Theatre

WILLOUGHBY THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS ‘WICKED’ @ THE CONCOURSE CHATSWOOD

 

‘No one mourns the wicked’.

The Willoughby Theatre Company transport us to OZ in this, their latest splendid production. It is colourful and spectacular with some sensational staging. The cast is young, vibrant, energetic and enthusiastic.

For this version the front cloth is a green and gold revolving compass like design . (No looming dragon, sorry fellow OZians).

The orchestra as boisterously led by Greg Jones played magnificently, but in Act 2 a couple of times I thought the sound was a little overwhelming and was presented like a rock opera rather than a musical.

Now regarded as a modern classic WICKED by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holman, based on the book by Gregory Maguire tells the story ‘ behind the scenes’ of The Wizard of Oz and what really happened. Who is Elphaba, the ‘Wicked Witch of the West‘? Why is her skin green ? What is Glinda’s real name? Who were the Tin Man , Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion originally ? All these questions are answered in the show… Continue reading WILLOUGHBY THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS ‘WICKED’ @ THE CONCOURSE CHATSWOOD

PATRICK WHITE’S ‘HAM FUNERAL’ @ THE STABLES

Featured photo – Eliza Logan as Mrs Lusty. All photography by Lucy Parakhina.

THE HAM FUNERAL was written by Patrick White, (the irascible and insightful Australian Nobel Laureate of 1973), in 1948. It is set in a gloomy, post-war London boarding house.

The play remained unstaged for 13 years. After being submitted for and controversially rejected by the1962 Adelaide Festival, it was instead first performed by the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild in 1961. It both shocked and delighted audiences.

It had been said that the play was ‘a triumph of the imagination over mediocrity’. This can certainly be said of director Kate Gaul’s latest production for Griffin Independent at The Stables Theatre presented by Gaul’s Siren Theatre Company. Continue reading PATRICK WHITE’S ‘HAM FUNERAL’ @ THE STABLES

JETPACK’S ‘ART HEIST’ : AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Jetpack Theatre’s ART HEIST is inspired storytelling. Yet there is no story and no telling. You and your companions are the story, the triumph, the saga! Whatever exposition you choose to tell. The 3 performers are just there, part of the tale as you write the script. And these are very nuanced actors with improvisation instincts that must be tested over their 3 shows a night. Great scene partners too because this is bespoke, immersive theatre of the highest calibre.

But, not quite knowing what I was getting into I gathered an odd assortment of four players. We were young (our Yr 11 Workplacement student, Lauren) and old (that would be me). A married couple (Bec and Ben) who know each other well, naturally. I don’t know Ben well except for a dance with him at the wedding and Lauren didn’t know anyone except me. We were a logical yet creative collective. An artist, a banker, a technician and an actor. Continue reading JETPACK’S ‘ART HEIST’ : AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

INTO THE DARKNESS WITH EDWARD ALBEE @ THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE

Production images by Prudence Upton.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF is about a cocktail party that goes terribly wrong. George and Martha are a deeply unhappy academic couple who are on the precipice of imploding. And this is exactly what they do in front of their unfortunate guests, fellow academic couple, Nick and Honey.

This is a torrid, harrowing night in the theatre. One kind of wants to flee like Honey as the shrapnel from George and Martha’s war flies everywhere, however Albee doesn’t let us go until after the last, final scene between George and Martha which is just heartbreaking. It simply takes one’s breath away.

Iain Sinclair directs this ‘War Of The Roses’ scenario impeccably. Michael Hankin’s set and costume design, assisted by Jeremy Allen, lays the groundwork for the actors to cast their spell. Through the action Sian James-Holland’s lighting and Steve Toulmin’s score complement their performances.
Continue reading INTO THE DARKNESS WITH EDWARD ALBEE @ THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE

YOU WILL NOT PLAY WAGNER :A TIMELESS DEBATE @ THE ETERNITY PLAYHOUSE

South African playwright Victor Gordon’s play is set in contemporary Tel Aviv. Ya’akov is a brilliant young Israeli composer who causes a storm when he announces his intention to play a Wagner work in the final of an international,music competition.

Morris, the competition’s organiser, advises the concert’s patron, Esther, of the situation, and she is appalled. Jewish and a Holocaust survivor, she can’t believe that a fellow Jew living in the homeland of the Jewish people, would even consider playing a work by a German composer who was a renowned anti-semite.Esther insists on confronting him in the hope that she  can make him change his mind.

What is driving Ya’Akov to want to play Wagner? Will Esther be able to change his mind? Will the competition final go ahead? What would the reaction be in Tel Aviv if such a heresy was to be committed? These are some of the questions that we, the audience, want  the play to answer. Continue reading YOU WILL NOT PLAY WAGNER :A TIMELESS DEBATE @ THE ETERNITY PLAYHOUSE

HOMEROOM SERIES : A DOUBLE BILL @ ATYP

All images by Tracy Schramm.

