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.

THE LOST LOST CABARET BY THE CHOO CHOO TROUPE

 

 

As Mr Cheesehead introduced the show you know you are in for fun night. The huge wedge of fake cheese on the character’s head is a bit of an indication that there is no need to take things too seriously. The Lost Lost Cabaret was performed in a small upstairs bar at The Forresters Hotel and the audience contained vocal and enthusiastic fans of cabaret. The artists encouraged and responded well to the audience, adding to the fun of the evening.

The first guest is a flamboyant juggler Daniel Gorski. He jokes and horses around through his routine with his uncle’s collection of boxes and eventually displays some impressive juggling skills. The next act was Richard P Dick, playing a character reminiscent of Roberto Benigni as Leopoldo Pisanello in To Rome with Love. Sherriff Ian Nottaham espoused the joys of veganism and peoples’ reaction to it. He charmingly encouraged the audience to sing along about becoming comfortably vegan. Heidi Hilliard entertained the crowd performing a magic routine with metal rings to the sound of The Motels Total Control, an excellent song to choose. A highlight of the night was The Whalerider, an extraordinary routine performed with whale song. The audience quickly learnt to sing in whale and enthusiastically participated. Irish Steve completed the evening with an amusing meditation class, something rarely encountered in cabaret. Steve also provided musical accompaniment for the evening and technical support.

Cast includes Debbie Zukerman, Mads Clove, Joel Anderson, Steve Meagher, Heidi Hillier, Duckie L’Orange and Daniel Gorski.

The Forresters Hotel, corner of Foveaux & Riley St, Surry Hills. The area is a little enclave of pubs and restaurants a short stroll from Central Station. This was The Choo Choo Troupe’s last show at this venue this year. If you are looking for some fun entertainment keep an eye out for this ensemble.

DEADHOUSE: TALES OF SYDNEY MORGUE – LOUISA COLLINS: A POISON CROWN

DEADHOUSE: TALES OF SYDNEY MORGUE – LOUISA COLLINS: A POISON CROWN

A POISON CROWN by GINA SCHIEN is one of the plays in a season titled DEADHOUSE, TALES OF SYDNEY MORGUE showing in the hauntingly atmospheric Crypt underneath St James’ Church. The story is intriguing, the issues are thoughtfully presented, the location is wonderful and the array of diverse characters makes for some excellent entertainment.

A POISON CROWN is the tale of the trial in 1888 of Louisa Collins for the murder of her husband. To be precise it is the tale of the four trials in 1888 of Louisa Collins for the murder of her two husbands.  Louisa was the last woman hanged in NSW after an all-male jury found her guilty of poisoning both men. The case caused outrage and conflict. On one hand it was seen as inappropriate to hang a woman, especially one found guilty by all-male jury in a jurisdiction where women did not have the vote. Not being able to vote for politicians that advocated the abolition of the death penalty was further point of outrage. An alternative position was taken by politicians taking a strong law and order approach. Who would think that 130 years ago conservative politicians claimed that they would use the full force of the law against these terrible criminals? It seems little has changed.

The Crypt underneath St James’ Church is a perfect venue for A POISON CROWN. The low ceilings, the vaulted tunnels, exposed sandstone and the side rooms are fascinating in themselves and this is further enhanced by the clever use of lighting, stunning costumes and props. Rather than change the scenery on stage the audience is taken to various parts of the crypt. This adds to the authenticity of the experience and makes the audience feel involved and watching the actual events, such as the trial, the police investigation and debates in parliament.

Performances from the large cast performing various roles are very good. Kyla Ward as the narrator, Jacqui Robson as the anguished Louisa Collins and Chris Miller as the deteriorating defence lawyer are very impressive.

A POISON CROWN opened Thursday, 25th October and runs until 9th November.

Executive Producer Stephen Carnell Producers Amanda Asquith and Michael Dengler Writer Gina Schien Director Liviu Monsted Production Design Chevy O’Hanlon Sound and Lighting Design Mehran Mortezaei Costumes Susan Carveth (Genesian Theatre) and Sarah Jane Freeman (The Clothes Library) Make-Up Dale Smoothy  Props Lew McDonnell Stage Managers Farlie Goodwin and Pierce Nicholson Assistant Stage Managers Aaron Smith, Ella Drinkwater, Meagan Fitzpatrick Photography Phyllis Wong 

Cast David Attrill, Sandra Campbell, Christopher Daw, Steve Donelan, Joanna Eve, Shaun Foley, Jordan Gallegos, Mary-Anne Halpin, Wendi Lanham, Steve Maresca, Chris Miller, Liviu Monsted, Jacqui Robson, Alex Smith, Kyla Ward and Gregory J Wilken.

 

Coconut Collective Clan

Coconut Collective Clan

The award winning Coconut Collective Clan is a 2019 Sydney Fringe event being held City Tattersalls Club, the hub for this year’s festival. The Coconut Collective Clan has some good ideas and proposes an interesting scenario. There is a religion on a Pacific island that believes coconuts are the physical portal to the divine spirit. They worship the coconut and only eat and drink coconuts. This is not a thriving religion and their numbers are dwindling. We meet the possibly only surviving members, played by Shannon Maugham, Jennifer Laycock and Johanna Lyon. These three performers are the driving force behind the production.

The CCC considers some deep and significant philosophical ideas. Some of these ideas are the nature and ethos of religions and cults and the significance of an enigmatic leader, meditation when coupled with deprivation, and how a manifesto takes on a power beyond its words and ideas. The CCC looks at the dynamics of small group relationships in an isolated community, the clash between capitalism and traditional existences, global warming and well-meaning but misguided therapists.

