All posts by Mark Pigott

A memorable part of Mark’s childhood, in Sydney in the sixties, was spent queuing up in George Street to watch the latest movies. Mark remains an avid cinema and theatre goer, and believe that the essentials of great drama remain the same in both ‘'genres'’. Mark’s other interests are photography, cricket and rugby. He is happy to discuss the finer points of swing bowling at any time.

À Ố Làng Phố @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

 

The joyous , playful and athletic À Ố Làng Phố is a truly entertaining and absorbing show. From the dramatic and sparsely lit opening to the extravagant dancing and singing finale this show is constantly entertaining.

As we entered the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House we saw on stage a collection of upturned Vietnamese circular woven boats and heard the sound of the sea. These picturesque boats are found along the coast of Vietnam and produce fond memories for visitors and locals. This was a promising introduction and the subsequent performance lived up to expectations. Continue reading À Ố Làng Phố @ THE JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE

AVENUE Q @ THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY

 

It looks and sounds a lot like Sesame Street but Avenue Q ventures into territory a long way from the cute and snappy songs of a children’s television show. Avenue Q is an R rated musical comedy featuring puppets and human actors with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty. The titles of some of the songs give a good indication of some of the production’s themes. Songs included are “You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You’re Makin’ Love)”, “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today”, “The Internet Is for Porn”, and “If You Were Gay”. The enthusiastic audience clearly enjoyed themselves, laughed throughout the performance and energetically applauded songs and the show.

The fantastic cast sang and danced their way through the catchy numbers. The singing was impressive and the six piece band was equally accomplished. They occasionally drowned each other out and the lyrics were often hard to follow, especially when the singers were at full volume. The understated numbers were much clearer and easier to understand.

The show featured an excellent set, reminiscent of Sesame Street and was well used to create different spaces and avoid set changes.

Some of the material seems a little dated and does not quite hit the mark. The song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” is the most problematic. It is well intentioned but does not recognise that everyone’s experience of racism is not equal and white people do not experience the same systemic problems that other people experience. The song promotes the message that everyone should try to get along but that inherently glosses over entrenched cultural difficulties.

The cast includes Pete Davidson, Laura Dawson, Isaac Downey , Suzanne Chin , Kris Fenessy , Cam Ralph , Miriam Gonzaga , Luka Bozic , Stephanie Gray , Josie Lamb , Hayley Driscoll , and Jake Severino. The production team is director Peter Meredith, musical director Philip Eames and choreographer Laura Beth Wood. The band is made up of Peter Meredith, So Cho, Laura Power, Charlie Snedden, Jason Smith and Danny Bale.

Avenue Q is a North Shore Theatre Company production at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney and runs until 4th May.

SYDNEY COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA

 

Pic by Ben Sanford.

People of Sydney can have a good laugh for the next few weeks as the Sydney Comedy Festival has started and runs until May 19. Gala shows were held at the Sydney Opera giving fourteen acts five minutes each to showcase the amazing talent that has assembled in Sydney. These artists will be performing their full shows in various venues during the festival and there will be comedy to suit a wide variety of tastes.

English comedian Joe Lycett hosted the event and joyfully harassed the front row of the audience. Joe thought the audience member who said he was employed as a service advisor was giving a vague answer and was probably a drug dealer. Venzuelan born Ivan Aristeguieta was grateful that Australia had given him a visa because his country has severely deteriorated since he left. He only wishes that the English he studied before migrating had focused more on Australian English. Scottish comedian Fern Brady squeezed a lot into her five minutes including her battles with homophobic Scottish politicians, smashed avocado and fellatio.

