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Sport For Jove presents The Merchant of Venice @ The Seymour Centre

Merchant of Venice- insetUnder the excellent direction of Richard Cottrell Sport For Jove have brought us a most impressive, tense version of one of Shakespeare’s troubling plays, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Although classified as one of Shakespeare’s comedies, with a mostly happy ending, there is plenty of sinister drama happening behind the scenes.

This production, with the play a little abridged, is slickly and briskly delivered.

Cottrell’s version sets the events just before the Second World War. Mostly the men are in expensively cut elegant suits, the women dressed in lovely flowing dresses.

Anna Gardiner’s set design places the characters in a very posh, gold and white art deco world featuring revolving doors and sliding panels.

This Shakespeare play examines issues of hate, greed , resentment, racial intolerance and seeking revenge for long held grudges, but also shows the other side- the need for compassion and mercy.

At the centre of Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is its troubling anti-Semitic portrayal of the main character, Shylock, the Jewish moneylender. Nowadays productions have to consider adjusting their versions to be acceptable to contemporary views while still remaining faithful to Shakespeare’s original. As the production is set in pre-WWII, we are encouraged to see Shakespeare’s aspersions in a context relating to the rise of Nazism.

John Turnbull as Shylock is fascinating– he is cold, implacable and chilling in the courtroom scene. Full of vigour he is sinister and dangerous.Yet we also see good sides to his character and can, to some degree, sympathise with his lust for revenge without mercy. It is a stylish , mesmerising performance at once precise and, at the same, time powerful.

Portia, played by the beautiful Lizzie Schebetsa, is elegantly portrayed . Portia is shown as thoughtful and extremely clever revealing an intelligence and strength that continues throughout the play. Her famous ’Quality of Mercy’ speech was very impressive .

As Portia’s true love Bassanio, the very handsome Christopher Stalley was resolute, bold and determined- a delight to watch.

As the second pair of lovers, Gratiano (Bassanio‘s friend ) Damien Strouthos as Gratiano (Bassanio’s friend) and Erica Lovell as Nerissa (Portia’s lady-in-waiting/companion/confidant) provided charming, necessary comic relief when needed.

James Lugton was quiet and understated in his delicately nuanced and measured performance as Antonio, the eponymous merchant of the title who stands to lose everything.

There was fine ensemble work from the supporting cast. Special mentions…Michael Cullen who showed excellent comic timing playing Lancelot Gobbo, Bassanio’s servant and one of Shakespeare’s clowns. Lucy Heffernan as Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, was sweetly determined and enchanting. Jason Kos was stalwart as her suitor Lorenzo. Aaron Tsindos revels in his over the top portrayal of the arrogant Prince of Morocco, almost stealing the show.

Richard Cottrell provides audiences with an interesting, enigmatic ending.

Summing up, this was a very challenging, thought provoking and exciting production of this dark Shakespeare comedy.

Running time 2 & ½ hours including one interval.

Sport for Jove’s production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is playing the York theatre at the Seymour Centre until Saturday 30th May.

For more about this production visit http://www.sportforjove.com.au.

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Blue Mountains Musical Society Presents Tommy @ Penrith Panthers

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Liam Gray plays the troubled Tommy

The powerful tale of a deaf, mute, and blind pinball player who becomes an international messiah bursts comes to the Evan Theatre at Penrith Panthers Leagues Club this week.

The Who’s Tommy is a theatrical adaptation of the original chart-topping rock album released in 1969. The exhilarating score is timeless in its youthful appeal, giving the show a cross-generational appeal.

After witnessing the accidental murder of his mother’s lover by his father, Tommy is traumatised into catatonia, and as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbours. As an adolescent, he’s discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball, and when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia, he becomes an international pinball superstar.

This Blue Mountains Musical Society production, directed by Jessica Lovelace, is set in a world where physical human contact is reduced to a bare minimum in favour of viewing the world through a screen. It plays on the fears of technology and scientific development, taking us into the world of ‘reality’ TV and YouTube fame, where everything a family does is seen by the masses, criticised and commented on. The design takes inspiration from contemporary festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury to blend the look of now with that of the iconic 60s and 70s.

