Nov 20

THEATRE – Brideshead Revisited – Independent Theatre – Goodwood Institute – 3.5K

21077389_10155687117972451_113640918626225484_n  By Peter Maddern

In its obituary The Times opined that Evelyn Waugh “developed a wickedly hilarious, yet fundamentally religious assault on a century that, in his opinion, had ripped up the nourishing taproot of tradition, and let wither all the dear things of the world.” In this week where our populace voted Yes to legalising gay marriage (but which has been promoted bizarrely as a ‘vote for love’) it is interesting, but equally as challenging, to compare the worlds of Brideshead Revisited and ours – seemingly gay love could be expressed but accepted then by the lords of religion but today they are forced to publicly accept its legitimacy. In this context, what would Waugh have made of the last five or ten years of political correctness when reflecting on their influence on the “nourishing taproot of tradition.”

23632125_1513747455374873_2231483140221913572_oIt is also interesting to note the similarities in the style of this work with Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby which IT also brought to the stage now three years ago. Then and as here a narrator, in both theatrical instances played brilliantly by Will Cox, is involved and mostly dominates each scene yet is not the actual subject of the stories. Yet, both show love is not easily found and is often ruined by those things that many may consider facilitating forces, grease for amorous wheels – money in the former and the church in this.

Cox’s Charles Ryder happens upon Sebastian Flyte (Ben Francis) in their first weeks at Oxford and the first half is about their friendship – its formation and demolition. Director Rob Croser gives their love full bottle with kissing, touching and partial nudity that leaves none in any confusion as to its composition. This contrasts with his direction in their production of Ross 12 months ago where the punches pulled tended (in the view of this reviewer) to emasculate the force of the whole.

It is perhaps interesting to further contrast this with the fully suggestive but more inhibited body language used in the seminal Brideshead TV production of the 1980s which treatment, of course, may have been more about network directive with an eye to a mid-evening audience than to director’s choice.

The second half delves into the relationship of Charles and Julia with all its symbolism and the creeping then dominate role of the Church in life, love and everything in between.

One of the features of this IT work is Rob Croser and David Roach’s stage with its quite brilliant use (for a suburban theatre company) of a transparent screen onto which locations were projected, yet also enabling reflections and memories of the various players behind it. Notwithstanding the richness of the possibilities provided and taken up by Croser as driector, the stage props are then mostly limited to two long stools. Where less is more, we are provided with riches. The use of the forward sloping stage added to the impact of the design.

As mentioned Will Cox is in great form. Ben Francis shows his Private Peaceful (from April) was no flash in the pan though perhaps here his character’s angst is better achieved than the joys of his salad days with Charles. Paul Reichstein gives great definition to his varied characters, achieving the trans-Pacific brashness of his Rex Mottram every bit as well as the self-indulgent flamboyance of his Anthony Blanche. David Roach perhaps did not achieve quite that success in his roles though, for sure, he delivered much merriment as Charles’s father. Lyn Wilson was a compelling Lady Marchmain and Madeline Herd did what she could with her material, though at times it all seemed a bit rushed.

As always ambitious, but with Rob Croser and Will Cox at the helm off and on stage respectively, IT once again delivers commendable theatre.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Nov 12

THEATRE – Spring Awakening – Stirling Community Theatre – 3.5K

Image by Mark Anolak

Image by Mark Anolak

By Peter Maddern

Unlike most musicals there isn’t much uplifting about Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s theatrical success from around 15 years ago. Yet, in an era where teenage angst has reached troublesome levels its messages are important.

Hayley Horton’s version places the action in the not too distant future and viewers may question how well that works but the content, Hayley Horton’s set plus the excellent ever developing and evolving rear screen visuals by Abtage Studios keep this lively production rolling along.

The main roles belong to ‘the boys and girls’ with Mitchell Smith a stand-out performance as Melchior Gabor. Whether singing solo or indulging in pleasures of the flesh he sustains a composure and confidence that proves infectious. His partner in pleasure and crime is Millicent Sarre, who as Wendia Bergman captures with ease her transition from a naïve girl into a fully flowered woman. Together they make a convincing and eminently watchable team.

Also of note were the strong voice and poise of Jemma Allen as Ilse Neumann and the too little seen Zac Moore as Hanschen – a name to watch out for.

