May 19

THEATRE – Small Gods – Bakehouse – Til 30th May – 4K

 

Photo by Michael Errey

Photo by Michael Errey

By Peter Maddern

In the mysterious and mixed up existence of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, this production of Small Gods by the Unseen Theatre Company seems more than apt – as the old becomes new, so the old leaves us, new join with the old to create something but what does it all mean? Let me try to explain.

Small Gods is an early novel of Pratchett’s and the first that director and producer Pamela Munt came across and also the one that set her passions alight for the man’s work. Sadly though, after a long illness Sir Terry died earlier this year but in keeping with Unseen’s mantra new actors have joined old stagers in a play that, as per usual, takes some time to unravel.

Pretty much, Small Gods challenges our assumptions about the role of religion and philosophy and questions just exactly where do good and evil reside.

The play follows the travels of Novice Brutha (Timothy Tedmanson) as he falls under the spell of Deacon Vorbis (Adeodatus McCormack) before having his world challenged in Ephebia by a blind philosopher with a lantern (Tony Cockington) and sorting it all out in a long desert trek home guided by the Great God Om (Alvcia Rabig.)

Photo by Michael Errey

Photo by Michael Errey

Tedmanson does an excellent job for one so young, mixing adroitly the twin powers of innocence and strength of purpose. McCormack is most dastardly in his robes and Rabig’s Great God is a pleasure darting between spiritual existence as a heavenly queen and her earthly manifestation as a tortoise.

As always, Munt’s working of the book and direction keeps the story flowing, never leaving her audience to ponder for long any of the long bows of logic or pointed barbs embedded in the script; not bad for a show that runs nearly two hours.

Michelle Whichello’s costume work also needs some recognition with praise (from me at least) for decking out Vorbis and his henchmen as facsimile copies of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition team, including, did I think I noticed, Cardinal Biggles in one of the scenes. Note must also be made of High O’Connor who again appeared, as it seems he always does, as DEATH – well done for sitting around til 10pm to have your five lines in the sun.

Always a delight for Pratchett fans and good fun for those who aren’t with Tedmanson a name worth noting for the future.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

May 19

FILM – Touch – Released Thursday 21st May – 3K

TOUCH-Poster-2015-V13By Peter Maddern

After assaulting an old man, Dawn (Leeanna Walsman) heads for the hills with her pre-teen daughter Steph (Onor Nottle). She is being pursued by a guy (Matt Day) and as the film develops we discover she is attempting to hide from him, holed up in a rural motel where by day she stays out of view but at night she consents to unhappy sex with the local copper (Greg Hatton.)

Along the way, titbits of information are provided to the audience, some confirming, some confounding rational hypotheses about what exactly is going on.

Touch is the latest film, albeit a five year project, from the SA Film Corporation and its Film Lab development arm. Prior to its release this week in cinemas, it has toured the world’s film festival circuit. It is a finely wrought mystery-thriller but it suffers from its low budget – the screenplay could only have run to about 30 pages and while the running time cannot be much more than 80 minutes there are times when one is screaming out for something to happen.
As such, Touch is a tribute to directorial style reigning over substance, maybe it’s even a monument to that cause, with any number of impossible light compositions and a never ending series of tactile moments that hark back to the film’s title.

But the details of the twist in the last 10 minutes lack credibility almost to the point of the absurd. (A reviewer’s vow not to disclose the important moments prevents me from providing more context here.)

All the actors do a great job, with Day particularly haunting and Nottle a visual delight. But writer / director Chris Houghton and his producers would have done well to keep knocking on investors’ doors before embarking on what finishes up as a flawed product.

Kryztoff Rating     3K

May 13

VISUAL ARTS – Basil Sellers Art Prize 4 (for Sport) – Samstag Art Museum – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

This exhibition presents the short-listed entries for Mr Sellers’ 4th biennial Art Prize that aims to combine two of his passions; art and sport. The Samstag web site talks about sport being ‘a recurring theme’ in Australian art but it has hardly been a prolific one. Indeed, beyond your standard sports photography that litters the back pages of the print media, one is reduced to just a very few pieces that hold any sort of recognition in the Australian visual art consciousness.

