Tag Archives: Cate Blanchett


Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes' new romantic drama CAROL.
Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’ new romantic drama CAROL.

Disappointing lesbian romantic drama based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, CAROL is the latest lush life Fifties fueled film from Todd Haynes, who gave us the more satisfying Sirk styled Far From Heaven a few years back. Indeed, CAROL feels like the symbiotic twin sibling to that robust and ravishing movie about same sex identity and race relations.

Still, CAROL is a distinctly gorgeous looking film. Ed Lachman, the Director of Photography, who was Oscar nominated for Far From Heaven shot on Super 16 millimetre which made it look like it was 35 millimetre in that time period. Having worked with Haynes before on Mildred Pierce and Far From Heaven, both period films, Lachman’s lensing is luscious and luminous, and by referencing certain mid-century photographers in frame and focus finding a visual verisimilitude in look and lustre. Continue reading CAROL


Truth- second

Who knew a stalwart newsman widely trusted by the American public as a genuine reporter of breaking news, as opposed to sensationalist ‘beat ups’, could come a cropper, clashing with the vested interests of his employer, a giant TV conglomerate?! That’s what happens when the popular press applies their fabulist searchlight on a lefty presidential hopeful, it’s hands off exposing the sure thing, a bankrolled, mainstream conservative, George W Bush.

Cate Blanchett, as brilliant as you’ll ever see her, supplies the stories to Robert Redford, in roles fleshed out and totally believable. There’s an odd and touching chemistry between them, sort of ‘born to lose’ punk The Waltons; the syrup tastes real.

For some reason this film was not picked up widely in America, as opposed to a smouldering Cate kissing a woman’s nipple in the film Carol creating a major buzz. Perhaps a new political landscape and the revelation of more dynastic political machinations back then was simply too much to swallow, (as opposed to that nipple,) in the face of the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls, weirdos one and all.

Interestingly this was filmed locally and a fair few local actors feature to good effect, notably Noni Hazelhurst in a powerful cameo.


Blanchett- second
Cate Blanchett as a factory worker, one of 13 different characters she ‘plays’ in the current ACMI exhibition

In the midst of a large, eerily dark gallery beneath the hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s busy streets, Cate Blanchett’s face plays out on one of many projector screens dangling from the gallery ceiling at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). These images are  part of a new multi-channel video exhibition entitled MANIFESTO featuring the work of Berlin artist Julian Rosefeldt.

Rosefeldt body of work consists primarily of experimental, adventurous short films that comprise narrative structure and non-linear video installations. In his films, Julian carries viewers into surreal, theatrical realms, where the inhabitants are absorbed by the rituals of everyday life. Within these episodic arrangements, Rosefeldt uses familiar cinematic tropes and devices to engage with dislocation, alienation and social and psychological disruption. At its heart the exhibition is an exploration of the role of the artist in society. Continue reading MANIFESTO : JULIAN ROSEFELDT’S EXHIBITION @ ACMI


Cate Blanchett has a word in Robert Redford's ear in James Vanderbilt's political thriller TRUTH
Cate Blanchett has a word in Robert Redford’s ear in James Vanderbilt’s political thriller TRUTH

Truth, beauty and a picture of you is how the lyrics go, but it’s truth, duty and a picture of them that’s the crux of TRUTH, a story of journalism in the jingle jangle and mire of jingoism, conspiracy theories and the obsession of the scoop in the 24 hour news cycle.

Cate Blanchett plays veteran CBS News producer Mary Mapes who has painstakingly put together an investigative story, reported on-air by venerated newsman, Dan Rather, played with All The Presidents Men gravitas by Robert Redford.

The story purported to reveal new evidence proving that President George W. Bush had possibly shirked his duty during his service as a Texas Air National Guard pilot from 1968 to 1974. The piece asserted that George W. Bush had not only exploited family connections and political privilege to avoid the Vietnam War by joining the Texas Air National Guard, but he had failed for many months to fulfil his most basic Guard obligation – showing up on base. Continue reading TRUTH

The Present @ Roslyn Packer Theatre

Inset pic- Toby Schmitz and Cate Blanchett. Featured pic- Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett. Production pics by Lisa Tomasetti
Inset pic- Toby Schmitz and Cate Blanchett. Featured pic- Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett. Production pics by Lisa Tomasetti

It was a thrill to be present at the opening night of THE PRESENT at the Roslyn Packer theatre. Expectations were high, and they were more than met with Irish auteur John Crowley’s production of Anton Chekhov’s first play variously titled Ivanov, Platanov, Fatherlessness, A Play Without A Title in a new adaptation/reworking  by Andrew Upton.

