Barking mad: Living Room Theatre’s She Only Barks at Night

This review appeared in an edited form on artsHub.

The old adage goes that you should never work with children, animals, or firearms. In Living Room Theatre’s (henceforth LRT) new performance installation, children and animals play a central role in evoking the world of hysteria. Presented in association with the Sydney Environment Institute and Sydney University’s Macleay Museum and Veterinary Science faculty, LRT’s She Only Barks at Night is an eerie and unsettling evening, though perhaps not always as its creators intended.


The corroboration: Griffin Theatre Company’s The House on the Lake

Originally commissioned by Black Swan State Theatre Company and first produced in 2014, Aidan Fennessy’s The House on the Lake is a crisp combination of whodunit mystery and psychological thriller. A taut two-hander, the play unfolds in a series of loops, and sees David – a lawyer suffering from anterograde amnesia – trying to remember where he is and what has happened to him. As the play evolves and hurtles towards its thrilling conclusion, Fennessy drip-feeds us details, deliberately misdirecting us only to throw another clue into play before the scene is out.


Godard A to Z: Lies, Lies and Propaganda’s Zeroville

Formed in 2014 alongside their first production Phaedra, Lies, Lies and Propaganda (henceforth LLP) is an independent theatre company which seeks to create theatre that is messy, colourful, and provocative. After infusing Euripides’ play with a post-punk aesthetic (think Vivienne Westwood being let loose in Versailles), director Michael Dean and his collaborators have turned their attention to creating a self-devised piece of theatre from the ground up. Taking inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal 1965 film Alphaville, Dean and company have created Zeroville – a slick and accomplished sci-fi noir vision of the future playing as part of the Anywhere Festival; a world where feelings and self-expression have been eradicated and everything is controlled by an omniscient computerised being known as 001.


Small world, big dreams: Belvoir & La Boite’s Samson

Small towns don't feel small when you grow up there.  That comes later.  The world as you know it seems wide.  You feel close to it, the smells, the seasons, the secret places.  But slowly, imperceptibly, like childhood itself, that comfortable, familiar, reassuring world starts to slip away.
 – Noel Mengel, RPM

Julia-Rose Lewis’ assured first play Samson is a one of those coming-of-age stories which dot the landscape of the Australian psyche. Set in a small country town, the play follows the lives of Essie, Beth, Sid, and Rabbit, as they collide, love, fight, dream, and burn burn burn. Co-produced by Belvoir and Brisbane’s La Boite theatre, Samson arrives in Sydney after a two-week run in Brisbane fizzing with life, exploding in Belvoir’s Downstairs theatre with vitality and something akin to incandescence.


Wilde thing: Furies’ The Importance of Being Earnest

I can’t quite believe this is the first production of The Importance of Being Earnest that I’ve seen, even though I’ve read it several times. One of Oscar Wilde’s most popular and successful plays, ‘Earnest’ is one of those pieces of theatre which zips along by itself, and in this production directed by Chris McKay, it shines and is a delight from start to finish.


Goodbye, yellow brick road: Belvoir’s The Wizard of Oz

The story of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has found a place as one of the most famous and enduring stories in (children’s) literature; just as the celebrated MGM film with Judy Garland has become a staple of millions of people’s lives since 1939, the story has become synonymous with a journey of discovery and a quest for self-identity and -worth. At its heart are four displaced people who are in some way incomplete; the book (and film), then, becomes a chronicle of their quest for completeness, for self-change. It is also a space for dreaming and yearning, a place for the glorious flights of fancy of your imagination, a space for a certain amount of theatricality, illusion, and artifice. Based on the myth created by Baum’s book and perpetuated in all its Technicolor glory, Belvoir’s latest offering is Adena Jacobs’ reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. However: if you do happen to go down to Belvoir this May, it’s best to leave your expectations and love of the book and/or film at the door.


Out of the blue: Red Stitch’s Grounded

George Brant’s Grounded is an aggressive and provocative monologue. While you could almost call it a poem in many respects, or perhaps a poetic monologue, what you notice first is its language – its command of it, as much as the voice it is spoken by (or written for); and from the first moments, you are pushed back in your seat by the G-force of this play as it hurtles through the sky of the Seymour Centre’s Reginald theatre over the course of eighty tense minutes.
First produced in 2013, and presented here by Melbourne-based company Red Stitch Actors Theatre, this production of Grounded is riveting and mesmerising. While essentially the story of a fighter pilot in the US military who becomes pregnant and is reassigned to piloting drones, this is merely the set-up for Brant’s play. What Brant explores – and what the production, directed by Kirsten von Bibra, does so well – is show the psychological effects of this relocation on the pilot (she is never named), how hard it is for her to readjust to the mindset and pressures of remote-control drone operation.


Lest we forget: ATYP’s A Town Named War Boy

Presented by ATYP and the State Library of New South Wales, Ross Mueller’s A Town Named War Boy takes a collage-like approach to storytelling: rather than tell the story of one person, he has used fragments of diaries in the State Library’s collection to create an impression of the campaign, both in the trenches and the journey from Australia.
Ostensibly the story of four young men – Snow, Huddo, Tom, and John – it is Snow who Mueller’s impressions centre around, whose story we follow from a small country town in Victoria to the cliffs in Turkey and back again. Mueller’s writing, as in all his work, is muscular and vernacular; there is a robust command of the language which, when delivered by these four young actors, seems entirely natural and effortless. Mixing more contemporary speech patterns with those of a century ago, Mueller creates many haunting images and moments which are brought to life by director Fraser Corfield, designers Adrienn Lord (set and costume), Emma Lockhart-Wilson (lighting), Steve Francis (composer), Alistair Wallace (sound), and the cast.