Tag Archives: Theatre Experience

Graduate Dramatic Society



The Man from Mukinupin

New Fortune Theatre, UWA

reviewed by Neville Cohn


For those who look forward to GRADS’ Shakespearean offerings on UWA campus, there are only the leanest pickings from the Bard for 2013 – a few moments from Othello presented as a play within a play in Dorothy Hewett’s The Man from Mukinupin. Jack and Polly


Peopled by a range of often-odd citizens who live in Hewett’s imaginary town in the back blocks of W.A., the play makes for an absorbing theatre experience. And it says a great deal for director Aarne Neeme and his large cast, that momentum was so efficiently maintained in a play that, unless carefully managed, can all too easily die of inertia. Not so here. It unfolded beautifully. It hadn’t a dull moment.


Above the Mukinupin council chambers at stage rear were positioned a number of musicians who did sterling work in both mood evocation and backing of vocals, although overly repetitive keyboard figurations in music prior to the play proper were an essay in dullness.


Small country towns, just as big cities, invariably have their share of inhabitants who’ve experienced disappointment and deprivation. And who more so than Clemmy (played by Yvette Wall), a former circus tightrope walker – a small star but a star nonetheless – who survives a fall that has crippled her. She gets about with a crutch and limps badly.   Her manner cleverly evoked an aura of past glory, regret tinged by despair.

                                                         Jack, Mercy and Polly

Cameron Taylor was altogether impressive as Jack, the young grocery shop assistant clearly deeply enamoured of his boss’ daughter. When World War I breaks out, he joins up with all the enthusiasm of a young patriot doing his duty without, perhaps, the realisation of what really lies before him and so many of his generation.


As Jack’s love interest, Polly, Bonnie Coyle was entirely convincing. With the fresh-faced innocence of youth, she made of Polly a delightful personality.


Hewett calls for a large cast and some not only double up but triple up as does Kenneth Gasmier who delighted as a fussy cum pompous travelling salesman on the lookout for domestic bliss. He has an eye on Polly. He’s also an orange-robed Othello in a tiny travelling theatre troop as well as – quel horreur! – a flasher in trade-mark raincoat and very little else.


No less convincing was Rosemary Longhurst who seemed positively to relish her twin roles as Clarry and black-garbed widow Tuesday. Peter Fry, too, was beyond reproach as shopkeeper Eek – and his alter ego Zeek. And Liz Hoffmann came up trumps as Eek’s wife Edie, ear-trumpet and all.


As is often the case in remote places, gossip is a currency sometimes valued greater than gold and there’s a good deal of it, spoken in low voices, in Mukinupin – and Hewett’s touch here is faultless, her lines again and again having the stamp of sometimes uncomfortable truth.


If this production of The Man from Mukinupin is anything to go by, GRADS are likely to have a very good year.

Photos by Merri Ford and Maddy Connellan

The Motherf**ker with the Hat




Black Swan Theatre Company



State Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn


I wouldn’t take great-aunt Mabel to The Motherf**ker with the Hat. In fact, I can think of a host of people who would be offended, even outraged, by its almost unbroken stream of profanity. Of a cast of five, three seem virtually incapable of uttering even a single sentence without lacing it with the f-word and a good deal more profanity. It’s as if they’re incapable of a coherent thought free of verbal filth.

 0015 Fayssal Bazzi, Austin Castiglione, Kenneth Ransom. The Motherf--ker with the Hat. Image by Gary Marsh

Fayssal Bazzi, Austin Castiglione, Kenneth Ransom

Photo by Gary Marsh

Jackie (Austin Castiglione) has been recently released from prison on parole. He’s under the supervision of Ralph D. (Kenneth Ransom), an Alcoholics Anonymous  type for whom Jackie has a great deal of respect.


Jackie has found a humble job as a porter, news he proudly relates to his girlfriend Veronica (Rhoda Lopez). Astonishingly foul-mouthed, Veronica produces a stream of gutter language that would silence a sea-going parrot. She is also a coke addict living in a squalid bed-sitter.


As the play unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that Jackie is a far more decent person than his so-called sponsor, even though Jackie is seemingly blind to Ralph D.’s ugliness of character.  The plot is further complicated by Victoria, Ralph D’s wife  (Alison van Reeken), who has a more than passing interest in Jackie.


