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

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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

DRINKS REVIEW: WINE ISLAND

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Aloha from Wine Island! For four days in mid-November Clark Island in Sydney Harbour was transformed into a wine oasis. Hosted by a toucan named Suzanne, the event showcased 100 unique local and overseas wines in addition to food huts, bars and island beats. It was a hot, sunny day where funky hats, sundresses, Hawaiian shirts and leis were de jour and you could sit back, relax and drink wine that was no mere drop in the ocean.

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The festival had general admission and VIP sessions. The latter entitled you to unlimited tastings from the likes of Chaffey Bros., Thomas Wines, Fox Gordon, Clyde Park, Tintilla Estate and others, as well as complimentary masterclasses and a total of four hours on the island. Clark Island is a tranquil, national park that takes around ten minutes to walk around. What it lacks in stature it more than makes up for in beautiful aspect (there are views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Sydney Tower (Centrepoint)) as well as lush, bushland greenery.

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The journey to the island was by a ferry that was included in the ticket price. The boat departed from the Man o’War Steps outside of the Sydney Opera House and the journey was under 15 minutes. Patrons on board were treated to a complimentary glass of sparkling Rotari wine to get themselves in a festive mood.

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Wine Island featured a number of masterclasses that were hosted by Wine Selectors (a large, independent direct marketer of wine that supports over 400 producers.) The classes included a Bubbles Off! Prosecco tasting as well as a dessert pairing lesson and a silent disco. One of the most informative sessions of the day was the one dedicated to New Wave Wines. These varieties typically hail from hot climates like Portugal, Spain and Italy, and while they are relatively unknown in Australia, they are proving to be a robust grape that enjoys the conditions in our warm climate.

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There was a Vermentino heralding from McLaren Vale. This was a refreshing, white drop with a high acidity. It is a good match for seafood, especially sardines. The Oliver’s Taranga Fiano is another white variety that sits between a Semillon and a Viognier. The grapes originally herald from the Avellino Hills east of Napoli and this is best paired with rich and creamy dishes. The red, 2014 Touriga by De Iuliis (a good vintage for the Hunter Valley) had a supple profile that is a great match for richer, high fat foods. The Touriga grape is also the key variety used in the production of port.

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The cheese masterclass was a popular one throughout the festival with some punters missing out. The cheeses were provided by Australia On A Plate, a wholesale supplier of speciality cheese. A strong, washed rind cheese from the Timboon region was paired with a Pinot Gris from 6 Foot 6 Wine. The cheese was made from organic cow’s milk and it was so soft it melted in your mouth. The second cheese was a Montasio, Italian raw milk cheese that is produced using traditional techniques first employed in the 13th century by monks as well as newer methods. This had a nutty tone and a savoury finish and was paired with a GSM wine. This was a blend of Grenache (66%) as well as Shiraz and Merlot and had a silky and smoky texture.

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The Tarwin Blue by Berry’s Creek has been voted the Best International Blue Cheese. This had a straw-like flavour profile with a little spice. It also converted some individuals who weren’t normally fans of blue cheese. This was paired with a sweet, fresh fruit-driven tawny by Keeper’s Glove. The patrons that missed out on the cheese masterclass also had the chance to sample some cheeses from the Hunter Valley Cheese Company because they were selling tasty artisan cheese and charcuterie platters in individual and share plate size.

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There were a number of gourmet food options available from A.P.E (Artisan Pasta Espresso) of Potts Point selling cheese risottos while Banksii Vermouth Bar & Bistro had a number of different options including kingfish and salad; corn with pepperberry butter and parmesan; and a maple-glazed pork belly with bullhorn relish and red radish. The biggest hit on the island however, were the Chur burgers. The chicken with minted slaw and hot mayo sold out on Sunday. They also had a classic cheese burger with grilled beef, tomato jam, mustard mayonnaise and pickles. There was also a separate hut selling fresh oysters from the Clyde River that were shucked fresh before your very eyes.

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Wine Island was a fun day. You could grab a mate and play some Jenjo, dance along to an island soundtrack by DJ Charlie Villas, ask the wine producers some questions, or grab a deckchair, sip wine and watch the world go by. Wine Island was a great festival for adults because it was like being on a warm paradise. So to finish let’s all raise our glasses to Wine Island and look forward to its return in 2017!