As I reflected on the night in the car going home,  I was comparing the excitement to going to a major sporting event where so many excellent players are on show…like seeing Manchester United at the Football Stadium. Continue reading The Present @ Roslyn Packer Theatre

Kenneth Branagh’s CINDERELLA

wicked stepmother and stepsisters

With its core of kindness and compassion, a retelling of CINDERELLA was never more needed.

Determined to honour her mother’s dying words to “have courage and be kind.”, Ella, dubbed Cinderella by her ugly step sisters and their cruel and jealous mother, strives to survive the reversals of fortune that have followed her orphanage.

Director Kenneth Branagh said he was interested in doing the film so as to develop a complex psychology and a more fleshed-out understanding of who these characters were. In addition, after helming the hammer throwing thunder god, THOR, he was looking to make a movie where kindness was a super power. He has succeeded stupendously in both. Continue reading Kenneth Branagh’s CINDERELLA

STC Season 2015

Some of the stars of season 2015, Left to right- Cate Blanchett (The Present), Hugo Weaving (Endgame), Susie Porter (Death and the Maiden) and Jacqueline McKenzie (Orlando). Pic by Grant Sparkes-Carroll. Pic above of Hugo Weaving in Endgame. Pic by James Green
Some of the stars of season 2015, Left to right- Cate Blanchett (The Present), Hugo Weaving (Endgame), Susie Porter (Death and the Maiden) and Jacqueline McKenzie (Orlando). Pic by Grant Sparkes-Carroll. Pic above of Hugo Weaving in Endgame by James Green

The Sydney Theatre Company (STC) season tickets for 2015 go on sale from next Tuesday (14th October) now that their priority booking period for existing subscribers has ended.

Here is a snapshot- in chronological order- of the different plays on offer in what is another exciting year for the STC  in another year of Andrew Upton’s tenure as Artistic Director.

By Andrew Bovell
15 January to 7 March 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Tuesday 20 January 2015

Andrew Bovell’s hilarious 1988 play, After Dinner, is rediscovered with a top comedic cast playing lonely singles trying to escape their nine-to-five routines on a night out at the pub. With bouffant hair and shoulder pads, three office colleagues played by Helen Thomson, Anita Hegh and Rebecca Massey, are raring to go. At a table nearby are one-and-a-half potentially eligible blokes (Glenn Hazeldine and Josh McConville). But before the band has even hit the stage it’s pretty clear things are going to get messy tonight. It may be a comedy but Bovell’s first play bears the same psychological acuity that audiences have loved in his more recent plays at STC; When the Rain Stops Falling and The Secret River. Imara Savage (Machinal) directs.

By Tennessee Williams
9 February to 21 March 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House Opening Night: Friday 13 February 2015

Former Artistic Director Robyn Nevin is back at STC as the formidable Violet in Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer. In the sinister hothouse garden of the late Sebastian Venable, his mother is determined to do whatever is necessary to stop her niece Catharine (Eryn Jean Norvill) babbling the dreadful truth of her son’s demise. The macabre, disturbing and dark portrait of moral disintegration is directed by STC Resident Director Kip Williams collaborating with designer Alice Babidge and utilising live video to expose the characters’ nightmarish secrets. Also confirmed for the cast are Susan Prior and Paula Arundell.