Clearly, sport ‘art’ needs to do more than capture the ‘decisive moment’ (though of course that concept has spawned more than 70 years of notoriety for the genre) and seek to present a narrative and some meaning for what is captured. In that, for this reviewer at least, this means an intense focus on the actual rather than the imagined for there is plenty to take away and mull on in the execution of organised sport beyond winners, losers and calf strains.

 

From Narelle Autio's Nippers series

From Narelle Autio’s Nippers series

With that bias noted, two works stand out with the first being Narelle Autio’s triptych of surf live saving nippers attacking the water. At first glimpse, Nippers reminds one mightily of her partner, Trent Parke’s images also taken from beneath the surface of the water, where the swell of the swimmers’ impact creates turbulence disproportionate to the attention paid to it by the creators involved. In Autio’s work the lithe and gyrating bodies of the nippers make for big, bold and fresh images that are both celebratory and respectful in equal measure. The nippers’ imminent resurfacing also feeds into impressions of ‘babes in the womb’ about to be given birth to their roles, as generations before have, of attending to and keeping our beaches safe year after year.

Wonderland by Khaled Sabsabi is a 25 minute lightly edited video focused continually on the cheer squad of the Western Sydney Wanderers during the course of a game. The Wanderers have been somewhat of a phenomenon in the A League, coming into the comp just a few years ago, attracting and galvanising together various ethnic groups and being successful with it (though the bubble somewhat burst this year with their somewhat distant second last performance.)

Still from Wonderland by Khaled Sabsabi

Still from Wonderland by Khaled Sabsabi

The video captures so much information about the demographic and psychological profiles of the supporters. Some are there to sing, some to watch the game, some, like the suspect looking shirtless guys standing on the fence out front, enjoy the afternoon with their backs to the game. Yet, the dynamic exists only because of the Wanderers and what that team, their colours and this mateship (and I don’t think there are any women in the mass) means to this group. So, whatever any single person’s motivations may be for being there, they are accorded equal respect (even if they constantly obscure another’s view of the game itself!)

Wonderland? Well, yes, with this title Mr Sabsabi has totally understood and conveyed what impact of being part of such an afternoon and group can mean; for the younger ones these days will form memories that will live for them gloriously for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps with more distance from visual reality but highly successful in dealing with sport’s undercurrents is Tony Albert’s Once Upon A Time which takes us back to the dark days where indigenous footballers were the subject of constant abuse from fans. Indeed, the starting point of the exhibit is the notable day the Australian public was forced to take notice of the issue when St Kilda footballer Nicky Winmar declared he had enough by baring his chest to the mob and pointing out his pride in his race.

Sadly, as the press will now highlight, the racist practices continue, though somewhat abated, but when prominent commentators can be allowed to get away with it, what hope does the right thing have of ever prevailing? But like Mr Albert, we all live in hope.

Those interested in their sport will find the Basil Sellers Art Prize a worthwhile challenge and those looking for decent ‘art’ in sport will also be well rewarded.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Apr 29

THEATRE – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Playhouse – 3.5K

[Image by Shane Reid]

[Image by Shane Reid]

By Peter Maddern

It is 60 years since Ray Lawler’s ‘The Doll’ was first produced, then to universal acclaim, as it expressed an Australia that was seldom otherwise allowed on the stage as well as presenting a tragic tale of lives locked in a time warp that inevitably has to end.

As the play opens, Olive, Bubba and Pearl are waiting for Roo and Barney, two cane field workers, who have come to Melbourne each year in the off season to delight Olive and the now absent Nancy (who has gone off and got herself hitched a few months before.) This is the seventeenth such visit, each marked by Roo’s gift of a kewpie doll, but this time things are different.

