Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
It is the thread of fear, danger and suspicion that links the six scenes in Terrorism, by contemporary Russian writers, The Presnyakov Brothers.
The play is a grim comic vision focussing on ordinary people in high-pressure situations. They are like time bombs waiting to go off.
The man in scene one, (Adam May) becomes the common point for the six micro stories.
He arrives at the airport only to be informed by the military that there is a bomb scare and his plane is cancelled. He is surrounded by grotesque mask like characters perched on their suitcases.
In scene two, a married woman (Julie Eckersley) is playing a seemingly innocuous sado-masochistic game with her lover. (Paul Reichstein)
Next we peer inside an office staffed by overworked and stressed people who find a colleague has hanged herself in the counsellor's office. There is an edge of hysteria in this scene.
Two grannies (Eckersley, Sophie Kelly) sit on a park bench supervising one's grandson and discussing ways to dispose of difficult family members.
At this point the links between scenes become clearer.
A dysfunctional military team return from managing the bomb scare at the airport and also from a gas explosion at an apartment.
Finally we return to the airport where the Man from scene one boards his plane in a state of terror.
Here the truth of the narrative is revealed and the connections between characters are clarified.
Although the acting of the cast is uneven, Eckersley is particularly strong playing both dramatic and comic characters. Luke Elliot's military commander and dog-loving office counsellor are both quirky characters.
Director, Victor Bizzotto, keeps the style consistent and the pace rapid. The action is often stylised, even choreographed.
The dialogue is acerbic and funny with references to the pace of modern life and the level of fear and anxiety with which we live.
The set by Douglas Iain Smith, a series of graphic pastel images reflecting elements of the stories, is a treat. Kelly Ryall's sound design adds a frantic edge to the production.
I Am Mohammed's Brother is most interesting for its content about an Iraqi asylum seeker and his journey from Iraq to Australia.
He script, by M. Sonny Rehe, fails to deliver the full potential of its story. The structure is unsophisticated and expository. Much of the dialogue is informational rather than theatrical.
The direction by Rehe with Belle Armstrong, lacks style and theatricality, reducing the dramatic tension by inserting between scenes, continual black outs and awkward movement of furniture.
The tale was inspired by a refugee's story. Mohammed, (Goran Boskovski) is a restless, adventurous young Iraqi who dreams of escaping Sadaam's tyrannical regime.
His Brother, (Majid Shokor) is older, politically active and committed to ousting Sadaam without foreign assistance. For this reason he is a target for persecution.
Mohammed convinces his brother to escape alone to the golden land of Australia and from there to bring Mohammed and their mother to safety.
However, their best laid plans go awry. Asylum seeker, the brother discovers, are not welcomed with open arms in Australia. After his boat sank off North-West Australia, he is held in detention.
Mohammed meets a bloody end when he welcomes the allies into Baghdad.
There are resonant references and parallels drawn between the plight of Jews seeking refuge after World War Two.
We hear telling snippets of information about our refugee policy,
Opinions and facts are given about America's financial and military relationship with Iraq in the last decades and about America's decision not to remove Sadaam after the Gulf War..
The performance of Shokor is engaging in its truthfulness and Boskovski is convincing as the energetic and hopeful Mohammed.
The role of narrator (Lee Mason) is at times awkward and didactic.
The Immigration Officer (Clayton Bitaks) serves to provide some information about refugee assessment in Australia. However, is too close to parody to be effective and jars with the seriousness of the rest of the play
I Am Mohammed's Brother tackles important issues about refugees, government policy, family, loss and war. However, both the script and this production need development.
LOOK FOR: Information about Iraqi refugees in Australia.
Caresses by Sergi Belbel translated by John London by Vicious Fish Theatre
Theatreworks Aug 5 to 22, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
The title of Sergi Belbel's play, Caresses, belies its content. It is a series of short two-hander scenes focussed on the collision between the lives and personalities of two persons.
They are, if not dysfunctional characters, in dysfunctional relationships that are abusive, dependant or fraught.
Caresses is a series of scenes designed like a circle dance. One person moves on to a new partner in the following scene until each has had two scenes. And the cycle meets its beginning.
The form of Caresses is adopted from Arthur Schnitzler's 19th century play, Reigen,(or La Ronde) which was also used by David Hare's very popular, The Blue Room.
Belbel, a Spanish playwright and director, has written a more violent play but it lacks the genuinely dark sexuality of Schnitzler and the zest and humour of Hare.
The characters are generally from the working class, even workless class. In eleven scenes we se each character in two relationships.
Characters shift status, each taking on a different dynamic as they assume a new mask with another pair.
Unlike Hare and Schnitzler, not all the relationships are sexual but each is imbued with danger and passion.
Director, Scott Gooding, stages the scenes amongst randomly scattered used furniture, reminiscent of a St Vincent de Paul furniture warehouse.
Caresses opens with a young woman (Danica Balara) and her boyfriend (Simon Kearney) in a violent and manipulative argument.
What follows is the young woman with her mentally ill mother (Merrin Canning), then the mother in a aged care home encountering an old lover. (Dawn Klingberg)
The elderly woman visits her demented, homeless ex-husband (Barry Friedlander) who is then tormented by a manic thirteen-year-old drug user. (Tim Kelly)
The kid, in turn, has a bath with his nervy father (Kirk Westwood) who then meets, dumps and offends his young lover. (Chloe Armstrong)
She angrily visits her father (Friedlander) who visits and overpowers his gay lover (Gareth Ellis) who dines with his possessive mother (Penelope Bartlau) who is visited by her neighbour, the battered young man from scene one. ( Kearney)
The cast does the play justice, playing characters with vigour and conviction. Friedlander is particularly good in two very different roles.
It is an ambitious production that is. in the greater part. successful.
LOOK FOR: The rantings of Barry Friedlander as the homeless man.