SOMEWHERE ELSE TODAY is back for a return season – just like Christmas!
Eli and Darcy do not want to spend another Christmas with Eli’s family, or in the Southern Hemisphere for that matter! George, the adopted son, has woken up with Brandi – last night’s one-night-stand – who just won’t leave. Jan is introducing her new boyfriend, Chuck, to everyone. Phil is sick of Christmas. Dorian is hungover. The Dog struggles for power with the men. And they haven’t even opened presents yet!
With lame gifts, clashing egos, a psychedelic retelling of the history of Christmas, and the fury of a woman scorned, this is just an ordinary Christmas with the Bennett family. Despite the craziness and chaos, the fights and over indulgence, Brenda Bennett, the matriarch, just wants to keep the family together.
Written and produced by Distortion Forever (Coco Grainger and Ludwig van Distortion) writers of Smash Hits And Stereotypes.
Warning: contains drug references, coarse language, and sexual references – it is Christmas after all!
Dec 18, 19, 21, 23 at 7:30pm and Dec 23 at 5pm
AUSTRALIA DAY playing at the New Theatre is a lot of fun. That could be it. That could be all I need to write. “Go and see it. It’s a good comedy!”
Ah but …. I love an “Ah but” moment in the theatre. Jonathan Biggins doesn’t write in one dimension, he’s not a single noun kind of scribbler. Few national treasures are and AUSTRALIA DAY is a whole mess of naming words. All of which add up theatrical storytelling of the finest, most entertaining, kind.
We meet the Australia Day Committee of the small fictional town of Coriole, including a mayor with aspirations to be on the ticket for the House of Reps. Cushy job in Canberra would be nice and Bryan Harrigan is a man with an eye for the main chance. As is Helen. She’s a member of The Green Party and pretty green. Robert is the chair and often umpire. Maree is the CWA rep and Wally is a leftover from the days when men ruled empires and could say and do as they liked. At their first meeting for next year’s events, there are concerns in committee about how the changing population of Coriole is affecting the traditional way of celebrating a national day. Enter Chester.
Chester is the school rep by default on the committee. He’s a teacher and from an Asian background. That means Chinese to Maree and Wally, it’s a tough room! Lap Nguyen gives us such a fun character here. Self-deprecating, amused beyond belief at the rest of this committee, not above baiting their prejudices and guilelessly positive. Chester is beautifully written of course. Continue reading AUSTRALIA DAY COMMITTEE FORMED BY PLAYWRIGHT JONATHAN BIGGINS→
It’s such a lovely theatre time in Sydney in September. The weather is lovely and there is a plethora of lovely, reasonably priced shows as part of the Sydney Fringe. Doubly lovelerly, there is always something gay to be seen. The Queer Fringe, sequined blessings on the New Theatre for their stewardship, showcases community centred work.
And what do we get as part of the Queer Fringe? In the case of DIVA WARS, we get authenticity. There are seven men on stage here. Lovely looking each, I might say, and each holds dearly to a Diva who got them through … music to cry to, trial by media to find strength in and, not forgetting, style to emulate. Lemonade Salvation if you will. They sometimes fight among each other in a surprisingly aggressive laddish way, sometimes they speak directly to us but any didacticism is mitigated by vignettes which tell a story which brings all the characters together. And an inventive bit of audience participation in the middle. It’s pretty obvious that the on-stage characters are not the only Diva devotees. Continue reading WAYNE TUNKS’ NEW PLAY ‘DIVA WARS’ @ THE NEW THEATRE→
This is the first time that this neglected rather early Rattigan play has been seen in Sydney. While it now perhaps seems rather dated and ‘of its time’ under Giles Gartrell-Mills’ excellent direction this play while at first, seemingly very artificial, superficial and slow to take off, develops and becomes quite intense and multi-layered.
