Fraught mother and daughter relationships have been a rich source of material for scriptwriters for a very long time. Many will recall the multi-Academy Award winning Terms of Endearment featuring Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger.
Prominent British playwright April De Angelis dives into this very deep well with her play JUMPY. A hit when it was first performed on the West End in 2011, the script is currently in the process of being developed into a mainstream television series.
Bell Shakespeare has opened its 2015 season and its 25th anniversary year with AS YOU LIKE IT. As John Bell is retiring from the company he so successfully started in 1990, this production will be the last one co-directed with Bell and ongoing Artistic Director Peter Evans.
Bell and Evans open their program notes with, “Above the new Globe Theatre in 1599 stood the words, ‘Totus mundus agit histrionem’, which can be translated as ‘All the world’s a stage’, the monologue so beautifully delivered in the play by Bell’s restless and melancholic character, Jaques.
This motto seems to be reflected throughout the play, including the adaptable and minimalist set design by Michael Hankin, which, including 5,500 hanging flowers, could be set anywhere, anytime. Kate Aubrey’s radical costume design incorporates the 30s, 50s and 60s decades, further enhancing the timelessness of the world stage. Continue reading As You Like It @ The Playhouse→
Merry is not quite the word for A CHRISTMAS CAROL playing during the Festive Season at Belvoir. The show is definitely Christmassy, definitely snowy, but it is the faithfulness to the original text which gives the show its dimension. Modernised in places and with Australian accents, the production retains the Dickensian darkness to give a depth of thought to stay with you after the flurry has melted away.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Robert Menzies) is hunched over a large ledger when the audience enters the space. Bob Cratchit (Steve Rodgers) is working faithfully beside him. After an uncomfortable visit from his nephew Fred (Eden Falk), Scrooge reluctantly closes up for the day and heads home to his bed as Bob joyfully heads home to his family. It is at 1 am, in bed, that Scrooge encounters the tortured ghost of his dead business partner, Marley (Peter Carroll).
Rest will not come easy to Scrooge on this Christmas Eve. He will be visited by Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. These apparitions bring him back to the love of humanity he knew as a small boy. In this way, will he avoid the fate of his dead partner? Continue reading A Christmas Carol @ Belvoir→
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.
“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly:” opines Macbeth over the assassination of Duncan. And yet he procrastinates.
Such hesitation over homicide afflicts “the heroine” of Howard Barker’s play JUDITH –A Parting of the Body, a widow-woman who achieved warrior status in ancient Israel for despatching by decapitation the enemy general, Holofernes.
On the eve of his planned annihilation of the Jews, Holofernes, muses on mass murder, philosophises on warfare, and concludes that the meaning of life is to fuck and to fight.