Nov 19

THEATRE: Othello – State Theatre Company of South Australia – Dunstan Playhouse – 4K

The State Theatre Company of South Australia closes their 2014 season with an impressive production of William Shakespeare’s Othello. Director Nescha Jelk has created a modern world in which the conflict plays out; a military world, certainly, though this element of the story is not over-emphasised. The set (Victoria Lamb) is harsh and bleak, and accentuates the importance of relationships to give any meaning, any distraction, to life. Within this sphere, the characters are natural and believable – while love and passion is an ever present issue, macho behaviour exists, men dominate, women fight for recognition and understanding, and personalities clash. The relevance of the events and ideas within the text for today’s audience is well demonstrated while not feeling like it’s being unduly stressed or signposted.

In the title role, Hazem Shammas is strong and likeable; he is a man who has succeeded in life, both professionally and personally, despite the prejudiced attitudes and expectations of others. From a confident, positive, amiable character, we witness his decent into jealously, paranoia and destruction. Shammas makes this downward spiral pleasingly gradual and smooth, leading to a final act Othello who has lost all judgement and seems to be fuelled solely by desperation. While his handle of the language and ability to express the meaning of the verse is excellent, the descant of his speech would have benefitted from greater variation in the later, emotional, scenes.

Ashton Malcolm creates a Desdomona who is feisty, flirty and self-assured, as well as genuine and sweet. Her father Brabantio’s (Chris Pitman) complete lack of understanding of the true nature of his daughter is both laughable and credible at the same time; no doubt representing many modern father/daughter relationships. Malcolm and Jelk have crafted a female character whose blameless actions may easily be misinterpreted and misrepresented by the male dominated world.

Renato Musolino’s characteristic calm power is ideal for Iago. Here is a man that is calculating and controlled at all times and has the charisma needed to easily make those around him do his bidding. In his hands, the idea that he would set this whole plot in motion – whether out of revenge, malice, a depraved sense of fun, or a combination of all three – and expect to get away with it, is completely convincing. As is the idea that so many people would trustingly play into his hands.

As the easily manipulated Roderigo, James Smith is a perfectly pitiful mixture of lust and naivety. His barely contained hormonal recklessness is a nice juxtaposition to Iago’s cool control. It is also well contrasted by Taylor Wiese in his portrayal of Iago’s other pawn, Cassio, as a more self-assured and competent soldier who none-the-less gets played for a fool – making him a good bridge between Roderigo and Othello.

In her three roles, Elena Carapetis has shaped nicely distinct characters. The portrayal of Bianca as an innocent local girl, besotted with the foreign soldiers but still strong in her own mind, is another brilliant choice from Jelk, and Carapetis captures this duality well. However, it is during Emilia’s speech about the hypocrisy of expectations surrounding virtue and her final standoff with Iago that she is truly commanding.

This is an admirable main-stage debut from director Jelk, and her excellent cast and crew have created a production that is interesting and powerful.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

Nov 03

THEATRE – Lally Katz – Stories I Want to Tell You in Person – 3.5K

th lally katz 300x200 THEATRE – Lally Katz – Stories I Want to Tell You in Person – 3.5KBy Peter Maddern

The road to writing a play can take many a turn but in this case, the one about the GFC of all things, none of them led to the original goal and instead they all finished eventually creating this delightful one-woman show.

Lally Katz, who’s work Neighbourhood Watch wowed audiences here at the Playhouse earlier this year, arrives on stage replete in peach blouse and some nifty shoes and takes us on a journey that crosses the Atlantic a few times, particularly to New York.

There her imagination seems to run as wild as the city itself with duelling psychics that both battle her demons and point her life on whatever inexorable upward curve her money can buy. All many of colourful characters get introduced as well; the full Jew, the bear of the apocalypse, the dolphin of hope and a pesky sub-conscious. Katz sustains us all with a curious and humorous mix of deluded hope, innocence beyond her years and a demeanour that may remind one of Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz.

The show is funny, Katz is on song throughout its 80 minutes and a nicely crafted costume change sets up the finale. In form it may seem like the type of show that fills the tents in February and March, but this is a class above that lot.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Oct 25

THEATRE – Kryptonite – The Space – 3.5K

113210 home hero 300x168 THEATRE – Kryptonite – The Space – 3.5KBy Peter Maddern

In this joint Sydney and State Theatre Companies’ production, play write, Sue Smith tackles with some aplomb the growing relationship between Australia and its new dominant trading partner, China. Covering a 25 year period from immediately before the Tiananmen Square massacre to now, we follow the lives of  Chinese student, Lian (Ursula Mills) and Aussie bloke, Dylan (Tim Walter) whom she first casts eye upon when he is stark naked up a flag pole demonstrating at Sydney Uni.