The voice of the river in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake adapted and performed by Olwen Fouéré
10 March to 11 April 2015, Wharf 2
Opening Night: Thursday 12 March 2015

One of Ireland’s leading theatre-makers, Olwen Fouéré, was invited to STC as part of 2011’s Abbey Theatre highlight, Terminus. Now she returns with her own scorching show that has won ecstatic reviews this year at London’s National Theatre and in Edinburgh. In riverrun, Fouéré brings to theatrical life the final sequence of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, charting the progress of the River Liffey. The Scotsman’s five-star review reports that “for an astonishing 65 minutes, she holds the audience enthralled, as she leads us through Joyce’s glimmering vision of the life of the city as it wakes to another day, of its aspirations and follies and political posturings, then deeper and deeper into the rushing water and into something like a female life-story…” London’s Daily Telegraph simply claims: “Fouéré’s bold, funny and eloquent drama might just be life-changing.”

By April De Angelis
26 March to 16 May 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Opening Night: Saturday 28 March 2015

Comedy icon Jane Turner (Kath & Kim) heads the cast of Jumpy, the delicate West End comedy by April De Angelis woven from frazzled hopes and parental anxiety. Hilary is turning 50, her marriage is failing, her job is going nowhere and her teenage daughter is feral. To top it off, she’s coming to terms with the fact that, eventually, every liberal, former protestor and fair-minded parent finds themselves at the head of a dictatorship. Pamela Rabe, director of STC’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play and Elling, will walk the line again between sweet comedy and poignancy at the helm of this Melbourne Theatre Company production.

By Samuel Beckett
31 March to 9 May 2015, Sydney Theatre
Opening Night: Tuesday 7 April 2015

Furthering their investigation of Samuel Beckett following STC’s Waiting for Godot in 2013, Artistic Director Andrew Upton and Hugo Weaving (in his fifth STC show in as many years) team up again. Endgame is considered by many as the richly rewarding companion piece to the great playwright’s earlier existential farce. Weaving is the monstrous Hamm, mercilessly bullying his son Clov while his old parents, Nagg and Nell (Bruce Spence and Sarah Peirse), are kept in rubbish bins from which they occasionally emerge but never escape. Yet as inGodot, despite the apocalyptic bleakness, Beckett somehow brings extraordinary comic touches and pathos to what he portrays as the great despair of a ruined world. Set and lighting design are by Nick Schlieper and Weaving is part of the creative team too, collaborating with Upton as his Associate Director.

By Melissa Bubnic
16 April to 9 May 2015, Wharf 2
Opening Night: Saturday 18 April 2015

Danielle Cormack makes a welcome return to STC as the power-suited Astrid Wentworth, a currency trader in the dog-eat-dog world of frenzied buying and selling. Satirising this world of men, the play is abrasive and searing as it inverts all expectations of moral certainty. An STC commission, Boys will be boys is a smart, funny and risqué work by Melissa Bubnic, winner of STC’s 2010 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award.

By Kylie Coolwell
1 June to 27 June 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Friday 5 June 2015

Kylie Coolwell’s debut play is an extraordinarily tender and compelling story of thwarted love. In a Waterloo apartment block, a community holds tightly together despite the pressures that bombard it daily. An exuberant cast of characters swirl through the building, blowing in great gusts of humour, pain, hope and disappointment. At the heart of this vibrant community is Cassie (Shari Sebbens), a promising young fashion designer with a great future ahead of her. But when her partner Ray (Luke Carroll) returns from a spell inside he brings with him the distracting forces of love, chaos and cops. STC Resident Director Sarah Goodes has been closely involved in the play’s development, nurturing it through early incarnations at Playwriting Australia’s Redfern Salon and STC’s Rough Draft program. Confirmed casting also includes Hunter Page-Lochard and Roxanne McDonald.

By Caryl Churchill
9 July to 15 August 2015, Wharf 1 Theatre
Opening Night: Saturday 11 July 2015

With Love and Information one of Britain’s greatest living playwrights, Caryl Churchill, explores the curse of the information age and the search for meaning in society. A dizzying kaleidoscope of more than a hundred characters reveals different, tantalising vignettes of life. The play questions how we reconcile the daily bombardment of facts, gossip, news feeds – the blather of modern life – with our often too-fractured relationships with those around us. For STC’s co-production with Malthouse Melbourne, Resident Director Kip Williams collaborates with designer David Fleischer and a cast including Glenn Hazeldine, Anita Hegh, Zahra Newman, Alison Whyte and Ursula Yovich.

