All posts by Allan Chapple

Allan Chapple has done over three thousand performances, including the series director in 2005 Tele movie ''Dynasty – Behind the Scenes'', two thirds of which involved singing, and has produced a dozen or more dramatic and comic plays, 2 full scale musicals, 6 theatre restaurant shows, 20 pantomimes and children’s shows, 2 short films and written and directed some 60 corporate and training videos. He has taught acting for TV and Film at Ensemble Studios as well as acting for theatre at Brent Street and many other schools, and corporate communication skills for many top leaders in the public and private sectors.

ARMS AND THE MAN @ DEPOT THEATRE MARRICKVILLE

This enduring classic from George Bernard Shaw was first produced in 1895 at the Playhouse Theatre. And almost exactly a year ago the STC mounted a production at the Opera House, directed by Richard Cotterill. But with all their lavish set and costumes I doubt they would have bested this little gem of a show at the Depot Theatre in Marrickville last night.

This is all the more remarkable considering the difference in venue and budget and the fact that for the latter part of the rehearsal period the director, Linda Beattie, was taken ill and the cast had to step to bring themselves and the production to opening night performance level! Indeed when I heard of Ms Beattie’s misfortune just prior to curtain up I was filled with misgivings about what I was to see. I need not have worried. This game little group of troupers delivered a delightful rendition of GBS’ masterful script that skipped along at a cracking pace. 

The cast were all very good with stand out performances from Jodine Muir as RAINA, Amrik Tumber as CAPTAIN BLUNTSCHLI, (especially laudable considering his comparative lack of ‘runs on the boards), and Angelina Andrews as LOUKA. (I challenged her not giving me a chocolate before the show as she circulated in character just to see what she would do – but, as always, experience will out!) Thus Will Reilly’s SERGIUS was delicious and Nicholas Gledhill, Denise Kitching and Ross Scott were all tasteful as the PETKOFF Household. There were no weak links and the ensemble cast were a credit to undoubtedly good early direction from Linda Beattie!

The costumes were more than adequate. The rather limited sets were reflective of obvious budget constraints although the furniture looked nice and the lighting and incidental music were fine under the circumstances.

This wonderful example of George Bernard Shaw using farce to examine the foibles of war and vain society in the late 19th century has always been one of my very favourite theatre pieces. This presentation was handled deftly with a light touch. Well done! Very enjoyable.

The Depot Theatre, rising out of the site of the old Sidetrack Theatre from the proud efforts of Julie Baz and David Jeffrey, is a worthy example of rebirth and rejuvenation. Long may it prosper!

ARMS AND THE MAN at The Depot Theatre, Marrickville 21st – 24th September.

WE WILL ROCK YOU @ LYRIC THEATRE, THE STAR

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During early acting classes we were taught to critique performances objectively. Sure they won us but how/ what are the elements, the ingredients that made such a treat? Not easy when you’re talking about the music of Queen and an excitement quotient offs the scale!

My introduction to Queen was their third album Sheer Heart Attack in 1974. And I was lucky enough to see the London production of WE WILL ROCK YOU and the bar was set pretty high. Until last Wednesday night it was one of my very favourite performances! Continue reading WE WILL ROCK YOU @ LYRIC THEATRE, THE STAR

THE 5TH WAVE

5TH WAVE

Event Cinemas in George Street  was abuzz with this exciting preview of Sony Pictures’ THE 5th WAVE as I dutifully joined the queue of almost exclusively young people for “phone cloaking”, (my first experience of this but a great idea), before being allowed to take a seat. I turned to two of student age and asked whence they came; “We’re from Bangladesh.” “That’s nice. But were you just sent an invite or did you enter a competition, or…?”  “Yes. We won a competition.” And the queue moved on.

Inside the cinema I checked with another couple sitting beside me. “Yeah. We entered a competition on Facebook and we both won! I just hope they don’t spend too much time dealing with young romance.” (They didn’t. But more about that later.) Then there was a brief intro from a young host from Dymocks Publishing who awarded gift packs for first correct answers to a quiz about the young adult novel by Rick Yancey  from which the movie was made and we were off on our adventure. Continue reading THE 5TH WAVE

SECRETS @ THE FAMOUS SPIEGELTENT HYDE PARK

Photographer  Prudence Upton captures the great atmosphere conjured up by the show SECRETS currently playing in the famous Spiegeltent.
Photographer Prudence Upton captures the great atmosphere conjured up by the current show SECRETS.

