TBC Theatre go out of their way to hold their productions at unusual venues. When you arrive at the theatre, you can't help wondering if you're in the right place. You might even think you're lost on a lonely street even though you know you're parked in front of the right building situated next to a furniture shop. Perhaps it's because I got there too early and there was no welcome mat out yet. The Q44 Theatre is on the upper level (1st floor) of 550 Swan street, Richmond and it's actually an acting studio and theatre space where weekly acting classes are run. There's artwork everywhere and rabbit warren style, rooms run in all directions.
L to R, Damien Harrison, Stuart Jeanfield and Vaughn Rae cast of Made in China
Chatting to writer, actor, producer and now director Fleur Murphy, being in the director's chair watching her ideas come to life on stage through her direction is a new and satisfying experience. Among many of her credits, Fleur penned an original and wrote her first full-length play Shadows of Angels which won 'Peoples Choice' at Short Sweet in 2001. Later in 2014 TBC in partnership with The National Trust of Victoria presented the brilliant staging of the show within the gaol cells and exercise yards of Melbourne's historic City Watch House.
L: Myles Tankle AD Fight Director of Made in China and Rebecca Fortuna, lead actor from play Fool for Love previously presented at Q44. R: Director of Made in China Fleur Murphy and Emily Rowe, the behind the scenes genius
Show time took us through 'Hughie's Apartment'; his (Vaughn Rae) lounge room somewhere in Dublin. A ring on the intercom heralds the arrival of Paddy (Damien Harrison) to the apartment, soaking wet from the pouring rain. Yet another member of the criminal kind, he quickly strips off his wet things, drying his 'trousers' (not pants) on the heater. His visit is soon followed by another, Kilby (Stuart Jeanfield), though wet, confidently strides through the apartment, claiming dominance by leaving Paddy to shake out his wet umbrella like a lackey.
L to R: Actor Jacob Pruden and Director of upcoming TBC production Tender Napalm, Alice Darling. Lead actors Trudi Boatwright and Ben Adams, of upcoming Tender Napalm
What follows is two hours of smart, witty, engaging well paced and executed dialogue amidst the sometimes humorous scenario of the criminal underbelly of Dublin. It'll hold your attention in this up close and personal space as the story unfolds and carries you along on its journey through the rise and fall, the curves and surprises and hidden facades of life in the criminal world.
Director Alice Darling with actor of Made in China Damien Harrison and sound and lighting tech of Made in China chatting with future actor of Tender Napalm
Hughie is however not firing on all cylinders and is having difficulty keeping his mind on the job. He's going through a personal crisis with his mother Dolly extremely ill in hospital. Paddy on the other hand lets it all hang out and with a bit of nudging, takes the opportunity to rise in the ranks of the biz. As for Kilby, he's just playing hard ball, squeezing it out every chance he gets, sitting on 'the throne' acting like 'king muck', leaving out all the bits that don't serve him well.
Director Fleur Murphy and fellow Director Alister Smith of 'As We Come To Wake' workshop at the National Celtic Festival and partner found something very amusing.
The thick Irish accents took me by surprise. I somehow didn't factor that in. For the first five minutes until my hearing acclimated to the accent, I panicked a little, worried I wouldn't be able to understand a word. Once my hearing adjusted, it was plain sailing all the way.
The amount of dialogue the actors have to work with over 2 hours of male relationship-driven narrative and interchange is impressive. They said it took three months of hard work everyday to memorise all the lines, like it was a long time. I jokingly asked if the person with the best memory put their hand up for the role. It seems they auditioned for it. To have executed it all seamlessly in front of a 'live' audience is a daunting task that was served up well done.
This Irish black comedy is typically Mark O'Rowe, master of verbal pyrotechnics. It'll command your attention as the three talented cast members involve you in a snapshot of their criminal lives and ad hoc weapons like baseball bats and prosthetics. Through the gritty imagery that is sometimes funny; peppered with comic dialogue, it'll elicit inappropriate laughter from you at the wrong times.
I have to admit to attending with trepidation, concerned that I'd not be as engaged in this production about 3 criminals. I didn't want that because I'm a huge fan of TBC Theatre and their productions thus far and didn't want to be disappointed. My concerns were totally unfounded. Though not a genre I'd normally choose, I was totally amazed how the production kept me totally engrossed; the two hours slipping away in the sheer pleasure and enjoyment of the play. I'd definitely recommend you experience it for yourselves.
CLICK HERE to read about how Myles Tankle the AD/Fight Director felt about the challenges of putting together a fight scene that needs to pack a punch that's as witty and gritty as the dialogue. Join their mailing list and you never have to miss out on upcoming events. You can also join their Facebook page and stay tuned.
Made in China continues to run till 25th July 2015 at 7.30pm from Wednesdays to Saturdays so make sure ou don't miss out on this 2 hour long play with a 20 minute interval. Tickets are $30 full and $25 concession and you can get them RIGHT HERE. Please note this play is suitable for mature audiences. It contains some coarse language, violence and a flash of nudity. Unfortunately the Q44 Theatre does not have wheelchair access. If you have any requirements or concerns in relation to venue access please contact email@example.com or you can call Emily Rowe on 0404 115 330.
Stay a while after the show to meet the actors and have a bite to eat. There'll also be a cash bar available on the night.
TBC are going to give you an exclusive look behind the scenes of their upcoming production 'Tender Napalm' in the form of a free open rehearsal with a glass of bubbles or soft drink, followed by a Q&A with the director and cast. It'll be at Goodtime Studios, 746 Swanston street, Carlton on Saturday 8 August and Sunday 16 August from 4pm to 6pm both dates with a Q&A to follow. Though a free event, numbers are strictly limited and you need to RSVP.
Written by Philip Ridley and directed by Alice Darling this play is about 2 lovers locked in a universe of their own creation. It stars Trudi Boatwright and Ben Adams and its Melbourne Premiere is from 3 to 19 September 2015, Tuesdays to Sunday 8pm and Saturday 3pm. A fiercely modern battle of the sexes, take a wild and passionate ride across the universe in this love story of incendiary magnitude. You can start booking tickets now RIGHT HERE. Tickets are $30 Full, $25 concession and if you book right now within the season of TBC's 'Made in China', tickets will be $20. You have till the 25th of July 2015 to take advantage of this early bird promo.