The Blue Mountains Musical Societys’ production of TOMMY is playing this week only at the Even Theatre at Penrith Panthers. The show opens this Wednesday night at 8pm, then plays Thursday and Friday night at 8pm,  Saturday at 2pm and 8pm with the final performance this Sunday at 2pm.

 

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The Living Room Theatre Presents SHE ONLY BARKS AT NIGHT @ THE VET SCHOOL ROUNDHOUSE SYDNEY UNIVERSITY

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Cloe Fournier in She Only Barks At Night. Production photography by Marcel Zammit

Just after dusk for five nights, from Wednesday May 27 to Sunday May 31, SHE ONLY BARKS AT NIGHT  will be performed around the University of Sydney by Sydney’s The Living Room Theatre, in between the Sydney Vet School Roundhouse and Macleay Museum. This follows the sell out success of their previous production She (Still) Cries at Night.

Michelle St Anne, Founder and Artistic director of The Living Room Theatre says “She Only Barks at Night is a performance installation that illuminates some of the University’s most historic, but often overlooked sites. The work will see these heritage beauties inhabited and reinterpreted by scientists, performers, musicians and even a live horse.” Continue reading

CUT SNAKE

CUT SNAKE

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A great new Australian crime thriller is ready for our cinema screens, and has an unexpected take on the motivations for committing crime.

CUT SNAKE is an incendiary noir drama, set in Melbourne  circa 1974. Merv is a man  from Sydney with a past that he wants to run away from. He has moved to country Melbourne with the intention of trying to build a new life.

Suddenly he finds himself tracked down by old friend James and is dragged back into the criminal world, where both are only known by their criminal nicknames. Continue reading

CHESS at Manly Musical Society

Manly Musical Society presents CHESS @ Star Of The Sea

MMS Chess main cast
(left to right0 Arbiter- Ben Greenwood, Waiter- Sam Ardasinski, Freddie- Michael Paton, Florence- Keira Connelly, Anatoly- Tavis Cunningham, Svetlana- Stephanie Edmonds, Molokov- Carl Olsen
MMS 0 Chess Steph as Svetlana
Stephanie Edwards as Svetlana
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Tavis Cunningham as Anatoly, Ben Greenwood as the Arbiter, and Arie Priebee. Production photographs by Jim Muir

CHESS (Book by Richard Nelson, Lyrics by Tim Rice, Music by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson) is a classic Broadway musical drama with a great rock score. The musical has seven lead vocalists heading a large supporting cast of singers and dancers. With its complexity and its large ensemble cast, this is a musical that is rarely performed in Sydney.

This full-length epic cold war musical, initially set in the city of Milano in Italy, revolves around the politically-driven manipulation of a fictional Cold War-era chess tournament between two world chess grandmasters. Continue reading

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Willoughby Theatre Company’s Evita @ The Concourse

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Lucy Hood plays the part of The Mistress. She delivers a great version of the classic ballad, ‘Another Suitcase Another Hall’

Willoughby Theatre Company productions just keep on getting better and better. This amazing production of this now iconic musical, with its huge cast, under the direction of Declan Moore, transports us to Buenos Aires. As we enter and take our seats, tango music softly plays.

Greed, power and corruption ooze through this show. There is much cynical manipulation of the common people and unacknowledged hypocrisy. The musical, told in flashback- it starts with Eva’s funeral- tells the story of the life of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. Continue reading

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Australian Chamber Orchestra: Mostly Mendelssohn @ Sydney City Recital Hall

American wunderkind violinist Stefan Jackiw. Pic Carly Earl
Genius American violinist Stefan Jackiw. Pic Carly Earl

This incredible concert had the ecstatic audience cheering at the end. Led by Satu Vanska and with amazing guest artist Stefan Jackiw the ACO was in glorious, inspired form .

First was the enchanting Mendelssohn String Symphony No. 9 in C Minor , ‘La Suisse’ . The first movement opened sharply then became brighter and faster with flourishes of the repeated dance like melody. The second movement was divine, heartbreaking and lyrical. It had a semi Baroque feel as well as similarities to Mendelssohn’s ‘ Midsummer Night’s Dream’ music and included glorious cello sections. It was ravishing, full of exquisite beauty. Continue reading

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Rosario Lopez: People and Lines @ The Bondi Pavilion Gallery

Rosario Lopez's studio
Inset pic- Rosario Lopez’s studio in Oxford Street hat she used through the A.R.P- Artist. Residency Program-http://www.arpprojects.com. Featured pic- A drawing featured in the upcoming exhibition
Visual Artist Rosario Lopez with bicycle in tow enjoying the boardwalk at Bondi Beach
Visual Artist Rosario Lopez with bicycle in tow enjoying the boardwalk at Bondi Beach

Visual artist Rosario Lopez, who has had exhibitions in Chile, Hong Kong and in Australia, is having an exhibition of her work at the Bondi Pavilion Gallery.

