RAW: Theatre

RAW: Romeo & Juliet – Playhouse – Till 29th Aug – 4K

Reviewed by Kosta Jaric

It takes a while to realize what is happening on stage, but once the confusion settles it is apparent that all six actors rotate roles throughout the play. As one actor takes part in a scene as Romeo, they may then transition into Juliet in the next. Once accustomed to recognizing the character by clothing or dialogue, it actually becomes enjoyable, and confirms how talented (and seamless) this cast is.

Director Geordie Brookman does something unique here in making the peripheral roles more prominent than the titular characters. Benvolio feels like more of a main character than Romeo, the Nurse more prominent than Juliet at times, and Mercutio gets the limelight like he has always deserved.

Josephine Were is great in her first full production with the STC opposite her former teacher, the always fantastic Terence Crawford (who perhaps is the most masculine Juliet since Victorian times). Another star of this production is the set designed by Pip Runciman. Almost a jungle gym for the cast, it hits fantastic extremes, gloriously morphing between scenes.

A lot of people would feel less inclined to see this famous play if they’ve seen it (or even one of the film versions) before, but they’ve created something unique in itself and definitely worth experiencing. It seems as if we’ve been blessed here lately with great productions and casts, but this one takes it a step further and perhaps surpasses The Toy Symphony (also involving Brookman) as the best performance seen at the Playhouse this year. The (perfectly placed) use of Roxy Music classic Love is the Drug throughout as a soundtrack and as dialogue is also brilliant, and sums it all up: “catch that buzz”.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

RAW: Fugitive – Robin Hood Retold – Space Until 14th Aug – 4K

Earlier in the year Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe gave us a cinematic new take on the old Robin Hood tale. Now writer, Matthew Whittet and Windmill Theatre have given us another take. The difference is Fugitive is much better.

Here, Robin (Eamon Farren) returns from an unexplained two year absence, hooks up again with Marion (Louisa Mignone) and along with Wil (Whittet) and bovver boy, Little John (Patrick Graham) take on the forces of evil in the district led by Marty (Carmel Johnson.) Along the way they battle knights, some bad, some incompetent, others invisible and also themselves, often at a frenetic pace.

The interweaving of this traditional Robin Hood story with almost everything else being modern, along with a tale about young people desperately trying to come to terms with their place in the world, is expertly done. The humour builds from Little John’s flatulence problem early on to Geoff Revell’s show stealing roles, first on a horse as a sage, then as the treacherous Guy. It is a great romps.

The impact of the whole off stage crew on all aspects of the production is significant. Richard Vabre’s lighting and Luke Smiles’ sound design keep giving the production vibrant and eccentric edges, always making contemporary what is after all a 1000 year old tale – the scene changes are an excellent example of the team work delivering clever outcomes.

Farren is an impressive stage figure and Mignone handles superbly the various challenges of Marion in a costume that was not exactly flattering.

The Windmill people are calling for young men to flood to see this. They cast their net not nearly wide enough. This is great entertainment for everyone.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

RAW: Letter’s End By Wolfe Bowart – Playhouse Till 31st July – 5K

Adelaide parents and grandparents gather up in haste those pre-teen young ones in your life and make for the Dunstan Playhouse to revel in Wolfe Bowart’s Letter’s End. In a world of 3D and other cinema graphics, it is rare to see a single performer amaze and dazzle without all that tech. Bowart achieves that in trumps.

Mops that growl, apples that can be eaten off paintings, eggs that bounce and then don’t, a mosquito that never says die, blooms that transform from dead sun flowers to red roses and so it goes on in a never ending menagerie of products from a brilliant imagination that has children shrieking in joy and adults gasping in admiration.

His crowd interactions are fun with his helper on stage on opening night so full of joy even before he got on stage that it was obvious the goodwill of the whole show had infected all in the audience.

To be sure, this is mime of the highest order, in the Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton class for the 21st century. The sheer brilliance of not only the acts but the timing and the successful pursuit of magic throughout leaves those attempting to fathom how it is done exhausted and unfulfilled.

Please get your (grand)children along to Letter’s End, it will be an experience they and you will remember for a very long time.

Kryztoff Rating  5K

RAW: Superheroes – Space Theatre, until July 24

A group of people sit. Each is unique but all share in a sense of exhaustion. The glare of fluorescent lights overhead creates the appropriate institutionalised atmosphere. This is a “rest home” and an air of boredom abounds. For the next hour, the beliefs, experiences and ideals of the motley bunch of characters are explored, with themes of war, faith, and destiny rising to the surface.

Stone/Castro has produced a piece which uses theatre, dance and visual imagery to create a world of desolation and confusion, with a flicker of hope thrown in for good measure. Though, at times, the tangled nature of the piece can be a little trying, there are several affecting montages and some engaging dialogue.

The quality of the performances varied; both across the cast and within individual characterisations. As the returned soldier haunted by his past and desperate for a different future, Nick Bennett gave a strong central performance, though could have given more fire to the part, particularly in the flashes of anger and desperation.

Lewis Rankin’s portrayal of the young man who finds himself caught up in this surreal world and risks allowing the residents’ nightmares to become his own, is also commendable; with particularly impressive control shown during his featured dance piece.

Though probably not appealing to those who prefer their theatre more straight forward and plot driven, this show incorporates both powerful and humorous imagery and presents many ideas worthy of consideration and rumination.

Kryztoff Rating 3K

RAW: Superheroes – Space – July 20-24

The publicity image of a prone Superman may suggest Superheroes, which enjoys its world premiere at the Space this week, is a light hearted romps. On the contrary, this Stone / Castro production explores weightier issues reflecting on war and exploring man’s vision for the domination of the earth.

In an unknown rest home, six characters regaining their strength to return to their lives the way they were, come together including a Muslim who has been in a coma for 20 years, a born-again Christian, a pregnant woman who has been in jail and a soldier fresh back from the Iraq war. Together, they project their vision for the future onto a young boy who is there doing work experience.

As fiction and reality blur we witness the madness and trauma of war through the soldier’s hallucinations, turning the characters to saviours and heroes for hope and salvation and faith and drugs for escape and shelter.

Directed by Jo Stone (who also plays the role of the pregnant woman) and written by Paulo Castro, Superheroes promises to be thought provoking theatre and worthy of exploration from Wednesday to Saturday evening (with a Friday 1pm matinee.)

RAW: Entertaining Mr Sloane – State Theatre Company

Sloane (Renato Fabretti), is a good-looking young lad who has taken lodgings in the house that Kath (Jacki Weaver) shares with her father, Kemp (Dennis Olsen). Despite their age difference, Kath has designs on Sloane. Her controlling brother Ed (Sean Taylor) is not happy about the arrangement; until he meets Sloan and also finds the boy alluring.

As Kath, Weaver initially presents a vague and simple character that is mildly amusing and decidedly pathetic in her overtures towards the young Sloane. However, as the character develops in the second act it becomes clear that Kath is not just a ditz and that her psychological issues have a truly pathological and disturbing leaning. In these later scenes we see more of the talent for which Weaver is known.

Disappointingly, Fabretti (while undeniably attractive) has neither the appropriate look for Sloane nor manages to inhabit the role in any way that could endear him to the audience. The character was inconsistent and underdeveloped, with many opportunities to give it depth, and illuminate the motivations for his actions, sadly neglected. Taylor is suitably loathsome as Ed and, as the wretched and doddering Kemp, Olsen gives his usual, crowd pleasing, performance.

Overall, the show lacked spark. There were pace issues, particularly in the first act, and much of the dialogue felt like it was being said for no reason other than because it was written on the page. When double meanings were accentuated, they were met with appreciative laughter from the audience but, sadly, the majority of these opportunities were missed due to the lacklustre delivery.

Promoted as a black comedy, the script does have comedic potential but it also touches on some very serious, and unsettling, issues and so a delicate balance needs to be met. Regrettably, this production fails to achieve that happy medium and the result, while not completely devoid of merit, is a rather bland interpretation.

Kryztoff Rating 2.5K

RAW: Entertaining Mr Sloane – Preview – 2 – 25 July – Dunstan Playhouse

Subversively slipping this Oedipal sex-farce past the ever-watchful eye of the British censor in 1964, play writer Joe Orton raised innuendo to new and thrilling heights. Almost fifty years later, the funny and sexy Entertaining Mr. Sloane continues to be revived all around the world.

The State Theatre Company’s production, which kicks off this Friday, will be directed by Artistic Director Adam Cook and will feature one of Australia’s best loved actors, Jacki Weaver, fresh from much acclaimed role in the movie Animal Kingdom.

Set in the 1960s on the cusp of the sexual revolution, it may be the swinging in London, but out in the suburbs, behind closed doors, Kath is lonely. Craving love and affection, Kath and her bachelor brother Ed are more than happy to accommodate the attractive young charmer Mr Sloane within their home and lives.

Both Ed and Kath become so infatuated with their shady tenant with a murky past that to win him, they will let him get away with anything, even murder…

Entertaining Mr Sloane promises to be a gloriously witty romp full of sly sexiness and racy naughtiness.

Cast also includes Dennis Olsen, Sean Taylor and Renato Fabretti