Rattigan’s play, AFTER THE DANCE written in 1939, examines the life of the young people who survived World War One and lived life to the full in the hedonistic 1920s, only to find themselves now middle-aged, disillusioned and facing another World War .It is a study of a lost generation. The script is brilliantly written and the play well plotted and structured. At times the play seems a bit like a brittle Coward comedy – the audience laughed heartily at certain points at the sparking , witty dialogue – but there remains an underlying passion and morality. Rattigan is able to let the audience see the hidden sadness of these doomed fantasists.Continue reading TERRENCE RATTIGAN’S ‘AFTER THE DANCE’ @ THE NEW THEATRE NEWTOWN→
There is a neglected and dusty Philatelist’s display cabinet on stage for MAURITIUS at the New Theatre. A shrewd observer, while peering in, may find a hidden treasure. Theatre going is a bit like that too and a keen, educated audience member will always find something to watch and be engaged in. For me, the story, Theresa Rebeck’s 2007 script, was the key to my interest in Sure Foot Productions’ show.
Jackie( Kitty Hopwood) is obviously uncomfortable as she gingerly enters Philip’s seedy stamp shop. She is easily dismissed by this stamp expert (Andy Simpson) who won’t even look at the album she clutches to her chest. Lurking around is Dennis (Peter-William Jamieson) who sympathetically thumbs through her book. Something might have caught his eye but it turns out that Jackie is in an inheritance tussle with her sister Mary (Emma Louise) and may not own the object of desire. The little piece of paper also attracts local thug and wiseguy Sterling (Brett Heath) who has a long history with Philip and philately.
There are a few too many frequent repetitions and riffs on a theme in the script, but there is also an implication that tension and simmer could build well to the violence of the final scene. Rebeck’s script also has a strong mystery feel with room for comic moments. However, despite their hard work this cast struggled to bring the play to life.
Static, stilted and bland, the direction (Richard Cornally) sees very little movement and a great deal of shouting across the wide stage. He has allowed his characters to stand flatfooted with their arms tight across their chest or stuffed into pockets, constrained and forced . Voices are strident or huffy.
Nor are the cast supported by the lighting design which has hot spots and dips all over. The set does the job to show the two spaces but had a nasty wobble on opening night.
But there are things to see… moments when the play does lift. The cat and mouse about the money is well played. Dennis manages to be ingratiating and untrustworthy without being smarmy. Mary shows distinct signs of having been in therapy. There is something emotional happening between Jackie and Dennis. So … a show for a seeker of hidden enjoyments.
And I was carried along the story, even if the ending had a predictability that made it unsurprising.
MAURITIUS continues at the New Theatre, Newtown until 29th July.
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.
If you are a lover of rapid fire witticisms, frequent bon mots or bitchily wry observations you are in for a treat. There is luscious dialogue rich with contrapuntal adjectives in a very funny script. This New Theatre’s production is well realised with a nice balance of meaningless fluff and fluffy meaningfulness. Not too heavy, not too light, just all round enjoyable.
Mitchell is an up and coming movie star. Diane is his vociferous agent and wannabe producer. Alex is a men’s escort. Ellen is Alex’s love interest. In the beginning anyway.
Mitchell, who is seriously pissed in a hotel room, hires Alex. Things do not go well initially but in the morning there is the distinct whiff of a disastrous amour fou. Diane will need to balance bedings with the bravura public performances keeping Mitchell’s sexual orientation firmly cupboard-locked. She gets it: she’s a fixer … and a lesbian …so rely on her to get things done. Ellen is a party girl and knows what it means to be dumped, still this is a new one even for her. Continue reading THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED : WIT AND LAUGHTER @ THE NEW→
THAT EYE, THE SKY has been lovingly adapted from the Tim Winton novel and brought to the stage by Richard Roxburgh and Justin Monjo and directed by David Burrowes. It is beautifully, eloquently written and the show is extremely polished with an incredibly talented cast but the work is mostly cerebal and we feel distanced observers. The play asks the big questions about the nature of religion and the meaning of Life and Death.
This is the final week of Sydney’s Biggest Little Cabaret Festival, with a brand new round of performances. The winners will go on to perform in the Gala Final to be held at 7pm on Sunday 7th February at the inner city venue Slide Lounge located at 41 Oxford Street.
Week 4 saw a great assortment of talent on stage. Emcee was the witty Cruello De Vil. In under 95 minutes, six superb ten minute performances were presented, with it being very difficult to pick the performance that will go through.
There was a good array of cabaret styles on display including female burlesque, cover songs, and songs with new comic lyrics.
