Tag Archives: Sydney Arts Guide

10 DOUBLE PASSES TO PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘UNA’ @ PALACE NORTON STREET

UNA follows a young woman’s journey to reclaim her past. Fifteen years earlier,  when she was a minor, Una ran away with an older man, Ray, a crime for which he was arrested and imprisoned.

When she comes across a photo of him in a trade magazine, Una tracks him down and turns up at his workplace. Her abrupt arrival threatens to destroy Ray’s new life and derail her stability. Unspoken secrets and buried memories surface as Una and Ray sift through the wreckage of the past.

Their confrontation raises unanswered questions and unresolved longings. It will shake them both to the core. UNA gazes into the heart of a devastating form of love and asks if redemption is possible.

The film is  an adaptation of Scottish playwright David Harrower’s celebrated, Olivier Award-winning play Blackbird.

Ex-pat Australian director Benedict Andrews is the helmer and Ben Mendelsohn is in the cast playing Ray. Academy Award nominated actress Rooney Mara plays Una.                        Continue reading 10 DOUBLE PASSES TO PREVIEW SCREENING OF ‘UNA’ @ PALACE NORTON STREET

OSCAR WILDE’S THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE

 

The Student with the Red Rose
The Student with the Red Rose

In 2010, acclaimed artist Del Kathryn Barton and renown filmmaker Brendan Fletcher had a casual conversation about working Barton’s series of Oscar Wilde inspired artworks into a short film.

Six years later, Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose, was born.

Currently showing at ACMI, the 14-minute adaption of Wilde’s tale of the same title is now open to the public.

The film took three years to produce with Barton and Fletcher working closely with award-winning post-production house, Method Studios. The team used a mix of handmade props and post-production animation techniques to meticulously craft the piece.

What they have created is an intense and beautiful rendition of Wilde’s original, featuring a chilling score by Sarah Blasko and the voices of some of Australia’s most celebrated actors including Geoffrey Rush and Mia Wasikowska. Continue reading OSCAR WILDE’S THE NIGHTINGALE AND THE ROSE

SUICIDE SQUAD

 

Margot Robbie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joel Kinnaman, Will Smith, Karen Fukuhara and Jai Coutney for Suicide Squad
Margot Robbie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joel Kinnaman, Will Smith, Karen Fukuhara and Jai Coutney in Suicide Squad

The hype for David Ayer’s DC film Suicide Squad has been incredible.

With a two year lead up and countless trailers, it seemed that the film was to be a sure fire cult classic.

But this was not to be.

People excitedly poured into Australian pre-screenings earlier this week, and although hardcore fans did laugh at the jokes there was a clear sense of disappointment in the air.

Critics have been trashing the movie online, and it’s IMBd rating has been dropping rapidly.

So why was the movie bad?

Summed up into three categories, the answer is: pace, characterisation and explanation. Continue reading SUICIDE SQUAD

SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE ANNUAL AWARDS 2015

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2015 SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE STAGE & SCREEN AWARDS               

 

Sydney Arts Guide is a key part of stage and film culture, and exists to celebrate the art of performance, in theatres and cinemas.

2015 was a year of amazing diversity, and our twenty accredited specialist reviewers, were all spoiled for choice in the quality of the live theatre performances to be experienced in the City of Sydney, and the suburbs of Sydney.

As the old adage goes, “live theatre is not dead theatre, as there is a different performance to be experienced every night”. Our team of professional reviewers, have each nominated their personal preferences for both theatre and cinema. A small number of movies were nominated out of the hundreds of cinema films that were seen during the last twelve months.

Unfortunately some live theatre venues closed permanently in 2015.

Having reached the end of another outstanding year for the arts in Sydney, on Thursday 31st December 2015, Sydney Arts Guide announced its 2015 awards in these Stage and Screen categories:-
Continue reading SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE ANNUAL AWARDS 2015

The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe @ The Riverside

A wonderful cast of ten women vividly bring to life, the tearful stories of four African women refugees and their escape to Australia.

The four harrowing stories as survivors of abuse and violence are sensitively presented with both lightness and humour in an inspiring show that is filled with music, song and dance.

The writer has brought to life in broad strokes, all of the terrors and the impact of Violence Against Women, of becoming sex slaves whilst prisoners of war, rebel kidnapping, stolen childhood and ultimately the failure to obtain justice.

In the context of war or domestically, each has suffered extraordinary human rights abuses, and each has struggled to transcend their particular traumas.

These four inspiring women broke from the tyranny of silence, and gained the necessary confidence and courage to finally tell their extraordinary stories, and the subsequent journey of healing, transformation and acceptance that meant they were finally able to re-build their damaged lives.

At every performance, you will be shocked and deeply moved as these inspirational women have survived their past and now have the freedom to be who they want to be, to say what they want, and to be as amazing as they can be.

Yarrie grew up in a camp in Guinea. She is now doing her HSC.

Aminata is from Sierra Leone. She is now an ambassador for the UNHCR.

Big Mama Rosemary is from Kenya. She is now a community leader.

Yordy was a child soldier. Now she’s the mother of four amazing kids.

This highly recommended show (running 1 hour and 40 minutes without interval), is a ‘celebration of women, human rights, laughter and resilience’.

THE BAULKHAM HILLS AFRICAN LADIES TROUPE   last played the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta in May , 2013.

The show is now having a return season at the Riverside playing between the 18th and 21st February.

Sydney Cinema Locations – The List

Sydney Cinema Locations

THE LIST  –  UPDATED  17th  August  2017 SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE presents the complete list of all available Cinema Venues  within THE CITY OF SYDNEY area, and in the many SUBURBS OF SYDNEY including many of the small cinema screening room venues.  The many locations where Australian and Hollywood Motion Picture Films are screened, and where many exhibitors also regularly screen World Movies:-  

Darling Harbour Imax Cinema   (currently closed during 2017-2018  for re-construction and full conversion into two IMAX cinema screens)    at located at  31 Wheat Road, Darling Harbour, Sydney, NSW   Tel: (02) 9281-3300   with one screen, located on the waterfront in the heart of Sydney’s Darling Harbour.   The minimum size of an IMAX screen is 22 m × 16.1 m (72 ft × 53 ft), Sydney used to have the world’s largest IMAX screen which was eight  storeys high and measured 35.7 m x 29.7 m (117.1 ft x 97.4 ft) and offered a vertigo inspiring experience, plus this was also the world’s largest cinema screen.     (Venue Seating Capacity = 540)              https://www.imax.com.au/

Sydney Event Cinemas Sydney CBD, street level at 505-525 George Street, Sydney, NSW Tel: (02) 9273-7300  with seventeen screens including  Vmax Cinemas  and  Gold Class  Cinemas      http://www.eventcinemas.com.au/

Movie Times Website:   http://www.movietimes.com.au/

Continue reading Sydney Cinema Locations – The List

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

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What’s in a name? A rose by any other would smell as sweet. Call a spade a spade but you’ll still shovel shit if you pick a name that digs up contentious connotations.