I suspect Phil Wang needs more than five minutes for his style of humour but he had some good observations about accents, forgiving the Japanese and Australian cities. Canadian Mark Forward has a brilliant, understated delivery and has a clever device to get the most out of his jokes. The joys and horrors of raising teenagers is explored by Georgie Carroll. Host Joe Lycett dropped into the program a few times with his charm and witty observations. He kindly warned us when he was going to be repulsive and also threw in some enjoyable audience participation. Continue reading SYDNEY COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA

ALLY AND THE POLYMORPHIC ORKESTRA – A DOUBLE BILL @ LAZYBONES

 

Opening the evening was ALLY, a six piece jazz ensemble that blends Afro-Peruvian music and jazz to create an interesting mix of African rhythms, Latin melodies and modern jazz sensibilities. A creative music venue like Lazybones is a great space to explore an innovative blends of different musical backgrounds within a jazz framework.

The rhythm section of Stamatis Valacos on double bass, Giorgio Rojas and Steve Marin on percussion set up a great platform for the rest of the band to perform their solos and improvisations. Jonathan Cohen on piano is often part of the rhythm section but also performs solos and melodies that make a real statement and he has interesting interactions with Eamon Dilworth on trumpet and Gai Bryant on saxophones and flute .

Original compositions by Jonathan Cohen, Eamon Dilworth and Gai Bryant in South American styles such as bomba and cha cha cha featured. Eamon Dilworth’s Fibanacci was an extravagant number and the band sounded bigger than its six pieces. An un-named song early in the set featured Gai Bryant on flute and Steve Marin treated us to a cowbell solo. Jonathan Cohen’s Descarguita was a tribute to Herbie Hancock and fittingly contained an excellent saxophone solo. Continue reading ALLY AND THE POLYMORPHIC ORKESTRA – A DOUBLE BILL @ LAZYBONES

EISHAN ENSEMBLE @ OLD 505

 

Eishan Ensemble’s excellent performance at Venue 505 in Surry Hills blended Persian and Western musical traditions in an exciting and impressive way. Their music does not fit into any customary genre but Persian infused jazz could be one label. Persian-Australian musician and composer, Hamed Sadeghi, is the lead of the ensemble. He plays classical Persian instruments the tar and the oud and is accompanied by some first-rate musicians: Pedram Layegh on classical guitar, Michael Avgenicos on saxophone, Elsen Price on double bass and Adem Yilmaz on percussion.

Persian music traditionally has improvisation at its core and combining with jazz musicians and their conventions allows Eishan Ensemble to take advantage of this and create harmonious and fascinating music. Hamed explained that Eishan means “these guys” and that he feels fortunate to be playing with these guys. Judging by their response the audience at Venue 505 felt fortunate to be in the presence of these guys. Continue reading EISHAN ENSEMBLE @ OLD 505

THE CHOIR OF MAN @ THE STUDIO

 

Blokes singing in a pub, some good banter, a bit of tap dancing, some practical jokes and the playing a few musical instruments sounds like a great night out. The infectious bonhomie of this show is hard to resist. Added to this are their delightful harmonies, a pleasing balance of voices and free beer. Before the show the audience is encouraged to walk up to the bar on stage and grab a beer. Again, this is hard to resist.

The narrator weaves together a story about the merits of an intimate local watering hole, the benefits of friendship with diverse characters, and some references to their partners so that they can launch into some superb arrangements of popular songs such as Queen’s Somebody to Love, The Pina Colada Song, The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset and The Impossible Dream.

With the help of some participation from a talented lady chosen from the audience their rendition of Eagle-Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight is one of the funniest songs of the night. The line “So take this wine and drink with me” helped to continue the alcohol infused evening’s theme.

Just as I was beginning to think these nine men from UK are a choir that have added some dialogue and choreography they took out their instruments and played guitar, piano, banjo, trumpet, ukulele, melodica and drums. It’s a more dynamic show than a straight choral performance and features some very talented artists.

THE CHOIR OF MAN, brilliantly directed by Nic Doodson is a fun show and is highly recommended. The audience was clapping and cheering, up on their feet and having a great time. THE CHOIR OF MAN is playing the Studio at The Sydney Opera House until 7th April, 2019.

