Sydney Festival 2019

THE NUTCRACKER AND I : A SUBLIME AND ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE

 

The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu, with ballerina Désirée Ballantyne, animations by Yeast Culture, and choreography by Jenna Lee. Photo by Mark Allen

Blending a piano rendition of Tchaikovky’s romantic melodies with 35,000 digital images and a live ballerina THE NUTCRACKER AND I produces a purely enjoyable and magical creation. Having both a world renowned concert pianist and ballerina performing against constantly changing colourful backgrounds and characters is a sublime and enchanting experience.

The production of THE NUTCRACKER AND I is quite beautiful but an unusual format. Images are projected onto a see-through black gauze screen at the front of the stage. Pianist Alexandra Dariescu and ballerina Désirée Ballantyne are illuminated behind the screen. The images tell the classical Nutcracker story. Snow is falling as the Silberhaus family decorates their Christmas tree. The magician and toymaker Drosselmeyer arrives. Presents are exchanged including a nutcracker. Clara’s dream that night includes the nutcracker fighting with the Mouse King before being transformed into a prince. The familiar story continues with matching images, both static and dynamic, on screen. Continue reading THE NUTCRACKER AND I : A SUBLIME AND ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE

THE WEEKEND @ CARRIAGEWORKS

 

Shakira Clanton is outstanding In Henrietta Baird’s harrowing one-woman play, THE WEEKEND. She dances, swears, laughs and cries as she tells Lara’s story of her search, in various pockets of Redfern, for her wayward husband. She embodies the voices of a variety of women, men and children. These various characters are full of personality and contrasts. Drug use is prevalent in this community and Shakira captures the different levels of degradation apparent in their voices as she searches through some decrepit drug dens in the towers of Redfern. Her performance as Lara captures her humanity, foibles, humour and determination of this wonderfully written character.

This play focuses on the conflicts of a mother who loves her children and goes interstate for three weeks work so that she can provide for them. She leaves them in the care of her partner Simon, the children’s father, but his drug addiction leads him to abandoning the children. She has seen many admirable aspects of Simon but as she discovers the drug houses he frequents and the women he has relationships with she begins to realise more about the situation and about herself. Continue reading THE WEEKEND @ CARRIAGEWORKS

DEER WOMAN. HAUNTING, CONFLICTING, VISCERAL.

Cherish Violet Blood in DEER WOMAN. Photo credit Prudence Upton

Seeing as much independent theatre as I do, I often encounter the rage of all women balled into a tight little fist and raised above head height.  Wrathfully expleted over 90 minutes, DEER WOMAN is the female fury, sudden or protracted, that all women feel at sometime in their lives.

But this morning’s distance gives pause.  What… what… if genders were swapped?  What would we feel?  Would we allow? We sit and are horrified as the themes and events creep into view, as the story the protagonist weaves becomes whole cloth.  Personally confronted, I reeled blinking into the heat with conflicting emotions and a conflict of intellectual response.  And a need to reach out to my best friend, my female best friend.

Any prospective audience is advised to take the trigger warnings about DEER WOMAN seriously as more than one woman left the performance which I attended and one young woman was still sobbing while waiting for her boyfriend outside.   So why attend? Continue reading DEER WOMAN. HAUNTING, CONFLICTING, VISCERAL.

THE CHAT. QUESTIONING THE SYSTEM

Photo Credit: Prudence Upton

THE CHAT.  As the audience enters the theatre space we are directed to our seats by the performers, a mix of ex-offenders and actors, who chat amongst us till the sound of a shredding machine signifies the start of the show. Les Wiggins has breached parole and a paper copy of his criminal history is shredded as he is to be given an opportunity to show who he truly is and gain his freedom.

