Aug 27

SHORT FILM – Dale – 4K

1979603_817667491604110_5994370703006219653_nBy Peter Maddern

In an era where heroes are increasingly sought, (I see even Arnold Schwarzenegger is having another crack at being one), perhaps what in truth we really need is a true anti-hero and in Dale (Nathan Porteus) we have a prime candidate.

In the fictitious SA town of Spoole Dale exists as maybe the world’s only living Zombie, a creature much loved by the locals; part pet, part tourist attraction, a thing seemingly benign or is it just all out clumsy and a danger more to himself than others.

For Dale, the film, Tom Cornwell and Hjalmar Svenna have parked their greasepaint and successfully taken up a life for the first time as writers and directors of this engaging mockumentary which premiered last night at The Mercury. Just exactly what drives the current zombie phenomenon I expect only an expert sociologist could explain but the Cornwall / Svenna take on it all is perhaps best captured in the opening scene which is somewhat of a peach.

From there a host of local characters (actors Eddie Morrsion, Rick Mills and Lisa Waite amongst them) give their take on the creature including mounting their own fightback against those who dare to rail against it. Dale is light, nicely shot around McLaren Vale and sure to amuse. Perhaps, something longer can be conceived out of it but short film lovers should be sure to search Dale out when it hits the festival scene in the months ahead.

But whenever, be sure to Hail the Dale – he’s really not that scary at all.

www.facebook.com/SpooleLovesDale

Kryztoff Rating    4K

Aug 26

THEATRE – Volpone (or the Fox) – Playhouse Theatre – 3.5K

Paul Blackwell James Smith in Volpone by Shane Reid

Paul Blackwell James Smith in Volpone by Shane Reid

By Peter Maddern

Avarice can affect us all, if we are not careful, but in Ben Jonson’s play (adapted by Emily Steel) it seems all the world is possessed by those for whom restraint in such a matter is unknown. Volpone (Paul Blackwell) is a wealthy con-man with one more ruse to unleash. With his slave / servant Mosca (James Smith) they set up three wealthy associates into believing he (Valpone) is dying and each arrive bearing gifts that they expect will lead them to be named the sole heir.

Things get messy when old man, Corbaccio (Edwin Hodgeman), disinherits his own son (Matt Crook) in order to secure the grace of Volpone and another, Corvino (Patrick Graham) offers up his own wife, Celia (Elizabeth Hay) for Volpone’s sexual pleasure for the same desired outcome. All the while Voltore (Geoff Revell) the lawyer spins his eloquent tongue this way and then that to beat them all to the loot. In the end, the solicitor, the senior and the spiv along with the con men all get their just desserts.

As can be expected, the acting with a cast like this is uniformly delightful; Revell revels in his spats, Blackwell can barely control his monstrous delight with his character’s scheme and Graham’s merchant is right out of central casting for Queensland white shoe brigade. But James Smith’s Mosca is the pick of the bunch; a grubby Machiavellian sort, slimy and duplicitous with an air of conceit that belies his circumstances. His performance is the glue that holds the whole show together and he does it with unctuous style.

The adaptation by Emily Steel is, as she notes, a distillation of an otherwise much longer production and competently done but Nescha Jelk’s direction, while incorporating some lovely touches, leaves her audience somewhat flatfooted with dialogue and plot twists that seem rushed and lacking nuance. The tosh she includes in her program notes about Joe Hockey and the seemingly hand in glove relationship she sees between money and meanness seems off theme for the play and somewhat of an insult for the various donors and sponsors of State Theatre who attend opening night.

Volpone and his friends present good fun theatre but reading up on the plot beforehand will help in its comprehension and appreciation.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Aug 08

Music: James Morrison with Special Guests Megan Washington and Marian Petrescu – The Festival Theatre – 4K

By Tom Eckert

QMF_James_Morrison_15_event

It is always dangerous to perform small group jazz to an audience of thousands in a hall more suited to Don Giovanni than Duke Ellington. But somehow, through clever sound engineering or force of sheer virtuosity, this quintet with the indomitable James Morrison at its head manage it comfortably and in fine form.

