This Bitter Earth: Stripping down the hopes and dreams of every relationship we have ever had

Run Time: 72 minutes (Opening Night)
On assignment for Sydney Scoop / Editor: Rebecca Varidel
Production Images: Bob Seary

It’s the latest experimental live show in New Theatre Newtown’s 2019 program.  The 17 day short run production shines a spotlight on an an area of relationships clouded by languid debates of equality and homophobia in recent decades.

This Bitter Earth is my way of parsing this current cultural moment we’re living through.” says playwright, Chris Edwards,  “We see a generation of people struggling to connect with each other as there’s this looming, ever-present sense of twenty-first century despair hovering over our heads at all times.”

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In search of the next rush – we uncover a new original work by Chris Edwards and his play THIS BITTER EARTH currently showing at @newtheatresydney . . Full Article here:(https://thenextrushmagazine.com/2019/07/17/this-bitter-earth-stripping-down-the-hopes-and-dreams-of-every-relationship-we-have-ever-had-review/) and SydneyScoop.com . . “This Bitter Earth is my way of parsing this current cultural moment we're living through.” says playwright, Chris Edwards, “We see a generation of people struggling to connect with each other as there's this looming, ever-present sense of twenty-first century despair hovering over our heads at all times.” . . . Starring Mitchell Bourke, Michael Cameron, Elle Mickel, Matthew Prendy, Ariadne Sgouros and Sasha Simon, the anthology is couched in banter, fun gags and dirty humor with a mission quite profound. It's a show for anyone who loves…. . . CLICK THROUGH FOR TICKETS IN THE LATEST ARTICLE . . #newtheatrenewtown #nidasydney #theatrenews #broadway #theatresydney #whatsonsydney #whatsonbrisbane #perthentertainmentcentre #underthegroundchapiteau #sydneyactor #gaysydney #sydneymardigras #australiantheatre #sydneycasting #ilovenewtown #sydneyart #innerwestsydney #anzstadiumsydney #fitinspo #fitfam #sydneyolympicpark #northshorehamilton #actorlife #theatrelife #stirlingtheatre #melvilletheatre #goldenticketoz #bridgespr

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The genesis of the script was part of Edwards’ major work while completing his Masters of Writing for Performance at NIDA last year and has been further developed into a full length play especially for the New Theatre stage.

He describes it as a loose montage of standalone stories that give insight into a generation’s consciousness.   “Each scene is a little snapshot of a particular kind of yearning for connection, and all the healthy or unhealthy ways in which we express or act on those feelings. Their hook ups turn into existential epiphanies, their relationships are only working when they’re crashing and burning, and they’ll talk about anything but the things tearing them apart. But also like, fun and banter and great gags and stuff.”

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Directed by Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts graduate, Riley Spodaro, his blocking is disciplined enhancing the character driven script.    Grace Deacon’s costume design also aids in defining the characters in each scene in the abscence of a set.  The use of silhouettes created by Phoebe Pilcher and Morgan Moroney in scene transitions added tension and flow

Starring Mitchell Bourke, Michael Cameron, Elle Mickel, Matthew Prendy, Ariadne Sgouros and Sasha Simon, the anthology is couched in banter, fun gags and dirty humor with a mission quite profound.   “I want to take stock of our current queer Australian landscape, let my generation actually see itself on stage, and hope that somewhere amongst the understated brutality that we inflict upon ourselves and each other, we can find something honest, or true, or with the ability to give us a brief respite from the apocalypse happening around us.” continued Edwards.     

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Matthew Predny

As the audience enters the theatre shuffling for seats, the tunes of Kylie Minogue set the tone as Joel’s (Matthew Predny) dance moves act as the opening credits to the 72-minute production that lifts the veil on the inner workings of LGBTI single and dating life.

Why do so many raised in the digital age find it easier to speak to each other while in the same room through a dating app than in person?  It’s the main underlying theme of the brutal vulgarity as Millenial-Joel shares his first intimate encounter.  The graphic imagery hilariously describes what could very well be a standard right of passage for many.  Is it a good thing or is there work to be done in the social etiquette and interaction of gay dating and interpersonal connection?

Chris Edwards drops snapshots of the LGBTIQ+ social sphere like puzzle pieces.  The interconnecting need of wanting and being wanted unifies the characters we are introduced to.  There’s plenty of dish on the inner thought process of the modern gay and lesbian dating as heavy truths spill on stage.

