Hayes Theatre Co, October 13

The cast of Rent. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

The cast of Rent. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

The production of Rent currently playing at the Hayes Theatre Co sold out before opening. As announced last night at the Hayes’ Coming Soon launch for the first half of 2016, the show will have a three-week return season from March 29.

The rock musical with music, book and lyrics by Jonathan Larson – who died on the eve of its 1996 off-Broadway opening – quickly gained a cult following. It won a Pulitzer Prize, moved to Broadway and then onto the world, including Sydney where a production played at the Theatre Royal in 1998.

Loosely based on Puccini’s La boheme, Rent is set in Manhattan in the early 1990s and centres on a group of impoverished young artists and misfits who are struggling to survive as gentrification makes rents unaffordable and AIDS takes its devastating toll.

The musical is an explosion of passion, anger, sorrow, frustration and defiant joy.

Produced here by Highway Run Productions (Toby Francis and Lauren Peters) in association with the Hayes, helmed by first-time director Shaun Rennie and performed by a strong cast of 14, the production certainly pulses with youthful energy but it often feels over-busy, particularly in the first act.

That’s partly to do with the musical itself, which has a rather loose, disparate structure, following a number of different characters through several interconnecting story lines.

Central to the group are Mark (Stephen Madsen), a middle-class, would-be filmmaker, his roommate Roger (Linden Furnell), a songwriter with HIV and writer’s block whose girlfriend committed suicide, and Mimi (Loren Hunter), a drug addicted club dancer, who also has HIV.

There’s also the cross-dressing, joyously queer, gently caring Angel (Christopher Scalzo) and Collins (Nana Matapule), a gay anarchist professor, who fall for each other, Mark’s former girlfriend Maureen (Laura Bunting) and her new partner Joanne (Casey Donovan), and Benny (Matthew Pearce), a former friend of Mark and Roger who is now their tough landlord.

Nana Matapule, Chris Scalzo, Stephen Madsen and Linden Furnell. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

Nana Matapule, Chris Scalzo, Stephen Madsen and Linden Furnell. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

With an ensemble that also includes Denise Devlin, Josh Gardiner, Jack O’Riley, Kirsty Sturgess, Monique Sallé and Chloe Elisabeth Wilson playing various other characters, there’s a lot going on, with important pieces of information often conveyed very briefly in a line or two of song.

Depending on where you sit in the theatre, there are sound issues, with the cast belting it out of the park to be heard over the band, and lyrics often hard to decipher. Rennie doesn’t manage to control the focus completely in the first act and it all feels as if it is coming at you at a million miles an hour, while the actors struggle to create strong, clearly defined characters as they sing full-bore.

Scalzo as Angel and Matapule as Collins, are the most successful at creating truthful characters we care about and their relationship is very much the heart and soul of the first act.

The second act is much more successful across the board. For a start, the musical itself quietens a little and the storylines are given more room to breathe. Furnell really finds his groove as Roger and his relationship with Mimi gains genuine traction. Hunter gives an intense, almost aggressive Mimi but conveys little of her vulnerability until late in the piece, when the production finally becomes moving.

Even in the second act there are times when the production feels unnecessarily busy, as when Collins carries the dying Angel from one table to another during Mimi and Roger’s song Without You, for seemingly little reason, which just proves distracting.

Then there’s the sign language, which Rennie and choreographer Andy Dexterity use periodically during the production. Many people have loved this element but I couldn’t help feeling it looks like an exercise used in the rehearsal room to explore the characters’ emotions, and probably should have stayed there. For me, it feels imposed rather than organic – though others clearly experienced it differently.

However, there is also much to enjoy. Rennie starts the second act in an unexpected way – a delightful, clever touch – and there’s lots of powerful singing.

Donovan and Bunting raised the roof on opening night with Take Me or Leave Me and Matapule delivers a lovely version of I’ll Cover You but all the performers all have their moment vocally.

Lauren Peters’ sparse, stripped back set – essentially a bare room with exposed bricks, a few props, and a metal mesh gate in front of the small band (led by musical director Andrew Worboys) – creates the right kind of grungy space, while Georgia Hopkins’ costumes work well.