Wasting no time for showing off what they can do, even before the welcoming applause had died out, Marian Petrescu had pitched a fans whistle on his keys and gone straight into a scorching run. This set the scene for the evening with raw ability practically bursting from the seams of each and every person on stage.

A very charming moment was the discovery of the history between Washington and Morrison where, in the inception of her career, Washington had competed in the annual vocalist competition at Generations in Jazz and was, at least as far as the story goes, instantly identified for her talent. A talent she put to good use this evening. Washington’s involvement is, I feel, a part of a positive trend of contemporising jazz and making it more accessible. Whilst Washington obviously has a jazz background, her current style is quintessentially contemporary. Her application of her personal style to old standards serves the purpose of closing the gap between the rich, long history of jazz and our modern iteration of popular music. It warmed my heart to hear that even her name on the bill stirred a consideration to go in company that didn’t know their trumpet from their Taylor Swift.

The style bending however wasn’t limited to Washington. Petrescu seemed to take great pleasure in demonstrating his exquisite technique and razor musical brain with a particular highlight being playing Duke Ellington’s Caravan in the style of Rachmaninoff. Classically trained from behind the Iron Curtains we hear tell of a young Marian’s first encounter with jazz in the form of an Oscar Peterson record. Blown away by the Canadian player’s technique and speed he applied himself to learning every chart note for note and nailed it, only occasionally surprised how he only ever seemed to play in the upper register. It wasn’t until later that he realized he’d been playing his LP on a record player stuck on 45 RPM. The technique that allowed him to match a Mach-speed Peterson note for note is evidenced here with mind-bendingly rapid licks and riffs seeming at times, if you were watching carefully, to be more of a vehicle for two disembodied hands and ten disembodied fingers as they raced deftly across the keys. A veritable jukebox, all you need to do is mention a name and he’s away playing their best works from Mozart to Liszt, it’s all there at his fingertips.

For all their virtuosity, and there is that in spades, the real charm of this show and of jazz in general is the spontaneous and improvisational nature of the beast. Too often a show is rehearsed to the nines with every line and gesture crafted. The back and forth between these talents and even the occasional on-stage awkwardness restores your faith that when they say – “Do you want to play that chart man?” “Yeah, let’s do that one,” you believe it.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

Aug 03

FILM – Last Cab To Darwin – 4K

last-cabimageBy Peter Maddern

In this era of big movie expense budgets and the often illusory allure of international sales comes a film that is true to its roots; Last Cab to Darwin is an unashamedly Australian firm and one for embracing.

Based on a play by Reg Cribb, in Broken Hill, Rex (Michael Caton) has stomach cancer that has recurred which suggests his days are numbered. On hearing on the radio about Dr Farmer (Jackie Weaver) promoting a painless death through euthanasia now allowed in the Northern Territory and faced with his friends’ ambivalence to his realities, Rex takes off in his cab for Darwin.

Along the way he teams up with Tilley (Mark Coles Smith), a young aboriginal guy on the drift and then in Daly Waters, Julie (Emma Hamilton), a British nurse and current backpacker. Together their road trip ends in Darwin when Rex meets up with Farmer to plan his death, an outcome that has more complications than he realised were going to come into play.

389890-f70b1b18-0f0b-11e5-a702-12ba795536d9Caton gives the best performance of his career; it is one at ease with the weariness of a lonely life and the pain of his disease. His love interest in Broken Hill (if that is what one should call it), Ningali Lawford-Wolf is great also as Polly, the woman denied what might have been but still deeply affected by the man who has left her physically but left her also with both his house and his dog. Coles Smith as Tilley is a shot of life with looks and charisma to burn that charms and warms in equal measure. Hamilton is the outsider who knows when duty calls and does what is required to help Y with a touch that combines both the professional and the humane.

With some surprise, Jackie Weaver is somewhat the fish out of water in all this. Her Dr Farmer lacks the empathy we might expect of a medical practitioner, even for the self-promoting schemer she portrays. Whether Weaver is off her game here or the script at her disposal is a bit lame, neither that wig nor seemingly the botox help the performance.

seRlOFzuNES6DGSgxDOCewLast Cab is beautifully filmed by Steve Arnold, especially the hike from the Hill to Daly Waters; the characters resonate a certain oneness with the landscape and the dose of old Aussie hits that open the film gets the dopamine pumping.

