Jan 04

CABARET – Club Swizzle – Space – 4K

ClubSwizzleGroup_570x320By Peter Maddern

Sometimes Christmas and New Year cheer needs to break back from the beach and take in some fully licensed hi-jinx. The Festival Centre’s Club Swizzle is one such excellent option – two hours of good humour, singing, dancing and strength.

Led by the diminutive Murray Hill (from New York, not our former MLC), Club Swizzle invites patrons prior to kick off to mingle around the centre bar with the performers before a fancy pants reordering of chairs, tables and cloths by the Swizzle Boys transforms an intimate Space bar into a performance stage. From there, the fun really kicks in.

Ali McGregor delivers the sultry, Dandy Wellington the quick steps, Valerie Murzak strength and Laurie Hagen the strange – two of the more bizarre acts I have ever seen, burlesque without the pasties and seemingly much point – but what’s it matter?

Throughout Hill keeps the buzz going, at one stage drawing in a couple of audience members for a contest while Mikey and the Nightcaps keep pounding out the beats and the wham bam accompaniment to Hill’s lesser jokes.

However, the star billing belongs to the aforementioned Swizzle Boys who combine acrobatics, drink serving and, for a finale, some shirtless sex appeal in a captivating display.

In truth, there isn’t much that is exceptional about the performers – perhaps the La Soiree team behind this production have worked out that isn’t always needed to pulsate their audience – but for great fun Club Swizzle is the place to be. But hurry, this pop-up bar ends on January 17th.

Kryztoff Rating 4K

Dec 08

THEATRE – The Lost WW1 Diary – Damian Callinan – 5K

By Peter Maddern

The 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings has spawned an industry of its own this year, much of it, to be fair, meritorious with Deadline Gallipoli the moving image pick and Peter Rees’ biography of Charles Bean Bearing Witness maybe the best book. Damian Callinan, a more than capable comedian from Melbourne, has chosen a particularly courageous approach with his ‘dramedy’ The Lost World War I Diary.

I say courageous because mixing humour with horror, especially based on a story characterised by national loss, can be a fraught approach but Callinan more than skilfully plots his way through a tale that starts in Warrnambool, with his happening upon a war diary in a local op-shop, and also ends there as that book’s author returns home from bearing his own witness and participation in the build-up to and endurance of six months in Turkey.

This 75 minutes may not only be the best thing you have seen about World War I this year but also the best comedy as well. Callinan wit, observations and sentiments are razor sharp. He takes us back to another world when mateship existed, when community meant going to war together (and not ending at sharing a hashtag) and when the Australian personality was forged in survival and commitment. His sense of that time as well as his delightful characterisations are both believable and beyond the cliché. Yet, his asides about the modern day, the quirks of this town and members of the audience will also long stay with you.

In short, this show is quite superb.

Kryztoff Rating        5K

Nov 11

THEATRE: The Popular Mechanicals – STCSA – Space Theatre – 4K

Image by Shane Reid

Image by Shane Reid

One of the best known comedic troupes on the stage, the Mechanicals from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream are made even funnier in Keith Robinson and Tony Taylor’s modern revision of their story. Mixing clever wordplay, vaudevillian sketch comedy, slapstick humour, music, and more, in with the original dialogue from Shakespeare, this show is a delight for all tastes.

A rag-tag bunch of amateur thespians hopes to win the chance to perform a play at the wedding of the local Prince and Princess. Energy abounds as the six performers race through their rehearsal period, climaxing to fever pitch in a final performance of their production. They are plagued along the way with hilarious mishaps, not least of which is in the form of their leading man, Bottom, being turned into a donkey mid-rehearsal.

Under the direction of Sarah Giles, the performances are universally excellent, with the ensemble bouncing off one another at a cracking pace. Each actor creates a character that has its own unique variety of comedic charm while also bringing a genuine feel to the whole dynamic. The comradery as they fight to get their show to the stage will be recognisable to anyone who has been involved in such an endeavour, and this is ultimately what makes this show work so well.

Rory Walker does a brilliant job as Peter Quince, the director of the play within the play, desperate to clinch the opportunity for his group to perform at the royal nuptials. He displays a wonderful versatility – even managing to imbue appropriate gravitas into a recitation of the stirring Act III speech from Henry V, despite disrobing throughout. Charles Mayer is also given the opportunity to display a more serious side to his character of Bottom, delivering a nicely understated change in character once he returns from his otherworldly encounter. This, in conjunction with his antics as the “professional” actor Mowldie, makes his performance highly enjoyable and satisfying.

This is a delightful production, full of irreverent idiocy. It quickly jumps from one thing to the next, keeping the audience engaged while maintaining the flow throughout. It is at once daft, bizarre, juvenile, affecting, intellectual and silly. Mostly, it is just very entertaining.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

Nov 10

THEATRE – Company – Stirling Community Theatre

Image by Mark Anolak

Image by Mark Anolak

By Peter Maddern

There is much to like about the Hills Musical Company’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, currently on at the delightfully musty Stirling Theatre.

