THEATRE REVIEW: MICHAEL GOW’S AWAY @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (UNTIL 25 MARCH)

away

 

Michael Gow’s Away is one of Australia’s most popular plays and this latest production makes it easy to see why. The current Sydney Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre Production sees the play return to its second home at the Sydney Opera House (the show played here one year after it debuted at the Stables Theatre in 1986.) It’s a story that is in some ways deceptively simple and in others is quite layered and complex in its symbolism, imagery and references to different texts. This is a portrayal of three different Australian families going away on holiday in 1967 and one that remains an important and vital slice of home-grown theatre.

Away is directed by Matthew Lutton (Edward II) and stars Liam Nunan (The Golden Age) as a young, aspiring actor named Tom. He falls in love with a strong and independent young woman named Meg (Naomi Rukavina in her STC debut.) The pair met when they were performing together in their school’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Young love is a beautiful thing but this romance comes under fire thanks to Meg’s snobbish, ball-breaking mother Gwen (a terrifying, Heather Mitchell). Gwen believes her daughter is too good for this young boy — he’s the son of English immigrants (Julia Davis and Wadih Dona). Gwen also refuses to let up on her stronghold over the family, including her husband (Marco Chiappi), as well as the apron strings, much to Meg’s chagrin.

The other family out on holiday are the school principal (Glenn Hazeldine) and his shell of a wife, Coral (Natasha Herbert). This older couple is grappling with grief because their only son died in the Vietnam War. This is not the only allusion to death in this play, Tom has leukaemia and he learns that his diagnosis is bleak despite his parents’ best efforts to try and shield this dire news from him. This notion of children passing before their parents meant that Away was also described as being a meditation on the AIDS epidemic because this was happening in real life as Gow was writing it.

The lines in this play are very clever and sharp and Gow’s writing in superb. There are also some great little jokes peppering the script. Gow successfully traverses the lines between poignant and meaningful moments and themes like death, loss and conflict and other points that are quite joyous and fun (young love and the idealism of English immigrants in their new-found home, etc.)

The set itself is quite a minimalist one and this makes the audience focus on the actors and their different conflicts. There is a major change in the play where a storm erupts (thanks to some imaginary fairies) and thereafter the actors are bathed in a stark, white light. It’s interesting that in these moments where the tangible things are stripped away that the play’s most narcissistic and wealth-obsessed character can stop, take stock and learn about more important things in life than mere objects.

The actors prove a formidable ensemble cast. They are also extremely adept at realising this highly-versatile script and the many moods and themes that are often referenced in it. The actors should also be commended for their portrayal of Shakespeare’s finest characters and these complex and uniquely-Australian ones.

There is also some different musical interludes by composer J. David Franzke. The music during the scene changes is quite evocative and atmospheric, at once bringing to mind the carefree sixties and at other moments supporting the play’s darker themes.

Away is one entertaining and absorbing show about three different Australian families tackling with important, everyday issues in a tense and difficult atmosphere — the family Christmas holiday. There are moments that will make you laugh and other times where you will despair and cry. Away is ultimately a theatrical beast in every sense, because it plays with the notion of art in such a clever and skilful way and it appeals to our emotions in the most base, visceral and human sense. Amazing.

Photo credit: James Green

Originally published on 26 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/theatre-review-away-is-an-enduring-and-symbolic-look-at-life-conflict-the-family-christmas-holiday/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

THEATRE REVIEW: DOGFIGHT THE MUSICAL @ LEND LEASE DARLING QUARTER

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Dogfight The Musical is not designed to be safe or comfortable viewing, but it’s certainly a visceral experience.

The stage show is an adaption of the 1991 Warner Bros. film with the original screenplay by Bob Comfort and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. In the hands of the Blackout Theatre Company, it’s a production that will reverberate with you and make you stop and think.

The story is about a group of entitled and testosterone-fuelled young marines in San Francisco, who decide to spend their final 24 hours before deployment (they will eventually go to fight in Vietnam) with some partying and casual cruelty. The group engage in a dogfight, a bet where winnings are awarded to the guy who brought the ugliest date along (this is often unbeknownst to the poor, unsuspecting females).