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Originally published in December 2016 at the following website: https://www.theaustraliatimes.com/magazine/gourmet/issue/412/#21

Visit The Australia Times’ homepage at: http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/

DVD REVIEW: STREETS OF YOUR TOWN

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Streets of Your Town is a romp through history, suburban Australia and its architecture. Comedian, Tim Ross, a self-confessed modernist tragic who has performed his own live shows in significant Australian buildings takes us on a journey through different Aussie structures, from the significant ones to the humble family home ranging from the 1950s to today. This two-part documentary could have been longer and is ultimately a love letter by Ross to Australian architects and buildings, but the series is not without a few structural trappings.

This fly-on-the-wall program from director, Sally Aitken (Getting Frank Gehry) begins in the post-war years when materials like concrete, steel and glass were used to make sleek and functional, modernist designs. In this special, Ross describes important buildings like the Sydney Opera House, Rose Seidler House, The Australian Academy of Science Building and Blues Point Tower. He also interviews a number of interesting individuals including Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs,) writer, Kathy Lette and philosopher, Alain de Botton.

The final part of the series tackles the impact of immigration on Australia’s homes, particularly the ones from the eighties where columns, arches and balconies saw them dubbed “Late 20th century immigrants’ nostalgia.” There is also the recent phenomena of upsizing the family home such that media rooms and en-suites are a must and are no longer a negotiable commodity.

Over the course of this programme Ross and his team go into detail about Australia’s pioneering architects including Robin Boyd, Harry Seidler and Syd Ancher, to name a few. Ross is also a little condescending at times when he dismisses the McMansions of today even though they are punctuating the suburbs. He calls them ugly in an aesthetic sense and he also believes that many old buildings should be cherished and preserved.

Streets of Your Town is an interesting documentary series about Australian architecture, history and suburban life. Ross is a passionate and rather opinionated presenter and sometimes his ideas may not accord with his viewers, as he is a little biased towards modernism. But at the end of the day this intriguing show demonstrates just what it takes for a house to be appreciated and considered a home.

Originally published on 12 December 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/streets-town-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com

LIVE REVIEW: JUST FOR LAUGHS – THE STAND-UP SERIES (HOSTED BY DAVE THORNTON) @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (23.10.2015)

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The Just for Laughs stand-up series does what it says on the tin. It’s a show that features local comedians doing stand-up routines and is also part of the Just for Laughs Sydney Comedy Festival. It’s also a mini comedy gala hosted by Dave Thornton and included some billed and some surprise guests. It proved to be a fun little evening, which definitely had its moments.

Dave Thornton has hosted the show before and once again did an excellent job of warming the crowd up and acting as the glue between the acts. He was funny when he talked about how crazy the signs on toilet doors have become (the simple male/female universal signage has been replaced by top hats and feather boas and in the stupidest example in a hipster café, a rake and a shovel). He was self-deprecating as he described his not being useful in an apocalypse and at the same time, talked up tradies. He had a very funny story involving a laid-back plumber who made a cool $200 in 10 minutes.

Dirty Laundry Live’s Lawrence Mooney spent a good part of his set impersonating Malcolm Turnbull and getting upset about missing Tony Abbott. It wasn’t bad but he did spent a little too long on some unfocused political material. Mel Buttle (The Great Australian Bake Off) went into a bit too much detail about her pelvic ultrasound and her fear of snakes. Her set could have done with an edit or two.

Steen Raskopoulos should be commended for taking an ambitious approach to his set. He reviewed Frozen (haven’t we moved on yet?) while dressed like a priest. He also ran a very funny freestyle rap competition. Raskopoulos’ set probably works better on TV as a series of sketches. In the context of a live environment and specifically a comedy gala it had its moments but you also got the sense that this wasn’t achieving all that it could have done.

The two best comedians of the evening were undoubtedly Wil Anderson (Gruen) and Celia Pacquola (Utopia). The Gruenhost’s delivery was very tight and polished as he told us about his osteoarthritis. It’s a horrible-sounding condition affecting 50% of people over 70. It’s also one that isn’t helped by health professionals who doll out advice like keep a pair of barbeque tongs handy in case you need to pick stuff up. Pacquola on the other hand was very funny whilst describing modern dating and being a single girl who went to a cat café. Her funniest joke was when she was defining that anxious feeling you get when your flatmate jumps into bed with you, until you realise you live alone!

