This play, written by actor Michael Cristoffer, had its premiere on Broadway in March 1977. It went on to win that year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as taking out the Tony Award for Best Play.
Cristoffer’s play cuts deep. Its subject is that old dreaded subject which us humans have so much trouble dealing with – the impermanence of life and its fragility. And of-course, what goes hand in hand with this – the terrible losses that we suffer along the way.
THE SHADOW BOX is well suited to be performed ar such an intimate venue.
The play takes place over twenty four hours, in three separate cottages on the grounds of a large hospital, in the United States. Within the three cabins are three patients – Joe, Brian and Felicity, who are each to live with their respective families at the final stage of their life, as their treatment has been discontinued. Continue reading THE SHADOW BOX @ THE OLD FITZ→
Artistic Director Lee Lewis launched Season 2017 at a well attended industry function held on Monday night at the Cell Block Theatre within the National Art School in Darlinghurst.
Three new plays by Australian playwrights will have their premieres. Ross Mueller navigates the world of office politics in A Strategic Plan, Declan Greene takes farce to new extremes in The Homosexuals and Michele Lee explores the different relationships that migrants of different generations and backgrounds have with Australia in Rice.
The fourth Australian play will be a revival of one of the classics of the Australian theatre, Diving For Pearls, written by Katherine Thomson some twenty years ago with Darren Yap directing and Ursula Yovich in the lead role.
Griffin will also feature a number of independent productions around its main season. Legendary cabaret performer Robyn Archer will display her extraordinary talents bringing to life music from the classic cabaret repertoire.
Playwright David Williams will combine his talent for storytelling with his passion for football in Smurf in Wonderland which explores the worlds of sport and tribalism.
Main image: Anthony Gooley as Peter, Jack Finsterer as Michael and Alfie Gledhill as John. Above (l to r) Anthony Gooley as Peter and Jack Finsterer as Michael.
We all know the sensation of wanting to change the past, to be able to return and insert that perfect comment or choose to act differently with the benefit of hindsight.
The world premiere of Phillip Kavanagh’s slick and evocative REPLAY by the Griffin Theatre Company explores and expands upon the vulnerabilities surrounding such reflection. Set in a grieving family environment between male siblings it is a smorgasbord of expression, identity, truth and yearning to re-create what might have been. Continue reading REPLAY @ GRIFFIN THEATRE→
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.
It is interesting to note that two of our best independent theatre venues are currently presenting plays from the early 1980s.
Eternity Playhouse is showcasing the Ira Levin sluether DEATHTRAP and The Old Fitzroy has resurrected ORPHANS by Lyle Kessler.
Where DEATHTRAP is urbane, ORPHANS is urban, a gritty, visceral, muscular male tale, about sibling jetsam (father absconded, mother deceased) who exist in a shabby shoebox apartment. Continue reading Orphans @ The Old Fitz→
In stark, and it has to be said refreshing contrast to the recent radical approach by other directors to classic works, Adam Cook plays his Doll’s House with a very straight bat. The play is performed in its time period and the plot-lines are strictly adhered to in his concise adaptation. His creative team, designer Hugh O’Connor, and lighting man Gavan Swift bring the play’s world vividly to life.
The hallmark of this production is how strongly the bold, cathartic nature of Nora’s journey is conveyed. Leading a uniformly strong cast, Matilda Ridgway as Nora takes the audience all the way with her to her chilling epiphany. It is then when Nora realises that she has spent her entire playing roles, being the dutiful child, the sweet wife, the doting mother and it is now time for her to throw off all her roles and find her own way in the world.
Iconclastic Nora exits stage left, leaving Torvald transfixed, and the other characters left to play out their roles, secure in their insecurities. Torvald (Douglas Henshall) will continue to be the straightlaced bank manager. Nils Krogstad (Anthony Gooley) will remain a shifty character, trying to get the best deal. Nora’s childhood friend Kristen Linde (Francesca Savige) will live in a compromised life with Krogstad so that she can keep the debtors from her door. Ever dutiful family friend Dr Rank (Barry French) has decided to face his final days alone, a proud man to the very end. The maid Helen (Annie Byron) will continue to be the good natured maid and carer to the two children.
Another strong showing by Sport for Jove, A DOLL’S HOUSE opened at the Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre on Saturday July 18 and plays until Saturday August 2..