From there, we visit their lives when they spasmodically intertwine, as she develops as a business person and he as a Greens activist that sees him holding a position of great influence in the Australian Senate.

Mills is masterful as she portrays the complex Chinese personality, part shy and withdrawn, part schemer and opportunist but always uncomfortable giving up the intricacies of her homeland to wholly a handsome man that she seems to both adore and loathe in equal portion. Walter is equally convincing straddling the major change in his life from unregistered radical to the respectable and responsible middle-aged man he has become.

The set is an expanse before crumpled paper walls. Scene changes come with the writing on them in black paint the various years of the moment which writing then magically disappears by the time the next rolls along. DJ Trip provides a thankfully understated sound track to the action while Nicholas Rayment’s lighting is similarly spot on as scenes move from the great outdoors, to the intensity of a press conference and the red glow of an intimate Chinese restaurant.

My only grumble is with the closing couple of scenes in which director Geordie Brookman seems to strive to bring a closure and a rounding out to the stories of our two players. Perhaps they are simply unnecessary – maybe leaving the audience to ponder and debate the motives in the car home would have sufficed.

As good as the two actors are the star in this is the play itself with Morris in top form in crafting a story of cultural intrigue in a very contemporary and Australian context. With the small and the large of one confused and misinterpreted by the other, we can extrapolate the challenges of the broader inter-national dialogue that is now such a massive and current part of this country’s being.

Kryztoff Rating  3.5K

Oct 13

FILM – Russian Film Festival – Preview – Marion – 7 – 9 Nov

PRESTIGIOUS RUSSIAN FILM FESTIVAL RESURRECTS FOR ITS 11TH YEAR IN AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND

Russian Resurrection, the largest and most distinguished film festival outside of Russia, will launch its 2014 season around the country on October 30, and for the first time in New Zealand. Already in its 11th year, the festival showcases the best of Russia’s film industry and pays homage to the finest in Russian film culture.  This year the festival will celebrate the 90th anniversary of Mosfilm - Russia’s inaugural film studio – with an exhibition of 6 retrospective films and 14 brand new films.

Amongst the vast selection of esteemed films that will feature at Russian Resurrection are Test, winner of 2014’s Kinotavr Film Festival’s Best Film; Stalingrad, a compelling film on the epic battle between Russian and German forces during WWII; and Dersu Uzala winner of the 1976 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In an atmosphere of excitement, festivity and Russian hospitality, Russian Resurrection enhances and invigorates the relationships between Russia, Australia, and now New Zealand. It is this jubilant atmosphere, mixed with the rich culture attached to the brilliant Russian film industry that makes attendance to this event a must.

“I am proud and honoured to show the world what the Russian film industry has to offer.  With over 65,000 people having attended the event since we started in 2003, it seems Australians really do appreciate what the Russian film industry has to offer.  I can’t wait for them to see what we have in store for them this year,” said Russian Resurrection Film Festival’s Managing Director, Nicholas Maksymow.

Russian Resurrection was first established in 2003 to support the growing Russian Film Industry, and to showcase the talent of Russian filmmakers and actors on a global scale. Since its inception, Russian Resurrection has had more than 65,000 people attend the festival, and will now showcase, for the first time, in New Zealand.

 FILM   Russian Film Festival   Preview   Marion   7   9 Nov

Oct 12

THEATRE – Between Two Waves – Bakehouse – 4.5K

DSC 0824 300x198 THEATRE – Between Two Waves – Bakehouse – 4.5K

Ellen Steele and Matt Crook

By Peter Maddern

Daniel Wells (Matt Crook) is an up and coming academic in the vexed area of climate change. He has passion for his chosen work and his research causes him to stress about the future. Indeed, when the play opens, Daniel is staring into space scared and bewildered as he recounts the content of his recurring nightmares that seem to have a connection with the world’s existence.

Notwithstanding his focus, Daniel enjoys the company of Fiona (Ellen Steele), a secretary to the Government Department that Daniel gets a job with. Fiona is a modern woman, loud both verbally and sartorially, the sort who sees the world through her own goals. Another of her type is Grenelle (Elena Carapetis) who happens into Daniel’s world as the insurance assessor for the flood damage he claims has come from recent storms. Her aggression is directed at those who look to her to resolve their problems whilst disowning any responsibility for anything she actually does.

