Archive for October, 2009

Three| Shopfront Theatre Arts Lab 2009


In the unassuming heart of Carlton is a theatre called Shopfront.

For those with momentary squinting eyes and furrowed brow who chime in with mysterious low tones “where’s Carlton?” (some think I’m talking Melbourne, some perhaps the area around the old brewery site on Broadway) – Carlton is a suburb on the South Line – a stop past Rockdale. It – like many theatres in Sydney is a converted space- a shopfront no less- which houses programs, shows and workshops for Under 25’s.

I made my way there on Friday night to see what the six month long artslab residency had yielded for the artists. Simply called “Three” the night was three works which were overseen by theatre director Michael Piggott. Read more

A Streetcar Named Desire| Sydney Theatre Company


It’s been 9 days since I saw Streetcar Named Desire. The cast, crew, production manager et al are currently packing their bags, checking their itineraries, farewelling friends and promising postcards to those they’ll be missing as the show goes on the road. Or the sky.

The United States awaits. The script is returning home to where it came from- and who knows how this prodigal son will be received. Read more

Peter Grimes| Opera Australia/Houston Grand Opera/West Australian Opera/Perth International Arts Festival.


Every now and then, there is an experience which is so masterful, so sublimely elegant and honest and authentic- that you want to hold your breath incase, in some freak moment of physics, you can stop time and live in that moment.

I had that moment on Wednesday night when Mr Waites and I went on a journey into the belly of the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House- to see Peter Grimes. Read more

How to Act Around Cops| Darlinghurst Theatre & Shaman Productions


When thinking about reviewing- what I am offering- as opposed to what someone who is purely there to report- or who is paid per word to review- is something a little different. I see alot of independent shows- much more than mainstage shows as I believe independence is everything. Independence is the key to innovation and is often where the greatest and boldest risks are taken- risks that move theatre forward, as opposed to safely re-inventing the wheel (a wheel with a bigger budget- encrusted in diamonds, goldern and impressive- but still a wheel. A wheel dressed up if you will. Not necessarilly reinvented)… and that is how I feel about alot of the mainstage work. Read more

Week 2 BSN 2009- Review by Sandra Bowden

First Published:

Brand Spanking New (Week Two)
(New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney | Until 10 October)

I didn’t make it to Brand Spanking New (Week One). What a pity. The opening night of Week Two was an entertaining lucky dip of new Australian writing.

Like a lucky dip, one never knows what is coming. It could be just what you wanted; it could be something you didn’t know you wanted until you had it; or it could be a bit of a letdown.

Fortunately, every plunge into the Week Two grab bag had something worthwhile, and judging by the audience reaction, everyone went away satisfied with most contributions.

Brand Spanking New season artistic director Augusta Supple has brought together a diverse and engaging selection of short works. From the first offering, the sharply funny Self Service — beautifully rendered by Christine Greenough — through to the quirky finale of King of the Mountain, Supple and the creative team have showcased the depth of talent and potential out there.

And isn’t it great that places such as New Theatre can provide such opportunities for writers, directors, designers, stage and production teams — and audiences.

Composer Catherine Robinson’s gorgeous music provided a thread to link the pieces. The ‘overture’, as it were, was a clever way to commence the evening and greatly preferable to simply launching into the first play, giving an overall structure and cohesion to the assortment to come.

One of the (many) challenges faced in presenting such a diverse range of works is the staging. How to provide a frame that is able to accommodate all needs? Designer Paul Matthews and lighting designer Miles Thomas demonstrate that it is possible to create the effect of a creaking boat/ferry in Lone Bird straight after the rather nasty laboratory of Siberia.

It is quite remarkable to witness how, with limited time, life stories can be conveyed. if i could be anything i would be something different is just two guys on stage having a conversation — but by the end so much is known about them.

It’s also amazing how quickly hilarity turns ugly. Polly Pocket Is Not a Princess has a twist worthy of a full two-act production.

From the sublime — White Wedding, my pick of the night — to the gloriously ridiculous (The Bermuda Love Triangle, which gets the nod for some of the best throwaway lines), Brand Spanking New Week Two deserves full houses for every night of its all-too-brief run.

And damn it, next year I’m making sure I get to both weeks!