The Stand-up Series offered up lots of local comedians doing their best routines. The night was a bit hit and miss with some comedians offering up hilarious, A+ material while others could have done with an edit or a slightly different platform to work with. In all, this was a fun, little comedy night celebrating home-grown talent in an iconic, Aussie venue.

Originally published on 26 October 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/comedy/just-for-laughs-stand-up-series-hosted-by-dave-thornton-sydney-opera-house-23-10-15

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

LIVE REVIEW: JUST FOR LAUGHS COMEDY GALA (FEATURING DANNY BHOY, TOMMY TIERNAN, STEPHEN K AMOS, AL MURRAY, DAVE HUGHES, WIL ANDERSON & CELIA PACQUOLA) @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (24.10.2015)

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The Just For Laughs Sydney comedy festival turned five this year, and to celebrate it held two all-star comedy galas at the iconic Sydney Opera House. The lineup of seven comedians included top-notch international and local talent giving us all about ten to 15 minutes of their funniest, A-plus material.

Celia Pacquola opened the night, making some great points about Tiger Airways (why would you name an airline after an animal that doesn’t fly and kills people?) as well as modern dating, rings and wristies. It was a cheeky set, almost the opposite of Danny Bhoy’s material, as he made some funny swipes at politics, religion and celebrity.

Dave Hughes and Tommy Tiernan did more personal material about their families. Hughes played the part of the loveable Aussie bogan well, as he described travelling with three young kids in his own unique style. Tiernan, however, was the flattest comedian of the night.

Wil Anderson was a polished performer, with some hilarious material about his osteoarthritis and meeting a crazy survivalist in Alaska. Stephen K Amos was also very well prepared, offering up a thoughtful spot on racism and homophobia, and he even brought in his own bag of Allen’s chicos to really bring the message home.

One of the zaniest performances of the evening was The Pub Landlord, AKA Al Murray. He sloshed beer around the Opera House stage and made some great exchanges with the audience. It was a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-style slot, but it really seemed to suit the gala format and was a good little interlude.

The short and sharp sets from these seven talented comedians left many people wanting more, as they’d each done a stellar job of taking us on a ride and making us laugh.

Originally published on 27 October 2015 at the following website: http://thebrag.com/arts/just-laughs-all-star-gala

Visit The Brag’s homepage at: http://thebrag.com/

 

LIVE REVIEW: SARAH BLASKO @ GRAPHIC FESTIVAL, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (11.10.2015)

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On album number five, Sarah Blasko shimmies and struts to the language of love. Her recent show at the Sydney Opera House for Graphic Festival saw the world premiere and official preview of her latest offering. It was worlds apart from her previous concert at this iconic venue where she was backed by the Sydney International Orchestra. This time around it was about taut, indie pop tunes and celebrating a crazy little thing called love.

The evening started with track one from Eternal Return, “I Am Ready”. One thing that was immediately apparent was that this record is a synth-laden offering that was no doubt influenced by its producer, Burke Reid, formerly of the band Gerling. Sarah Blasko was also a little nervous about presenting it because it is so different. She was dressed in head-to-toe black and backed by no less than three musicians on keys (David Hunt, Neal Sutherland and Sarah Belkner) as well as Donny Benet and Laurence Pike (PVT) on bass and drums, respectively. The music shared more in common with the likes of St. Vincent and Bjork than her previous pop songs and ballads.

Sarah Blasko was funny and self-deprecating between tracks. She also showed a real assertiveness during “I Wanna Be Your Man”, but the clear highlight of the new material was “I’d Be Lost”. The song was absolutely beautiful, with some New Order-like keys (think of “Elegia”) and Blasko’s vocals that straddled the line between soaring and lilting. It was such a raw, strong and impassioned plea and it’s one you can definitely see doing well from this album.

“Beyond” was a sprawling and atmospheric tune, while “Luxurious” was dark and broody and similar to her older material. Some of the songs had a tendency of blending into one another in terms of texture and tone, but it will be interesting to hear these mixed in and integrated with Blasko’s amazing back catalogue at other shows in the future. The new album definitely appears to have its fair share of incredible moments but it is a very strong stylistic change for Blasko so it’s hard to know how her fans will react.