Maybe resources permit it where others can’t but the Hills Musical Company always seem to be ready to take risks with their productions and again Spring Awakening possessed elements that separate their productions from many other musical troupes.

As mentioned whether bringing the action into the 2020s as distinct from its originally scripted late 19th century setting works is for debate. The additional problems teenagers face today, principally through the use and presence of smart phones, perhaps date those depicted in this production. Perhaps Messrs Sater and Sheik need to update their work.

Whatever, this is another thoroughly enjoyable HMC production featuring some excellent up and coming talent well supported by the strong HMC team led by Musical Director Mark DeLaine.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Oct 25

THEATRE – Switzerland – Dunstan Playhouse – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Patricia Highsmith (Sandy Gore), acclaimed author and possessed of a somewhat challenging personality, is holed up in Switzerland when Edward from her publishing company (Matt Crook) arrives to convince her to sign up for one last book, a further tale of the talented Mr Ripley.

A verbal stoush ensues, punch followed by counter punch, as first Highsmith assumes the ascendancy before succumbing to the wiles and determination of the much younger Edward; it is an intense 90 minutes straight. The question that stays with the audience long after the applause is just who or what actually is Edward and does he come and go as the play progresses.

Gore is excellent, revelling in her role; the solitary, self-made figure, away from the literary critiquing swill, consumed by her writing passion and able to pick and choose her every move. Matt Crook makes full use of his opportunity to finally lead a State Theatre production after too many years in the wings, second behind some lesser talents. His Edward, full of youth and steely resolve lingers. Set against Ailsa Paterson’s spacious and opulent living room setting one can almost hear the chiming of cow bells outside.

Written by one of State Theatre’s favourites, Joanna Murray-Smith, Switzerland purports to be an examination of Patricia’s life – warts and all – “hostage to [her childhood]… forever driven by those early fears and longings.”  Yet, just how these moments fully impact her and the reasons for her prejudicial views never get fully developed. Indeed, her impending death and its imperatives are glazed over. Perhaps the force of a love of words and of writing is all we need to witness when examining other flaws might get in the way.

As mentioned it’s an intense 90 minutes but the actors keep you engrossed in the banter and the belief of both their characters.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Oct 18

THEATRE – Angelique – Her Majesty’s – 4K

Image by Cynthia Gemus

Image by Cynthia Gemus

By Peter Maddern

Based on this show, the creators of Angelique – isthisyours – rightly claim they “create original and unconventional theatre for a smart, risk taking audience that revel in the possibilities of live theatre.” Whether they succeed as well living up to with some of the babble printed on the inside of the program is for individual judgment.

A family – a husband making dinner, a tired and unhinged wife and their rabble rousing daughter (Angelique) – share their dining room arguing about normal stuff until a parrot intrudes into their world reciting tales of elsewhere. From there, scene changes require us to move camp guided by lovelies similar to those in AAMI ads – only dressed in blue – and as the production progresses so do we into the depths and heights of the Her Majesty’s – at times the rear of the stage becomes a classroom, other times a scene plays itself out in the actors’ dressing room.

If nothing else, it is a fascinating tour of this great theatre and the condition of it that we witness starkly bares testament to why good people like Barry Humphries are behind the campaign to revive it.

To be fair, Angelique is audacious and arresting theatre and I was reminded of a refugee focused production that involved similar travel that kicked off in the Maj Gallery next door from a couple of Fringes ago. However, to my mind that was much more successful in getting its message across.

In a world where self-expression is now considerably easier than making a statement, Angelique’s (and our) travels open our eyes to alternative possibilities and the need to assess exactly where we as individuals are in this often confusing world with its amorphous intersection of digital and physical realities.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Oct 13

OZASIA FESTIVAL 2017 – RISING – DUNSTAN PLAYHOUSE – 5K

Rising by Riccardo Barone 

Muscles, they move as quickly as fireworks, telling  tales have never been told by a single voice. The human body completely morphs in another creature revealing stories from remote enchanted places.
Aakash Odedra has been practicing his performance for one year. He is very grateful to Lewis Major, his co-choreographer, who has been invited on the stage at the end of the show, which consisted of four different parts: Nritta (traditional indian music arranged by Aakash Odedra) choreographed by Aakash Odedra, In The Shadow Of Man with music by Jocelyn Pook choreographed by Akram Khan, Cut with music by Andy Cowton choreographed by Russell Maliphant  and lastly Constellation with music by Olga Wojciechowska choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Time passes quickly as Odedra’s  lightning body’s movements giving the audience the right dosage of hypnotic adrenaline.
The audience was extremely enthusiastic, mesmerised by the dense energy enveloping the hall.
Aakash Odedra started his career as a child, studying classical ballet.