The exhibition entitled ‘People and Lines’ will be held between the 3rd and 21st of June.

The exhibition is her salute to the Bondi environment and how the relaxed environment brings out the best in everybody.

In her drawings Lopez depicts skaters, speedos, hipsters, kids, the elderly, all going about their lives, sharing the great place that is Bondi.

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The House On The Lake @ The Stables Theatre

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Huw Higginson as lawyer David Rail in Aidan Fennessy’s The House On The Lake. Production photos by Brett Boardman

Literary allusions to Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll are part of the puzzle to Aidan Fennessy’s THE HOUSE ON THE LAKE.

Lawyer, David Rail, wakes up to find himself in a hospital with forensic psychologist, Alice.
“I’m here to help”, Alice says by way of introduction, and Rail is in need of help. Rail is derailed, suffering from apparent amnesia, days erased since his last conscious recollections, mindfulness blanked in a burrow of oblivion. Continue reading

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Summer of the Seventeenth Doll @ Glen Street Theatre

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A scene from the Doll. Production photos by Shane Reid

This is a classic play for a very simple reason. It is a very well written. Today it is an interesting study of an aspect of Australian culture as it was over sixty years ago. It brings the classic legend of the archetypal bushie into Melbourne’s urban environment.

The typical bushie was physically impressive and valued mateship and playwright Ray Lawler has managed to bring the outback into a theatre for a very dramatic character driven play.

Two cane cutters have spent the last sixteen summers or “the lay off” with Olive and Nancy. They work hard with their mates for the seven months of the cane cutting season and then come to the city to relax, celebrate and enjoy their time off. However, Nancy has recently married and Olive has convinced her fellow barmaid, Pearl, to stay with her when these great blokes from Queensland come to town.

This particular summer does not live up to the sixteen previous golden halcyon summers. Gradually during the play cracks and flaws are revealed. Olive has explained that her unconventional relationship with Roo is far better than all the marriages she sees in the pub and that the five months of the boy’s lay off is a glorious time.

When Pearl meets Roo and Barney she does not quite see what Olive has been so excited about. Pearl is a widow and single mother. She is reserved, prudish and sees herself as a more respectable and responsible person than the flamboyant and vivacious Olive. Their contrasting characters are just one interesting aspect of this play. The central interest is the tension and conflict between the various characters.

The standout performance, under Geordie Brookman’s direction, is Elena Carapetis as Olive. She gives a very modern and natural performance but is also funny, outlandish and at times angry, grumpy and distraught.

Jacqy Phillips, as Emma Leech, Olive’s cranky but wise mother delivers an excellent performance.

Just as Pearl’s reserved and respectable character contrasts with Olive’s, Lizzy Falkland’s portrayal of Pearl has similar contrasts, and is probably more in keeping with the time that the play was set and written in.

Other cast members are Chris Pitman, Annabel Matheson, Tim Overton and Rory Walker.

The impressive sets and costumes are by Pip Runciman, excellent lighting by Nigel Levings and the music with its haunting cello and atmospheric piano is by Quentin Grant.

SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL is playing at the Glen Street Theatre, Belrose until the 24th May.

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Dalloway @ The Eternity Playhouse

Rebecca Vaughn in DALLOWAY. Production Images by Ben Guest
Rebecca Vaughn in DALLOWAY. Production Images by Ben Guest

Great cocktail parties are increasingly rare. DALLOWAY, at the Eternity for the Sydney Writers Festival is the rarest affair of all. A gentle and gracious soiree where the fine conversation flows and the guests are eclectic and interesting to meet. As you head home stimulated by the ideas discussed and the emotions touched, your mind turns to the hostess. Is she what they say she is or what she appears to be? And… did she buy those flowers herself?