This year, the Australian Theatre For Young aPeople (ATYP) has initiated an  exciting new program – the Homeroom Series.  The first in the series featured  a thought provoking A Double Bill depicting the challenges that young people face in an increasingly complex and at times overwhelming world.

The two plays performed were British playwright Evan Placey’s GIRLS LIKE THAT, an ensemble piece for young women, and Australian playwright Lachlan Philpott’s MICHAEL SWORDFISH  which was an encore season  for young men which was originally written for, and  performed by students from Newington College.

Both main characters are teenagers who are out of synch and different with their peers. This being the case their lives become increasingly difficult, to the point of being unbearable.  Both go missing, and the guts of both plays are concerned with the anxiety that  their disappearance causes, and the longing to bring them back to the herd and somehow make it up to them.

As dark and penetrating as both plays were, it was comsoling to see that both playwrights came up with endings that featured notions of reconciliation, a desire to  accept differences, and to be part of a team/a group, to belong.

Both productions, GIRLS LIKE THAT was directed by Rob Jago and MICHAEL SWORDFISH  was helmed by Tamara Smith, were exhilarating in terms of the electric  energy coming from the actors. The leads gave strong performances and the group/chorus/dance work was outstanding with effective use of edgy contemporary music and incisive set and lighting designs.

The cast of Girls Like That :  Lucy Valencic, Cara Severino, Annika Bates, Lara Wood, Rashie Kase, Natasha Pontoh-Supit, Emily Simmons, Emily Longville, Ella Hosty-Snelgrove, Claire Giuffre, Miranda Longhurst, Molly Kyriakakidis-Costello and Michelle Khurana.

The cast of Michael Swordfish : are: Ashutosh Bidkar, Eden Bradford, Fergus Finlayson, Jason Hartill, Tim Kenzler, Louis Nicholls, Angus Powell, Daniel Steel and Gus Watts.
HOMEROOM SERIES played Studio 1 at ATYP between 10/05/17 and 19/05/17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I HATE HAMLET : A FUN NIGHT OF THEATREANTICS @ THE GUILD

Are you on the lookout for some witty comedy, a good bit of escapism?! The Guild Theatre’s current production should fit the bill.

This is a a very witty and clever play by American writer Paul Rudnick.  The main character is sensitive young soapy star, Andrew Rally, who is going through a lot of stuff and the play’s central question is whether he is going to be able to keep it together.

The play starts with Rally having moved from the suburbs to an apartment in the Big Apple. He has made the move because the television network pulled the plug on the soapy series in which he starred as a charismatic Doctor and has had to find new work.

He auditions and wins the role of Hamlet in a production taking place in Central Park. His agent tells him that, many aeons ago, the great Shakespearean actor John Barrymore lived in the very same apartment. Can you tell where this is going?! Continue reading I HATE HAMLET : A FUN NIGHT OF THEATREANTICS @ THE GUILD

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG @ THE ROS PACKER THEATRE

Everything goes right in terms of comedy with this West End hit which is currently having a very successful return season at the Ros Packer theatre.

The play is a spoof on a very amateur, fictional Drama Society. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society  put on a murder mystery entitled  The Murder Of Haversham Manor  which turns into a disaster; the murdered corpse comes alive, the actors constantly bungle, stagehands walk in and out and take part in the action indiscriminately, parts of the set collapse or combust. Have you got the idea?!

On  the night that I went the cast played to a full house that was constantly erupting in laughter. What a buzz that must have been for the excellent local cast to draw from that energy.

My pick of the cast  :- Nick-Simpson Deers is great as the earnest, frustrated Detective. Adam Dunn  was a lot of fun as the lighting and sound operator whose bio box was situated in the dress circle, Dennis Tyde as the frazzled butler and Brooke Satchwell as  the volatile, sexy Sandra.

If you need a really good laugh I can’t recommend this play enough. This is comic mayhem at its best. THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, written by Henry Lewis, Jonathon Sayer and Henry Shields and directed by Mark Bell,is playing until May 21.

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AGATHIE CHRISTIE’S ‘A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED’ @ THE GENESIANS

 

You can’t go wrong with Agatha Christie. Well I suppose you could. But not if you are the Genesian Theatre Company. This is their metier. A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED is gripping, stylish entertainment. Adapted by Leslie Darbon, the play is from 1987 but it retains all the period elements that audiences require of a Christie Mystery. The Genesians have assembled an excellent cast, put them on a lovely set and costumed them superbly.

A unusual notice has been put in the village paper of the small English spa town of Chipping Cleghorn. It announces a murder will be committed at ‘Little Paddocks’ on Friday evening at 6:30. The household see it as rather a joke but neighbours and villagers are sure to drop by around about then. And no one is going to keep a certain Miss Jane Marple, in the village to take the waters for her rheumatism, away from the possibility of a delicious mystery.