Kryztoff Rating  5K

Oct 08

ADELAIDE FILM FESTIVAL – Oddlands – 4K

Sonia Teuben and Simon Laherty. Image by Jeff Busby

Sonia Teuben and Simon Laherty. Image by Jeff Busby

By Peter Maddern

Oddlands is the first foray into screen entertainment for the Geelong based Back to Back Theatre company. What separates Back to Back is its sole use of intellectually disabled actors which, since its formation in 1987, has drawn audiences, locally, nationally and internationally.

When Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin first observed their work as a young graduate he saw it as the opportunity to be involved in the creation of a new art form. That was in 1999, and today his enthusiasm for Back to Back’s work is as strong as ever.

Through the production of Oddlands, he has seized on an opportunity to both take their work to broader audiences and also create opportunities for his team as BtB is often the first port of call by casting agents looking for talent with their teams’ special characteristics.

Oddlands is about two workers, engaged by the somewhat sinister Civix and sent by bus into a dystopia to clean a contaminated area. There, for Des (Simon Laherty) and Tam (Sonia Teuben), all goes well until they come across a surviving human which upsets their normal progress.

Made for showing on ABC TV, the darkly humoured Oddlands plays on the medieval trope of the ship of fools and this half hour suggests further iterations of the main characters and situations could successfully ply themselves across a series.

While Gladwin is accredited with the script he is at pains to point out the collaborative effort with his performers that goes into all their work. Even with the input of Matchbox Pictures and representatives of the financiers Gladwin maintains it is the work of his team that stands up in the final form. Both Laherty and Teuben look very much at ease in this production notwithstanding the different rules and rigours of film making – from big crews lurching around every day to performing for an in- your-face camera rather than a seated audience no closer than five metres away.

This film premieres at the Adelaide Film Festival on Tuesday as it has been supported the AFF’s Hive workshop initiative that matches film makers with creative people from other art forms. Based on the likely success of Oddlands, we should expect more small and silver screen output from the Back to Back ensemble in the years to come.

Oct 08

THEATRE – Men Behaving Badly – Holden Street – 3K

MBB Pic 16By Peter Maddern

Men Behaving Badly was an English sit-com of the 1990s which,, as its name suggests, focused on boofhead males doing their stuff in a rejection or ignorance of the zeitgeist of its and subsequent times towards more caring metrosexuals. This is a world for which boobs, booze and burbs are entirely badges of honour, not just part of the daily toil.  Based on four episodes from that long running series, our prolific director Matt Byrne has spared little subtlety in his show of the same name.

In this, he is more than aided by Rohan Watt’s mostly soaked Gary and Brendan Cooney’s brilliantly brainless Tony. Cheryl Douglas and Georgia Stockham as Deborah and Dorothy respectively suffer their male friends’ various inanities with a grace and patience that the current PC warriors would scorn without remorse. That they are often given the best lines keeps revulsion levels to a manageable state. The use by the boys of straying off script to the other’s detriment and the breaking down of the fourth wall with the audience keeps a connection going that keeps at bay wondering whether sitting at home on the couch would not have been a better way to visit these knuckleheads.

It’s a long way from the wit of Peter Shaver’s Lettice and Lovage (currently also on in the Little Theatre) but screen writer Simon Nye also knows his characters and his audience and Matt Byrne of course has the skills to make it all engaging and good fun.

Kryztoff Rating  3K

Oct 08

OzAsia festival 2017 – SEVER – Elder Hall – 2K

By Tom Eckert

GUAN GONG_preview

Sever by David Harris and Zooma is a collaborative project between the two aforementioned and the Shanghai Peking Opera.