After Anton Chekhov’s Platonov
By Andrew Upton
4 August to 19 September 2015, Sydney Theatre
Opening: Saturday 8 August 2015

Variously known as Wild Honey, Fatherlessness, Play without Title and Platonov, Anton Chekhov’s first play was unknown at all until it was discovered in 1920 in a safety-deposit box 16 years after the playwright’s death. Roughly four hours of existing theatrical material revolving around Chekhovian tropes of lust, longing, vodka and shattered dreams, imbued with the familiar warmth, humour and insight, will be distilled into a new play by Andrew Upton, entitled The Present. All the drama is fuelled by near-nuclear collision of two soul mates, Mikhail Platonov (Richard Roxburgh) and Anna Petrovna (Cate Blanchett). Having last played opposite each other on stage in STC’s much-loved production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, adapted by Upton, these two actors will dig out the sorrow, the heartache and the hilarious tragedy of love foiled for all the wrong reasons – money not the least of them. STC welcomes Irish director John Crowley, renowned for his work on the West End and Broadway, making his Australian debut.

By Ariel Dorfman
28 August to 10 October 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Tuesday 1 September 2015

Set against the backdrop of an unnamed South American post-dictatorship state, Ariel Dorfman’s breathtaking international hit play, Death and the Maiden, tells the story of a woman for whom memories are a prison. Years ago, she was blindfolded and tortured for her politics. She never saw her captor but she did hear him. When her husband invites a stranger to their isolated beach house, she’s sure she knows that voice. In 1992 STC presented the Australian premiere of the scorching new play which went on to tour throughout Australia. Now for a new co-production with Melbourne Theatre Company, Leticia Cáceres directs Susie Porter and Eugene Gilfedder for a heart-stopping night at the theatre.

By George Bernard Shaw
14 September to 31 October 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Opening: Friday 18 September 2015

Richard Cottrell directs George Bernard Shaw’s classic Arms and the Man, collaborating with the design team of Julie Lynch and Michael Scott-Mitchell to create a sumptuous period confection. As the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 rages, the lovely Raina (Andrea Demetriades) is engaged to the gallant and posturing war hero Sergius. When a fugitive Swiss soldier, Bluntschli (Mitchell Butel), escaping the battle field, abruptly lands in her bedroom, he initially seems threatening. But he quickly reveals he’d prioritise chocolate bullets over real ones any day. Raina has no option but to fall in love. With his rapier wit, sparkling dialogue and intriguing subplots, Shaw yet again skewers the hypocrisies of the human condition while taking a dig at the romanticisation of both love and war.

From the novel by Virginia Woolf. Adapted by Sarah Ruhl.
9 November to 19 December 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Opening Night: Friday 13 November 2015

In Orlando, Sarah Ruhl’s (In The Next Room, or the vibrator play) adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel about sex, love and history, the audience is taken on a glorious journey of time travel and gender bending with Jacqueline McKenzie. This enchanting frolic through the ages tells the story of a young man in the court of Elizabeth I with whom many fall in love, including the Queen herself. After a particularly debauched night in Constantinople, he awakes from a long slumber to discover he is now, without any doubt, a woman. She must now find her way back home. The ensuing adventure takes almost four hundred years as she tries to work out what it actually means to be a human being, grappling with the massive changes that take us from the beginning to the end of the Age of Enlightenment. STC Resident Director Sarah Goodes directs the Australian premiere of this whimsical and literary nugget.

By William Shakespeare
24 November 2015 to 9 January 2016, Sydney Theatre
Opening Night: Saturday 28 November 2015

Rising to the challenge of a role that is said to be the “Everest of classical acting”, Geoffrey Rush is back at STC for the first time since 1993 when he played opposite newcomer Cate Blanchett in David Mamet’s Oleanna. Director Neil Armfield has been a more recent visitor when he directed STC’s unforgettable The Secret River in 2013. The long-shared history, experience and passion of these two leading Australian artists will make for a startling production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the master portrait of a man in decline confronting the perpetual battle between good and evil. In other inspired casting already confirmed for the ensemble that will surround the king, Robyn Nevin is The Fool, Mark Leonard Winter plays Edgar and Meyne Wyatt is Edmund.