In western culture, names such as Jesus, Atilla, Adolph, and Osama are eschewed from birth registers, but more mundane reasons are raised among family and friends at the imminent patter of tiny feet, where naming rights can produce near riot.

Appellations of those who are unliked from the past or the present, or carry with them some sort of high falutin’ allusion or pretention is the most likely impediments to nixing a moniker.

When Forty-something father to be Vincent announces to his family the nomenclature of his unborn son he figuratively flings that shovelful at the fan.

What should have been a civil celebratory occasion devolves into a dinner where the stable door of secrets is left so far ajar that the stampede of revelations seal the deal of unable to conceal.

Based on a super successful stage play, WHAT’S IN A NAME? (LE PRONOM) makes for a marvelous movie where the comedy has sparkle and bite and the story’s spine has a vertebrae full of funny bones with slipped dramatic discs.

Blessed with a fine ensemble cast that relish in spitfire delivery and comedic timing, WHAT’S IN A NAME is reminiscent of the golden age of comedy where character and situation combine to power the turbine of intelligent entertainment.

What’s in a name turns into what’s in a joke and at whose expense as this clever comedy illustrates the thin line between social decorum and civil disintegration.

Marie Cheminal’s production design is exquisite. Almost all the action of the film takes place in an apartment and it looks and feels so real, so lived in that it’s a marvel – so marvellous and fully dimensional that it becomes a key character in the film.

From the opening credits where all the collaborators are identified by their first names only through to its colossal conclusion, this fabulous film is a joy to the ear and the eye.

Written for the screen and directed by MATTHIEU DELAPORTE & ALEXANDRE DE LA PATELLIÈRE from their original stage play, WHAT’S IN A NAME? is arguably the best comedy to grace our screens since Roman Polanksi’s CARNAGE.

 

THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE

Arky Michael, Jane Phegan and Kym Vercoe. Pic Heidrun Lohr
Arky Michael, Jane Phegan and Kym Vercoe. Pic Heidrun Lohr

Using actual transcripts and wiretaps from the ICAC hearings into Wollongong Council lends THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE a gripping sense of immediacy. The corruption saga had a heady mix of bribes, sex, developers, ICAC impersonators and threats of violence. We are voyeuristically entertained with numerous scenarios from this tawdry media sensation.

This innovative production by Version 1.0 and Merrigong Theatre Company makes use of a wonderful set and video presentations. The audience is greeted by large blocks of colour dominating the rear of the stage and during the play these alternate between actual video footage and cartoon like representations of Wollongong streetscapes, greenfield sites and proposed developments. Sean Bacon’s visuals are quite stunning. The use of large plastic toy blocks is a colourful and clever device.

The actors play various characters and as they are often reciting ICAC transcripts it is very clear who they are portraying. “Mr Vellar, can you explain to the court…..etc”. There are also video screens further explaining who is speaking and in what particular context. Occasionally the actors will address the audience.

There is an opening address by Russell Kiefel explaining that these type of events could only happen in Wollongong, until the other actors, Angela Bauer, Jane Phegan, Kym Vercoe and Arky Michael chime in with “or Port MacQuarie, or (very topically) Ryde, or Randwick, or Burwood.” It is tacitly conceded that corruption in local government is widespread.

The performances are consistently strong and engaging. Kym Vercoe’s performance as Beth Morgan, the town planner who had sexual relations with two of the developers, starts out as confident and enjoying the expensive gifts she receives for assisting with planning applications before deteriorating into a scared and nervous wreck. Arky Michael’s performance as corrupt developer Frank Vellar captures the hubris and confidence of such a colourful character. Russell Kiefel’s Rod Oxley, General Manager of Council, has the audience almost believing that his unlawful practices were really in the best interests of Wollongong.

There are many laughs in this play, mostly from the outrageous behaviour of the main protagonists. At other times the mood is dark and threatening as the criminals exert menace and pressure on the corrupt and vulnerable.

THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE runs until July 21 at Glen Street Theatre, Belrose.

 

RUSSIAN RESURRECTION FILM FESTIVAL 2013

gentleman of fortune
A scene from the poignant GENTLEMEN OF FORTUNE

Celebrating a decade of détente, a veritable glasnost of cinema, The Russian Resurrection Film Festival kicks of July 24 at the Chauvel Cinema for a fortnight of fun, thrills, thought provocation, and soul searching.

Opening with LEGEND 17, an ice hockey extravaganza that made the Russian box office give a puck , Russian Resurrection Film Festival continues its ten year tenure with a myriad array of movies including dramas, documentaries, and even a disaster flick. Two of the selections, MARATHON and THE GEOGRAPHER are screening here ahead of their Russian release.

One of the highlights is the short and bittersweet THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME, a superbly succinct study of the slings and arrows of ordinary lives set on New Year’s Eve, as two brothers contemplate their father’s imminent demise after receiving a devastating diagnosis on his behalf.

One of the siblings is a city slicker navigating the slippery slide of ambition whilst the other has remained in the less cosmopolitan country town of their birth. Both have moribund relationships with their partners, the mundanity and mendacity of modernity grinding them down.  the hope of the New Year, when things are born anew, the chance of fresh starts and new beginnings lends a poignant motif, especially when The boys become surrogate dads to a disenfranchised teenage girl, neglected by her real parent.

Set to the music of a Seventies Soviet classic, THIS IS WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME has the tonal ambience of Dorothy Parkers poem, Resume.

