‘Mercutio’ at the 505- A WINNER! written by Giles Gartrell-Miles

I have not written about a play for several weeks, largely because there has been a plethora of worthy but not very entertaining pieces in the independent scene. This brand new World Premier play is an antidote to that, not because the play, Mercutio and the Prince of Cats is without depth, but it is wildly creative and entertaining and beautifully realised at the lovely 505 performance space. Giles isa well known actor- London trained but performing in Sydney for some years. This is his first full length play.

It is an unusual take on the rivalry and hatred between Romeo’s dear friend Mercutio and Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin. It takes them to an afterlife where they have the opportunity, with the help of Friar Lawrence’s apothecary skills, to overcome this legendary, almost religious animosity and deserve a place in heaven.

The writing is beautiful, eloquent humorous and approachable. The plot moves effortlessly and forms a natural arc which is hard to achieve on stage. The two titular characters are given back stories which are absolutely captivating.. in fact, I wanted to learn more about their childhoods. This is also because the two actors, Abe Mitchell, and Jack Angwin are wonderful and charismatic in their roles, which call for alot of movement and action.

As the play evolves we see that Juliet is presumed to be dead and her nurse is in disgrace. She has been sent to help the Friar and administer the potions to the two men in an attempt to redeem their souls. This part is played by the lovely Amanda Macgregor whom I have seen many times on stage- including a lovely performance in Cyprus Avenue. She is delightful, convincing and very funny.

Friar Lawrence is played by Dannielle King who is radiant as the Friar. I have admired her work for a few years now, and this part suits her superbly. Her beautiful voice is captured with some lovely poetic writing and her performance was reminiscent of Judi Dench in her younger days.

Full credit must be given to Bishania Vincent, whose lovely acting work I have reviewed several times. This is her first outing as director and she ensures that the words and movement work synergistically to produce the most scintillating effect. She has done such a good job it is hard to believe that she has not been directing for years!

The set, lighting and music are all top notch. This play is an exhilarating experience and should not be missed!

JOHN…Believe the reviews

John is the latest production from Outhouse, and the third Annie Baker play that this company has presented, after Aliens and Flick. Baker is a multi-award winning contemporary playwright and her plays are naturalistic in style, focusing on the complexities of relationships. The previous plays were wonderful in every category and won many accolades. This production is likely to be an even bigger prize winner. It is really exquisite.

‘John’ has already been reviewed and I concur with all the praise. This play is an embarrassment of riches. It is so well directed, acted and staged that the ticket price seems absurdly low.

Craig Baldwin directs this piece with tremendous sensitivity and nuance. There is a metaphysical element to the story which enhances the depth of the experience, but the exploration of the relationships between the characters is really at the heart of the piece.

Belinda Giblin is luminous on stage. Like Cate Blanchett in her ‘Streetcar’ performances she is mesmerising. It would seem that her range is infinite- she inhabits her characters so well that one is never watching ‘Belinda’. Maggie Blinco is wonderfully entertaining as her friend, and the troubled couple, James Bell and Shuang Hu are completely convincing.

The production is spectacular. Really spectacular. I am not a fan of the STC style faux marble staircase sets, but this play, set in a B+B in Gettysburg, really benefits from the intricate set that the producer Jeremy Waters has conjured up. It is pure magic.

The play has so much to explore and is one that I will continue to reflect upon for many days. Do not miss it!!!

UBU is dazzling

Richard Hilliar is a wonderful actor and director, one of my ‘must see’ artists. His latest production UBU was written by him as well, and is seems to me that his talent is boundless. This play was adapted from a nineteenth century French play which apparently caused a riot at it premier. It was never performed again and the playwright’s other plays were ignored. This play is brimming with important and relevant political themes, but performed in an exuberant, absurdist, high camp style which is so entertaining that one is begging for a ‘third half’ as the performers are taking their bows. And the lines are so witty! The ensemble cast are all excellent and work beautifully with each other. A particularly strong element was the choreography and movement of the actors on the stage. This enhanced the ‘madness and mayhem’ being depicted enormously. Nicole Wineberg, was the producer as well as Princess Munt and looked spectacular in her glistening ‘pure white’ ensemble. There was so much creativity, energy and talent in this production and the cost of the ticket was so meagre…I cannot think of better value in my last ten years of attending theatre.

It was sold out last night when I saw it, but with such a short run, buy tickets immediately!