Two other shows complete STC’s offerings of 2015

By Colin Thiele
Adapted for the stage by Tom Holloway
24 April to 17 May 2015, Wharf 1 Theatre
Opening Night: Saturday 25 April 2015

A return season of Colin Thiele’s much-loved Storm Boy adapted by Tom Holloway – STC’s 2013 co-production with Barking Gecko Theatre Company – plays in Sydney and on a regional tour in 2015. Directed by John Sheedy, the play follows Storm Boy as he roams the savage landscape of the Coorong, picking up some unlikely friends including the enigmatic Fingerbone Bill and a family of orphaned pelicans, including his favourite, Mr Percival.

Written and created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott
21 October to 19 December 2015, Wharf 1
Opening Night: Thursday 22 October 2015

STC’s perennial favourite, The Wharf Revue, is back for a 15th birthday celebration of satirical histrionics in 2015. As ever, there will be up-to-the-second sketches on whichever cultural malaise or governmental gaffe is news of the day. But no birthday party is complete without a dose of nostalgia, so there’ll also be a parade of past indignitaries – a who’s who of 21st century embarrassments, from politicians to celebrities.


Hugo Weaving plays a hermit, drawn to campfires, who is tracked down by his son

Fresh from her Oscar tipped turn in the current box office smash, BLUE JASMINE, Cate Blanchett also shines in THE TURNING, the audacious and ambitious rendering to the screen of Tim Winton’s story cycle of the same name.

The seventeen chapters of the book have each been turned over to a film maker for cinematic rendition all linked by literary heritage and augmented by a motif of animated sand drift, a sort of sand script that introduces and connects each vignette.

As with any composite piece there will be segments better realised than others and indeed appreciated by different audiences, just as a degustation offers myriad tastes and textures.

Continue reading THE TURNING


Isabella Huppert and Cate Blanchett. Pic Lisa Tomasetti
Isabella Huppert and Cate Blanchett. Pic Lisa Tomasetti

THE MAIDS…You saw it?…That’s the Sydney Theatre Company show with Cate Blanchett and the famous French  actress Isabella Huppert in it. Really?! I bet it was amazing…What was it like’?!


This MAIDS exudes atmosphere like a long, piercing saxophone solo that feels like it is going to go on and ache forever.

Blanchett and Huppert play the two maids, and sisters too, Claire and Solange, who are symbolically on a cliff face and tottering over the edge.

They are in a live-in arrangement with their Mistress (Elizabeth Debicki), who they hate so much that it scintillates them. The disempowered (‘I have had enough of scrubbing the toilet, kneeling down to it like an altar’) are after annihilation.  They have visions of murdering her- hacking her to pieces and burying her in the forest. When she’s away from home, they spend half their time playing role plays mocking her, the other half obsessively plotting her demise.

Director Benedict Andrews maximises the tension on stage by bringing his filmic technique to the production. Video operators on either side of the perimeter of Alice Babbage’s stage film every movement the three actresses make and these images are then beamed onto a large video screen that faces the audience.  At times, the screen swaps back to still images of flowers, especially arum lilies- traditionally symbols of death.

Along with the continuous footage coming from the actresses, Andrews has other images on the screen including arum lilies- symbols of death.

Babbage’s set is breathtaking…stunningly capturing the grandeur and opulence of the Mistress’s parlour. Flowers are everywhere…..The back wall of the stage features the Mistress’s huge wardrobe….At the front of the stage is a small dressing room table and mirror.

There are many great moments. My pick…Elizabeth Debicki’s grand ‘power’ entrance as the Mistress in full regalia and wearing dark shades…her dismissively throwing some of her favourite dresses at Solange as if they don’t matter…Claire dressing as her Mistress, in a beautiful red gown with Solange submissively hanging onto the train of her dress.

Recommended, Benedict Andrews’s production for the Sydney Theatre Company of Jean Genet’s 1947 play THE MAIDS, in a new English language translation by Andrews together with Andrew Upton, opened at the Sydney Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay on Saturday June 4 and plays until Saturday 20 July, 2013.



