Saturday, 22 December 2012

TAP Gallery 25Eight

unfortunately a disappointing work

David Attrill and Diego Retamules in 25Eight

While the individual performances were great and the concept behind the production were exciting (corporate greed and excess, selling your soul for the company), I am afraid this show just does not quite work.

White collar workaholic Tony Reggio (Diego Retamules), 25Eight’s protagonist is a profit commander who works twenty five hours a day, eight days a week. His employer, a giant international company The United Synergies Corporation, doubled Tony’s salary and productivity by splitting ( ‘bifurcating’ ) his body and soul. Can Tony somehow persuade the new USC profit commander (his ex, Numera Jinksy) to escape with him from the new, cold twenty-five eight corporate reality ?!

Mr Factotum (curly haired, bearded and moustachioed Richard Hilliar in a posh grey suit) has a weird almost robotic monologue towards the start of the show when he parrots answers to Tony’s questions.

It is odd and ominous that he has no real proof of ID. and rambles on about the Beatles, Arthur Miller and so on. We see him gradually become more and more ‘human’ as time goes on. Tony calls him ‘Conrad’ but we eventually learn his real name is Christopher.

The CEO, who turns out to be Mr Factotum’s adoptive father, is excellently played by David Attrill. To him the company is everything and all he cares about is economic profits and keeping the shareholders happy. He is always concerned about inefficiency and coldly demands that Jinsky murder her ex lover Reggio – but she doesn’t and then his own attempt to kill Reggio fails .

Is his rather O.T.T. almost Shakespearean sacrifice toward the end necessary? It does drive the point home but is this needed?  And why the unnecessary air guitar? Yes it is linked in with the Beatles  ‘ A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Eight Days a Week ‘ , but  doesn’t really take us anywhere!

Natalie Lopes gives a terrific performance as Numera, who has a hidden secret life.  Will she be bifurcated and survive? Will she face corporate greed and change herself and the company, or will all remain the same? Her red and black outfit is quite dramatic and there is obvious symbolism when she finally shrugs into her black blazer.

Vince Vozzo’s graffiti like backdrop on the wall of the tiny stage includes a depiction of the Beatles, the beauties of Sydney Harbour and the allegory of selling your soul to the devil.

Individually the performances were great and the idea behind the show was good but I think possibly at least partly the problem is Valentino Museco’s script, which the director Ira Hal Siedenstein, the actors and audience at times valiantly struggle with. Were they attempting to play the material as a dark farce? Perhaps a little reworking is required?!

Much credit for the effort however this was and unsatisfying and disappointing production.

25EIGHT, with a running time of 90 minutes straight through, opened at the Tap Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst on Tuesday 11th December and plays until  Saturday 22nd December, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

14th December, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- 25Eight, Tap Gallery Darlinghurst, Diego Retamules, Richard Hilliar, David Attrill, Natalie Lopes. Vince Vozzo, Valentino Museco, Ira Siedenstein, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

Austinmer Dance Theatre's Encoiled

a most exciting programme

Based in NSW’s Illawarra region, Austinmer Dance Theatre is led by teacher and choreographer Michelle Forte, who made a welcoming introductory speech at this short season at Coniston’s Phoenix Theatre prior to the performance proper. uNCOILEd, which Forte hopes will become an annual event, is part of the company’s 2012 season, which was dedicated to the memory of their colleague Nicole Louise Fitzsimons who passed away tragically earlier this year .

Metamorphosis, choreographed by Molly Erin Fitzpatrick, was an intriguing, exciting pas de deux featuring considerable unison work. This strong work also featured use of a high demi-pointe, arabesques, great jumps, and a particular way of using the back, quite sculptural and frieze-like in parts. The dancers were clad in beautiful blue dresses.

While We Wait was a sharp, tense and dramatic quartet  set to an ominous, eerie soundtrack. Forte’s choreography demanded a very articulate back, a sizzling line and sharp flicks of movement.

Claustrophobia, choreographed by Melissa Jane Pinn, was strong and powerful. The cast danced clad in wonderfully textured and layered black costumes, in a work which featured assorted repeated phrases of movement, sometimes individual, sometimes followed by the group, with the use often of a deep Graham plie and an angular feel to the choreography. Some of the choreography was machine-like and at one point reminiscent of a snippet of Macmillan’s The Rite of Spring; the way a member of the group was isolated and chosen for death reinforced this impression.

For me the least successful work was the most hyped – the specially commissioned Sanbiki No Kashkoi Saru, choreographed by Maurice Causey. The bird/floral dresses were pretty, but it didn’t really go anywhere or do anything choreographically memorable. The work as a whole was overwhelmed by the strange beeping, breathing, gurgling voice soundtrack.
There is a Time, another piece choreographed by Forte, brought the evening to a close. Also featuring a maddening, pulsating soundtrack, this work boasted terrific short, liquid solos, some intriguing partnering and duets, and disjointed, repeated phrases of movement. It was quite intense and demanded sharp jumps and explosive runs as well as strong unison work .  