Jenna Woolley is fabulous as Rose Fenny, a plain, idealistic and unsophisticated waitress. She is roped into this game – her first party nonetheless – by an inept, young hothead named Eddie Birdlace (Ryan Henderson). The latter eventually has some reservations about what he has done but it seems his fraternity of brothers – dubbed the Three Bs – wins out for the most part. At least he spends part of the second act trying to be sensitive and make amends for his wrongdoings and he does receive some form of comeuppance in the end.

The Blackout Theatre troupe features a bunch of very talented youngsters in the starring and ensemble roles (Brendon D’Souza is hilarious as a flamboyant lounge singer, Briony Burnes is a spirited Marcy while Jed Arthur makes a rather cheeky rapscallion in Bernstein). The cast’s voices are all wonderful and pitch-perfect, and these capture the musical score that borrows from ’60s pop, folk, rockabilly and the vocal groups of the era.

The musical numbers are true to the period and are also quite emotional and evocative. At times these seem to take precedence over the dialogue in the scenes.

The costumes by Brooke Clark are excellent and there was a clever use of props for the different scene transitions.

All of these ingredients make for a show that’s disarmingly bold and brutal at moments, as well as thought-provoking and wistful at other times. Dogfight is very much a product of the time it’s trying to evoke, because it highlights the gender stereotypes and machismo that are synonymous with old-school institutions like the armed forces. It’s an important story that is well-rendered here, because at the end of the day it shows that this rose by any other name or situation can prove to be just as sweet.

Originally published on 9 February 2017 at the following website: http://scenestr.com.au/news/arts/dogfight-the-musical-lendlease-darling-quarter-theatre-review-20170209

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THEATRE REVIEW: CINDERELLA – THE PANTOMIME @ STATE THEATRE (01.07.2016)

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Watching Cinderella – The Pantomime was like stepping into a wonderful world of magic where your inner child could run free. This panto is the third one to be brought to Australia by Bonnie Lythgoe Productions and it looks poised to follow in the success of Snow White and Aladdin. Cinderella was ultimately a light and fun show full of colour and splendour and was an adaptation of the classic fairy tale and rags-to-riches story.

Pantomimes are traditionally a mix of music, theatre and dance and they typically encourage the audience to interact with the actors. The latter often break down the fourth wall and encourage everyone to boo and hiss at the bad guys and to support and cheer on the good guys as well as keep a watchful eye out for ghosts and the like. The show is traditionally pitched at children but there are enough jokes and fun things so that it can appeal to anyone aged 3 to 103.

Jaime Hadwen — who recently starred in Xanadu at the Hayes Theatre — was beguiling as Cinderella. She was humble, kind and showed real heart, even when her father Baron Hardup (Peter Everett – Ready Steady Cook) decided to remarry and chose an evil witch of a woman.

Gina Liano (The Real Housewives of Melbourne) made her stage debut as the horrid and manipulative stepmother, but she was also frequently drowned out by her cast mates, especially those who had a background of performing in front of kids. Craig Bennett and Josh Adamson were the mean stepsisters and were dressed in drag and acted in a very over-the-top way, which suited their parts. There were lots of risqué jokes about fairies and their characters being like “men” (they even played Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel like a Woman” to introduce them.)

Hi-5’s Tim Maddren was an absolute sweetheart as Prince Charming while Jimmy Rees (AKA Mr Giggle) often held fort as the Prince’s servant. The lovely Lara Mulcahy occasionally spoke in rhyme as the fairy godmother and Kev Orkian was ebullient as Buttons. A “12 Days of Winter” song was mostly held together by Rees, because Everett and the others often forgot their cues or their lines. But the shambolic nature of this really added a silly looseness to the proceedings. The four male leads also performed a popular panto song involving ghosts and the kids screamed as much as the girls did for The Beatles back in the day. They also had some children from the audience volunteer for a nice rendition of “I Am the Music Man.”)

Cinderella told a classic story but it also managed to keep things quite topical and relevant for Australian audiences thanks to its script by Christopher Wood. The jokes were a mix of tongue-in-cheek humour and slapstick and included asides about the Parramatta River, the Shire and Malcolm Turnbull, to name a few. Australian hits like AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the Vanda and Young-penned, “Love Is in the Air” and Kylie Minogue’s “On a Night like This,” were threaded into the story and sat seamlessly among the gorgeous costumes and the fine scenery.