1. DIRTY MARTINI
This starred Miss Bellissima who first appeared wearing a beautiful black mirror-sequined gown, delivered a classic burlesque routine that showed her flexibility as slowly layer upon layer of clothing was peeled away from her slender body. Performed to Shirley Bassey singing Diamonds Are Forever from The Remix Album. Next she swam and danced on top of a gigantic martini glass, followed by opening a bottle of champagne, gently poured all over her body. A dripping wet crowd pleaser. Continue reading SHORT AND SWEET CABARET 2016 WEEK 4 @ NEW THEATRE→
Pics all by Sylvi Soe, and displayed in performance order.
Sydney’s Biggest Little Cabaret Festival is back, and now with two brand new side festival events with COMEDY+MAGIC performers every week, for just two Sundays during January 2016. Presenting the best in COMEDY+MAGIC including Australia’s best magicians, with each of the eleven performances delivered in under ten minutes.
Talented Australian magician and all round entertainer, Adam Mada, was the excellent Master of Ceremonies this week. Adam is the associate producer for the Short and Sweet Festival for the Comedy + Magic Season in January as part of the 2016 Short+Sweet festival.
With delightful English Gentleman patter, Alex Moffat’s magic relies on your prior magic knowledge and your immediate expectations and mis-direction. This is Award-winning sleight of hand with just one deck of cards, six cards randomly chosen by audience and not seen by the magician, whilst one card was signed and seen by all, and then all the cards were put back. Heavily cut and heavily shuffled, by using magic, Alex correctly presented each of the six cards to the six audience members. http://www.alexmoffat.com.au/
“We fight. We win. We burn your land. We fight. We win. We carry on.”
When you see their wretched Union Jack flag, you know that BRITANNIA WAVES THE RULES embodies all the brutal reality of a soldier’s life. We follow disenfranchised, hot-blooded Carl Jackson’s dramatic journey, from his need to escape from Blackpool, England to becoming fully trained and ultimately sent as a sniper to the killing-fields on the front-line in Afghanistan.
Sorry readers, while the underlying concept behind this show is fascinating and the excellent cast gave their all, this production felt quite flat and in need of some reworking.
Part of this years’ Sydney Fringe, written by Paul Wilson and Tim Ferguson and directed by Pete Malicki , the premise of the show has Shakespeare is alive and well and working today.
The performance we see is a TV interview with him- it’s Shakespeare’s first TV interview- along with his arch rival Francis Bacon. We have at last the opportunity to obtain answers to some burning questions that have kept us guessing for centuries such as:- Are the plays really his plays? What is the true nature of his relationship with his wife Anne? Why after years of writing comedies and romances has he turned to writing tragedies?
In some ways the show is a bit like a ‘Reduced Shakespeare’ production, presented here as short soundbytes from a television show. The feel is very contemporary with the use of electric guitars, mobiles, ipads, Twitter and so on…Shakespeare aficionados will also pick up references to Will Kemp , Christopher Marlowe, Jack Horner amongst others.
Tall, dark and bearded Damien Carr portrayed William Shakespeare very sympathetically, casually dressed in a torn leather jacket and black top and trousers, and with a dazzling smile. His portrayal came across as a bit bad boy Keith Richards like.
He is put through the emotional wringer during the interview. We learn about his background, his relationship with his glover father and his work processes:– how he approaches writing a play etc. His portrayal of women is also questioned. There is a big fuss at one point about a notebook (possibly his father’s), and the question arises as to why his father has never come to see any of his shows…
There is searing intense grief – Carr handles the monologue terrifically when discussing the death of his son Hamnet.
I do have to ask the question, why on Earth during the play is there a scene which has Shakespeare carrying a knife around with him and then on national television take the knife out and clean his shoes with it?!
Bacon is wonderfully played by Calib James and is portrayed as arrogant, opinionated and self centered. He is dressed in a a marvelous quasi ‘’Elizabethan ‘ black velvet top ( should one say ‘doublet ? ‘) with slashed sleeves and maroon coloured trousers.
The sparring matches that take place between Bacon and Shakespeare are intense. It is obvious that the antagonism stretches back for years. Yet for some reason Bacon helps Shakespeare out with suggesting the phrase ‘to be or not to be’ whilst Shakespeare had been struggling with ‘to live or not to live’.
Dark haired Martina Fleur who is the TV show hostess/emcee who asks probing questions was delightfully played by Rosemary Ghazi, wearing a slinky blue dress featuring a side split.
