May 25

THEATRE – iTedE – Her Majesty’s – 3.5K

itede-david-strassman-enmore-theatre-2016-ventrilo1By Peter Maddern

David Strassman has been coming to Adelaide for near on a quarter of a century with his friends, notably Ted, the teddy bear. This show has expanded his circle to six and includes, as he puts it, a variety of slivers of his self, from father figure (Fred) to Chuck, his inner, self-destructive voice.

Those familiar with the show turned up in full force last evening for the opening (many with teddys under their arms) and were not disappointed in the rapid fire banter, jokes and put downs that are the heart and soul of the Strassman magic. Amongst the patter the usual Adelaide jibes, some missed applied venom directed at the PM and a few mufffed lines added to the zest.

This show is set in Dave’s workshop as he is preparing for a TED presentation on the loss of imagination in the community (due to widely available and accessed digital content) and the suspension of disbelief. It was this that constituted the second half of the show but after the free for all of the first half, the attempted use of cogent argument and constructed debate probably fell short of his expectations in terms of audience response though it provided a monstrous opportunity for him to show off his talents of keeping all his characters talking throughout the discourse – a feat not dissimilar to the masters of chess similes, with here the gab and not the mind on full show.

iTedE proved to be great fun entertainment for the converted and a delight also for those just getting to know the man for the first time.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

May 25

FILM – Highly Strung – 3.5K

1By Peter Maddern

Scott Hicks’ Highly Strung is his latest classical musical documentary after the acclaimed work he undertook with Phillip Glass. It follows the path over two years of the newly constituted Australian String Quartet (ASQ) blessed with the use of four Guadagnini instruments sourced for it by Adelaide arts patron Ulrike Klein. As such, the film is quite appropriately named.

The 90 minute production also covers the heritage of these instruments as well as the painstaking production of one of their ilk all counterpointed against the brash, self seeking Carpenters, an American sibling team who see the name Stadivari as nothing more than a brand for the pleasure of their egos and the making of money.

Documentaries pretty much sink or swim on life taking its unexpected courses and being able to capture that drama on the camera. Documentary makers need as much skill sensing the story as they do eking it out of the participants under the full glare of cameras and a future cinema audience. In this Hicks does his best but comes up short in getting to the bottom of what comes between the members of the quartet – the really juicy bit of the film – especially the motives and maybe the madnesses (dressed up as they often as genius) of its first violin leader.

As such, the balance of the final may seem a little out of kilter and the rapid fire editing a similar distraction but fine music and motives underpin a most intriguing picture of a world few of us are likely to otherwise encounter.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

May 18

THEATRE – Things I Know To Be True – Playhouse – 4K

Eugenia Fragos as Fran - image by Shane Reid

Eugenia Fragos as Fran – image by Shane Reid

By Peter Maddern

Geordie Brookman’s approach in 2014 to Andrew Bovell for a new play has proven to be inspired. Coming off The Secret River and previously When The Rain Stops Falling (along with his screen play A Man Most Wanted), Bovell is quite Australia’s leading play write and this, Things I Know To Be True, will only sustain his star in the ascendancy.

Notwithstanding, its composition for the audience is somewhat curious. As for its plot the program speaks only of it being ‘a warm, funny and ultimately tragic family drama about growing up, moving on and what’s left behind’ and that is buried at the base of Bovell’s own notes.

Yet, by its conclusion that suffices as Bob (Paul Blackwell) and Fran (Eugenia Fragos), working class parents, deal with the issues of their four children and of themselves. Poignantly set at Halletts Cove south of Adelaide it reflects as much the unique and somewhat grim circumstances of this town as it does on how much their children are of another era they can barely define let alone comprehend – upwardly mobile and unbounded by the mores of their parents as to relationships and, well, most things.

Its own moral is as hard to decipher as the forewarning of its narrative was to find but ‘even within families fate, like time and tide wait for no man’ is one place to start.

Eugenia Fragos is absorbing and compelling as the know all, calculating mother – our care for her diminishing as the play develops in proportion to how our respect and empathy grows for husband Bob with Blackwell in his usual fine form. Of the ‘children’, Georgia Adamson’s Pip and Tilda Cobham-Hervey’s Rosie delight as siblings of both purpose and devotion yet flawed by those strengths.