And delicious it is. Owing much to  the way the climax has been adapted by the playwright who has wisely removed some of the novel’s more hysterical events such as an attempted drowning in the kitchen sink and the Snugglepuss redolent, Miss Murgatroyd: yet kept the period flavour which is required to keep Miss M in her place and time. Continue reading AGATHIE CHRISTIE’S ‘A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED’ @ THE GENESIANS

WILLY RUSSELL’S CLASSIC ‘EDUCATING RITA’ SPARKLES @ THE DEPOT

 

Frank Bryant (David Jeffrey) has become a tutor, for an Open University English Literature course, entirely just for the money. He is an older middle-class professor, a career academic, and a high-functioning alcoholic, who had ambitions to be a great poet and is bored with his University job of teaching undergraduate English Literature. His first student Rita White (Emily McGowan) struts into his book-filled office.

Rita is an unhappy married hairdresser, down-to-earth and excessively talkative but often rambling, and now aged 26 years, she needs freedom and is driven to dedicate herself to receiving all of the education, that she failed to receive in school.

Rita brings all of her under-educated blunt honesty, to loudly challenge Frank’s deep intellect and limitless knowledge of literature. Each inspires the other to become more alive, and better live their lives. Socially inept Rita believes that she is trapped by her working class life and her husband, and the theme of identity emerges, because she changed her birth name from Susan to Rita. Rita believes that studying literature for twelve months, will give her the worldly knowledge that she needs to grow as a person.

Playwright Willy Russell has sleekly styled EDUCATING RITA with realistic character-driven dialogue, providing the perfect balance of humour and poignancy. The play is fast paced, dialogue intensive 120 minutes of theatre entertainment, full of purpose, comedy and pathos, as these two people, learn more about each other, the class system, and the many shortcomings of institutionalised education systems.                 Continue reading WILLY RUSSELL’S CLASSIC ‘EDUCATING RITA’ SPARKLES @ THE DEPOT

BETWEEN THE STREETLIGHT AND THE MOON @ KINGS CROSS THEATRE

 

Between is exactly how I would describe Mophead Theatre’s world premiere production of Melita Rowston’s BETWEEN THE STREETLIGHT AND THE MOON. The play is not quite sure of its identity and the cast are caught in the blurry light between natural beauty and mechanical glare. There is some fine work to be seen in the production, work which explores the complex ideas and does its best to elevate the overstatement.

Australian Academic Zadie works at King’s College, London. She is being pressured by the publish or perish mentality as she struggles to complete her PHD. She proposes that there is a letter somewhere that proves that Édouard Manet, despite his denials, was lover to his oft subject, and artist in her own right, Berthe Morisot. She is also supervising her effervescent French student, Dominique, and dealing with a younger, almost lover, Barry, who has come to London to display in a prestigious art competition. When she travels to Paris at the behest friend and Head of Department, Janet, she has random encounters with artistic provocateur Jeff. Continue reading BETWEEN THE STREETLIGHT AND THE MOON @ KINGS CROSS THEATRE

AMADEUS : NT LIVE REVISITS A CLASSIC OF THE BRITISH THEATRE

The latest in the excellent series of the NT Live series, this is  a gripping production of Shaffer’s controversial, classic play AMADEUS.

First performed in 1979 and then with the film in 1984 this is a slightly reworked production. On one level, it is about art and creativity, genius, jealousy and revenge, and the struggle to be an artist and use one’s God given gifts. Mostly, however, it is about the fictionalised rivalry between Salieri (here heroically played by Lucian Msamati) who also acts in part as the  narrator, and Mozart .There’s significant debate about this which suggests it was probably a greatly exaggerated antipathy. Respect, envy, resentment and affection are all intertwined in the complex relationship that develops between the two.    Continue reading AMADEUS : NT LIVE REVISITS A CLASSIC OF THE BRITISH THEATRE

KNOCK AND RUN THEATRE TO PRESENT ‘GRACE’ @ CIVIC PLAYHOUSE

Knock & Run Theatre are excited to announce their second major production GRACE by Craig Wright following on from their debut production Suicide Incorporated which won the CONDA award for Best Dramatic Production.

Wright’s play  is a tragicomedy that explores human assumptions about how God, goodness, faith and causality operate.

Steve and Sara have relocated to Sunrise, Florida to pursue an unbelievably wonderful business deal, but as the deal slowly unravels Sara finds herself increasingly drawn to their next-door neighbour, Sam, a badly-scarred victim of a recent car accident who wants nothing to do with her or her Bible-quoting husband. Continue reading KNOCK AND RUN THEATRE TO PRESENT ‘GRACE’ @ CIVIC PLAYHOUSE

RICHARD BEYNON’S ‘SIMPSON J. 202’ @ CASULA POWERHOUSE ARTS CENTRE

Richard Beynon’s classic Aussie play  SIMPSON J. 202 depicts the  early life and tragic death of John Simpson – the man with the donkey at Gallipoli.

John ‘Jack’ Simpson-Kirkpatrick, a young man who grew up caring more for his pets and the local strays than he did for school work, desperately wanted to follow his father’s footsteps and become a merchant seaman. Due to his lack of interest and attendance at school, he was forced to leave his education and work as a milk delivery boy and donkey attendant.