Each of the seven member cast does an excellent job as Lawler grants them their moment in the stage sun. Lizzy Falkland’s Pearl early on is full of comic discomfort as the new fish in the aquarium and from one possessed of a different kind of sensibility to Olive about how to deal with the man she is being lined up for in Barney. Rory Walker as that Barney grows in his depiction of a middle aged catastrophe, sweet talker and cad, loyal friend and self-seeker, all in equal measure. Elena Carapetis’s Olive portrays that intense heart felt discomfort about a world that is being upended but who can’t see the wood from the cane.

[Image by Shane Reid]

[Image by Shane Reid]

The shortcoming in what is otherwise a terrifically enjoyable evening is Geordie Brookman’s attempts as director to modernise the setting of the play. To do that he and Melanie Selwood as Stage Manager, have created a living room decked out in non-descript curtains perhaps more appropriate for the performance of a piano soloist. In his program notes, Brookman writes of retaining ‘a gentle connection to the period’ yet the setting of the play is unmistakably Australia circa 1950-1980; a more modern world just couldn’t and doesn’t stand still as the script requires (even rural Queensland).

So, rather than his audience, when leaving, pondering what connections such human tragedy has to today (and there remain many), instead we ask ourselves whether the setting for that tragedy has sufficient credibility to get us to muse on those questions at all.

 

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Apr 25

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – Hills Musical Company – Stirling Community Theatre – 2015 – 4K

By Tom Eckert

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Heading into The Hills Musical Company’s rendition of Clark Gesner’s 1967 musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, I personally can’t help but be nervous about small cast productions. Whilst logistically they may be somewhat easier, on the flipside it only takes a single element to pull the entire production down.

I need not have had these anxieties for this production, from the first beat until the bows. it was tight with every element more than holding its own.

The characters are a delight, for the large part every moment and gesture was studied; creating a playful effect of adults-playing-children-playing-adults. Having adult actors playing child characters can so often be a trap for the inexperienced, so far removed from their own childhood that they resort to melodrama and puerile stereotypes. Each character was measured well in both physicality and vocal character with the only slip being to occasionally fall into the trap of the child actor of appearing not to know what to do with their hands during extended dialogue.

The setting, relying largely on graphics derived from the original Peanuts comics was stylistic and effective. A set of multifaceted blocks with concurrent designs were employed to great effect to imply setting as well as providing materials for interactions during set pieces. The juxtaposition of the black and white illustrations and the vibrancy and colour of the actors produced a wonderful comic-coming-to-life effect with the sensation of the original characters leaping out from the page at you. This was only enhanced by the sheer energy of the cast aptly reminiscent of the effervescence and awe of a child which only began to wane a little towards the end of the second act which is admirable as anyone who looks after children would know the Olympian efforts it takes to keep up with them for any extended period of time.

Vocally all actors were competent, never appearing to struggle with range or timing. My only qualms are that at times, in some cases, character was dropped a touch in the interest of vocal technique; or conversely, some preserving vocal character to the detriment of intonation and intelligibility. The latter was especially noticeable in the maintenance of the accent where the voice would be pulled back through the nose resulting in some of the held notes projecting a touch flat.

The orchestra too put on a strong performance, notably not falling prey to the foibles so common in community theatre orchestras of intonation issues and imbalance. A well adjusted and precise compliment to the vocalists, my only request would be to have a touch more forte in some of the shout sections and dance breaks where I think they could afford to cut loose a little to provide some contrast from the rest of the measured and pleasantly restrained accompaniment.

A stand-out would have to be Millicent Sarre as Sally Brown. Her prowess is evident with not so much as an instant out of character. She shows off vocal dexterity and proficiency as well as an impressive athleticism which, whilst flashy, is appreciated in the context of the tongue-in-cheek tone of the entire piece.

Buddy Dawson’s Linus van Pelt has an almost flawless vocal character and comic timing with the only shame being a tendency to get tongue tied around his affected lisp in some of the more rapid-fire monologue moments. This deprived the audience of some brilliant lines that, on the occasion they were perfectly intelligible, were executed to hilarious effect.

