Chimerica review – Sydney Theatre Company’s best production

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Interview with Aussie actor & Bollywood star Nicholas Brown

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Nicholas Brown is an Australian actor, singer, songwriter, and screenwriter. He grew up in the Western Sydney suburb of Greysteins. Nicholas attended Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in years 11 and 12 as an auditioned drama student and is an acting graduate from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art.

Qu.1. What made you want to be in the acting industry?

Music was the catalyst without a doubt. I was a child singer and did a lot of musicals when I was young. I sang in a professional boys choir and got a taste for showbiz through that. We did lots of gigs around Sydney and recorded albums with several singers. Through song lyrics I became interested in acting. I always loved drama classes when I was young but the entry point was definitely through musicals. My dad hired a video camera back in the eighties to film one of my school musicals  and we were able to have it in the house for a few days after. At seven, I had planned a film shoot with the kids up the road and I was going to use the hired video camera to direct and act in it. That’s when I first became interested in film making.
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Qu.2. Where are you based now and what are you working on?
I’m based in Sydney after a good nine years going back and forth between Mumbai and Los Angeles. Right now I’m in rehearsals for my self penned play Lighten Up for Griffin Independant. I’ve just finished shooting a feature in Arnhem Land called Myth which is an art house road trip film engaging with the Indigenous community in remote Northern Territory. This year I’ve also shot two Indian feature films. One Bollywood horror film called Prattichhaya  and the other a spy thriller called Sedition. Both will be released next year. I’m feeling very grateful as it’s been a good year.
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Qu.3. What is your favourite role in your career & why?
Sedition is the film that I just shot in the Himalayas. The character’s name is Shiva. It was by far the most challenging role I’ve played. In Australian film and TV I’m often a supporting role so it was refreshing to play a lead. It was extremely psychologically and physically challenging so in that sense it was my favourite. The experience was rather harrowing but in hindsight I think it’s my favourite role so far for those reasons. Other favourite roles would have to be Jesus in the Indian Jesus Christ Superstar, Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, Tony in the Bollywood film Kites and Sachin in Network Ten’s The Cooks.
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Qu.4. Who were your role models growing up and why?
In Australia there were no diverse actors on TV. My role models were all Caucasian actors. I didn’t actually realise I was ‘ethnic’ until I was older. A lot of my identity issues would have been dealt with in an easier way if I’d grown up looking up to other non Caucasian actors. If only I grew up watching Bollywood. That all came later.  In my early twenties Ben Kingsley became a huge role model. I remember feeling very inspired by Jay L’aagalia on Water Rats and by Deborah Mailman on Secret Life Of Us.
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Qu.5
 What do you think about colourblind casting in Australia? Do you think we’re doing enough?
We’ve been lagging behind for years. It’s something that has left me exhausted, frustrated but still hopeful. It’s a hot topic now and I’ve been vocal about it for sixteen years. I just get on with things these days. I’ve been slowly chipping away, creating my own work when doors were closed. Moving to India was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. If Australia didn’t have place for a brown actor then I would go somewhere that did. Things definitely are getting better and that makes me very happy. I’m all for quotas. I know it’s a controversial subject and that people argue that the best person for the job should get the job but in an industry saturated by Caucasians actors – all of those people seen as the best are white and have reached that point because of the way the industry once was. To create a diverse industry in the future I think we need quotas to get new diverse actors (who’ve been devoid of opportunity) trained and experienced so they can be the ‘best.’ Let’s reach a state of equality, then scrap the quotas, then the best person for the job can get the job.
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Nicholas Brown will be starring in Lighten Up which will be performed at Griffin Theatre. A play produced by Bali Padda and written by Nicholas Brown and Sam McCool.
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Crowd funding Pozible campaign for Lighten Up https://pozible.com/project/lighten-up
Crowd funding ends 4th November 2016.
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Director & Dramaturge

Shane Anthony

Cast

Katie Beckett, Nicholas Brown, Vivienne Garrett, Julie Goss, Sam McCool, Bishanyia Vincent

Producer Bali Padda | Stage Manager Lauren Tulloh

Set & Costume Design Tobhiyah Stone Feller | Lighting Design Christopher Page

Sound Design & Composer | Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers

Written by Australia’s own Bollywood leading man, Nicholas Brown and stand-up comedy star, Sam McCool, Lighten Up is a cross-cultural romantic comedy about racism and triumphantly owning your identity… and bleaching your bits!