Tragedy strikes the family home with the loss of his father. Two days after the burial, Jack surprises his family by announcing that he will be leaving home in order to go to sea. He then boards a ship heading to Western Australia and plans to stay for a year to provide for his family and have the adventure of a lifetime, but ends up travelling around Australia, just trying to make enough money to return home. He documents his adventures through letters sent home to his mother Sarah and sister Annie, who are anxious for him to return.

With a lack of funds for his return, Jack thinks his luck has changed when war is declared in Europe, and Australia starts sending men to England for training. Known as a “larrikin,” Jack decides to change his name to John Simpson in order to avoid detection, and hops a ship. Unfortunately, that ship did not return to England but instead was diverted to a camp set up in Egypt, where John was assigned the role of stretcher-bearer.

Simpson and his comrades find themselves on the beaches of Gallipoli. The rest, as they say, is part of Australia’s history.

This latest revival of Beynon’s play is directed by Rosie Daly and the cast comprises Michael Giglio, Charlotte Robertson, Micky Rose, Don Ezard, David Preston, Stephen Wheatley and Charu Ahluwalia.

SEASON : 24th to 27th May, 2017 at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

PERFORMANCE TIMES :
Wednesday 24th May – 11.00am [Preview]
Wednesday 24th May – 7.30pm** [Opening Night]
Thursday 25th May – 11.00am
Friday 26th May – 11.00am
Friday 26th May – 7.30pm
Saturday 27th May – 2.00pm [Closing Show]

Opening Night Tickets** – $30
Adult – $30
Concession – $22 (Senior, Pension, Student, MEAA Member)
Child – $20 (12 & under)
Family x 4 – $80 (max. 2 adults)
Family x 5 – $98 (max. 2 adults)
Group – $20 (10+)
School Bookings: Students – $18 (Teachers Complimentary)
** Opening Night includes an After-Show Supper with the creative team and cast. No concessions are available on opening night. **

For Bookings, visit the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre website or phone 02 9824 1121.

For more about Simpson J. 202 by Richard Beynon, visit http://www.casulapowerhouse.com/whats-on/theatre2/2017-theatre/simpson-j.-202

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PERHAPS, PERHAPS…QUIZAS @ THE OLD 505

 

Genuinely fearing for my life, I tried to think of something else. Like… how does an overdressed, pathetically outlandish, absurdly silent creature do this to a bunch of strangers? I didn’t actually get to an answer because I lost focus on the rational and started laughing again. Snot dribbling, eye watering, heart contracting, can’t breathe laughing.

PERHAPS, PERHAPS…QUIZAS is playing at one of my favourite venues, Old 505 Theatre in Newtown. It’s a small independent theatre which consistently punches above its weight but as the intro last night said “It’s not often we have an artist fly in from Mexico.” Gabriela Muñoz is a legend in the clowning community. And her internationally feted creation, Greta, is here for the first time.

To get the Miss Haversham references over early, Greta is alone, a wedding fantasist, spurned yet desperate for love and garbed in a tattered bridal gown. She doesn’t notice us until the audience is fully seated and then we become her playmates in a shared fantasy of enduring love. The clown doesn’t speak but has a squeaky, musical intonation that’s useful when we don’t get what is required of us by the eternally quizzical eyebrow or her small, intimate movements. Continue reading PERHAPS, PERHAPS…QUIZAS @ THE OLD 505

DO YOUR PARENTS KNOW YOU’RE STRAIGHT @ THE CIVIC PLAYHOUSE

“It was a school anti-bullying program that became a lightning rod for culture warriors and conservative MP’s – Safe Schools was either protecting gay kids from bullies or trying to sell Marxism in the playground, depending on who was talking”
Michael Koziol – Artists Push PM for Diluted Safe Schools SMH 2/5/2017

The Safe Schools program was a “tinder box” so Australian artists like Missy Higgins, Guy Pearce and Joel Creasey are pushing the government for a modified version that promotes a simple, benign message – tolerance.

It’s gratifying when we see well-known artists stepping up to put their status and integrity behind worthy causes and public debate and seeing these stories and experiences become material for their own work.

No doubt Joel Creasey, who is originally from Newcastle incidentally, has some wonderful biting satirical reflections on how being “different” from others impacted on his time at school.

For that is part of what artists do. They observe, reflect on and respond to the social and political world around them and hold the mirror up to society in a manner that is engaging, entertaining and thought provoking. Frequently their own personal experiences are part of that reflection.

It’s an important job! Don’t let any Science, Engineering or Mathematics Degree wielding pedagogue tell you otherwise.

Ecelctic Productions DO YOUR PARENTS KNOW YOU’RE STRAIGHT writer and director Riley McLean openly admits “…so much of me has ended up on the page” even naming one of the main characters Riley. Assistant Director, Cassie Hamilton, presumably brings the same level of personal experience to the production.

Further developed from a class exercise during Riley’s studies at the Regional Institute of Performing Arts Diploma in Acting course whereby the students had to write a ten minute play, this two act full length production firmly takes the DYPKYS debate by the horns and gives it a good shake in a way that is complex, challenging and dramatically clever. Continue reading DO YOUR PARENTS KNOW YOU’RE STRAIGHT @ THE CIVIC PLAYHOUSE

TERRY JOHNSON’S ‘HYSTERIA’ @ ETERNITY PLAYHOUSE DARLINGHURST

Jo Turner plays Dr Sigmund Freud in Terry Johnson’s quirky play, HYSTERIA. Production photography by Robert Catto.

 ‘The past goes deeper than cancer’, Sigmund        Freud

When the consequences of Freud’s past turn up in the form of a manic young woman in his very own Hampstead home in 1938, he is forced to question the integrity of his work and the darkness from his past.

It is a stormy night when Jessica barges in, adamant to be ‘analysed’ by Freud even threatening to cut her own wrists if she is removed.

Miranda Daughtry’s strong performance, an emotional rollercoaster of desperation, mania and later rage, represents a frustrated daughter’s search for answers and justice around her mother’s perhaps avoidable death.

We eventually learn that Jessica’s mother was a patient of Freud, receiving treatment for ill mental health with symptoms including anorexia, physical tics and debilitating phobias. Through a private diary, it emerges that Jessica’s mother was repeatedly sexually abused by her father.

She had told Freud. He had diagnosed it, attributing it to a hysteria and a feminine Oedipus attitude; the Electra Complex.

Shifting between a “realistic history play and surrealist fiction”, the tool of English face enables ‘the exploration of complex and uncomfortable content’ (Wald, 2007).

The Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s performance cleverly uses film and projection to capture the blurring of lines between truth and the imagined, the conscious and the subconscious, the present and our past experience. True to farce, events within Freud’s Hampstead office become increasingly absurd and outrageous, equally as strange as the projection content.

Jo Turner’s skilful physical performance as Freud captures the frailty of a cancer-ridden old man, haunted by his past whilst desperately searching for peace. With conflicted ethical and professional agendas, Freud’s integrity as a physician is compromised by his apparent complicity when treating sexually abused patients. How does one respond to epidemic proportions of familial sexual abuse amongst the upper classes? Bring the perpetrators to justice through public confrontation or blame it on the victim?

With the recent and ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Susanna Dowling’s direction of HYSTERIA is a timely performance, reminding audiences that familial sexual abuse is equally prevalent and catastrophic. The audience learns of the long-lasting devastation of abuse and trauma, particularly when disregarded or improperly treated.

The production is lightened by the entertaining and narcissistic interjections of Salvador Dalí, played by the exuberant Michael McStay.

HYSTERIA played the Eternity Playhouse Theatre between March 31 and April 30.

ROBI SOANS’ ‘TALKING TO TERRORISTS’ @ KING STREET THEATRE NEWTOWN

TALKING TO TERRORISTS is a play that was commissioned by the Royal Court and Out of Joint in 2005.

The writer Robin Soans, director Max Stafford – Clark, and actors interviewed people from around the world who have been affected by or those involved in  acts of terrorism.

They wanted to know what makes ordinary people do extreme things, often at a shockingly young age. The people they met, several of whom have asked not to be named, spoke candidly and often bravely.

The stories take us from Africa, Israel, Turkey, Iraq and Ireland to the heart of the British Establishment. Continue reading ROBI SOANS’ ‘TALKING TO TERRORISTS’ @ KING STREET THEATRE NEWTOWN

THE BODYGUARD THE MUSICAL @ THE LYRIC

For all of those hopeless romantics out there, you’ve got to feel the love and see THE BODYGUARD THE MUSICAL. It is based on the 1992 Warner Bros film, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner with the book by Alexander Dinelaris. The musical is directed by Thea Sharrock and has arrived in Sydney from its smash hit run in London’s West End.

The journey follows the lives of superstar vocalist Rachel Marron and her new minder, former Secret Service  agent Frank Farmer.( played by the appealing Kip Gamblin) Throw defiant personalities into the mix, a threat from an unknown stalker (Brendan Irving) and a sensational soundtrack with  lyrics which weave a tale of love, loss and longing and you have a recipe for success.

Comparisons to Whitney Houston are inevitable but Paulini Curuenavuli (Rachel) is on fire in her role and commands attention just like the pyrotechnics in the opening scene. Paulini demonstrates an unsurpassed depth of feeling and passion in her singing and who can forget the heart wrenching  song – I Will Always Love You and her rendition is a highlight of the show which  brings a tear to one’s eyes. It is a real Paulini moment. She can sing with a gentle tone one minute, (All At Once and One Moment In Time) being tender and touching then be an absolute powerhouse  like in the song Queen of the Night. She is the Queen of the show. Her range is extensive. Continue reading THE BODYGUARD THE MUSICAL @ THE LYRIC

THE CHAPEL PERILOUS : SALLY BANNER COMES LIVES AGAIN @ THE NEW

 

Loved it. I just loved everything about New Theatre’s THE CHAPEL PERILOUS. I loved the lead performance, I loved the men, I loved the set, lighting, audio, costumes. I loved the Ensemble work. I even loved my Cherry Ripe at interval.