Cinderella – The Pantomime was an engaging and charming show, which left many guests remarking that all theatre should be delivered this way. This modern day fairy tale with an Australian slant was a charming and glittery rags-to-riches show that was a real joy to watch and experience. In fact, it was so easy to sit back and have a ball!

 

Originally published on 3 July 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/theatre-review-cinderella-the-pantomime-state-theatre-sydney-performances-until-17-july-2016/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

THEATRE REVIEW: DAFFODILS [INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS] @ RIVERSIDE THEATRE, PARRAMATTA (12.05.2016)

-Daffodils_Garth Badger 3

 

Some shows work best when certain things are kept to a minimum. Prince’s “Piano and a Microphone” concerts were one such example as is the kiwi cabaret known as Daffodils [inspired by true events]. The play is a love story inspired by writer, Rochelle Bright’s parents and grandparents meeting at the same spot in New Zealand in a field of daffodils.

The staging is very bare bones. On the left we have a Teddy boy electrician named Eric (Todd Emerson) standing barefoot on a carpet and singing into a microphone with a punchy enthusiasm. On the right is the woman he eventually calls his wife, Rose (Colleen Davis) who is resplendent in a red party dress and singing her own soaring vocals into another microphone. The pair are like two islands, they don’t touch or look at each other because they really only meet through words and song and it is a testament to Emerson and Davis’s great performances that they can achieve so much with so little direct engagement.

It is the music in Daffodils that really holds this boy-meets-girl love story together. The track listing also looks like a who’s who of New Zealand music with the likes of Chris Knox, Crowded House, Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn, The Swingers and The Mint Chicks among the references. The music is played by an indie trio made up of Fen Ikner, Abraham Kunin and Stephanie Brown. The latter also worked as the arranger for the show and plays the role of the narrator or Rochelle Bright in this story. The songs are raw and stripped down versions of the originals and they really heighten the emotion in the room as the story unfolds.

The proceedings begin with Eric and Rose meeting while the latter is drunk and “feeding the ducks” in Hamilton, New Zealand. The sweet hearted, Eric offers to drive this Presbyterian farm girl home even though she lives hours away. A romance blossoms despite Eric going overseas for a trip. The pair eventually reunite and marry and the scenes of the nuptials are accompanied by real black and white super eight footage of Bright’s parents while a whimsical version of Chris Knox’s “Not Given Lightly” plays. At other moments in the play there are other videos and photographs shown and these are courtesy of Garth Badger. 

The couple negotiate the muddy waters of child-rearing, mortgages, unemployment and other domestic issues but life is not always a bed of roses or sea of daffodils. There is love, betrayal, death and misunderstandings, aplenty. A haunting version of Crowded House’s “Fall At Your Feet” really drives home the differences in the male and female’s perspectives in this intimate and personal tale. In fact, this story feels like such a private one it’s almost like the pair are recounting their own experiences from their lounge rooms and in front of around a hundred of their closest friends and family.

Daffodils is not just a classic romance, it’s also a love letter to some excellent, New Zealand music. This nuanced and emotional show is brimming with some intense moments as the audience are led in deep into the world of Eric and Rose and what it really feels like to walk a mile in their individual shoes. This play may be a story from our New Zealand cousins but it’s also a universal saga where the spoken words and music culminate to tell the tragic, romantic ballad of Eric and Rose.

Originally published on 16 May 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/review-daffodils-riverside-theatre-parramatta-12th-may-2016/

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THEATRE REVIEW: WUTHERING HEIGHTS @ RIVERSIDE THEATRE, PARRAMATTA (22.03.2016)

WutheringheightsproductionHR-1905 - Photo by Dylan Evans

 

Photo credit: Dylan Evans



Love will tear us apart. This song lyric by the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division seems an appropriate way to sum up the gothic romance tale, Wuthering Heights. Queensland’s shake & stir theatre co. have produced a rather faithful and intense adaptation of Emily Brontë’s story, but it also manages to add a few cotemporary flourishes that complement the melodrama.

