Tag Archives: New Theatre

NED : A NEW AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL @ THE NEW THEATRE

Plush Duck productions have brought to the New Theatre a strongly staged version of this ‘new’ musical .It is the NSW and Sydney premiere as it was first performed in Bendigo in 2015.

Directed by Miranda Middleton, NED is a Broadway style biographical musical of one of Australia’s great icons of history. It is set in country Victoria in the late 1880’s and follows Ned Kelly’s development, as he is forced by circumstances, from a boy from a poor family with Irish roots struggling to make ends meet into a cold blooded criminal culminating in his execution by hanging.

When his mother Ellen is wrongly charged with attempting to murder a policeman, Ned, his brother Dan, and their two friends Joe and Steve flee to the bush to avoid their own arrest. They are soon demonised as the feared ‘Kelly Gang’, eventually taking a final, fatal stand against the police at the infamous standoff /shootout at Glenrowan.

The legend of Kelly has been around and inspired artists for over a hundred years : from the 1906 movie The Story of the Kelly Gang ( Australia’s first feature film! ) , and various other books ,films ,( eg the one with Mick Jagger) musicals ( 1977 -78 with lyrics by Reg Livermore ) and not forgetting Sidney Nolan’s iconic series of paintings that have engraved him into our consciousness.

The staging is generally most impressive – a rather sparse set with lots of moveable tables /chairs etc and rows of poles that also act as prison bars, for instance. Peter Rubie’s lighting is snappy, atmospheric and polished. Conductor Hamish Stening very energetically led the excellent 15 piece orchestra placed at the back of the stage.

Some of the staging is quite reminiscent of say Les Mis , with hints of Oliver! and Oklahoma. Middlelton’s choreography is serviceable if perhaps a trifle repetitive. I do agree with some of the comments made by others of my colleagues, for instance that when gang member Steve Hart ( Martin Everett) is supposedly ‘in disguise ‘ as a woman, he still wears his trousers underneath and they are visible.

Middelton has a terrific cast eighteen strong led by Joshua McElroy as Ned (with a very full bushy fake beard) has great charisma and a very strong voice. He can be quite threatening at times , at other times loving ( with his friends and family) or proud and defiant when confronted by the police . His Iron and I monologue number at the end was reflective and stirring.

The rest of the ‘Kelly gang ‘ were impressively played by Rowan Blunt  as Dan Kelly,  Guy Webster as an Enroljas like Joe Byrne, Martin Everett as Steve Hart and Lincoln Elliott as Aaron Sheritt.

Marcus Riviera as Superintendent Hare was coldly determined to catch the Kelly gang and David Hov gave a fine performance as the seemingly good looking, apparently charming but slimily sinister Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, the show’s main villain.

The female characters were given strong focus and delightful performances, reminding us of the female experience in what is usually regarded as a male dominated era of Australia’s history.
Jodie Harris as Ellen, Ned’s mother, was excellent – her rousing , spirited My Son brought the house down.

Ned’s two sisters , Kate and Maggie, were wonderfully played by Cypriana Singh and Siobhan Clifford. Clifford leads the ensemble in a big tavern number Drink Now in some ways similar to Om Pah Pah from Oliver! Courtney Powell as Ann Jones was terrific as well.

There is a haunting performance of a very moving ballad Come Home as well.

The show opens with a rousing ensemble version of Such Is Life with a sculpture of Ned’s famous armour centre stage and ends cyclically with his execution.

We see Ned through the current eyes that history now mostly approves : a Ned Kelly who was not intrinsically bad, and would not stand neutrally by while his family was harassed by a corrupt police force. As one crime led to another, Kelly regarded himself at war with the police, a Robin Hood like outlaw with a heart of gold. Or was he?!

Running time allow 2 & ½ hours (roughly) including interval

NED KELLY : A NEW AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL is playing the New Theatre until 22 December 2018/

https://newtheatre.org.au/33086-2/

CREATIVE & PRODUCTION TEAM
Director/Choreographer Miranda Middleton
Vocal Director/Assistant Director Sarah Levins
Conductor Hamish Stening
Repetiteur Oliver Beard
Set Designer Matt Hourigan
Lighting Designer Peter Rubie
Sound Designer Harrison Collins
Graphic Designer Shakira Wilson
Costume Designer Adrienne Dell
Stage Manager Rachel Guest
Assistant Stage Manager Jesse Aviu
Executive Producer Hamish Stening

CAST
Erin Bogart, Denzel Bruhn, Rowan Brunt, Siobhan Clifford, Sinead Cristaudo, Lincoln Elliott, Martin Everett, Jacqui Greenfield, Jodie Harris, Rob Hartley, David Hov, Josh McElroy, Courtney Powell, Marcus Rivera, Georgia Rodgers , Carmel Rodrigues, Cypriana Singh, Guy Webster.

 

THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE: A CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS

“So all this terror has been for absolutely nothing…. Four dead fellas, two dead cats ..me hairstyle ruined, me sister broken-hearted”. So laments Davey, one of the dipshit characters on display in Martin McDonagh’s THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE.

A farce full of fecking eejits infected by fervour as freedom fighters, which serves as a license to kill and a mask for apparently inbred sadism, THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE makes a bloody joke of the infantilism of terrorists.

Padraic, a lunatic psychopath who was too mad for membership in the IRA, who likes torching fish and chip shops and torturing anyone he has a mind to, is a cat tragic, especially for his own Wee Thomas, who he has left in the care of his dad, Donny. Continue reading THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE: A CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS

‘Silent Disco’ – Lives Coloured by Unreliable Narration

Production images: Chris Lundie

It is most common stuck in traffic I think.  Glancing across at someone car dancing and wondering what they are dancing to.  They wiggle and head bang in a world of their own, caught up by the irresistibility of rhythm or the thump of bass.  It leads me to wonder …  what is beneath their choice to block out the world and have that tiny moment of pure self.   SILENT DISCO, written by Sydney playwright Lachlan Philpott,  playing at the New Theatre is like that.  We see what they do, how they move in the world.  But understanding them through what they say is tricky … it’s all coloured by the unreliable narration of Tamara.  Continue reading ‘Silent Disco’ – Lives Coloured by Unreliable Narration

NO QUEUE AT THE LADIES LOO AT THE NEW

Photos © Bob Seary

FUCKING MEN is very high on the fun-o-meter but it also registered strongly on the emot-atron.  It is a Fairground of shifting dynamics about, but not just for, a certain population of gay males.  If it wasn’t, I might be reduced to discussing the lack of a queue at the women’s toilets … we were outnumbered 20 to 1.  Or giving an insight into men’s underwear, of which there is a lot, expounding the virtues of the pianist’s jacket or discussing socks. Continue reading NO QUEUE AT THE LADIES LOO AT THE NEW

SOMEWHERE ELSE TODAY: A CHRISTMAS MUSICAL

SOMEWHERE ELSE TODAY  is back for a return season – just like Christmas!

Eli and Darcy do not want to spend another Christmas with Eli’s family, or in the Southern Hemisphere for that matter! George, the adopted son, has woken up with Brandi – last night’s one-night-stand – who just won’t leave. Jan is introducing her new boyfriend, Chuck, to everyone. Phil is sick of Christmas. Dorian is hungover. The Dog struggles for power with the men. And they haven’t even opened presents yet!

With lame gifts, clashing egos, a psychedelic retelling of the history of Christmas, and the fury of a woman scorned, this is just an ordinary Christmas with the Bennett family. Despite the craziness and chaos, the fights and over indulgence, Brenda Bennett, the matriarch, just wants to keep the family together.

Written and produced by Distortion Forever (Coco Grainger and Ludwig van Distortion) writers of Smash Hits And Stereotypes.

Warning: contains drug references, coarse language, and sexual references – it is Christmas after all!

DATES
Dec 18, 19, 21, 23 at 7:30pm and Dec 23 at 5pm

For more about Somewhere Else Today, visit https://newtheatre.org.au/associated-events/somewhere-else-today/
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AUSTRALIA DAY COMMITTEE FORMED BY PLAYWRIGHT JONATHAN BIGGINS

Photos by Chris Lundie

AUSTRALIA DAY playing at the New Theatre is a lot of fun.  That could be it.  That could be all I need to write.  “Go and see it. It’s a good comedy!”

Ah but …. I love an “Ah but” moment in the theatre.  Jonathan Biggins doesn’t write in one dimension, he’s not a single noun kind of scribbler.  Few national treasures are and AUSTRALIA DAY is a whole mess of naming words.  All of which add up theatrical storytelling of the finest, most entertaining, kind.

We meet the Australia Day Committee of the small fictional town of Coriole, including a mayor with aspirations to be on the ticket for the House of Reps.  Cushy job in Canberra would be nice and Bryan Harrigan is a man with an eye for the main chance.  As is Helen.  She’s a member of The Green Party and pretty green.  Robert is the chair and often umpire. Maree is the CWA rep and Wally is a leftover from the days when men ruled empires and could say and do as they liked.  At their first meeting for next year’s events, there are concerns in committee about how the changing population of Coriole is affecting the traditional way of celebrating a national day.  Enter Chester.

Chester is the school rep by default  on the committee.  He’s a teacher and from an Asian background.  That means Chinese to Maree and Wally, it’s a tough room!  Lap Nguyen gives us such a fun character here.  Self-deprecating, amused beyond belief at the rest of this committee, not above baiting their prejudices and guilelessly positive.  Chester is beautifully written of course. Continue reading AUSTRALIA DAY COMMITTEE FORMED BY PLAYWRIGHT JONATHAN BIGGINS

WAYNE TUNKS’ NEW PLAY ‘DIVA WARS’ @ THE NEW THEATRE

It’s such a lovely theatre time in Sydney in September. The weather is lovely and there is a plethora of lovely, reasonably priced shows as part of the Sydney Fringe. Doubly lovelerly, there is always something gay to be seen. The Queer Fringe, sequined blessings on the New Theatre for their stewardship, showcases community centred work.

And what do we get as part of the Queer Fringe? In the case of DIVA WARS, we get authenticity. There are seven men on stage here. Lovely looking each, I might say, and each holds dearly to a Diva who got them through … music to cry to, trial by media to find strength in and, not forgetting, style to emulate. Lemonade Salvation if you will. They sometimes fight among each other in a surprisingly aggressive laddish way, sometimes they speak directly to us but any didacticism is mitigated by vignettes which tell a story which brings all the characters together. And an inventive bit of audience participation in the middle. It’s pretty obvious that the on-stage characters are not the only Diva devotees. Continue reading WAYNE TUNKS’ NEW PLAY ‘DIVA WARS’ @ THE NEW THEATRE

TERRENCE RATTIGAN’S ‘AFTER THE DANCE’ @ THE NEW THEATRE NEWTOWN

This is the first time that this neglected rather early Rattigan play has been seen in Sydney. While it now perhaps seems rather dated and ‘of its time’ under Giles Gartrell-Mills’ excellent direction this play while at first, seemingly very artificial, superficial and slow to take off, develops and becomes quite intense and multi-layered.

Rattigan’s play, AFTER THE DANCE written in 1939, examines the life of the young people who survived World War One and lived life to the full in the hedonistic 1920s, only to find themselves now middle-aged, disillusioned and facing another World War .It is a study of a  lost generation. The script is brilliantly written and the play well plotted and structured. At times the play seems a bit like a brittle Coward comedy – the audience laughed heartily at certain points at the sparking , witty dialogue –  but there remains  an underlying passion and morality. Rattigan is able to let the audience see  the hidden sadness of these doomed fantasists. Continue reading TERRENCE RATTIGAN’S ‘AFTER THE DANCE’ @ THE NEW THEATRE NEWTOWN

MAURITIUS @ THE NEW THEATRE

There is a neglected and dusty Philatelist’s display cabinet on stage for MAURITIUS at the New Theatre. A shrewd observer, while peering in, may find a hidden treasure. Theatre going is a bit like that too and a keen, educated audience member will always find something to watch and be engaged in. For me, the story, Theresa Rebeck’s 2007 script, was the key to my interest in Sure Foot Productions’ show.

Jackie( Kitty Hopwood) is obviously uncomfortable as she gingerly enters Philip’s seedy stamp shop. She is easily dismissed by this stamp expert (Andy Simpson) who won’t even look at the album she clutches to her chest. Lurking around is Dennis (Peter-William Jamieson) who sympathetically thumbs through her book. Something might have caught his eye but it turns out that Jackie is in an inheritance tussle with her sister Mary (Emma Louise) and may not own the object of desire. The little piece of paper also attracts local thug and wiseguy Sterling (Brett Heath) who has a long history with Philip and philately.

There are a few too many frequent repetitions and riffs on a theme in the script, but there is also an implication that tension and simmer could build well to the violence of the final scene. Rebeck’s script also has a strong mystery feel with room for comic moments. However, despite their hard work this cast struggled to bring the play to life.

Static, stilted and bland, the direction (Richard Cornally) sees very little movement and a great deal of shouting across the wide stage. He has allowed his characters to stand flatfooted with their arms tight across their chest or stuffed into pockets, constrained and forced . Voices are strident or huffy.

Nor are the cast supported by the lighting design which has hot spots and dips all over. The set does the job to show the two spaces but had a nasty wobble on opening night.

But there are things to see… moments when the play does lift. The cat and mouse about the money is well played. Dennis manages to be ingratiating and untrustworthy without being smarmy. Mary shows distinct signs of having been in therapy. There is something emotional happening between Jackie and Dennis. So … a show for a seeker of hidden enjoyments.

And I was carried along the story, even if the ending had a predictability that made it unsurprising.

MAURITIUS continues at the New Theatre, Newtown until 29th July.

 

THE CHAPEL PERILOUS : SALLY BANNER COMES LIVES AGAIN @ THE NEW

 

Loved it. I just loved everything about New Theatre’s THE CHAPEL PERILOUS. I loved the lead performance, I loved the men, I loved the set, lighting, audio, costumes. I loved the Ensemble work. I even loved my Cherry Ripe at interval.

But then … I would say that wouldn’t I.

Any Australian woman of a certain age, who studied literature or was involved in theatre or who loved too deeply, has Sally Banner as part of her feminist socio-political DNA.

Playwright Dorothy Hewitt called the play outrageously biographical, so much so that one of her ex-husbands sued for libel. The out of court settlement meant that the play was never produced or sold in Western Australia until his death early this century. But the time is right for Sally Banner to rise again.

I was despairing to see her again and there she was fully fleshed. Tormented by unseen desires, achingly desperate and encumbered by intelligence, gender and status Sally Banner is one of the more difficult of the monstrous regiment of women who dare an opinion. She is as I remember her. Yet….

Director Carissa Licciardello has brought us a Sally Banner for a new generation. Not updated exactly, still scrupulously set 1930s to 60s but a modern protagonist for all that. However, it’s a very difficult play. An audience needs to know about the society Sally inhabits: it is not writ large, it’s background only and if you didn’t live it, it must seem very foreign. There were several noisy escapees last night and more who didn’t return after interval. But it’s a marvellous rendering so, young or old go and see it. But here’s what you need to know if you haven’t met Sally before.

Catholics or Masons: small towns were divided that way and Masons had lodges not schools. Viciously rigid, ecclesiastical Sisters and Mothers and Brothers and Fathers were the way to get what your parents saw as a good education for nice girls. Not that it mattered. Nurses or teachers … that’s why women went to university. Same sex desire, youthful sexual desire of any overt kind actually, was sinful and there was no shortage of people your age and older to condemn it in you. As consciousness heightened in them the search often took women to a political place and the fear of the Red Menace was just as real in Australia if not as excessively hunted as in the US.

Our introduction to Sally Banner is when she looks out and begins a list of women’s names, aspirationally adding hers to the list as a poet. Julia Christensen holds the stage from that first sequence. Christiansen is terrific as the schoolgirl Sally. Pragmatic and driven but young and passionate. By the time she cheekily looks directly at us before she is called to bow to the altar, we are hers. When her indecision and acquiescence to some of the men in her life muddy the passion of the older Sally, Christiansen brings so much genuine emotion to the role that tears arise unbidden. I headed to wash my face before getting my interval chocolate.

And her voice work is exceptional. After interval, when the strewn wreckage of Sally’s choices rises and falls on the Red Tide she both whispers and yells with no sign of strain or any assault on the ear. The accent is modern. No clipped Received Pronunciation here; vowels are long and consonants elided. Her physicality is open and she listens with as much intent as she speaks. It’s a bravura performance.

And she is well matched by Tom Matthews who plays the men in her life. The directorial choice to tie these men together with a unified softness of manner gives strong character support to Sally’s disappointed search to rewrite that first betrayal.

Mathews’ men are clear characterisations with clear intent but are neither showy not abrasive. He might don eyewear or divest of a shirt but he doesn’t twist or manipulate these men into being. We understand that they are Sally’s ‘type’ and that their individuality is blurred by her perceptions of them.

Licciardello has guided all her cast into fine characterisations. As Judith, Meg Clarke expresses well the struggles of acknowledging love outside societal norms and her perfidy is convincingly torn. Brett Heath and Alison Chambers are scarred and scared from the war, from boredom, from being saddled with a difficult child and they work well together as the first wall that Sally must scale.

Though the first section of the show is an hour and a half, the second much shorter, Licciardello has also successfully plotted the rhythm of the play. There are busy scenes but there is also quietude to allow an audience to appreciate the pathos. The after sex scene is an excellent example of the intelligent, intellectual heartbreak of a formative disappointment. There is also some lovely movement work from the cast. The break-back dip during Night and Day was so subtle, sweet and character filled that I gasped out loud at its power.

And Licciardello has brought out the humour too, right from the beginning where misguided recollections batter at reality. I might have been the only one laughing quietly last night, but when you do go allow yourself to enjoy the lightness of the play. And the communal nature of the stylistic interventions of Hewitt’s text. Like the music of Jerusalem and The Worker’s Flag with the slow beat of an unfelted shoe on a bare stage.

Kyle Jonsson’s set has a primitive, claustrophobic feel reminiscent of Stone Age caves with sacrificial altars. When lit from behind the implication of a paling fence is there in upstage uprights but the real effect is to echo the Eureka Stockade. Our heroine tries to rebel against being fenced in for much of the play. The entrances are well masked, wide and perfectly timed by the cast. The symbolic triangle, the Egyptian and feminist symbol for woman, though inverted, dominates the set. And provides the lighted path to Sally’s final act toward the Chapel Perilous of Arthurian legend.

Clemence Williams audio and Martin Kinnane lighting had me from the start. That first burst of thunder and lightning to herald initial character entry… wow. The lighting is warm and focusing and the big hits of white from upstage glare and foreground when needed. The state changes gently guide the audience eye as the audio underscore impassively supports the emotional imperative then gets out of the way. Single sounds, bassy or higher pitched; long and mournful the audio wafts and weaves without overpowering.

Even Neko Case on the soundtrack at interval was emotive and perfectly chosen. Courtney Westbrook’s costumes raise the scarlet standard high amongst the unremitting beige and grey and I loved the almost imperceptible change of period style after the interval.

I loved it all. New Theatre’s THE CHAPEL PERILOUS is one of my favourite shows this year. Pack some Cherry Ripes in your handbag and experience what a modern cast bring to a story of its time. Not to be missed.

THE CHAPEL PERILOUS continues at New Theatre, Newtown until 27 May.

 

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED : WIT AND LAUGHTER @ THE NEW

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED is such fun.

If you are a lover of rapid fire witticisms, frequent bon mots or bitchily wry observations you are in for a treat. There is luscious dialogue rich with contrapuntal adjectives in a very funny script. This New Theatre’s production is well realised with a nice balance of meaningless fluff and fluffy meaningfulness. Not too heavy, not too light, just all round enjoyable.

Mitchell is an up and coming movie star. Diane is his vociferous agent and wannabe producer. Alex is a men’s escort. Ellen is Alex’s love interest. In the beginning anyway.

Mitchell, who is seriously pissed in a hotel room, hires Alex. Things do not go well initially but in the morning there is the distinct whiff of a disastrous amour fou. Diane will need to balance bedings with the bravura public performances keeping Mitchell’s sexual orientation firmly cupboard-locked. She gets it: she’s a fixer … and a lesbian …so rely on her to get things done. Ellen is a party girl and knows what it means to be dumped, still this is a new one even for her. Continue reading THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED : WIT AND LAUGHTER @ THE NEW