Based on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, DALLOWAY distills the essence of the novel like a fine brandy. It is a hot June day in post war London, 1923, and Clarissa Dalloway, sunny and gay, is preparing a party at her home in Westminster. She likes to succeed. Her silly little life has had many social triumphs and this will be no exception. The Prime Minister is coming…a great honour. Continue reading

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The Shoe-Horn Sonata @ The Ensemble

Sandra Bates and Lorraine Bayley in John Misto's THE SHOE HORN SONATA. Production pics by Katy Green-Loughrey
Sandra Bates and Lorraine Bayly in John Misto’s THE SHOE HORN SONATA. Production pics by Katy Green-Loughrey

This was a memorable night at the theatre especially for devotees, such as myself, of this very special theatre.

Lorraine Bayly and Sandra Bates, two thespians who have played such a central figure in the theatre’s growth over its fifty seven years, reprise the roles that they originally played at the Ensemble back in 1997.

They have both agreed that these performances are their swansongs from the theatre. Their choice is a very prudent one in relation to this theatre’s history. Some twenty years ago the Ensemble Theatre premiered John Misto’s play  where it was an instant success and is now regarded as a classic Australian work, that is performed regularly by theatre companies around the country.

Their final performances, playing two Aussie nurses and pals, Sheila and Bridie, during the second World War trapped in the hell of a Japanese prisoner of war camp, are focused and heart-felt. They leave their home stage on a very high note.

Misto’s story is told in flashback. It is many years after their hellish experience and the two ladies, who haven’t seen each other since the war, are reunited when they are asked to participate in a television documentary about this terrible time. The show’s producers set them up in a city motel room for the duration of the making of the program and their time together is a very emotional one and one where a lot of healing takes place.

Bridie and Sheila had a sister like relationship during their internment, always tending and watching out after each other. Sandra Bates played the ‘big sister’ Bridie and Lorraine Bayly was little sister, junior, Sheila.

Misto contrasts his characters well…Sheila, coming from a private school background in England, is the more reserved of the duo, whilst Bridie is harder skinned, coming from working class stock and being brought up in suburban Chatswood. There are jokes about this during the play.

We never get to see their laid-back, warm interviewer, Rick. His part is played by voice-over, well carried out by another Ensemble theatre regular, Jamie Oxenbould.

At its heart, THE SHOE-HORN SONATA is a survivors story. The two women do everything in their power to get through to the end of the war. When they finally win their freedom it is almost an anti-climax..they have been waiting so long.

Music plays a large part in their survival. Bridie and Sheila, along with the other nurses interned, join together to sing classic songs from the time when they ever get a chance. In the play’s penultimate scene, when their spirits are lowest, they hear a group of Aussie soldiers who have been briefly stationed nearby, singing in unison, and they respond in kind.

The play’s staging- Sandra Bates is the director, Annie Gardiner, the designer- is an exercise in simplicity and elegance. The front stage area is the motel room they share…the back area is the television studio…..Archival photos from the war are projected onto a screen above the performers. A classic theatre curtain is draped across the ‘back wall’. Through the play Peter Neufeld’s lighting design works very effectively.

Highly recommended, try and get to see this lovingly crafted work of theatre, featuring two old friends playing two old friends, before it closes. THE SHOE-HORN SONATA plays the Ensemble theatre until Sunday 28th June and then there is a final performance at the Concourse, Chatswood, on  Thursday 2nd July.

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Woman In Gold

(L-R) MAX IRONS and TATIANA MASLANY star in WOMAN IN GOLD

A quest to bring the past to task, right a wrong, WOMAN IN GOLD is the remarkable true story of one woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage and seek justice for what happened to her family.

Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.

Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), she embarks upon a major battle which takes them to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Continue reading

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Wild Tales

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Boasting an amazing pre-title sequence, especially in the light of the recent French Alps aviation tragedy, WILD TALES is an anthology work which has revenge as its thematic thread.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards and chosen as the closing night feature of the recent Spanish Film Festival, WILD TALES is a cathartic experience to anyone who has endured road rage, unmitigated bureaucracy, rudeness or incivility, or any slight, sling or arrow from outrageous fortune. In other words, every single one of us. Continue reading

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English National Opera Screening: La Traviata

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Inset pic- Elizabeth Zharoff. Featured pic- Ben Johnson and Elizabeth Zharoff. Production photography by Donald Cooper

The UK’s leading producer of world-class opera, the English National Opera (ENO), present their 2015 season of magical performances in Australia cinemas for the very first time as part of the ENO Screen season.