The disintegration of the filial paternal paradigm is explored in THE CONDUCTOR, the story of a Moscow maestro taking an orchestra to Jerusalem to perform The Passion of Matthew. The conductor is not there just to make music but to organise the funeral of his estranged son. Disapproving of his son’s apparent lack of discipline, the devastated dad must deal with the grief and guilt of surviving his son. Vladas Bagdonas is majestically monolithic as the maestro, brilliantly conveying the inner turmoil of his distress; a granite like gravitas, sturdy stoicism in the face of despair. To add to his woes, members of his orchestra are experiencing psychological and emotional meltdowns as well, and there is the palpable danger of extremist action in the streets of the city.

A lighter tone is struck with LOVE WITH AN ACCENT, a multi story apartment movie which takes its template from Love, Actually. It could easily have been called Georgia on My Mind as all the stories are set there, eschewing any recent dispute or conflict between the state and Russia, and concentrating on the whimsical and ephemeral. The mountains and valleys and general Georgian scenery are gorgeous and give ample armchair traveller payoff even when the rom com flags.

Also in a lighter vein, GENTLEMEN OF FORTUNE – both the original 1971 film and the remake from 2012. The original concerned a kindergarten teacher recruited by the police to pose as a notorious criminal in order to reclaim an iconic treasure. It was pitched as a family film and had a lovely naivety and charm. The remake is a brasher, bigger budgeted affair, still charming thanks to its leading man, now a children’s entertainer, but it’s certainly more violent and mildly malevolent in comparison. It’s also 12 minutes longer and doesn’t need to be; movie makers whether in Moscow or Malibu all seem to suffer from the malaise of bloated runtimes, especially with comedies that should be bright and breezy and brief.

Some 28 films make up the festival with about half a dozen being retrospectives, reminding us of the difference in style and content from Iron Curtain days to the present.

So crack open the caviar, sip from the samovar or kick back with a vodka, and submerse yourself in some subversive cinema. Screenings at the Chauvel, Paddington from July 24 – August 7, with sessions at Event Cinemas Burwood on Saturday and Sunday August 3 and 4. Tix through MCA or at the Cinemas

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shine again in BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shine again in BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Thankfully, Richard Linklater’s third instalment in the “Before” trilogy is a triumph.

It’s hard to believe that it’s eighteen years since we were introduced to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) at their first meeting on the train hurtling through Austria. BEFORE SUNRISE chronicled their night exploring Vienna and their burgeoning romance.  Nine years later, BEFORE SUNSET witnessed their reunion in Celine’s home town, Paris. Now, we have BEFORE MIDNIGHT, with the couple going through a mid life crisis in Greece.

True to the original template, BEFORE MIDNIGHT is a travelogue talk-fest shot in long takes that serves an inherent honesty and truth in narrative and performance.

Credited as co screenwriters, Hawke and Delpy have coalesced their characters into a compelling coupling that has the verisimilitude that comes with genuine, grounded relationship. It’s like 7UP but polished and honed. Jesse and Celine take us to the coalface of long term  relationships as the mundane mendacity of domesticity assails the ramparts of romance gives it the dramatic frisson. We fell in love with the previous movies as the couple fell in love with each other. Now nine years on, we still love these characters, even though they might not be still in love with each other.

At the film’s beginning, Jesse is farewelling his son from his first marriage, and is considering returning to the States to spend more time with him.

Celine seems to have become shrill, disappointed with how the relationship has panned out, motherhood and marriage having marginalised her career ambitions. Jesse, always the greater romantic, to the point of fashioning a fiction around their lives, turning their love story into a tale for mass consumption, remains the incurable romantic, desperately trying to allay any derailment of their relationship.

Intelligent, mature and funny, boasting the best dialogue from an American picture this year, BEFORE MIDNIGHT nevertheless has the worm of worry built into its title. Will this midnight summer dream turn into a domestic nightmare, growing darker before the dawn, the fairy tale ending faltering and fading?

Here’s hoping there will be BEFORE DAWN  nine years hence, but if not, we’ll always have SUNRISE, SUNSET, MIDNIGHT as one of the great trilogies in movie history. Give me middle age over middle earth any day!

 

EMPIRE

Jepke Goudsmit with a copy of Naom Chomsky's 'Understanding Power' in hand. Pic Corrie Ancone
Jepke Goudsmit with a copy of Naom Chomsky’s ‘Understanding Power’ in hand. Pic Corrie Ancone

There are very few plays today that take a good, hard look at the world stage and make us question our indifference and complacency.

Graham Jones and Jepke Goudsmit of the Kinetic Energy Theatre Company, have co-written and directed EMPIRE, a doco-drama montage with live music, performance and video, about America, from the ‘birth of the idea of America’, the Pilgrim ideology to the US Empire’s present day excesses.

Inspired by the writer activists, Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky, – “two of the most eminent and elegant critics of the Empire” – the play is cleverly interwoven with speeches from Roy and Chomsky (played by Goudsmit and Jones), famous statements on foreign policy from George W Bush on his golf course (played with great humour by Jones) and the eerie presence on stage of Bradley Manning (Angela Fieldhouse), typing from his workstation in Bagdad, opposite ex hacker Adrian Lamo (Frank Dasent).  Their logs extracted are real and can be read on the screen at the back of the stage.

We can feel the tension in these two characters swapping  emails.  The need to expose the horrid truths Manning has been harbouring and the incredulousness from Lamo when he realises the enormity of what is going down.  There is a vulnerability from Manning when he is not sure about the ethics of his actions.  He ultimately decides that this may change the world for the better.

Whether you think that these men are heroes or traitors is irrelevant.  This is a huge part of history and it leads to questions about the morality of governments’ secret agendas and the media’s ignorance and compliance.

Jones helmed the successful Kinetic Energy Dance Company in 1975 until he met and married Goudsmit, which led to their new venture, the Kinetic Energy Theatre Company in 1985.  They have always produced energetic and intelligent shows and events, most recently Kinetic Jazz at their new venue, St Luke’s Hall.  In EMPIRE, they have used recent and talented students from the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, Floyd Robinson, Billy Ward, Drew Bourgeois, Frank Dasent and Lilli Pearse, who also double as actors.  The Jones daughters, Jola and Saha are naturals on stage, along with tortured prisoner, Roberto Quintarelli and Robert Gray does a wonderful redneck airforce pilot contented in Vietnam.  Although the play is about serious issues, it is vivacious and inspiring and accompanied by great jazz music.

Jones and Goudsmit have invited special guests to speak after each performance.  It was great to hear Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees, a champion of social justice and human rights, enlighten us.

