Gavin Roach presents the Australian premiere of
by Charlie Josephine.
“Dancing through the chaos of family, addiction and pride, Pops is both tender and powerful in its portrayal of how divergent things can conspire to trap us in our status quo.”
“Something really special… not to be missed.”
“Pops is an outstanding piece of theatre from start to finish.”
“Lighting and sound… technically brilliant”
“Charlotte’s (is) surely one of the best performances we will see this Fringe.”
“Levi’s Ugg-booted father is scary, matey, proud, loving and lost. I saw shades of people I know very well in his performance which gives you an idea of how complete this character is.”
“Both Bronte Charlotte and Todd Levi give masterful performances”
“This production deals with sensitive topics… but it does so with a respect and empathy that we need in our discourse around addiction, mental health and family relationships”
A warts-and-all work by playwright, Charlie Josephine (UK), examines the DNA of a fractured father/daughter relationship fuelled by chronic depression, addiction, and social shame. Needle-sharp, physically articulated, opera-fkn-radically punctuated with moments of movement that feel something like, Sarah Kane met up with Carol Churchill for a doof-set by the DJ from hell, with “tracks” so buckled, we can’t look away - till they crash. His prodigal daughter needs a place to crash, break, and burn baby burn! But the apple doesn’t fall...
Praise for Pops by Charlie Josephine:
★★★★☆ "Hits you like a train...” – The Stage.
★★★★☆ "Josephine is able to shake off the baggage of familiar, sensational depictions of what addiction does to families” - The Guardian.
★★★★☆ "artfully represents what is a constant and unending battle” - WhatsOnStage.
Director: Dirk Hoult
Assistant Director: Cameron Steens
Performers: Bronte Charlotte & Todd Levi
Lighting Designer: Spencer Herd
Sound Designer: Evan Drill
Stage Manager: Andrew Hughes
Music by Ray Charles & Gemma Notarpietro
Thursday 6th – Saturday 16th October, 9:30pm
Meat Market Stables, 2 Wreckyn St, North Melbourne VIC 3051
REVIEW: Daniel Townsend | Australian Arts Review
The Australian premiere of queer British playwright Charlie Josephine’s intimate psychological torment Pops is an outstanding piece of theatre from start to finish. Dancing through the chaos of family, addiction and pride, Pops is both tender and powerful in its portrayal of how divergent things can conspire to trap us in our status quo. From the very outset the set, lighting (Spencer Herd) and sound (Evan Drill) work seamlessly together to create a home that is as commonplace and lived in as it is threatening. I cannot praise the work that has been done here enough. It is not a simple set but at no point does it detract or distract from the performance. It only ever adds, creating atmosphere and embellishing the work done by the actors. To give a small stage such a palpable emotional charge is no small achievement. Both Bronte Charlotte and Todd Levi give masterful performances, moving with ease through the sudden and disorienting modal shifts in the way the story is told. Levi’s Ugg-booted father is scary, matey, proud, loving and lost. I saw shades of people I know very well in his performance which gives you an idea of how complete this character is. Aided by the technically brilliant work of the lighting and sound operation, Levi inhabits his character’s self-distractions and personal injuries as naturally as he does his on-stage home. It is difficult to craft a character that is this real and familiar while also proving so disquieting and pitiable, but Levi manages it flawlessly. Charlotte’s character is the vehicle for the audience’s experience of the piece. The masterly way she works with the alternating frustration, hope and despair makes this surely one of the best performances we will see this Fringe. Her remarkable pathos invests us in the wellbeing of her character. We want to see her succeed, to triumph over her personal demons. At the same time, the text creates in moments an insurmountable distance between us and her, a tool she uses expertly to heighten the show’s commentary on the price of addiction. This production deals with sensitive topics and some of the material could be difficult for some audience members, but it does so with a respect and empathy that we need in our discourse around addiction, mental health and family relationships that fall short of the ideal. Director Dirk Hoult has orchestrated something really special here that is not to be missed.
REVIEW: Thomas Gregory | Theatre Travels
The word “addiction” is never said once during the production of Pops by Charlie Josephine. Neither does the play refer to the specific addiction. Pops isn’t really a play about the general experience of addiction but about the generational harm addiction can cause, and how inner demons can hold back the relationships we desire. Bronte Charlotte plays the unnamed daughter who has to return home because she has nowhere else to go. She is trying to get her life back together - applying for jobs, attending meetings, and trying to make friends. The daughter could be nineteen or forty, it doesn’t matter. The audience feels the daughter's frustration, which is easy to draw from the script. Charlotte excels at bringing across the cautious optimism of the character, that hope that comes with awareness of how naive they must sound. In some ways, Todd Levi has the more difficult role as the father. At first, one can sympathise with the older man with the consistent routine interrupted by the re-appearance of his child. As the story unfolds, it could be just as easy for the audience to turn to hate him completely. We are never given the father’s backstory, and he shows no interest in changing who he is. Hoult plays the man as resigned, closed off, and trying to get himself stuck in the past to avoid the present. Hoult’s character doesn’t want to take responsibility but isn’t so disconnected to say he isn’t responsible. It takes a while for the actors to be in sync, and their interactions occasionally lack chemistry. However, the very nature of the script allows for such fumblings, and their individual performances are confronting and powerful. The marketing material for the play draws comparisons with Churchill and Kane, and the influence of the former is easily recognised in the script. The story is confronting, nuanced, and very real. It isn’t a story of good versus evil but the tragedy of the mundane. No fists are thrown, and no tears are shed, but the play is filled with anger and sadness. The two-hander also has shades of Pinter and modern elements of using sound and lighting as characters, not just tools to illuminate the actor. Parts of the script are insidiously clever. Going in blind, it would be easy to mistake the first minutes for a play about an ungrateful child. A particular audio-visual metaphor may not be picked up until the halfway mark when Josephine ensures the entire audience is on board. The play may be brilliant, but it isn’t perfect. It sometimes gives the impression of relying too heavily on monologues when unsure how to push the action forward, early repetitions go for too long, and the final scenes could, unfortunately, be interpreted as absolving the daughter of any responsibility for her actions. Dirk Hoult’s staging of the play uses the space well and plays with the distance between the two characters in a way that adds to the story being told about them. A key scene is presented by a translucent curtain, emphasising how rare this moment is, and how murky the feelings around it can be for the characters. I’ve yet to see effective lighting for theatre in the Meat Market Stables, but the creative attempts of Spence Herd should be commended for their own contribution to the arcs of the characters. Herd and sound designer Evan Drill could almost tell the tale without the actors on stage, and yet every decision complements the performances perfectly. Pops is an exploration of addiction that is nuanced and powerful. The team that has given us the Australian premiere of the show presents the challenging text in a way that is both compelling and empathetic. A stand-out fringe performance that shouldn’t be missed.