Performed in English by the stars of the ENO, productions are filmed live at the London Coliseum theatre in stunning multi-camera HD to capture the distinctive majesty of the ENO performances.

Peter Konwitschny’s celebrated production of Verdi’s tragic masterpiece La Traviata, cuts to the very heart of the opera’s themes of passionate love and tragic death with a modern and uncluttered staging, and a running time of less than two hours. Continue reading

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Mad Max: Fury Road

a poxy lipped now

Mythed it by that much! MAD MAX:  FURY ROAD is so full of both strident and subliminal myth legend proto, arche and stereotype that it can’t help inveigle the viewer in a dream, albeit a bad one, a nightmare of apocalyptic proportion.

Putrid patriarchy has survived and prospered in post-apocalyptic time and the warlord Immortan Joe, pustule pocked and death masked pseudo saviour of a tribe of feral followers steeped in kamikaze allegiance, keeps a harem of young women as breeders. Continue reading

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Mad Max: Fury Road

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FURY ROAD, as everyone is aware, is part of the Mad Max /Kennedy Miller franchise.

Miller is a qualified medico from the tiny town of Chinchilla in Queensland. His original surname was Miliotis and his family were Greek post war immigrants to Australia.

Miller is a cinematic genius with a broad oeuvre which includes Babe and Happy Feet . We all remember the original Mad Max, made over 40 years ago, played by a tortured Mel Gibson. The film was a masterpiece and achieved cult status. Miller captured a post apocalyptic surreal world starved of warmth and compassion and populated by zombie humans. Cinema-goers  had never seen anything quite like it. Continue reading

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The Three Musketeers @ The Genesian Theatre

It's fun for young and old  with the swashbuckling classic The Three Musketeers given a hearty revival with Mark Banks' production. Production photography by Grant Fraser
It’s fun for young and old with the swashbuckling classic The Three Musketeers given a hearty revival with Mark Banks’ production. Production photography by Grant Fraser

Yes the dashing quartet,  Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan, and their swashbuckling deeds of derring do, are back in town at the Genesian theatre. This version, an adaptation by  was a recent hot ticket at the Bristol Old Vic in the UK.

Based on the much loved tale by Alexandre Dumas,  the simplified yet still complicated twists and turns of this epic story of ‘heroism, valour, treachery, close escapes and above all honour’ are told in short, sharp scenes.

Will D”Artagnan with the help of his friends retrieve the Queen’s necklace in time for her to wear it at the ball ?Will D’Artagnan officially become a Musketeer fulfilling his dream ? What of Constance, the Queen’s maid that he falls in love with? And what exactly are the Cardinal and Milady plotting behind the King’s back ? Continue reading

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Fine French Cinema: Gemma Bovery: Ten Double Passes

GEMMA BOVERYRéalisé par Anne Fontaine

From the director of Coco Before Chanel comes Gemma Boverya sumptuous dramedy, which opened the 2015 Alliance Française French Film Festival.  

When English couple, Gemma and Charles Bovery, move into a small Normandy town, Martin Joubert, the baker and resident Flaubert fan, can’t believe it. Here are two real life people who seem to be replicating the behaviour of his favourite fictional characters right before his eyes.  Continue reading

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Funk Engine To Play Leichardt Town As Part Of Site And Sound Festival

Funk EngineIt has been over 2 years since Funk Engine was first formed in January 2013. In this time they have mostly played in deep,underground bars and clubs where their fun and funky groove oriented music grew into what it is today. However at the end of this month, Funk Engine will perform in the Leichhardt town hall as part of the 2015 Site and Sound Festival giving the community a rare chance to hear them in a concert hall setting.