The Kinetic Energy Theatre Company is certainly worthy of patronage.  It is a most welcoming venue with food and drink (home made soup for winter), and an intimacy and enthusiasm so important in the Sydney theatre scene.

The current season of EMPIRE plays at St Luke’s Hall in Enmore from July 10th to July 13th. For more information visit the Kinetic Energy Theatre Company’s official website- www.kineticenergytheatre.org.

 

 

 

THE LIGHT BOX

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THE LIGHT BOX is a new play written by Natalia Savvides inspired by her research into the experiences of women in colonial institutions.

It is formed from a number of, at first, seemingly unconnected short scenes set in the present and the past but not in any strict chronological order.

I found it helpful at the commencement of the play to have the program which lists the scenes. As the play develops connections among the characters become more evident but as the playwright states it is not the intention to have a straight narrative or an easy answer to the questions of love and freedom given to us. The playwright leaves it up to each audience member to deicide what is truth and what is imagination.

As a character seems to head in a positive direction with a relationship they then often fall back into turmoil. Silence and repression of emotions for the sake of public face can have tragic results. Yet there is also humour and hope.

Three of the four actors play more than one role and all are distinctly different in each of their roles. Dean Mason plays a cleaner falling in love, at least temporarily, and also a giant toucan in a skilfully crafted costume designed and created by Dylan Tonkin and Bradley Hawkins.

Tom Christophersen, as well as playing a taxidermist and a lost lover on a cruise boat is a “man of spoons” with sets of cleverly constructed spoons for hands and face. Hannah Barlow effectively portrays a woman trapped in an institution and her past who seeks a greater freedom. Stephanie King plays a character who lives both in the past and the present and is a tragic soul in one scene with a spoon piercing her hand.

Though this is not an easy night at the theatre, as the audience is expected to consider for themselves the possible implications and development of the different relationships, the play maintains its fascination and intensity for its 70 minutes duration,

The director James Dalton successfully creates a range of locations and times, perhaps some refer to the “box” in the title and the stage manager Angharad Lindley has ensured the smooth running of scenes and change of props. The sound design by Nate Edmondson and lighting by Benjamin Brockman add atmosphere and help the audience as it constantly has to reorientate.

THE LIGHT BOX is produced by Fat Boy Dancing and We Do Not Unhappen and runs until Sunday 28 July at 107 Redfern St Redfern.

 

BINGO UNIT

Team Mess, Bingo Unit. Pic Lucy Parakhina
Team Mess, Bingo Unit. Pic Lucy Parakhina

“Stand by, Roll sound, Roll camera – ACTION!”  and another group of delighted audience become part of the shooting of another TV Crime Show.

Amidst gales of laughter, a suspect protests his innocence with a most unlikely explanation, a policewoman throws the book at him (a small Yellow Pages at the table really, three times! Then collapses into giggles). Meanwhile in another inconspicuous corner four other audience members are in a car on a stake out surrounded by another ten or so people peering in. Elsewhere on this expansive ‘lot’ (it felt about half a football field), two young students enthusiastically kicked in a dunny door and assaulted the dummy they found inside, someone hesitantly pulled back a sheet covering a ‘body on a slab’ to find with relief it was only a mannequin, and yours truly was empanelled as part of an eight person jury that included a seven year old who promptly put his age up very convincingly to eighteen. Indeed he became our foreman.

It all sounds like and was a lot of fun.

My only reservations were that after a brief introduction to the concept and an invitation when a curtain was drawn to “Come on in and join the production!”, the stage manager, or “Floor Manager” to use the correct term, was not evident. It felt more like a “Living Art” exhibition and one was left to wander around aimlessly peering at this and that. It tended to lack overall cohesion. Indeed our group joined a preceding group and in the short time it took to get to the court room, I hadn’t time to see all the evidence!

The staging was grand scale – but which way to go? The performances were adequate, as was the script. But I was disappointed that the heckling jury member (Guilty – “NOT GUILTY!”), was not dealt with in the manner I would have expected from such an experienced performer as Chris Haywood who played the judge. (The first time I ever saw Chris perform  he was a punk rocker you wouldn’t mess with, literally getting his teeth into a rat, a rubber one, in a 1970’s pubshow “Smiles and Piles”).  On this occasion he simply went back to the script. He did acknowledge the outburst, directing “amateur performance” at me. Still, it’s a great concept.

BINGO UNIT is playing till Saturday evening July 13 at Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. Check the Carriageworks official website- www.carriageworks.com.au  for session times.

 

 

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

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‘The course of true love never did run smooth’.

Sorry folks but I apparently have to go against the tide of what seems to be general opinion and admit I was a little disappointed with this new version by Joss Whedon (‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Cabin in the Woods’,’ Toy Story ‘)of ‘Much Ado About Nothing ‘.The film was shot in and around Joss Whedon’s own home in Santa Monica, California, while he was still working on the blockbuster superhero film ‘The Avengers.’  I guess I have been spoilt by the glorious Kenneth Branagh / Emma Thompson version.

Somewhat cut and abridged, the plot is basically as follows : Leonato , ( lithe Fred Astaire look alike Clark Gregg) the governor of Messina , is visited by his friend Don Pedro(Reed Diamond) who is returning home from a campaign against his rebellious brother Don John ( handsome Sean Maher) . Included in Don Pedro’s entourage are two of his officers, Benedick( Alexis Denisof  (‘Buffy’, ‘Angel’, ‘Dollhouse’),) and Claudio ( Franz Kanz (‘Cabin in the Woods, ‘Dollhouse’)) . While staying in Leonato’s huge palace Claudio unexpectedly falls for Leonato’s daughter Hero ( Jillian Morgese ) whilst Benedick renews his verbal sparring with Beatrice ( Amy Acker of ‘Angel’ and, ‘Dollhouse) the governor’s niece. All seems wonderful when Don Pedro acts as intermediary for Claudio and Heros’ engagement.

In the days before the wedding Don Pedro with the help of Claudio , Leonato and Hero attempts for a lighthearted prank to act as Cupid to Beatrice and Benedick.  But this is one of the darker  Shakespearean ‘ Comedies ‘ that dangerously skirts possible tragedy: Don John can be seen as a precursor to Iago in Othello’ perhaps as he surreptitiously plots to destroy the marriage of Claudio and Hero before it has even begun. Will he succeed ? Will Claudio and Leonato discover the truth? Hero’s impugned virtue and faked death are rightly treated like tragedies .Almost everyone dons a mask to test someone else’s loyalty, unfortunately an impulse that can often lead to disaster. Or does it in this case ? ( Here for example at the masked ball, disguised as a Sheik,Benedick discovers some home truths about himself).