Vanessa Redmond’s choreography was strong and used the stage and set to full effect whilst, importantly, detracting nothing from the singing.

Peter Johns as the music director obviously worked exceptionally well with his cast producing delightfully tight harmonies and a balance to compete with professional productions.

Hayley Horton as director was brilliant with not a single beat dropped in stage direction, creating an environment of controlled chaotic energy that wonderfully emulated the daily experience of the child interposed with delightfully solitary moments to highlight young Charlie Brown’s existential angst.

A wonderful production with a wonderful cast. If you like your entertainment light and witty come to see it up in the Stirling Community Theatre, sit back and let yourself regress back to happier days.

 

Kryztoff rating: 4K

Apr 25

THEATRE – Le Noir – Festival Theatre – Til May 2 – 4K

CP_ENT14_00034_Le_Noir_2014_Internal_Image_591x346px_HR_jpg_153778By Peter Maddern

There can be no doubt this is a golden age for physical theatre or the circus as it used to be more commonly known. The days of only capturing views of strong men and trapeze artists swinging through the air in the travelling high tops on Bonython Park has been replaced by any number of world class acts including those that came through during this year’s Fringe and now at the Festival Theatre with LeNoir. And with that new found maturity of the genre so the quality has gone up too; no longer are the artists just trying to fool the children about their feats of bravery.

Spawned from the international success of The Illusionist franchise, this Australian / Anglo production takes, as The Illusionists has, a global approach to its cast and crew with the French influence, for example, limited to just the show’s name and its engaging MC, Salvador Salangsang.

cThe show, divided into three parts, blanc, rouge and noir, is performed on a limited portion of the main stage surrounded by patrons and then from the orchestra pit where the most extraordinary ‘high wire’ acts are unleashed. The cast is pretty much dressed only in their underwear, adding enormously to the sex appeal of the whole and certainly the closer one gets to the stage the greater the temptation to reach out to touch.

It is hard to rate the acts as they are all quite stunning – strong men the likes of which one rarely encounters, various pas de deux of increasing sensuality – but both Denis Ignatov’s shape spinning and the finale ‘wheel of death’ by Carlos Macias and Angelo Rodriguez will have even seasonal physical theatre patrons holding their breath.

Given the plethora of shows that recently came through for the Fringe, the issue of what extra does Le Noir bring to the table needs to be addressed. First, this show extends your pleasure out for two hours and then it benefits greatly from an enhanced light show, with shafts of white, panels of red and flashes of blue adding greatly to the physical achievements playing out below. But perhaps more than anything, there is no doubt about the quality of the acts with each performer (bar the MC) required for just one act; ten minutes to strut their world class stuff.

It is doubtful circus has ever been this daring and sensual with Le Noir proving rather more thrilling than its title may suggest.

Apr 22

FILM – Boy Choir – 3.5K – Opens 23rd April

Boychoir movieBy Peter Maddern

Coming of age flicks where talent triumphs over troubles are a staple of the movie industry and if you are after the briefest of synopsis for Boy Choir think Whiplash meets Pretty Woman mixed with Bob Connolly’s Mrs Carey’s Concert.

Here pre-teen Stet (Garret Wareing) is left angry and bereft after the death of his mother and the rejection of him by his father (Josh Lucas) who dismisses him outright as just the unwanted product of a one night fling. But his father and his school’s headmistress (Debra Winger) get him placed in a singing school on the east coast of the U.S. There it is then up to the very young man to either sink or swim in a hotly competitive environment, not only amongst his peers but also his teachers where rivalries boil to the surface, especially around the prickly doyen but near retirement Anton Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman).

Of course, in a film like this, by hook or by crook, Stet’s unique singing gifts help him keep his head above water and then the fray as inevitable triumph looms provided his own antics and impending maturity give him enough time to prove what he’s got.