Lighten Up is a laugh-out-loud comedy that follows John Green, an Indian-Australian man living in Western Sydney. John, an actor, dreams of being cast in his favourite soap, ‘Bondi Parade’ where blonde-haired, blue-eyed people abound. The problem for John? His skin is more brown than white, his eyes more brown than blue, his hair more brown than blonde – in fact, he’s just entirely too brown. Meanwhile John’s overbearing, skin-bleaching mother Bronwyn has high hopes for him to procreate with a white Australian woman and so cleanse the family of any further ‘ethnicity’ in their bloodline. However, Bronwyn’s dreams are shattered when John falls in love with a beautiful Indigenous woman named Sandy. Despite everything and everyone in his way, John is determined to be recognised as ‘true blue’… or whatever colour it is that Australians are supposed to be!

In Sydney, there is a large amount of ‘white’ theatre and a welcomed rise in Indigenous theatre, however the mainstream theatre landscape seems somewhat devoid of the cultural melting pot – the in-between of mixed races and cultures that typifies the backgrounds of many Australians. With so many of us from mixed and migrant backgrounds, it is from these communities that many of our stories will spring. Lighten Up is the first play by an Indian-Australian creator about the Indian-Australian community staged at a professional theatre company in Sydney.

For creator Nicholas Brown, an Indian-Australian NIDA-trained actor who has gone on to great success in Bollywood, starring in numerous films including the blockbuster Kites opposite Hrithik Roshan and smash-hit Love You To Death, the idea for Lighten Up first came 11 years ago. Initially a film script, Lighten Up was a reaction to Brown’s own experiences as a mixed-race actor in the casting arena in Australia. Of this time Brown says:

“After graduating from NIDA in 2000 it became very clear to me that I was treated very differently because of my skin colour and cultural background. At that time there was so much systemic racism in the entertainment industry. Writing about it was therapeutic. I also wanted to write a story about being stuck in between two different cultures, about being mixed race and the complications that go with that.”

Brown finally embraced his heritage and moved to India where his career soared, but he also took note of the fact that race and appearance in India seemed equally as skewed as it was in Australia – the most popular cosmetic product in India being a skin-lightening lotion. Brown recognised that there was a cross-cultural story in all this hypocrisy of human nature and so turned his attentions back to his script for Lighten Up. Brown contacted comedian Sam McCool after seeing some of his hilarious and even-handed material that focussed on race. McCool jumped at the chance to work with Brown on a new theatrical version of Lighten Up. The new script was put into development with Sydney Theatre Company for their Rough Drafts program in 2015 and caught the eye of Bali Padda, actor, producer and Co-Chair of the Equity Diversity Committee who decided that he wanted to produce the show for Griffin Independent 2016.

Lighten Up is a very clever and very funny show that tackles some very touchy subjects and treats them with both dignity and humour to highlight the multicultural, ‘real’ Australia that we see out on the streets and in our neighbourhoods. Lighten Up is a play that shines a light on human prejudices, understanding of cultural identity and what we can all learn from one another if we could all just lighten up a bit!

LIGHTEN UP

SBW Stables Theatre 10 Nimrod St, Kings Cross

Season:                         30th November – 17th December 2016

Previews:                        7pm Wednesday 30th November, Thursday 1st December

Opening Night:                        7pm Friday 2nd December

Performances:                        7pm Monday – Saturday. Matinees: Saturday 17th December 2pm

Tickets:                                    $38 Full | $30 Concession, Seniors, Groups 8+, Previews, Under 35s. | $20 Monday Rush Booking fees apply

Ages:                                    15 years +

Bookings:                         www.griffintheatre.com.au or 02 9361 3817

Photos courtesy of Nicholas Brown and Griffin Theatre.