The play begins with an ominous crash of thunder and lightning and this serves as a signpost for the drama that is to come. Hindley (Nick Skubij who doubles as the show’s adaptor and director) and Catherine Earnshaw are privileged young siblings living on an estate known as Wuthering Heights on the Yorkshire moors. The pair are also the children of Mr Earnshaw, a character who is omitted from this production. Mr Earnshaw adopts a young, sullen gypsy boy he names Heathcliff and this act sets off a chain of events that has ramifications for multiple generations.

Gemma Willing is excellent in the starring role as the wild and free-spirited Catherine and in the second act she plays this formidable woman’s young daughter. As children, Catherine and Heathcliff (played by Ross Balbuziente who does a fantastic job, especially when playing the adult version of this character) were once inseparable friends. They would also become lovers until Catherine meets her neighbours from Thrushcross Grange, Edgar Linton (Tim Dashwood who seems a touch too feminine and almost camp) and his sister Isabella (Nelle Lee who juggles multiple roles quite seamlessly).

The meeting between Catherine and the Lintons will leave her a changed woman. She loses her youthful innocence and wild ways and instead becomes a stately and elegant young woman. She accepts Linton’s marriage proposal and rejects Heathcliff’s advances despite her heart telling her to do the opposite. Catherine is punished for this both emotionally and spiritually and descends into madness while Heathcliff is incensed and vows to exact revenge, even if he has to bide his time for multiple decades.

This adaptation is faithful to Brontë’s original tale because it shows both Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship as well as the impact of this disturbed love affair on the next generation. The actors each put in some great performances and offer subtler turns when they are playing the younger generation of children whereas more intense and visceral emotions are required for the older ones. Some of the actors play multiple roles across time but the exception to this is the pragmatic narrator Nelly Dean (Linden Wilkinson who had a hard job remembering so many lines and sometimes forgot these) and the dark and villainous Heathcliff. These two are integral to the story and really carry it.

The set is minimal but it works because it is able to double as two different manor houses as well as offer the backdrop for the treacherous moors, complete with life-like rain, thunder and lightning. Some musical motifs are repeated as the scenes change and this adds a certain neatness to the structure, especially when considering that it is such a dense and sprawling story. This adaptation also uses large video projections that really showcase the heightened emotions of the characters and their extinguished flames as they pass away. This is one sumptuous visual feast to say the least.

It is unfortunate that the set also let down the actors on at least a few occasions. There are times when the characters stood behind a shrouded curtain at the back and while this added extra mystery to the piece, it did make it difficult to hear and understand them at times. The first act was also a bit too long and while it ended with Catherine’s death, it felt a little anti-climactic with Dean finishing things by mentioning that there was something contained in a note. Thankfully the actual end of the play reached a more rousing crescendo.

Wuthering Heights is a dark and slow-burning play that sits on the knife edge of love, loss, betrayal, jealousy and revenge. It’s one complex and visceral story of a destructive and disturbing love that would shake a family to its core and be felt by the following generation. shake & stir theatre co.’s adaptation remains true to the classic tale while also offering a welcome modern slant that effectively captures the heady and human emotions of the original narrative. In short, it makes it all feel rather intense and real for a whole new generation of audiences.

Originally published on 24 March 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/theatre-review-wuthering-heights-riverside-theatre-parramatta-22-03-16/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

THEATRE REVIEW: ALL MY LOVE @ RIVERSIDE THEATRE, PARRAMATTA (17.02.2016)

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Henry Lawson and Dame Mary Gilmore (nee Cameron) are famous Australian authors who appeared on Australia’s old paper $10 note. They’re also the subject of an intense period drama and romantic play called All My Love. It’s a story that asks a number of “What if?” style questions and hints at what could have been a great love story.

The play is written by Sydney writer Anne Brooksbank, who also penned a book on the same subject around two decades ago. The Riverside Theatre in Parramatta played host to the first professional production of the show and it was directed by Denny Lawrence. It was a deceptively simple piece of theatre in terms of how it was rendered but it was also one that pulled a number of emotional punches.

All My Love is mostly told from Gilmore’s perspective. It begins with her being a wide-eyed and progressive young woman making the journey from Broken Hill to Sydney and contemplating a career as a teacher. Her mother was friends with Louisa Lawson, a feminist writer and publisher. Lawson was also the mother of the then fledgling writer, Henry Lawson. The pairing of Gilmore and Henry Lawson seemed like a match made in heaven but life had a habit of intervening.