It’s good to see young producers and a young, first-time director being given the chance to produce work like this and you can’t fault the energy and commitment of the cast. With a little more tightening, honing and focusing the production could really hit home so it’s great that the creative team will have the chance to revisit it early next year.

Rent, Hayes Theatre Co until November 1. Sold out. Return season March 29 – April 17. Bookings: or 02 8065 7337

Little Shop of Horrors is Back for More Blood

Brent Hill will play Seymour and Esther Hannaford will play Audrey in the new Hayes Theatre Co production of Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: supplied

Brent Hill will play Seymour and Esther Hannaford will play Audrey in the new Hayes Theatre Co production of Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: supplied

In February 2014, the Hayes Theatre Co burst onto Sydney’s musical theatre scene with a brilliantly re-imagined, award-winning production of Sweet Charity, which later had a return season at the Sydney Opera House and then toured.

Now, as revealed in today’s Sunday Telegraph, the same creative team is reuniting almost exactly two years later to stage a production of Little Shop of Horrors, produced by Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions.

Dean Bryant will direct with musical direction by Andrew Worboys, choreography by Andrew Hallsworth, set design by Owen Phillips, costume design by Tim Chappel, lighting design by Ross Graham and sound design by Jeremy Silver.

The kooky musical about a man-eating plant will open at the Hayes in February then tour nationally.

“We had so much fun (on Sweet Charity),” says Lisa Campbell of Luckiest Productions.

“We were very fortunate that Sweet Charity got the life that it did and I’m very proud of what the creative team produced. It was a very special time. It’s not that we’re trying to rebottle that but the team worked so incredibly well together it makes sense to jump back on the bus and do another one.”

A national tour has already been locked in for logistical reasons, says Campbell: “With the amount of musicals in the market over the next year or so it would have been very difficult to wait and see how the Hayes season went and hope for a transfer and extension afterwards so we had to think about it in those terms. We also decided that if we were going to be able to do the show that we wanted, we needed to have enough venues to support it as we wanted the plant to be as spectacular as possible.”

Little Shop of Horrors was written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, who went on to co-write the songs for Disney’s animated films The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. (The Disney musical of Aladdin opens in Sydney next August). Little Shop premiered off-off Broadway in 1982 then ran off-Broadway for five years.

Set in the early 1960s, Seymour Krelborn is a hapless, meek florist’s assistant on Skid Row, who dreams of a better life and winning the love of his co-worker Audrey. When he discovers a strange plant, which he calls Audrey II, fame and fortune follow. But as Audrey II grows, so does its appetite for human flesh.

Based on Roger Corman’s 1960 film, Menken has described the musical as “a merry little musical romp about how greed will end the world.”

The catchy score is composed in the style of 1960s rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown with songs including Feed Me, Suddenly Seymour and Somewhere That’s Green.

“I think the music is spectacular and I think the story is tragic and beautiful and hilarious. When we got to the Hayes, it was one of the first things that I thought deserved to be on that stage and would suit it,” says Campbell.

The new Hayes production features a top-notch cast with Brent Hill (Rock of Ages, Once) as Seymour, Esther Hannaford (King Kong, Miracle City) as Audrey, Tyler Copin (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) as the florist Mr Mushnik and Scott Johnson (Jersey Boys) as Audrey’s sadistic dentist boyfriend, along with Angelique Cassimatis, Josie Lane, Chloe Zuel, Dash Kruck and Kuki Tipoki.

Brent Hill and Esther Hannaford with Audrey II. Photo: supplied

Brent Hill and Esther Hannaford with Audrey II. Photo: supplied

Audrey II is being created by Erth, a theatre company known for its extraordinary puppets in shows such as Dinosaur Zoo. Campbell, who had been aware of their work for several years, went to talk with them 18 months ago.

“I met with Steve Howarth, one of the founders of Erth, and I said, ‘I’m not sure if you’re aware of the musical Little Shop of Horrors but I need somebody to create a man-eating plant.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for 25 years for somebody to ask me to do this,’” says Campbell.

“We have three versions of Audrey II and within each of those there is room for the plant to grow. It’s very exciting.”

The Hayes will unveil the rest of its program for the first half of 2016 at a launch tomorrow night.

