GRAVAS PRODUCTIONS’ ‘TRAPPED IN MYKONOS’

Gravas Productions debut of their play ‘Trapped in Mykonos’, currently playing at the Reginald Theatre in the Seymour Centre, is an adaptation of Euripides’ ‘Iphigenia at Aulis’. Directed by first time director Antoinette Barbouttis and written by first time playwright Nicole Colantoni, this production smacks of inexperience. It’s a limited version of the original and encounters plenty of bumps in the 75 minute ride of the show. Whilst it has a few good ideas and moments, it’s hindered by a team who don’t know when to park the scooter and get on with delivering the play.

This review is not going to be nice so please, Gravas Peeps, if you’re sensitive to criticism, read no further, I implore you, because from what you’ve delivered in this show, I don’t think you’re going to take this very well… This production frustrated me because whilst the potential was there to turn it into something good, it just wasn’t.  

The script fell flat, especially in the first half. The stilted dialogue, the tenuous connections in trying to fulfil the original story and give it a modern edge, all seemed to result in a half-baked show. Colantoni and Barbouttis struggled to find the piece’s identity and appropriate style, wavering between classicism, realism, comedy, melodrama and often without rhyme or reason. This is a show that needs the experience of someone who can look at the potential of the production’s good ideas and then edit. Barbouttis has yet to find that so the show is strewn with movement when you need stillness, high emotion when it needs belief and there’s a little too much stage business from a cast that think you can’t just engage in what the characters are saying but must have your own performance happening at the back of the stage. What seemed like a good device in other moments, such as that scooter, becomes the antithesis of that idea when you flog it to death or when they work against each other- like one actor declaiming dialogue in a conversation with another actor trying to deliver realism. If Elaine Hudson was there as an associate director, what was she doing? 

If this production is meant to show the ‘fusion of the elements brought by contrasting the different time periods…to make for a surreal and yet recognisable world’, I didn’t get either. And here’s a thought, if you want to modernise the play, then what are the real issues that resonate with us today that are present in the original? What about the disposable nature of women who must always sacrifice in order for men to succeed? What about the gratification and curse of reputation and the extremes we go to for fame? Instead the play tries to border between a direct translation and a whole lot of modern language often gratuitously used in order to do what? Shock? Label? Remind us that it’s set in contemporary times? If you’re going to adapt or re-write a play, make it count. What’s your ‘something to say’ and who are you saying it for?

The lack of insightful direction and writing has probably not done the cast any favours and there was a disconnection between intentions and dialogue. Consider Clytemnestra’s (Dimity Raftos) pleas to Agamemnon (Anthony Hunt) about her sacrifice of husband and baby, murdered at his command so she could marry him and his laughter and dismissal of those words. Sure, he’s the big man on campus and you can highlight his disregard for her but if he doesn’t care about the murder and acquisition of women and children, who cares if he has to sacrifice his daughter so the ships can sail? He shouldn’t and we won’t. It seems pointless going through the acting stakes- they might be good actors but they’ve been given poor direction so why kill the cast when it falls on the shoulders of an inexperienced eye in interpretation.

On the bright side, there are some good design choices in dressing the modern Mykonos night spot. Tom Bannerman’s set promised great things, dropping us in the clichéd tradition of the tourist mecca. Catherine Steele’s costumes firmly placed us in the contemporary Greek world with a homage to the war and violence contrasted to the innocence and playfulness of the characters. I liked the helicopter drop as shown through the sound (Helen Grimley) and lighting (Larry Kelly). It’s just that Barbouttis didn’t know what to do with them to make it work at its potential and that’s a pity because the overall design aesthetic would not have been cheap.

I know this review is harsh on a company that is only getting off the ground and is trying to establish who it is. But if this production is anything to go by, they haven’t figured that out yet and it needs to be more than a vehicle for ‘up and coming talent’ because it won’t sustain an audience beyond family, friends and a sympathetic Greek cultural community if it doesn’t step up its game.

Get some experience through your doors and learn from it. Anyone can stage a play. It doesn’t mean that it’s good. 

