26/02/2008 - 01/02/2008
This comedy by Sam Fisher goes into the world of selling houses.
Conception, death, romance, the meaning of life and selling houses are dealt with in this fast paced play which was developed through funding from Playmarket.
February 26, 27, 28, 29, March 1
Duration 1 hr 20 mins
John Street: Phil Darkins
Andrew Middleton: Todd Rippon
Janey: Pip O'Connell
Maddison: Lucy Edwards
Kate: Melanie Camp
Stage Manager: Dan Ashworth
Production Assistant: Tessa Alderton
Set Design: Rodney Bane
Lighting Design: Rebecca Weatherhead
Sound Design: Leslie Craven
Lighting /Sound Operation: Daniel Weatherhead
Set: Co-Op Members
Photography: Rodney Bane
Poster / Programme: Rodney Bane
Administrator: David Austin
1 hr 20 mins incl. interval
free flowing, energised production
Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Mar 2008
Sam Fisher’s new play Location, Location is, as the title suggests, about the real estate industry. And not just the bad side, as Fisher cleverly balances the sleaze of the industry, through the character of John (Phil Darkins), with Andrew ( Todd Rippon) – a new age sensitive guy who is left to pick up the pieces after John does a runner with the company’s trust funds.
Lots of interesting sidelines develop through the interactions of three women – Janey (PipO’Connell), the firm’s other partner, whose biological clock is ticking down big time; Maddison (Lucy Edwards), the over-the-top, full on Receptionist and Kate (Melanie Camp), Andrew’s youthful love interest.
Director Rodney Bane pulls out all the stops to create a free flowing, energised production making much of Fisher’s rather unsubtle humour. While all the cast excel in bringing the play to life, Darkins and Rippon in particular, bring depth and feeling to their characters to make what could be another one dimensional run-of-the mill comedy something more substantial.
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Deceit in Realty
Review by Kate Blackhurst 29th Feb 2008
The original title of this play, Real, had to be changed for legal reasons, which is a shame as it gives a much better indication of the subject than Location, Location. Real estate collides with real life and both have issues of equivocation, little white lies and great big dirty whopping deceit.
The play begins with an auction, where the characters have been planted in the audience to make bids. Immediately the dodgy practices of the industry are exposed as we are told, ‘good auction is like a piece of theatre’. The estate agents are marketing psychology and creating excitement to reduce inhibitions. They need to know everything about cleaning, lighting, plumbing and bread making, rather than selling. It’s all about impressions – what people pay for a house is what they think they’re worth.
There is mention of disgruntled customers; the commerce commission; unethical pressure on vendors; and a topical reference to The Joneses. Words can mean whatever you want them to mean in real estate; ‘Make sure the contract is signed and you can interpret it later’. The agents claim that the idea is not to fool people, but simply to sell houses; they deal with ‘the professional pairing of people and property’. It is no coincidence that this scene segues into another in a music shop where ‘Money for Nothing’ is being played.
John Street (Phil Darkins) is the leading partner. He is smarmy, narcissistic and over-confident; although he has reason, having made 100 million in residential sales. His is a one-dimensional character, but people who live for their work often are. He lectures a colleague, ‘If you were serious about real estate you wouldn’t take a day off’ and it is clear that he doesn’t have a ‘real life’ outside his job.
He is crass to women and unable to form a meaningful relationship; he delivers a hugely inappropriate pastiche of speeches at a colleague’s funeral which displays his lack of genuine emotion and merely labels people as marketing targets. Indeed, real estate agents see things differently from the rest of us; when a couple who were going to separate get back together, it is a ‘stroke of luck’ as they are forced to sell their house to pay for the lawyers’ fees.
Andrew Middleton (Todd Rippon) is the most rounded of all the characters; he is friendly and normal despite a preoccupation with ageing and death. He explains ‘If I were to use one word to describe my life it would be okay’. He believes that his role as a real estate agent is to facilitate the cleansing process; new people clean and repair the houses – everything gets old and decays but you can halt the process. He is concerned that he too is getting old and, perhaps as an antidote to this, begins a relationship with Kate, a young waitress/retail assistant at a music shop.
Kate (Melanie Camp) is suitably young and funky, says ‘sweet’ a lot, and is full of attitude and platitudes. Her laughable jargon is as bad as that of the marketing-speak; ‘We’re human beings not human doings.’ She hates suits and people who think they are better than everyone, and is more like 13 than 23 in her youthful idealism and naivety. As Andrew tells her later, idealism is all very well, but you have to do something to pay the bills.
Their ‘relationship’ reeks of a sad middle-aged man trying to hit on a young girl to maintain his youth, which raises a couple of niggling questions. Why do the older generation assume that their culture is inferior to the glamour of the young? Why would a 23-year old girl go out with a 42 year old guy and then accuse of him of being boring and conservative? How can she work in a music shop and not have heard of The Specials and, even worse, ska?
The other two characters are opposite sides of womanhood. Maddison, ‘with a double d’ is played with dramatic hyperbole by Lucy Edwards, which lures you into thinking she is merely a dumb blonde. In contrast, Janey (Pip O’Connell) is serious and earnest to the point of neurosis. It is hard to play the straight person to the comedy roles but she does it well, fuelled by past injustices and an obsession with her biological clock.
The pace of the play is generally good although it drags a little towards the end. There is an unnecessarily long scene change and some dubious lighting and sound cues. The final scene also seems superfluous and merely lessens the impact of the previous image, with its implication that if it all sounds a bit weird, it’s probably real.
Originally published in The Lumière Reader
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Over-stated salaciousness subverts strong idea
Review by John Smythe 27th Feb 2008
Yet again what’s good about Sam Fisher’s play writing is subverted by misjudgements in directing, some performances and some of the writing, plus amateurish production values and presentation.
That Todd Rippon can command respect and empathy with his very real realty agent Andrew Middleton attests to the fact that Fisher can write craftily, with good human insight. Andrew’s evolving love interest Kate is also well realised by Melanie Camp and their scenes together are well modulated. These two know how to ‘be’ their characters and draw us into their world.
All the others act their characters’ hearts out and heads off. They play their lines instead of the person who says them, and if they don’t know the difference – and how to achieve that dimension – they cannot be called real actors.
Phil Darkins almost gets away with making his dodgy dealer John Street credible but his over-the-top sexist behaviour totally undermines it. He wouldn’t last two minutes in the real world behaving as he does. If it really is written as crassly as that, he needs to ‘play against’ the text.
Given the way the other two women are played as well, I can only assume they are aided and abetted in their crimes against acting by director Rodney Bane. While single sales assistant Janey (Pip O’Connell), whose biological clock is ticking, and office assistant Maddison (played as a certifiable vamp by Lucy Edwards) may mostly function as facilitators of the unravelling plot, they are written with more dimension that either actress gives them.
The core idea of pitting the modern demand to be ‘the best in the world’ (John) against just being an OK human being (Andrew) is a strong one, and setting it in the context of the ruthless real estate industry is valid. Back-stories and future ambitions are clearly in place to drive the action. But it needs strong dramaturgy to become itself, let alone reach its potential.
This production falls way short of being even ‘just OK’ and given the imbalance in performing styles – especially the undue over-stating of salaciousness, presumably in a misguided quest for comedy, where more subtly manifested sex-drives would be infinitely more effective – I can only conclude that Backyard Theatre is not what this writer needs.
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