Oh, Oleanna – reviews

Oleanna Poster

CoStar was at the show last night. It was … a relief. And weird. He brings a whole different energy to the role than the lovely Director. He’s much more pompous – despite the lack of a British accent. Hilarious.

In the mean time? we have been reviewed. Twice. One with the CoStar and one without. Incidentally, each one has mentioned the Alasdair Thompson debacle. It’s an odd coincidence that Alasdair digs himself into this damn hole in the same week that we open a play about feminism, political correctness, and devastating misunderstandings.

Excerpts.

1. Maggie Rainey-Smith
David Mamet’s play is not so funny, more compelling, and thought-provoking. The acting is outstanding and all the more impressive because one of the actors, Damian Reid, was stranded in Melbourne due to the ash-cloud from the Chilean volcano, and John Marwick, Director of the play, stepped in and read the lines (to perfection) of the Professor. The student, Carol, is mesmerizingly played by Sarah-Rose Burke who has to develop the character of Carol over eighty minutes in a stunning yet subtly splendid performance. It is the first time I have seen the play and cannot compare this production with any other, but it was brilliantly rendered so that your sympathies are constantly moving (well mine, anyway) from one character to another. The wardrobe too, played a fascinating role in the development of the character of Carol, the student, who starts the play as a confused almost hapless student in her ankle-length little black socks and slipper-style shoes, and in the next act she is wearing fabulously hot shiny red shoes and the final act wearing lace-up boots, in the powerful position of being able to threaten the Professor’s tenure, and finally, much worse, for both of them.

Oh, the ending is superb, and having looked up the play, I see that the ending is often changed sometimes, depending on the Director…

“The danger with the play is that it can easily seem a partial, loaded, one-sided attack on the student and on female solidarity in general .But Pinter’s production scrupulously avoids that trap by giving equal weight to both sides of the argument.”

And so too, does John Marwick’s production.

2. Tanya Piejus
Mamet’s controversial script is based on the real-life case in the US of Anita Hill who alleged her supervisor Clarence Thomas had made provocative and harassing sexual statements while she was a student.

It can be read in two ways: as a teacher who misuses his power and seriously damages a vulnerable student, or as extreme political correctness that ruins the life of someone who only had good intentions. By the end of this production, audience opinion was divided between the two with one commenting that it was a parallel statement of both.

This is testament to director John Marwick’s skill in delivering a startling two-hander to a modern audience. Mamet wrote the play in the early 1990s and Marwick has avoided the easy option of making it a period piece, instead blurring the lines even more between who is right and who is wrong.

Two-handers are a challenge for any actor and this one is particularly so with its staccato, cut-off dialogue and unrelenting theme. Both Damian Reid as university professor John and Sarah-Rose Burke as his deceptively naïve student Carol carry their roles with assurance and skill, steadily weaving two solidly opposed characters who draw the audience’s sympathies back and forth between them.

Reid imbues John with an insufferable academic pomposity that is nevertheless well-meaning. His systematic ruin at the hands of Carol is painful to watch, but you can’t help feeling by the end of the piece that he should have known better.

Burke’s Carol is on the one hand vulnerable and helpless, and on the other sly and domineering. Her deft portrayal raises as many questions as it answers, as she twists and manipulates John’s intentions to her own agenda and that of the sinister ‘group’ she claims to represent.

The actors work on an intimate 60-seat traverse stage tucked away behind the blacks at Butterfly Creek’s usual performance venue, Muritai School Hall. It’s a brave and wise choice of staging, bringing the audience uncomfortably close to the one-room setting where all the action takes place. In fact, the final violent act of the play was so close to the front row that it freaked out the audience member closest to it.

At work late ...

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Oleanna

In the news ...

My play opens in 6 days. SIX DAYS.
We only have 3 rehearsals left. I feel a little faint when I think about that.
There is so much pressure. SO much pressure. When there are only two of you on the stage? so much pressure.

But I think it’s going well. I get moments when even I, always my harshest critic, think I’m pretty okay at this acting business.

Then I read, in the latest Troupe newsletter, this:

Sarah-Rose brings a complexity to Carol that I haven’t seen her achieve before. We see naivety and lack of confidence mixed with girlishness, flirtation, and the suggestion of a dangerous side.

