Jan 01

THEATRE – Rocky Horror Show – Festival Theatre – 4.5K

RHS_2457_Australian Cast 2018_PhotobyJeffBusby_previewBy Peter Maddern

More than 40 years on from its first stage performances in London and then the cult film, it’s hard to fully comprehend what an impact Richard O’Brien’s gender bending, self-actualising indulgence actually then had on audiences given so much of what it promoted has now become common place.

What keeps it going in 2018 is its continuing delight in poking fun at societal norms and a rollicking great song set. And a master showman as Dr Frank-n-Furter. Craig McLachlan is this production’s choice and the former star of such Australian staples as Neighbours, Home & Away and as Dr Lucien Blake takes to his role with unbridled relish utilising a voice as booming and bulging as his legs in those fish net stockings.

In his castle McLachlan is well supported by Kristian Lavercombe as the deformed Riff Raff, Amanda Harrison and Nadia Komazec as his muses Magenta and Columbia and, of course, the realised perfection of Brendan Irving as Rocky Horror himself. Rob Mallett as Brad and Michelle Smitheram as Janet provide more than adequate newly-wed naivety when they are stripped bare (metaphorically as well as physically) in Frank’s castle of fantasies.

rhs-logo1I doubt there are many other musicals of any genre that contains so many great songs in their first half. They are more than the proverbial toe tapping melodies, especially once the audience claims for itself (as it did on opening night) a licence to provide unscripted interjections (pushing particularly Narrator, Cameron Daddo to the limit of his ability to provide successful adlib responses). After the delights of the bedroom scene immediately beyond the interval, whatever the show may then lack in tunes it makes up in message before reprises of the four main hits brings the audience to its feet in recognition of a musical as contemporary today as in the early 1970s.

Don’t kid yourself that you’ve seen all this before. This Rocky Horror Show is highly commendable theatre in keeping with many years of fine New Year musicals in this town. McLachlan shows again he is much more than an aged teenager thrilling stud muffin and while Chris Luscombe’s direction doesn’t take us anywhere much new and the sound mixing in the first half needs attention this as fine a creation as any Dr Frank-n-furter himself could hope to conjure up on the slab in his lab.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

Dec 15

Club Swizzle – The Space – 4.5K

Image by Kelly Carpenter

Image by Kelly Carpenter

By Jessie Krieg

Club Swizzle is back and better than ever for its 2017 season. La Soirée has pieced together yet another sensational experience that’s every bit as glittery and glamorous as their debut in 2016.

We were treated to a visual and sensual feast of naughty but nice local and international acts, all brought together seamlessly by the MC and quintessential queen himself Reuben Kaye.

Featuring a perfect performance of brilliant burlesque, acrobatic aerial acts, hilarious hi-jinx and musical mayhem, Club Swizzle is entertaining and exciting to say the least.

Each act follows the other in a seamless  orchestration of cheeky and quirky – and the use of a live band truly brings a new level of perfection to an already stellar production. There really is no escape from the cast as even at intermission the bar/stage is open to all.

Club Swizzle is an event that won’t soon be forgotten – interactively inviting the audience to immerse themselves in the deliciously deviant behaviour – be prepared to leave your inhibitions at the door and release your inner risqué!

Club Swizzle is open at The Space Until Dec 31 and is suitable for audiences ages 15 and up.

Kryztoff Rating    4.5K

Nov 22

THEATRE – Vale – State Theatre Company – Playhouse – 4K

Mark Saturno as Joe Vale and Tilda Cobham-Hervey asIsla share one of the play's more tender moments! Image by Chris Herzfield

Mark Saturno as Joe Vale and Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Isla share one of the play’s more tender moments! Image by Chris Herzfield

By Peter Maddern

It’s New Year’s Eve and Joe and Tina Vale (Mark Saturno and Elena Carapetis) are hosting their only daughter Isla (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and her boyfriend Angus (James Smith) in the penthouse suite of his flagship hotel. When the Vale seniors are informed that Angus’s mother, Diana (Emma Jackson), is also coming tensions rise. Things get more difficult when the boys spar off in a one-upmanship battle over the finer points of the French language and champagne.

This is a gritty coming together of two families, one with not much and the other with it all and happy to let the former know all about it. Is drive and bastardry that delivers wealth a better thing than being good and having little – we all get just one life after all; the audience is left to ponder this as the fate of the families become increasingly intertwined as the night wears on.

Mark Saturno is excellent as the self-made, not terribly bright control freak. He projects his nastiness so well that some audience members took to hissing his more outrageous moments. Elena Carapetis also does well as the fragile, indeed broken controlled wife who just can’t move on from her past no matter what her husband may do for her. In their palatial penthouse suite the struggle they develop successfully between them seems so surreal.

Speaking of which the Mark Thompson set is as opulent a one as I can recall at a State Theatre production; the Vale’s have a suite so large it cannot be housed within the usual stage and needs to protrude out into the audience. Full marks also for the special effects that kick in when Joe gets his comeuppance near the play’s conclusion.

Writer Nicki Bloom in the program poses the questions Money? Privilege? Influence? Creation? Love? What is enough? And Vale makes you ponder what does matter even if only the male of the species is singled out here for their excesses and the women are presented as helpless victims of mis-placed patriarchy. But, the pace and the elements of the story are nicely sorted and the conclusion pulsating and shocking, made very good by a cast and crew who are all on their game.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

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


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


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

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