 The position of women in society at the time is highlighted by poor Heros’ situation when she is wrongly accused and Beatrice’s great speech railing against being a woman. Shot in black and white it is updated to now with computers, security cameras and mobile phones, but has a very 1950’s feel.The men are mostly in very swish Prada style suits .There are some wonderful use of opening atmospheric close ups of trees etc and very effective use is made of reflections and mirrors ( eg when Hero is first prepared for her wedding).I liked the irony when the men were shown to their quarters and the bedrooms were full of stuffed soft toys.

However I found Alexis Denisof as Benedick somewhat stilted,determinedly square-jawed and rather tense . Amy Acker’s Beatrice is a bit freer but still restrained .The scenes where Beatrice and Benedick overhear their friends supposedly discussing their secret affection for each other –  Beatrice hiding in a kitchen alcove , Benedick full of acrobatic tumbles and leaps past the glass windows ) are much fun as is the way a couple of Benedick’s monologues are done as if he is going for a run , or talking to the wedding decorations.  Benedick’s hammy overdone posing when Beatrice angrily comes to say ‘against my will I am sent to bid you come to dinner’ is a riot.

Fran Kranz as Claudio is excellent , his scenes terrifically handled especially for example where he accuses Hero wrongly and calls off the wedding and also the scenes where he realises she was falsely slandered .

The low ‘comic’ scenes see Nathan Fillion (‘Buffy’, ‘Firefly’, ‘Serenity’ ).and Tom Lenk as the bumbling supposedly hardboiled film noir detectives Dogberry and Verges with ‘cool’ sunglasses who lock themselves out of the police car.

For me this was an uneven film which didn’t quite know what it was trying to be. I found it rather artificial.While yes the main characters were well played it just didn’t quite ‘gel’ .

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING opens today .Rated M, Running time : 108 minutes

THE LONE RANGER

LONE RANGER-002

If THE LONE RANGER is an attempt to rebirth the Western, I’m afraid it’s still born. With its unwieldy length, imposition of an old Tonto retelling the story, a dreadful deadpan Depp bordering on dull, this poisons the well of Western box office as devastatingly as an asbestos inhaler.

The best thing that can be said of THE LONE RANGER is that its set pieces are worthy of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, but are so mismatched in the feeble narrative as to be puzzling rather than palpable.

The originators of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise probably thought it a no brainer to swap Jack Sparrow’s tri-corner for Tonto’s ornithological chapeau and have Johnny Depp work his magic, but whereas the buccaneer was funny in his flamboyance, the Injun is under the bottom, the dead pan just plain dead, like he’s smoke signaling his performance in.

Armie Hammer – what a name – is asked to look chiseled and no more and so that’s what he does. He is more the lame ranger than the lone – and anyway, he’s certainly not lone, he’s saddled with the annoying, filthy paint faced Comanche. Armie hasn’t been in a movie worth his talent since The Social Network – let’s hope his turn as Illya Kuryakin in the upcoming Man From UNCLE is a better outing.

Helena Bonham Carter is fun but under utilised as the one legged brothel keeper Red Harrington, who keeps a peacemaker in her prosthetic.

Tom Wilkinson is cliché ridden railway mogul; William Fitchner is the vile Butch Cavendish, and Barry Pepper as a Custeresque cavalry man rounds out the cast in search of a script.

This is the first real misstep for director Gore Verbinski ( Mousehunt, The Mexican, Rango)–hopefully he will correct himself and not fall into the Michael Bay abyss. Because this movie looks like it has been made by that brat of bombast.

The Lone Ranger was born of radio – with respect to this pictorial presentation, it’s where he belongs.

Hi ho Silver? Tarnished.

 

 

HOT SHOE SHUFFLE

HSS Tap bros on tap truck jazz hands-002

They don’t make them like this anymore. Musical theatre fans will adore this. It’s hard to believe that this is HOT SHOE SHUFFLE’s 21st anniversary revival!  It’s one of those ‘old fashioned’ feel –good ‘let’s put on a show’ musicals that showcase the jaw-dropping talents of a superb cast.

The show when it opened originally led to a resurgence of interest and development in tap dancing (and led to Dein Perry’s ‘Tap Dogs’). It is very demanding and the cast have to be able to do the ‘triple threat’ as well as specialise in scintillating tap. The different sorts of tap styles are shown – from the elegant, top hat and tails of Fred Astaire   contrasting with the freer, more showbiz style of Ray Bolger.

It’s a rather silly musical comedy plot about The Tap Brothers – all seven of them (yes seven! Spring, Slap, Buck, Wing, Tip, Tap and Slide). And yes there are ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ jokes, their long lost sister April (or is she?) and a dead father’s will with a huge fortune (Is he? And is the fortune real? All will be revealed).

The show dazzles and delights and is sheer joy. The dancing is phenomenal. The infectious rhythms have you dancing in your seat. It’s bold, bright and colourful (in the first half the brothers look at time like extra Wiggles).

In the second half especially there are some great lighting effects.  There are also some film and theatre in-jokes ( ‘Star Wars ‘,’ ‘Dirty Harry’ ,’ Aliens ‘ and ‘King Kong’) for example in the corny but witty script)and are we meant to pick up allusions to ‘Singing in the Rain’ and Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’?

The band, hidden for roughly two thirds of the show is incredible. When we do get to see them, they are displayed in a marvelous 1930’s art deco/Glen Miller style set featuring a large staircase.

All seven of the incredible Tap Bros are marvelous, each of them having short solos, but special mention must be made of Spring ((Bobby Fox) who brings the house down and literally stops the show by causing a standing ovation in his jaw dropping solo in the Act 1 ‘Tap Jam’ . And his ‘Song and Dance Man’ solo in Act 2 is pretty brilliant too.

As their klutzy, two left feet (yeah sure) red haired  ‘sister’  April we have the stunning Jaz Flowers. She is marvelous and leads her ‘brothers’ in a cheeky ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Act 1 and is a sultry glamorous, dreamy torch singer in Act 2 (‘How Long Has This Been Going On’ ?).