Wink is currently on at KXT.. but only for one more week. It is a terrific play- on the surface very captivating and thoroughly entertaining but it has left me reflecting upon the deeper issues explored in the play ever since. It is very funny, and superbly witty in its story telling of an unhappy couple who are undergoing psychoanalytic therapy, and their pet cat, skinned by the husband .. who manages to survive, seeking shelter and therapy under the doctor .The plot is pure fantasy but is carried beautifully by the cast. Eloise Snape is such a fine actress. Everything about her is convincing, and this is vital since her character does some outlandish things. Graeme McRae is well matched as her husband, Matthew Cheetham conveys the vulnerability of the doctor perfectly and Sam O’Sullivan is excellent as the smart, seductive cat Wink. Anthony Skuse is one of our best and most experienced stage directors and he invariably brings out the best in his actors and ensures that the story unfolds elegantly. The direction, and the set were ideal. This production is a joy.. make the effort to get to the KXT!

DAWN and OMAR …a wonderful theatrical experience

This play is about a young homeless lad taken in by an elderly woman. He has been in and out of care, and she has had more than her share of failed attempts to help troubled teens. Add to this the complexity of his Lebanese ethnicity and his best friend, turfed out of home for being gay and scraping a living as a sex-worker, whom he wants to help…and the elderly woman’s brother who reluctantly offers this lad a job as an apprentice in his shop and you have a very interesting story line.

What is great about this play is everything.. from the acting to the sublime direction, to the authenticity with which it unfolds, to the excellent set, excellent lighting and appropriate use of background music.

Dino Dimitriadis is a brilliant director. He can be flamboyant or restrained but his attention to detail and ability to make a play present flawlessly are clearly at work here.

The four actors are all wonderful, but the most outstanding is Maggie Blinko. She is eighty six.. playing an eighty year old in this play and her acting- both verbal and non verbal is perfect. She is absolutely convincing and really commands the stage. As Omar, Anthony Makhlouf is endearing and attractive and his capacity to keep the audience emoting for him is one of the play’s strengths. His friend Mansoor Noor is very strong as his very troubled friend, as is Lex Marinos as the brother.

This play is entertaining, strong and ultimately very satisfying. It is sold out on several nights already so get tickets straight away!


The latest play at The Old Fitz theatre is a new Australian play making its Sydney debut. It is directed by Janine Watson, a talented actress/director who does an outstanding job with this play. Ostensibly about a female football player who finds a place in the AFL, it is able to ask very penetrating questions about the gender stereotypes which pervade every aspect of our culture.Sadly, women do not have the same number of opportunities as men.

But a play has to entertain- and this one is a beauty. The scenes are full of intensity and impact and the movement ‘on field’ and in training is particularly strong. The acting from the ensemble cast is flawless, with all cast members playing multiple roles excepts for Lauren Richardson as the central character. She gives a brilliant performance .

This is an important and timely play. Hopefully this piece of theatre is one effort in helping us to evolve towards a world of true gender equality. Do not miss it.. there were no empty seats at last night’s show so book now!

Make Contact

Contact is a cafe/restaurant in Crown St Woolloomooloo, and the decor carries the theme of communication with various old fashioned telephones etc on shelves. It is an attractive looking eatery but it is special for two reasons.

Firstly it offers a ‘digital detox.’ In keeping with the theme of contact it offers diners a reward for handing over their toxic mobile devices, which are stored in tiny lockers until the end of the meal. Integrative doctors are always harping on about the  dangers of excessive time spent on portable technology so this concept resonates with me. Apart from the EMG issues the long term damage to our hippocampus from the excessive stimulation from social media sites is only starting to become apparent. Any break from this is welcome! Markus Strauder, the G.M ,has a vision and I really commend him for this.

Secondly the food is sensational. Healthy, fresh and creative the chef  Marco Giuliani is really masterful. The celeriac I ate last week was spectacular ( and this is not an easy vegetable to turn into a masterpiece), and the calamari was the most tender I have ever experienced. Slow cooking features strongly here, as well as traditional Italian methods.

This restaurant/bar is unique, and best of all the night out is actually beneficial for your health!

Long Live the King!

King of Pigs , at the Old Fitzroy Theatre is a world premiere. The playwright, Steve Rogers, is a multi award winning playwright and he utilises his tremendous skill in creating a play which is compelling, entertaining and very very important.