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Michael Cameron (foreground) and Mitchell Bourke

The scene-stealers of the night were in the following scene between Dean (Mitchell Bourke) and Joel (Michael Cameron), who play out the seemingly long term love-hate relationship that immediately opens with laughs and a soundtrack of disco.    A sense of realism that’s less abstract than the preceding monologue, it’s the perfect additive to the collection of stories presented through the evening. 

this-bitter-earth_0821.jpgEdwards has struck gold with Mitchel Bourke and his portrayal of Dean,  taking the show into full throttle with perfecty timed delivery and banter with his co-star.  Michael Cameron’s Joel, deviously comedic as his character garnered our sympathy after the botched marriage proposal.   Is Dean afraid of commitment?   How can Joel enjoy being the subject of his partner’s sarcasm and insults?   The two actors work well together providing a sense of realism, and hilarious dynamic in the setup of jokes.  We’re rooting for Joel,  before a cliffhanger at the end of the story that hints at cracks of physical abuse or anger management.  It certainly would explain Dean’s tendency to drink his way through the four year relationship.    The talent of Edwards’ writing at its best in this scene using the quirky quick whipped verbal sparring depicted in Joel and Dean’s relationship.  The barrel of laughs paid out, masks the very dark heart of this relationship.

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(Left to Right) Sasha Simon, Ariadne Sgouros and Elle Mickel

In contrast to the uncensored vocalising of raw thought and emotion from the males’ point of view,  we only see this in the combustion of Sam (Elle Mickel) as the result of obviously unresolved issues from her past relationship with friend and ex-girlfriend, Charlie (Sarah Simon).  It’s interesting to see the depiction of internalizing that come through by this point in a seemingly innocent conversation between friends and their dating conquests. 

this-bitter-earth_0913.jpgVery well thought out characters.  The arc of dirty humour, confrontation, apparent love and respect is refereed by the diplomatic Emma (Ariadne Sgouros).  The depiction of three lesbian personnas is one that has been underdeveloped in mainstream theatre and Edwards’ work moves that a step forward.   

This Bitter Earth is described by Producers as an “unstitched patchwork of queer lives in queer times” of today’s Millenial, however the movie references and jokes in the script are from the generations preceding them.  The awkward chemistry between Bobby (Michael Cameron) and Helena (Ariadne Sgouros) might be a missed opportunity as it seems a little underdeveloped.   Bobby is established as queer progressive and Helena established as a virgin serving no real purpose to the scene development other than the setup for some of the funniest one liners and group fake orgasms in the entire show.  

this-bitter-earth_0020.jpgThe acting chops from the ensemble rises above this very technical nitpicking, and the nightclub and ‘safe space sangria’ sequences are overall a nice lighthearted and playful counter balance to the fierceness in the opening scenes. 

this-bitter-earth_0084.jpgThe final scene retreats into the abstract opening like a dream sequence of inner thoughts.  It’s a verbal montage of the stories that seem to roll back into Jake’s monologue.   Have we been watching someone’s dream?  Are we watching someone’s aspirations being shaped by the models of relationships and interactions around them?   Were we witnessing the internal battle of a sexually diverse individual, indoctrinated by conflicting ideas that cause ongoing confusion in his or her search for contentment in self identity?    Edwards’ writing and his cast’s seamless portrayals make a reasonable case for it.

One of the profound takeaways from This Bitter Earth is its universal fear to open yourself completely to someone and how your sense of self affects the quality of those connections.

This Bitter Earth is the modern gay way to win, lose and love –  a show for anyone who loves.


SEASON: 11-27 July 2019
Wednesday to Saturday –  7:30pm
Sunday –  5pm
Saturday 27 July – additional matinee 2pm 

TICKETS: $35
Concessions, Groups (6+) $30

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Also in Newtown:

ROGUE POP-UP GALLERY: ROLL CALL OF ROGUES

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The new show highlights 18 artists associated with this well pedigreed new kid on the block.  Diane Larter, the director of this refreshing new endeavour, learnt her trade at the well respected Watters Gallery.   The show will be diverse and exciting including works by Tony Tuckson, Ian Howard, Chris O’Doherty and Neil Evans.

Rogue Pop Up Gallery // 480 King Street Newtown
Director: Diane larter
Exhibition open: 10 July – 28 July, Wednesday – Sunday, 11am to 6pm

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