Theatre legend and the man who started the whole thing ,David Atkins , is delightful in his roles as Aloysius Shyster/Max King/Dexter Tap .He has a fabulous time throughout and is terrific in his rather poignant solo in the second Act ( ‘ Mood Indigo’ ).

The last part of the show is the ‘HOT SHOE SHUFFLE’ itself, the act the brothers are reunited for which pulls out all the glitzy stops to magnificent effect. So , yes, this includes a glamorous, very difficult tapping up and down lit staircases and a glow- in- the -dark cane tossing routine.

The delighted ‘Tap God’ rumbled his approval and the audience for opening night gave it a huge  standing ovation at the end, the like of which I haven’t seen in years.

HOT SHOE SHUFFLE, with a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes including one interval, is playing at the Lyric Theatre until Sunday August 4, 2013.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” – Jane Austen.

There is a fresh revival of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, as adapted by Deb Mulhall, currently playing at the Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly.

Experience the magic of following the machinations of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s (Ross Scott and Jennnie Dibley) five unmarried daughters (with Rhianne Evelyn-Ross, Orlena Steele-Prior, AmyLea Griffin)  as the women are besotted by the two rich, eligible but status-conscious friends, Mr Bingley (Daniel Csutkai) and Mr Darcy (Andrew Steel).

The characters succumb in many ways to pride and prejudice.   Fourteen actors vividly create the experience of living in 19th century England, detailing the pride which would keep lovers apart, simply because of all the prejudices of the upper classes.

The director of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE successfully found wonderful Sydney-based actors, able to bring each of Jane Austen’s characters alive with charm, charisma, and wit.

The play does focus on class and money, and includes all of Jane Austen’s wry, incisive humour. This superlative and deeply satisfying adaptation, comically exaggerates the characters of Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bingley and Mr. Collins, and with Mrs. Bennet on the verge of hysteria.

Especially memorable is James Belfrage’s portrayal of the obsequious Mr. Collins.

Orlena Steele-Prior stunningly portrays Lizzie, showing her to be thoughtful, witty, ironic, passionate and tender.

Andrew Steel as Darcy has perfectly captured all at once, the complexity of the character, showing his aristocratic refinedness, his shyness and sense of decorum, his disdain, and his underlying passions.

Highly recommended, the Factory Space Theatre Independent Company’s production of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE plays at The Star of the Sea Theatre, Junction of Collingwood and Iluka Streets, Manly, NSW, until Saturday 27th July 2013.

 

RELATIVE MERITS

 RELATIVE MERITS-001

The current production of RELATIVE MERITS is a play about football that everyone should see.  Set in 1989, and first produced at the Stables Theatre in 1993, this twentieth anniversary revival explores homophobia, AIDS and family values at a time when many Australians were first coming to grips with these important issues. However, while this production is clearly set in 1989, the play still speaks loudly and clearly to a contemporary audience. While we have certainly come a long way since 1989, RELATIVE MERITS still has a compelling message for an audience in 2013; surely the current strident opposition to marriage equality is indicative of how many of these attitudes remain unchanged.

This production, starring Jeff Teale as Adam, the homosexual football hero and James Wright as his confused, homophobic brother Clay, explores the very close relationship between the two brothers and brings deep understanding of how their heavily Catholic background has influenced them. Their mother, who never appears on stage, is a powerful representation of the bigotry which still exists in many organised religions, and contributes to our understanding of Adam’s public denial of his homosexuality as well as Clay’s homophobia. Adam’s mourning for his partner is very moving, and Clay’s growing understanding that his love for his brother transcends his earlier prejudice is life affirming.

This production takes place on a very small stage, but the staging choices made by director, Les Solomon, are very effective. Both actors move easily through the audience, thus breaking the fourth wall, which immediately forges a closer connection between the audience and the characters. Clay’s anguish in the hospital scene is powerful, and his unrestrained joy at Mardi Gras is infectious. The fight scene between Adam and Clay is very well executed given the limited space available.

Barry Lowe has written an excellent play which still speaks convincingly to a contemporary audience. This is a didactic piece, but it works so well because it challenges stereotypes and requires the audience to engage with the characters in a very personal way, so that we become intensely involved in their story. Don’t miss this excellent production!

RELATIVE MERITS is playing at the King Street Theatre, corner King and Bray Streets, Newtown for a strictly limited season, Friday and Saturday nights at 10pm and Sundays at 7pm.

 

 

TIGER COUNTY

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A tiger is on the loose in the Southern Highlands, on the outer fringe of Western Sydney.

Ambitious quick juxtaposition of moods, with the constant threat of violence.

Brutally uncompromising tension, with honest strong performances by all the cast, in this realistic and very twisted tale of power games, keeping secrets, betrayal, destructive pleasure, sex and drugs.

Savage “Bogan Christmas” with the three dysfunctional Unwin brothers and their wives.

This terrifying explicit and raw account, shows all the consequences of the unrestrained violence of the Unwin brothers.  Interest is constantly sustained, by the unpredictable responses of each of the characters, and their predatory co-dependency.

The script also achieves laughs from this disturbing story, where the wives are more prey than partners, as it reveals the origins of violence in a family that has a serial killer in its ranks.

The three Unwin brothers, with backpackers missing perhaps eerily similar to Ivan Milat and also brings to mind the 1991 play THE BOYS by Gordon Graham.

Stunning set design of the two tin homes, provides effortless transitions between the two households.

Effective clever bush soundscape, including live music performance.

Matt Stewart truly becomes the manipulative sexually crazed Eddie Unwin, out for Christmas, after doing jail for eight months .

Lara Lightfoot is his young wife Kylie Unwin, nine months pregnant, but must go home to watch her favourite soap THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.

Wade Doolan is Eddie’s younger (and simple) brother Howl Unwin and is completely controlled by his ball-busting wife Karli Evans Rachelle Unwin.

Leighton Cardno is superb as the very creepy Charles (Chuckles) Unwin, who is always prepared to cause trouble.

The director has created a powerful resonance with the vision applied to this production, that comes from sharing the experience of captivating, visceral performances.  The structure of the play is tight, and moves quickly. Highly Recommended.

The Little Spoon Theatre Company’s production of Jonathon Galvin’s TIGER COUNTY plays the Sidetrack Theatre, Addison Road, Marrickville until Saturday July 13, 2013.

 

 

 

THE FORCE OF DESTINY

THE FORCE OF DESTINY

Love, blood, honour, revenge and an obsession with death are the main themes of this long, verbose and at times strangely disturbing work rarely seen here in Sydney.