He might be rough, uncouth, violent, an unattractive human being – but Jackie has a sense of fairness and honour (however rudimentary) which are largely lacking in his appalling sponsor.


Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis homes in unerringly on the disparity of personality between the two men. It is this which makes the play a fascinating and absorbing theatre experience. Castigione plays Jackie with a very real understanding of his flawed character. And Ransom brings an effective sleaziness to his characterisation of Ralph D.


Fayssal Bazzi plays Julio, Jackie’s cousin, a seemingly mild man who nonetheless has a tendency towards violence.


In a setting strongly rooted in grim realism, the fight scene between Jackie and Ralph D seemed somewhat contrived and awkward.

 0001 Rhoda Lopez, Austin Castiglione. The Motherf--ker with the Hat. Image by Gary Marsh

 Rhoda Lopez, Austin Castiglione

Photo by Gary Marsh

Brian Woltjen has designed a first-rate set, a series of interiors mounted on a circular, revolving base. In its mood establishment, Woltjen’s set adds materially to the overall impact of the production as did Trent Suidgeest’s imaginative lighting design.


Motherf**ker is presented without interval – and it hasn’t a dull moment. If you like gritty, abrasive, expletive-filled and violently confrontational theatre, then this is the play for you – but, as mentioned earlier, don’t bring great-aunt Mabel. She’s likely to be so offended, she might well clamber on stage and use her umbrella to beat the  bejesus out of the characters for bad language and worse morals.



Lebensraum (Israel Horovitz)




Downstairs at the Maj

reviewed by Neville Cohn


It’s a preposterous notion, a gratuitous awarding of German citizenship with all rights and entitlements to six million Jews from around the world to somehow assuage the limitless grief and pain that the Holocaust caused. It is a thought-provoking “what if…….”

   photo: Belinda Dunbar



One of the nazis’ most odious policies was that of ‘lebensraum’, a ferociously violent and cruel colonisation of vast areas of conquered lands to enable the German people to have as much territory as needed for the expansion of the so-called master race. In putting this into practice, millions of innocents, primarily but not exclusively Jews, were butchered on an industrial scale.  


Three actors, portraying literally dozens of people, provide an absorbing theatre experience on this most unusual theme. I cannot readily recall a play that makes such extraordinary demands on its players, not least because the characters are of all ages and backgrounds coming from a wide range of countries necessitating the use of numbers of linguistic accents. And apart from the opening moments of the play when the German accent adopted was quite unconvincing, the players delivered impressively on this count through a lengthy work. True, there were some minor fluffs – but in the wider context, this gave an added dimension of reality to the proceedings.


All three actors – Vivienne Garrett, Brendan Hanson and Craig Williams – delivered remarkably credible impersonations of a daunting number of characters. On this level, the production was a tour de force.


I particularly admired the skill with which animated conversations between two people were held –  but featuring only a single actor. Craig Williams was impressive in this, with a rapid exchange of hats the only prop in a hugely skilled episode, an animated conversation between two people, courtesy of one actor. 


An American couple with a son take up the offer as does an outrageously camp gay pair from France. There’s also a very old Holocaust survivor living out his last days in a remote spot in Australia. He, too, turns up. He finds himself a job in Charlottenburg (whence he fled years earlier) as carer for a very old, bed-ridden and now-helpless former piano teacher, the very person who dobbed his family in to the Nazis because he and his siblings ‘wore pretty clothes’. He was the sole survivor. He exacts an unusual revenge.


Back to the Americans: the man of the house finds a place in the work force quickly as a wharfie – he’s a hard worker, impresses his boss and is soon offered a promotion. Then his boss gives him a supervisory role. There’s growing resentment from German-born workers as more hardworking Jews from abroad are welcomed to the country and given jobs. There are ugly scenes. As this happens, I dare say that the notion of a 21st-century revisiting of the Holocaust takes up a lot of wishful thinking  on the part of displaced German workers.


There’s also young love between a young American fellow with a German lass.


Horovitz’s play consist of many, often very brief, scenes that call for considerable skill on the part of the actors to ensure a smoothly unfolding play.  And that was gratifyingly apparent, so ensuring that the impact of the play as a whole was greater than the sum of its constituent scenes, directed with gratifying attention to detail by Lawrie Cullen-Tait.