A version of this story appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on October 18


 Sydney – Hayes Theatre Co from February 18th 2016


Adelaide – Her Majesty’s Theatre from April 20th 2016


Melbourne – Comedy Theatre from May 4th 2016


Canberra – Canberra Theatre from May 25th 2016


Brisbane – Playhouse Theatre QPAC from June 1st 2016


Sean Taylor in My Zinc Bed

Sean Taylor plays a charismatic millionaire in David Hare's My Zinc Bed

Sean Taylor plays a charismatic millionaire in David Hare’s My Zinc Bed

While rehearsing at the Ensemble Theatre for its current production of David Hare’s My Zinc Bed, Sean Taylor also managed to fit in a couple of day’s filming on Secret City, a new political drama for Foxtel being shot in Canberra.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with an Oscar nominee so it was daunting,” he quips.

The Academy Award nominee in question is his wife Jacki Weaver. They’ve acted opposite each other many times. In fact, they met when they played lovers in David Williamson’s Soulmates for Sydney Theatre Company in 2002, marrying the following year.

“But this is the first time post-nomination, well, twice nominated,” he says.

“But, no, it’s been a lot of fun. Jacki plays the Attorney General and I play the Head of ASIO so she’s my boss and there’s one scene where she fires me. She’s been working very hard and from the little I’ve seen I think it’s going to be a good series.”

It was just coincidence that filming on Secret City coincided with rehearsals for My Zinc Bed but it has given them a chance to spend some time together and for Weaver to be at the opening night this Thursday.

Born in South Africa, Taylor emigrated to Australia in 2000 to be near his two daughters who moved here with their mother after they divorced.

“I try to go back to Africa at least once a year and see friends and family but I suppose I’m spending most of my time these days in Los Angeles (due to Weaver’s career),” he says.

Blessed with a beautiful, deep, sonorous voice, Taylor is a commanding stage actor recently seen at the Ensemble in productions of Hare’s Skylight and Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange. 

In Hare’s intriguing play My Zinc Bed, which explores themes of addiction, he plays Victor Quinn, a charismatic millionaire. Directed by Mark Kilmurry, the Ensemble is staging a new 90-minute version.

Taylor bought the script and learned the whole play while in LA prior to rehearsals without knowing that they were using a different version.

“I’m of an age now (60) where I can’t learn something in 10 days, it takes longer,” he admits candidly.

“I got here and suddenly there was this other tighter version of the play and I thought that Hare had cut some very nice stuff out so I persuaded Mark to bring some of the other stuff back in and it’s working very well I think.”

When a hard-up poet and reformed alcoholic called Paul Peplow is sent to interview Victor for a newspaper profile, he finds himself enticed into a thrilling but dangerous world. As Paul spars verbally with Victor and flirts with his younger wife Elsa, his hard-won sobriety is threatened. But is Victor just using Paul to amuse his wife and reinvigorate their stale marriage?

Sam O'Sullivan and Sean Taylor in My Zinc Bed. Photo: Clare Hawley

Sam O’Sullivan and Sean Taylor in My Zinc Bed. Photo: Clare Hawley

“There’s a lot of game-playing and manipulation in the way Victor sets things up,” says Taylor.

“In the last couple of runs I’ve been playing against that a bit just to see how it goes but Mark prefers it that I lay it on a bit. I’m trying to make him not quite so obvious. But Paul, who is played by Sam O’Sullivan, actually says: ‘Am I Faust? Is he Mephistopheles? Am I making a pact with the devil?’

“It’s about addiction to many things, I think, besides drink and drugs. I think there’s a certain addiction to chaos. Some people thrive on it. When their life is running smoothly they veer off. I think the other two characters especially seek that because it makes them feel alive but they also realise that if they do follow those instincts then they can spiral into a very bad situation,” says Taylor.

“Hare always deals with politics even if he doesn’t overtly state it,” he adds. “My character used to be a communist and now he’s this capitalist – which is kind of a similar journey to what Hare’s been on, I think. He was a big leftie when he was younger. I remember readings his plays like Fanshen, which was about the Chinese revolution. Now he’s an older man and very successful. The younger character is maybe a bit like Hare in that he’s a writer.”

Taylor also plays Harold Holt in a new short film called The Defector directed by Scott Mannion, with Oscar winner Russell Boyd (Master and Commander) as Director of Photography, which he describes as “a quirky film”.

