It’s not often that you find a fresh, Australian play that blows you away at every turn, but director Michael Abercromby and Sydney’s Jack Rabbit Theatre have done just that. They have managed to migrate the new and stunning Tonsils + Tweezers from Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre into the ever-evolving Kings Cross Theatre. Before I begin the review, I want to be clear on two things. One; This performance is best viewed with no idea what you are getting into – and that’s coming from a theatre-fan who loves researching everything from plot to underbelly moral before seeing a performance. Two; the worst thing about this performance is that it is only showing for a few more nights, and a longer run with this incredibly talented cast and crew would mean more people get the terrifyingly fun experience they’re pumping out each night with a high level of enthusiasm and expertise you aren’t always blessed with in independent, new Australian theatre. I recommend that rather than hope you have the time to see it (or catch it “next time”), you make a night free because this show with a different group of people would probably not be as good.
To begin with, Tonsils + Tweezers’ crew is skeletal and comprehensive, a testament to how you don’t need to be a large scale production in Sydney to make something that challenges and improves on Australian theatre, when you have dedicated people with the skills and passion to work together and make a beautiful, original script work. As mentioned before, Michael Abercromby has done an amazing job reforming and directing one of Will O’Mahony‘s most confusing and touching written work. The same can be said for the rest of the crew who all deserve honourable mentions for successfully creating a space that is both dismissive of time, and very much aware of it; with Assistant Director Lincoln Vickery, Stage Manager Paisley Williams and Producers Emma Diaz and Charlie Falkner. The location of Tonsils + Tweezers is something special, with Production Designer Patrick Howe transforming a small theatre into a daring balancing act between past, present and future inside the minds of intricately complex and relatable characters. Liam O’Keefe, a Lighting Designer I have seen work before, continues to set a creative standard for utilising light to skilfully scare, warm up, or move any audience. The most emotive element of the show though was undoubtedly the sound design. Distinctively setting the tone of anything from a line to a whole scene, James Yeremeyev ensured that not only were the comedic moments delivered succinctly, but that the most devastating of scenes sent chills you won’t shake off for days.
In regards to the acting, it was outstanding from beginning to end with no criticisms for me to give. Despite the way a small cast places greater pressure on the actors to have no weak links, the Tonsils + Tweezers gang gave every character depth and style so consistently it is difficult to choose a standout. Hoa Xuande, playing Tweezers, brought life to the heavy, gutted young man inside us all that you are afraid of but also pity entirely. I’d never seen such an entrancing portrayal of the borderline between youth and adulthood, and Xuande is inarguably a performer worth keeping tabs on. Co-lead Travis Jeffery was pivotal in the accessibility of the show, narrating as best friend and partner-in-crime Tonsils, and traversing the stage like the inside of a messed up brain. The show’s comedic star was undoubtedly James Sweeny, mostly playing Max but always playing the lovable, dim creative you know all too well. As the only female and the strongest spirit on stage, Megan Wilding has an incredible force within her acting to captivate and impress throughout the entire piece. The entire cast delivered people you cared about, and people you could see within yourself, which makes the journey into Tonsils and Tweezers’ erratic growth more terrifying and more enjoyable than anything else in Sydney’s theatre scene.
A massive shout out goes to the JackRabbit Theatre and bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company for facilitating this performance, and I can’t wait to see what they do next, and where else Tonsils + Tweezers go.
Tonsils + Tweezers runs until 27th at KXT – Kings Cross Theatre
Sabrina Stubbs – Theatre Now & On The Town