[Review] Romeo + Juliet (Sydney Shakespeare Company)


PACT Theatre, Erskineville
Until 9th October

The bard’s tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, is not a new one. It’s old in the sense that you’ve read it before in high school English class, seen at least one amateur stage production of it, and the play itself was written some few hundred years ago. Yes, it’s a classic – but probably one you’ve filed away in the “cultured but stale” drawer to pull out at opportune moments.

It’s promising then that the Sydney Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo & Juliet keeps the audience’s interest throughout. No, these aren’t the glitzy gun-toting Montagues and Capulets of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film of the same name, just an honest, no-frills production of the original, faithful to the core. The stage is simple but pleasing, and the characters sport the familiar half-capes and stockings characteristic of Shakespeare’s works set in medieval Italy.

Where the production shines through is in the honesty and humour of the characters. It’s clear the actors are having the fun Shakespeare intended when Steven Hopley parades around as the irredeemable pun-dropping Mercutio, or Jack Mitchell’s clueless yet sassy Peter. The Montague and Capulet parents are regal and commanding – though their behaviour really brings home certain facts about the horrible medieval treatment of women that still persists, in many ways, today. Emily Weare does an outstanding job as the slightly irresponsible and long-suffering nurse, dominating the stage whenever she appears.

But cliched as it may feel, it’s the interaction between Romeo and Juliet that bring this production to life. Benjamin Winckle portrays the confused, love-smitten Romeo well, but it’s Emilia Stubb-Grigoriou’s Juliet that sweeps it away. Gone are the wistful, sighing, middle-distance-gazing mannerisms of many classic Shakespeare performances, to be replaced with pouts, carefree enthusiasm and the manic distractedness of a twelve-year-old. Emilia reminds us with her absurdly expressive face that Juliet is nothing more than an early teenager, helping bring perspective a great deal of reality into the old classic.

If you’re not beyond the power of the bard’s words to recall, the Sydney Shakespeare Company’s Romeo & Juliet is an excellent reacquaintance with the cleverness and power of his work.

[Review] The Red Turtle

Fusion x64 TIFF File

Characters are the essence of a story, and The Red Turtle understands that. This latest offering made in partnership with wonderful Japanese animators Studio Ghibli – creators of Totoro, Spirited Away, and any number of emotional animated classics – understands this so well, in fact, that it decided to dispense with the dialogue and adhere to the principle that actions speak louder than words.

That’s right: The Red Turtle features no dialogue at all. There are no touching, heartfelt conversations; no fierce repudiations of a sneering villain’s nefarious machinations; no heated arguments or meandering spoken-aloud thought trains. Nor is there any narration. Save for the rare scattered “hey” or voiceless cry, this is a story told wholly without words.

Unsurprisingly, this places The Red Turtle into a very special category with only a few, select neighbors. Oh, sure, we’ve seen our fair share of Pixar shorts using purely physical interaction and whimsical soundtracks to weave a narrative, but those are what their name implies – short. How well can this possibly be sustained for the 80 minute running time of The Red Turtle?

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[Fiction] The Patri-Ark

south-park-warcraftThe ceiling fan creaks as its turgid blades spin half-heartedly. Gravity pulls close the stifling air, stretching it heavily across the sweat-ridden figure laid out upon the sofa like a corpse.

    “Grooover…” it moans, scrabbling feebly at pinstriped fabric. “How did it come to this?”

    The figure collapses again, spent, and silence settles once more upon the room. Save for the humble squeaking of the ceiling fan, all is still. It is curious, then, that the figure should have gone to such lengths to address an empty room; but who can know what thought flits through the head of that richly-dressed and languid form? Let us leave it to its ruminative huddling for the moment.

    The room which it inhabits is expensively appointed, outfitted with the sort of furnishings designed to impress rather than satisfy. The dark purple carpet is impractically soft; the leather armchairs so deep one could sink in and be lost forever; and along the wall beside medieval paintings stand proud oak bookcases lined with dusty tomes unread in this life or any other. There is wealth in this room, and taste – but the sort of taste arrived at by well-funded trial and error. Here is intimidation by furniture, status carved from stately trees. One does not visit this room – one is suffered to be entertained.

    “Grover…” comes the moan. “What happened to it all?”

    This time, the figure’s plea does not go unanswered. The tall oak door swings inwards noiselessly, allowing through a short, bald man clad all in black. A true gentleman’s gentleman, he does not so much enter the room as insinuate himself into it gently, treading upon the impossibly soft carpet bearing a silver tray. Upon the tray is perched a frothing stein and a plain white card, steepled carefully in the middle.

    “Master,” Grover says, “they have arrived.” Like the Red Sea before Moses, the fingers of the hand flung dramatically across the master’s face part slowly, and his rheumy eyes focus on the white card held before him. Then, the ancient orbs light up, glinting as they haven’t done for a year and more. The huddled figure struggles, bone-white soul patch wobbling on a weak, unsteady chin.