The theme is domestic violence and the many ways in which men excuse themselves for behaving violently and creating generational  violence.  The play comprises a series of scenes which create several different stories simultaneously. This is performed so ably and directed so exquisitely that it has perfect flow.  Seamless.

The female roles are played by Ella Scott- Lynch. She is a very well known actress, NIDA trained, who has worked across all genres of performance. She is brilliant, she really is every woman. The male cast member are all excellent and beautifully cast. Mick Bani as the ‘could have been’ rugby player makes his stage debut, and the director should be particularly commended for this casting. As the son, Thom Blake, just eleven years of age, is also a treat to watch- I have seen him previously in Sport for Jove productions. He alternates with Wylie Best and I will be seeing this production again so will catch the other youngster’s performance.

The biggest praise must be reserved for the director Blazey Best. There is no theatre award that she has not won, and she really is a gift to the Australian stage. This is her directorial debut, and it is difficult to believe because the direction is so good. The play’s strength lies in the tight line she draws between excessive sentiment and inadequate emotion to depict very confronting material. This piece is a winner on every level, and I predict it will be multi award winning when this years plays are judged.

There are only a few tickets left for most of the sessions- and the Fitz has a habit of selling out- so book immediately.


Delicious Dresden

The current play at the KXT ( KingsCross Theatre in the KX hotel) is  astonishing. It is a new Australian play  by Justin Fleming not burdened in any way by the need for an ‘Australian’ theme. It is broadly about the life of Richard Wagner- a larger than life creative genius- intersecting with moments in history from  the twentieth century. However, it is vastly more creative ,witty and deep than I can convey without spoiling some plot twists.

In the role of Wagner is the charismatic Jeremy Waters.  He is really glorious in this role and enables us to see the complexities of Wagner’s personality, in particular his vulnerability. He has some of the wittiest lines and delivers them with perfect timing. I have to add here that if Jeremy waters is in the cast of any play, it is a money back guarantee that the piece will be excellent. I have not missed anything that this hardworking performer has been in, and his versatility is unparalleled.

The other cast members are terrific and most play a variety of roles. Thomas Campbell is a brilliant actor who has been ‘highly decorated’ in the independent theatre world.( Sydney Theatre Awards for Best Actor) . He  has a real comedic flare, as do Ben Wood and Dorje Swallow in their various roles. Yalin   Ozucelik has the difficult task of playing Adolf Hitler in the one role that is not comedic and does an excellent job, avoiding parody and sentimentality. The one female role, of Cosima Wagner is played with a lovely etherial quality by Renee Lim.

With such a clever and entertaining play, and wonderful acting,the other aspects- lighting, sets ,costumes and music become an embarrassment of riches. They are handled with wonderful effect and brought together by director Suzanne Millar. Suzanne is the creative director of Bakehouse and as such curates plays for the KXT. She really does a great job- this year is the best year ever. We Sydneysiders are so lucky to have this venue providing quality theatre.

I really loved this play on so many levels. First an foremost it is deliciously entertaining!! There is only one week left so do not miss this world premiere!

A Superb Effect

I often review plays at the Old Fitz, because the quality is just so good. I looked forward to seeing this play, which explores themes of mental health and the chemistry of love, particularly because I had seen the play a few years ago at STC. The STC piece was astonishing for its lack of charm and energy and became quite dreary in the second half. I wondered back then whether it was the play or the staging, and this performance proved that the play is wonderful and engrossing if directed and performed well.

Andrew Henry, a remarkably talented actor,  directs this play and his judgement is perfect. He has used actors in the two main roles who are completely convincing and extremely charismatic. Their energy carries the themes and the action explodes around them. I had not seen Emilie Cocqueral or Firass Firani on stage before but I will certainly be following their theatrical careers. The other  two actors playing  psychiatrists, Emma Jackson and Michael Nasser, are very experienced stage actors and their performances are very fine indeed.

The set is another masterpiece of design, and the lighting is superb. It is almost impossible to believe what can be achieved in this theatre, the hottest independent venue in Sydney.

Most importantly, this play is  very very entertaining! Although the themes are very serious and important the theatrical experience is buoyant and exciting. It is a real triumph and should not be missed. In fact, it would be the perfect play to see if you were not really into theatre…I do not think anyone would fail to succumb to the effect.