But then … I would say that wouldn’t I.

Any Australian woman of a certain age, who studied literature or was involved in theatre or who loved too deeply, has Sally Banner as part of her feminist socio-political DNA.

Playwright Dorothy Hewitt called the play outrageously biographical, so much so that one of her ex-husbands sued for libel. The out of court settlement meant that the play was never produced or sold in Western Australia until his death early this century. But the time is right for Sally Banner to rise again.

I was despairing to see her again and there she was fully fleshed. Tormented by unseen desires, achingly desperate and encumbered by intelligence, gender and status Sally Banner is one of the more difficult of the monstrous regiment of women who dare an opinion. She is as I remember her. Yet….

Director Carissa Licciardello has brought us a Sally Banner for a new generation. Not updated exactly, still scrupulously set 1930s to 60s but a modern protagonist for all that. However, it’s a very difficult play. An audience needs to know about the society Sally inhabits: it is not writ large, it’s background only and if you didn’t live it, it must seem very foreign. There were several noisy escapees last night and more who didn’t return after interval. But it’s a marvellous rendering so, young or old go and see it. But here’s what you need to know if you haven’t met Sally before.

Catholics or Masons: small towns were divided that way and Masons had lodges not schools. Viciously rigid, ecclesiastical Sisters and Mothers and Brothers and Fathers were the way to get what your parents saw as a good education for nice girls. Not that it mattered. Nurses or teachers … that’s why women went to university. Same sex desire, youthful sexual desire of any overt kind actually, was sinful and there was no shortage of people your age and older to condemn it in you. As consciousness heightened in them the search often took women to a political place and the fear of the Red Menace was just as real in Australia if not as excessively hunted as in the US.

Our introduction to Sally Banner is when she looks out and begins a list of women’s names, aspirationally adding hers to the list as a poet. Julia Christensen holds the stage from that first sequence. Christiansen is terrific as the schoolgirl Sally. Pragmatic and driven but young and passionate. By the time she cheekily looks directly at us before she is called to bow to the altar, we are hers. When her indecision and acquiescence to some of the men in her life muddy the passion of the older Sally, Christiansen brings so much genuine emotion to the role that tears arise unbidden. I headed to wash my face before getting my interval chocolate.

And her voice work is exceptional. After interval, when the strewn wreckage of Sally’s choices rises and falls on the Red Tide she both whispers and yells with no sign of strain or any assault on the ear. The accent is modern. No clipped Received Pronunciation here; vowels are long and consonants elided. Her physicality is open and she listens with as much intent as she speaks. It’s a bravura performance.

And she is well matched by Tom Matthews who plays the men in her life. The directorial choice to tie these men together with a unified softness of manner gives strong character support to Sally’s disappointed search to rewrite that first betrayal.

Mathews’ men are clear characterisations with clear intent but are neither showy not abrasive. He might don eyewear or divest of a shirt but he doesn’t twist or manipulate these men into being. We understand that they are Sally’s ‘type’ and that their individuality is blurred by her perceptions of them.

Licciardello has guided all her cast into fine characterisations. As Judith, Meg Clarke expresses well the struggles of acknowledging love outside societal norms and her perfidy is convincingly torn. Brett Heath and Alison Chambers are scarred and scared from the war, from boredom, from being saddled with a difficult child and they work well together as the first wall that Sally must scale.

Though the first section of the show is an hour and a half, the second much shorter, Licciardello has also successfully plotted the rhythm of the play. There are busy scenes but there is also quietude to allow an audience to appreciate the pathos. The after sex scene is an excellent example of the intelligent, intellectual heartbreak of a formative disappointment. There is also some lovely movement work from the cast. The break-back dip during Night and Day was so subtle, sweet and character filled that I gasped out loud at its power.

And Licciardello has brought out the humour too, right from the beginning where misguided recollections batter at reality. I might have been the only one laughing quietly last night, but when you do go allow yourself to enjoy the lightness of the play. And the communal nature of the stylistic interventions of Hewitt’s text. Like the music of Jerusalem and The Worker’s Flag with the slow beat of an unfelted shoe on a bare stage.

Kyle Jonsson’s set has a primitive, claustrophobic feel reminiscent of Stone Age caves with sacrificial altars. When lit from behind the implication of a paling fence is there in upstage uprights but the real effect is to echo the Eureka Stockade. Our heroine tries to rebel against being fenced in for much of the play. The entrances are well masked, wide and perfectly timed by the cast. The symbolic triangle, the Egyptian and feminist symbol for woman, though inverted, dominates the set. And provides the lighted path to Sally’s final act toward the Chapel Perilous of Arthurian legend.

Clemence Williams audio and Martin Kinnane lighting had me from the start. That first burst of thunder and lightning to herald initial character entry… wow. The lighting is warm and focusing and the big hits of white from upstage glare and foreground when needed. The state changes gently guide the audience eye as the audio underscore impassively supports the emotional imperative then gets out of the way. Single sounds, bassy or higher pitched; long and mournful the audio wafts and weaves without overpowering.