Perhaps the film struggles once it gets to Darwin; the story gets diffused somewhat – and the return journey is a massive stretch of the imagination given what were most convincing ‘nigh unto death’ moments in Darwin. But there is a certain courage in its depiction of the indigenous world that deserves recognition and its eschewing of any attempts to dress the film up for an American market is admirable.

This is our best film since or in the same category as Bran Nue Dae; a road trip and love story combination with a difference. Do take the ride in this Last Cab.

Aug 03

THEATRE: Jesus Christ Superstar – Scotch College

Jesus Christ Superstar is an oft performed crowd favourite, with several productions in Adelaide over recent years. Few have achieved the quality of that delivered by Scotch College for their 2015 show.

With a smiling self-assurance, which has you vacillating between wanting to join his followers or slap him, Ben Francis gives a performance as Jesus that should make many professionals quake in their boots. His vocal range and quality is impeccable as he navigates the substantial demands of the role. Despite the title, Jesus Christ Superstar is also largely Judas’ story and Tom Russel’s agonised portrayal is a good counterbalance to the serine and sanguine Jesus.

From the outset Jesus’ seemingly willing oblivion to what is happening around him puts the audience squarely in Judas’ corner. Russel shows Judas’ building desperation as he appears to be the only person able to sense the catastrophic potential of the current situation. Meanwhile, Francis has crafted a Jesus whose outer peaceful façade can only hide his inner turmoil for so long, and must eventually give way to a character who is much more human in his flaws and motivations. In this manner, both stories and plights are given equal weighting and importance, and draw simultaneous sympathy thanks to the performances of the two young men in question.

Hannah Hamilton provided a faultless and enjoyable vocal performance as Mary. The potential for her relationship with Jesus to intensify the rift between him and Judas was believable, as the young couple had eyes only for each other. As Pontius Pilate, Lachlan Williams had a commanding presence and a voice to match. Samuel Burst tackled the role of Caiaphas, with the very low range presenting quite an ask for a teenage boy, and came out victorious, and in the gender swapped role of his offsider Annas, Emma Trumble was another stand out performer. Featured solos from other members of the ensemble showed that the quality of vocals did not end with the principals.

While the performances from such a young cast in these demanding roles deserve much praise, further focus on embodying the emotion in the scenes, rather than presenting it with outward manifestations would have increased the intensity of the story – the desperate attempt to control emotion is often a more powerful show of pain than an overflow of sobbing.

Design-wise, the production has a lot in common with the recent professional arena tour; however much of this could simply be because these are the iconic images that come to mind when you think of contemporary scenes of unrest. Ultimately, it is the scenes that veer away from this visual that have the most impact. The clutching hands of the masses, reaching out for Jesus’ healing touch from below ragged, dirty robes during The Temple, are the stuff of nightmares, while King Herod’s Song, performed with cheeky verve by Tayla Coad, gives a nod to the currently popular Hunger Games series, as she and her court gaily tap dance their way towards Jesus’ fate.

The creative team of director Adam Goodburn, musical director Antony Hubmayer and choreographer Linda Williams, has crafted an enjoyable and polished production, which the cast and crew can be thoroughly proud of and other companies could aspire to.

Jul 29

THEATRE – Betrayal – Playhouse – 4.5K

Image by Shane Reid

Image by Shane Reid

By Peter Maddern

When we join this play, one of Harold Pinter’s most acclaimed works, Emma (Alison Bell) is announcing to Jerry (Nathan O’Keefe), a man she had a five year affair with, that her marriage to Robert (Mark Saturno) is over. She tells him that her husband only became aware of their affair the night before but Jerry is soon to find out that was not the case.

From there we move back in time, some nine years to the nature of the various betrayals and how they began; they become betrayals of not only loved ones but of the individuals to themselves and it is all rather painful to observe.

Geordie Brookman’s production nails the emotional tension and heartache of these characters. Geoff Cobham’s lighting and set design ensures the minimal and at times painfully extracted dialogue is played out under spears of intense light. Scene changes early on make use of electro musical renditions of the beastly sound clothes racks on the move make in a dry cleaning shop,accompanying the same as they act as a curtain and prop supply for the players.

Alison Bell in Betrayal ©Shane ReidThe tension developed peaks in the Venice hotel scene when a industrial can opener could not have matched for ferocity the ripping apart of the bond of trust Robert had previously sustained in his partner.

Alison Bell’s Emma is a delight of mixed emotions and that certain cavalier disposition to others she possesses in trumps. Similarly Nathan O’Keefe’s Jerry is a study of a pathetic man as naïve as he is gormless in his pursuit of well, it is not obvious. Mark Saturno, however for this reviewer, was the pick of the bunch for his portrayal of strength in the perpetual faith he sustains in his closest friends yet all the while possessed of a torrent of anger below his upbeat external bridge that the others seem to regard as a trait of weakness.

Brookman’s demands on all his players to hold their fire superbly builds up the tension leaving the Playhouse ominously silent (other than for the unfortunate ambient 10CC recording that blew the opening scene.)

Intense and withering theatre and sure to be one of the State Theatre Company’s best this year.

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K

Jul 27

FILM – Scandinavian Film Festival – Underdog – 4K

By Peter Maddern

One of the Scandinavian Film Festival’s highlights (Adelaide from 22 July til 29 July) is this Chicago and Zurich Film Festival award winner by director Ronnie Sandahl.

Set in Oslo, Norway, Dino (Bianca Kronloff) is a 25 year old Swede struggling to make ends meet; living rough and with her job opportunities hampered by a broken forearm. But she manages to get baby-sitting work with Steffen (Henrik Rafaelsen), a former tennis star who now runs a string of restaurants and who looks after his two daughters while his wife is away working in Botswana. Of course, they fall in love but a uncomfortable triangle develops when his wife returns home unexpectedly.

This is a most emotionally engaging film with the older Steffen struggling with an identity beyond the notoriety of his younger days and a distant wife about whom he has mixed feelings. Dino similarly struggles but coming from the other direction, of poverty and of no status at all. Kronloff seems to become increasingly more beautiful and sensually captivating as the story develops and Sandahl’s direction utilises close up camera work (bordering at times on queasy-cam) that highlights the growing connection and intimacy between not only these two main players but also between her and Ida, his 15 year old daughter.

There are a couple of clumsy scenes which seem somewhat odd but otherwise this is a classy love story that resolves itself with a better understanding of life for all the main players. There is also a terrific line about how the formerly dominant Swedes view their Scandinavian cousins – ‘they are like retarded cousins who won the lottery – good luck to them’, a position that is not reciprocated by the Norwegians.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

Jul 27

THEATRE – The Perfectionist – Bakehouse – 4K

The _PerfectionistBy Peter Maddern

There is a kind of universality to much of David Williamson’s work – flower power uni radicals of the 1960s face adulthood in the haze of the Whitlam liberation but who find the going all gets a bit tough when life’s realities hit.

Set in the late 1970’s Stuart (Ross Vosvotekas) is the perfectionist battling on for years on his PhD thesis that he believes will revolutionise modern economic theory. But his personal pursuits clash with those of his wife, Barbara (Cheryl Douglas) also pursuing academic glory and trying to raise their three children.

Their statis is interrupted when Barbara comes upon a book entitled Open Marriage which proclaims a new view on the traditional take of the committed and dedicated union of a man and a woman and when she wishes to engage as a baby sitter Erik (Chris Knight), a blonde haired radical of his own while they spend six months in Denmark. Together, Barbara and Erik’s views of the world form the basis for experimentation both in Scandinavia and then back in Sydney while Stuart battles management of his time and his parents. Jack (Rick Mills) is a successful barrister has overdone leadership of his household driving his wife Shirley (Kim York) to drink and their other son into isolation.