Sydney Festival is quickly earning a worldwide reputation as unmissable and this quirky, cheeky, flagrant, even luscious presentation is yet another reason this is so.

The first throaty nuanced vocals from  American Conceptualist/ Singer Claron McFadden promised an intimate insight into the foibles and eccentricities of ordinary people from across the world. Her promise is fulfilled as she treated  us to little tales that ranged from a cute pet goldfish requiem right up to tragic and traumatic suicidal admittances that made the audience uncomfortably close to voyeuristic accomplices. But just like the ‘rubber-necking’ motorists queuing slowly past an accident, we were ‘engaged’ and begged for more. Continue reading SECRETS @ THE FAMOUS SPIEGELTENT HYDE PARK

Royal Shakespeare Company presents Gregory Doran’s production of Henry V

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What a wonderful new innovation this is by the RSC, bringing all the atmosphere of this famous Stratford venue of  Shakespeare’s productions to a whole new range of audiences who may not otherwise have the opportunity!

We start our viewing with an introduction from the director, Gregory Doran, the RSC’s current Artistic Director, setting the scene. This is the first production of Henry V he has staged and he contends that no other of the Bard’s plays has been so appropriated.

Lawrence Olivier produced his film of the play in 1944 as England prepared for the Normandy Landing, was told by Winston Churchill that it needed to lift the morale of the population. He subsequently shortened the script by 1,700 lines, taking out any negative things said about the king! Doran: “It was needed to be a piece of patriotic jingoism, if you like.”

Ever since, the play has often been presented in a time of crisis: Peter Hall’s production in the early 1960’s, while anti Vietnam War demonstrations were going on, Kenneth Branagh’s in 1984, at the height of the Falklands Crisis. It’s a barometer of the public mood towards war.

This time around, although it’s the 600th Anniversary of the actual Battle of Agincourt, there  isn’t a particular war going on. So we can look at the play without feeling we have to be partisan about war itself. Doran again: “Now it’s a study of how Henry grows into his role of Warrior King. His relationship to God is very interesting. I know of no other Shakespearean character who mentions God as much.”

Henry’s  quest as a warrior king does not come lightly but at the cost of many lives of ordinary men, sons of “fathers of war proof” who, as we see in the play, are not necessarily as imbued with the need to conquer as their king. Professor James Shapiro attests that Shakespeare was very attuned to current events and good at incorporating popular mores into his plays. “What’s extraordinary about this play is how he has included all the voices across society from those in power, those challenging or rebelling against this power, to those pro war or against or those just doing what they’re told.”

In 1599, at the end of Elizabeth the First’s reign when this play was written, England was in the middle of the Nine Year War with Ireland. A year earlier the Earl of Essex was dispatched to relieve the garrison at Armargh. His force was destroyed but at that time in England one in fifty men was conscripted. Shapiro: “You can feel the play resting on the tectonic plates of this fraught cultural and social moment.  …it makes you feel the fear in the streets of London.”

We also hear from Alex Hassell who plays Henry, who previously performed as Hal in Henry IV Parts I & II. In his opinion the play is an account of how the young Prince Hal copes with being thrust into the awful position of power upon the death of his father; leaving behind the  influence of Falstaff and  the “gadding about’  and excessive lifestyle, deciding “who to trust” in taking up the legacy of regaining the lands in France lost to his forebears.

Hassell commented, “I think it’s important to allow a character to grow during the time of the play rather than see how the character ends up and play that from the beginning.”

Unfortunately, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, although I have no doubt Alex Hassell’s delivery style suited young Prince Hal, he seemed not to develop the gravitas needed as the Warrior King. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” I’m afraid sounded more like a fearful schoolboy trying to banish terror by giving himself a good pep talk than one of the most inspirational speeches in literature, guaranteed to “conjure up the blood”.

We also heard from Oliver Ford Davies who played a charming Chorus: “The Chorus has three characteristics: he narrates, tells the story. But at the beginning it’s a plea to the audience to forgive the inadequacies of staging. Then, third, he is the “unreliable narrator”; a device whereby Shakespeare gives us the unofficial history, contending that war is perhaps more complex than the official history books will tell you.” This Chorus  is a warm, kindly,  likeable figure whose plea or instructions you would be heartless to deny.

The production generally is a lot of fun. Even before the first famous line: “OH, for a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention!…” there is humour. As the Chorus wanders on stage and picks up the King’s crown, supposedly carelessly left on the throne, Hassell strides on and takes it from him, throws a look at the audience, then strides off – to the audience’s delight.