The play then takes us through a sometimes confusing interlocking of stories of Daniel and each of these ladies and his best mate from the Uni, Jimmy (James Edwards) as the past and the future play themselves out in a tussle, as Daniel describes it, ‘between beliefs and opportunity’. When Fiona, now his wife, gets pregnant, Daniel and she wrestle with whether having the child is the right thing.

DSC 0936 300x198 THEATRE – Between Two Waves – Bakehouse – 4.5K

James Edwards and Matt Crook

While Matt Crook’s apparent age may belie the academic with the ’49 peer reviewed research papers’ he is portraying, everything else about his performance is masterful. No matter what levity he may bring to his conversations, Crook’s internalisation of a stress and worry borne of his research is scarily real; from the kick-off he looks haggard, wretched and strained. As the production reaches its conclusion, it becomes increasingly clear why he is like this. On stage almost throughout the play’s 110 minutes, Crook again shows why he is as good as any of his generation. One can only hope yet bigger opportunities soon await him.

Both the girls capture their characters excellently; a bombast and confidence that only papers over the frailty of their lives and emotions, while Edwards is serviceable as the academic only too keen to hide in his tower while telling everyone else what they should do.

Between Two Waves is essentially a battle between the two worlds of those who see life in a context and those born to milk what they can get out of it in pursuit of short term fulfilment, set against the current cause celebre climate change. But, to be sure it is not a cause play though Daniel’s extended summary of the climate change mantra near the end perhaps goes too far (but fortunately Crook rushes through it so quickly there is no risk of audience members getting to their feet in worship and praise.) As it turns its attention to the merits of bringing the next generation forward into it, the power if not the originality of Between Two Waves all gets amplified.

Using just one staging and judicious and most effective use of video, director Corey McMahon, (a fellow Flinders alum with Crook and Steele) keeps the story flowing and eventually allows the mysteries of the stories to both untwine and resolve themselves. But without Crook’s tour de force, all this good work may well have come undone. His is a compelling performance.

Kryztoff Rating   4.5K

Sep 05

THEATRE: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – On The Fly – Bakehouse Theatre

On The Fly have chosen to use the well-loved (and conveniently out of copyright) characters from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories as the basis for their latest improvisational offering. The five performances of the run are all structured around a different plot, so that each show is guaranteed to be unique.

On an appropriately adaptable yet well-adorned stage (the lamppost was particularly delightful), Wednesday night’s show opened with Holmes (Paul Gordon) and Watson (Eugene Suleau) witnessing the death of an unidentified woman. Back at 221b, as Mrs Hudson (Helen Keene) busied herself dusting the house, the men discussed the fact that Detective Lestrade (Aaron Broomhall) had gone missing. A seemingly unrelated (yeah, right!) case appeared in the form of a young lady, Miss Pearson (Maddy Gibbons), who pleaded with them to investigate the ill health of a friend, Lord Harris (Noah Tavor), who had started to have fits of falling. Unsurprisingly James Moriarty (Jarrad Parker) was tied up in this somehow, and Holmes’ old flame Irene Adler (Claire Bottrall) also had a part to play. In an hour and a half, the performers needed to bring all these pieces together in a coherent and entertaining story, all made up “on the fly”.

The fun of improvisation lies in the audience’s ability to appreciate the spontaneousness of the action, the way random information has been included and the quick thinking of the performers in being able to bring this all together in a coherent and fun performance. While this show is un-scripted theatre rather than Theatre Sports, with the characters and overarching storyline pre-planned to give the show a structure, some input from audience members was still sort beforehand to provide ideas for such things as locations, objects and weapons. Unfortunately, there was no information provided to the audience about which segments and details were made up entirely by the performers and which were based on these audience suggestions. It is possible that if you were one of the audience members who provided them, you may have recognised when one or two of your responses were included, but the rest of us were completely in the dark. Without this information, the joy of witnessing these suggestions being woven into the action was sadly lost.

While it’s understandable that the actual dialogue may not be polished in such a piece, what should be solid to compensate is the overall environment created for the action to take place in and the characterisations of the players. Each performer should have immersed themselves far enough into the mind of their character that they could react to any situation as their temporary alter-ego would. As a grounding for this, they should have developed an understanding of the behaviours and language of the time period in which the action is set. Unfortunately, this was not accomplished for the most part.