The play threads together a series of vignettes where Lawson and Gilmore’s paths cross — from their initial meeting and courtship to their break-up and Gilmore’s departure to Paraguay. There are also some fleeting intervals the friends share before Lawson’s untimely death at age 55. Brooksbank has done an excellent job of telling the story and connecting together some separate episodes with the pair’s letters to each other and the haunting prose from their poems and stories. There are two scenes in particular that hit you in the guts and they are when Gilmore reads the poem Never Admit The Pain poem and Lawson is confined in gaol in One Hundred and Three.

The show doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles but the stage is realised to its full potential and the dim lighting adds to the overall sense of melancholy. A screen displays some old, black and white photographs and these are used to denote different passages by ship and other set changes. The couple’s eponymous theme by Jack Ellis is a recurring motif that is also rather dark and the costumes by Sophie Woodward are appropriate for the period. One thing that is very striking about this show is that while there are only two actors on the stage at any given moment, the characters of some of the key players (namely Louisa Lawson and Henry’s ill-matched wife, Bertha Bredt) seem a palpable presence. This is likely due to the fact that everyone has done such a fabulous job of capturing the essence and sentimentality of Lawson and Gilmore.

All My Love is an important story that is very sad to watch, especially as it poses questions about what might have been and the regretful ruminations this famous pair of writers had. It’s a significant, historical story that still has meaning today. It shows a strong and inspirational woman and how she becomes wise. In short, it’s a great play that will hopefully inspire a new generation of readers to go out and enjoy the collective works of the immensely talented Dame Mary Gilmore and Henry Lawson.

Originally published on 18 February 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/theatre-review-all-my-love-riverside-theatre-parramatta-performances-to-20-february/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

THEATRE REVIEW: THE RABBITS @ ROSLYN PACKER THEATRE WALSH BAY (14.01.2016)

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Photo by: John Green

The Rabbits is an Australian opera adapted from a picture book that is anything but child’s play.

The original story was written by John Marsden, who penned the Tomorrow series, and was illustrated by Shaun Tan (The Lost Thing). It’s an allegorical tale that examines the colonisation of Australia with the titular characters playing the invading British settlers, and a group of native marsupials representing the Aboriginal people and their subsequent plight.

The original book is less than 300 words long but it’s a powerful story. For the live setting this has been expanded with the addition of a new character, a narrator called Bird, performed by the show’s composer – the classically trained soprano and pop singer, Kate Miller-Heidke. Acclaimed playwright Lally Katz provides the libretto and Iain Grandage offers the superb musical arrangements.

The show has already won several Helpmann Awards and in some ways it’s easy to see why, because the story is an emotionally poignant one and a sad reflection on our nation’s history. It depicts the invasion, colonisation and the Stolen Generation, but does end with a glimmer of hope. That said, it is not perfect, and there are some scenes that fall a little flat or feel a little long and drawn out (and the show itself only goes for one hour).

The artists do an excellent job performing the material. The marsupials are played by Hollie Andrew, Jessica Hitchcock, Marcus Corowa and David Leha – led ably by Lisa Maza – and prove incredibly charming and emotive. The rabbits (Kanen Breen, Nicholas Jones, Christopher Hillier, Simon Meadowsand Robert Mitchell), on the other hand, are more like pantomime villains and everything is delivered in a flamboyant and over-the-top manner. This actually works in this strange environment where the show is already a hybrid of opera and musical theatre and the soundtrack is a mash-up of pop ballads and experimental and classical styles.

The Rabbits is a dark and ambitious piece that doesn’t pander to the audience. It tells a tragic and uncomfortable chapter in our history and stays true to the essence of the book. This is particularly the case in the rendering of the set and costumes by designer, Gabriela Tylesova. The Rabbits is one nuanced and atmospheric tale that commands the viewer to sit up and listen, without leading them down a rabbit warren.

 

Originally published on 19 January 2016 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/rabbits

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THEATRE REVIEW: A FLOWER OF THE LIPS (UN FIOR DI LABRA) @ KING STREET THEATRE NEWTOWN (07.10.2015)

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A Flower of the Lips (Un Fior di Labbra) may be a new play by Sydneysider Valentino Musico, but it’s also a love letter. It’s a biographical story about his great-grandfather, Bruno Aloi and is a love letter to this legendary man as well as Musico’s relatives, Calabria and Italy as a whole. This stark and bold play, which has its Australian premiere at the King Street Theatre raises many questions about divided loyalties and offers no easy answers.