In this devised work led by theatre maker and former parole officer, J R Brennan, with writer-performer David Woods, performer Ashley Dye and input from former prisoners, questions around the justice system are raised. Who and how are decisions made around  which offenders should be given parole, what happens if it goes wrong, how does a newly released inmate survive and go on to live a productive life and what supports are needed, are some of the areas considered. Continue reading THE CHAT. QUESTIONING THE SYSTEM

IN THE HEIGHTS. DANCIN’ SINGIN’ CELEBRATIN’

Production images: Clare Hawley

Not so such much a runaway hit as a stay-in-the-neighbourhood hit, IN THE HEIGHTS as directed by Luke Joslin brings a Washington Heights alive in a vibrant, energetic production with the closeness of community at its heart.  No mean feat on a stage as wide as the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.   We love our House and audiences always have a sense of occasion in the iconic building but this was beyond expectations.  A night to bring the whole audience to their feet after a show that vibrates the barrio with brio onstage and brass behind.

The show was conceived, and has music and lyrics, by Lin-Manuel Miranda with the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Joslin directed the show at Hayes Theatre last year.  This production has many cast in common and shares musical direction from Lucy Bermingham and choreography from Amy Campbell.  It was a bona-fide hit then.  And will be now. Continue reading IN THE HEIGHTS. DANCIN’ SINGIN’ CELEBRATIN’

SHANGHAI MIMI. LUSH PRODUCTION AT RIVERSIDE PARRAMATTA FOR THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL

SHANGHAI MIMI.
Images credit: Prudence Upton

Sure to be one of the big hits of the Sydney Festival, SHANGHAI MIMI is a lush, well- conceptualised production.  It has terrific attention to detail in the creation of the space and artists of considerable skill and charisma.  If I wasn’t the best audience for the work, it’s apparent that the show has wide appeal and the power to draw a diverse viewership.  The cast introduces themselves at one stage and they are certainly from all over.  And I think the lady of Asian descent who was sobbing with recognition as we left the auditorium, would take me to task for my lack of appreciation.  What this lady understood was the importance of this work in reclamation of a period of time and the presentation of it to a new audience. Continue reading SHANGHAI MIMI. LUSH PRODUCTION AT RIVERSIDE PARRAMATTA FOR THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL

PIGALLE – FUNK ME IT’S A GREAT NIGHT

Images Credit: Prudence Upton

With garbage cans and fruit crates, mirror balls galore and a popping neon sign, PIGALLE, playing at the Spiegeltent for the Sydney Festival, is a magnificent seat boppin’ reminder of why disco lives.  Heartbeats pound in rhythm with the bliss of remembering and re-living.  It was always going to be a crowd pleaser with this talent line-up but what we are treated to is a memorable night of variety, excellence and smart direction that leaves you wanting more as you tumble out with ‘Disco Inferno’ firmly earwormed.

As the crowd excitably buzzes waiting for the show to start, there’s a terrific music mix to begin that physical electricity that beloved music pulses in the veins.  The cast appear as ‘Street Life’ struts and frets upon the catwalk stage and feet begin the unstoppable tap.  Costumed with a period flair that keeps on coming,  these artists thrill with sexy poses and sashayed peacockery.   Continue reading PIGALLE – FUNK ME IT’S A GREAT NIGHT

LA PASSION DE SIMONE @ CARRIAGEWORKS

The 2019 Sydney Festival has started with a bang and one of the major events is the Australian premiere of La Passion de Simone . Written by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, with a libretto in French by Amin Maaloufit it is presented at Carriageworks by Sydney Chamber Opera in association with The Song Company.

Musically and visually superb, it is a powerful and hypnotic production.Directed by Imara Savage it looks at the life of Simone Weil , who was an intellectual, Marxist and pacifist, philosopher, political activist and mystic whose despair at the course of world events led her to starve herself and pass away in 1943 aged just 34. Weil died of tuberculosis after weakening herself by fasting in sympathy with the starving people of France, having spent the preceding decade travelling through Nazi Germany and revolutionary Spain in an attempt to understand the causes and nature of oppressive régimes.

After involvement in the Spanish Civil War, Weil, a secular Jew, converted to Christianity, fleeing France with her family during World War II and working with the French Resistance from London.

