the travelling…
One of my highlights so far is the wild and wicked Carnival of Mysteries at Fortyfive Downstairs. It’s the most extravagant so far of Moira Finucane and Jackie Smith’s explorations of burlesque, which are providing increasingly immersive experiences that they call “intimate spectacle”. I last saw them taking over La Mama with the sensory overload of their Triple Bill of Wild Delight: and what a blast that was. Those who saw that show will have an approximate idea of what to expect in Carnival of Mysteries: extravagantly staged passion, perverse and liberating sensual delight, sly comedy, nudity, and excess, excess and more excess. And dancing.
It’s crazy, camp, kitsch experimentalism. You can shut your eyes to Garçon Gigolo, but he will not stop staring at you no matter how hard you might wish him to stop. Welcome to the uncomfortable weirdness that is the Carnival of Mysteries.