As Holmes, Gordon was amiable and seemed to be contributing some good ideas, however his dialogue was too stilted for him to be believable as the quick thinking, great master detective. A stand out performance was given by Suleau (maybe not surprising as he appears to be the most experienced member of the cast), who had a strong stage presence, a definite and appropriate character, and was often the one keeping the action moving with some funny lines thrown in to boot. Parker’s portrayal of Moriarty, while consistent, borrowed rather too much from that seen in the television series Sherlock and while Bottrall looked the part as Irene, with a divine hair-do, her strong Australian accent was rather jarring. Gibbons showed some promise as Miss Pearson, though the glint from an anachronistic extra piecing in her ear was very distracting.

Improvisation can be a tricky art to master, and by its nature cannot be held to the same expectations as ordinary theatre, however this is not an excuse for standards to drop. The performer never knows what they will have to work with and must be adaptable to a plethora of possibilities. This means that greater effort should be put into honing the aspects of a show that can be controlled, so that these elements will support those that are more open to failure. While further experience will no doubt help to improve the confidence, spontaneous thinking and other skills of the performers involved, a stronger focus on the overarching production would make this series of shows more enjoyable for a wider audience.

Aug 25

THEATRE – The Last Continent – Bakehouse from Sept 19

Unseen A3 poster high res 212x300 THEATRE   The Last Continent   Bakehouse from Sept 19The Last Continent”

 

Adapted for the Stage and Directed by Pamela Munt

 

“Dead is only for once, but running away is forever”

“Discworld is a world and a mirror of worlds, but this play does not mirror Australia. No, it’s about somewhere entirely different which just happens to be, here and there, a bit Australian…still..no worries, right?” – Footnote.

The Last Continent is under construction using all the left over bits and pieces from other continents. Basically it is being held together with spit. If this is not a big enough problem, there is also something going on with the space/time continuum. Probably something to do with those pesky wizards at the Unseen University.

The Last Continent needs a hero. Preferably one who can eat a pie floater even when he is sober. Yep it’s our old friend Rincewind, the inept wizard who can’t even spell wizard, but he’s the only hero left. Still…No worries, right?

Here is what some of the reviewers said about our 2009 production:-

  • “Thanks to Munt’s magical script, The Last Continent is a rib-tickling satire and a tongue-in-jowl spoof on Australia that’s fabulously funny and well worth seeing more than once.”   -   Stephen Davenport – Australian Stage Online.
  • “…..the overall feel is something like a cross between Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Harry Potter….Following a Tolkien-esque hero’s journey….. a great night out”  – Samantha Bond – Independent Weekly
    • “….very sound laughs and  good solid performances…..The opening night audience enjoyed themselves noisily” – Ewart Shaw – The Advertiser

    • “..There is never a dull moment…..Cultural icons, in deviant and hilarious reconfigurations, appear at irregular intervals, from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to the invention of Vegemite, nothing is sacred…. (you) will not want to miss this production” – Barry Lenny – Glam Adelaide

WHEN:                  September 19 to October 4, 2014. (Wed to Sat) at 8pm

WHERE:               Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide

TICKETS:             Adults $20/Conc $18/ Groups (10+) $16,/Fringe Benefits $16/Preview all tix $15/ (Companion Card accepted)

BOOKINGS:          www.bakehousetheatre.com  or at the door on the night (subject to availability) NO phone bookings.

Aug 13

THEATRE – The Very Cranky Bear – 4K

By Julia Cudsi

Who hasn’t read Nick Bland’s delightfully simple children’s story ‘The Very Cranky Bear’? Set in the Jingle Jangle Jungle in the middle of a rainstorm, it follows the story of four mismatched friends – Lion, Moose, Zebra and Sheep – who try to shelter in a cave that, unfortunately for the hapless foursome, also houses the titular very cranky bear.

The Patch Theatre version of ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ ably adapts the short, sweet story about thoughtfulness, sharing, altruism and kindness to the stage in a musical setting.

Despite having only three actors to play all five characters (much to the bemusement of Little Miss Five), the vast array of costumes, musical instruments and simple but sparkly set designs meant that this show had everything necessary to amuse and tantalise young children – which is probably why nearly all shows at the Norwood Odeon theatre have sold out.

Possibly a little scary for very young children, this is nonetheless a heartwarming tale which adapts nicely to a 50 minute stage show – just long enough to keep the littlies entertained and sitting still.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Aug 08

Grease: The Musical

Grease most certainly is the word! The iconic stage musical graced the Adelaide Festival Centre at the opening night of Grease: The Musical.

