Day One, A Hotel, Evening (Black Swan State Theatre Company, State Theatre Centre, June 2013)

The party supply business is rife with corporate espionage.

Stella (Roz Hammond) and Madeleine (Michelle Fornasier) in Day One, A Hotel, Evening. Photo by Gary Marsh Photography

Stella (Roz Hammond) and Madeleine (Michelle Fornasier) in Day One, A Hotel, Evening. Photo by Gary Marsh Photography

This is just a taste of the rapid-fire dialogue in Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s Day One, A Hotel, Evening, Black Swan Theatre Company’s latest show at Northbridge’s Heath Ledger Theatre.

The fast pace is echoed by the swiftness of the set changes – once again, Black Swan shows off its talent for very cool sets, this time with a set of revolving brickwork interiors setting the scene for countless murky liaisons between three married couples.

We have only two responsibilities: to be curious and promiscuous… in a cafe.

Sadly, even these responsibilities might be too much for Murray-Smith’s upper-middle-class malcontents, who can’t even seem to cheat on each other very successfully.

There’s no cure for intuition.

Incredibly fast-paced, like an HBO series crammed into an hour and a half, the show is littered with contemporary references – everything from Berlusconi to Apple, and keeps the audience in fits throughout the bewildering array of adultery it is presented with.

I’m what you’d call aggressive aggressive. It wastes less time, but some people find it a little off-putting.

The play isn’t completely devoid of higher meaning – by the end, clear themes emerge on suburbia and the discontent it can breed, where happiness is not a given, but a decision one must make.

If what you have doesn’t cost anything, what’s it worth?

All of the actors do splendidly in the repartee-heavy script, delivering flurries of razor-sharp one-liners and put-downs with clarity and excellent comic timing.

The standout, however, is Roz Hammond of the impressive resume – clearly an actress with staying power (http://www.inmycommunity.com.au/going-out/theatre-and-the-arts/The-test-of-time-/7645963/).

Her dotty Stella is fabulous and the perfect choice to deliver the play’s wistful stabs in the gut as it draws to a close.

Will it stand the test of time? Possibly it won’t become what you’d call a classic, but if classics were all we ever got, the theatre would die a swift death. We are living here and now and we want good plays, with solid – if whirlwind – plotting and plenty of laughs, and Joanna Murray-Smith is clearly a playwright who can deliver.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Black Swan for this show. But I write without fear or favour.

Hurry: Ends this Sunday, June 30. Tickets:  http://www.bsstc.com.au/whats-on/day-one-a-hotel-evening/

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The Newsroom (Season 1, 2012)

This morning, on my beloved ABC 720AM, Ross Solly won my eternal esteem (well, he already pretty much had it) by mentioning Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom on the air.
The finale of this series has just shown and it was rockin’, as has been the rest of the series.
If you’ve seen The West Wing, you’ll know the format: talky, clever, breathlessly paced, funny and topical as all get-out.
The first episode deals with the Deep Horizon disaster, so it’s a fascinating thing to watch fictional, idealised news coverage of real, and not-so-long-ago, events.
I won’t name them all, because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who are HOPELESSLY BACKWARD: but suffice it to say, The Newsroom covers it all.
And it is idealistic. It’s a look at how the news could be, not in a perfect world, but in brave one where the purveyors are ready to risk their ratings, their necks and their jobs to get it right, keep it ethical, and not report news that ain’t news just because it’s what the rednecks expect to be fed.
It values truth over balance, a shocking idea for those of us in the business who’ve been taught the maxim that you’ve got to give the opposide side of an argument the same airspace… even when it’s totally, hopelessly dumbarse.
Needless to say, it’s like manna from heaven to a little journo who hasn’t quite forgotten all those uni ethics lessons, and it still a little bruised from the quick, hard lessons that ethical guidelines are really very hard to follow in the real world of zero money and zero time.
So, just as I salivate over The West Wing, I have salivated over every episode of The Newsroom.
Jeff Daniels was born to play the lead, and the Ministry and I have immediately formed deep attachments to the other characters too, already bestowing upon them all manner of nicknames and expectations.
I have heard tell it is viewed by some as sexist, but when following these accusations to their sources (as best I can) I think people think of Aaron Sorkin himself as sexist and are mainly applying this view to his other works, especially The Social Network.
I don’t see it, personally, and I’m one whose hackles often rise when a woman’s not given any cool job in a show or movie except to look pretty.
Sometimes the newsroom women act silly, but they’re not represented as less clever than the men, who often look pretty silly themselves.
I think the show represents the real world. And you know what? The real world is a bit sexist.
Any show worth its salt should represent how things really are, not how they should be.
It’s just like how the show doesn’t try to make it look like reporting the news without fear or favour is easy or always possible.
It’s the real world, Sorkin-style… by which I mean, crazily accelerated and reliably addictive.
FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS.