I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Bigger than The Wiggles
The dark side of the children's music industry and the toxicity of commercialism is rampantly on display in Mary Rachel Brown's new play Permission to Spin. Presented by Apocalypse Theatre in association with Redline Productions at the Old Fitz Theatre, this is a 60 minute play that barrels along like a steam engine unable to stop until the play's shocking climax.
This is the world premiere performance of Mary Rachel Brown's play and she is also on board to co-direct with Apocalypse Theatre's Artistic Director Dino Dimitriades with assistance from Matthew Cheetham.
The play itself is a fast-paced, tightly written juggernaut with cocaine-fuelled dialogue to match. I found myself completely engaged through the at time hilarious, at times confrontational piece with varying levels of belly laughs and desperate unease at the dark twists and turns of the script.
The story revolves around a children's music performer, Cristobel, who is about become bigger than The Wiggles and break into the American market, making her, her agent and her producer filthy rich. Throughout the play we see toxic masculinity and alpha bullying on display, but this time Cristobel is fighting back. She's determined to break out of the world of Miss Polkadot before it sucks away her soul as an old trauma rears its ugly head to torment her.
Her producer, Martin, has invested too much in her to let her walk away from the Miss Polkadot franchise now and her agent, Jim, is too busy agreeing with everything Martin says and too high on drugs to really take a stand either way. As the play barrages on to reach its awful climax, I should make mention that the physical violence and bullying, particularly in the show's climax, could be quite triggering for some audience members, particularly in the very intimate setting of the Old Fitz.
The direction by Mary Rachel Brown and Dino Dimitriades demonstrates their skill as well as a seeming cohesiveness as a directing duo. Some co-directed productions can feel a little disjointed, but these two directors are obviously very much on the same wavelength and the high quality of this production is the proof.
Lighting Design by Veronique Benett is stark and simple, set by Cris Baldwin is similarly so, with the glossy office setting providing a sterile corporate backdrop to the action. Isabella Cannavo nails the costume brief, with each character clearly defined in a glance.
Anna Houston as Cristobel is perfect. She keeps us guessing the whole time as to what is actually going on inside this woman's head and I'm still conflicted as to whether her portrayal is a woman trying to do the right thing, or a woman looking out for her own self-interest, without caring who she screws over. It's a performance of contradictions that captures the complexity of Cristobel nicely.
Yure Covich exudes power and danger as the bullying producer. We never feel safe in his hands and as the play rattles along and that's exactly the intention. Covich's Martin could explode at any moment, and the simmering tension he brings to the room eventually devolves into full-blown violence.
Arky Michael as the ever-hapless agent, Jim, confused me at first as he seemed to be massively overplaying everything, but as the show goes on and the characters gradually become more toasted on their cocktail of cocaine and whisky his performance seems more in tune with the action in the room.
As a trio, this is an electric cast, who do not falter or fail at any hurdle. The three actors hurtle the show along to a thrilling and uneasy conclusion with fantastic presence, well-navigated dialogue and so good its uncomfortable physical work.
This world premiere of Permission to Spin is a firm highlight of what has already been a strong 2018 season at the Old Fitz Theatre and follows on from Apocalypse Theatre's ethereal production of Metamorphoses earlier this year.