Theatre Review: Going Down written by Michele Lee

Going Down Syd theatre co

Michele Lee is to be congratulated for writing a brilliant play, Going Down which cleverly deals with topical issues in a comical way. The main one being whether writers from migrant backgrounds should be forced into writing migrant stories that don’t belong to them. That is something which Natalie Yang, (played by Catherine Davies) a Hmong-Australian writer, is faced with.

Natalie goes on a book tour all the way to rural Victoria to promote her memoir, Banana Girl which receives a lukewarm reception by her audience of three, who is horrified by the amount of sex involved. They point out how much they admire Lu Lu Jayadi (played by Jenny Wu), whose memoir about her experiences as a refugee has made her a literary icon and why doesn’t she do the same? Natalie rejects the migrant narrative and decides, while on a wild night out with her friends Tilda (Naomi Rukavina) and Matt (Paul Blenheim), to write about her sex life and makes the brash decision to write 100 cocks in 100 nights. 

Syd theatre co.jpg

Catherine Davies is outstanding, playing super energised Natalie, which is like watching her run a marathon throughout the play, due to her highly physical performance. It’s not until the end when Natalie reunites with her mother that we see a softer, gentler, empathetic side to her character. Jenny Wu is also to be commended for her versatility in playing multiple roles that are distinctive – I loved watching her play Lu Lu Jayadi (Natalie’s arch-nemesis) to a poor homeless woman to Natalie’s mother. Naomi Rukavina gives a powerful performance as Natalie’s friend. A wonderful touching moment is when she mops up Natalie’s face after she’s just barfed up a donut – here the tone of the play changes to a more peaceful one. Josh Price is hilarious and adds additional comedic undertones to the play. Paul Blenheim gives a convincing performance as Tilda’s on again, off again boyfriend.

Going Down

I loved the clever set design by The Sister Hayes, with the pull out bed under the stairs of the stage and the projection of tweets and texts. Congratulations to Leticia Caceres for directing such a entertaining play – the performances of the actors and the staging were outstanding.

8 / 10

Photos courtesy of Sydney Theatre Co

Sydney Theatre Company’s Going Down is at Wharf 2 Theatre until May 5 

Advertisements

Writers Actors Talk about diversity and change with Joy Hopwood, Alice Pung and Aileen Huynh

Joy Hopwood’s interview with Michael Wang.

Video link below

  Writers – Actors Talk (documentary) 8 mins

 

Screen shot 2018-04-07 at 5.39.38 PM

DOCUMENTARY DIRECTED BY MICHAEL WANG.

The purpose was to create something engaging, creative and shareable that would explore themes which were important and timeless. To better inform young Australians growing up of who came before them and what lessons they can learn from those who came before them. Recognising how paths in life can be challenged and different ways pitfalls can be managed to become successful in the performance arts, publication and film/TV industry.

Michael Wang is an online digital marketer who is born and raised in Melbourne. Working at his own consultancy Marketandpress.com he creates engaging video and advertising campaigns helping businesses improve their growth. For all this work is geared towards fulfilling his greater life’s purpose of becoming a feature-length filmmaker. He is a budding filmmaker who creates unique engaging stories and pieces of content and regularly enjoys uploading them to his personal portfolio at Huristic.com

A Very Lovely thanks to the Guest Speakers: Aileen Huynh, Joy Hopwood & Alice Pung.

Produced by the Victorian Multicultural Commission in Association with Swinburne University.
Special thanks to the team: Director Of Photography Jake Evans. Advisors Vincent Giarrusso, Helen Kapalos for you guidance.

