Review: Permission to Spin, Old Fitz Theatre

Glen Falkenstein

It’s not easy to make a Happy Meal toy sound so sinister, but there you go.
Review: Permission to Spin, Old Fitz Theatre

Permission to Spin, photo by Robert Cato.

The Apocalypse Theatre Company’s world premiere of Permission to Spin, in association with Old Fitz stalwart Red Line Productions, packs a rare combination of tones. This play is at once breathlessly cynical, and churningly dramatic. The play’s rhythms smash up against each other, and ever-so often it misses.

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Set entirely in a talent agent’s sheen-stricken office, the most synthetic of any Red Line staging in recent memory, coke-ridden Jim (Yure Kovich) implores star client and children’s entertainer Cristobel (Anna Houston), best known as Miss Polkadot, not to throw it all away on the eve of her most celebrated plaudit. Manager Martin (Arky Michael), anticipating a win for Children’s Album of the Year, has little going for him beyond shepherding Cristobel through years of fame, having started together at a very, very different time in their lives.

Kovich is the play’s highlight; he has a jarring, physical presence. His character, Jim, has a penchant for the recreation of recreations – which many would imagine routinely transpire in talent agents’ office. Houston deftly navigates the travails of her sensation which has outgrown her audience, as does Michael, here saddled with some of the play’s most confronting moments. Michael is front and centre for Permission to Spin’s most blatant and unnecessary tonal shift, as he at one point narrates straight to the audience. Amid this strong cast Michael nonetheless carries his part well.

Permission to Spin, photo by Robert Cato.

Having weathered a now resurgent crisis before the dawn of the social media age, Permission to Spin is at its satirical best when chronicling how the troupe come to terms with their horrifically macabre set of circumstances. A marvelously shrewd idea for a play, this novel premise feeds off our familiar conceptions of the temptations that take place behind the glitz and glamour, while being markedly relevant in terms of broader world affairs.

This is however but half the play, which alternately proffers a more traditional drama as the egos, personalities and sets of wills clash against each other in a forbiddingly dark and increasingly discomforting manner. In this way, Permission to Spin is not unlike Red Line Productions’ earlier staging of Bull, which also contained overtly aggressive personalities and less than mild themes of subjugation. Whereas Bull set its sights alone on this dynamic, and its resultant comic undertones, Permission to Spin, in a similarly short runtime, features an almost wholly separate focus in the interactions that have no doubt ensued between the group over the years. This dynamic could just as well have been the emphasis of the play alone.   

Likewise, Permission to Spin’s comic leanings clash strongly in tone with the more serious dramatic interactions which characterise the play’s second half.  However, not unwelcome, these innovations hold glaringly disparate resonance, contributing to this uneven, if still entirely consuming production.

Rating: 3 ½ stars ★★★☆

Permission to Spin


Written by MARY RACHEL BROWN
Directed by MARY RACHEL BROWN & DINO DIMITRIADIS
CAST: Anna Houston, Yure Covich, Arky Michael
CREATIVE TEAM:
Written by Mary Rachel Brown
Directed by Mary Rachel Brown & Dino Dimitriadis
Produced by Thomas Murphy for Apocalypse Theatre Company, in association with Red Line Productions
Assistant Directed by Matthew Cheetham
Lighting Design by Veronique Benett
Set Design by Cris Baldwin
Costume Design by Isabella Cannavo
Stage Management by Jennifer Humphries-Ford
Photography by John Marmaras
Design by How Design
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Recommended for ages 16+

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Glen produces film, theatre and television reviews and commentary, covering festivals, interviews and events. Glen lives in Sydney and enjoys making short films. Read more at falkenscreen.com

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