Reviews

Straight White Men

By Young Jean Lee. La Boite Theatre Company/State Theatre Company of South Australia. Director: Nescha Jelk. Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove. 27 Jul – 13 Aug 2016

Recently widowed and retired engineer Ed (Roger Newcombe) invites his three sons, Jake (Chris Pitman) an asshole banker, Drew (Lucas Stibbard) a cynical author/teacher, and Matt (Hugh Parker) a disillusioned Harvard educated leftie to spend Christmas with him. All goes swimmingly as they revert to childhood games, joke crudely, and get drunk, but the high-jinks are sobered when over Chinese takeaway Matt suddenly bursts into tears.

Twelfth Night

By William Shakespeare. Belvoir Street Theatre. July 23 – September 4, 2016.

Belvoir’s new production of Twelfth Night may be studded with Sydney stars but it takes a while to get off the floor.  On Michael Hankin’s bare stage, with walls brightly splashed in  modernist colours, it’s hard to know where are and why we are here. 

The actors, while virtuosic as character comedians, seem at first to be in different plays – despite Stephen Curtis dressing all in late Renaissance period.

Miss Saigon

Music by Claude-Michael Schonberg. Lyrics by Richard Maltby jnr and Alain Boublil. PLOS (Vic). Directed by Scott Hili. Frankston Arts Centre. July 22 – 30, 2016.

There are people who think that Miss Saigon is a marvellous musical – I am not one of them (along with around 50% of musical theatre lovers). It’s a show that divides opinion. So take it as a compliment when I say that Peninsula Light Opera Society (PLOS) bring such skill and commitment to every production that they even make this a magical theatrical event.

The Pied Piper

Composer & Librettist: Richard Mills. Director: Derek Taylor. Victorian Opera.Musical Director: Simon Bruckard. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse, 28 – 30 July, 2016, then a tour of regional Victoria in October and November.

Three weeks after Cinderella, Victorian Opera introduced another opera for children with Richard Mills’ version of The Pied Piper. Set in the Australian town of Hamelin, this was a variation on the well-known fairy tale, with a different ending.

Apart from the principals, the production involved a number of children who performed as either rats or school-children. Also assisting was an ensemble of community choristers. What a great experience for them!

The Book Club

By Roger Hall. Directed by Nadia Tass. Lawler Theatre, Southbank. July 23 - August 28, 2016

About fifteen minutes into this play/one woman show by New Zealand’s Roger Hall,  you realise that two remarkably talented women are performing magic – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; something seemingly impossible. Amanda Muggleton and Nadia Tass might even be Siamese twins, so closely and seamlessly connected are they. They have taken a script which is little more than a collection of old gags and shtick, worthy of a Ray Cooney play, and turned it into a theatrical piece full of whimsy and poignant moments.

Simon Boccanegra

By Verdi. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. July 26 – August 13, 2016

So where do you start with a convoluted, inexplicable plot like this one?

Perhaps with the singing, which is sublime - even if the often wooden acting offers little help in sorting out the story. Verdi himself had two goes at this medieval tale set in the politically fractious court of a Doge of Genoa.  

For this Opera Australia production in 2000, director Moffatt Oxenbould set it at the time of Verdi’s second attempt, in 1881, to underline the composer’s intention to remind his Italian audience of the worth of their newly reunified nation. 

Funny Girl

Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Bob Merrill. Book by Isobel Lennart. The Production Company. Directed by Gale Edwards. State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. July 23rd to 31st 2016.

When Caroline O’Connor, as Fanny Brice, sings “I’m The Greatest Star” early in Act One of Funny Girl, you’d better believe her. You won’t believe she’s a 19 year old, but it won’t matter. Ms O’Connor continues to awe and delight us with her extraordinary talent, and most of us would wish that she were only 19 so that we had the next 30+ years still to come.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

By Edward Albee. The Theatre On Chester, Epping, NSW. July 22 – August 13, 2016

This iconic work by Edward Albee is a play of its time. When it opened in 1962, it was acclaimed as the play that would lead a revolution in American playwriting. But because it dared to portray a picture of American life that was less than ‘wholesome’, it was also criticised by those who found it “obscene, morbid and decadent”. Yet the play took its place as the harbinger of a new wave of theatre that did what theatre is meant to do … reflect society and question prevailing values and behaviour.

Those Who Fall in Love Like Anchors Dropped Upon the Ocean Floor

By Finegan Kruckemeyer. Griffin Theatre Company. SBW Stables Theatre. 20 July – 6 August, 2016

Visiting from Perth at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre, this talented trio offers a collection of fast stories about falling in love. Finegan Kruckemeyer has an established reputation as a children’s writer; and this (adult) play sports all the whimsy and imaginative fun you might expect from that. 

Conviction

By Zoe Dawson. Darebin Arts Speakeasy and The Zoey Louise Moonbeam Dawson Shakespeare Company. Northcote Town Hall. 23 July – 6 August, 2016

Set in three time frames – early 19th century Australia, the suburban present and some kind of dog-eat-dog, dystopian future – Zoe Dawson tracks a young woman who somehow survives ‘impossible odds’ and creates… nothing.  It begins promisingly enough with some clever staging from director Declan Greene, ingenious set design from Romanie Harper hand-in-glove with Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting.  Caroline Lee and Ruby Hughes are Mother and Daughter, felons passing themselves off as airs-and-graces free settlers in this land of opportu

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