Week 2 BSN 2009 – Review by Helen Barry

First Published at

Brand Spanking New: Week Two | New Theatre
Written by Helen Barry
Friday, 09 October 2009 19:43

Brand Spanking New festival director and self-proclaimed “talent truffle pig” Augusta Supple has done it again with another gobsmackingly good line-up for week two of this must-see short theatre festival. While week one presented various delights of a consistently good standard, this time around it’s a selection that aims to push our buttons and stretch the boundaries of the format. It both succeeds and fails in parts, but that’s the point really isn’t it of theatre? There’s not much point pushing the boat out if you’re not prepared to get wet.

Within the eight plays on the night there’s a huge range of meaty characters and scenarios on offer; from xenophobic checkout chicks to silly self-help gurus, lofty proposals and adult fairytales, even Frankenstein-like monsters and souls adrift both literally and metaphorically. Each play is as different as you could hope to have, and it goes to show that there really is an abundance of ripe and unique playwriting talent alive and kicking in the Sydney scene.

Right from the opening tableau, which features the entire cast onstage preoccupied in a rhythmic reading and scrunching of paper to the dreamy yet playful score of composer Catherine Robinson, we know that this a theatre experience that is bigger than the sum of its parts. There’s a unity to it that’s reinforced by Paul Matthews inspired set design, a compartmentalised structure of fantasy-like filing cabinets stuffed with reams of paper, which brings to mind both the intangible and unconscious landscape of thoughts and ideas as well as the very concrete nature of the writing process itself.

Through the course of the evening we get to embrace the myriad of guises a small play can take. There’s the monologues, Self Service and White Wedding which engage us directly with their passionate protagonists, the three-handers The Bermuda Love Triangle and Lone Bird, which demand we take sides; and of course the tense intimacy of the two-handers, if i could be anything i would be something different, Polly Pocket is Not a Princess and King of the Mountain. Rather than being a limitation we discover that the short play can be quite a liberating fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of thing where anything and everything can plausibly happen. Of course, that’s an illusion though really, because it takes a great degree of skill to make this kind of elasticity seem effortless, and the majority of the playwrights here have it in spades.

Notable mentions for the night must go to Mary Rachel Brown for her beautifully observed understanding of the entrenched racism in the Australian psyche in Self Service, delivered with charming wit and brave realism by Christine Greenough; to Maxine Mellor for her naughty, inventive and playfully fun Polly Pocket is Not a Princess in which Mairead Berne shines as a evil bitch Barbie who deserves a good roasting. And, to the absolute showstopper of the night, Lone Bird by Verity Laughton, who is clearly quite the master of the craft, blowing us away with her deft and fluid ability to create a psychologically thrilling encounter all with the minimal number of brushstrokes. It’s greatly enhanced too by wonderful performances from Tim Allen as the sinister ferryman Stan and Fiona Press as Susan, one of his hapless passengers.

All in all, Brand Spanking New week two is a resounding success both for the industry and audiences alike, and judging by its sell-out opening night you really should be getting on the phone to the New Theatre right now if you want to catch it before the week is out!

Week 1 BSN- Review on by Helen Barry


For those who like their theatre fresh, tasty and bite-sized there’s plenty to love about this year’s season of Brand Spanking New. Now in its second year, this two-week festival of short theatre which aims to showcase the best new works by emerging and established Aussie playwrights has hit its stride. Festival director Augusta Supple has out done herself, assembling a rich and varied smorgasbord of dramatic delights for week one that are sure to have you giggling and gripped in equal amounts.

There’s Homemade, a witty and at times poignant monologue on family, loss and sausage rolls from accomplished writer Vanessa Bates. It’s delivered with a nice sense of timing and sensitivity by Jane Phegan, who holds the audience utterly captive for the duration of the piece.

Next there’s Matt Lauer a super-sharp rip-snorter by Rick Viede which focuses on a teenage boy’s obsession with the real-life host of NBC America’s Today Show. It’s a deviously dark piece of cultural comedy that takes aim at society’s sycophantic relationship with celebrity. Actor Julian Lovick is intense, strong and utterly hilarious as the boy, who lives his life according to the values he’s gleaned from his TV idol.

Fit For A King is a kind of oddball comedy from Scottish playwright Phil Spencer, about three wacky inmates who pass the time by playing a gastronomic game of food guessing. It’s punchy in a Tarantino meets Peter Greenaway in a street fight kind of a way – i.e. the thugs are very clever and chatty, but you’re not sure whether you’re dreaming or awake.

Tamara Asmar’s Queen of The Night is a brilliantly written two-hander about an encounter between an aging prostitute and a stitched-up female ‘John’. What starts out as a ballsy sex comedy with Queenie (Abi Rayment) detailing her “bedroom degustation” menu soon moves into an exploration of relationships which is deep and undeniably real. Rayment is wickedly funny as Queenie, a character who is crying out for a longer format to roam around in.

