peter A cross

ramblings from a troubled mind

Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Nevin

Would Neighbourhood Watch Have Prevented Underbelly?

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I’ve been reluctant to post, review or even put finger to keyboard over the last few months for a variety of reasons – mainly I would say laziness but also I have been underwhelmed by so much of what I have seen that my enthusiasm for theatre has sadly been dissipated by the amount of schlock I have sat through.
I know I’ve said it before but Terminus has left me with such high expectations that most everything else has paled in comparison.
However Belvoir Street has gone a long way with its latest production Neighbourhood Watch’ in restoring my faith in new theatre and especially new Australian theatre.
Written by Lally Katz, directed by Simon Stone and starring Robyn Nevin, in what should go down as one of her best performances. ‘Neighbourhood Watch’, which is now deservedly sold out, is a simple story told quietly without all the flash and trappings that have marked some productions in Sydney.
There is a certain freedom in allowing the audience to ‘imagine’ scenarios and settings rather than feeling the need to cover weak narrative or shallow characterisations with flashy sets and expensive costumes. Of course I am referencing my BFF play ‘Terminus’ here but also giving more than a passing nod to ‘Wild Duck’ (also directed by Simon Stone) as examples of good, simple story telling – allowing actors to act with honesty and integrity.

Kris McQuade as Milova

Most of the other reviews I have read have said everything that needs to be said about this play if you want to read one of the better written reviews I would suggest  http://jameswaites.ilatech.org/?p=6822    however I did want to make particular mention to an almost unrecognisable Kris McQuade as the thankless Milova.

After thought: I was reminded of the STC’s production of Thornton Wilder’s play ‘Our Town’.

So thank heavens for Belvoir Street, one for restoring my faith in Australian writing and two for getting my fingers twitching again.

“And now to the  movies Margaret”

“Thanks David”:  One of the great things about being a reviewer (yes you can argue the point) is that you get asked to many different types of  events.  In the last couple of weeks I have been privileged (and it is a privilege) to see screenings of two new movies – well they were new at the time – Green Lantern’ and ‘Horrible Bosses’,  one a big budget, CGI, 3D, blockbuster glam movie premiere and the other a character driven black comedy in the style of ‘The Hangover’.

‘Green Lantern’, forgetting Ryan Reynolds in body hugging, form-fitting tights, is an expensive attempt to jump on the current super hero band wagon that seems to be sweeping the celluloid universe. NO amount of smoke and mirrors can hide the fact that without a story and character that some movies should not be made. Thin plot, shallow characters and no emotional connection, this movie hits the trifecta.

‘Horrible Bosses’ starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and a potty mouthed Jennifer Anniston is a modern, darker version of ‘Nine to Five’. Now this movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is – a misogynistic, nudge nudge, wink wink, embarrassing pleasure. It’s a groan out loud and laugh – with some great cameos and some truly awful gags. I am embarrassed to admit just how much I enjoyed it.

(One movie to keep your eyes and ears peeled for is ‘The Staff’.)

Underbelly: Razor – Channel 9’s much hyped and heavily advertised reputation saving (hopefully) latest installment of the Australian crime franchise. As a longterm resident of Darlinghurst I’m always excited to see my ‘hood’ on the telly but really this sexed up version of Darlo in the twenties is one storyline too many. The first ‘Underbelly’ was groundbreaking, professional and passionate TV now it seems to be heading down that road to ‘period soap opera’. I have to admit I spent most of the time wondering why they were all smoking filter tipped cigarettes which didn’t really take off until the 1950s rather than rolling their own and pondering why the streets were so busy during the day rather than focusing on the plot. Engaged – no, entertained – no, will I watch the rest of the series – doubtful.
Such a shame, still it rated well when combined with The Block giving CH 9 an overall 46.9% of viewing public. A record audience.

However all is not lost in the wonderful glare of the cathode ray box that dominates every house in every street across this wide brown land of ours. I can highly recommend ‘Misfits’, a series about five British kids caught up in a freak weather event that gives them each a special power, ranging from invisibility to being able to wind back time. Good, strong characters with strong plot lines; it’s worth looking out for.

Written by peteracross

August 22, 2011 at 16:41

Long days… and nights in the land of O’Neill

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Eugene O'Neill

 

In 1957 Eugene O’Neill posthumously won the Pulitzer Prize for his largely autobiographical play “Long Day’s Journey into Night” – talk about “write what you know.” In the play O’Neill lays bare his dysfunctional early life for all and sundry to see. The play written in 1942 was never meant to be produced until twenty-five years after O’Neill’s death, however his third wife managed to circumvent that restriction and the first production premiered in Sweden in 1956 just three years after his demise.              

The Tyrones are a family of addicts: Mary (Robyn Nevin) is a morphine addict who has just returned from a ‘cure’, her two sons, James Jnr. (Todd Van Voris), Edmund (Luke Mullins) and her husband, James Snr. (William Hurt) are all alcoholics and over the course of this long day, from breakfast through to dinner, they all try to avoid dealing with the secrets and lies that hold the family trapped in their cycle of addiction and co-dependency; unwilling to face the past and scared of the future the Tyrone’s retreat into the fog of the present.              

On a frugal but effective set, designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell, director Andrew Upton explores the lies and self deceptions that tie this family together.               

William Hurt, Todd Van Voris, Robin Nevin and Luke Mullins

 

This production takes a while to grab you; the aging actor with the dope fiend wife, the dying son with the dissolute brother, all brilliantly written parts, and perfect for a tight ensemble of actors who are prepared to get dirty and wrestle with the crap of the Tyrone’s lives. However what we end up with, in the first half at least, are four actors on stage who don’t really mesh as an ensemble should. They move about and say their words but there is little connection between the actors, it’s as if they have all been rehearsing in separate rooms. It isn’t until the second half when Edmund, James Jnr. and James Snr., all of them fired up by cheap whiskey; confront each other that the production really begins to fly. Hurt, Mullins and Van Voris at last seem to enjoy the words that O’Neill has given them and they play off each other wonderfully. Finally, as the audience, you begin to feel involved, like a voyeur peering in through the window watching this family almost come to terms with the lies they have been telling each other.              

Something strange has happened to Robyn Nevin in this production; I’m not sure if it is direction or if she really doesn’t want to be there but it is a lazy performance, there is a hint that she would rather be somewhere else, something that you can’t blame on the morphine. Maybe it is because she has played the part before and wishes she wasn’tagain, or maybe she just needs the money; to borrow a phrase “her Mary runs the full gamut of emotions; from A to B.”  Her scenes with Hurt lack any real feeling of emotional investment (from both of them) and I was left wondering if they even liked each other. It isn’t a bad performance but compared to her tour de force in “The Women of Troy” this leaves you slightly dissatisfied.              

Having said all of that if you can get a ticket – grab it, productions of Long Day’s Journey into Night are few and far between and well worth seeing.              

Long Day’s Journey into Night plays at the Sydney Theatre from July 3rd until August 1st then travels to Portland, Oregon.

Written by peteracross

July 4, 2010 at 16:41