Reviews

The Long Way Home

By Daniel Keene. Sydney Theatre Company and the Australian Defence Force. Sydney Theatre, Feb 7 – 15, 2014, then touring to Darwin (Feb 22), Brisbane (Feb 17 – Mar 1), Wollongong (Mar 4 – 8), Townsville (Mar 14 & 15), Canberra (Mar 19 – 22), Melbourne (Mar 27 – 29), Adelaide (Ap 1 – 5) and Perth (Ap 11 & 12).

Theatre and war, war and theatre, they have long been partners. But often renditions of conflicts past or present tend to be dry, terribly self-satisfied and didactic. So it would be understandable to expect The Long Way Home to fall into this trap. But it doesn't and it is so much more than could ever be anticipated.

I commend the Sydney Theatre Company for taking a risk to use real stories of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan and to incorporate returned service people into the cast. This is bold, compelling and searingly white-hot story telling.

Out of the Water

By Brooke Berman. Directed by Nadia Tass. Lighting Designer Jason Bovaird. Set Designers Andrew Bellchambers and Jacob Battista. Sound Designers Russell Goldsmith and Daniel Nixon. Costume Designer Rebecca Dunn. Presented by Red Stitch (Vic). Until 8 March, 2014

It’s all about Red Stitch having ‘Actors Theatre’ as a part of its title – such is the scale of the company’s acting prowess that only makes performances of plays like Ms Berman’s punishing dissection of the concepts of family and alienation possible.

The Anatomy of Buzz

By Carl Caulfield. Stray Dogs Theatre. Directors: Carl Caulfield and Felicity Biggins. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle (NSW). February 5 – 22, 2014

Carl Caulfield’s new play opens with Ben Quilty, who has worked at Newcastle company Sunbeam Corp for 30 years and risen to be sales manager, being interviewed by Nick Norton, the son of the firm’s late founder.

Norton tells him the company is in a precarious position and it’s time for change, so he’s called in an organisational consultant, Dixon Uzzi, he met at a business school in the United States.

Caravan

By Donald MacDonald. Javeenbah Theatre Co., Nerang, Gold Coast. Director: Barry Gibson 24th January – 8th February, 2014

Going on holiday takes all the fun out of the planning! This was proven by Barry Gibson’s hilarious production for Javeenbah Theatre Co.

When Parkes (Noel Thomson) and Penny (Libby Bancroft) invite long time friends Rodney (Trevor Love) and Monica (Naomi Thompson) and bachelor Pierce (Clinton Brent) to join them on a 2 week caravanning vacation it seemed like a good idea: that was until the time arrives and Pierce invites his latest conquest (the much younger) Gwendolyn (Chantelle Wright) to join them.

Annie

Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan. Packemin Productions. Director: Luke Joslin. Musical Director: Peter Haywad. Choreographer: Camilla Jakimowicz. Riverside Theatre, Parramatta (NSW). February 7 – 22., 2014

You’d need to have a heart of stone not to love this Annie. And heart is something Packemin’s joyous production has in trumps.

If you’ve been on another planet and missed out on this musical and its film versions over the last four decades, put simply it’s the tale of an 11-year-old orphan girl who finds her way into the heart of a cynical billionaire businessman, set to a sassy Broadway score, and enlivened by a hoard of captivating kids and a trio of vaudeville villains.

A Tale of Two Cities

By Charles Dickens. Adapted by Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud. Edited by Adam Spreadbury-Maher. Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher. The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. 5-16 February 2014. Australian Premiere

What a coup for the Q to have nabbed not only the first Australian rights to the contemporary revival of this Terrance Rattigan/John Gielgud play, but also to have secured the direction of Adam Spreadbury-Maher, who both rescued the play from obscurity and edited it down to its essence. Spreadbury-Maher’s take has a decadent 1960s aesthetic, full of surreal elements and interesting anachronisms.

Show and Tell

Directed by Tegan Mulvany. Midlandia at the Midland Arts Centre, as part of the Perth Fringe World Festival. Jan 30 -31, 2014 and on-going.

Another excellent improvised piece as part of Fringe World, Show and Tell opened at the new Midlandia outpost of Fringe World, before moving to the old Piccadilly Cinema venue, where it will continue on Wednesday and Thursday evenings until the end of the Fringe.

Evolution Revolution and The Mail Order Bride

Written, performed and composed by Zulya Kamalova. Directed by Maude Davey. Orchestration and musical direction by Erkki Veltheim. Designed by Adrienne Chisholm. Projections by Michael Carmody. Lighting design by Katie Sfetkidis. At 45 Downstairs until 16 February, 2014. (Vic).

There’s a sparkling gem of an idea camouflaged deep within Evolution Revolution and The Mail Order Bride that deserves further exploration. The essential conflict in its current state is that musically, it is simply stunning, but dramatically, much less so – with a simplistic and perfunctory strain of ‘the wrongs men do’ carried through relentlessly.

PROOF

By David Auburn. Ensemble Theatre (NSW). Director: Sandra Bates. February 5 – March 8, 2014

PROOF plays with the fascinating paradox that while mathematics is a perfect science where one plus one always equals two, in life, problems cannot be resolved as easily as square roots or algebra. Life is messy and doesn’t follow reliable algorithms.

Ensemble Theatre, under the direction of Sandra Bates, earnestly brings David Auburn’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play to life to explore this paradox. Aided in no small part by Matilda Ridgway as Catherine, who is thrilling and delightfully messy for all the right reasons. 

 

Otello

By Guiseppe Verdi. His Majesty's Theatre, Perth WA. Feb 4-11, 2014.

The West Australian Opera presented Verdi's Otello as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. This co-production with Cape Town Opera, New Zealand Opera, Opera Queensland, State Opera of South Australia and Victorian Opera features the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and The West Australian Opera Chorus with guests from the Cape Town Opera Chorus. The cast is renewed in each location.

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