Given their chronological proximity, comparisons with Whiplash (where J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for his role as the Hoffman equivalent, Terence Fletcher) are appropriate. The set up in Boy Choir lacks almost the entire credibility of Whiplash’s. The indignities this young lad has to endure at the hands of adults around him beggar belief, but, then I suppose, that only helps makes for the eventual triumph yet more satisfying and heart-warming. Hoffman also proves to be no Simmons but it is accepted the Fletcher role was a bit of a concocted characterisation. And while, Miles Teller, as the young drummer in Whiplash, played all his own notes, it is only in the credits here that one learns that it was another who sung like an angel. Still, full marks for the lip syncing which was, to my eye at least, seamless – we are a long way beyond the mis-timings of Audrey Hepburn’s warbling or Milli Vanilli for that matter.

Still for all this, Boy Choir is a moving, veritable tear jerker as Stet (nicely and convincingly played by Wareing) makes his mark and all the stages of his progression seem quite reasonable (in contrast to the set up.) The film is beautifully shot, Kathy Bates is in good form as the singing school’s head mistress and Kevin McHale does well as the agent within the school who keeps Stet’s case alive.

As the movie industry well knows, we all need to see uplifting triumph flicks like this from time to time and whether or not you saw Whiplash, Boy Choir will delight.

 

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Apr 15

FILM – The Gunman – Released 16 April – 3.5K

3e9f4c4b_gunmanBy Aaron Fiora

The Gunman is a story about Terrier (Sean Penn), a sniper on a mercenary assassination team who is hired to kill the Minister of Mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

The movie opens with a series of news bulletin clips reporting on the tragedies currently happening in the world, not unlike the beginning of V for Vendetta, only in The Gunman the reports are focused around the Congo circa 2006.

Then enter our hero Terrier (Penn) who’s well-aged chiselled face frames a majestic moustache even Guy Fawkes himself would have been jealous of. We soon see he is a very hard man doing a tough job in ruthless circumstances. His only soft spot is the apple of his eye; Annie (Jasmine Trinca) who is a surgeon doing humanitarian aid work in the same area. She is also clearly sought after by Felix (Javier Bardem) who is the shot caller of sorts for Terrier’s ‘team’.

Some might be quick to jump on a bandwagon and call this movie ‘Sean Penn’s version of Taken‘ (the movie made famous by Liam Neeson’s role and of the same director; Pierre Morel). I however differ and think that statement is lazy, unjust, unfair and misplaced towards both films.

The Gunman takes us on a very different journey where the viewer and Terrier are often trying to work out who actually is the bad guy per-se and what their motives for wanting him dead are. It also seems to make a large effort to shine light on Penn’s interests in humanitarian aid efforts in the developing world.

Some things to note are the excellently choreographed fight scenes which you would expect from director Pierre Morel, also the thought and budget which went into the cinematography; every time a character travels in a car there seems to be a sweeping overhead shot most likely taken from a helicopter following them.

You will also see Terrier shirtless from time to time which is fine because I can only assume that Sean Penn did somewhere between two and three trillion sit-ups, ran 100km every morning, punched a hole through a brick wall then bench-pressed a bus for this role. Any 20 year old could likely only dream of being in as great shape as Penn, now 54!

Other noteworthy performances are from Jamine Trinca whom you just can’t help but falling a bit in love with and Javier Bardem who plays his particular role very well too. Last, but not least, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance were stand-outs in their supporting roles alongside what were all seemingly a very talented cast.

 

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Apr 14

THEATRE – Small Gods – Bakehouse – From 15th May – Preview

Small Gods image no text500The Australian Premiere of Sir Terry Pratchett’s “Small Gods”

Adapted for the stage, and Directed by Pamela Munt.

It’s a God-eat-God world, which makes life a bit tricky when you are manifesting as a tortoise. Everyone knows that there’s good eating on one of those things.