We see her nervous before the show begins and her interactions with the stage manager – a lot rides on the ratings of this show! And she brings it to great success with excellent ratings.
’The Duke’, enthusiastically portrayed by Patrick Cullen, is the show’s warm up person/stand up comedian/singer but his running commentary and bad jokes generally fall flat. It is interesting the way that he is allowed to interact and comment on the show whilst the show is ‘live to air ‘and he is ‘off stage’ so to speak. Surely, in reality, this possibility would never occur. He also acts as narrator at the end telling us what happens to the various characters.
Summing up, impressive performances in an interesting but rather disappointing show that needs more work.
Running time an hour without interval.
SHAKESPEARE TONIGHT is playing at the New Theatre as part of the Sydney Fringe until the 19th September.
This is Anne Frank’s story, told through her diaries. It makes for tough reading, or more to the point tough viewing, in the current New Theatre production of the 1955 stage adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.
Sam Thomas’ eloquent revival brings her painful and sad story to life. Tragically, Anne lived her last few years with her family in hiding, never knowing if, in the next moment, they will be discovered and transferred to a death camp.
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.
I loved this show. One of my favourites this year so far, in fact. But there is a secret to enjoying it. Luckily I had a crony with me who had seen it earlier in the week and he let me in on the trick just as I will clue you in. It’s a brilliant script but you have to buy into the story, the characters and the style… immediately. From the first umbrella ballet to when the rain stops falling. Do this and you will take it away with you. Myself, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
The story revolves around a series of characters who are obviously from different time periods and who must be somehow connected to Gabriel York who we meet in the first monologue. Gabriel left his wife and son many years ago. “The boy had a better chance without me.” He has just been contacted by Andrew who wants answers from his abandoning father. Continue reading When The Rain Stops Falling @ The New→
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd: he served a dark and vengeful God!” After a visit to the New Theatre’s website advertising their current production of Stephen Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD, with its graphic image of a throat being cut and a viewing of the teaser video with its huge blood splash finale, one might be forgiven for thinking a dark evening is in store. In lesser hands perhaps the show could float in gore like the 2007 movie. This production, however, focuses on an exploration of what it takes to make a monster. It seems that answer is … love!
Benjamin Barker arrives back on the docks of Victorian London. He is accompanied by his shipboard companion, Anthony Hope. Anthony knows this man as Sweeney Todd. He rescued Sweeney from a mysterious shipwreck and honours his vow not to ask questions even after a mysterious beggar woman confronts them both. Sweeney’s past is revealed as he revisits his old haunts and meets up with Mrs Lovett who recognises him at once as the man she adored from afar. She has even saved his silver razors and offers him her upstairs room as a barber shop. Continue reading Sweeney Todd @ The New→
Neither silk purse nor sow’s ear, New Theatre’s production of Richard Bean’s HARVEST turns up a few entertaining truffles in this shambling, sprawling family saga.
HARVEST maps a century of struggle for the Harrisons, Yorkshire pig farmers, whose patch of piggery was won from the local squire by a canny ancestor.
The play begins at beginning of the First World War with the current sty councillors, William and Albert, battling it out over which one should sign up for the great adventure. Continue reading Harvest at The New→
Award-winning cabaret DESPERATELY YOUNG AT HEART is a welcome visitor at the Sydney Fringe Festival. Its crossover between the genres of music and comedy results in an hilarious and rewarding night’s entertainment.
Innuendo and skilfully crafted lyrics fly about as quickly as the necessary costume changes. Male and female characters parody singing students, vocal teachers, community singers and religion in the setting of a conference for mid-career vocal teachers. Robert Hofmann brings us each guest speaker or singer to share their individual tensions and desperate personal natures. Continue reading Desperately Young at Heart→
With no program available to linger over a glass of wine with before the show, one is not quite sure what to expect of JURASSIC! THAT IS ONE BIG PILE OF MUSICAL. But there is truth in the titling. Dinosaurs? Yep. All sorts too. Raptors, T Rex and a sweet, sad Triceratops who manages to steal her scene. “There won’t be any babies because I only made ladies” sings the scientist but nature finds a way. And in the tradition of the Cambridge Footlights, this show is a breeding ground for both dinosaurs and young talent. Continue reading JURASSIC: THE MUSICAL→