Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Independent Theatre Upstarts Prove Anything Is Pozible.

Okay, yes, I know what you're thinking... "What a terrible title! I mean, how many bad puns can Hyde fit into the one sentence?"

*raises hand* Guilty as charged.

But we'll come to the courtroom drama later.

First, as is my occasional want, it's time to shine a light on a local creative endeavour that is asking for a little love and attention. Sure, they're really after your hard earned $$$ but a hug and some enthusiastic applause would be met with equal gratitude.

They are the Upstart Theatre Company based in Fremantle in the funky Pakenham Street Art Space (PSAS), comprising Garreth Edward Bradshaw, Patrick Downes, Desiree Crossing and a troupe of talented actors.

In their own words:

Upstart Theatre Company believes in giving its audiences memorable and visceral experiences.

We believe in our audience's ability to think, criticise and make decisions. We believe this should never be disregarded.

We believe in new spaces, old spaces and that any space filled with an actor and an audience is a theatre.

We believe that Western Australia produces great theatre artists who deserve national and international recognition.

We believe these artists deserve a company that will grow to support their careers.

We believe mistakes are gifts.

We believe in taking forward steps in our craft every day.

We believe in ourselves.

However, as a fiercely independent company Upstart rely on the support of the theatre going public to help sustain their creative ambitions. I was recently at the lavish production of Cats at the Regal Theatre and there was almost a wistful remark by one of their member about what they could do with even a fraction of that money. Alas, such things are not to be. There is, however, Pozible! (I'll explain it to you later, Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Yes, Upstart are mining the rich vein that is crowdfunding for a remounting of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, a "courtroom drama" where Judas is put on trial for his betrayal of Christ. You can see their Pozible pitch here but I thought I'd do a testimonial of sorts.

To date I have seen four Upstart productions - The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Animal.

I always struggle a little with Shakespeare but that's because my ears are tuned to FM in what is an AM world with ye olde English. What I will say is that they are tackled with great verve and there was a particularly novel approach with A Midsummer Night's Dream where the audience followed the action from "set" to "set". These crowd pleasers allow Upstart to tackle other material and this is where I think they really shine.

My thoughts on The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, a play I saw in the dead of winter last year:

What a play!!! Absurdist, darkly funny, bursting with ideas, pointed, subversive, dense and intricate dialogue, playful... challenging.

Three highlights (amongst many) - a powerhouse penultimate scene between Braye Dial as Judas Iscariot and Simon Thompson as Jesus; Kingsley Judd takes a beautifully written monologue at least 10 minutes long and hits it out of the ballpark; Desiree Crossing's character breaking down as she damns Satan as a liar.

Full house at The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
I was very impressed with this piece and it is deliciously dark and very funny. Yes, it is long but it deserves your full attention and the last two scenes are flat out brilliant. I was really happy to see that by the end of its run it was playing to packed houses as word of mouth spread. I would definitely recommend its "encore season".

Then there was this year's Animal which blew me away:

This is a brilliantly written play - layered, brutal, provocative, sly, heartbreaking - with every setup paid off to telling effect. Nothing is wasted or misplaced here. It is beautifully acted by Kingsley, Sally and Patrick who clearly relish working with such quality material.

The tale of human drug experimentation in a time of civil unrest is indeed harrowing but there is plenty of dark humour here as well. The chilling conclusion, however, has ramifications far beyond the intimate portrayal of patient, doctor, nurse.

It really is exceptional theatre and highly recommended.

Pakenham Street Art Space
In short, Upstart tackle challenging pieces with great skill and inventiveness in a cool performance space. They deserve an audience and the generosity of people like you, the reader, to continue to survive and thrive.

If you can, please support their Pozible campaign when it opens on the 24th. If not, I sincerely recommend you check out one of their shows some time - experience tells me you won't be disappointed.

Richard Hyde

Final thoughts:

There are other independent theatre companies in WA doing excellent work equally deserving of love, affection and $$$ (anyone who saw the magnificent Madame Piaf would be nodding their head vigorously). The amount of talent in WA is inspiring. www.theatre.asn.au is an excellent resource for reviews and to find out what gems are on and where.

For ostensibly a screenwriting blog I seem to spend a lot of time talking about theatre lately. One of the joys of supporting actor friends I guess. Perhaps I need to amend the title of this blog...?

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