For starters, the HMC have eschewed an easy path by going with one of the well-known musicals, yet chosen a Sondheim gem that contains great tunes, lyrics and humour. Secondly, it has resisted the temptation of so many to wire all performers up like Madonna; an annoying habit of so many theatre shows that denies the audience an appreciation of particular singers’ extra talents and the full nuance of their voice. And thirdly, but not least, under Fiona Delaine’s stage direction and Mark Delaine’s musical direction, Company moves at a hearty pace aided and abetted by an excellent cast.

The story, or lack of it, in Company revolves Robert (Josh Barkley), a bachelor still in his mid-30s, as he takes in observations and advice from his various friends of the pitfalls and potential of marriage. It is all set in New York and incorporates the full complement of that town’s neuroses which even if Sondheim’s work is not familiar to you one will recognise from the likes of Woody Allen’s films.

All in all, Company is a fine way to spend an evening and enjoy the fruits of a local musical group that continues to produce the most entertaining shows.

Oct 30

THEATRE – Eurydice – Plant One – 3K

IPwVbE9KK5CIgyNKtb0EpWnJEID9dGis0dirlsueNwkBy Peter Maddern

The objective of Yasmin Gurreeboo’s Foul Play is to re-examine classic works through a prism of modern feminism, producing ambitious and experimental theatre in unexpected places. Her production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice positions itself amongst various threads of the Greek classic Orpheus in the Underworld.

Here, instead of males – both humans and spiritual Gods – behaving badly and with malice aforethought towards our heroine we see life through Eurydice’s (Annabel Matheson) eyes as a visit to the Underworld tears her between her loves for her dead father (Patrick Frost) whom she reunites with there and her living, loving husband, Orpheus (Antoine Jelk.) Her passage through these dilemmas is confused by Eddie Morrison whether as a Nasty Interesting Man or Lord of the Underworld and the three Stones; the fun police of the deep.

The performance for just a small potential audience at Plant One meets the criterion stated above of an unexpected place; it being a warehouse of sorts with lots of poles. At one level the spaces it creates are well utilised with Orpheus’s pining for his love distanced in another world a nice touch. However, with at least half of the performance happening at 90 degrees to the alignment of the seating available one wonders whether some other configuration may have worked better.

The four main players present serviceable performances with Matheson the stand out. Her struggle between her loves truly becomes ours as we feel her pain in marrying up the options. However, while the Stones are suitably noisy and Morrison is his usual bombastic on-stage self, Ruhl’s characters often seem one dimensional.

Gurreeboo’s Eurydice certainly is ambitious and she should only draw strength and courage from this production as her game plan turns to future works.

Kryztoff Rating   3K

Oct 21

THEATRE – Mortido – State Theatre – Playhouse – 3.5K

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels - image by Shane Reid

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels – image by Shane Reid

By Peter Maddern

Angela Betzien’s crime thriller set in Sydney carries all the hallmarks of that town; its loud, gritty, grim and grotesque as well as great entertainment.

Monte (Renato Musolino) is a drug dealer on the up who sees an opportunity when the local drug lord / matriarch faces imminent death from cancer. To advance his plans he enrols his wife’s younger brother, Jimmy (Tom Conroy), to do the dirty work. But as the pressure grows, he sees a life beyond for both himself, his sister, Scarlet (Louisa Mignone) and her child, Oliver (Calin Diamond). To make that ambition happen, he turns to Detective Grubbe (Colin Friels), a cynical and manipulative copper on the cusp of retirement who is also looking to go out with a big scalp on his resume. All the while, the mortido – the death wish – for those involved in the trade both grows and becomes more apparent to the audience.

As the writer notes in the program, crime stories haves become big business in the performing arts – television and film in particular – in the last 30 years (though not as big unfortunately as the commerce they relate to). Hollywood seems to turn out endless tales of punks and police going at each other and themselves (the excellent Black Mass, currently showing is just the latest in that line) and Australian productions have also honed in on the genre with Animal Kingdom perhaps the best of those on the silver screen.

Translating the freedoms of film to the stage is a challenge that Betzien and director Leticia Cáceres have pursued with enthusiasm utilising a wide open stage that possesses a reflective rear screen and sink area on the left. There we are transported somewhat effortlessly not only around Sydney but to Mexico and elsewhere in South America. The aggressive modern style also embraces over lapping scenes as they transition. All this is fairly successfully executed by the cast though some confusion breaks out in the last quarter of the evening.

Friels dominates the players with a role he seems ideal for; he’s tough, wizened and uncompromising in his goals and amongst the grime we almost wish him to succeed. Tom Conroy has the most challenges which he masters with aplomb – a man torn between innocence, ambition, family, illicit love and regret. At the end he seems almost as exhausted as we have become watching the pain and emotion he has endured.