Set in the mid eighteenth  century , this production is visually dominated by skulls and death – for a lot of the show a giant silver ( reliquary ? ) skull – at times representing Leonora’s hermit cave- is on stage .There’s also a feeling of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘ The Red Masque of Death’ at times , also ‘Phantom of the Opera’ , with the use of the masks .The chorus also ‘play dead’ at times, and there is almost a French Revolution tumbrel like entrance for the gypsy fortune teller Preziosilla (Who can foretell death through her Tarot cards) . And most of the characters are presented as zombie like with white faces and huge dead eyes.  There are also hints of Goya’s and Delacroix’s work.

Musically the production was superb, the singing was outstanding and the orchestra was well led by Andrea Licata.

Our poor, emotionally torn and tortured heroine Leonora was tremendously sung by soprano Svetla Vassileva. It is a huge and difficult role and she handled it superbly, from her opening aria where she is being undressed and changed by her maids (‘Me pellegrina ed orfana – “Exiled and orphaned far from my childhood home”) to the  very sad ending . The sense of ritual and formality is established with Leonora in her very stiff, formal dress in the first scenes.

Riccardo Massi as our hero Don Alvaro is tall and magnificent, a splendid performance .His  ‘La vita è inferno … O tu che in seno agli angeli – “Life is a hell to those who are unhappy….Oh, my beloved, risen among the angels” ‘was glorious . As Don Carlo, Leonora’s brother hell bent on revenge, Jonathan Summers was also terrific (the duet where they ironically swear friendship  after Don Alvaro saves the life of Don Carlo in battle is wonderful ) .

From the opening dramatic chords this production makes a special emphasis and feature of Preziosilla (Rinat Shaham), manipulating and controlling all the events. She is a dynamic, rather sinister presence, a cross between Carmen and Fate, in fine voice (her big production number is  ‘Rataplan , rataplan’ in Act 3 ). However I agree with some of my colleagues who found her constant lurking around at times intrusive and unnecessary.

Special mention must be made of the wonderful singing of Giacomo Prestia as Padre Guardiano, Warwick Fyfe as Fra Melitone, and Kanen Breen as the shifty pedlar, Mastro Trebuco.

The production featured some striking visual effects – from the marvellous front curtain with the Inca like portraits, the huge giant statue of the Madonna, and the glorious chorus and huge amounts of candles for Leonora’s Act1 I aria ‘Sono giunta! … Madre, pietosa Vergine’ in the church. Special mention must be made of the wonderful singing of Giacomo Prestia as  Padre Guardiano, Warwick Fyfe as Fra Melitone, AMD Kanen Breen as Mastro Trebuco.

A testing, chilling production, an exciting way to start this year’s Winter season.

THE FORCE OF DETAILS runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Penrith on  various dates in repertoire until Tuesday 23 July, 2013. Running time 3 hours 45 minutes including 2 intervals

 

 

 

 

AN EVENING WITH BERNADETTE ROBINSON

The wonderful Bernadette Robinson
The wonderful Bernadette Robinson

Ultimately the litmus test for the worth of any performance is the answer given to this question, posed after it, to audience members: “Are you glad you saw it?” In the case of Bernadette Robinson’s show at the Slide Lounge in Sydney, the answer would be a resounding-“Yes!”

Certainly there were a few minor faults. For example, at odd times, for whatever reason, her words were hard to understand, the song she sang for an encore was poorly chosen in that it hardly matched the fame of the songs that preceded it, and the show started half an hour late with no apology being given.

However saying that is to be curmudgeonly. In truth, nothing could dim the quality of her voice and the various ways she put it to use.

Her voice is amazing. It is clear, powerful, warm and has a great range. She can, and does, turn it to singing opera, jazz, blues and popular music at will and with consummate ease. She can, and does, effortlessly change herself from a diva to a torch singer and back to a diva.

In doing this, her acting skills match her vocal ability. Her impressions of Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline and Judy Garland are admirable. Her comic talents are well honed as well, the highlights of her performance being the singing of “I could have danced all night” as it would have been sung by no less than Barbara Streisand, Dolly Parton, Maria Callas, and Shirley Bassey, and showing how Julie Andrews would have sung to a disco beat, both of which are bitingly funny.

To boot, she is a polished entertainer. She was not only at ease on stage, only a metre from the audience, but clearly was enjoying herself. Her choice of songs was perfectly in tune with the audience’s tastes and there was variety in her material. Her back up pianist, Paul Noonan, not only enhanced the delivery of her singing, but was a talent in his own right.

In short, judging by the ovation that came at the end of Bernadette Robinson’s performance, everyone who came to see her was very, very glad that they had.

 

SAY HELLO FIRST

Allan's Review
Joe Kernahan and Danielle Maas in SAY HELLO FIRST

Last Thursday night after wading through the pub patrons and a large group of Morris Dancers, I found my way downstairs to a little gem of a theatre and a little gem of a play.

Danielle Maas and Joe Kernahan displayed an impressive array of performance skills in presenting an enlightening, witty commentary on modern casual, and not so casual, relationships. With its wonderful multi-media set, spontaneous audience involvement and on the button currency, this show delighted the crowd with a laugh every second line.  The writing could be shortened a little perhaps toward the end.

It’s usually a good rule not to linger too long after the denouement or the most dynamic moments in a play. BUT, the impressive thing is that, as writer as well as performer, (devisor, dramaturg…), I’m guessing that Danielle Maas already has that in hand.

Incidentally, the audience is treated on their return to a ‘dress tease’ as tantalising as any of the opposite exercise that you are likely to see! The entire troupe including Jason Langley- Director, Sean Minahan- Set And Costume Designer, Alex Berlage- Lighting Designer, Stephen Penn- AV Designer, Margaret Davis- Dramaturg, Sophie Fairweather- Stage Manager/Performer, supported by the rest of the team,  seem to be a diamond mine of talent to produce such a multi-faceted show.

A final note on Danielle’s performance; actors are taught that Artistic Truth means that the performer doesn’t have to break their heart every night on stage. The audience just has to believe they do.  I was convinced.

SAY HELLO FIRST opened at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Wooloomooloo on Thursday 4th July and runs until Saturday 27th July, 2013.