The Peasant Prince (Mao’s Last Dancer) theatre review

 

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Monkey Baa Theatre Company brings the children’s version of Li Cunxin’s iconic autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer to the stage.

Li, a 10-year old peasant boy is plucked from his village in rural China and sent to a ballet academy in the big city. He leaves everything, including his family. Over years of gruelling training, this boy transforms from an impoverished peasant to an international dance star.  Li’s courage, resilience and unwavering hope for a better life transforms him to be the best person he can possibly be.

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The audience on opening night was captivated by this very personal story and strong performance from an outstanding ensemble cast – Jonathan Chan, Jenevieve Chang, Edric Hong & John Gomez Goodway. Together they played multiple roles. When Jenevieve Chang played the tough Chinese dance teacher, a child from the audience yelled, “You’re such a meanie.” Such a brilliant, strong performance provoking a crowd reaction. She also played the loving mother of Li convincingly. John Gomez Goodway played Li Cunxin, capturing his sensitivity in movement and playful, joyful demeanour brilliantly. Edric Hong got the audience laughing whenever he played Li’s brother and Jonathan Chan played Li’s proud father and skilfully transformed to the tough Chinese authority. An exceptional 20th century fairy tale performance.

I particularly loved the meticulous stage direction, thanks to the director Tim McGarry and the wonderful use of the ever changing screen backdrop which projected shadow animations of each scene – such a clever, creative design by Michael Hankin.

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After their opening performance, Li spoke how he was proud that Monkey Baa portrayed his story successfully. A true testament to the outstanding performance from the cast. The Peasant Prince is suitable for the whole family to see. (6+)  9/10

Box Office – 02 8624 9341 ext 1

Ticket Prices

Adult $29.00 per ticket
Child $29.00 per ticket
Family of 4 $104.00
Family of 5 $125.00
Groups 10+ $25.00 per ticket

 

NSW Sydney LendLease Darling Quarter Theatre Website April
NSW Wollongong Illawarra Performing Arts Centre Website April
NSW Belrose Glen Street Theatre Website April
NSW Cessnock Cessnock Performing Arts Centre Website May
NSW Newcastle Civic Theatre Newcastle Website May
NSW Wyong The Art House Website May
NSW Nowra Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre Website May
NSW Parramatta Riverside Theatres Website May
NSW Casula Casula Powerhouse Website May
NSW Penrith Joan Sutherland PAC Website May
NSW Orange Orange Civic Theatre Website May
NSW Dubbo Dubbo Regional Theatre Website May
NSW Griffith Griffith Regional Theatre Website May
ACT Canberra Canberra Theatre Centre Website June
VIC Traralgon Latrobe Performing Arts Centre Website June
VIC Colac Colac Otway PAC Website June
TAS Devonport Devonport Entertainment Centre Website June
TAS Hobart Theatre Royal Website June
TAS Launceston Earl Arts Centre Website June
VIC Healesville The Memo Website July
QLD Gold Coast The Arts Centre Gold Coast Website July
QLD Brisbane QUT Gardens Theatre Website July
QLD Sunshine Coast Lake Kawana Community Centre Website July
QLD Toowoomba Empire Theatres Website July
QLD Gladstone Gladstone Entertainment Centre Website July
QLD Mackay Mackay Entertainment Centre Website July
QLD Townsville Riverway Arts Centre Website July
QLD Cairns Tank 3, Tanks Arts Centre Website July
QLD Ayr Burdekin Theatre Website July
QLD Rockhampton Pilbeam Theatre Website July
WA Carnarvon Camel Lane Theatre -Carnarvon Civic Centre Website August
WA Geraldton Queens Park Theatre Website August
WA Koorliny Koorliny Arts Centre Website August
WA Bunbury Bunbury Regional Theatre Website August
SA Oaklands Park Marion Cultural Centre Website August
NSW Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre Website August
NSW Sydney LendLease Darling Quarter Theatre Website August
NSW Tamworth Capitol Theatre Tamworth Website September

