Tag Archives: New Theatre Newtown

Terence McNally’s THE RITZ @ New Theatre

The Ritz-third pic

It’s giggles from the get go, for New Theatre’s retro production of Terence McNally’s THE RITZ, a run amok revolving door romp set in a gay sauna circa 1975.

Play opens with Old Man Vespucci, a minor Mafia don on his deathbed, calling for a hit on his son in law, Gaetano Proclo- now there’s a name to conjure! “Get Proclo!” decrees the Don, and by goodness, it’s bend over backwards to get the job done.

His son, Carmine, never fond of his sister’s spouse, is not slow to grant his dad’s deathbed wish, so Gaetano, in dreadful disguise, on the lam and risking life, limb and libido, instructs a cab driver to take him to a place nobody would dare dream look for him.

The taxi drops him at The Ritz, a gay bathhouse, where he is preyed upon by a lean louche  “chubby chaser”, Claude Perkins, who just happens to be an old army buddy of Gaetano. Of course, the bad wigging stops Perkins twigging his real identity, for a time.

Continue reading Terence McNally’s THE RITZ @ New Theatre

Shakespeare Tonight @ New Theatre Newtown

Sorry readers, while the underlying concept behind this show is fascinating and the excellent cast gave their all,  this production felt quite flat and in need of some reworking.

Part of this years’ Sydney Fringe, written by Paul Wilson and Tim Ferguson and directed by Pete Malicki , the premise of the show has Shakespeare is alive and well and working today.

The performance we see is a TV interview with him- it’s Shakespeare’s first TV interview- along with his arch rival Francis Bacon. We have at last the opportunity to obtain answers to some burning questions that have kept us guessing for centuries such as:- Are the plays really his plays? What is the true nature of his relationship with his wife Anne? Why after years of writing comedies and romances has he turned to writing tragedies?

In some ways the show  is a bit like a ‘Reduced Shakespeare’ production, presented here as short soundbytes from a television show. The feel is very contemporary with the use of electric guitars, mobiles, ipads, Twitter and so on…Shakespeare aficionados will also pick up references to Will Kemp , Christopher Marlowe, Jack Horner amongst others.

Tall, dark and bearded Damien Carr portrayed William Shakespeare very sympathetically, casually dressed in a torn leather jacket and black top and trousers, and with a dazzling smile. His portrayal came across as a bit bad boy Keith Richards like.

He is put through the emotional wringer during the interview. We learn about his background, his relationship with his glover father and his work processes:– how he approaches writing a play etc. His portrayal of women is also questioned. There is a big fuss at one point about a notebook (possibly his father’s), and the question  arises as to why his father has never come to see any of his shows…

There is searing intense grief – Carr handles the monologue terrifically when discussing the death of his son Hamnet.

I do have to ask the question, why on Earth during the play is  there a scene which has Shakespeare carrying a knife around with him and then on national television take the knife out and clean his shoes with it?!

Bacon is wonderfully played by Calib James and is portrayed as arrogant, opinionated and self centered. He is dressed in a a marvelous quasi ‘’Elizabethan ‘ black velvet top ( should one say ‘doublet ? ‘) with slashed sleeves and maroon coloured trousers.

The sparring matches that take place between Bacon and Shakespeare are intense. It is obvious that the antagonism stretches back for years. Yet for some reason Bacon helps Shakespeare out with suggesting the phrase ‘to be or not to be’ whilst Shakespeare had been struggling with ‘to live or not to live’.

Dark haired Martina Fleur who is the TV show hostess/emcee who asks probing questions was delightfully played by Rosemary Ghazi,  wearing a slinky blue dress featuring a side split.

We see her nervous before the show begins and her interactions with the stage manager – a lot rides on the ratings of this show! And she brings it to great success with excellent ratings.

’The Duke’, enthusiastically portrayed by Patrick Cullen, is the show’s warm up person/stand up comedian/singer but his running commentary and bad jokes generally fall flat. It is interesting the way that he is allowed to interact and comment on the show whilst  the show is ‘live to air ‘and he is ‘off stage’ so to speak. Surely, in reality, this possibility would never occur. He also acts as narrator at the end telling us what happens to the various characters.

Summing up, impressive performances in an interesting but rather disappointing show that needs more work.

Running time an hour without interval.

SHAKESPEARE TONIGHT is playing at the New Theatre as  part of the Sydney Fringe until the 19th September.

Wolf Lullaby

Peter McAllum as Sgt Armstrong interrogates disturbed teenager Lizzie charged with murder in Hilary Bell’s WOLF LULLABY. Pic Bob Seary

WOLF LULLABY by Hillary Bell considers the themes of parental guilt and responsibility and the nature of evil in children.

In this powerful and emotional play there are no winners, just hard choices each with its own dire consequences.

The play opens in a small Tasmanian country town where nine year old Lizzie’s parents, Warren and Angela, are preparing Christmas celebrations. Lizzie is arrested for shoplifting, later a little child is murdered and suspicion falls on her. Continue reading Wolf Lullaby

WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM

Alice Livingstone, Ainslie McGlynn, Terry Karabelas and Peter Astridge. Pic Bob Seary
Alice Livingstone, Ainslie McGlynn, Terry Karabelas and Peter Astridge. Pic Bob Seary

WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM could be seen merely as an absurdist theatrical response to the War on Terror sparked by the attack on the Twin Towers. The real absurd response was the invasion of Iraq, proving that the real world is capable of producing greater fiction than the theatre.

No wonder one of the characters, Luella, a prolific play-goer, exclaims “You know, I don’t really know what normal is. That’s why I go to the theatre. Normal. It’s such a conundrum to me.”

The conundrum is given full theatrical conceit in Christopher Durang’s deliciously deranged drama which is ostensibly about post 9/11 paranoia, but really about the terrorisation of women by men.

Continue reading WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM

V.D.

 

The talented Eliza St John gives a great comic performance in Pete Malicki's new play
The talented Eliza St John gives a great comic performance in Pete Malicki’s new play

With Pete Malicki’s V.D. (the work was originally a multi-award winning Short and Sweet piece) be prepared to spend an amazing seventy minutes of pure comedy magic, as you experience this witty woman’s endless cringe-worthy disasters, as performed by Eliza St John.

Perhaps for some there will be moments of uncomfortable recognition from one’s own dating mistakes, and dating mistakes that one would be happy not to have made. There also some very important life lessons to be learnt, such as that fate and destiny are both of one’s own choosing.

Continue reading V.D.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Lynden Jones delivers a strong performance as the brilliant Southern lawyer Atticus Finch in the classic, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Pic Bob Seary
Lynden Jones delivers a strong performance as the brilliant Southern lawyer Atticus Finch in the classic, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Pic Bob Seary

Faced with the inevitable comparisons any audience would make with the classic 1962 film in which Gregory Peck so deservedly won the best male actor Academy Award, any playwright, director and actor involved with presenting a production of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD would have to be brave indeed.

Director Annette Rowlison, and the entire cast and the creative team have stepped up to the plate and come up with a revival that is well worth seeing.

Continue reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

PRIVATES ON PARADE

Written in 1977, this “play with music” appeared just two years before the inaugural Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. It contains some of the earliest progressive depictions of same sex relationships, and is an excellent choice for the New Theatre to present it in conjunction with the Mardi Gras festival this year.

The work comes from a time before political correctness, and includes many references to ethnicity, gender and sexual preference that could make contemporary audiences cringe, but director Alice Livingstone is mindful of the change in context and deals with those awkward moments shrewdly and with sensitivity.

Continue reading PRIVATES ON PARADE

SHORT AND SWEET DANCE: WEEK 1

Eva Craineon's GIRL GETTING BITTER
Eva Crainean’s GIRL GETTING BITTER. Pic Keziah Knight

For this year’s Short + Sweet Dance  Week 1,  I was able to see the very exciting second ‘company’ , Company B . (There are four ‘ companies ‘ in all over the two weeks in the dance division) . As in the other Short+Sweet’ heat , it was an invigorating , challenging mix of short works of roughly ten minutes each . There was  a very wide range of works, some brilliant, some rather disappointing. A couple of the works could really be described as ‘cutting edge’ and /or bizarre. All the works had powerful, passionate performances .

Continue reading SHORT AND SWEET DANCE: WEEK 1

DYING FOR IT

Time for another drink. Pic Bob Seary
Time for another drink. Pic Bob Seary

“Shit on fire” is the favoured catchphrase of  Semyon Semyonovich, the self-centred suicide in Moira Buffini’s DYING FOR IT, but on opening night  it was a case of hair on fire as lead actress Jodine Muir’s follicles came far too close to a naked candle flame.

Fortunately the performer realised her brush with imminent self immolation, extinguished the singe and carried on in character portraying perfect professional aplomb. The lady was not for burning.

With something wick it this way calmed, she and the rest of the cast had to wrestle with an actor unfriendly set, unnecessarily raked and seemingly constructed to decapitate rather than facilitate.

Such is its aesthetically pleasing but impractical design that the set cripples the ability of this production to play as flat out farce because physical pace and maneuverability are hamstrung. Certainly it depicts the decrepit crampedness of the living quarters but to the detriment of farcical flow.

Director Peter Talmacs and his cast nevertheless salvage the satirical aspect of the piece which takes clear aim at Soviet politics, the Orthodox Church and male chauvinism.

Freely adapted from Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play, THE SUICIDE, which was summarily banned by Stalin and subsequently languished in theatrical Siberia, it’s the tale of a despondent citizen wallowing in the self pity of unemployment. So much for full employment under Communism.

One suspects that Semyon has issues motivating his scrawny, lazy arse, evident in the fact that he treats his adoring wife, Masha, as a servant, even though she is the chief cook, bottle washer and breadwinner. His relationship with his mother in law, Serafima, isn’t too flash either, as she commands the apartment room and confines the conjugal bed to the tenement landing.

Fueled by the absurd idea that learning the tuba will rejuvenate his job prospects, his brass by brass business is blown when the instrument’s instruction manual proposes he purchase a grand piano.