    “Well, don’t just stand there, Grover! Send them in! But help me up first.” Pillows propped; frothing tonic administered, the master reclines upright as Grover ushers in the three awaited men, who approach the settee with measured steps and respectfully bowed heads. Luxuriously maintained beards sprout forth in bushy abundance from their three unshaven necks.

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[Fiction] The Dystopian Philosophy Club



“Okay, so a train is heading for an intersection, and if you don’t do anything no one gets hurt. But if you pull the lever…”

    “Wait, what? Why would I pull the lever?”

    “I haven’t even told you what it does yet! So if you pull the lever, the train gets switched to another intersection, where there’s a second lever…”

    I kicked absently at the shale while Lana went on, outlining her preposterous idea. Somehow, she would always come up with these convoluted ‘thought experiments’ that felt like they’d been run through a bad translator one too many times.

    “…and so the second man on the tracks ends up with quite an interesting predicament. Does he pull the lever and save the cows upon the tracks, or sacrifice the passengers to the canyon?”

    “Let me get this straight. If I don’t pull the lever, nothing happens. If I do pull it, I endanger everyone on board.”

    “That’s right!” exclaimed Lana, happily. “It’s a conundrum, isn’t it?”

    I sighed, staring hard at a tiny iridescent rock crab climbing out of a hole between two slates. It was gently raising its legs one by one over the lip, an eyestalk poking out like a quizzical periscope. I thought about Lana’s proposition, trying to see if maybe there was some clever philosophical angle I was missing. I came up blank.

    “What’s the incentive, though? Why wouldn’t I just walk away and save everyone the trouble?” Lana seemed unimpressed by this.

    “Because pulling the lever makes the whole thing more interesting! If you don’t, you’re being boring.” I groaned inwardly. These sort of ‘twists’ were typical of Lana’s philosophical offerings – her moral quandaries seemed designed more to keep philosophers from being sent to the Outregions than to pose any actual dilemma.

    “Call me boring, but I would choose to save people’s lives.” The rock crab had succeeded in levering itself out and was now stutter-step scuttling towards a little pink pebble perched upon a wide chunk of shale. My scuffling kicks sent little tremors through the rocks, tiny vibrations that made the crab pause before darting forward again, like a video that kept freezing.

    Lana screwed up her face, and I knew she wasn’t happy with my answer. I intervened before she could launch into another of her tirades about how lame I was.

    “What business do I have pulling levers, anyway? That stuff’s all automated by people in locked control rooms, you know. The real question here is do I break into a government facility just so I can mess with their train timetables?”


    “See, now that’s a real hypothetical to consider. If you got caught doing that, they’d flush you for sure.”

    “Really? Yunsi tried something like that, and they didn’t flush her.

    “No, Yunsi tried to find out if any of her birth siblings were in her college by hacking into the university records. Now she has to attend a behavior program once a week.”

    “Oh.” We fell silent for a moment. Then Lana asked the question we’d been avoiding all morning.

    “Ally, do you think Niles is alright?”

    “I’m not sure.” Obviously, the pebble had been the crab’s goal, because now it was climbing all over it, clacking its claws. The pebble was twice the little crustacean’s size, and it looked funny clambering around with its awkward crab-walk. What do crabs eat? I didn’t know.

    “It’s a shame about their dad.”

    “Yeah.” One of Niles’ care-givers, Dad Warner, had been discovered harboring a collection of beautiful prints given to him by an artist who was neither a registered close friend or partner. Private gifts like that should only be given within your inner circle – to hide art of that caliber from the greater public unlawfully was to deprive them of a group-positive experience and a chance at bonding. They were shipping Dad Warner away to the Outregions today, and Niles was there to see him off.

    “I mean, it was his own fault, but still…” Lana’s voice lacked conviction – many people had such unlawful collections, treasure troves of valuables or stories given to them by people just outside their inner circle. Dad Warner had only been unlucky enough to be caught. We weren’t so stupid as to say that aloud, though.

    “Niles must be pretty upset. Imagine if it had happened to one of our own parents, like Mom Addison or Carer June-Bloom.”

    “Yeah… I hope they don’t take it too hard. At least they’ll have the two days off for emotional recuperation, since it’s one of their carers.”

    “And we’ll still be here for Niles when they return. They’re one of our close friends, after all. We’ll help them through it.”

    “It’s still sad. I liked Warner. He shared his baking with me, sometimes.”

    “Lana, it’s not like he’s getting flushed. It’s only the Outregions – he’ll be back before you know it.”

    “Will he, Ally? They could do anything, and we wouldn’t know. How do we know they’re not flushing him, huh? How would we know?”

    “Lana!” I reprimanded her sharply. Even though the stretch of beach we sat on was empty save for us and the inquisitive little rock crab, talk like that was dangerous. You never knew who could be listening in, or where the treacherous sea breeze might carry our words.