CREATIVE TEAM

Director – Tim McGarry

Writers – Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge & Tim McGarry

Designer – Michael Hankin

Movement Director – Danielle Micich (courtesy of Force Majeure)

Lighting Design – Sian James-Holland

Composer – Daryl Wallis

Script Consultant – Li Cunxin

Dramaturge – Camilla Ah Kin

 

CAST

John Gomez Goodway – Li Cunxin

Jenevieve Chang – Niang / others

Jonathan Chan – Dia / others

Edric Hong – Cunfar / others

 

It’s War by Alex Lykos (theatre review)

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‘It’s War’ written by Alex Lykos. Alex is Sydney’s critically acclaimed playwright telling contemporary Australian stories that reflect Australia’s evolving landscape and diversity.

Alex wrote Alex & Eve trilogy, A Long Night and now It’s War shows what happens when neighbourly friendships get tested in suburbia.

It’s War is a story about neighbourly altercations involving characters from diverse backgrounds. We live in a multicultural country full of diversity which is usually suppressed in mainstream media. Faces of “minorities” are usually presented in a stereotypical manner. Alex sends up and mocks these stereotypes by creating comedic characters, who are complex, over the top and some relatable.

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There are exaggerated politically incorrect undertones in this play for comic relief. Maria Tran plays Ngoc Bich, a recent Vietnamese migrant who is hilarious. She’s the only actor who puts on an accent that is drastically unlike her natural voice, as this is revealed in the middle of the play when she does a short narration promo about Alex and Eve. Maria pulls in the biggest laughs of the production with her impressive acting skills and comic abilities.

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Jenny Apostolou plays Soula who gives a good solid natural performance. Janette Lakiss plays Mona who plays the nasty, nosy, conniving neighbour from hell very convincingly. Ben Maclaine plays husband Shane to Ngoc Bich and Chris Argirousis plays Pandellis, the husband to Soula- both very strong performers.

What is most admirable about this play is not only the fantastic performances by this strong cast but the outstanding script writing from Alex Lykos, it leaves the audience wanting more and more after every scene – the tightness of the script and the comedic writing itself is outstanding.

It’s War is just a little over an hour with many twists and turns, with the stakes getting higher and higher after every scene. Fantastic stage direction by Alex Lykos.

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With so many sold out performances, It’s War is coming back due to popular public demand on 21st, 22nd, 23rd November 2014 only. Buy tickets now to avoid disappointment. MA 15+

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The “Monkey” journey to the West – a stroke of Kim Carpenter’s creative genius

 

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I’ve been an avid theatre goer and actor for over twenty years and have been waiting for a play that not only embraces diversity but is action packed with family entertainment. This play fits the bill. You have to admire and respect Kim Carpenter’s creative genius, his vision – the outstanding set design, staging, acrobatics, puppetry and the use of animation and visuals on the screen as a backdrop, is brilliant.

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Kim Carpenter tells us in his program message:

Together with writer, Donna Abela, I dived into the pages of (the book) and our eyes widened at the amazing number of rich and extraordinary stories MONKEY had to offer. Inspired by the vivid beauty, mad-cap humour, mythology and exciting battles we found throughout the readings, we extracted the best stories into one, complete, fantastical action-packed stage adventure that will appeal to all – no matter what age or background.

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Monkey is played by Aljin Abella who appeared in US television series Power Rangers – Jungle Fury shows great performance athleticism. Aileen Huynh plays boy-monk Tripitaka (played by the late female actress Masako Natsume in the television series) has great stage presence and is strong and convincing. Darren Gilshenan is the over-eating buffoon Pigsy who has great comic timing and is an acting genius, while Sandy, a depressed water spirit, is played by Justin Smith.

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In the first act it focuses on the four essential characters and how they become a unit on a mission. The second act follows their adventures together and is most entertaining. One of my favourite scenes in the play is when Ivy Mak and Lia Reutens played the spangly black leotarded Spider Spirits which is hilarious and is choreographed to perfection – the crowd particularly laughed loudly in this scene. Another crowd pleasing scene was when Monkey asked the crowd “should I kill him?” The crowd yelled “yes!”