The main set finished with the record’s final track, “Without”. This also saw the end of artist Mike Daly’s visuals, which had been full of lots of metaphors and symbolism throughout the evening. They really supported the new material brilliantly. But it was clear that the audience still held a candle for Blasko’s older material. An encore featuring the quiet, “Here” from I Awake, as well as that record’s title track were brilliant. These older songs provided a better springboard for Blasko’s amazing voice while her new material seemed to support her cute, Deborah Harry-inspired dance moves a lot more. The audience were also treated to a magical, “All I Want” and the fifties-inspired, nostalgic pop sounds of “We Won’t Run”.

The Graphic Festival was ultimately a place where Sarah Blasko made a welcome return to the stage after a busy year making records, taking part in different collaborations and becoming a mum. Blasko’s voice remains as beguiling and wonderful as ever and her songs are still very relatable and complex, even though this time around the prevailing theme is lightness and love (leaving behind the darkness of some of her previous work). Sarah Blasko is a fabulous performer and songwriter and it was a real joy to preview her new album and share in a little slice of heaven with her.

Originally published on 12 October 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/reviews/sarah-blasko-sydney-opera-house-11-10-15

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

INTERVIEW: NOISEWORKS’ STEVE BALBI

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The Art of Music Live is an amazing initiative that sees some excellent local and international musicians and artists coming together and collaborating for a good cause. The series is to support the Nordoff-Robins Music Therapy charity, who have a purpose-built centre and outreach clinics where music acts as an agent for change and healing and helps its participants develop their full potential as human beings. The series takes in an exhibition where famous songs are reinterpreted as artworks as well as a live music concert.

This year, the audience attending the Art of Music Live will be treated to a cocktail party with a cast that boasts no less than Jimmy Barnes, Diesel, Steve Balbi, Kitty Flanagan, Ben Quilty and more. The AU Review sat down with Noiseworks’ Steve Balbi to learn more about the Art of Music Live and his upcoming projects with Mi Sex and Noiseworks, as well as his solo album based on the Humans of New York blog.

How did you come to be involved in the Art of Music Live?

Jenny Morris (the musician and organiser) finally asked me, I’ve always wanted to be involved! I have been following with interest both the Art of Music events and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy for many years now, so it was an honour to be asked to join the line-up.

Have you been involved in the Art of Music Live before? If so, do you have a particular highlight or memory you can share with us?

I hear it’s an amazing event, this is my first time.

Why do you think people should support the Art of Music?

It’s an incredible thing to see the music and art worlds join forces on such a creative endeavour. Even just the fact that music is being turned into artwork is pure genius on the part of Jenny Morris. I’m very excited to be part of it.

What can audiences expect from the Art of Music live event?

I’m quite sure the performances will be nothing sort of spectacular. We are performing songs that have been the inspiration behind artwork from Australia’s top contemporary artworks. The Studio is such an intimate setting, plus the audience have a pre-concert cocktail party where they share drinks and canapés with the cast. There is nothing else like it.

Are there other ways people can support Art of Music or Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy?

Nordoff-Robbins is a registered charity and they gladly accept donations.

You released Black Rainbow in 2013. Have you been working on any new music you’d like to tell us about?

I have a new solo album in the works and it is based on a selection of photographs from the Humans of New York blog, it’s a very exciting project. I have also finished the production of a new Noiseworks album and a new band called MOON and also recording new material with Mi Sex… I don’t sleep much.

For Art of Music, a group of artists produce artworks inspired by their favourite musician. How does it feel to have your music interpreted in such a way?

Well to be honest, I have elected to play one of my favourite Australian songs by The Church, a song called “Under The Milky Way”, however I know it would be nothing short of an honour to have the likes of Ben Quilty paint your song through his eyes. Brilliant idea and a beautiful cause, well done, Jenny Morris.

Originally published on 29 June 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/interviews/noiseworks-steve-balbi-on-his-debut-at-the-art-of-music-live-his-many-upcoming-projects

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SUNNYBOYS – OUR BEST OF

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SunnyboysOur Best Of sees 17 tracks hand-picked and remastered by the band and released in one tidy set. It is not the group’s first greatest hits and thanks to the quality of the music, it is also unlikely to be their last. The songs are the closest thing you’ll hear to guitar pop perfection and show the genius that is Jeremy Oxley.This album was actually remastered by Jeremy’s brother and Sunnyboys’ bassist, Peter Oxley. It draws together cuts from the band’s three studio albums, The Sunnyboys,Individuals and Get Some Fun, plus a number of singles and EPs.