SO MUCH PRESSURE.

Oleanna Poster

Contains coarse language and adult themes. Yes.

Oleanna Poster

Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe presents

Oleanna by David Mamet

Directed by John Marwick
With Sarah-Rose Burke and Damian Reid

Muritai School Theatre, Eastbourne
8 p.m. 23, 24, 25, 30 June 1 & 2 July

A controversial American adult drama about a university lecturer and one of his young woman students. It’s about how a teacher who misuses his power can seriously damage a vulnerable student. Or maybe it’s about how political correctness can be carried to extremes and damage the lives of well-meaning people. It’s about sexual harassment – or maybe it’s about extreme feminism.

When this piece opened on Broadway fights broke out between members of the audience. Come and see it for yourself!

80 minutes – no interval – latecomers not admitted. 8 pm start – bar open from 7.30 pm.

Contains some coarse language and adult themes – not suitable for children.

Presented in an intimate stage setting – seating limited to 60 each evening – bookings essential.

Tickets: $15 & $12 from http://www.bctt.org.nz; Rona Gallery, Eastbourne; or call 0832 77790

365 in 2011

Oh Darling 365

Sunday: Eastbourne for Auditions
Sunday
It was pouring with rain in the morning but by the time I made it around to Eastbourne for the Oleanna auditions it was bright bright sunshine. Crazy Wellington Autumn.

Monday: Going for a Run
Monday
I got home from work and I was unusually full of energy, so I went for a run. Madness!

Tuesday: I love this Workshop Denim Ad
Tuesday
I love this ad for Workshop Denim. Navy blue glitter & piercing eyes.

Wednesday: I got the part!
Wednesday
I got the part I auditioned for. I was thrilled.

Thursday: Winter's Sweatshirt
Thursday
The last day of March. I found a sweatshirt to see me through winter.

Friday: quite a few lines
Friday
I printed a copy of the Oleanna script and highlighted my lines. There are quite a few.

Saturday: Reading Fashion Magazines
Saturday
I spent a couple of hours reading the Fashion magazines that have been piling up for months. Autumn inspiration.

&

Post shower

I am a plain-dealing villain

Much Ado About Nothing
(no, I don’t know why there is a hyphen there either)

So yes, I’m in YET ANOTHER Shakespeare production.

This year’s Butterfly Creek Bard in the Yard is Much Ado About Nothing.
I’m playing Don John, The Bastard. I enjoy this a lot. So if you want to come see me act like a cunt for a couple of hours & generally put Keanu Reeves to shame …

Sad Keanu

BCTT Bard in the Yard production of Much Ado About Nothing
1-5 March at 7:30pm
Muritai School Yard, Muritai Road, Eastbourne.
Tickets $15 available through Rona Gallery, on the door, or through bctt.org.nz

And yes. I know it’s all the way round in Eastbourne but! There’s a pub right by the school which does REALLY good pizza. And steak. And fries. And beer. And wine.

One Flesh by Fiona Samuel

One Flesh by Fiona Samuel

A conversation between Craig and I during my first read through of One Flesh.
And that’s about all I have to say about that for now.

Except to note that the play has been vetted by the Pastor of the church in which we are due to perform. The script has had the worst of the swearing removed but apparently tits are a-ok by the Lord.

Outrageous Fortune meets Footrot Flats

Our first review is out! and it’s great! and! I am named! and! I am maybe ever so slightly, just a little, a teeny bit excited about that …

Petruchio & Katherina - Selected

Reviewed by John Smythe, 18 Feb 2009

Outrageous Fortune meets Footrot Flats: that’s the look, anyway, of the costume choices for Katherina and Petruchio in this all-woman Bard in the Yard production of The Taming of the Shrew, directed by John Marwick as the Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe’s contribution to Fringe 09 and the Compleate Workes project.

Not that Katherina and her sister Bianca are bogans born and bred, they’re too well-spoken for that. But each has rebelled in her own way against their more respectable father, Baptista Minola; if the feral Katherina is redolent of Cheryl West (sans cigs), Bianca is more Pascalle.

Petruchio might be all black singlet and gumboots, but he’s doing pretty well given the number of blokes working on his backblocks property. While other men vie to woo the sexy and manipulative Bianca, he relishes the challenge offered by “Katherina the curs’d”. And Baptista has decreed she must be wed first before Bianca goes.

The way Liz Sugrue and Rowan Macrae work it through, Pet and Kat instantly see their match in the other and so play the game full on and for keeps. A line in Katherina’s controversial final scene speech, “That seeming to be most which we indeed least are” seems to be the key: Petruchio knows she’s wired to be loyal and loving, and that she’s protecting that vulnerability with her stroppiness; Katherina knows he is a lovely big softie beneath his ‘dog boss’ exterior. They just need to know it’s finally safe to let their guards down …

Ideologically correct sexual politics aside, there are plenty of real-life examples to validate this behaviour and it’s this core of truth that gives this production its spine. But despite a number of other good performances, a few players have yet to pursue a stronger intention than remembering their lines and this tends to weaken the sub-plots.

Elspeth Harris is deliciously manipulative as Bianca and Florence McFarlane nails old Gremio so clearly – got up as a fairground impresario and/or successful gambler – that it’s hard not to see them best suited to each other. Harris and McFarlane also offer excellent cameos as a tailor and haberdasher respectively.

Other strong performances include Kat Angus as Hortensio, Tamsin Bertaud-Gandar as Biondello, Sarah-Rose Burke as Grumio and Sue Jones, contrasting a Cooch-like Curtis with a gentlemanly Vincentio.

As an ensemble the 12-strong cast gives good support to the on-stage action with collective reactions and live sound effects. In place of the induction, the actors arrive in branded t-shirts, bop to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ then change into costume in front of us, which takes a while. The ghetto-blaster music backing is weak, and when it failed briefly, on opening night, and the cast spontaneously sang live, I couldn’t help feeling that was better.

The Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe has set a good standard with their annual Bard in the Yard productions. The Taming of the Shrew is a well-conceived addition, intelligently approached with strong central performances and a clear intention to share the fun.

Taming of the Shrew Photo by Ken George

Mi Perdonato, gentle masters mine*

Tuesday, yesterday (is it only WEDNESDAY? this week feels like a month), I had precisely 50 minutes between getting home from work and leaving again to go to rehearsal. 50 minutes in which to get changed, get some food, any food, make sure all my needed bits and pieces were in my rehearsal-tote, spend quality time with my husband, post archive pictures to this darling little site, and run my lines one last time.

I managed precisely 50% of those things.

And then forgot lines at rehearsal.

And then rehearsal ran late so at 11pm I raced home and managed to wash my face and brush my teeth before collapsing into bed.

I think this may be the longest time (not counting vacation in Hawaii) that I have gone without washing my hair**.

SO there were no photos yesterday. You may have noticed (delusions of grandeur). YET! as they are, here they are, come to greet you***

From the Archives

London, September 22nd 2007

St Bartholomew House, near Fleet Street

St Bartholomew House, near Fleet Street

St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street

St Bride's

Standing 69 meters high, it is the 2nd tallest of all Wren’s churches, with only St Paul’s itself having a higher pinnacle.

St Bride's

Bizarre symbol on St Bride's

Bizarre symbol!! On a church!! Exciting!! Or not. Conspiracies!! Or not.

Old and new

The tiered spire is said to have been the inspiration for the design of modern tiered wedding cakes.

Banksy in the wild! near St Bride's

A Banksy! seen in the wild!!

*Shrew reference!

** Don’t panic. It’s only been 3 days. It looks surprisingly cute.

*** Another Shrew reference. This one is actually one of my lines. I cannot remember if it is greet or meet …… Oh bollocks. It’s meet. Time to go over lines again.

Taming of the Shrew

Where: Muritai School Yard, Eastbourne

(Outside but moves inside in poor weather)

When: 7.30 p.m. Tuesday 17 to Saturday 21 Feb

Tickets: $15, $12 (concession) & $10 (Fringe Addict/child)

Dymocks Bookseller, Lambton Quay

Rona Gallery, Eastbourne

Door sales from 7 pm

Booking line: 0832 77790

p.s. I can heart NOTHING this week save for learning my blasted lines.