Working with Us:
Michael Wang – Michael@MarketandPress.com
https://www.instagram.com/huristic/
https://www.facebook.com/huristic.com.au/

Jake Evans (jake_evans16@hotmail.com)

Joy Hopwood – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd7E7HS4wYqGKrqisPGnHaA
https://www.instagram.com/joyhouseproductions/

Aileen Huynh – sydney@hansencreative.com.au

Helen Kapalos – https://www.multicultural.vic.gov.au/about-us/commissioners

https://www.instagram.com/multiculturevic/

Vincent Giarrusso – http://www.swinburne.edu.au/health-arts-design/staff/profile/index.php?id=vgiarrusso

Diversity Spotlight – Interview with Monica Sayers

 Screen shot 2017-10-28 at 7.12.08 AM
 *

Monica Sayers, is an Australian-Chinese actress and yoga teacher who has worked extensively in different performance mediums over the past 15 years in Australia, the UK and Ireland. She has worked on a number of television series including Love My Way, All Saints, Home and Away, The Clinic (Ireland) and The Royal (UK) and Sydney Theatre Company’s Australian Graffiti and Chimerica and is currently starring in Melbourne Theatre Company’s Hay Fever. 

JOY: What is your cultural background?

MONICA: Chinese with dash of Incan blood! My great grandfather was part Chinese and South American.

JOY: When and where did you graduate?

MONICA: I studied The Journey at Actors Centre Australia in 1998, before graduating from the NIDA acting course in 2004.

Screen shot 2017-10-28 at 7.16.30 AM

JOY: Who were your role models growing up & why?

MONICA: My mother Barbara was a very big role model in my life, as were my 2 grandmothers, May See and Lily.

Barbara sang in talent quests, was a model for fashion house, Mr Simons, and met my father whilst singing in the band called Parker. They fell in love and became a duo, playing in RSL clubs, cabaret venues and cruise ships. I grew up watching my mum perform regularly whilst holding down a full time job and run a household – I thought she was Superwoman! She was creative, witty, charismatic, yet she was down-to-earth and pragmatic.

My grandmother May See was an extraordinary woman of strength and dedication to her family’s survival during challenging times in China and Hong Kong. She had learnt to speak English at a young age – an invaluable tool utilized time and time again throughout her life. She fought tooth and nail to protect her kids and mother from the Communist party and was courageous and daring in her efforts. Her memoirs have been published by my aunt – Phoebe Sayers, a book called ‘Tomorrow is Another Trial’ a truly unbelievable recount of May See’s journey and her mother’s (my great grandmother’s) life.

My grandmother Lily was the happiest person I ever met! She would smile and laugh mid sentence and just light up a room with her little cackle. She was an animated storyteller and very expressive and emotional. She could cry at the drop of a hat and was soooo in the moment – she could never hold a grudge for very long. She was always the first to laugh at herself and not take things too seriously.

I cherish all that I learnt from these three women and miss them all everyday.

JOY: What made you want to get into the industry?

MONICA: Seeing my parents doing their cabaret act over my childhood and into my young adult life, it made me think having a career in the entertainment industry was possible and not out of the ordinary. Sure they had other day jobs and needed to juggle parenting, but they just made it work. When my sister was born, they stopped doing the tours and settled down in Sydney, but continued to perform.

JOY: How did you get started in your career?

MONICA: I studied music, art and drama in high school; I was in the choir and I used to learn piano, ballet and jazz dancing. I took singing lessons – opera as well as contemporary. I did TV commercials and catalogue modelling. There was no way I was ever going down a different path really – but I made sure to get a few back up jobs to keep the bank balance (and my father!) happy. In my late teens, I joined an extras agency and did some time on Heartbreak High. It grew from there.

Screen shot 2017-10-28 at 7.13.27 AM.png

JOY: Do you think there have been positive changes in the industry in regards to stereotype casting or do you think we still have a long way to go?

MONICA: I think in some areas we are making great steps forward to balancing out stereotypes but I also feel, because we do have those characters that are based on real people, it’s hard to break the mould. I think what’s important here is there’s nothing wrong with using stereotypes, so long as they don’t stay confined in that box. Let there be more information about the character come through – something that you might not expect from them. What I find interesting is the thing you’d least expect from something that looks a certain way. Not only do the audience recognise those stereotypes, but I think the wider community can learn from them too. There’s still a way to go yet but certainly heading in the right direction.

JOY: How do you think diversity can be improved in the industry?

