Reviews

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

By Ray Lawler. Director: Leo Wockner. Villanova Players. F.T. Barrell Centre, Yeronga High School, Yeronga, Brisbane. 20 Nov – 6 Dec 2015

This production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll completes Villanova’s Doll Trilogy which they began in 2013 with Kid Stakes and followed in 2014 with Other Times. We’re back in Melbourne in a Carlton terraced boarding house of the fifties. A time when there’s a nightly six-o-clock swill at the pub, where two-up is played in the back lanes, and there’s weekly community singing at the local Town Hall.

Dangerous Corner

By J.B. Priestley. Director: Kurt A. Lerps. Centenary Theatre Group. Chelmer Community Centre, Brisbane. Nov 14 – Dec 5, 2015

Once upon a time J.B. Preistley plays were the backbone of community theatre seasons, but of late, with the exception of An Inspector Calls, they’ve been thin on the ground. Dangerous Corner dates from 1932 and was Priestley’s first play, one of his impressionistic ‘time plays’ which explored the nature of time and presented alternative versions of the same series of events. The plot involves a missing 500 pounds, a musical cigarette box and a suicide which is eventually revealed as a murder.

Grey Gardens

By Scott Frankel, Doug Wright and Michael Korie. Squabbalogic. Seymour Centre, Sydney. Nov 18 – Dec 12, 2015.

Oddly enough, the story of Jackie Onassis’ ultimately reclusive aunt and cousin living with cats in an East Hampton mansion makes a good musical.  At least in the first half.  

Stage-struck Edith Bouvier Beale, the older, loves to dominate her parties with a song, even as she plans the 1941 engagement do of her daughter, Edie, and promising Joe Kennedy junior (Simon McLachlan).  Beth Daly plays Edith as a fine patrician bulldozer and Caitlin Berry brings a desperate grace to young Edie who longs to leave Grey Gardens and hit the boards as well.

Red Velvet

By Lolita Chakrabarti. Directed by Rob Croser. Presented by Independent Theatre (SA). Goodwood Institute, Goodwood. November 20-28, 2015

Red Velvet is yet another intelligent and provocative SA premiere from Independent Theatre that rewards patient viewers with a nuanced examination of backstage politics and intrigue, some of which remain all too relevant today and it does so with a nice balance of humour and pathos.

Are You Lonesome Tonight

SPARC Theatre. Artistic Director: Katie Lockett. Musical Director: Myfanwy Powell. Venue: Greyhound Hotel Function Room. November 20 – 22, 2015

SPARC Theatre was created to allow people living in supported accommodation in the City of Port Phillip an artistic outlet. People living in supported accommodation are unable to support themselves, often due to mental illness, and so are among the most marginalised in the community.

I wasn’t sure what to expect and afterwards I wasn’t sure what I’d seen, but there was certainly a lot of love in the room, and a standing ovation for the performers.

Maria Stuarda

By Donizetti. Millennium Opera (Vic). Musical Director: Michael Woods. Phoenix Theatre, Elwood. Nov 17 – 19, 2015

In the early 70s Brian Hansford produced some Mozart Operas to give his students performing opportunities. These were staged with minimal sets, costumes and piano accompaniment. In the late 70s and beyond, Bettine McCaughan’s students formed Melbourne Opera, which performed a number of operas on a similar basis.

Since then the number of semi-professional opera companies has exploded. Singing teacher Joseph Talia founded Globe Opera, which evolved into Melbourne City Opera, and many of the minor roles and some major were allocated to his students.

Rumours

By Neil Simon. Galleon Theatre (SA). Domain Theatre, Marion Cultural Centre. November 19-28, 2015.

American playwright Neil Simon wrote his first farce, Rumors, when his marriage was breaking up in the 1980’s. It is interesting therefore that the farce he created involved a group of married couples and the theme revolved around a wedding anniversary.

Simon’s subsequent British version of his comedy, Rumours (note the different spelling), is the one Galleon Theatre Group is now premiering in Adelaide. The popular local theatre company has developed a very fine production indeed, filled with dry humour, wit and well-drawn characters.

A Bad Year for Tomatoes

By John Patrick. Castle Hill Players. Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill. November 20 to December 12, 2015.

It’s nice to end the year with some fun, and there are lots of laughs in this almost-farcical comedy set in a country town west of Hollywood around the 1970s. However, it hasn’t been all that much fun in the two weeks leading up to opening night! Annette van Roden, who plays the leading role of Myra Marlowe, broke her arm, necessitating quite a few changes for both the cast and the backstage crew – as Myra has many costume changes, runs up and down stairs several times, and is involved in a little bit of a scuffle with one of the male actors.

Heavenly Bodies & Beautiful Souls

Written and Directed by Sven Swenson. Co-director: James Trigg. Producer: Ro Taylor. Brisbane Powerhouse. 18-28 November, 2015

How would you feel if you were trapped in the lift of an old building with one or more strangers and/or old friends or colleagues? The emergency button doesn't work, there are no mobile phones and there's a fire raging outside somewhere, where, you don't know. 

This was not the setting of these two one-act plays but moreso the psychology behind the impact this kind of situation could have on relations between each character right then and there. 

 

Ladies in Black

Music & Lyrics: Tim Finn. Book: Carolyn Burns based on Madeleine St John’s novel The Women in Black. Additional Lyrics: Simon Philips & Carolyn Burns. QTC. Production. Director: Simon Phillips. Musical Director: Isaac Hayward. Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth. Playhouse Theatre, QPAC. 14 Nov - 6 Dec 2015

QTC’s first original musical in 16 years, Ladies in Black, is appealing in its evocation of an era (the late 50s), but lacks emotional conflict to make it really engaging. Not an easy book to adapt, most of what is in the pages of Madeleine St John’s wisp of a novel is on stage in Carolyn Burns’ episodic adaptation of it which has been stylishly staged by Simon Phillips using revolves.

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