“What really got me interested when I was approached about it was that Russell Boyd was the cameraman on it. And Russell Boyd has actually written a thing online about this young director saying he believed in him so I thought that’s a project I’d like to be involved in.”

Taylor admits that life has changed since Weaver’s breakout film role in Animal Kingdom.

“Five or six years ago, I never dreamed we’d be living in Los Angeles,” he says. “It’s an interesting city but it’s not a city I would choose to live. Hollywood was never on my radar. So I don’t know that I love Los Angeles, but Jacki really loves it. She’s really enjoying it, and so she should. She’s been in this game a long time. I said to her, ‘you’ve got to take this ball and run with it. You never know when it will implode. It might never implode but it might, so just enjoy it,’” he says.

“I’m still working on trying to get a visa so it get a bit boring when you’re not working. I’ve been for a couple of screen tests and had very good responses. But the people in my age bracket have been working there for 40 years and they’re established.

“I was up against Nick Nolte for a role and you go: ‘well I ‘m farting against thunder here aren’t I?’ But still it’s good to go and meet these people. The role is out there somewhere. It might never land in my lap but if I’m fortunate to be in the right place at the right time that will be great. If it happens I’ll embrace it.”

My Zinc Bed plays at the Ensemble Theatre until November 22. Bookings: 9929 0644


Ken Unsworth Studio, Alexandria, October 4

Anca Frankenhaeuser, Patrick Harding-Irmer, Ross Philip and Susan Barling. Photo: Regis Lansac

Anca Frankenhaeuser, Patrick Harding-Irmer, Ross Philip and Susan Barling. Photo: Regis Lansac

Since 2000, eminent sculptor and artist Ken Unsworth has collaborated with Australian Dance Artists (ADA) on a series of productions, which have now become a highly anticipated annual event for the lucky invited audience.

Part-performance and part-installation, frequently with live music, their work is unlike anything else we are seeing on Sydney’s dance scene.

ADA is made up of four senior/veteran dance artists who have had long, prestigious careers in contemporary dance: Anca Frankenhaeuser and Patrick Harding-Irmer who performed with London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and Susan Barling and Ross Philip, who performed with Sydney Dance Company. Norman Hall, who was ADA’s Founding Director, continues to work with them as a choreographic collaborator.

Susan Barling and Ross Philip. Photo: Regis Lansac

Susan Barling and Ross Philip. Photo: Regis Lansac

Their latest production, Departures, is currently weaving its inspired, crazy magic at Unsworth’s studio in Alexandria where he has built a stage and a small auditorium with three rows of church pews for around 50 people.

Unsworth, who basically finances the productions personally, has commissioned a new score from Jonathan Cooper for Departures, and it’s a beauty. It is performed live by members of the Australian Piano Quartet, Rebecca Chan, Glenn Christensen, James Wannan and Thomas Rann, augmented by Benjamin Kopp on piano, Genevieve Lang on harp and Katherine Lukey on violin.

As always, the production is full of extraordinary, surreal imagery with the choreography created in response to the music and the strange and wonderful sculptural creations that Unsworth has built.

The production begins with a huge ball, mirrored by a smaller one, swinging back and forth in hypnotic fashion, while a glowing orb rises and sets like the sun.

Susan Barling, Ross Philip, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Patrick Harding-Irmer. Photo: Regis Lansac

Susan Barling, Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Ross Philip with Ken Unsworth. Photo: Regis Lansac

Appearing in a top hat with candles, shirt, pants and jauntily mis-matched, colourful socks, Unsworth begins painting figures on paper panels only to be manhandled and summarily dismissed as the dancers make their dramatic appearance.

From there, the production unfolds through a series of powerful images that explore themes of art, love, life and death.

Unsworth has built several large sculptural pieces: a steep slope which Frankenhaeuser traverses with exquisite, elegant poise while interacting with the heads that appear, almost Beckett-like, through trapdoors; a large, square metal frame with hidden secrets behind doors in various compartments; and a spinning double helix spiral staircase which disappears into the roof, which the dancers ascend and descend simultaneously.

There are also two walls – one which has an anguished Barling appearing and disappearing on a spinning shelf, and another with a door to which singer Clive Birch is strapped while singing upright and then upside down.

Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser. Photo: Regis Lansac

Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser Ross Philip and Susan Barling. Photo: Regis Lansac

As well as commissioning the score, Unsworth has written the lyrics to a song, Never Ever, performed by Birch and young soprano Rioghnach Wegrecka who walks across the back of the stage from one brightly coloured chair to another.

There’s also a very beautiful, moving duet by Frankenhaeuser and Harding-Irmer, which subverts and distorts the movement to match the music, as well as numerous other striking images including Harding-Irmer in suit jacket and high heel shoes. As always, the movement is underpinned by a depth of emotion from the mature but still toned and eloquent dancers.

Duet between Patrick Harding-Irmer and Anca Frankenhaeuser. Photo: Regis Lansac

Duet between Patrick Harding-Irmer and Anca Frankenhaeuser. Photo: Regis Lansac

With lighting by Roderick van Gelder, costumes by Pamela McGraw and soundscapes by Nate Edmondson, Departures is another feather (candle) in the cap for a unique and inspiring company. Their work really should be more widely seen.

Ken Unsworth makes an appearance in one of his extraordinary sculptures. Photo: Regis Lansac

Ken Unsworth makes an appearance in one of his extraordinary sculptures. Photo: Regis Lansac

Clive Birch and Rioghnach Wegrecka. Photo: Regis Lansac

Singers Clive Birch and Rioghnach Wegrecka. Photo: Regis Lansac

High Society

Hayes Theatre Co, September 7

Amy Lehpamer and the cast of High Society. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

Amy Lehpamer, sizzling in red, and the cast of High Society. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

High Society is set in the palatial home of rich socialites complete with swimming pool: quite a challenge in a 111-seat theatre.

But, true to form, the Hayes Theatre Co production solves it ingeniously. Set designer Lauren Peters has come up with four elegant, moveable arches and a clever reveal for the party scene. Lucetta Stapleton’s 1930s costuming, a few props and some sound effects (Jeremy Silver) are enough to complete the picture, along with Gavan Swift’s lighting.

The 1998 stage musical is based on the 1956 film High Society starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and Philip Barry’s 1939 play The Philadelphia Story. It has a very funny script by Arthur Kopit and songs by Cole Porter, some of which were in the movie, such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Well, Did you Evah! and True Love, along with others of his that weren’t. Not all the lyrics relate as well as they might to the situation but overall it works a treat.

It’s the eve of Tracy Lord’s wedding to the rather pompous, dull George Kittredge. However, her younger sister Dinah is determined that Tracy remarry her first husband CK Dexter Haven, who turns up unexpectedly with a pair of reporters from Spy Magazine, Mike Connor and Liz Imbrie.

Helen Dallimore directs with a sure, light touch, telling the story with great clarity, while Cameron Mitchell’s choreography suits the period. In another ingenious touch, Dallimore uses a quartet led by musical director Daryl Wallis whose jazzy arrangements of the score work brilliantly.

Virginia Gay and Bobby Fox. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

Virginia Gay and Bobby Fox. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

Amy Lehpamer positively glows as Tracy: glamorous, tough and very funny when drunk, her singing, acting and dancing all perfectly pitched. Virginia Gay is sensational as Liz, who is quietly in love with Mike. Her comic timing is impeccable, her performance is full of delicious, surprising little details (the way she hesitates to articulate the word ‘you’ when singing “All I want is you” in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? just one of many) and she knows exactly how to deliver the songs.

Bobby Fox convincingly conveys Mike’s gradual softening as he falls for Tracy in a charismatic performance, while Bert LaBonté is an understated, rather melancholic Dexter whose charm grows on you.

Along the rest of the exceptionally strong cast, there are well judged comic performance from Scott Irwin as George, Jessica Whitfield as Dinah and Laurence Coy as the lecherous uncle Willy, while Delia Hannah is lovely as Tracy’s mother. All in all, divine.

High Society plays at the Hayes Theatre Co until October 3. Bookings: or 02 8065 7337

 A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on September 13

The Aliens

Old Fitz Theatre, August 28

Jeremy Waters, James Bell and Ben Wood. Photo: Rupert Reid

Jeremy Waters, James Bell and Ben Wood. Photo: Rupert Reid

Annie Baker is an award-winning 34-year old American playwright with a growing reputation. Her gentle three-hander The Aliens, which premiered off-Broadway in 2010, shows why.