Things I Know to be True also at times has the feel of a movie, incorporating Nils Frahm’s music and co-director Scott Graham’s passion for dance and movement. His presence also acts as a welcome restraint on Geordie Brookman’s panache for the absurd ensuring the players develop their characters and relationships with the audience without the noise of cheap laughs.

Geoff Cobham’s lighting, notably an array of hanging filament globes, sets off  Thom Buchanan’s inspired backdrop making all in attendance feel very at home.

This is fine new theatre and the best of that kind that the Brookmans have brought to the State Theatre since their arrival three years back.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

May 13

DANCE – Mortal Condition – The Space – 3.5K

InsiteArts-Moral Corruption_daniel purvis_DSC_4245By Peter Maddern

Once we lamented lives spent in front of the giggle box. Now, things have turned more concerning with many of the younger generations spending lives being a gamer – playing computer games endlessly without a hint of sunlight interrupting them.

Multi-award winning dancer, Larissa McGowan has now taken the time to shine a light on this world on the stage at The Space in her dance show Mortal Condition. The performance is in two parts with the first being her and Thomas Bradley working to Mike Patton’s album Adult Themes. The work is a gem of fun and invention with both performers, but particularly Bradley (in appropriately daggy clothing), gyrating, contorting, having spasms that give a surprising and mysterious rhythm to the sounds. At times they display synchronicity, others competition all the while sustaining a sense of isolation about their dance.

The second part works to a composition by DJ Trip (with a base boom that was rattling the railings in The Space) where the staging – seven enormous computer sound cards (or their ilk) become less backdrop than screen with various game characters appear mimicking the scores of kills and of being killed played out by the dancers, mainly McGowan and Kialea-Nadine Williams.

For me the first part worked much better but lovers of modern dance will enjoy the whole experience.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

May 02

THEATRE – THE FULL MONTY – Stirling Theatre – 4K

HMC Promo - The Full Monty 11By Peter Maddern

Based on the 1997 movie but geographically shifted from Scotland to Buffalo, New York (to appease American ‘cultural’ tastes) The Full Monty tells the tale of men out of work from the local factory with little or no prospects of ever getting similar paying gigs in the area maybe, given some of their ages, anywhere.

The story draws on the various plight of these guys – one fearing loss of joint custody of a child, another covering-up the true state of affairs from a spouse dreading the fall out and hoping that something, anything, will arise to avoid the humiliation. When the male stripping act, The Chippendales, comes through town, much to the delight of the local ladies, an idea is hatched to emulate them, middle aged paunches and all, to recoup the money they each need to get things back on an even keel at home.

Rohan Watts as Jerry Lukowski leads the charge along with his long time mate Dave Bukatinsky (Kim Clark.) In time they are joined at rehearsals by former plant manager Harold (Njal Venning), the deeply depressed Malcolm (James Reed), the youthful and goofy Ethan (Timothy Mackie) and finally Noah “The Horse” Simmons (MacDonald Machingura). Along the way various key women in their lives confuse and hinder their intentions (some more consciously than others) and Jerry’s son Nathan (delightfully played by Noah Lane) is at the end of the heart strings that pull the whole play together.

HMC Promo - The Full Monty 09David Yazbek’s music and lyrics are excellent and thankfully return musicals to three verse songs amidst a credible story (in contrast to say a CATS and similar fares of the past 30 years or so) and director Max Rayner keeps the production rolling along from the opening raucus indulgence around the blow-in stud muffins (with Alex Dunbar doing well) to the final blinding lights when the boys go the full monty itself.

Watts’s experiences on Adelaide ‘s burlesque stages hold him in good stead for his role as the pacemaker Jerry while James Reed’s singing is probably the best of the bunch; a talent under utilised in this role (with a similar thought also crossing this reviewer’s mind for Tim Mackie.) Of the ladies, who suffer from mostly unflattering roles, Samantha Francis as Vicki Nichols stole the show in her limited moments in the sun.