Also included in the program were four short ‘interludes’ – improvised solos with the dancers in white shirt and black bra and pants. These were most impressive, combining a range of moods (joyous to melancholy) and a varied range of music and dance styles.

Overall, uNCOILEd featured excellent performances in a great program of new work. This is a company and dancers to watch.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5

Austinmer Dance Theatre
Choreographers: Molly Erin Fitzpatrick, Michelle Forte, Melissa Jane Pinn and Maurice Causey
Dancers: Molly Fitzpatrick, Melissa Jane Pinn, Olivia Hutchinson Smith, Jodie Toogood, Sophie Wighton, Rhiannon Davies

Phoenix Theatre, Coniston
15 – 16 December

Pinchgut's Castor and Pollux

This year’s eagerly awaited production by Pinchgut Opera was the Australian premiere of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Castor and Pollux (the revised 1754 version rather than the 1737 original). The singing was excellent, and the Baroque music (played on mostly period instruments by the Orchestra of the Antipodes under the dynamic leadership of Antony Walker) was exquisite and ravishing.

Rameau (1683-1764) was a French composer who wrote for the court; at one point of his career he was known more as a music theoretician than a composer. He wrote both opera and ballets, among other works (he only started writing operas at age 50); the Sydney Dance Company and the ACO used his work in Project Rameau earlier this year.   

Castor and Pollux is based on a complicated Greco-Roman myth and tells a story of fraternal love, betrayal, and transformation into celestial bodies. The immortal Pollux (Hadleigh Adams) and mortal Castor (Jeffrey Thompson), twin sons of Jupiter, are both in love with Princess Telaire, who returns Castor’s love. Castor is killed in battle, protecting Telaire from a possible abduction. Pollux travels to the Underworld and offers to take his brother’s place among the dead. After a passionate debate over who will live or die, the brothers are reunited in a sort of happy ending as Jupiter transforms both of them into the constellation of Gemini.   

The Pinchgut production has a sparse, futuristic, geodesic dome set, almost like a space station on the moon, and also features a very high platform for Jupiter’s imposing appearance. The set also features large black benches that are shifted at various points of the performance, representing the banks of the Styx, court chairs, etc.

The women wore long, Greco- Roman shifts, mostly in grey-blue although the character of Phoebe wore red and Telaire gold. The chorus of men mostly wore blue shirts and dark trousers. Castor and Pollux were dressed darkly alike, with sparkly trousers.

The chorus (Cantillation) are in effect a strong character themselves, with splendid singing. At various times they represented courtiers in the palace, nymphs or shepherds, and also the writhing veiled demons of the Underworld. The two dancers (Sean Marcs and Adam Murray) gave great performances, representing wrestlers and celebrity athletes. Ash Bee’s choreography was stylized, with lots of formal frieze- like elements. Cantillation at one point performed a round dance of celebration, and there is a sultry performance by the female members as the Pleasures.

Jeffrey Thompson as Castor was most impressive. At times he had a silken yet reptilian way of moving. His ‘Ah amour’ was a big joyous show-off solo and his duet towards the end with Pollux was marvellous. His ‘Sejour de l’eternalle paix’ was sorrowful, lyrical and yearning.

His brother, darkly handsome Pollux, King of Sparta, was sensationally played by Hadleigh Adams. He was sweetly tempted by the pleasures of the Elysian Fields that his father conjured up but determined to rescue his brother. His solo in Act One, insisting he will bring his brother back (‘Non c’est en vain' and then shortly after ‘Present des Dieux’) were brilliant.

As Jupiter, Paul Goodwin-Groen was tall and imposing in white and gold. He was dramatically lit from below, and sang spectacularly.

Princess Telaire (Celeste Lazarenko) was stunning in a very rich gold dress and tiara. She sang excellently, handling the challenging, showy arias of impassioned loveliness and grief superbly. Every inch a princess, her ‘Tristes apprets’ was magnificent.

Bitter Phoebe, who can summon the spirits of the dead, was impressively sung by Margaret Plummer.

Mention must also be made of Pascal Herington as the athlete whose solo ‘Fieres trompettes’ comes early in the show; he also played a lively Mercure, compete with wings. Anna Fraser’s performance as Cleone/A follower of Hebe, and A Spirit was also excellent.

Another exciting production by the wonderful Pinchgut Opera.    

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Pinchgut Opera present
Castor and Pollux
Music: Jean-Phillipe Rameau
Libretto: Pierre-Joseph Bernard (1754 version)
Conductor: Antony Walker
Director: Kate Gaul
Music Preparation: Erin Helyard
Assistant Director: Paulo Montoya
Choreographer: Ash Bee
Set Designer: Andy McDonnell
Costume Designer: Jasmine Christie
Lighting Designer: Luiz Pampolha
With the Orchestra of the Antipodes and Cantillation
Cast: Jeffrey Thompson, Hadleigh Adams, Celeste Lazarenko,
Margaret Plummer, Anna Fraser, Pascal Herrington, Mark Donnelly and Paul Goodwin-Groen
Running time: 2 hours 50 mins (approx) including interval

City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney
6 – 10 December