THEN. Berlin. 08.12.1978, 11:15 pm. It is over. Dead silence in the audience. As if no one wants to breathe. Then we all got on our feet, applauded and cheered for 30 minutes. We just had witnessed epoch-making theatre directed by Peter Stein and celebrated by his impeccable protagonist, Edith Clever. We also witnessed a leading lady speaking in broad dialect in a German drama for the first time.

Two of our finest, Robert Menzies and Cate Blanchett in GROSS UND KELIN. Pic Lisa Tomasetti

NOW. Sydney, 19th November 2011, 11 pm. It is over. There is a moment of silence, and then we realise that this is how the play ends. Lotte bows and the crowd erupts in bravos, without giving a standing ovation.

We have just witnessed the last and biggest production of the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2011 season. GROSS UND KLEIN has been co-commissioned by Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, Barbican London, the London 2012 Festival, Théâtre de la Ville and Wiener Festwochen, and will tour internationally in the new year. That is Big. We also witnessed Cate Blanchett starting the play with a hint of Aussie slang, a Small sign that this production may have something to do with our own reality Down Under?

Lotte, a middle-aged jobless graphic designer, is facing the agony of an incomprehensible divorce. She suffers through a terribly lonely and useless holiday in Morocco only to return to Germany to attempt a reconciliation with her estranged husband. He brutally rejects her and she embarks on a fruitless search across Germany during which she looks for possibilities to reconnect with her husband, to find old and new friends, to seek a rock to lean on, communication, proximity and hopefully enlightenment.

The Ten Stations of her journey are filled with Bible quotes as well as hints from the history of philosophy. (Strauss is well known for his affection for the work of Theodor W. Adorno.) She wanders through the German world of labour, leisure and family disasters. The contemporaries she meets are all barely accessible.

At a locked entrance of a residential silo, at the bus stop or in a doctor’s waiting room: wherever she goes, even with all her desperate seeking, she encounters dismissive people who try to numb their own loneliness and inner emptiness with alcohol, drugs, abuse, or obsessive TV viewing, and by entrenching themselves behind intercoms, locked doors, or phones. Lotte, who constantly meddles because she means well, repeatedly is ruled out, but refuses to give up. Her faith to find companionship, sensitivity and humanity is unshakeable – until she starts to lose more and more of herself!

When Botho Strauss’ Ten Station Drama Gross und Klein premiered thirty-three years ago, the German drama critics were enthused. Strauss became an instant dramatic giant and Lotte! rose to be the deputy psychosocial figure of a present-damaged Federal Republic of Germany at the time. Strauss sceptically eyes his fellow members of the human race and comments on them with sarcastic and at times cynical punch lines. They still work and can make you smile and even laugh. But to burst out in laughter when there is nothing to laugh about? Maybe Benedict Andrews, who took over as director from the German directing giant Luc Bondy due to sickness, felt too Big or too Small to trust the text as is and opted for comic relief as his saviour.

Andrews also had to deal with the fact that he had to take over a set design, which Johannes Schütz created in collaboration with Bondy. Whoever directs the enormously complex and multi-faceted GROSS UND KLEIN, will inevitably face the decision as to how serious she/he will take the misery of interpersonal bleakness that freeze-shocks poor Lotte’s mind repeatedly.

More to the point could Lotte’s troubled journey really only happen in a contemporary Germany? Her home town of Saarbrücken could be Newcastle, Wollongong or Wagga Wagga. Essen might be Melbourne and the island of Sylt, could be the Whitsunday Islands. The previously mentioned hint of and Aussie slang then would make sense.

There is a moment when I see Andrews’ vision as a director. When the man at the helm of Station No. 8: Dictation turns into an elephant. A vicious Lotte just had pulled her dress over his head. He loads one of the desks on his shoulders and stumbles off the stage. An elephant labouring for his superiors! Before he had insisted that he is NOT a high commissioner, that he is NOT in charge of anything but a little, insignificant department at the local council. If all the set changes would have been executed like this magic moment, we would have been part of an epoch making Sydney theatre event.

With Schütz as set designer, the journey starts as expected with a startling and compelling imagination of an evening on the terrace of an empty Moroccan hotel dining room. A stark white low terrace wall across the front of the stage, framed by a thin white line around the proscenium, the evening star high above in the far distance, two hardly visible shadows walking up and down in the pitch black darkness and Lotte, aka Cate Blanchett, almost sitting on the laps of her audience.