This joint State Theatre / Belvoir production is ambitious and compelling viewing sure to enthral those with a healthy passion for modern crime thrillers.

Kryztoff Rating   3.5K

Oct 02

THEATRE – Amber – Her Majesty’s – 3.5K

media-amber-2By Peter Maddern

Gao, a playboy, wakes in hospital with a new heart and is immediately tended to by a nurse that falls in love with that heart but not his head. This confounding dilemma sits, dare I say it, at the heart of this flash Chinese production by acclaimed director Meng Jinghui.

More than just conventional theatre, Amber also combines dance and music that is sensationally lit – indeed the lighting may be the stand out feature of what otherwise may be considered a slightly over long production. Aided by sur/side titles (why can’t someone who knows English go through these before they get presented), the design is very much dominated by black and white, mostly the latter taking up the medical theme of the opening.

The plot is basic; a mix of love story and con tricks with equal dollops of home spun philosophy wrapped in but both the main actors carry it all with great confidence, dynamic in all facets of their performance.

This is exciting contemporary theatre that shakes up the norm for the Adelaide’s stages.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Oct 02

THEATRE – Ladybird Superstars – Bonython Park – 2.5K

1532_300_175_80By Peter Maddern

There is probably no more courageous a form of performing than strutting as a lady boy – celebrating one’s hormone, chemical and surgical transformation from one gender to another. And one does not need faulty eyesight to feel convinced that what you are seeing is what you thought you were seeing.

However, courage alone does not make for entertainment and unfortunately The Thailand Labyboy Superstars came up somewhat short on that score. Beyond the first half being marred by an inadequate sound system, the show lacked imagination and at times rehearsal. Lip synching is a dangerous approach at the best of times but when poorly done it somewhat detracts from the rest of the show no matter how many feathers, veils and fancy hats you have on.

Where well known stars are mimicked either one is out for parody or beyond the original channelling. Whether it was of Beyonce, La Belle, Tina Turner or Whitney Houston the Ladyboy caricatures kind of went nowhere.

While the second half was better than the first, unless transgender is your stuff, there are better cabaret shows that come through town.

Kryztoff Rating 2.5K

Oct 02

OzAsia – superposition – 5K

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Fusing science and art in itself is an art form. Has Ryoji Ikeda, internationally renowned artist from Japan who lives in Paris, mastered this with ‘superposition’? Consisting of screens, sounds, graphs, screens, sounds, graphs, screens, sounds, graphs and two live performers Stephane Garin and Amelie Grould. A series of information and graphs are mixed with live action on the screens set to sounds, not music, sounds.

Described as inspired by the mathematical ideas and notions of quantum fields that deals with this particular characteristic of nature: one cannot fully describe the behavior of a single particle, but in terms of probabilities. To describe a particle, one must list all possible states a particle can be found in alongside probability of the particle being in that state.

This certainly mesmerising experience, that one could not really describe as simply th eatre or music may be the pinnacle of fusing concepts, science, sound, understanding, questioning into an art project, then again it may simply be a hypnotic experience of flashes on screens set to rhythmic sounds to entrance the audience. And maybe that in itself is achieving the pinnacle of art.

Kryztoff Rating   5K

 

 

 

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Oct 01

THEATRE – Miss Revolutionary Idol Berserker / Rebirth – OzAsia – Rehearsal Space – 4.5K

media-miss-idol-rb-2By Peter Maddern

Describing your experience as an audience member of Miss Revolutionary is not easy. For those so inclined it is something akin to surviving Bay 13 at the MCG on Grand Final Day – with food and liquid and other objects raining down on you throughout – and Sydney’s Bridge Climb where you strip down and put on provided garments for the ride.

After an interminable amount of Japanese jabber when you arrive, once the show gets started Miss Revolutionary provides 40 minutes or so of intense sensorial overload. Albeit the rehearsal room is not large but it seems there are as many performers as audience members, yelling, singing, dancing, climbing through the chairs – they are everywhere doing stuff. We are warned we will get wet and covered with seaweed but having a pair of girls knickers plonk down on my head was not only a bonus but not something that has happened to this reviewer for a while – another star on the rating for that. If nudity had broken out, then I think we were truly on for an all in orgy.

247743_home_heroJust what the story of the production is all about was not clear as well. Life, living but just why it seemed to stop at marriage was confounding. But as director and creator Toco Nikaido states – how we interpret it all is pretty much up to us. But the drive to present how the 20 something generation receive and generate their media – chaotically, piecemeal and yet resulting in some synthesised cohesion – is very strong.

As OzAsia director Joe Mitchell’s show piece of his contemporary festival it was a stunner but spare a thought for those charged with cleaning it all up.

Complete with total immersion and enthusiasm from the cast, even after you have left the performance space; but well beyond and after you have dried off, this is a show that will stay with you.

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K

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