The production features lusty performances from the entire cast, with stand out scenes full of slapstick and wit to suit all tastes as the Bard intended, from Antony Byrne playing Auncient Pistol, Sarah Parks  playing Mistress Nell Quickly, Martin Bassindale playing Robin the Luggage-Boy, (played by Christian Bale in Kenneth Branagh’s film, Robert Gilbert playing Louis the Dauphin and especially Jane Lapotaireas as Queen Isobel and Jennifer Kirby, as Princess Katherine de Valois.

After the Battle of Agincourt is fought and won, (sounds easy when you say it quickly!) the light relief we crave is very ably and enjoyably provided again with wit and nonsense involving Pistol and Captain Llewellyn. Then follows a wonderful tortured scene from Queen Isobel as she decries the loss of peace in France; “Alas, she has too long been chased.” (which turns out to be extremely apt and poignant given the events of Black Friday 13th 2015!).

Then, ironically, Mr Hassell seems more comfortable in the ‘unanswered love’ scene with Katherine,  playing the fumbling King out of his comfort zone with faltering French, trying to win her love.

Everything about this production is quite delightful, notwithstanding my reservations about Mr Hassell’s performance.  The staging and costumes, the live Medieval style accompanying music, (although I would have liked to hear them a little more), and the lusty performances make it a  noble effort  worthy of the  iconic RSC,  and is guaranteed to  “..bend up every spirit to his full height!”

Recommended. Cinemagoers can see this Royal Shakespeare production of the Bard’s HENRY V PARTS 1 AND 2  when it screens at the Palace Verona and Norton Street cinemas. Screening times of the film for both cinemas are Saturday 21 November and Sunday 22 November at 1pm.

Hugh Jackman Announces Broadway To Oz Arena Tour This November and December

HUGH JACKMAN
Images of one of our greatest exports Hugh Jackman. Featured pic courtesy of AFP

A large Sydney Media Scrum, print, electronic and online are  summoned to the Grand Ballroom, Four Seasons Hotel, George Street, Sydney  12.30 setup for a 12.45 start. Hugh’s wife, Debra Lee-Furness and their daughter, Eva, arrive at the same time as the choir and music director file onstage. The choir sing an ascending, non descript cadence, but we can’t be fooled.

Right on cue, cameras swivel and lights flash as the unmistakable voice enters through the audience: ”I’ve been to cities that never close down …”, and we’re off into a rousing rendition of Peter Allen’s “I Still Call Australia Home”.

The consummate showman, Golden Globe, Emmy and Tony Award winner, then announces that he is returning home to Australia in November and December for a five-city arena concert tour – BROADWAY TO OZ – which is based on his smash hit and sold out Broadway show, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway.      Continue reading Hugh Jackman Announces Broadway To Oz Arena Tour This November and December

Of Mice And Men @ The Reginald Theatre Seymour Centre

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Adapted  in 1937, by  Nobel prize–winning author John Steinbeck from his novella written the same year, this wonderful play tells  the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced ranch workers in California, searching for a job during  the Great Depression.  The title comes from Robert Burns perhaps most used  quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”

You know from the start that this complementary friendship between the intelligent but uneducated George and the gentle, developmentally challenged  giant, Lennie is headed inexorably toward disaster. (The term ‘politically correct’ was not invented in 1937 and Steinbecks’ novella attracted a lot of criticism for using words like “Dumb”  and Nigger!).

Dread and trepidation accompanied me as I took my seat last night in the Reginald Theatre down the stairs  at the Selmour Centre. The idea of not controlling our destiny was echoed again in the program note about, “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

The moment we stepped into the theatre space we saw a very natural relaxed character playing slide guitar blues in the style of a panhandler  straight out of the great depression. Then the unlikely pair of road travellers, George and Lennie, enter and put us at ease naturally with nicely crafted characters, regular humour and warmth that transported us with them to the promised land of the farm up ahead and the possibility of their own little ‘passle’ of land, a safe haven where Lennie can stay out of trouble and George can relax.

The stage then erupts with raucous farm hands transforming the space into the bunkhouse to the accompaniment of that natural guitar again and we know that we’re in good hands- but  it’s gonna be a bumpy ride to drama and pain!

The cast are superb in every role. Andrew Henry delivers a sensitive characterisation of Lennie, a role which  it  would be so easy to overplay and lose empathy. Anthony Gooley is a wonderful, caring George. (I saw those tears at the end.)

