16/02/2010 - 20/02/2010
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT? LOOK CLOSER
Redmond Barry Theatre Company has just learnt to cook. They’re about to serve their first piece of pie to Auckland theatre with their production of Closer and it tastes delicious. They are recruiting new people on the project every day due to their open call philosophy.
Like any industry, the hierarchy prevalent in the theatre world often stands in the way of artists landing the jobs they want. The two founders of the company, Oliver Page (21) and Leigh Fitzjames (21) began work in October 2009 over a cup of coffee, laughing about future dream jobs in the fickle theatre industry. Directing, acting, producing, such roles involve constant auditioning and applications, relying on someone out there to notice you. The tone changes however when the artists realise that their career ambitions can be fulfilled, that they can initiate the work themselves. Hence the move to begin Redmond Barry Theatre Company.
Applying for play rights, finding investors, coming up with a company name, once these things were in momentum the two founders realised that all the resources they needed were at hand and that they were ready to begin the first creative project of Closer. Producer Leigh Fitzjames found people everywhere who were up for the project, “we are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that there is a group of people out there like us, who are dying for work. They’re not after money, they’re after a team to practice their skills with. There is a huge group of young people who are in transition between amateur and professional levels, and they’re deciding whether to pursue their talents or give up. As long as they’re occupied, they’re not going to give up”.
The cast and crew is filled with the likes of such aspired people. Closer will be the third credit to Oliver Page’s directing history this year after directing David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Stephen Jefferys’ The Libertine under the University of Auckland’s Theatre group Stage Two Productions. The cast features up and coming theatre darlings Romy Hooper (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bedlam, High Risk Team), Charles Louwrens (Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Suburbia, The Libertine, The Tempest), Beatrice Hudson (Brian, The Libertine, The Fourth Freedom, Where the Monsters Are) and Omar Al Sobky (Shrew’d, Tommy, Perils of the Deep Blue Sea). The crew and creative team lineup is just as promising with Stage Manager Alix Whittaker, Graphic Designers Rachel Manning and Rebecca Walthall, Photographer Jordan Dodson, Lighting Designer Michael Craven and Stylist Nina Bostock.
All look forward to telling the story of Patrick Marber’s Closer, where Alice, Dan, Anna and Larry, four troubled Londonites find solace, humour and heartbreak in eachothers arms and beds in what Page calls “a sleazy sonata of seduction and sex”. Their own 0800 number is up and running for ticket bookings.
See it for yourself.
Season runs Tuesday, 16th February- Saturday, 20th February
The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
Call 0800 RED MAN for bookings.
Closer casts an unblinking gaze at the modern relationship and dares you to look away.
"Come find delicious, lascivious entertainment in Patrick Marber’s award-winning play."
– David Lewis, Culture
New company falls short of its ideals
Review by Lillian Richards 17th Feb 2010
Redmond Barry Theatre Company’s first effort is a bold choice. This is a play which is both complex and simple; the staging is minimal and begs interpretation, the script is ribald, humorous and confronting, the perfection of this play rests on the natural fluidity of those performing it and RBTC’s production has moments of this nature.
The director, Oliver Page, notes in the program his personal interest in this play is as a man recently scorned and hence the themes therein appeal to his broken-hearted state: the notion of redemption, of the slippery yet necessary relationship with truth, of random human connection and of determinism over wayward fatalism.
Yet despite this personal resonance Oliver Page’s directorial style is hard to pinpoint. That said the scene where the two couples simultaneously break up whilst sitting on a sofa, split by both script and what is an easily intimated geographical distance whilst actually being physically right next to each other, is lovely to watch.
The production lacks a strong directorial perspective and feels a little clumsy. There isn’t an air of depth and some subtleties and nuances are left on the surface with Page’s at times literal interpretation.
In the original London staging the set was intentionally sparse, the idea being to create a space living within a space where, with a few additions, the set could begin to live a life of its own; designed so that within this simplicity the symbolism had a chance to grow on you.
RBTC’s rendition stays true to this original direction with moments of thoughtful spatial use but overall it comes across as poorly funded. I know that the state of theatre funding is poor in NZ but there are ways of making simplicity look intentional without it coming across as superficial.
Romy Hooper plays Alice, the troubled and desirable youth, who lies like a fish takes to water and with as much fluidity. Hooper brings a malice, courage and vampishness to the role and she is clearly emotionally available, willing to walk with her character to the darker places that lie very close to the surface, bound up in mistruths. Although well acted and with integrity the part is oddly cast; Alice is a troubled child but has a devout innocence and undeniable appeal that both saves and explains her, and this isn’t present in Hooper’s performance.
Anna, the intelligently capable yet easily emotionally confounded photographer who takes the jacket image of author Dan for his book about partner fascination and subject, Alice. Beatrice Hudson’s portrayal of the elegant Anna is refined and at times emotionally bare yet again the casting feels odd. Here is a woman so self possessed, elegant, regal almost and yet so broken down that her complexity is undeniable ,and for all this Hudson didn’t quite meet the mark. There is a lack of grace in Hudson’s performance that at times comes over as clunky and steals from Anna some of her innate attractiveness, though it was opening night I watched so perhaps the relaxedness will come.
Charles Louwrens plays the author character Dan who is a child like man, self-obsessed and perpetually flawed: a romantic narcissist with clear mother issues. Louwrens imbues Dan with a showmanship that speaks to the nature of this man-child but his performance only runs skin deep; there is no natural charm or abiding warmth, which Dan has to have in spades in order to allow him his excess and bravado. Dan is the man that gets the girl and Louwrens feels a little overworked, a touch too frantic and pronounced to feel real or relatable-to. He needs to relax into the character, making his confidence less overt and more innate.
The man from whom all the girls are taken is Larry, the doctor, the beast, the sex fanatic who is abrasive and yet, somehow, appealing. He also gets most of the great lines. Larry is played by Omar Al-Sobky with a clear finesse. His performance is strong and clever and he takes the character into his own, safe, hands to deliver a performance that is both funny, raw and engaging.
The lighting and sound are minimal yet effective, although there could be more visual and auditory playfulness considering the massive amount of subtext provided in the script. A highlight is a club scene where a brave Hooper strips to topless and slips around the floor in a choreographed attempt at seduction whilst a deep base thumps in the background, effortlessly evoking the seedy club.
Redmond Barry Theatre Company was established by Oliver Page and Leigh Fitzjames in 2009. They are director and producer respectively for Closer and the production value provided by Fitzjames is of a very high standard, intimating that this theatre company is in good hands. In a press release the two talk of starting the company in order to have the creative control within a fickle industry and to bring work to those who love working. Along with notions of a democratic and transparent production practice, RBTC aims to create more opportunities in the NZ theatre industry.
Making a splash with the choice of Closer is ambitious, although it’s often true that Kiwi’s tend to get themselves to a theatre more readily for an overseas playwright than for local talent. However I sense that this theatre company, with its high ideals, could do wonders for NZ work as well. In the right context this company could bring to our stages some wonderfully chosen, performed and presented pieces. I wish them all the best in their evolution.
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