Brutha, is a simple novice who only wants to tend his melon patch. Until one day he hears the voice of a god calling his name. A small god, to be sure, but bossy as hell. In what has been described as one of the 20th century’s finest satires, “the gods are pompous, the worshippers cowed, and the priests violently closed-minded. Yet the tale is never heavy-handed, thanks to some deftly comical plot twists, as well as all the levity that comes from picturing an angry god trapped in the body of a tortoise.” (Australian author Jack Heath)

The main target of Pratchett’s perceptive, satirical wit in Small Gods is religion and intolerance. Funnily enough, according to his fan mail, both believers and non-believers have praised the book for supporting their position!
Philosophical and theological arguments aside, it is still epic storytelling (with one foot of silliness stuck in the door), a comedic character piece, an awfully big adventure, and, as always, it examines the never ending conflict between good and evil. So you could say that it pretty much covers everything! (including the number 42).

This is also one of Terry’s works that is most often accused of being literature. However Terry himself preferred to put his views in a simpler fashion:- “ Take it from me, whenever you see a bunch of buggers puttering around talking about truth and beauty and the best way of attacking Ethics, you can bet your sandals it’s all because dozens of other poor buggers are doing all the real work around the place.”

Although this production was planned quite some time before Terry’s passing, some may see it as fate, others as simply co-incidence, that we decided on this particular one of his works that is concerned with theological and philosophical issues. Whatever your beliefs, we hope that it is a fitting tribute to him. Small Gods has all the usual comedy, action, and drama that we have come to expect from one of the most insightful minds of our era. It will also make you think about….well…everything, long after you have left the theatre!

RIP Sir Terry. We hope you are giving our favourite character a good run for his money! We at Unseen Theatre Company will be sure to keep your work alive on stage.

WHERE:            Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
WHEN:              Preview Fri. May 15. Opening Night Sat. May 16. Season continues Wed to Sat until May 30.  All               shows at 8pm.
TICKETS:          Adults $20; Concession $18; TREv $16; Groups (10+) $16; Preview all tix $15; Companion Card accepted.
BOOKINGS:     www.bakehousetheatre.com and at the door on the night (subject to availability)

Apr 13

THEATRE – The Good Son – Bakehouse – Til 25th April – 3.5K

By Peter Maddern

Image by Olivia Zanchetta

Image by Olivia Zanchetta

The often fraught and anachronistic relationship that can develop between Greek mothers and their sons has become in recent years a source of good humour but in Elena Carapetis’ first play The Good Son we see how it can also all become quite destructive.

Frank (Renato Musolino) is a 30 something single guy still living at home under the watchful eye of his mum, Meda (Eugenia Fragos). The play opens with his attempt at concealing from Meda his serious love interest Ana (Adriana Bonacurso) who has slept over. As the play develops this is Frank’s only con, but one that quickly comes to pale into insignificance relative to those attempted on him by those around whom he has hitherto trusted.

Added to the mix is Jimmy (Demitrios Sirilas), the kid next door the family has known since he was a boy who seems to be as welcome in Frank and Meda’s house as they are themselves. Gradually, it becomes apparent that Meda’s gambling habit has reached the end of the road, tearing at her maternal relationship with Frank and sucking in the others in ever more frightening and hopeless ways.

Image by Olivia Zanchetta

Image by Olivia Zanchetta

The Good Son is just a short play, running at around 70 minutes, but Carapetis brings a lot of themes and angst together in that time. While the subject matter becomes ever more complicated and tense, there are some wonderful quips that keep it all an enjoyable experience and with the collection of surnames involved one can sense there is much home grown history also brought to bear when playing with the underlying ethnic story.

Musolino delivers another excellent performance and Fragos is compelling as she mixes frailty with malevolence, desperation with manipulation – can one so slight really be also so hollow and how much burden can one good son really be asked to carry? The set, obtained from donated second-hand materials, seems a little out of date for 1980’s décor and I worried for the last 40 minutes about the iron left on but the performers’ universally strong showings steam roll these concerns and make this a delight.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

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