It should come as no surprise that most of the songs here come from their debut and undoubtedly, best record. This collection also includes the group’s biggest singles,’Happy Man’ and ‘Alone With You Tonight’. The set is a good one overall, because the big hits sit easily alongside more obscure fan favourites. There is also unreleased material and alternative rough mixes to keep things interesting.

‘Love To Rule’ opens the set and features twin solos by Jeremy and Richard Burgman. Their guitar playing was a driving force for the band. Their overall sound was influenced by a number of noteworthy guitar groups including: MC5, Radio Birdman, The Beatles, Elvis Costello and Iggy Pop & The Stooges. It means that The Sunnyboys flit between being poppy, punky, new wave and even a kind of underground rock.For ‘The Seeker’ Jeremy said he wanted the song to sound like Garry Glitter’s ‘Rock & Roll’ while ‘You Need A Friend’ was inspired by Talking Heads. The former was about finding out that a girl doesn’t reciprocate your affections and how you have to move on to find a new love. The idea of looking for love and trying to find the right girl is a recurrent theme in Oxley’s work and no doubt a reflection of his headspace and situation at the time, it can’t have been easy to have a relationship in amongst a relentless work schedule.

The 1981 demo for ‘Tomorrow Will Be Fine’ is a quick and energetic ditty. It sounds like a typical Sunnyboys song but is actually a stark contrast to the latter, ‘Comes As No Surprise’. During this later period, Jeremy was battling his own demons and felt like he was traveling in a dark tunnel towards despair. Thankfully the group did manage to overcome this (albeit many years later) when they returned triumphantly and played an awesome reunion show at the Sydney Opera House in 2013 where album track, ‘Let You Go’ was recorded.

The SunnyboysOur Best Of is a great introduction to this band. Their music is melodic, bright, clever, emotionally charged and for the most part, fun. It will get you dancing in the street to its cool rhythms and it boasts an everyman relatability, which will have you thinking that Jeremy wrote this song especially for you. Fans will also marvel at how four men managed to achieve such great sounds, flourishes and textures at such a young age and with such limited equipment. But that just adds more mystery to the talent, power and mystique that is The Sunnyboys.

Originally published on 14 August 2014 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/sunnyboys—our-best-of-14082014.html

Visit The 59th Sound’s homepage at: http://www.the59thsound.com/

THEATRE REVIEW: MOLIÈRE’S TARTUFFE @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (30.07.2014)

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Tartuffe is a 17th century classic and a visceral theatrical experience. The play was originally written by Molière and was received with scandal as he satirised and poked fun at religion, human vices and the other follies that people possess. The current adaptation by the Bell Shakespeare company features a script by Justin Flemming and is a wry, clever and funny night out that will have you simultaneously laughing and slapping your foreheads from the seats.

The story revolves around the show’s namesake, played by Leon Ford. Tartuffe is an imposter, hypocrite, crook and charlatan. But despite these horrid traits, he conducts himself in such a way as to appear the picture of piety. The audience, however, can see through this and that it is all a part of a sanctimonious act.

Orgon (Shane O’Shea) was once considered the master of the house but now he is rendered a foolish and gullible old man. He takes in Tartuffe and dots over the fraud, indulging the hustler’s every whim and sticking up for him on all occasions (even if this means taking sides against his own wife and children). It is most telling that Orgon is forced to see Tartuffe’s true colours by his level-headed wife, Elmire (Helen Dallimore) who stages a trap. Orgon almost seems surprised when he learns the truth and declares, “I gave a wolf sheep’s clothing and that sheep pulled the wool over my eyes”.

Molière’s original work was written in French and made up entirely of rhyming couplets. In Fleming’s contemporary treatment, he remains true to this aspect of the story by allowing some parts to rhyme, while at other moments the dialogue is delivered in a less structured or constrained format. This actually keeps things interesting, by sharply moving the pace along and ensuring that the energy is high. This adaptation is also an engaging rendering for Australian audiences as some local slang and modern references have been added for good measure.