It’s set in small-town Vermont, where a couple of fringe-dwelling slackers in their 30s – Jasper (Jeremy Waters) and KJ (Ben Wood) – pass the days in the grungy backyard of a café.

Passionate about the poetry of Charles Bukowski and smarting from having been dropped by his girlfriend, Jasper smokes broodily and is writing a novel. KJ, meanwhile, nurses a deep well of sadness beneath the bravado and isn’t doing much beyond whiling away the hours with his best mate.

The backyard is off-limits to customers but when Evan (James Bell), a shy high school student who works at the café, tentatively asks them to leave, it’s clear they’re going nowhere. Instead they decide to take him under their wing and a touching relationship between the three begins to form.

The Aliens is a deceptively simple play, which creeps up on you. Not a great deal actually happens, but there is plenty bubbling away beneath the surface as Baker deals with love, death, art and the ties that bind.

She never spells things out but subtly reveals more and more about the characters through their sporadic conversations. The silences, the things left unsaid and things mentioned in passing but not elucidated upon all gradually build to offer an incredibly moving insight into three social misfits.

Directing for Outhouse Theatre, Craig Baldwin helms a wonderfully sensitive production. Hugh O’Connor’s set perfectly captures the feel of the grungy backyard right down to the weeds poking through the concrete, while the actors inhabit the characters so truthfully it hardly feels like acting at all.

The Aliens plays at the Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo until September 19. Bookings:

A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on September 6


Old Fitz Theatre, September 5

Philippe Klaus, George Kemp and Romy Bartz. Photo: Geoff Sirmai

Philippe Klaus, George Kemp and Romy Bartz. Photo: Geoff Sirmai

Bull, by British playwright Mike Bartlett, is considered a companion piece to his much-admired play Cock about a love triangle between two men and a woman, which also had a production at the Old Fitz earlier this year (see review on the blog).

Bull is a less subtle play. Running a tight 55-minutes, it is a savage black comedy about bullying, going straight for the jugular from the opening moments.

Set in a London office, three young employees – Isobel (Romy Bartz), Tony (Philippe Klaus) and Thomas (George Kemp) – are waiting for an interview with their boss (Craig Ashley), knowing that one of them is to lose their job due to cost cutting.

The steely, power-dressed Isobel and more laid-back but equally manipulative Tony are determined that it won’t be them, working together to ritually humiliate and undermine Thomas. It’s the law of the jungle and though Thomas tries to fight back, he’s no match for them. He’s one of life’s loner-losers no matter how much he tries not to be.

The verbal viciousness is breath-taking at times, the outcome mercilessly inevitable.

Directing the play for Ronaissance Production in association with Red Line Productions, Rowan Greaves has the actors go full-bore from the start. The play might perhaps have built tension had they played cat-and-mouse a little more initially, pretending some semblance of nicety before they go in for the kill. Instead, the play feels like a full-on assault.

George Kemp, Philippe Klaus and Romy Bartz. Photo: Geoff Sirmai

George Kemp, Philippe Klaus and Romy Bartz. Photo: Geoff Sirmai

The actors are all terrific. Bartz is chillingly cold and utterly remorseless as the main aggressor Isobel, staring at Thomas with withering condescension. As the private school educated Tony, Klaus is the good cop to her bad cop, less obviously aggressive but just as ruthlessly nasty in a slightly more insidious way, performing with an arrogant insouciance.

Kemp is also excellent as the hapless, floundering Thomas, his body language reflecting his growing desperation, as he is gradually undone.

In London, the play was performed in a boxing ring. Here, given that it’s a late-night production, it is staged on the set of The Aliens – but really very little is needed in the way of props or staging with the focus on the verbal cut-and-thrust.

Bull is a short, sharp, brutal play and though it isn’t as fascinating or thought-provoking a drama as Cock it’s still packs a punch.

One of Britain’s leading contemporary playwrights, Bartlett won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Play for his epic drama King Charles III, which comes to Sydney next year as part of the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2016 season. And it’s the original Almeida Theatre production from London that we’ll see, arriving here direct from Broadway. In the interim, it’s worth catching Bull as a little taster of Bartlett’s considerable way with words.

Bull plays at the Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo until September 12. Bookings: