peter A cross

ramblings from a troubled mind

Posts Tagged ‘Malthouse Theatre

Baal

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Baal (Thomas M Wright) is all things to all people: visionary, rock god, lover, destroyer, creator and poet. Baal couldn’t give a shit – I warn you now there will be profanity in this review.   

On an empty stage bathed in an unflattering yellow light that washes up across the first few rows Baal lies next to his electric guitar making his poetry as we the audience enter his world. Immediately I think of George Harrison and his seminal song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” but there is nothing gentle about this cacophony, this aural rape, we are forced to listen to before the ‘play’ begins.   

One by one the middle-class sycophants of the gallery opening, cocktail party circuit join Baal on stage to bask in his originality, his dangerous talent and his sex. Baal wants to play his music, sing his songs, drink and fuck, anyone, anytime, anywhere with no thought of consequence. Each player is used and then thrown aside or in the end murdered by Baal.  There is a never-ending parade of cock and cunt for Baal to choose from. Everyone is fair game even his best friend, the one person who has actually loved him without any judgement Eckhardt (Oscar Redding) who seems to spend the entire play comfortably naked… and wet.   

Thomas M Wright

Baal is Dorian Grey without the picture to hide the flaws, Baal is Jim Morrison or Charlie Sheen, Baal is the hot guy across the bar who you know is bad and you know he will fuck you over and yet you still want him in you.   

Baal is also Brecht’s first play written when he was twenty just after World War 1. It is a flawed, angry piece that lacks a strong narrative structure yet it flows seamlessly down the path of self-destruction and offers no apology, no final act of public or private redemption. Baal dies as he lived his life – alone.   

Thomas Wright, same name as the actor but different person, and Simon Stone have given us a good adaptation of the original play – not that I have ever read the original in German or any other language for that matter.   

Stone has directed a no-nonsense, grinding production that has drained any possible thought of eroticism out. It is a harsh, unforgiving, cold night of in your face theatre.    

Some plays or at least some productions of plays invite you in, this production, like Baal the character, wants none of that. The staging the rain, the noise, the lighting and even the players distance themselves from the audience. Baal never asks us to like him or feel his inner pain or go on some ‘hero’s journey’ with him; he actually couldn’t give a fuck. He stands before us with his guitar, in the rain, and says ‘this is me and I don’t fucking care what you think or who you are. Accept me or not I couldn’t give a toss.’   

The set and lighting, designed by Nick Schlieper, is the other major character in this production: sparse white walls, devoid of furniture, the occasional mattress for the players to rut on. In the second half, after one of the best set transformations I have seen for a long time, the rains come; at first light and misty then heavier, pelting rain forcing the players to shout to be heard. Sure we may lose some of the nuances of the text but this is not a subtle production. The rain isn’t there to wash away the sin or cleanse the sinner but more to constrain and restrict them. 

Baal is a transfer from the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne and is currently playing @Wharf 1 Hickson Road until June 11

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Written by peteracross

May 13, 2011 at 16:41

From Kafka to Kasher to Wilder – what a week.

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It all starts with Kafka’s play “The Trial” which opened this week at The Sydney Theatre Company.  

Franz Kafka

The Trial” first published in 1925, one year after Kafka’s death, tells the story of a man charged with an unspecified crime and his struggle to bring his case to some form of resolution while still being allowed to roam free in society. Naturally there is no resolution driving the accused mad until he accepts his fate and is executed. That’s the Readers Digest version of the plot.  

This production, directed by Mathew Lutton and adapted by Louise Fox, is a transfer from The Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne, featuring Ewan Leslie as Josef K, the slightly seedy accused bank manager, and is set in a utilitarian world of functionality that could be anywhere or indeed anytime.  

It’s a physical production with actors throwing themselves around, usually partially dressed, on a stage that revolves at manic speed. Ranging from farce to black comedy to high drama, “The Trial” runs for an hour and fifty, perhaps twenty minutes too long, however the cast which includes: John Gaden, Igor Sas and Belinda McClory are tight and they keep the play alive, all playing multiple characters.  

Kelly Ryall certainly has left his imprint of the production with one of the best sound designs I’ve heard for a long while. Noisy, brash, seductive and pervasive, Ryall provides the necessary ‘noise’ that never allows you to rest comfortably in your chair.  

The Trial” is a good show, good production and worth a viewing.  

And now to Kasher  

Moshe Kasher is a name few if any of us would have heard of but I get the feeling we will be hearing a lot more of him as the years progress, this twenty something stick insect American is headlining at the Comedy Store.  

Moshe Kasher

 
This Kasher is kosher folks, he has the chops and the performing credits to carry a show. He has appeared on ‘Chelsea Latley’, Comedy Central’s ‘Live at Gotham’, ‘Just for Laughs’ and Jamie Foxx’s ‘Laffapalooza’.  

His humour is self deprecating and, being Jewish, slightly anti-Semitic. During a forty minute set he demolished Hitler, homophobia, racial stereotyping and the Irish. Taking pot shots along the way at Govt controlled masturbation and how to compliment a vagina.  

I sat through three other acts, two ordinary one pretty good, to get to hear Kasher rant, rave and revile at everything and anything. His timing is superb and the act is smooth. It was almost a master class in stand-up; from his awkward entrance dressed as a good Jewish college boy in a cardigan and tie, who just happens to have Hitler’s haircut, through to his willingness to share his physical ‘deformity’ at the end of the act, Moshe never put a foot wrong.  

Self described as “the gayest straight geek” Moshe had me at hello, I want more of Moshe.  

And lastly to Wilder  

Thornton Wilder

Our Town” by Thornton Wider; another Pulitzer Prize winning play in a season filled with Pulitzers for the Sydney Theatre Company. Our Cate and hubby Andrew are certainly pulling out all stops to win back their audience which for the last few years has been drifting to Belvoir Street or even back across the bridge to The Ensemble.  

“Our Town” directed by Iain Sinclair, is set in Middle America, “Grover’s Corners” to be precise, where through the eyes and ears of the “Stage Manager” (Darren Gilshenan) we explore the comings and goings of the populace, specifically George (Robin Goldsworthy) and Emily (Maeve Dermody). We are giving a glimpse of just how extraordinary normality is.  

Wilder was determined to strip back his story to the essentials; he didn’t want his message muddied by gigantic sets and other artifice. On a bare stage with ladders and chairs serving as the only props Wilder weaves his simple homespun philosophy. Three acts representing life: Act one – birth, Act two – love and marriage and finally Act three – death and grieving. Simple themes conveyed with no fuss: “Most people are so busy living life they forget to live life and that life is better lived ‘two by two.’” Remember this play was written just as the world was to once again launch itself into another world war.  

Goldsworthy and Dermody are charming and engaging lovers, both players hitting the tone, pace and feel of Wilder’s writing perfectly. Gilshenan as the Stage Manager has the bulk of the dialogue but he seems nervous and less comfortable in the role; this may just be opening night nerves. A large ensemble cast make up the towns population with Frank Whitten growling in the background as the town drunk.  

“Our Town” is a charming, wry, feel good play while Act three still has enough of the necessary edge to remind us that the things we hold so important while we are alive are meaningless unless we appreciate them at the time.  

“The Trial” – The Wharf Theatre until 16 October 2010   

Moshe Kasher – The Comedy Store until 25 September 2010   

“Our Town” – The Drama Theatre until 30 October 2010