This production is the fourth collaboration between Musico and director Ira Seidenstein, and the pair previously worked together on Meat Pies & Mortadella and 25Eight at Tap Gallery. The art direction is by Vince Vozzo, an eight-time finalist of the Wynne Prize. His main contribution is a large charcoal drawing that is the backdrop. This is particularly important as the show’s main character owned a charcoal works and the picture evokes the setting in the early 20th century and shows Italy’s then king, Victor Emmanuel III as well as Aloi’s ghost.

Musico was inspired to write the play after learning of the family legends and mystery surrounding his great-grandfather, Bruno Aloi. The latter’s life was cut short at age 34 and his death was never properly investigated. Aloi had been an informant to the Italian police, revealing the names of deserters from the army during the First World War, even if they were his own family members (and all this despite being a committed family man). This contributed to his being gunned down in his prime and leaving behind a wife and five children.

The show is quite simple. It’s a series of vignettes that reconstruct Aloi’s life and death, or at least what Musico learnt from his family’s memories as well as some archived papers from Italy. Four actors appear on the stage for the duration of the show with Yiss Mill as the actor/author, Musico narrating and signposting each event while Marcella Franco does a good job as the enigmatic Aloi. Michelle De Rosa is excellent, alternating between young male characters, Agostino and the Shepherd Boy as well as Aloi’s feisty wife, Rosaria. Jamila Hall and Kiki Skountzos round out the cast.

The play is full of symbolism but this may be lost on some audiences. The dialogue is peppered with some Italian words, which could make things difficult for individuals that don’t understand the language. The events all transpire in a kind of reverential semi-circle (to represent the church that Aloi built in Calabria) and the actors who are not actively taking part in the scene sit and watch the darkness unfolding. It’s an interesting idea but there are moments where things feel a bit too personal or private so the audience fails to understand the true meaning of the dialogue or feel part of the action.

Burno Aloi was an interesting man and A Flower of the Lips attempts to immortalise him and pay tribute to his legacy. It’s a dark play that poses many moral questions about the boundaries between what’s right and wrong. It’s also a passionate, beautiful and wordy epitaph and celebration of Calabrese Italians from the past, present and future.

Originally published on 9 October 2015 at the following website: http://www.stagewhispers.com.au/reviews/flower-lips

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THEATRE REVIEW: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW @ THE LYRIC THEATRE, SYDNEY

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Welcome to the jungle. No, welcome to the camp science experiment that is The Rocky Horror Show. The play debuted in London in 1973, made it to Australia in 1974 before it was a cult movie favourite the following year. Now over forty but certainly not fat or fired, this show is still flirty, fun and fabulous, darling. In fact, it could be several decades younger.

Richard O’Brien’s rock musical favourite is currently playing in Sydney at the Lyric Theatre for a limited run. It sees the Helpmann Award-winning Craig McLachlan reprising his role as Frank-N-Furter. It’s one he originally performed back in 1992 before reprising it again last year and by gosh, he’s still got it. Kristian Lavercombe is also reprising his role as the caretaker, Riff Raff and he brings a certain frenetic quality to the role that was originally performed by O’Brien.

The story follows the wholesome and adorable couple, Brad and Janet (Stephen Mahy and Amy Lehpamer (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)) who are newly engaged. They take a car trip so they can tell their tutor the good news but they get a flat tyre and are stuck in a bad storm. They enter an eerie castle in the hopes of using the telephone. But after crossing the threshold into pleasure, there’s no going back. In Frank-N-Furter’s funhouse they’re treated to a strange sexual awakening thanks to the eccentric host and his band of crazed oddballs including Magenta (Jayde Westaby), Eddie (Nicholas Christo) and Columbia (Angelique Cassimatis). There is also Frank-N-Furter’s creation, the dopey but loveable Rocky who is played by Brendan Irving and who looks just as good as Ryan Gosling did in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

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Craig McLachlan steals almost every scene and is absolutely magnetic as Frank-N-Furter. The film screenings and production have always encouraged the audience to participate and it is here that McLachlan really shines. He’s never shy to break lines and add a quip or joke in order to tease and purr at the audience. Dressed in his black corset, high-heels and fishnets he is absolutely gorgeous and always manages to find the right balance between hamming it up and playing the cheeky transvestite who is quick with the wit, double entendres and innuendo.

