“Songs for a New World” was without question one of the most unique and abstract theatre shows I’ve ever attended. Not as comprehensive as a musical, though not as clean cut as your standard song cycle, “Songs” was a show that was incredibly demanding on both its cast and creative team, requiring them to create a coherent experience and effectively translate an extensive number of stories and characters in a limited amount of time, with a total lack of dialogue. In the program, Director Luke Joslin talked of the difficulties associated with infusing the song cycle with a certain ‘theatricality’, which is no easy task. It is a challenge however that Joslin met with great effect, having linked these different characters not by narrative but by tone and style. Married with an incredibly effective set and lighting design that aided audiences in establishing themselves in the narrative, Joslin and Blue Saint have staged a show with more significance and meaning than most productions found even in Melbourne’s biggest theatres.
“Proof” marks the second time this year where I’ve had the privilege of attending the debut performance of a brand new company and, to put it plainly, once again Melbourne has gained yet another strong platform upon which to promote and showcase groundbreaking theatre. The company, Artefact Theatre, derives its name from the idea that “powerful theatre leaves something behind with an audience, buried deep within their minds”. With “Proof”, Artefact have produced a deeply relevant, striking and moving piece of theatre that is sure to meet their goals and stay with their audience for a while yet.
The script itself by David Auburn has an incredible amount of appeal, and lends itself effortlessly to Artefact’s core philosophy. Dealing with the themes of family, loss, sacrifice, depression and ultimately survival, Proof’s greatest strength is that it quickly centres in on its characters. The show is quite cathartic in the way some of its themes are unapologetically confronting, but never dealt with in bad taste. Regardless of how serious the show sounds, make no mistake; it is very funny. Director Emily O’Brien-Brown has achieved the perfect balance of comedy and heartbreak to produce something very special indeed. Read more …
Mary Poppins is perhaps one of the most iconic, yet simultaneously underrated musicals of our time. The story of a family who, despite appearances, are thoroughly unhappy and the magical nanny who brings them together is one that has touched the hearts of many people all over the world. It is the beauty and warming nature of the Banks’ journey as a family that forms the heart of the production, which Director Chris Bradtke has brought to life in Babirra’s first show of 2016 playing at the Whitehouse Centre this week.
When casting a character whose brief includes being “practically perfect” in every possible way, a number of challenges arise. However daunting the task, Babirra have managed to hit the goldmine with Stephanie John who provided a performance that effortlessly met the expectations set by such an iconic character. For the entirety of the show’s duration, John captured the perfect balance of sternness and charm that is so integral to Poppins’ personality. Vocally, John never showed any sign of fatigue or exhaustion and produced a performance reminiscent of Julie Andrews’ original portrayal. Angelo De Cata’s portrayal of Bert was a standout as well, though did seem a little inconsistent at times. There were a few short moments in the first act where De Cata struggled, however his infectious energy and heightened enthusiasm for the role did well to disguise any difficulties. Read more …
Despite always being quite a strong fan of Shakespeare’s work in reading, there have been many moments over the years where I’ve struggled to fully connect to staged interpretations of his work to the same level as I had when reading and studying it privately. “Coriolanus” to me has never been one of Shakespeare’s “greats”, and despite seeing it performed twice in the past, it rarely managed to leave an impression. All these factors considered, it was with an open mind that I attended Burning House’s performance of “The Tragedy of Coriolanus” last week. Without question, what followed was one of the most intimate and rewarding theatre experiences I had ever been a part of.
After months of seeing shows performed in back alleys and hotel rooms (as great as that was), it was slightly refreshing to be back sitting in the rows of a more orthodox audience space, looking down upon a proper stage in an established theatre…however conventional the setting was, Burning House’s usage of it was anything but. Having the cast sitting visibly around the area while they were not on stage is a bold move – but an incredibly original and fascinating one. Somehow, my experience was not impacted, nor my suspension of disbelief ‘shattered’ by the staging – instead it was almost more enchanting then usual; watching the actors sit motionless, go through their costume changes before stepping into the space and becoming their characters so completely. Every aspect of the show and every movement carried out by its actors was incredibly stylized and choreographed, leading to an end result that felt remarkably polished.
Based on the classic film of the same name, “Young Frankenstein” follows the story of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein the American grandson of the infamous scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein who struggles escape the connotations of insanity that the world associates with his last name. On the occasion of his Grandfather’s death he is forced to leave his fiancé and students and travel to Transylvania where he succumbs to temptation to follow his family’s dangerous path and create a monster of his own.
As with most of Mel Brooks work, the quality of the script is something that’s always going to be fairly divisive among audiences. This is most apparent in regards to the show’s humour which due to its pun-y and often taboo nature was either going to (as the promotional material promises) “leave you in stitches” or leave you with an unescapable bad taste in your mouth. Luckily, I fell into the first camp finding each and every gag side-splittingly funny despite cheesiness on mature-cheddar level. It really is truly refreshing to find a script that finds the perfect comedic balance: embracing its blatant disregard for courtesy but not being crude for the sake of it. Young Frankenstein refuses to hold itself back in fear of causing offense and unapologetically just has a bunch of fun. The narrative itself, however, could be better structured and is slightly inconsistent. Certain scenes, including a poorly paced “Hermit” encounter, feel slightly out of place and seem to favor gags over narrative drive. For the most part however, the script was utterly charming, brimful of heart and innuendo that ensured audiences were kept both invested and entertained.
Wicked is without question one of the musicals I’ve cherished the most throughout my time as a musical theatre enthusiast. I’ve seen it performed professionally in Melbourne four times, spent many hours suspended in awe over its soundtrack (and, to the detriment of those around me, often accompanying it with sounds a deaf person could generously label ‘singing’) as well as being well versed in its history and Ozmopiltan culture. Upon hearing the news that the rights for Wicked had been made available for amateur theatre companies in Australia last year, I was both incredibly excited and utterly mortified. Wicked is an incredible show, however it is one that instinctively I felt was too large a feat to tackle without the funding and advantages of professional theatre. Oh, how wrong I was. My involvement in amateur theatre is something that is quite recent, but even I was aware going into the show of CLOC’s impeccable record and reputation in producing shows that in the past have fooled audiences into believing they were of Broadway standards, simply due to the quality of their work. 2016’s production of “Wicked” not only prolongs that record, but even improves on it.
Though I am old with wandering, through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone, and kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass, and pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun.
Having attended a number of Red Stitch productions in the past, I’ve almost come to expect that each time I make my way into the theatre I will be exposed to something truly special. Red Stitch has forged a reputation for itself as a company that stages performances that not only move the audience considerably, but also challenge them to rethink the role of theatre and more so the role of the audience to interpret and interact with theatre in various ways. I have no hesitation in saying that, once again, Red Stitch has honoured its own reputation with “The River”; a production written by Jez Butterworth and directed by John Kachoyan that reaches new levels of intimacy and sincerity for the company in presenting the story of a man and the woman he’s playing host to…whose relationship may not in truth be as sincere and unique as it first appears.
A verbatim theatre piece performed Sunday the 24th April provided a striking snapshot into the tragedy of those involved in Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza Collapse three years ago.
The Rana Plaza Collapse on the 24th of April 2013, caused by the negligence of officials and lack of proper conditions for workers creating ‘fast fashion’, killed thousands and left many more injured. The third commemoration of the collapse involved a piece of street theatre depicting the stories of those involved in the collapse. I spoke to those involved with the production and performance of this piece. Read more …
As an avid fan of independent theatre, and theatre in general, the launch of a new theatre company is always something that grabs my excitement. Launching their company with a production of Stephen Belber’s “TAPE”, Play Dead Theatre has made a confident and assertive entrance into the already thriving theatre scene of Victoria, delivering a performance that holds back no punches in tackling one of the most taboo topics plaguing our society and making it accessible through the perspectives of three very different, but equally fascinating characters.
“And think no more of this night’s accidents. But as the fierce vexation of a dream.”
Tucked away in an underdeveloped gravel lot beneath the towering Arts Centre spire, an enthusiastic group of thespians delivered an exquisite modern reimagination of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
They say it’s the little things that count the most, and that rings absolutely true in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Throughout, we are confronted by wild choreography: body gestures and synchronised dances that evoke fun for the younger ones as well as generating engagement from the wider audience. Read more …