Even Neko Case on the soundtrack at interval was emotive and perfectly chosen. Courtney Westbrook’s costumes raise the scarlet standard high amongst the unremitting beige and grey and I loved the almost imperceptible change of period style after the interval.

I loved it all. New Theatre’s THE CHAPEL PERILOUS is one of my favourite shows this year. Pack some Cherry Ripes in your handbag and experience what a modern cast bring to a story of its time. Not to be missed.

THE CHAPEL PERILOUS continues at New Theatre, Newtown until 27 May.

 

THE WOMAN IN BLACK @ SUTHERLAND MEMORIAL SCHOOL OF ARTS

Do you believe in ghosts?

Regardless of your opinions on the paranormal, you’ll be glancing over your shoulder as you leave the theatre after The Sutherland Theatre Company’s upcoming production of the classic ghost story THE WOMAN IN BLACK.

Based on Susan Hill’s gothic horror novel of the same name, The Woman in Black is a gripping ghost story set in a dusty old theatre.

Arthur Kipps, a middle-aged solicitor, engages the services of a professional actor to help him re-enact a ghostly event that he experienced many years before at a deceased client’s old manor house in the English countryside. From the cluttered stage, Kipps begins to read his story: painfully, self-consciously and hesitantly at first, but gradually increasing in confidence.

The actor is enthusiastic and passionate, taking on the role of a young Kipps for the purpose of the performance. But as the two men delve deeper into the spine-chilling events that befell Kipps during his time at Eel Marsh House, the actor gradually realises that not all ghost stories are works of fiction.

In his second show with The Sutherland Theatre Company, Anthony White will play the reluctant storyteller Arthur Kipps.

Dirk Strachan-Thornton is to play the self-assured actor whom he hires to help bring his story to the stage.

Mallatratt’s adaption has been seen by millions of people worldwide and has been running on the West End for 27 years.

Director Belinda Balhatchet was drawn to the play’s use of simple theatrical techniques, rather than a detailed set, to bring the story to life.

“Nowadays, big budget productions can create almost anything on stage. Audiences don’t have to use their imagination as much as they used to because everything is created before them through lavish sets and huge casts. This show is the complete opposite. With a cast of two and an incredibly simple set, The Woman in Black relies on the talent of the cast and the imagination of the audience to create an atmosphere of tension and horror.”

Belinda knew that the Sutherland Memorial School of Arts was the perfect venue for the show.

“The School of Arts is a relatively small theatre in an old building. It fits the theme of the show perfectly, and the small size of the theatre puts the audience right in the middle of the action.”

THE WOMAN IN BLACK will be playing for a strictly limited season at the Sutherland Memorial School of Arts from May 26-28. Performance times are Friday 26 May @ 8pm, Saturday 27 May @ 2pm, Saturday 27 May @ 8pm, Sunday 28 May @ 2pm.

Tickets can be booked online via TryBooking: http://bit.ly/stcwomaninblack. Alternatively phone bookings can be made on 91507574.

For more about The Woman in Black, visit http://www.thesutherlandtheatrecompany.com.au/index.htm
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DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS @ KING STREET THEATRE

 

Thrillers are tricky. TV only gets it right sometimes and even multi-million dollar movies can miss the mark. Go to the theatre to see a thriller and what do we want? For me, I want the experience to include some mystery, some high tension goings on and some unseeable, unexpected, plot twists. Throwing Shade’s DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS does a really good job putting all these on stage at King Street Theatre.

The self-named Timothy Timmony, an alchemist’s name if we ever heard it, appears to be a mild mannered, slightly absent minded and bumbling bookshop proprietor. As he is closing for the day, into his little shop bursts Simon Matthews, an adventurer of sorts with a rather odd desire for a book on the Napoleonic Wars. The mystery begins.

DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS is the little play that could. Written and set by Warwick Moss in the early 1980s in Sydney, it has had productions in London and off Broadway and one production received a favourable review in the New York Times in 1987. Moss has spoken in an interview about his love for the secrets behind cat’s eyes and how his book owner also relishes the ability of secrets to get you what you want.

The cast of Gabriel Egan (Simon) and William Jordan (Timothy) with director Tom Richards have created a production which balances the mystery of the developing storyline with the lighter moments as the unscrupulous young tomcat circles the streetwise and manipulative alleycat.

Egan brings that high energy on with him and manages the delicate task of keeping Simon dynamic without wearing out his audience or getting so big as to be out of character.

Jordan is equally effective at being openly secretive by engendering Timothy with the distinct impression he has just told a lie, even when being confessional.

The production elements tie in nicely to the 1984 setting and it’s worth staying in the theatre at interval to listen to some great Aussie rock tracks.

It’s quite a short offering but, apart from a dip in the second sequence, DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS is an entertaining pacey show.

DOWN AN ALLEY FILLED WITH CATS continues at King Street Theatre until 13 May.