Another excellent Sport for Jove production , performed in rep with ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, this TWELFTH NIGHT has the atmosphere of a typical 1960’s Aussie summer right on Christmas time …. there is the feel of a joyous beach party ( think the recent wonderful production of Opera Australia’s ‘The Turk In Italy’) and water/maritime themes and analogies running through the show.
There is also an ominous side, though, with shipwrecks and the presence of border guards/police demanding passports for example. Another theme is mirrors (a fun sight gag is when Sebastian and Viola as Cesario both put on a white hat as if either side of a mirror and don’t see each other. It is uncanny how alike they look) And a special mention as well for the design elements all of which are well executed
Music also is a crucial part of the production with hits from the Beach Boys , Four Seasons and Roy Orbison amongst others incorporated into the performance. The play itself, was originally conceived as a Twelfth Night Christmas period jaunty entertainment and included several musical interludes which the director Damien Ryan has incorporated with relish.
The complicated plot is somewhat as follows : a tremendous storm and shipwreck sees twins Sebastian and Viola separated with each thinking the other is dead. Viola decides to dress as a man, Cesario , and quickly becomes accepted as part of the Duke of Illyria , Orsino’s , entourage. Orsino is desperately in love with the snappish, elegant Countess Olivia who doesn’t return his love.. Instead , she falls in love with Viola as Cesario , when ‘he’ is sent as unwilling messenger , and meanwhile Viola is in love with Orsino…But eventually hidden secrets are revealed and all put to rights.Sebastian, having met Olivia and she mistaking him for Cesario, sleeps and marries him, is eventually reunited with his sister Viola who is revealed to be a woman and the attraction between her and Orsino is disclosed .
Ryan is blessed with an exceptional Malvolio and Viola/Cesario in particular but the whole ensemble is terrific.
As Viola/Cesario Abigail Austin is sensational. She is elfin and petite , quite a believable debonair young boy/man. No wonder the Lady Olivia is fascinated and the Duke likes him! A mysterious androgyny clings to both Viola and Cesario. Ryan possibly wanted to heighten the hidden ambiguity, which was so powerful in Shakespeare’s day, when all the players necessarily were men. – meaning a man would be playing a woman, impersonating a man. Confused? Having created her new identity as Cesario , (s)he is lively and spirited yet hides a great loss and a maddening, not to be revealed love. ( Until all is magically made right at the end ,at least for her… ).
Robin Goldsworthy, our Malvolio, is splendid. He is played as a pompous , fussy , obsessive military character ( parking tickets on the ice cream van for example) yet underneath he has a huge hidden heart and he is presented very sympathetically. Goldsworthy has fantastic comic timing . His mean treatment by, and the ghastly‘prank played by Sir Toby , Maria and the others, I did not find funny but rather horribly cruel. Others in the audience however found it hilarious. Goldsworthy gives Malvolio a range of elements that delights and overtake us. We are enchanted and mesmerised . His energy ,conviction and range are magnificent .
Anthony Gooley plays the cigar smoking , melancholy Duke Orsino with flamboyance and a touch of arrogance .He can ‘play’ quite dangerous if necessary .
Tall Tyran Parke is terrific as the wise clown Feste, blessed with a sparking wit and a great voice. His finale ‘The Wind and the Rain’ is extremely moving. A jocular gag was Feste’s teasing of Cesario when, suspecting he is a she, begins to sing The Four Seasons song, ‘Walk like a man, talk like a man’ .
While yes she is in mourning for her brother, Lady Olivia ( Megan Drury) is shown as a modern woman being aware of her present and future options . Drury finds a delicate balance between glamour and absurdity with an assertive confidence in her presence that effectively prevents Olivia’s femininity from ever being seen as weak.
James Lugton as the rather dim , sozzled Sir Toby Belch and his partner in crime Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by Mike Pigott should also be mentioned .Their foolish antics cause much laughter .
Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT is a story of love and confused identity set against the backdrop of the 1960’s. With its beautifully detailed ensemble work, the production is very funny as well as being, at times, deeply moving . A delight.
If music be the food of love play on …
With a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one interval, TWELFTH NIGHT plays in rep with ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL at the Seymour Centre until Saturday Apr 12.