Anna Houston  was  captivating  as Curley’s plaintive desperate wife. Andre de Vanny played Curly, a villain to hate and Christopher Stollery played Slim, a solid support for George when needed.

John McNeil, Laurence Coy, Terry Serio, Charles Allen and Tom Stokes were all splendid and natural in character and performance. I make no apologies for reusing the word ‘natural’  to describe everything about this outstanding production.

We saw a simple but effective design from Michael Hankin,  (I loved his design of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels),  enhanced by the lighting design from Sian James Holland and Nate Edmondson.

Iain Sinclair’s direction elevated this classic script  to  unusual  heights, the use of naturally occurring  sound in the background created atmosphere, and the audience’s commitment was palpable. I heard sighs and gasps at all the right times.

The last scene led to nearly half a minute of stunned silence, then the rapturous applause exploded. Then we all trooped out, moved but satisfied .. naturally.

A Sport for Jove production, Jon Steinbeck’s OF MICE AND MEN is playing the Reginald theatre at the Seymour Centre until the 1st August.

A TOUCH OF WINTER MAGIC COMING UP @ THE PADDINGTON RSL CLUB

Kirribilli Choir 4.1
The Kirribilli Choir

BlackbirdThey say that music soothes the savage beast and warms the heart. And the therapeutic strength of the human voice is well documented. So, in one of our coldest winters, we are ready to weave a little hypnotic magic, care of some wonderful choir music.

The BONDI SINGS COMMUNITY CHOIR, with their much loved arrangements in many styles from classical to gospel, jazz standards and contemporary pop music, will be heading a night celebrating the power of the human voice, joined by BLACKBIRD, an engaging vocal/guitar duo who will captivate with their  unique arrangements of popular songs, THE KIRRIBILLI 4, an outstanding guitar quartet, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER CHOIR Continue reading A TOUCH OF WINTER MAGIC COMING UP @ THE PADDINGTON RSL CLUB

Hot Shoe Shuffle @ The Bryan Brown Theatre Bankstown

Birdie Productions - Hot Shoe Shuffle - Grant Leslie

HOT SHOE SHUFFLE at the Bryan Brown Theatre – an illustrious show by David Atkins and Max Lambert- at a venue with an illustrious name. Both were enhanced last night by a pearl of a performance, a reinvention of this wonderful show with an enthusiastic young cast led by an equally enthusiastic old hand in the person of Mr Daryl Somers OAM!

Somers takes the opportunity to thank Rod Bertram of  Birdie Productions for the invitation to appear in this show. And if you’ve ever wondered how this worthy recipient of 30 Logies, 3 of them Gold, and an Order of Australia Medal for service to the Television and entertainment industries, with over 40 years experience in TV and Theatre spends his time currently, then worry no more. Celebrate a charming, sparkling performance amid this vital and talented group of performers! Continue reading Hot Shoe Shuffle @ The Bryan Brown Theatre Bankstown

Jerry and Tom @ The Exchange Hotel

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Production photos by GiGee Photography

The director, Maggie Scott welcomed me  last Thursday night to a delightful little venue, the Craftsman Bar within Balmain’s Exchange Hotel. I took my seat to settle in for ninety odd minutes of something a little different in the arena of comedy.

Rick Cleveland, the writer of this quirky little one-act play, happened to be working at a “mob run comedy club in Ohio”, (shades of  “The Sopranos”, a confessed favourite of Maggie’s; she even used the TV show’s theme music). Surprise! He later learns that a couple of his friends are hitmen, convicted of murder. This of course prompts a script about the almost causal tendencies of people with a ‘very specific skill set’! Continue reading Jerry and Tom @ The Exchange Hotel

Short and Sweet Voices Gala Final @ The Chatswood Concourse

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Inset pic- The group Sista. Pic Geoff Sirmai. Featured pic- Group shot. Pic- Sylvi Soe

The SHORT and SWEET, VOICES Festival Coordinator, Lenore Robertson,(singer, chorister, director) confided to me that she saw music as very therapeutic and often inspiring, especially: “…sitting in the audience and watching the faces. It’s about sharing the joy of singing!

Last night’s Gala Final was a feast of auditory delight, a love fest for devotees of choral excellence or just GP audients ready to have their ears treated to a wonderful variety of choirs, vocal ensembles and barbershop quartets.          

Continue reading Short and Sweet Voices Gala Final @ The Chatswood Concourse