Overall, The Full Monty proves a delight for women who relish seeing men make wholesome buffoons of themselves. The humour is sharp, the stories poignant and Heather Elliott’s musical direction rounds off a rollicking evening’s entertainment.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Apr 18

THEATRE – MACHU PICCHU – STATE THEATRE – 3.5K

Image by Brett Boardman

Image by Brett Boardman

By Peter Maddern

It is not that long ago that those with severe disabilities – genetic or acquired – were near totally locked away from the general public view and treated very much as second or third grade citizens. Bit by bit, these mind sets have been and are being dismantled in favour of a world that is more empathetic that can go beyond  being responsive only to the tune of ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

Bravely advancing this trend, Playwright Sue Smith draws upon her own experiences of being diagnosed with cancer and discovering what it is like having it. “Facing a life that is suddenly and shockingly compromised requires an entirely different type of courage [beyond the realisation that life itself is finite],” she writes in the play’s program. In Machu Picchu, the scene is set when married couple Paul and Gabby have their lives torn apart in a car accident that leaves Paul (Darren Gilshenan) a quadriplegic and Gabby (Lisa McCune) his wife wondering what all this means for her too.

Through various flashbacks that also involve their good friends Kim (Elena Carapetis) and Marty (Luke Joslin), daughter Lucy (Annabel Matheson) and shrink Lou (Renato Musolino), we visit their former lives of family and career and the related plans and those things that are so important that they get put off for another day, such as visiting the famed Machu Picchu, inspirations for both Paul and Gabby as things that are so perfect in formation and conception that they have lasted five hundred years.

Through Paul, Smith takes us through, at times painfully, the realities of these sudden and shocking compromises, from the indignities of engrossing boredom to passing solids to miss-timed erections. She also focuses on an all too common human response of making personal what is the tragedy of another that can manifest itself as selfishness or present as such to cloak innate fear.

While not wanting to promote a night of intense drama as the ultimate theatrical experience, nonetheless director Geordie Brookman’s trade mark infusion of farce into the excesses of many of his characters seems out of place here. The dash for laughs seems to come at the expense of the dissemination of the more insightful emotions evoked in the second half by the players as they seek some rationalisation and future amongst the ruin. In particular, both Gabby’s voyage of discovery and Paul’s reflective contemplations seem rushed and / or confused in the last scenes and the contrast with the aforementioned selfishness lost amidst the humour.

Having said that Darren Gilshenan is excellent as Paul managing his various roles, emotions and unhappinesses with aplomb. Lisa McCune is a delight and Luke Joslin’s Marty a strong column of sanity throughout. Jonathon Oxlade’s set skilfully combines the twin settings of hospital ward and external places, aided by Nigel Levings perceptive lighting.

This is subject matter and well researched, personal writing that deserved a more candid approach.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Apr 11

THEATRE – HAMLET – Goodwood Institute – 4K

Hamlet1.jpeg-1006-283x400By Peter Maddern

After a month of, at times, mindless shows at the Fringe, taking on three hours of Shakespeare more than sweeps out of one any lingering post Madness malaise. Last winter Rob Croser’s Independent Theatre ambitiously took on The Great Gatsby at The Space; emboldened by its success, but now in its more familiar surroundings of the Goodwood Institute, the testing Hamlet is their focus.

The proportion of the modern audience who find Shakespeare a delight can often be matched or even exceeded by those for whom the language is an uncompromising challenge but if the widely held enjoyment of many of the Bard’s jokes in last night’s show is any measure, IT’s Hamlet has succeeded in making a four hundred year old text accessible to even the most inexperienced patron of the theatre.

Of course, none of that would be possible without a compelling player as Hamlet and in that Will Cox, as he did in Gatsby, triumphs. From schitzo to schemer, friend or foe, Cox convincingly swings his character’s mood and manipulations (or is it just his madness) to suit whoever he must. In fact Cox so dominates proceedings – not just within the script but with his presence on the stage – that his fellow players were spot on acknowledging his achievement during the curtain calls.

Indeed, in his wake, it was hard to identify others who shone; yet that in no way should be read as criticism. The nearest one got as an adequate foil, both metaphorically and physically was Jett Zitkovic, confident and compelling as Guildenstern but more particularly as Laertes. Both Madeleine Herd (as Ophelia) and Bronwyn Ruciak (as Gertrude) had their moments (to the extent women get a say in Shakespeare’s world) and David Roach also hit heights as Polonius and the Gravedigger, where his leadership made the whole cemetery scene a delight.

No review would be complete without mention of the staging. Rob Croser and Roach’s stage design triumph where less is more. With a Danny Boyle flourish, the stage is one large circular disc sloping down towards the audience, making the aforementioned grave digging stanza particularly captivating. More than effective use of side lighting by Susan Grey-Gardner kept the tempestuous themes of the play to the fore with much of it appropriately played out seemingly in the dark of night.