 

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The set is a sparse one with the most obvious elements being a clock (where Orgon’s son (Charlie Garber) learns of Tartuffe’s wicked ways) and a lounge, where in one of the most telling scenes Orgon delivers some heartbreaking news to his daughter, Mariane (Geraldine Hakewill). Orgon has decided that she will not marry her true love, Valère (Robert Jago) but instead be betrothed to Tartuffe. There is also a large cabinet which is used for everything from storage to pathways to other rooms and realms. The costumes meanwhile, are mostly decadent and strike the right balance between the 17th century setting and today.

The actors all put in solid performances but it is the sharp-tongued maid, Dorine (Kate Mulvany) who stands out for her delivery and comedic timing. Dorine is the clever voice of reason who is prepared to speak her mind. A special mention should also go out to Dallimore who comes into her own during the second act and Jennifer Hagan who as the family matriarch, Madame Parnelle, wins the audience over in the opening scene with her caustic tongue.

Tartuffe is a funny play that celebrates the human idiot and warns us against worshipping strangers and granting complete trust at a whim. The story remains fresh to this day, as can be seen by the fact that the audience often shouted and laughed at Orgon as he succumbed further and further to his own gullibility and stupidity. Tartuffe is ultimately an electric play that is scathing in its views of human nature and religion and is a hilarious and colourful romp through society’s strangest and most extreme characters.

 

All photos by Lisa Tomasetti.

 

Originally published on 1 August 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/tartuffe-sydney-opera-house-performances-until-august-23

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

LIVE REVIEW: ST. VINCENT @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (25.05.2014)

St Vincent, aka Annie Clark, in the East Village, New York City. 'I'm almost immune to the idea of f

 

Annie Clark may not be godly but when she performs as St. Vincent she is like something out of this world. The Manhattan native made her Sydney Opera House debut for Vivid Festival and received a standing ovation. She had shown us all why 2014 has been her year thanks to a mesmerizing, theatrical show that will go down in the books as a truly special one.

The set list was predominantly made up of songs from her recent, eponymous album. The opening, ‘Rattlesnake’ saw a crazy rhythm combined with an indie pop groove while ‘Birth In Reverse’ was one of the best songs of the evening. It saw a gnarly crunch coupled with a danceable buzz.

The strong songstress also belted out some mean, electric guitar solos whilst striking her best rock star poses. Dressed in head-to-toe black and with a shock of thick, white grey hair, in the shadows she looked like The Cure’s Robert Smith while at her more mischievous and playful moments she resembled Prince.

She cracked jokes, gave a special welcome to the freaks, the others and the weirdos in attendance and told “stories” from her childhood. The latter included wanting to fly, producing fires with a magnifying glass and imagining that famous people’s faces were superimposed on the bodies of the local homeless and elderly people (yes, Clark does have one vivid imagination!)

St. Vincent isn’t just an artist with a swag full of musical chops. She also created different moods for each song, which at times seemed more like a performance art show at a modern museum then your standard gig.

There was some syncopated guitar rocking during ‘Birth In Reverse’; some twinkle toes in ‘Surgeon’; a laidback and casual air in ‘I Prefer Your Love’; and some raw, writhing in ‘Bring Me Your Loves’.

St. Vincent has previously collaborated with former Talking Heads member, David Byrne. He said that after almost a year of touring he still didn’t know her any better. As an audience member one can’t help but feel the same and also imagine that Clark is actually giving away a little piece of herself at every show, such is the visceral, incendiary and evocative moods she created live and feelings that are far more intense than the recorded form.

‘Prince Johnny’ was so tender, sad and operatic. St. Vincent stripped away at every layer in her cries and ended the song looking like a crucified woman. It was a very different feeling to the old song, “Strange Mercy”, where Clark performed solo and left little pockets of air to punctuate the piece.

It is difficult to pigeonhole such a tough chameleon like St. Vincent (especially when you consider her other work with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens). It would also be a massive disservice to think you could fully capture the crazed magic and colourful sorcery of her guitar hooks, electronic bleeps and amazing songs in a single review.

In short, St. Vincent’s Opera House debut was stunning. Her recent record translated wonderfully to the live stage and featured intense and heavenly art rock painted with the finest brush to reveal an awe-inspiring palate of Technicolor.

 

Originally published on 27 May 2014 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/406256/is-st-vincent-the-greatest-live-performer-of-2014.htm

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