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16 comments

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Maddy April 9, 2013 at 10:15 am

as a teacher.. its quite concerning that the name of your blog involves a swear word. Also, it might be an idea to embrace a more positive attitude towards the plays you see instead of going into every play with a preconceived negative attitude – just so you can review each play so that it ties they tie in with the aim of your blog.
God help us all if this is how you are teaching your students!!

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Anonymous April 9, 2013 at 10:59 pm

sounds like some pent up feminist bitch, yeah if your blog title swears, so can I. Take off our feminist goggles and watch plays that are well past the themes of the 1970s.

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jane April 10, 2013 at 1:58 am

Sounds like I've stirred up the pot again..

Yes Maddy, the title has a 'swear word' in it but if you go through and read a few posts, you'll know I praise productions too. It's not all negative and when I do criticise I try to say what didn't work and why. It's the 'why' which is the key.

And Maddy, just in case this is news, teachers do actually swear sometimes and shockingly…we also have bodily functions.

Should we have a world where everyone only hears positive feedback? How would we grow or learn? Don't you sometimes yearn for what people really think? As for the title, it will actually change sometime in the near future as I am in the process of re-branding. Hopefully that will help you "embrace a more positive attitude" towards the blog…

As for you 'anonymous', really?
You brought a smile to my face. Thank you for just being you.

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Anonymous April 10, 2013 at 2:07 am

As a teacher she is allowed to be a normal person and swear if she likes. As a teacher myself I don't feel the need to wander around feeling positive about everything, especially if it is not deserved. This is her blog and not the classroom. Hey Maddy, I would love to follow you around all day and pigeon hole your every move in life to the confines of your job and reprimand you when you deviate from my preconceived notion of what your job is. She is writing objectively and honestly and I find it refreshing. If you don't like it go fuck yourself and read the drivel they post in the papers. Her past comments about Belvoir are bang on.
Regards,
Swearing teacher number 2

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Anonymous April 10, 2013 at 2:44 am

For teachers, you are certainly appearing uneducated. Perhaps this now results in a vicious cycle of the blind leading the blind? Those who can't do, teach. At least these people are doing.

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Alyosha April 10, 2013 at 5:45 am

Yes,and doing shit deserves the recognition it gets.
Hence-Shit On Your Play.

And by the way,Those who CAN do,Teach Better.

Learn from your mistakes.And you get better.That's what humans do. That's what scientists do.It's what artists do as well.Ever critical of our own work.Jane is not a cruel Bitch.Just someone with an opinion.Take it or leave it.
And dont get every fucker involved in your show to criticise Jane cause she didn't review your show in a positive light.
Or start your own blog"Bitch on your critic".
Or go fuck yourself.

Swearing teacher number 3.

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Anonymous April 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

"Those who can not 'do' teach". Wow what a sweeping generalisation and a stereotype. I am not a teacher but I credit where I am today by the amazing teachers that inspired and me to become an actor. My teachers 'did' all of the time. The person who is appearing uneducated is you anonymous 12.44. People are allowed to have their own opinion. Ticket sales will rue the day anyway.

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LJB April 10, 2013 at 6:56 am

Maddy – I'd suggest you browse through the rest of the blog and read some other reviews – I've found plenty of positive, negative and constructive comments from Jane on here there doesn't seem to be a preconception negative attitude just the honest opinion of a regular theatre goer

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Anonymous April 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

Nice to see an actor reply who wasn't in the production, and hence not hurt by the specific and rather helpful, constructive criticism of the review. (And, besides, Jane did warn Gravas Productions to look away if they weren't prepared for the honesty…)

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That Guy April 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Actually… I know you don't do "non-review Thinky Pieces" but … (sarcasm font on)as an angry feminist who hates Belvoir (sarcasm font off), what do you think of the two new associate directors? Personally, I'm interested in their engagement with new and classic Australian writing (although I'm a late 30-something bloke, so I fully expect to be told why I'm wrong and misogynist).

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jane April 11, 2013 at 12:23 am

I have to say I'm excited by the announcement. Anne-Louise Sarks' direction and co-writing of 'Medea' was so very very good that I believe she has a much needed voice that Belvoir have at least the smarts to engage as part of their company. Adena Jacobs I don't know much about but I look forward to seeing what she has to offer.
Potentially we could see exciting times ahead (she says, burning her bra & holding her placard denouncing all men).