The evening ends at that very same white wall, now functioning as a waiting bench in a family clinic. This simple wall symbolises the start and finish line of GROSS UND KLEIN. This is the art of stage setting at its best!

Schütz created stringent sets for all of the Ten Stations. Sadly enough, they were misplaced at times. In Station No. 5: Big and Small, the set is too close to the audience, when distance was needed to understand that Lotte’s effort to find communication via an intercom at the entrance of a residential high-rise could only be achieved by crawling through a rabbit hole. In addition, it does not help the imagination when the acting ensemble has to fill in as stagehands. Especially when they set scenes that they are not involved in, like in Station No. 8: Dictation!

Thirteen fabulous actors support Lotte on her disastrous endeavour to find acceptance in a wasteland of heartlessness. They are Lynette Curran, Anita Hegh, Belinda McClory, Katrina Milosevic, Sophie Ross Josh McConville, Robert Menzies, Yalin Ozucelik, Richard Piper, Richard Pyros, Chris Ryan, Christopher Stollery and Martin Vaughan.

They form a strong, honest and at all times extremely brave ensemble. They give us glimpses of tits and a dick. They are not afraid to be vulnerable, excessively brutal and abusive. They create the platform strong enough to carry the Colossus of Ródhos and definitely, Lotte plays Cate Blanchett plays Lotte.

I first saw Cate Blanchett on stage in 1993 playing the Bride/Felice in Timothy Daly’s Kafka Dances. She just had graduated from NIDA and filled the stage with a presence and aura bigger than the Stables Theatre. And here she is now. A Titan of acting. Her Lotte utilises every single register of her art. At times, it looks like she has a hidden freighter carrying her tools with her on stage.

Most of the 2 hours and forty minutes she captures the space. She starts Big and crosses the finishing line of this emotional marathon almost Bigger. Personally, I would have loved seeing her end it Small. She conquers the task with an almost brutal force and fearlessness. Even when she is dressed in an awkward golden glittering show costume and asks, “Why am I bleeding?” while realistic blood gushes down her legs, she stays in charge. (Costumes by Alice Babidge) Why she is wearing that costume is questionable!

Lotte does not need costume changes! She wears her soul on the outside. That is the only costume she needs. Ms Blanchett’s repertoire of voices, gestures, movements and emotions exceeds the commonly known facets of light and colours.

Andrews and Blanchett exploring Lotte’s troubled, complex world. Pic Lisa Tomasetti

Was this the problem for Benedict Andrews? When a director is faced with such, possibly untameable, talent he quickly has to find his own titanic powers. His decision, to transform the drama into a consumable comedy, allows Blanchett to portray Lotte as a slightly schizophrenic nutter sliding unstoppably into the darkness of unavoidable psychosis. It could have been the more touching and devastating decline of a heartbroken woman into the silence of speechlessness, caused by an unforgiving and self-centred society. Nevertheless watching Lotte playing Cate Blanchett playing Lotte is one of these rare moments of contemporary theatre. She is mesmerizing!

In one of his later works, Botho Strauss describes what it means to explore sensitivities, ‘It is like the attempt to nail soapsuds onto a wall.’ This explains it all and makes GROSS UND KLEIN timeless concrete.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the world you are living in, go and see GROSS UND KLEIN. If you are willing to understand how important it is to smile at a stranger when she/he does not expect it, go and see this play. If you can forget about seeing Lotte playing Cate Blanchett playing Lotte, go and understand how important it is to lend a hand when someone in distress is ready to jump into the abyss. If you are ready to think Big, take the ones you love, if you are able to think Small, take the ones you hate. If you are honest, you will feel Gross, if you think you are on top of it all, you may realise that you are Klein.

GROSS UND KLEIN at the Sydney Theatre Company is offering you a theatrical revelation. That is all that counts in contemporary drama. No matter how good or bad. I commend this production as being brave and true. That is more than we get in our daily news.

The Sydney Theatre Company’s production, in association with the USB Investment Bank, of GROSS UND KLEIN (Big and Small) opened at the Sydney Theatre on Saturday November 19 and runs until Friday 23rd December, 2011.