Produced by John Frost, the show is at once an homage to the brilliance of the original musical and a celebration of Australian talent. Featuring Australian legends Bert Newton, John Paul Young, and Todd McKenny, this slightly more ‘down under’ version of Grease blended the best that the nation has to offer with the rocking music and feel of 50′s America.

Starring Rob Mills as the ever-slick Danny Zuko and relative newcomer Gretel Scarlett as Sandy, the musical follows a long history of Grease productions- with the musical first appearing in Melbourne in 1972. Mills, who many might recognise from his stint in the first series of Australian idol, perfectly captured the swagger and vulnerable charm of Danny. Scarlett added a level of strength and determination to the character of Sandy, but nevertheless rocked out in that iconic black satin jumpsuit.

Like any Australian production, this performance of Grease had big shoes to fill. Grease is arguably the most famous musical ever created, with a cult following only increased by the outrageously energetic 70′s film. However, the production held it’s own musically, with the big band and stellar vocal gymnastics of the cast adding punch and flair to songs already ingrained in the minds of an enthusiastic audience. The cast’s amazing energy recreated the classic 70′s film, evoking an era of malted shakes and letterman jackets, whilst displaying the obvious shine of homegrown talent.

Lucy Maunder as stole the show as a sassy, smart-talking Rizzo, whose voice and attitude was a stand out in the performance.

Todd McKenny as ‘Teen Angel’ drew laughs, cheers, and even screams from the crowd, and Bert Newton as Vince Fontaine gave the performance the slightly off-beat and kooky edge the film brought to cinema screens over forty years ago.

The accents of the cast grated slightly, and opening night nerves may have contributed to dance moves which were not entirely executed sharply. Nevertheless, the band had the whole crowd on their feet and the phenomenal staging and costuming more than made up for any shortcomings.

The performance ended with a well-earned standing ovation for this production of such an iconic musical.

Jul 30

THEATRE – The Importance of Being Earnest – Playhouse – 4K

Nancye Hayes photo by Shane Reid 194x300 THEATRE – The Importance of Being Earnest – Playhouse   4K

Fresh from the peach fight – Nancye Hayes as Lady Bracknell – image by Shane Reid

By Peter Maddern

Perhaps Oscar Wilde’s most famous play burst onto the Playhouse stage last night in a sumptuous display of period self-indulgence and deception. With few attempts to be anything other than true to the original material, director Geordie Brookman has assembled a star cast who revel in the opportunity for farce.

None more so than Nancye Hayes as the sergeant of arms for the fun police, Lady Bracknell. After 10 minutes or so of a mish-mash of whites, blacks and teal, Bracknell arrives on stage as if fresh from of a massive peach fight. It reminds one immediately of our Dame Edna sans the gladis and maybe her persona was based on this, at times, terrifying Victorian matron.  From there the various deceptions of wayward city brothers and the sick Bunberry grow and grow while the ladies of Algie and Jack’s affections get caught up in it all in equal measure.

While Nathan O’Keefe’s dandy Algernon Moncrieff dominates the first act, increasingly it is Yalin Ozucelik’s Jack who takes control with his own somewhat shameless double life of trusted guardian and playboy, a lost man looking for an identity that it seems Lady Bracknell is hell bent on denying  him in the name of her society’s  mores.

The girls, Anna Steen as Gwendolen and Lucy Fry as Cecily, are just a delight, the former with a somewhat ridiculous pout and the other with such sweet innocence it’s worrying.

Yalin Ozucelik Nathan OKeefe Anna Steen photo by Shane Reid 300x189 THEATRE – The Importance of Being Earnest – Playhouse   4K

Yalin Ozucelik, Nathan O’Keefe, Anna Steen (photo by Shane Reid)

But as good as the cast is the highlight remains the material. Wilde lets rip whenever he can at the upper classes of the Victorian age he both cherishes and despises in equal measure. Sometimes it seems the end can only arrive once he has exhausted all the witty material he can muster and when it does arrives it comes with the sort of contrivance that would make even Gilbert and Sullivan winch.

The staging, contained within a magnificent rolling teak wooden curtain rod, bursts out not only with colour and texture but in a shape that subtly gets us anchored in the times.

The Importance of Being Earnest is simply great fun with all the cast in fine form in a production that will have you laughing all the way home – all very witty Wilde.  What a pity he isn’t around today.

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