All in all, Hamlet is another triumph by Rob Croser and his team with Will Cox more than worth the price of admission.

Apr 07

THEATRE – OLD TIMES – Space – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Old Times, one of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter’s ‘memory plays’ brings together happily married Kate (Charlotte Rose) and Deeley (Marc Clement) in their well-appointed London flat with Anna (Rachael Wegener), someone who lived with Anna twenty years before.

There, the trio tease and tease out memories of each other and their times together; some recalled better than others, same events noted for different reasons, others are stories that may reveal selves previously hidden. It’s as much plumbing the recesses of the minds as a battle of wits for some kind of rhetorical supremacy between them all.

Tony Knight’s direction elicits excellent performances for each of his cast, often moving his players around the floor like chess pieces as the tactical battle between their characters plays out. Mark Heuer’s stage is deceptively simple with the creative use of three large mirror or picture frames at its rear that keep characters removed from the immediate nonetheless imbedded in the view of the audience.

For such a short piece, the tension builds inexorably to its ambiguous conclusion with the intervention of Bryan Ferry a melodic treat.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Apr 02

THEATRE – THE PHILADELPHIA STORY – Arts Theatre – 4K

By Peter Maddern

High society has as many risks as it does attractions and with Philadelphia’s Lord family enough stories to keep the gutter press thriving, whether in Pittsburgh, New York or anywhere else in the United States. And who needs social media when two journalists turn up a day before Tracy Lord’s proposed second wedding to capture it all under the guise of being Tracy ex-husband’s (Dexter’s) friends.

Written in the 1930s by Philip Barry, The Philadelphia Story plays to the playwright’s social commentary strengths with less than flattering portrayals of most of the characters, yet we keep up our inner hope that all will work out well for Tracy (Lauren Renee) and her fiancé, the straight laced up and comer George Kitteredge (Brad Martin).

Director Kerrin White has chosen an orthodox retelling of this yarn though its possibilities for being adapted for the current time and another location are delicious. His and Vincent Eustace’s set is luscious – the drawing room well appointed, orderly and dripping with respectability  and the garden back-dropped by ivy but open in front of it for endless possibilities as the night and then next morning arrive.

Much is asked of Lauren Renee in the lead role and she delivers a strong performance that encapsulates a required socially solid veneer that adorns a wild spirit. James Whitrow as her unexpected suitor, Mike Connor, one of the two journalists, also commands the stage with two-faced bravado that sits well with his character’s somewhat desperate career and financial position.

Amongst a more than satisfactory set of performances, Henny Walters’ Dinah, Tracy’s loose lipped younger sister is a delight who captured the imagination of the opening night audience and John Leigh Gray as Uncle Willie is also excellent as the well-meaning family member who quickly becomes very uncertain just what role he is meant to be playing in the series of intrigues that roll out.

A fine night’s entertainment, with a preference for seating in the front half of the Arts Theatre as its area challenged some of the performers for getting their lines across to the paupers at the rear.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Mar 21

CATS – Festival Theatre – 4.5K

CATS_editorialBy Peter Maddern

Nearly 35 years ago, the premiere of Cats in London ushered in a new wave of musical and new musical maestro team, that of Andrew Lloyd Webber (solo) and Cameron MacKintosh. It is no exaggeration to say all that has come since in musicals emanates from that moment; where pizzazz, dance and lights can overwhelm any shortcomings in the quality of the music.

T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ with additions, have stood the test of time in being full of appeal to both adults as well as children; stories of the weak, the powerful, the evil and the wise. That it requires a cast of 25 to make this all happen speaks volumes to the enormity of the production that now returns to Adelaide after what must be near on 30 years.

The first half is less appealing than the second with its abundance of dance to supplement some at time repetitious tunes. But Grizabella’s (Delia Hanah) soaring Memories near its conclusion provides the hook that keeps it all together and after the break Cats hits its stride with confidence and zest with its string of memorable tunes including Macavity, Mr Mistoffelees and the reprising of Memories.

The cast work tirelessly, at various times down amongst the audience, with their feline features fresh and full of fire – one can only imagine how far in advance of the overture being struck up that the face painters start to ply their trade.

Cats is great fun, a joy for all ages and given its rarity in this town an event not to be missed – musical theatre of this richness is a privilege not a right.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

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