FUTURE SEEKERS : A NEW PLAY BY CAROL DANCE @ WALSH BAY ARTS PRECINCT

A Russian prisoner and his guard play chess in 1917, young love blossoms at the Melbourne Cup in the ‘30s, the Vietnam War creeps into a school play in the ‘60s, two Olympic athletes flirt at the  L.A. airport, a girl in a wheelchair, a dedicated teacher, a court mediator, a love-weary girl and a young man in an old house. All are connected through time, travel, history and bloodline in FUTURE SEEKERS, a new play by local playwright Carol Dance.

FUTURE SEEKERS breaks the mould of conventional theatre by incorporating music, a soiree atmosphere and a mix of theatrical styles in telling an incredible story that moves from revolutionary Russia to present-day Sydney.

Dance has blended a collection of her award-winning short plays (previously produced in Sydney, India and Malaysia) into one continuous story that is fun while thoughtful, local yet universal and dramatic as well as charming.

With a cast of four actors and one musician, FUTURE SEEKERS is being performed in the acoustically magnificent, and spectacularly located,  Sydney Philharmonia Hall, Hickson Road, on Sydney Harbour and right in the centre of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, a venue well served by public transport and ample parking.

The production stars Neveen Hanna, Sana’a Shaik, Eli Saad (all seen recently in Beirut Adrenaline at Belvoir Street) and Michael Wood (Journey’s End, The Local).  

Grand pianist extraordinaire Philip Eames – composer, ABC Young Performer of the Year finalist – interweaves piano interludes around and through the scenes, highlighting the moods and suggesting locations.

Director Mark Langham (Amanda, Terra Nova and the film Luvvie) says The Future Seekers describes the play as being about ‘how we are the sum of all those who came before us: their dreams, hopes and fears.  

“No one group has the monopoly on either the present or the future and we are all just adding our own little story to the bigger picture.”

Writer Carol Dance, enjoyed a previous career as a mediator where she felt tremendous empathy for people in dispute and despair.

“There is seldom anything-anywhere that is simply black and white.  Every difficult person has a lovable, agreeable person hiding inside: my plays wrinkle out that hidden person.”

FUTURE SEEKERS opened last Thursday evening and has already had several performances. The reviews have been very favourable –

Jamelle Wells writing for Weekend Notes described the show as, ‘moving and powerful! I loved the intensity! Minimalist theatre at its best.”

Matthew Macdonald writing for The Buzz From Sydney wrote, ‘The cast should be commended for their flexibility! Heartwarming and honest! The piano pieces are perfectly performed by Philip Eamesanda!

Paul Gilchrist writing for Theatre Red wrote, ‘It is a real pleasure in watching four skilled actors. Pianist Philip Eames’ performance is beautiful. This is big theatre, presented simply… creates the magic of its wide-eyed wonder and the appeal of its optimism.’

The remaining performances for FUTURE SEEKERS are this Friday April 28 at 7:30 pm, Saturday April 29 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday April 30 at 5:00 pm at the Sydney Philharmonia Hall, Wharf 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay.

All tickets: $40   Students $30. Bookings: www.trybooking.com/OSSH   

Visit www.futureseekers.net.au orwww.facebook.com/sctheatrepro

 

SEX OBJECT @ THE DEPOT THEATRE

SEX OBJECT, Charlie Falkner (Ben), Andrew Hearle (Gustav), Grace Victoria (Kate), Charlotte Devenport (Ron).
SEX OBJECT, Charlie Falkner (Ben), Andrew Hearle (Gustav), Grace Victoria (Kate), Charlotte Devenport (Ron).     

Comedy great, Les Dawson famously said “My wife is a sex object. Every time I ask for sex, she objects.”

SEX OBJECT is an absolute joy, gloriously funny, quite wonderful, and is a highly entertaining brand new Australian comedy. SEX OBJECT is exactly and precisely all about her one reason why their six month fully sexual relationship has now evaporated into “My girlfriend is a sex object. Every time her boyfriend asks her for sex . . . she objects.” Beautifully directed by Michael Abercromby, with an excellent cast of four superb actors, each with perfect comedy timing.       Continue reading SEX OBJECT @ THE DEPOT THEATRE

TALK : A NEW PLAY BY JONATHON BIGGINS @ THE DRAMA THEATRE

Jonathon Biggins’ usual way of sharing his take on the world, in particular the world of politics, is through the Sydney Theatre Company’s  annual revue show, the Wharf Revue, a platform which he shares with fellow collaborators,  Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott.

This time, however, he has gone solo with a new play simply titled TALK, and it is his take on the state of the media in today’s world. He himself has been a media player, having been for a time, a  very laid-back, laconic broadcaster  on Sydney’s 2BL.

Biggins main character, radio shock jock John Behan, is anything but laid-back. Gung-ho and well irresponsible would be a much more apt description. On his radio program Behan has read out the criminal record of an alleged sex offender whose case was before the court. The police come knocking on his recording studio door, ready to arrest him for contempt of court. When his  producer advises him of the situation, he locks himself in his studio and continues broadcasting, ranting and revving up the community.             Continue reading TALK : A NEW PLAY BY JONATHON BIGGINS @ THE DRAMA THEATRE