Dreams of tuba tubs of cash dashed, he hatches a tumorous plot to top himself, an act that priests, postmen, and politburo seek to capitalise on.

Johann Walraven and Jodine Muir acquit themselves admirably as the two leads, Muir especially good as the haggard and harried Masha who never stoops to harridan.

Seasoned performers Jeannie Gee and Alan Faulkner as  Serafima and Father Yelpidy respectively  are respectably solid in their characterisations and  slick comic phrasing, but elsewhere, suiting the action to the word needs some tailoring. This may come as the performers grow more accustomed to the pitch and pitfalls of their play ground. Dead set.

Moira Buffini’s DYING FOR IT  opened at the New on Thursday November 21 and plays until Saturday December 21.

 

HAY FEVER

Tess Haubrich (Myra) and  James Bean (David) in HAY FEVER. Pic Bob Seary
Tess Haubrich (Myra) and James Bean (David) in HAY FEVER. Pic Bob Seary

In the spirit of eight degrees of separation, I once did a play with an old actor called Alton Harvey, who once did a show with Noel Coward. When I asked what he was like to work with, he told me a story I can’t repeat here. But it was from an era where being PC (Politically Correct) hadn’t been invented and cigarettes were an accessory de rigeur for every sophisticated socialite. So we were treated on Wednesday night to a step back in time of mannered speech and the fine line between poise and pose.

The directors note said that Coward abhorred plays with a message, and there is none, apart perhaps  from  Mother Bliss’  ironic answer to her son’s “What shall we do?”; “We shall just have to be nice to everybody.” It’s ironic because late in the play, in the funniest scene, we see all their visitors tip toeing a successful escape behind the entire family in usual argument! So what was it about? In Seinfeld Season 4, Ep 3, the writers probably thought they were being original talking about a script that was about “Nothing. It’s just conversation.” Well, many years earlier, so was this play. BUT, you didn’t mind. It was simply charming, even scrumptious and at times delightful! From the wonderful set , costumes and music, (it’s certainly unusual to see the Director, Rosane McNamara, also listed as Costume Coordinator), to  the great performances of the ensemble cast, the whole production was lovingly presented.

 Special mention must be made of Alice Livingstone, Jorja Brain and Tess Haubrich with stand out characterisations. But there were no weak links in this presentation. One can only hope you don’t recognise too much of your own family!

Well worth seeing. HAY FEVER plays at the New Theatre until November 2, 2013.

SLUTTERATI

SLUTTERATI100
Matt Charleston gives a strong performance as television presenter Dan Newman

Part of the Sydney Fringe, SLUTTERATI by Michael Gottsche has been developed with the assistance of the New Theatre where it is currently being performed. Under Louise Fischer’s sure direction, the excellent cast bring to life the biting, satirical script (which – warning – has lots of strong language) .The narrative is told clearly and the plot structure is quite strong.

SLUTTERATI lampoons the narcissistic obsessiveness of the age of ‘celebrity’ and with a dark twist reveals a delicate personal story hidden underneath the superficial world of vanity and ambition. Who (if anyone) can you really trust? It is about the continual rise of gossip as ‘news’ and its insidious omnipresence in today’s society, how ‘news’ is not simple reportage of major events but in synch with commercial sponsorship.

The set is quite sparse, – a sofa, several TVs, a desk and chairs. The scene changes, and there are lots of quick scene changes, are handled very smoothly, and in a quite cinematic way.

Very handsome Matt Charleston gives a strong performance as Dan Paul Newman, a TV presenter who is caught in a world of rather inane TV programs, B Grade celebrity colleagues and boring parties. In the lead up to the Olympics, Newman wants to remind people he once was a top Olympic swimmer. But in a wave of a series of embarrassing scandals he discovers how quickly and easily his reputation can be smashed and his career crashes badly.

It is all about ‘face’ and manipulation of the media as organised through Clark, his manager. Can the situation be saved? There is a sharp, almost Brechtian ‘nightmare’ scene, very well presented, where everything in Newman’s world comes crashing down.

Stephen Wilkinson as Clark, Newman’s likable yet seedy, quite  shady manager with a criminal background, gives the play some of its tensest moments. He brings a feeling of urgency to the story and makes us believe that the stakes are very high.

Others in the cast include Rebecca Clay who plays Talia-Jayne, an early-evening commercial television presenter colleague of Newman’s, who regards herself as a serious journalist. With a toothy smile she certainly confidently looks the part, yet underneath is constantly aware of her superficiality .Her elegant, blow-waved, narcissistic self importance is underlined with a hint of caring phoniness.

As Angela, his harassed first agent, Jorjia Gillis was terrific. The cleaner, Lily, who gets to know Dan Paul quite intimately, yet at the same time not at all, was well played by Kate Skinner. The theoretical division between Personal and Professional lives and confidentiality was stressed .And Amy Fisher was terrific as Amy Dunn, whose kiss and tell TV interview, sparks a crisis.

A timely, very cutting analysis and critique of current media issues. Running time 75 minutes straight through.

Michel Gottsche’s SLUTTERATI ran at the New Theatre, King Street, Newtown between September 19 and 23, 2013.