MONICA: Seeing people for their talent and skill and not for the colour of their skin, the sound of their accent, or the frizz of their hair.

JOY: What is your breakthrough role?

MONICA: I played Calpurnia in the satirical spoof Dead Caesar at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2007’s second season; directed by the amazing and passionate Tamara Cook, written by the Chaser team, Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen. It was a hilarious piece and I got to sing on top of a baby grand piano!

JOY: Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years time?

MONICA: I would love to try a hand in directing and possibly producing. Definitely still acting, perhaps in something of my own.

JOY: What advice do you have for future up and coming actors?

MONICA: Keep at it, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it, find a way to make it work if this is why you live and breathe. Also, stay healthy, keep fit and sane (because it’s an insane business and world!) and have a laugh on a regular basis. Oh, and be super nice to stage management and crew – they are our rocks!! No one wants to work with a diva or an ass and word gets around quick so play nice people! 🙂 Also keep a healthy portion of reality on your plate – it’s easy to get swept away when things are flying high or to spiral into a black hole and not know how to climb out. Remember you are not defined by your job or a single review or lack of auditions or the number of awards you win! For me, acting is part of my life – a big part – but I know I need a balanced perspective to be able to have longevity in the industry and there are natural ups and downs. Be prepared. Take action and find other things that make you happy and fulfilled.

 

Photos by Joe Chan & Susan Le Strange.

Chimerica review – Sydney Theatre Company’s best production

chimericanew_716x403

Last night I was honoured to attend a special preview performance of Sydney Theatre Company’s Chimerica. I have to say that this is Sydney Theatre Company’s best production yet. I was blown away by not only the script but also by the performance of the whole cast, stage direction and especially the set transitions that looked more like a well choreographed dance. There were also a few wonderful elements of theatre magic incorporated into the show.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-7-04-53-am

Chimerica is a play by the British dramatist Lucy Kirkwood directed by Kip Williams. It draws its title from the term Chimerica, referring to the predominance of China and America in modern geopolitics. It tracks two decades of complex US-China relations alongside the personal stories that exist beyond the margins of history. It’s a gripping drama, has a touch of romance, and has great comedy – all in one. One of my favourite lines is, “be careful of your tooth” …”you can’t handle the truth!” The whole audience erupted into laughter at this scene and Gabrielle Chan’s money exchange scene and many more.

a.jpg  b.jpg

Award-winning Artistic Director Kip Williams (All My Sons) directs a visually enthralling Australian premiere of this captivating epic which takes the audience on an emotional journey that leaves you in awe by his directorial vision and strong performance of the cast. After winning Helpmann Awards in 2016 for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, Mark Leonard Winter (King Lear) features as the photojournalist at the centre of the action, together with Jason Chong (Netflix’s Marco Polo), and a magnificent ensemble cast who are joined by 20 young artists from the National Institute of Dramatic Art.

Mesmerising performances by the cast – Matthew Backer, Gabrielle Chan, Jason Chong, Tony Cogin, Geraldine Hakewill, Brent Hill, Rebecca Massey, Monica Sayers, Mark Leonard Winter, Anthony Brandon Wong, Charles Wu & Jenny Wu.

This is theatre at its best. It’s visually stimulating and leaves the audience in awe by the cast’s performance and a well written script. Congratulations to Kip Williams and the cast & ensemble cast. This is a 10/10 production.

 

 

Interview with 16 year old published author Malaika Gilani

m

Malaika Gilani is a 16 year old published author. She is a go getter and very motivated, so motivated that she contacted me to interview her for my blog. She has been writing short stories and poems for her school newsletters and magazines and is a Pakistani Citizen who currently resides in Melbourne with her family.

How did you start your writing career? ( & what inspired you?)

So we had a subject called personal learning in Yr 8 and we had an assignment we were to write five poems. I wrote those and enjoyed it. When people read them they liked it. A lot of people talked to me about problems like friends family etc. You cant keep everything in. So when people told me I had a hard time keeping it in like some people have such difficulties getting where they are, but instead of being happy about the progress they get embarrassed. So I started writing poetry to let those journeys out, and when people read them they felt better. So it sort of became a thing.