The show is based in the Passion Play tradition with episodes of Weil’s life linked to the Stations of the Cross. One scene includes how she worked for a while in a factory among the oppressed workers then rejected the robotic, virtually forced labour. Continue reading LA PASSION DE SIMONE @ CARRIAGEWORKS

DAUGHTER : CONFRONTING THEATRE AT ITS SHARPEST

This Australian premiere production is a  co-production involving Quiptake, Pandemic Theatre and the Theatre Centre, Canada. DAUGHTER, written and performed by Adam Lazarus and directed by Ann-Marie Kerr,   is a collaboration uniting the three organisations’ shared values of complex, challenging and aesthetically driven critical performance to provoke and hold space for civil discourse.

So here we are. In the middle of #metoo and mens whiny #methree, cos they don’t want to miss out. Because really they don’t understand. Adam Lazarus in developing this piece of theatre with his training and background in the ‘buffon king’ and hailed as Toronto’s favourite nasty clown; has taken us down a very ugly nasty road upon which he declares we have all travelled – or indeed travel still. The Bouffon, or clown, the fool of Shakespeare’s Lear, are all a little too blunt and too honest and too real. Too real to be believed. Yet Lazarus takes us on this inane and simple journey of real truths. His truths. Credible and funny and relatable. Then he gives a little slap or a digging in the ribs hard nudge. Too hard and too fast. No that is not “us”, we would never, could never. No don’t do that, don’t say that – we gasp and wince and scrunch our faces in distaste. One man near the front leaves. The two women in front of me whisper and give each other looks, then they too exit.

So yes, the subject matter is intense. Grotesqueries and extraordinary experiences are Adam’s themes of choice. Yet he relay’s them in such a way, teasing his audience along. “You’ve done that? You know exactly what I mean?” Then quickly singling out someone with a deliberate finger point or a look and making it clear we are all in on it. Been there done that. But we haven’t. I haven’t. I can’t even stomach the ideas. Who near me can? I wonder. Fleetingly. Inside I ‘know’ this is theatre but Adam is telling a real story isn’t he. His story. I think. I don’t like it. I don’t like him. Continue reading DAUGHTER : CONFRONTING THEATRE AT ITS SHARPEST

ROCK BANG – THUMPIN’ GOOD ROCK CIRCUS

ROCK BANG
Photo Credit: Prudence Upton

Last night’s audience certainly loved it.  ROCK BANG is sure to be a huge hit during the Sydney Festival.  Circus pings all the pleasure spots and nothing pleases like Circus Oz who have been leaping flying tumbling innovators for over 40 years.  This time though they have enlisted the high energy of Otto & Astrid from Die Roten Punkte and created a boisterous, rockin show which definitely needs categorising under not-as-we-know-it-circus!

Opening with a thumping rock number live and an aerial ring swing over the front rows, the show hits momentum quickly.  The characters of Otto and Astrid are funny and silly and very, very dark as they share their origin story.  German brother and sister to all intents, let’s just gloss over the Flowers in the Attic-ness, they will tell a sad tale of loss (bus or lion) then success as a punk band.  Kick ass drums and squealing guitar!  And stowaways to Australia in a Circus Oz trunk. Continue reading ROCK BANG – THUMPIN’ GOOD ROCK CIRCUS

CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN – WHERE ARE WE NOW ?

CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN – WHERE ARE WE NOW ?      Photo Credit: Victor  Frankowski

A bell tolls and Camille O’Sullivan steps from the audience onto the stage of the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent in a shimmering self-made midnight blue/black cat suit topped with a black cape. From that moment this consummate performer holds the audience in her hand as she present, what she describes as a love letter to two of her heroes of music Leonard Cohen and David Bowie with added material from a variety of artists such as Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Jacques Brel. The show itself is named after one of Bowie’s final singles.

In this 80 minute show O’Sullivan an Irish/French singer and storyteller-in-song, and her highly talented three piece supporting band of Feargal Colm Murray on piano, Paul John Byrne on drums and Steven Fraser on guitar, ask “Where are We Now”, in this turbulent, changing world in distress. Her strong, clear and passionate voice consumes the cabaret type space of the Spiegeltent as she turns each song into a theatrical performance. Continue reading CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN – WHERE ARE WE NOW ?