NT Live: THE AUDIENCE

THE AUDIENCE-001
Richard McCabe (Harold Wilson), Helen Mirren (Queen Elizabeth) and Edward Fox (Winston Churchill). Pic Dave Benett

“If you want to know how it is that the monarchy in this country has survived as long as it has – don’t look to its monarchs. Look to its prime ministers.” THE AUDIENCE

They don’t get much better than this. Along with most of my colleagues I am searching for superlatives to describe THE AUDIENCE, filmed at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

Continue reading NT Live: THE AUDIENCE

SWEET DREAMS: SONGS BY ANNIE LENNOX

Michael Griffiths
Michael Griffiths delivers strong versions of classic Annie Lennox songs

Tucked away behind the elaborate door of 41 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, is an intimate venue called Slide Lounge, host to cabaret, great food and exotic theatre.  Slide is where ‘Broadway meets Burlesque’ and ‘Vaudeville and Vamp spectacularly collide’.  You can book a full dinner or settle for very tasty $8 snacks – stuffed zucchini, mini spring rolls, pear and rocket salad.  Great to see such a vibrant venue thriving.

They are currently hosting the  Annual Slide Cabaret Festival with a different local/international act each night.  I was fortunate to see Michael Griffiths on July 1st in his compassionate and humorous one man show SWEET DREAMS :  SONGS BY ANNIE LENNOX.  Griffiths has collaborated with writer/director Dean Bryant on their previous show IN VOGUE: SONGS OF MADONNA and now SWEET DREAMS.  The upcoming third show of their trilogy on legendary female singer/songwriters will be worth catching.

Griffiths takes the audience into his confidence from the moment he glides onto his piano stool and breaks into the powerful Lennox song “Missionary Man”. He uses eye contact with both lounge and mezzanine and has us laughing at his wicked innuendos.

With a fabulous song list and extracts from Lennox’s rich tales of love lived and lost, we are taken on an emotional rollercoaster.  With the uplifting songs, ’Love Is A Stranger’, ‘Sweet Dreams’ ‘There Must Be An Angel’ and ‘The Miracle of Love’ beautifully and individually arranged by Griffiths, spreading suitable joy, we are taken with equal intensity into Lennox’s darker writings, such as ‘Walking On Broken Glass’, ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’ and a beautiful heart-wrenching version of ‘Diva’.

Having just finished a season of THE JERSEY BOYS, Michael Griffiths is a talent to watch out for.  His professionalism is evident and his presentation of SWEET DREAMS, with his great voice and storytelling skills, cements his place in the cabaret and musical theatre world.

The final  show in Slide’s current Cabaret Festival takes place tomorrow night- Thursday 4th July, when Bernadette Robinson, star of the highly acclaimed SONGS FOR NOBODIES, presents her brand new show, AN EVENING WITH BERNADETTE ROBINSON.

 

 

BOLSHOI’S ROMEO AND JULIET

Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Damir Yusupov
Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Damir Yusupov

With its lavish costumes and superb dancing I see this production as an interesting but a little disappointing introduction to a balletic Romeo and Juliet. Based on Shakespeare’s play this is a revival of the 1978 version Grigorovich created for the Paris Opera Ballet.

This is a rather sparse, somewhat stylized and simplified version of the well known story. Virsaladze’s sets – huge stylized representations of drapery, and a raised platform – remain the same throughout, with the addition of various candelabra, gauze screens… This gives a quite bare and odd feeling to the marketplace scenes as an example, but there are also some very effective shots of Juliet through the texture of the gauze screens.

The wonderful , vibrant Prokofiev score ( excellently played by the Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia under the musical direction of  Andrei Ankhanov ) drives the work which is striving to be more stripped back and  ‘abstract ‘ , to allow for focus on the main theme of Romeo and Juliet’s love . This production purports to try to get to the emotion of the main story…the lady next to me was in tears…not quite the case for me.

Technically the dancing is great. There were some very difficult lifts in the pas de deux.  However whilst the  dancing was extraordinary and especially showcased the men,  it was also repetitive and Grigorovich recycled sections from his ‘Spartacus ‘ ( especially for Tybalt ) and  lots of it was clearly structured to be precisely on the beat of the music.

For some of the big crowd scenes the dancing was shot from above to give an idea of the patterns of the choreography,– a great idea but the line of the microphones were glaringly obvious.

Our Juliet, played by Anna Nikulina, is exquisite. She is dewily radiant and beautiful in the opening scenes when Romeo first sees her and we see here grow to a strong minded, determined woman. (featuring plenty of costume changes ) . There is lots of use of bourree on pointe.

Nikulina has an incredibly long ‘line’ and fabulous control in the adage. She has a very expressive back and there is a fantastic backbend at the start of the ballroom pas de deux that says volumes.

Our passionate Romeo, Alexander Vochkov, is a great dancer however there was no discernible character for him once he has met Juliet.

The couple’s athletic, angular wedding night pas de deux is glorious .Both Romeo and Juliet have sequences using the ‘Ulanova run’, billowing material behind them.

Also rather one note is our Tybalt (Mikhail Lobukhin) who comes across as a wild eyed, menacing and   melodramatic villain. His portrayal can be forgiven because he is such a splendid dancer. Lobukhin has incredible panther-like leaps and corkscrew turns with showy short solos in both the marketplace and ballroom scenes.

In this production Tybalt deliberately stabs Mercutio in the back.  His (double sworded) death with swirling toreador like red cape was dramatic but felt a little contrived.

There is no Benvolio in this production per se but Andrei Bolotin as Mercutio was outstanding. (The musicians with brilliantly fashioned carnival masks ‘played’ his friends and chorus). Teasing , full of life , popular , Bolotin shows off his amazing soft ‘ballon ‘and fleet footwork. The fight scene with Tybalt were tightly choreographed and carried out and the death scene was powerful.

Some more variations from the Bard’s original work sees Juliet’s nurse not attending the wedding, and later we do not find  Juliet  ‘dead in her bed’ but rather her death takes place off stage. As well, this version has a very athletic ‘reunion ‘ pas de deux where the lovers are briefly reunited before their deaths.

The ballet attempts to convey and personify concepts (anger, love, pride and so on), but there are awkward shifts between the abstract  and the concrete, and although excellently acted the dancers don’t seem like real people with whom we can identify in their tumultuous overwhelming passions.  I have to say, I much prefer the Macmillan version.

The Bolshoi Ballet Grigorovich Romeo and Juliet screened at selected arthouse cinemas on the weekend of June 29 & 30.