The Site and Sound Festival is an event that runs from late April to May.  The Festival gives artists the opportunity to use the unique space of the town hall at their own accord. As well as music, the festival celebrates drama, dance and visual art. Some of the other organizations participating in 2015 include Artefact, Fools in Progress and the Suara Indonesian Dance Company.   Continue reading

The Depot Theatre Is Back On Track And Will Open In July With The Cherry Orchard

David Jeffrey, co-founder of The Depot Theatre (bottom left) signing the Addison Road Centre (ARC) agreement with Rosanna Barbero, Centre Co-Ordinator (bottom right), Juan Carlos Rios, Cultural Development Officer (top right) and a member of the ARC Board (top left).
David Jeffrey, co-founder of The Depot Theatre (bottom left) signing the Addison Road Centre (ARC) agreement with Rosanna Barbero, Centre Co-Ordinator (bottom right), Juan Carlos Rios, Cultural Development Officer (top right) and a member of the ARC Board (top left).

In a piece of great news for the Sydney independent theatre scene, where good performance spaces are hard to find, co -founders Julie Baz and David Jeffrey have announced in a letter to their supporters that their new theatre, the Depot Theatre in Marrickville, will open, as originally planned, in July.

Below is the transcript of their letter to their many supporters:-
We are thrilled to announce that after a very brief departure we’re back and are now forging ahead as planned to create and open THE DEPOT THEATRE, a new independent theatre and events venue at the old Sidetrack Theatre site within the Addison Road Centre in Marrickville.
Since proclaiming less than a week ago that we had to abandon our plans and were withdrawing from the indie theatre sector, we have been inundated with an outpouring of heartfelt support and encouragement.
This, along with the unwavering support of the Addison Road Centre through what has been a highly emotional and tumultuous time, has given us renewed strength, vigour and enthusiasm for the future.
We sincerely thank all of our supporters from the bottom of our hearts and look forward to sharing the THE DEPOT THEATRE with you for many years to come. To continue to show your support, we simply ask you to focus your energy on fostering, creating and experiencing some great indie theatre. Get involved in productions, tell all your friends about the venue, and most importantly, come and see shows.
We also ask that, as tempting as it might be right now, we do not form a similar ‘angry mob’ to the one that almost crushed us.
We’re not interested in and will never support that kind of behaviour. So, let’s keep the talk, the social media commentary and all the rest positive and just ignore the negative.
To celebrate coming out of our very short-lived retirement, we’re extending our earlybird offer by one week for our opening production. ALL tickets are just $20* to THE CHERRY ORCHARD by Anton Chekhov, playing 15 July – 1 August.
*Select ‘full’ tickets and use the promo code Depot75 when you book your tickets here: http://www.thedepottheatre.com/whats-on - offer ends 22 May 2015.
See you there!
Julie Baz and David Jeffrey
Co-founders of THE DEPOT THEATRE

Continue reading

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John Giese and Dean Vella @ The Traffic Jam Galleries

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Inset pic- Dean Vella- ‘Explosion of Flower’ Featured Pic- John Giese ‘Effortless’

Contrasting yet complimentary this is a (relatively) small but exciting exhibition currently showing at the Traffic Jam Galleries.

Giese, an artist from the northern rivers, in this exhibition concentrates on animals as his subject. Using mixed media on polycotton the canvases range from medium to large in size.

A couple are hung facing outwards in the windows to be visible from the street. They are vibrant and colourful .One might perhaps think they are painted in watercolours .There is a dynamic, bold use of line, shape and colour to depict the expressions of various animals. Continue reading

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Rhymes With Silence @ 107 Projects

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Production photos by John Tsioulos

In the literary world, there is a trend toward books of short stories which gel together to create a bigger picture than each tale. Think David Cook’s BATTLE SCARS or IMPROMPTU SCRIBE by Alex Morritt.

Domestic Violence- RHYMES WITH SILENCE has tapped into the zeitgeist and run with it. In this engrossing show, 13 new short plays written by 9 Australian writers and starring 26 actors working with 12 directors cohere for a well realized night at the theatre where the sum is considerably greater than the parts. Continue reading

The Unknown Soldier at Monkey Baa Theatre

The Unknown Soldier @ The Monkey Baa Theatre

Felix Johnson plays teenagers Charlie and Albert in Sandra Eldridge's play.
Felix Johnson plays teenagers Charlie and Albert in Sandra Eldridge’s play.

THE UNKOWN SOLDIER is a beautiful play contributing to this year’s mixture of emotions and learning related to the Great War. Its essential beauty lies in an intricate, tight weaving of relevancies between present day Australia and a French battlefield in 1916. It articulates stories from past and present with an honest juxtaposition of physical and emotional conflicts.