The Rocky Horror Show draws its inspiration from B-grade science fiction and schock horror films. These ideas are particularly evident in the second act where the night at the funhouse descends into madness and strange revelations are made about the different players’ identities. This act isn’t as good as the all-killer, no-filler and energetic first half, which is paced perfectly and has the right amount of narrative, music and exquisite choreography.

One of the biggest draw points to The Rocky Horror Show are those classic songs. Tonight the favourites “Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” and “Science Fiction/Double Feature” were among the highlights. In the case of the former track, it was all about camp glitter and being loud and proud while the latter was a softer and more subtle nod at the music from the 1950s. The rock band were tight and raucous although there were some sound issues where the group drowned out the lyrics. This was particularly the case with narrator, Bert Newton’s mic as he was tried to give instructions during the “Time Warp”.

This latest adaptation for the outrageous, exciting and much-loved The Rocky Horror Show was nothing short of excellent. From the stunning costumes to the dancing and singing which were so big and joyous you couldn’t be blamed for wanting to join in and shout it all from a mountain range to just about everything in between. This was one pleasurable journey into the garden of earthly (and extra-terrestrial) delights. So let your hair down, leave your inhibitions at the door and enjoy the ride with some sweet transvestites through sass, seduction and sex. It’s the most fun you can have with your pants on.

 

rokcy

 

Originally published on 16 April 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/the-rocky-horror-show-lyric-theatre-sydney-performances-through-june-7th

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THEATRE REVIEW: EMERALD CITY @ PARRAMATTA RIVERSIDE (10.12.2014)

emerald

 

David Williamson’s 1987 play and subsequent film, Emerald City is as relevant today as it was back then. The story is a satire based on two creative industries: filmmaking and book publishing. It looks at the dichotomy between producing something because it has creative or cultural significance or because it is a money-making machine that will do well commercially. It is an intriguing idea, even if the play itself is quite prolix.

The Griffin Theatre Company’s version, directed by Lee Lewis had previously played at the SBW Stables Theatre in Kings Cross and on Wednesday night it made its debut at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre. The story is told through a series of scenes/events as well as monologues where the characters reveal intimate details about their thoughts, motivations and mindsets. These parts are also broken up by eighties sound bites (including snatches of Yello’s “Oh Yeah” and Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”). These are complimented by two different rainbow-coloured backdrops of Sydney Harbour that are designed by the artist, Ken Done.

Emerald City is about Colin (Mitchell Butel), a rising script-writer and his wife Kate (Lucy Bell), a publisher with a strong moral conscience (or so it seems). The two leave their Melbourne home with their children in order to live in Sydney. The play begins with comparisons between the two towns and never has the following phrase about Sydney been so true: “It never rains, it buckets here”. This was one of Williamson’s many brilliant lines, which boasted equal amounts of wit, intelligence and interesting observation.

The couple were originally drawn to the “Emerald City of Oz” but they do face some difficulties in adjusting. Colin isn’t particularly keen on writing about a certain subject even though his long-time collaborator and producer, Elaine (Jennifer Hagan) is sure it will be a hit. Colin also attends his first industry party where he encounters the big-talking shyster and hack writer named Mike (Ben Winspear). The two work together on a project but it is Mike that ultimately reaps the biggest benefits. Ben Winspear is absolutely electric as the Bogan Mike. He steals scenes with his quick-talking, animated delivery. The other actors also put in good performances and they are supported by Kelly Paterniti and Gareth Yuen, playing Mike’s girlfriend and an investment banker, respectively.

Emerald City contains some very clever dialogue but it could have benefited from a little bit more action. The story is very much driven by the words delivered by the six different characters, which show these people at their nastiest and most difficult and vulnerable moments. The play is a comedy centred on human folly and shows how greed and money can exacerbate this. It is set in a period that promoted this idea – the eighties were the height of excess – and it is still an enjoyable and relatable slice of various home truths to this very day.

 

Originally published on 12 December 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/emerald-city-riverside-theatre-parramatta-performances-until-december-13

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