The show includes humour, music and dance to give the audience a variety of experiences before the narrative takes a few dark and macabre twists.

The Fringe Festival is a great showcase of creative talent and it gives young artists an opportunity to test their ideas, skills and talent with a live audience. I felt this production needed some work and re-writing but it does have potential to be very interesting and entertaining. It did take out the People’s Choice Award & Best Actor at the Short + Sweet Queensland Festival. There is an audience out there for the Coconut Collective Clan.

The Coconut Collective Clan is a 2019 Sydney Fringe event being held City Tattersalls Club until 29th September.

 

 

TIMES ARE HARD FOR DREAMERS

Dreaming to be Nikki Webster singing the national anthem at the Sydney Olympic Games or Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music were some of the early drivers for Nyssa Milligan. Having a mother prone to bursting into full operatic outbursts of Brahms, Handel or Wagner steered her to make the big leap from singing to cows on the family dairy farm to studying opera in Sydney. However the distractions of Kings Cross karaoke bars, pop music and inner city jazz venues threw her dreams into disarray.

Nyssa Milligan tells her story and sings selections from these diverse genres in her entertaining show, TIMES ARE HARD FOR DREAMERS , at The Newsagency in Annandale, as part of The Sydney Fringe Festival. Songs performed include the title song ‘Times Are Hard for Dreamers’ (from Amélie the musical by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen), John Fogerty’s ‘Proud Mary’ and Melody Gardot’s ‘Your Heart Is as Black as Night’. Her operatic renditions of various pop songs were very amusing. Nyssa’s great voice wonderfully covers all these styles plus classical opera and especially cabaret, the style she eventually realised was her true calling. Nyssa is excellently accompanied by pianist Robert Bertram.

The songs are connected with humorous banter and stories of small rural farms and towns. There is some audience participation to help us connect with our inner cow and to allow Nyssa to relax. The story about how ambitions developed over her life to date and including her fabulous failures and massive mistakes is well told and gives Nyssa an opportunity to display her versatile voice and perform a well-chosen collection of songs.

TIMES ARE HARD FOR DREAMERS  took place was at the cosy and friendly The Newsagency in Annandale on Wednesday, September 25th, 2019.

 

SMART GIRL’S GUIDE : THE SELF HELP CABARET

 

Kelly Goddard offers her insights into the pursuit of happiness in her show at The Newsagency in Annandale. With cabaret you are often presented with a variety of songs with a story linking them together. With Smart Girls Guide you are given the added dimension of some life coaching and some pearls of wisdom from Oprah and from Kelly’s collection of self-help books. Kelly’s voice fills the room and also has a lovely tone when singing softly. She covers a variety of styles including the belted out song typical of modern musicals and also boogie woogie, blues and pop music.

Kelly has lots of fun along the way as she describes her teenage romances with, among others, Orlando Bloom and a hapless fourteen year old named Harry. Poor Harry wrote a repetitive letter swearing to love and love her for ever and ever and ever which Kelly has turned into a humorous and memorable song.

Another brief romance is introduced with the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from Cinderella, Ten Minutes Ago, before the relationship turns sour and Kelly responds with a song in which she wants to punch him in the face, pull out all his hair and see him die.

The self-improvement advice continues with a mocking of meditation tapes. We are encouraged to “just feel the nonsense flow out” before the dialogue descends into a farcical exaggeration of the type of language found on these tapes and apps.

Kelly’s powerful voice and self deprecating humour keeps the show bouncing along until a dark and sombre twist explores a very serious topic. It reminded me of the switch that Hannah Gadsby threw in her show ‘Nanette’. SMART GIRLS GUIDE  does return to more upbeat material with a rousing rendition of Carole King’s Beautiful. The show features excellent musical direction by Nicholas Griffin

Smart Girls Guide is an entertaining show and is recommended. It plays at Annandale’s The Newsagency as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival until September 21st, 2019.

 

ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET @ BANKSTOWN ARTS CENTRE

 

The ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET played at Bankstown Arts Centre as part of SOUNDLANDS: art music in the suburbs. The Bankstown Arts Centre is located in an area of strong Vietnamese influence with many Vietnamese restaurants, hair and beauty salons, fish shops, butchers, fruit shops, and variety stores.  The contrast between the Asian influenced location and the Middle Eastern and jazz influenced music is very pronounced. The location and the music are both fascinatingly exotic. Zela’s music is a brilliant mixture of improvised, classical and Armenian influences. The eclectic backgrounds of the musicians come to the fore in this fascinating fusion of styles and influences.

Zela was born in Beirut of Armenian heritage, studied classical piano and then made her way to Sydney and became immersed in jazz. These diverse influences meld together seamlessly as the band played a mixture of original compositions, and covers of some classical Armenian pieces. Continue reading ZELA MARGOSSIAN QUINTET @ BANKSTOWN ARTS CENTRE

CELEBRITY THEATRESPORTS 2019

Enmore Theatre hosted the fun night of improvisational comedy that was Celebrity Theatresports. The performers brought their skills to Sunday night’s entertainment and fundraiser for CanTeen, the charity supporting young people affected by cancer.

In Theatresports teams of four improvise a short scenario in which they display their comedic and acting skills and earn points towards becoming the evening’s winner. This creates scenes where the audience learns about teaching orangutans to play table tennis, interior decorators dealing with a house without a bathroom, a mining protest can lead to an unusual love story and a school reunion is a lot like a room full of animals. Continue reading CELEBRITY THEATRESPORTS 2019

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