As I moved on with life I realised a lot of these problems we face are the same. Trouble with friends, feeling etc. So I decided to get the message across by getting a book published so more people could read.

What writers / authors inspire you and why?

Every author inspires me as they all start at the bottom. For writing everyone has to start at the bottom. Its amazing where people end up.

m2

How did you get your book, Untold Journeys, published by A&A Publishers?

I got rejected a few times, accepted by a few place but things didn’t work out. Then I met Joy, my agent from A&A Publishers. Things worked out from there. The rejections didn’t pull me down. I took them as a sign from God that I wasn’t ready. The first offer I got was in 2015. Back then I didn’t even have half the poems I do right now. Things didn’t work out etc. I was pretty crushed at first but now when I look back i see things are just how they are supposed to be. God has a plan. If I had published in 2015 me and my readers would have missed out on some amazing journeys.

What topics inspire you to write about and why?

Well everyday problems. As people feel embarrassed talking about them! I beg to differ. Everyone has family problems and problems with dating etc. So I want to voice these opinions and show people what society says does not matter.

What advice would you give to other writers?

Keep trying. If you get rejected its for your own good. Remember to have faith because God has bigger plans for you 🙂

What is your next writing project?

Currently focussing on Yr 12 so I will take a break.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I see a forensic psychiatrist and an inspirational author!

 

Forget New Year’s Resolutions!

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-9-06-59-am

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS!

So you’ve gone out on New Year’s Eve and everyone’s asking, “What’s your New Year’s Resolution or Resolutions?” The answer to tell them is, “To not make any resolutions!” Reason being, I never stick to them!

For the last three years, I’ve told myself, the number one resolution for me is to lose weight!” The first year I wanted to lose two kilograms, the next year three and so on…in the last five years instead of losing weight, I’ve gained five kilograms! So no, this year I’ve decided – no resolutions and maybe next year I may have lost the five kilograms I had wished for in the first place!

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-9-07-11-am

Research has shown that “making massive goals are deflating rather than motivating” and that most New Year’s resolutions are broken by March that year. Also 42 percent of New Year’s Resolutions involve trying to be healthier. Yes I tried this however if pureeing kale in juices makes you gag, just don’t do it – I did and it was the start of bulimia! I soon put an end to that. Also with past resolutions I wanted to be healthy. I told myself that I would cook more. Again – I was wrong! Cooking and cleaning up afterwards became more of a chore and a workout in itself. I spent the whole time cleaning the eggs whites that I tried to soufflé off the floor, and the pureed fruit and vegetables became a Pro-Hart art piece splattered on my walls. Suddenly I told myself – STOP! It’s OK not to cook every night, give yourself a break. I now cook two or three times a week and use the left over roast lamb or chicken in wraps, sushi or fried rice. The other nights I eat out at takeout joints that have healthy options, loaded with veggies, lean meats and proteins and grains. I also love takeaway sushi at places that make it fresh right in front of you, not those places where the sushi is going round and round on a sushi train for an hour or so, or sitting at counter all day for you to get food poisoning!

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-9-09-58-am

So if anyone asks, “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” Say, “to not have one!” And maybe 2017 will be a ripper year for all with no expectations! Just a year to live and be happy!

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-9-10-23-am

 

Interview with Aileen Huynh from the latest Tim Ferguson’s movie Spin Out

a2

Q.1. Congratulations on your film “Spin Out” what character do you play and what kind of character is she? Was it written for a person from a non specific ethnic background or not?

I play the role of ‘Merline’, a fitness freak who runs work-out classes including Boxercise, Yogasize and Jazzasize, all self-titled, of course. She is really switched on to social media, fashion and her boyfriend Rooter 😉 The role was specifically written for a Chinese-Australian woman, which is great, as it immediately creates an opportunity for an actor from a diverse background and a representation on screen. My cultural background is never referred to either, which is a welcomed change, as I feel there is often an attempt to justify why an actor from a diverse background has been cast. I do believe that overcoming the lack of diversity on our screens does begin in the writing room. If it hadn’t been specified in the script then I really don’t think I would have ever been seen for this role.