Last Ride by Ross Mueller is the story of two old codgers who find their night veering wildly off the rails when the try to score drugs for a bird they’ve met in a bar. It’s an interesting premise which seems ripe for some laughs, but when the girl they’ve met seems completely unfazed by the violence that threatens we’re questioning where we are and how the hell we got here.

The most thought-provoking play for the night is Jonathan Ari Lander’s Measure which takes on the story of a suspected Cambodian Khmer Rouge soldier who is forced to face his past. It’s brimming with depth and realism, thanks to an emotionally charged and vulnerable performance by Felino Dolloso as the accused murderer Lohr.

Jonathan Gavin’s The Return rounds out the evening with a rollicking romance which takes it’s inspiration from the journals of Matthew Flinders, who, the play suggests may have been a much better navigator than he was a husband. This laugh-out-loud jaunt sees Flinders (Matt Charleston) returning home to face the music after leaving wife Ann (Natalie Saleeba) home in England for almost ten years while he’s been off gallivanting across the oceans with his cat Trim. Saleeba and Charleston have a ball with this very funny material and bounce off each other with superb comic timing. It’s a wonderful ending to the night that leaves the audience spilling over into the foyer grinning from ear to ear.

Brand Spanking New is simply a great, fun night of theatre that is sure to leave you feeling optimistic and pleasantly surprised about the range of talented playwrights that are out there right now. And on that note, after all the fuss in the press this week that’s seen Neil Armfield dodging bullets over Belvoir’s 2010 “boys club” line-up, it seems worth pointing out that perhaps the answer to the question: Where are all the talented female writers and directors in the Sydney scene, has already been answered – a fair few of them are hiding out at the New!

New Theatre presents
Brand Spanking New

Week One 30 September – 3 October 2009
Week Two 7 – 10 October 2009

Venue: New Theatre | 542 King Street Newtown NSW
Times: Wednesday – Saturday @ 8pm

Brand Spanking New- Week 2


Only $22 and tickets available from New Theatre box office- don’t miss out on this unique celebration of new Australian work!
Wednesday is SOLD OUT!
Thursday 8pm
Friday 8pm
Saturday 8pm

Line up is as follows:

Week Two

Self Service by Mary Rachel Brown
Directed by Ian Zammit
Performed by Christine Greenough

if I could be anything I would be something different by Kit Brookman
Directed by Mark Pritchard
Performed by Eamon Bryant and Daniel Fischer

Polly Pocket is Not a Princess by Maxine Mellor
Directed by Danielle O’Keefe
Performed by Richard Hilliar and Mairead Berne

The Bermuda Love Triangle by Patrick Lenton
Directed by Augusta Supple
Performed by Lucy Goleby, Tiek Kim Pok and Toby Villis

White Wedding by Sonal Moore
Directed by Sarah Vickery
Performed by Suz Mawer

Siberia by Timothy Daly
Directed by Scarlet McGlynn
Performed by Amy Kersey and Brynn Loosemore

Lone Bird by Verity Laughton
Directed by Nick Curnow
Performed by Fiona Press, Tim Allen and Bruno Xavier

King of the Mountain by Jessica Bellamy
Directed by Scott Selkirk
Performed by Stephen Peacocke and Olivia Solomons

Bustown| ATYP


Often reviews are mistaken for publicity- and for some they are. Some reviews are about word count- is it fair to confine a two hour experience to 350-600 words? Is this the stuff of dialogue? Is this how theatre moves forward- artists develop- audiences engage? Is arts commentary destined to be confined to pithy one line grabs spilling forth a profusion of overly embellished adjectives? This is not review in the sense that this is for marketing purposes- this is more of a reflection of “Bustown.” I have been busy with all things Brand Spanking New- and so though this appears after the season of Bustown- I hope to encourage any of you who saw it to offer a “remembering” of your own. Add your comments- what do you remember- what did you love, what did you learn, what did you marvel at? Read more

Return top

Augusta Supple

Sydney-based theatre director, producer and writer. This site is about my long, deep, bright-eyed, ever-hopeful, sometimes difficult, always invigorating, rambunctious, rebellious, dynamic and very personal relationship with Australian Arts and Culture... I reflect on shows, talks, essays, writing, artists that inspire me to say something, and you'll find out what I'm working on, who I'm working with and what inspires me.