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larry kelly April 11, 2013 at 3:18 am

Hi All
As the lighting Designer for the play, i think jane has the right to her opinon and whilst i do not agree with all her comments some are deserved. Every play can learn from constructive comments and i feel that Jane has offered up the "why's" of what she felt was not working with this play.
As jane has stated this is the first of this new companies productions and as the LD i found it to be a good and professional production and a pleasure to work with and am sure that with time and other experienced people passing through, this company will grow and learn.
just my 2 cents worth
Larry Kelly
Lighting Designer (Trapped in Mykonos)
PS I am not afraid to leave my name and not ashamed of the show either

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Anonymous April 11, 2013 at 3:27 am

I'm a guy, and you're a fool.
It's less about feminism goggles, and more about insecure yet dominant, patriarchy goggles. If you can't see there is inequality, you're doing it wrong. We men have the advantage of language on our side (Inherently patriarchal), of career systems created by men for men, and by social conditioning. Women are abject. You are ignorant and pitiful.

Also, quick point, Australian theatre these days is not at all well past the themes of the 1970's. We're still getting the same rehashed shit for the subscriber base. You get the one off piece of gold, but for the most part, Australian theatre needs to be highly criticised.

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Michael C April 12, 2013 at 6:43 am

Well said, Larry. Everyone involved should be proud of their effort, and keen to receive all feedback.

Criticism is inherently constructive if for no other reason than that it exposes one's sensitivities and doubts. To move forward professionally, we all must deal with these factors so that a clear light shines on the work required to progress one's craft.

A blind denial of criticism is not a show of commitment. A blind acceptance of criticism is, however, a display of ignorance and naivete. Discrimination is called for.

Performance art requires courage, commitment and a desperate passion. I know the creators of this production have these qualities.

I too am proud of the play – although I had no direct involvement in it. There is no easy way to take the first step. All effort is ultimately worthwhile if one is paying attention and looking for the opportunity to grow.

We, as a society, must encourage all positive endeavor through our patronage – but our criticism is also required as our contribution to creative progress. I know that Jane spoke honestly, although brutally. I also know that her criticism is useful and will assist the creators of this current effort to realise their potential in future productions.

Good on everyone who contributes to such an outcome.

Michael Colantoni
mcolantoni@gmail.com

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Alex May 5, 2013 at 9:00 am

Even though it definitely had some flaws and the story was difficult to follow I thought this was a fun play – the set was really cool, the modern costumes were good and there were some really funny moments. I saw the play on its closing night and thought it was relaxed and enjoyable to watch. The dialogue when Agamemon dismisses the murder of the queen's ex husband and child was actually really funny, as was the first scene with Achilles. And I can't help but mention the scene stealing kiss between Achilles and the bar girl – such a random moment but definitely fun for the audience! Whilst I suspect from their chemistry that those actors probably did some of their own rehearsals off the clock, it surely wouldn't be a difficult moment for those two gorgeous cast members to act convincingly anyway! Nice work if you can get it. The most interesting relationship overall though was between Iphigenia and Achilles, who managed to create a surprisingly touching love story despite such little stage time together. I also really liked the young, hip soundtrack to the play, especially "She's Like the Wind" at the end.

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Michael Colantoni June 17, 2013 at 1:41 am

Well said, Larry. Everyone involved should be proud of their effort, and keen to receive all feedback.

Criticism is inherently constructive if for no other reason than that it exposes one's sensitivities and doubts. To move forward professionally, we all must deal with these factors so that a clear light shines on the work required to progress one's craft.

A blind denial of criticism is not a show of commitment. A blind acceptance of criticism is, however, a display of ignorance and naivete. Discrimination is called for.

Performance art requires courage, commitment and a desperate passion. I know the creators of this production have these qualities.

I too am proud of the play – although I had no direct involvement in it. There is no easy way to take the first step. All effort is ultimately worthwhile if one is paying attention and looking for the opportunity to grow.

We, as a society, must encourage all positive endeavor through our patronage – but our criticism is also required as our contribution to creative progress. I know that Jane spoke honestly, although brutally. I also know that her criticism is useful and will assist the creators of this current effort to realise their potential in future productions.

Good on everyone who contributes to such an outcome.

Michael Colantoni
mcolantoni@gmail.com

Reply

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