Ross Vosvotekas’ Stuart is a study in stiffness and self-possession though they are moments more than others when Ross warms us to his task. Cheryl Douglas is a delight both to look at and observe as she carries a broad range of emotions; from loneliness through coy school girl to seeming fulfilment of life’s promise. Rick Mill’s belligerent take no prisoners persona is almost intimidating but he is nonetheless outshone by Kim York’s pugnacious defence of what might have been; she is the epitome of the dutiful wife of their generation. Chris Knight’s Dane is entirely convincing except for his dress sense. Even given this is the 1970’s, if sartorially Erik is the best of Scandinavia then perhaps Barbara should have been a little more circumspect in whom she chose for inspiration.

It is interesting perhaps to reflect on the characters for a contemporary audience. In its time Stuart would have been archetypical but 40 years on he is somewhat of a dinosaur. Yet, many in the audience struggled to see this, preferring to hiss at his pomposity rather than revel in his indulgences.

The Perfectionist as a play seems to want to cover too many twists and turns and at times struggles during its well beyond two hour duration. But its messages around the difficulties of making a marriage work, the dangers of pop culture self-help books and the unalterable forces of genetics that thus need to be managed and not beaten are well made.

This is all a great fun production in true Williamson style; one to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

Jul 09

The Australian Ballet – The Dream

The Adelaide Festival Centre was charmed last night by an immaculate performance by the Australian Ballet.

Three exquisite performances captured the audience and held them until the last step. The first, Monotones II, involves a trio dancing to the heavenly piano of Erik Satie. Frederick Ashton should be commended for his beautiful choreography, the trio were perfectly timed and enchanting to behold. The dancers showed flawless technique and poise, while the score built to a crescendo.

The second, Symphonic Variations was a series of quartets, duets, sextets and solos with the six performers never leaving the stage. With perfect performance and poise the dancers caused the length of stage to seem endless. Symphonic Variations had beautiful choreography and dancers who were well paired in technique and strength of performance.

The final performance was a reimagining of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The inspiring tale was reinterpreted for dance in a fantastical setting.

The sets for the first two performances were simple, allowing focus to be directed at the performance. The Dream’s set was stunning, capturing the most beautiful elements of the performance. Complimenting the light, fanciful nature of the performance, the sets exemplified a seamless presentation. Furthered by the charming costumes, the mood was set as soon as the curtain was raised.

Madeleine Eastoe as Titania had a wonderful blend of strength and elegancy, performing her characterisations effortlessly. Kevin Jackson as Oberon was simply amazing, his display of character, technique and timing were second to none.

The corps de ballet and soloists were well rehearsed, performing their supporting roles fantastically. Of particular delight was Chengwu Guo as Puck. His graceful movements and effortless display of a flippant, joyful character were outstanding.

Nicolette Fraillon was flawless as the chief conductor and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, true to their form put on an excellent show.  Aurally, the performance was a delight, matching perfectly the emotion and depth of Shakespeare through sound alone.

Converting the language dense tomes of the world’s most famous bard to the exquisite medium of dance is no mean feat, however the Australian Ballet have shown they are more than up to the challenge.

4K

Jun 21

CABARET FESTIVAL – Eddie Perfect: Songs from the Middle – Dunstan Playhouse – 4K

With Songs from the Middle, Eddie Perfect shows that there can be stories worth telling found in even the most mundane of settings. In this case, that setting is the comfortable, middle class town of Mentone, Victoria, and the stories focus on both the town itself and its history, plus Perfect’s experience of growing up there.

Originally performed in 2010, this revamped version of the song cycle is a more serious offering from Perfect than much of his other work (Shane Warne the Musical; Drink Pepsi, Bitch). However, there are still good helpings of comedy included, with odes to Bunnings and the Frankston train line, and tales of alien encounters, incorporating his customary dry humour and clever wordplay. The musical arrangements are superb, with Perfect’s sonorous voice complimented excellently by the full sound of the 10 piece ensemble, made up primarily of students from the Australian National Academy of Music.

Perfect is also an excellent narrator, telling engaging backstories between songs. Juxtaposing the lighter songs, there are plenty of heartfelt moments through-out. One of the most emotionally honest points comes in the encore song, Napean Highway, which explores the double edged relationship you can have with your hometown, and the emotional freedom that comes with facing up to those feelings and moving on. It is the perfect closing to this enjoyable and satisfying journey.

Kryztoff rating: 4K

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