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

Jun 20

CABARET FESTIVAL – The Glen Miller Orchestra – The Festival Theatre – 2K

By Tom Eckert

glenn-miller-900x600

The Glen Miller Orchestra, a Goliath from an era past. As a young jazz lover I must admit I was glad to have the chance to see this band (or at least the band ten or so iterations away from the original 1938 lineup). A sentiment, it would seem, that was shared by much of the septuagenarian population of Adelaide judging by the packed Festival Theatre.

With a swathe of the classics; Chatananga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 65000, Gershwin’s original Rhapsody in Blue and even an upbeat swing of Waltzing Matilda – the band certainly played to the la vie en rose their adoring fans apply to nostalgia with abandon as affirmed by the appreciative murmur that went through the hall every time the title of the next chart was mentioned. Whilst an indispensable part of our musical history, I do have mixed feelings about the strong culture of World War Two fetishism, here propagated by some very talented dancers from The Broadway Swing Dancers, a bright-eyed bushy-tailed quartet that were all red lipstick, military uniforms and kicking legs.

The band itself was solid and the charts played to the tune of the original recordings to a T. Even the solos I’ve listened to that many times. Wendy Smith and Mark Kopitzke were a nice addition for the vocal charts, again, faithful to the originals, when Mr. Kopitzke opened his pipes, if you closed your eyes you could almost be sure Frank Sinatra was back from the dead.

I have to say that this however was the biggest detraction from the show. As big as a big band is, it’s not going to fill a theatre that seats thousands without a little help. I say it sounded like the recordings because it genuinely sounded the same. Due to the huge requirements for amplification the mixing desk had it balanced just as on the records, beautifully, with the vocals just a touch overpowering. As a result, lost are the shivers you get from the live horns, the clever rhythms and the out-there passing note over a chord change. They could have literally piped the CD’s through the speakers and I would not have known the difference except for the fact it felt like the tempos had all been brought back just ever so slightly. This meant the whole act felt flat, it lacked the energy and vigor of the old days. This was the music that used to get the youth of the world hot and heavy and now it just feels like it’s going the same way as its main audience. Slowing down, taking it easy and resting on its laurels. Big band jazz needs to keep in mind its original purpose and not think itself safe just because it’s performing to a full house of thousands of its faithful.

Just because you can take the jazz hall out of the band, doesn’t mean you should take the band out of the jazz hall.

Kryztoff Rating: 2K

Jun 19

THEATRE – Bitch Boxer – Goodwood Institute – 4K

Bitch-Boxer-Poster_500wBy Peter Maddern

It is not with controversy to suggest that female boxing is not the most genteel of sports, yet equal opportunity saw it admitted to the list of events at the 2012 London Olympics. Bitch Boxer is about Chloe (Jordan Cowan) a teenage girl from nowhere in particular in England for whom boxing is her life; a pursuit of excellence, a passion, a connection with those who are important to her.

When the play opens Chloe is a fight away from qualifying for the Olympics but before she dons the gloves for that playwright Charlotte Josephine takes us to her past and forward again to the present. Its a moving back story to all that will go into each and every punch over the four rounds when everything is seemingly on the line, in particular the influences of her father and boyfriend who are both simultaneously present and absent when the fight gets desperate.

Someone Like U Productions has delivered an excellent rendition of this previous Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit. Jordan Cowan is a compelling pugilist and young girl in equal portions; pretty, athletic, relaxed in her delivery yet fully possessed by the story of her character. I don’t know whether her cockney accent was affected for the performance but it sure had me taken in.

The stage is hers and hers alone for the hour but she is greatly aided by some skilful direction by David Mealor, who works her into our hearts, and inspired lighting by Chris Petridis (and box builder Rowan Lee) who uses just four box lights to take us both to the brightness of the arena’s centre ring and the solitude of the change rooms beneath it.

This is a classy production of a moving story delivered with great confidence and poise by a talented young actor.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Jun 18

CABARET FESTIVAL – Ian Shaw – 3.5K

CAB-generic-logo-900x600_HeroBy Peter Maddern

A new face to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and indeed one to our shores is Welshman Ian Shaw.

His show, A Bit of a Mouthful, combines a series of self written or adapted songs on a disarmingly wide range of topics; from the paucity of delights of ‘super foods’ to a lament about shit singers ruining others’ songs. His best was probably his take on adolescent on-line anagrams and abbreviations, using his 18 year old nephew as source material. Though others looking for more traditional fare may have preferred his various Joni Mitchell numbers and a very humorous attack on the nasally charged repertoire of her one time partner, James Taylor.

Between, Shaw, looking every bit a cross between Elton John and our own Bert Newton, indulged in quick fire chat including a delightful recounting of his bed wetting days.

There was a certain caution about Shaw’s show that one suspects came from confronting a new audience (and maybe the jet lag in reaching them) but one also senses that when warmed up with a few heart starters and fully confident of how his humour will be received (excellently I would propose), Ian Shaw will deliver a big mouthful of outrageous entertainment.

Kryztoff Rating 3.5K

Jun 15

THEATRE – Reasons to be Pretty – Bakehouse – 3.5K

Image by Michael Errey

Image by Michael Errey

By Peter Maddern

Those easily offended by foul language and superficiality in human relations probably should not indulge in Neil Labute’s Reasons to be Pretty, the Bakehouse Theatre Company’s latest production.

The play opens with a tirade by twenty-something Steph (Clare Mansfield) directed at her soon to be ex-boyfriend, Greg (Nic Krieg). It’s about some sort of unkind comment relayed to her by Carly (Krystal Brock), the security guard at Greg’s work but it is not exactly clear what was said and why but this is no reason to hold back on a good old bellyache. None of this is helped by the sanctimonious and most unlikeable Kent (David Hirst) who is Carly’s partner; well, as long as it suits him.

Nothing about that introduction should put anyone off seeing this very humorous play where under developed emotional quotients are let loose on a stage stuffed full of desires for self-gratification yet also, strangely perhaps, a vacuum when it comes to appreciating others for what they are beyond the surface.

Greg is the only level headed one amongst them and Nic Krieg delights as he absorbs the barrage and then calmly goes about getting his own back, all the while keeping close to what truly matters to him. I think this is the best performance I have seen from him. Clare Mansfield’s Steph is too a carefully crafted study, in her case of fragile self-indulgence, seemingly oblivious to her own assets while Brock’s Carly neatly portrays the confusion that can arise from power without the substance to pull it off.

David Hirst meanwhile maybe rightly accused of some overacting – yes David we are on to you – yet, how else can you make such a loathsome character accessible to one’s audience.

Joh Hartog’s direction and set are quietly understated as he lets his talented cast make the most of material they no doubt would find all too familiar in their cohort of friends and associates.

Great fun especially if shallow people are a humorous topic of interest to you.

 

Kryztoff Rating      3.5K

Jun 15

Hannah Gadsby: Art Lite – Artspace – Cabaret Festival – 4K

By Tom Eckert

Hannah-Gadsby-Frame-Art-Lite-Adelaide-Cabaret-Festival-The-Clothesline-233x300

Hannah Gadsby; a self deprecating, paradoxically self-effacing every-woman has hit onto a winning format here.

Capitalising on the fact that she is over-qualified for a comedian but under-qualified as a lecturer she recognises the niche and creates the happy medium. What you are left with is ‘Art Lite’ a quasi-lecture (including the obligatory schlick PowerPoint presentation) on the subject of the history of Western Art from as far back as the classical Greeks, paying pointed attention to Eurocentric white wankers’ obsessions with boobs, boy Christ and hosts of creepy naked babies.

Whether by design or by accident Hannah Gadsby has tapped into what can only be described as the western entertainment’s fetishism for irony.

By tackling a subject with which she is deeply informed about, but the large majority of the audience consider over their heads, she has placed herself in the position to address the profound absurdities that the layman would struggle to comment on for fear of ridicule. And what we discover is that the entirety of western art is riddled thick with the narcissism, sycophancy and absurdity so easily recognised in the popular art of today. She reminds the audience that even the ‘masters’ were only humans that were particularly good at putting colour on paper (and even some of them weren’t that good) and that the only people lauding them as anything more than mortal are pompous, middle-aged white men whose associate-professorships rely on their insistence that they ‘wouldn’t expect you to comprehend high art’.

Consider this the 21st century’s version of the Enlightenment, this truly is Titian meets TMNT. With an eye for the details that pass most of us by and a resounding appreciation for the absurd and ridiculous, the irreverence of a school girl coupled with the sharp wit of someone jaded by the world, Hannah Gadsby reminds you that nothing is worth being taken seriously. Herself included.

Kryztoff Rating: 4K

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