 

ELYSIAN FIELDS CD LAUNCH @ THE FOUNDRY

 

To say the least, an electric viola da gamba is an uncommon instrument. Consequently, I had little preconception of what Thursday’s CD launch would entail. The simple answer is that it is all about exceptionally creative and innovative music and extraordinarily skilful performers that display their considerable talents with complex and intriguing compositions.

Jenny Eriksson’s electric viola da gamba is at the heart of Elysian Fields and she is joined by the impressive contributors: pianist Matt McMahon, saxophonist Matt Keegan, vocalist and violinist Susie Bishop, bass guitarist Siebe Pogson and Dave Goodman on drums. Their diverse backgrounds might seem at odds but it is fascinating how the classical, baroque, jazz and folk sensibilities can complement each other when the compositions, arrangements and skills of the musicians are all of such a high standard. The delicate interplay of styles and the impeccable harmonies are some of the features that make this unlikely mixture very entertaining and enriching. Continue reading ELYSIAN FIELDS CD LAUNCH @ THE FOUNDRY

MARY COUGHLAN AT FOUNDRY 616

 

MARY COUGHLAN showcased her marvelous and versatile voice at Foundry616 with an eclectic mix of original songs and cover versions. She explained that sometimes she is called a jazz singer, a blues singer and even a folk singer. She used some strong vernacular to express her feelings about being described as a folk singer, albeit delivered with her Irish charm and humour. Opening with Meet Me Where They Play the Blues, a slow and sultry original, followed with the folksy Double Cross, and later a slow version of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and a mellow rendition of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind should give some idea of her versatility.                                    Continue reading MARY COUGHLAN AT FOUNDRY 616

ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET @ THE FOUNDRY 616

 

We are in Foundry 616 on Valentine’s Day and being serenaded by the ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET with its heady mix of jazz, classical and Armenian influences. Drums and percussion are duelling away. The tenor sax is wailing like a snake charmer, the double bass drives the jazz rhythms and Zela’s piano permeates the room with passion.     Continue reading ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET @ THE FOUNDRY 616

THE REST I MAKE UP : A CHARMING AND INTERESTING FILM

 

“Being an artist you have to abandon any notion of things making sense.” Maria Irene Fornes makes this comment late in the film despite living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is fascinating to observe Fornes’ openness, thoughtful insights and observations and this is despite of her severely diminished memory. Her sister observes that she may have diminished memory capacity but her feelings are intact and her personality exists in these feelings.

Maria Irene Fornes is either described as “the greatest writer you’ve never heard of” or dismissed as “Susan Sontag’s ex-lover”. A founder of Off-Off-Broadway experimental theatre, Fornes is known as ‘Mother Avant garde’ in the Off-Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre world.

When writer and director Michelle Memran realised dementia was causing the once-prolific playwright’s faltering productivity, she began filming their time together. She asks Fornes about no longer writing and she replies that talking to camera is like writing. This film is recorded over several years and is really a collaboration between Memran and Fornes, one mostly holding a camera and asking questions and the other creating stories and making wonderful playful observations. One of Memran’s frequent lines is “tell me a story.” On one occasion Memran uses this line as two small boats pass by and Fornes launches into a simple and charming tale. On another occasion Fornes confuses her original meeting with Memran to the time she first met Susan Sontag. Continue reading THE REST I MAKE UP : A CHARMING AND INTERESTING FILM

TUESDAY : FUNNY, WRY AND INSIGHTFUL

 

TUESDAY is funny, wry and insightful. Its astute observations of four slightly malfunctioning characters make this a worthwhile reason to visit Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre.

There are four characters delivering a series of brief monologues. They reveal their thoughts and make observations about their lives and occurrences on this reasonably mundane Tuesday. All the characters have a fascinating discord between their view of themselves and their actual behaviours that they reveal as they go about their day. It is the classic inconsistency between the view from within and the view from without and it is brilliantly observed by playwright Louris van de Geer. Continue reading TUESDAY : FUNNY, WRY AND INSIGHTFUL