This adaptation by William Zappa after Homer, has been 7 years in the making. Zappa has researched 17 translations, travelled far and wide, testing the work. He always knew Homer came from a tradition of professional guilds of storytelling, the words were meant to be heard. So now with the start originally a commissioned radio drama, the four actors devote themselves to the storytelling with their voice their primary instrument but delivered as if a staged reading with script in hand, moving in and out of the central sand circle.
I must immediately acknowledge only a limited visit to Homer as a student of literature. It is the oldest western writing surviving, attributed to Homer (mostly – but that is the debate around many very old writers Shakespeare included). 3000 years old. Written in the mid eighth century BCE. Earlier than the festivals of Greek Tragedy with which we might be a little more familiar. So it sits, Epic, it is after all still 24 books told in 3 parts and 9 hours. But Zappa has allowed intentionally in his direction (supported by Sport for Jove and specifically Damian Ryan) to become a resonance of our very modern world. Attempting to make the world of Homer’s Iliad, at once, an Australian Soap Opera, an HBO series with recaps and reminders, and I thought inconsistently, a colloquialism that ‘played’ with his characters; be they kings, princes or indeed gods. Continue reading THE ILIAD – OUT LOUD…PARTS ONE, TWO AND THREE→
They watch. They lurk and lean and linger in doorways. We watch the men. And we watch ourselves watching. In KING OF PIGS there is a mirror at eye level to the audience and we see our watching selves reflected. Somewhat frozen by the confrontation of self-perception, our right to silence is invoked by the setting, yet we are implicated in the events. It’s a stunning metaphor in a play of reach and power which exhorts us to bear witness and be better. To confront our understandings and analyse our responses and speak of these hidden, skulking things.
We meet a woman, we meet 4 men. There are narratives around the men, all involving a woman, not one woman but, yet, the same woman. The men speak of past events. She speaks in the past tense of injury and love and violence and desire. The 4 stories will interweave to create a multilayered exploration of male violence, overt and covert. There is a mystery in the stories, what has happened and how did this woman get here. Continue reading KING OF PIGS: TIME TO CONSIDER→
It doesn’t take a psychology degree, to work out why I was so nervous when speaking to Blazey Best about her directing of KING OF PIGS, a new Australian play soon to open at the Old Fitz Theatre. This is a woman of infinite talent whose performance work I have admired over many years. This production will see Blazey with her directing hat on and I began our conversation by fangirling her.
Take a scene-heavy musical with lots of pinpoint changes. Now throw in a daunting amount of props to evoke the period and costume changes of rapidity and complexity to awe an audience. Add into the mix a band which can play badly with such skill as to be hilarious. Finally, people the stage with a cast of power and depth who can do wrong.
Luckiest and One Eyed Man Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co presents GYPSY.
GYPSY is an award-winning musical, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by ArthurLaurents. The work is drawn very loosely from the memoirs of Burlesque super-star, Gypsy Rose Lee who, as Louise, for most of her young life and dressed mostly as a boy, played second fiddle to her sister June. June and Louise are paraded around the dying Vaudeville circuit by Rose, the archetypal monstrous stage parent of ‘Baby June’, a kiddie act which lost its cute factor a long time ago. Continue reading GYPSY- THIS PRODUCTION DON’T GOTTA HAVE A GIMMICK→
Gender bending rock God iOTA is back in a brand new, sexy as hell rock show that he has directed, and which he has scripted with his long time collaborator Craig Illot.
The award-winning star of international smash-hits Berlin (with Sydney Dance Company ), Smoke & Mirrors, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Rocky Horror Show amongst others, iOTA brings his signature rock ‘n’ roll, vaudeville style to his new show.
The somewhat confusing and convoluted plot concerns the story of a young woman, Rachel (Blazey Best), who has a mass of problems and challenges including an unhappy relationship with a fiery-tempered husband played by Ashley Lyons. In order to cope she manufactures a kind of fantasy world to slip into. Continue reading B-Girl @ The Playhouse Sydney Opera House→
I confess to a bit of stress sweating in the first ten minutes of MIRACLE CITY. I really felt like I was in the audience of an evangelical television program and this made for very uncomfortable viewing. Just a bit too realistic for a traditional girl like me. I swear if they had passed around a plate I would have been diving into my purse for some change. This is a real time show which purports to happen during the live-to-air broadcast of that specialized Tennessee brand of family preachers and tele-evangelists in the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker mould.
In revival at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point, MIRACLE CITY gives us the Truswells. Initially presenting as the ideal family of faith, Lora-Lee (Blazey Best) and Ricky (Mike McLeish) are celebrating a 20 year marriage. Witnesses to their love story are their 16 year old daughter, Loretta (Hilary Cole) and her younger brother, Ricky-Bob (Cameron Holmes). Together the family has a vision for place called Miracle City, an amusement park for faith and fun.
Supporting the TV funds drive are the Citadel Singers (Marika Aubrey, Esther Hannaford and Josie Lane) and stage manager and preacher-in-training Billy (Jason Kos). The need for money to build this place for prayer and play is the driver of the story and brings the Rev Millard Sizemore (Peter Kowitz) into their family. His help is conditional though and Ricky has to make a horrible decision. And …well … Ricky is a bastard as far as I’m concerned. See … I’m too involved!
MIRACLE CITY was first produced in Sydney in 1996 and after brief, bright flame of 4 weeks flickered out as the creative forces behind it moved on. Written by the late Nick Enright with music from Max Lambert (who is Musical Director for this revival), the original director was Gale Edwards. That season is spoken of in legendary terms. Luckily we have Darren Yap to direct this renewal. He worked as Enright’s assistant in 1997 when a modified version was produced for WAAPA. Yap’s program notes indicate that this show includes influences from that outing. With this pedigree, there would be a danger of making this a reverent affair but instead of baggage we have an exuberant, entertaining production with a big wow factor for such a small space.
The theatre is stripped to a black box and the set looks like nothing. Just a large act curtain in a cable channel TV studio. Yes, but a curtain that closes to hide, can also be opened to reveal. The costumes too, look simple. 80’s glamour, nice suits, beautifully tailored ecclesiastical uniforms, red and blue or gold and black as the palette. They too, hide and reveal. Especially in the final scene.
And if we are talking about secrets hidden and conversations revealed, rich ambers contrast with glaring white lighting states to, literally, put the hypocrisy into relief. In addition, the choreographer’s hand is not just evident in the movement to music but in the movement into on-camera personas and the donning of the ‘sugar smiles’.
Set Designer Michael Hankin, Lighting Designer Hugh Hamilton, Choreographer Kelly Abbey, Costume Designer Roger Kirk and Wig Designer Ben Moir have created the perfect structure for the cast to tell the story.
Everyone in this show is terrific and each performer brings their own story on with them. The characters travel their arcs with absolute believability. The voices are great and blend beautifully, the emotions are raw and available. As I looked along the line of cast and band members when they took their bows, I was thinking that I couldn’t single out any one performance over another. When they came back for the second bow, this ensemble didn’t form another line. They clumped together on centre stage and that grouping said it all.
All the songs in this show are stand-alone gospel songs in a variety of styles from the rollicking “Raise the Roof” to a superbly rendered ballad, “Moving On”. The proselytization was very well realized and several times during the show my suspension of disbelief threatened to draw an ‘Halleluiah’ to the lips. There was a full house and a well-deserved standing ovation so you should get your tickets as soon as you can. This highly talented group of artists may well move on after this season and another incarnation of MIRACLE CITY will enter the annals of theatre-lore.
MIRACLE CITY is playing at the Hayes Theatre until November 16th.
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