    “Sorry, Ally.” We fell silent again as the sea-wind picked up, beating up the water into short, choppy surf. It was turning cold – nowhere near wind-wrack levels, but enough to set us shivering. The hem of my long skirt flapped erratically, rippling and snapping against my bare legs and the stone embankment we were perched on. I was glad I’d thought to bring a jacket.

    Niles was the third member of our little group, which we’d whimsically termed the Dystopian Philosophy Club. The name itself was enough to suggest mind-expanding conversations and worthy self-improvement, and we’d been easily able to get the concept approved as a suitable hobby for each of us at Central Office. It wasn’t a complete fabrication, though probably no one would have cared if it were – we did often go on philosophical tangents, debating ideas of right and wrong, or discussing moral and ethical quandaries that had occurred to us the day before. It’s just that wasn’t all we did – the DPC had become a safety net for us, a space where we could air ideas that bordered on the controversial without too much fear.

    This semi-sheltered stretch of Pebble Beach served as both our headquarters and our meeting-place, secluded enough to offer some degree of privacy but public enough to defuse suspicion of subversive aims or dissidence. We were lucky that each of our officially registered passions or callings were sufficiently flexible to enable our irregular but frequent meetings. Over the past few years, the DPC had become a home away from home for each of us. I’d seen Niles upset before, but I could hardly imagine what they were going through. The most traumatic thing still to have happened in my life was the normal sibling purge at the age of five – I had never lost a carer, like Niles was now. Temporarily or otherwise.

    “Look, we should probably get going. I have to be at rehearsals by one, or my director will flush me. She’s mad enough I was late last week thanks to that train breakdown near Junction 11.”

    “Alright, Ally. See you Thursday?”

    “Yeah, Thursday.”

    “Hopefully Niles will be back then.”

    “I’ll send them a message tomorrow.”


    “See you.”


[Podcast] Storytelling podcast “Tales from Spasming Hill” is out!

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It’s been a while again, friends, but I’m here with the really super duper exciting news that “Tales from Spasming Hill”, my new absurdist storytelling podcast, has been released! After three months of work including writing, recording, lots and lots of hours of editing, and a whole heap of fun, we have released the first episode “Dungeoncrawl”.

This will be an ongoing series with lots of twists and turns and awesome plot arcs, so stay tuned for future episodes too!

I’ve embedded it below but you can listen to it on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and just about any other podcasting application you can think of. Head to our website to find out how!

[Review] The Nice Guys

the nice guys 1.jpg

On the outside of the cereal packet, The Nice Guys follows one of the most well-worn formulas in Hollywood: two private eyes, just out to make a difference in the world in their own way, are thrown together by circumstance and forced to co-operate on that one big case.

In this comedic iteration of the reluctant buddy cop film, the morally-conflicted tough-guy do-gooder Jackson Healy is played by Russell Crowe, while ambiguously talented yet charming incompetent Holland March is brought to us courtesy of Ryan Gosling. As scripture dictates in this style of film, both detectives have grim and probably tragic pasts which they have no desire to share, but emerge gradually as they learn what haunts the others’ footsteps. While The Nice Guys wallows freely in the conventions of its genre, it is mercifully free of a few of the more groan-worthy excesses buddy cop films are prone to.

Like Starsky & Hutch, Gosling and Crowe drag us back into the smoky, strange world of 1970s California, this time to the City of Angels, Los Angeles. It’s a different world, one where the internet’s not a thing, projectionists named Chet roam the streets, and the cars of naked porn stars crash downhill through your house at night, leaving their occupants sprawled picturesquely upon a rock. People contact each other by corded home phones and drive flashy sports cars past billboard advertisements for Jaws 2.

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[Announcement] Podcast: Tales from Spasming Hill launching soon!

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I am excited to announce that my new podcast, Tales from Spasming Hill, will be launching very soon. We’re aiming for launch on Monday 13th of June (AEST).

Tales from Spasming Hill is an absurdist fantasy storytelling podcast set in the fictional town of Spasming Hill. The official description runs as follows:

Buried in the forests of Oregon and built thoughtlessly atop a fault line, the small community of Spasming Hill is home to friendly people, good clean living, and a mayor and her monstrous doppelganger that prowl the streets at night.

With a vast, sprawling containment complex, a local sport played only during violent earthquakes, and all the other familiar and highly classified elements of a welcoming community, Spasming Hill is probably just an ordinary town.

Join local reporter Rex Zorkel-Smythe and his newest intern Jacqueline Hyde as they bring you reports on the latest news, cultural happenings and council-mandated color-confiscation days in TALES FROM SPASMING HILL.

I hope you’re as excited as I am! It’s been a lot of work and I know my writing output here has suffered for it, but it’s heaps of fun to make and produce. Keep an eye out for further details here🙂