The central premise is a juxtaposition of the old world in the form of the traditional and narrative historical characters of Peking Opera. Guan Yu (pictured) and Diao Chan, with the modern world. Perhaps a comment on one of the most prevalent cliches about China presently.

This is accomplished through a film produced by the previously mentioned individuals that utilises performers from the Shanghai Peking Opera performing in the traditional format, but placed squarely into modern Shanghai and the misadventures that arise from that.

This is supported in real time by a band that mixes instrumentalists and singers from the Shanghai Peking Opera as well as Zooma and his band which have a decidedly more modern makeup, using electric guitars, drum kit and saxophone.

The contrast makes for an interesting experience and is quite entertaining. Much of the film is concerned with the progressive denigration of Guan Yu’s dignity as he finds himself by turn stripped of his regalia, missing a shoe, losing his make-up and ultimately working as a farm hand before rediscovering his former glory.

The nature of the performance is very context heavy and, as it is sung in Mandarin, difficult for non-speakers to follow the story. However it was entertaining nonetheless.

The entire company are evidently extremely proficient performers and musicians. They did however misstep in the second half of the performance where, after the film, Zooma and his band went on to perform their own material as well as experiment with the combination of this and the styling of the Peking Opera. The music was certainly good, but their rock-jazz fusion style was really quite simply not suited to the audience they has attracted with the first half, nor the venue as it would have been more at home in one of Adelaide’s many performing bars. As a result the whole performance fell a bit flat.

Kryztoff rating: 2K

 

Oct 06

OZASIA FESTIVAL – In Between Two – Space – 4K

in-between-two-900-x-600By Peter Maddern

The prospect of spending an hour with two rappers, both with reputations for pushing the right hand spectrum of their volume controls, didn’t totally engage me but, like so much of this OzAsia Festival, I should have been better prepared for what I got.

Joel Ma (aka Joelistics) and James Mangohig are two Asian Australians – one of Chinese extraction, the other Filipino – who have chosen to eschew most of their musical desires for this show in favour of telling terrific tales of their lives and heritage pitched against the prevailing ‘conventional wisdoms’ of Australians across 100 years.

Aided by a rich repository of historical photos, carefully presented on two screens by Jean Poole so as to not provide a distraction from the storytelling, theirs are stories of battles, loves and frustrations with both their families and this country. The result is a very modern Australian profile of a cultural landscape that is as diverse as their lineages. By pushing neither their beats nor their politics, In Between Two asks us all to assess the country we live in today, whether we fully accept our ethnic mix and whether we truly offer an equal opportunity for all in the egalitarian style we like to pride ourselves on.

This restraint is its strength, not that a little hip hop mixed in detracts in any way. Intelligent, provocative and inspiring for all Australians, In Between Two is an ambitious show that delivers for the Festival.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

Oct 05

THEATRE – Lettice and Lovage – UATG – Little Theatre – 4K

Tracey Walker and Sharon MalujloBy Peter Maddern

This play is not about very much. A tour guide in a stuffy boring National Trust home with often surprising views about history (Tracey Walker as Lettice Douffet) meets her comeuppance when her employer, the stuffy Charlotte Schoen (Sharon Malujlo), eavesdrops on one of her presentations.

That these two opposites find common ground and eventually common purpose holds the narrative together but what makes this comedy work is the beautiful and at times sublime use of language by playwright Peter Shaffer. It is a treat in the mould of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw (and a host since) and like their works this is not diminished by the time since it was first performed – what fun all the aforementioned writers would have with virtual signalling and the PC crowd of today.

But words on a page can sometime not get you very far if the players can’t get them across. In this both Walker and Malujlo exceed, bringing to the fore all their local and in Ms Malujlo’s case international experience. They are simply excellent; the imperturbable Walker and tightly wound ball of Malujlo playing off each other superbly. Timing is everything and with Angela Short’s tight direction both actors never miss delivering on their line with Walker warming to her task as the production advanced, by the end relishing her performance almost as much as her character would have.

Credit must also be given to Jack Robins’ Mr Bardolph; a study in impatience and legal weariness that is refreshed delightfully once the girls hit their stride before him.

This is great fun for lovers of a good laugh as well as those who revel in the wonders of language, a talent for which the English are unsurpassed.

Kryztoff Rating    4K

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