I had the pleasure of an invitation to see James Balian's new production 'Brother Daniel'. Some of James's previous writing credits include the stage play The Night After The Day Before (Ensemble Studios), the telemovie Thank You Jack, and the tele-play An Electric Day, both screened on ABC -TV. Brother Daniel is directed by the talented Travis Green. Some of his directing credits include - A Dream Play, The Dentist's Visit, No Man's Island, Cosi. Radio, Catapult, Woyzeck, A Season At Sarsparilla, Speaking in Tongues just to name a few.
This full length play is about a revolutionary hero, who 25 years after the revolution is now in gaol being tortured by his old comrades. Their purpose is to make him sign a document and force him to speak out against the popular student uprising in the city streets.
Beautifully performed at the Tap Gallery in the Bohemian quarter of Darlinghurst. At first glance this performance space looks from the outside like an unpretentious terrace house rather than an art house. A rather large building sprawling over to the next street with an art gallery on one side and performance spaces on the lower and upper levels. The entrance to the Brother Daniel performance is at 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst. After making your way upstairs, you can buy a drink in the Cafe/Bar Lounge. This room just exudes creativity with its inviting eclectic furnishings, second hand books and memorabilia. It was abuzz with excitement from live theatre enthusiasts.
The small intimate set was designed by Rachel Scane. The use of the bare rendered walls splashed with smeared faint red streaks of blood, blacked out ceiling and dark bare floor with minimal furnishings gave the audience a sense of foreboding.
This set introduces a wonderful ensemble of actors. Commencing with a scene with Brother Daniel's cellmate Tony (played by Vincent Andriano) giving a convincing performance with his sarcastic demeanour and ragged behaviour while Brother Daniel is lying weak and suffering from a recent torture session. Lighting shifts the gaze to the single bed implying the lodgings of Lucinda, a young lawyer who will do anything she can to help Brother Daniel be released from Gaol (played by Mel Dodge). Mel manages to portray so much in Lucinda's character with her subtle facial movements, glistening eyes and powerful voice you get a real sense of her desperation and naivety in her quest to save Daniel.
Scenes progress on Lucinda's arrival in the gaol cell highlighting performances by Tony and Brother Daniel played by Adam Hatzimanolis. Adam's performance delivers well how much he has suffered and endured. His weak debilitated frame emphasized by the oversized loose faded cell clothing, long unkempt hair and beard suitably portray his term spent being tortured. His deep yet soft voice projecting his suffering, despondency and disenchantment with his predicament convincingly with energy and skill.
As the conversations progress more and more layers are peeled away exposing twists and turns. Highlighting the ambiguous nature of human behaviour and the consequences of the characters decisions also making us question our own beliefs of the way Justice does or does not prevail. Further dramatic and convincing scenes are delivered by Brother Daniel's old comrade Jonathan along with torturer Richard.
Each actor in this play is worth noting. The sympathetic kindly Guard played by David Attril gave a good performance and at times humorous. The torturer Richard played by Richard Hilliar delivers a merciless character in fine form. Notable was the solicitor Jonathan played by Errol Henderson. I found his performance vibrant, powerful and convincing. Not forgetting Rhema played by Naomi Livingstone looking and acting very much like a simple 15 year old peasant girl controlled by her circumstances and over protective mother. The Mother played by Jeannie Gee was also convincing and exuberant in her delivery.
Director Travis Green has put together a wonderful play with smooth scene changes using a clear focus on the story direction which is delivered with strong cohesiveness by all the characters. Additionally the lighting design by Larry Kelly created the mood also adding to the intimate feel of the performances. Mark Banks managed the stage and behind the scenes with skill. The set props, costumes, graphics by Rachel Scane enhance the plays performance with their simplicity of design.
I considered the Tap Gallery as the ideal chosen venue for this type of production creating the ideal intimate space allowing the audience to feel engaged.
I won't tell you more about the play as you will need to find out the twists and turns in the story line yourself. I personally enjoyed it and thought it a great production. I encourage you to go be the judge yourself
Please note the running time for this play is 120 minutes with an interval. There is 2 hour parking in the street until 10.00pm. I unfortunately got a ticket as I didn't realise it was 2 hour meter parking so I was booked for not displaying a ticket. So do be careful to note that if you are having dinner prior make sure you display your ticket and possibly move your car before the performance commences if you are close to parking expiry time. Or better still catch a bus along Oxford street with a short 5 minute walk down to 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst or taxi to the area.
Gala opening night was Thursday 25th September. A limited two week season, Brother Daniel will be showing until Sunday 5th October. Sessions: Tuesday to Saturday 8.00pm and Sunday 4.00pm.
Tickets cost $30 per person, concessions and groups 10 $25 per person.