Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fully Committed

Fully Committed (Brevity Theatre) runs at the Old Fitzroy Hotel from 24 February - 1 March. By Becky Mode, directed by Alexander Butt.
Fully Committed is probably not a piece of theatre that is going to change your life, but it is great fun. Nick Curnow delivers almost forty characters in this one-man show in a testament to his range and capability. But it’s not just an actor showing off: there’s a coherent storyline, and it’s weirdly touching (as well as super funny).

Sam is a wannabe actor who is making money by working as a junior administrative assistant in a high-demand restaurant in New York City. His superior Bob is late because his car has broken down (or has it?), and he’s forced to man all the phones by himself, as well as deal with requests from the highly-strung chef, maitre’d, hostess, security guard, and, not least, his family. As more and more customers inundate his phone with requests for tables at ridiculously short notice, more and more responsibility is forced onto Sam’s shoulders when Mr and Mrs Zagat (presumably of the Zagat Guide) walk in, only to find that their reservation has been screwed up. And on top of all this, Sam is forced to deal with his self-aggrandising actor friend Jerry and the stress of finding out whether or not he’s got that big callback he wanted…

Sam is obviously the protagonist of this piece, as well as being the only character that technically appears on stage, but Nick Curnow manages to play the panoply of characters in Fully Committed with aplomb, from the surly chef wanting to know where his helicopter is to Tyra Banks’ bubbly assistant Bryce to the hysterical Mrs Sebag. Curnow is simply fabulous in this piece: sympathetic as the harrowed Sam, neatly differentiating between the myriad of different characters. If I had one criticism, it’s that he probably relies too heavily on accents, but hey, if you can do them, why not flaunt them?

 The show takes a little while to get going while the audience settle in and suspend their disbelief – one actor playing so many characters is a massive theatrical conceit, after all – but once it finds its feet, Fully Committed is great fun. It’s instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever worked answering phones (the time I spent working in a call centre came immediately flooding back to me), and as well as being very funny, it has a heart. It plays this week only, so if you want some fun theatre and a good laugh (it’s only about an hour long), get along to the Old Fitz and check it out.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jump For Jordan

I reviewed Jump For Jordan at Griffin Theatre Company over at Australian Stage. YOU NEED TO GO AND SEE THIS PLAY. Here are the reasons why.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Privates on Parade

Privates on Parade runs at the New Theatre from February 15 – March 8. By Peter Nichols, music by Denis King, directed by Alice Livingstone.

It’s really hard to know what to say about Privates on Parade. It is a mess. A glorious mess – an officers’ mess – but a mess nonetheless.

Mess isn’t necessarily a bad thing (in fact, there are scholars who have devoted lots of time and space and energy to thinking through the poetics and erotics of mess). But mess has to be carefully contained, otherwise you end up with the literary/textual/theatrical equivalent of one of those houses you see on Hoarders. That’s kind of what I felt happened with Privates on Parade. There is just way too much going on in it. All this stuff has been thrown into a big heap and jumbled around and then strewn chaotically across almost three hours, and… and it’s a mess. It’s difficult and confusing and occasionally rewarding, but mostly, it’s just cluttered. And that is a problem, because all that junk is hiding the bits in this show that are genuinely fabulous.

Privates on Parade is set amongst a group of British soldiers stationed in Singapore in 1948. If I was going to try and describe the plot, it would a) be confusing, and b) probably be spoilers, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that it follows a group of British soldiers in an environment they don’t really understand, coping the best they can. At the beginning of the play, Private Steven Flowers (David Hooley) is introduced to the group, and quickly realises that there are two distinct groups: one, spearheaded by the nefarious Sergeant Major Reg Drummond (Matt Butcher), and the other, a group devoted to entertaining. These include drag queen Acting Captain Terri Dennis (James Lee), and gay couple Corporal Len Bonny (Martin Searles) and Lance Corporal Charles Bishop (Jamie Collette). The avowedly straight Steven also has to negotiate his growing relationship with half-Welsh, half-Indian dancing girl Sylvia Morgan (Diana Perini). Ideas of sexuality, race, and class are mobilised and explored.

If that summary was confusing, don’t worry – I was confused too. It was hard to tell whether Privates on Parade had too much or too little plot. There was so much going on it was genuinely hard to keep track of, and yet the actual linear thread of the story seems to be quite insubstantial. It’s almost like there are too many genres cobbled together here: there’s vaudeville and pantomime and dance and all kinds of things going on, as well as scenes between characters that might be interesting in terms of elucidating character but didn’t really go anywhere. Some of it enhances the story, but some of it obscures it.

I feel like this was an actor’s play – there was a lot in here for the performers to sink their teeth into, and they clearly relished this, because there were some fabulous performances. Diana Perini as Sylvia was particularly outstanding, but there were no weak links across the board. However, I’m not quite sure if it’s an audience’s play. It seems strange to say this about a play from the 1970s which won the Olivier award for best new comedy, but it feels like it’s one or two good workshops away from being ready for the stage. It needs taming. It needs a firm hand to turn its messiness into delicious complexity. The direction here goes some way to achieving that – I think Alice Livingstone has done a fine job – but it’s the kind of thing that probably needs to start from the ground up.

Privates on Parade is a lot of fun. There are great performances, and a lot of the songs are genuinely toe-tapping. But there is just way, way too much going on in this piece. It’s fun, but it’s messy.

Monday, February 10, 2014