Q.2. What was the casting process like for this film (please expand – e.g. self test, then audition, I had to fly to Melbourne etc and read opposite…)

It started off with a self test which I shot at home with the help of a friend, and after that, one call-back audition with the casting director and the directors of the film. As the troupe were flying in from Melbourne for call-backs, there was really only one opportunity to see them.

a-1

Q.3. What was your most memorable moment on the “Spin Out” set?

There is a massive mud fight scene in the film and the night of that shoot the crew had set up this ‘incubator’ tent with hay and heating fans to keep us warm as the temperature would drop rapidly as soon as evening hit. I just remember looking around at everyone huddled inside, wrapped in blankets, in-amongst the hay, covered in mud and completely unrecognisable and it all seemed very strange and surreal.

Q.4. Is this your breakthrough role? (If so why? If not what was it?)

I really don’t think I’ve ‘broken through’ anything! I’m still plodding along, trying to learn more and work out how to actively contribute to the arts world in a way that feels right. It’s all still a big learning curve.

Q.4. What actors/ actresses do you look up & admire to in the industry (Oz or US etc) and why?

I am really impressed by Rose Byrne and the trajectory of her career. She is a very talented actor who has managed to work continuously across, what seems to be a myriad of roles and genres in prolific projects, yet also manages to fly under the radar in amongst all that Hollywood drama. Every actors dream career! However looking at things from a different perspective I really admire creator Freddie Wong, who is now part of his self-created company, Rocket Jump. He started off with a bloke called Brandon making online videos predominately about gaming, which they wrote, directed and edited all themselves. It’s mind-blowingly good. Fast forward till now and Freddie has his content on Netflix, a TV show on his film-making (currently showing on SBS) and millions and millions of hits on YouTube- and that was all self-generated! There are heaps of others like him too, creating their own stuff and finding their own audiences. It’s so warming to know that the art of creating in its true form does exist and that it doesn’t always have to do with money, a look, and luck.

a3

Q.5. Do you see a change in the industry since when you first started? If so what is it and why?

In terms of diversity, I would say that since I started in the industry, the heat around this topic has drastically risen on a worldwide scale. It seems we are at the stage where we are seeing a large culmination of voices from those who come from diverse backgrounds themselves or have grown up in our ever-increasing multicultural society that are saying there is a problem with the way society is represented. Has this conversation changed anything? Yes, I think it’s starting to! We’re not talking a complete fix, far from it and we still very much lag behind countries such as the US and UK on this issue, who are themselves, still working through it, but we are at the start of exciting times in seeing some kind of proactive change. I see companies and creative directors talking about it with seriousness and acknowledgment. There are signs of opportunities being made for diversity in places I have never seen before and new funding from bodies that are open to aiding change. Thank the lord! It’s about time.

a4

Q.6. What do you think about Colourblind casting and do you think it’s important here in Australia?

I think the concept of Colour-blind casting is so important in our industry worldwide as a way of lowering segregation, tokenism and creating a sense of inclusiveness. Of course there is a place for specific racial casting when we tell stories that have strong connections with specific cultures and it should be done with sensitivity to reflect those stories honestly. Particular relationships may not make sense if ethnicity and background aren’t taken into account, such as family relationships etc. It’s just a fact that there are some casting choices where race will automatically be a factor. However smart Colour-blind casting can easily happen. If there is a role that isn’t race specific then there should be more thought and opportunities given to showcase diversity. It’s actually absurd that it happens so rarely, given the current social climate, where our most populated areas are densely multicultural.

Q.7. What changes would you like to see in the Film /TV/ Stage industries

I would love to see more people from diverse backgrounds employed on projects on the production side- writers, directors, producers. Change needs to start from the inside before it can make its way out. Having more diversity brings a range of different experiences and knowledge and I think this is also part of the answer in making the content our industry creates bolder, enriching and more engaging.

Photos courtesy of Aileen Huynh / Sony Pictures