The play is written by Sandra Eldridge, one of Monkey Baa’s Creative Directors. She also gives a commanding performance as Aunt Angela, whose mountains escape is invaded by the defensive, emotionally injured thirteen year old Charlie. In the flashback scenes she quickly changes to Grace, a WW1 nurse in search of her son.

Eldridge is joined on stage by Felix Johnson, who plays her teenage nephew and also an optimistic 1916 teenage soldier in flashback sequences. The chemistry between the anti-war Aunt Angela and Charlie with a father just home from conflict is fiery, without apparent peaceful resolution. Together they discover a dusty port which becomes a portal to war affected lives of times past. It is also a foil for their own family’s post-war struggles.

Over cuppas of varying success, the volatile pair gradually discover unknown details about the Great War. The play has noise, graphic description, and evocative stage effects when the space becomes a tense battlefield in a few split seconds. Letter reading also quickly ignites into full action rather than remaining static.

Also carefully handled at an offstage distance is the topic of Charlie’s father coping with his return from the war in Afghanistan. An introduction to his post-traumatic stress disorder is clearly offered here. Felix Johnson’s portrayal of a teenager with a broken father is heartbreaking and real.

Johnson’s young soldier Albert has a wide-eyed early twentieth-century persona. The battle scenes show chilling, sharp instances of full-bodied fear. His flips back to a definitive modern teenager show impressive range.

Both actors are directed to use the stage well through the continual shifts between their changed worlds and quartet of characters. The play’s momentum is not delayed by the constant shifts in character and time. Sandra Eldridge shines as Aunt Angela. Her deft progression to the more conventional nurse in WW1 includes comprehensive movements in accent, pose and vulnerability.

The design of props and stage set is highly evocative and successful. Anna Gardiner’s set split between a modern home and battle-torn Europe works well for the various exits and entries. The layering of letter texts on surfaces textures highlights the emotional communications within the layers of the entire play.

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER never preaches about sacrifice, nor does it glorify war as a solution. There are thought-provoking comments on those you leave behind when in battle and what you are defending. It shows us the results of people fighting for their country whilst being loved by their family.

This touching 2015 event has a nice salute to Anzac Day services, with more than the one famous stanza from Lawrence Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’ being recited by Aunt Angela and Charlie.

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a beautifully executed sharing of war and family experiences both past and present. It is a worthwhile anniversary addition to the theatrical canon in this topic area. The play runs in Sydney at the Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre from 18-22 May before touring regional centres.

For more about The Unknown Soldier at Monkey Baa Theatre, visit http://www.monkeybaa.com.au

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(Extra) Ordinary (Un) Usual 111- The Monologue Project @ The New Theatre

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The third installment in this series debuted on Wednesday night at the New Theatre with a host of new skits.

Created and produced by Pete Malicki, who finds his material in the everyday and the not so everyday, and weaves these elements of life into absurd, hilarious snapshots. Stories range from a demented office worker’s daily grind, to the sexually confused victim of a scam, these innocuous scenarios provide hugely funny results when given the Malicki treatment.

The audience is given a teaser of what is to come when one of the characters (Debbie Neilson as an obsessive bride) roams the lobby before the show looking for her groom. There are some familiar faces in (extra)ordinary (un)usual lll, like Rosemary Ghazi , but also some new faces: Matt Friedman and Luke Reeves and a very amusing Glenn Wanstall, who becomes possessed by various Greek Gods whilst speed dating.

There are too many highlights to mention, and I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers, but the stories are inspired: funny, heartbreaking and often with twists that you don’t see coming. Malicki has fulfilled his brief and given us a show that is as good as any mainstream entertainment, with a very talented young cast.

Featuring: Debbie Neilson, Glenn Wanstall, Luke Reeves, Matt Friedman, Raechel Carlsen, Tiffany Hoy, Yannick Lawry, Rosemary Ghazi and Miss Suzie Q. Introduced by Katrina Papadopoulos.

Written and directed by Pete Malicki.

(extra)ordinary (un)usual lll is on again Wed, 20 and 27 May at the New Theatre, Newtown. For more information and tickets see : www.monologues.com.au/.

This review was originally published on Joy’s website- http://www.thebuzzfromsydney.com

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