 

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A lot of thought went into this production and it has definitely an Aussie take. Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Theatre goers have something to look forward to in 2015. A must see! Well done to John Bell, Kim Carpenter and all the cast and crew.

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The National Play Festival 2014

 

Playwriting Australia and Carriageworks has just completed the best

play festival Australia has ever had. Together they have set a high

ethical standard of diversity in Australian theatre and playwriting

history.

 

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On opening night, Andrew Bovell addressed racism and said that

Australia is a racist country and our ”dominantly white” theatres are

making no progress towards colour-blind casting, telling multicultural

stories or provoking audiences to address racism.

 

”It is something Australia is still not addressing. We have to identify

[racism’s] roots and we have to take responsibility both in terms of the

indigenous question – something that really matters to me – and to the

question of asylum seekers.”

 

He goes on to say that the theatre stages are still dominated by Anglo-Australian

stories and actors and believes it stems from long-standing institutionalised

racism.

 

“As a community we need to brace ourselves and put our heads together

otherwise we risk losing our best and brightest of a new generation of writers

for lack of opportunity and support. If we fail to nurture them and challenge

them and produce them all we have left is Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen,

Strindberg, Miller, Williams and so on. All fine playwrights but it’s tomorrow’s

canon we need to look after.”

 

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MOTHS

Director: Lee Lewis
Dramaturg: Mark Pritchard
Cast: Aileen Huynh, Haiha Le, Lap Phan, John Shrimpton, Pearl Tan and Harry Tseng

 

One of the stand out plays of the festival was MOTHS by Michele Lee.

A play reading with six Asian Australian actors. A modern take on

“the play within a play” concept. It starts off with a conversation between six

characters which is rather explicit and sexual and then the audience is taken on

a journey with these characters which spans over 30 years. Stand out comedic

moments in the play is when Haiha Le does an impressive Geraldine Doogue

impersonation and Pearl Tan plays Senator Penny Wong.

 

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Haiha Le

 

This is playwriting at its best with humorous inferences to Australian politics,

the media and the entertainment industry.

 

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Aileen Huynh and Pearl Tan

 

What I admire about this play is that it covers a broad range of

social issues and topics, it doesn’t just follow the characters’

relationships with one another but it covers society’s ideologies,

stereotypes, politics, the entertainment industry and so much more.

MOTHS has a strong ensemble cast, led by Harry Tseng.

This is modern playwriting at its best.

 

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THIEVES

Director: Corey McMahon

Dramaturg: Jane Bodie
Cast: Blazey Best, Colin Friels, Haiha Le, Pearl Tan and Dan Wyllie

 

Another outstanding play in the festival is Thieves by Kathryn Ash.

Thieves is a wonderful play depicting “rough urban Australian naturalism

in a world of a bottle shop.” The play had strong performances by the leads –

Dan Wyllie and Blazey Best. The casting of the two supporting roles – the

alcoholic mother (played by Pearl Tan) and her abused daughter (played by

Haiha Le), is also to be commended.

 

Not only did these actors play their roles convincingly but they were not casted

specifically for their race but purely because of their talent. I congratulate the

director and the writer for making these choices.

 

Finally, I applaud Playwriting Australia and Carriageworks for leading the way in

Australian playwriting and theatre and look forward to see other theatre

companies and playwrights follow in their footsteps. As we want to see more

modern plays of this calibre that reflect our society as it stands today. There will

always be a place for Shakespeare ( and I hope to see Multicultural / Indigenous

actors play leading roles) and plays with historical references, but this is the

21st century. Thank you for moving with the times!

Video link to Andrew’s speech

https://soundcloud.com/playwritingaustralia/andrew-bovell-keynote-address-national-play-festival-2014

A transcript link of Andrew’s full speech

http://dailyreview.crikey.com.au/andrew-bovell-i-as-an-australian-playwright-am-up-for-the-fight/