Reviews

Avenue Q

Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Mars. Prince Moo Productions. Directed by Peter Snee. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne. August 3 – 14, 2016

When Avenue Q won Broadway’s Tony Awards triple crown in 2003, some people were surprised. This deceptively simple musical (more a series of vignettes) which features “full frontal puppet nudity and other vulgarities” wasn’t the usual stuff that hit musicals were made of, but Robert Lopez and Jeff Mars channelled their inner kids to give us an Adults Only Sesame Street, and turned expectations upside down. Thirteen years later this new production proves that a good show is a good show, regardless of style or fashion.

Edward II

By Anthony Weigh. Directed by Matthew Lutton. Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank. 29 July – 21 August, 2016.

Edward II is a contemporary adaptation of the original Christopher Marlowe play but the text easily stands on its own as a new and innovative piece. The main characters are retained and all the sexual and political intrigue is effectively transferred into this production. The text dedicates a great deal of attention to the tender relationship between Piers (Paul Ashcroft) and Ned (Johnny Carr) and depicts their attraction with the complexity and naturalness of any ordinary couple.

The Matchmaker

By Thornton Wilder. Independent Theatre. The Goodwood Institute. August 5-13, 2016.

Following a complicated and at times painful genesis, Thornton Wilder’s comedy The Matchmaker has endured since the mid 1950’s and has also resulted in its well-known stage and screen offspring, the musical Hello Dolly!

The Matchmaker is an unlikely blend of comedy of manners and farce, which Adelaide’s Independent Theatre makes the most of with a very good current production directed by the company’s Artistic Director Rob Croser.

Blood Brothers

Book, Lyrics and Music by Willy Russell. Co-Directors: Nate Butler and Leisi Edmonds. Musical Director: Andrew Swan. Don Craig Room, Laycock Street Theatre, North Gosford. August 3-6, 2016

Central Coast based Nate Butler’s studio has grown over the past five years - from a vocal coaching (specialising in musical theatre) to this year launching as a legit training facility for fully accredited Certificate IV and Diploma courses in Musical Theatre. Despite the youth of the students, the studio has compiled a formidable and challenging program of shows for the 2016 season, kicking off in April with Parade. The next production will be the Coast premiere of Avenue Q.

Broken

By Mary Anne Butler. Directed by Shannon Murphy. Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Sydney. 29 July – 28 August, 2016

Broken is not the play you imagine it might be. The story concerns a woman who rolls her car on a highway in the Northern Territory, and the bond she forms with a mine worker who saves her life. But this sharply written and unusually staged production goes much deeper, capturing a profound sense of what it’s like to live in the remote outback and how three isolated characters struggle for a sense of connection and meaning.

Caucasian Chalk Circle

By Bertolt Brecht. Black Swan State Theatre Company of WA / National Theatre of China. Directed by Dr. Wang Xiaoying. Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA, Northbridge, WA. 30 July - 14 Aug, 2016

Lion Dancers and drummers greeted the opening night audience for Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company, in collaboration with the National Theatre of China. A play based on an ancient Chinese legend, retold by a German playwright and performed by Australian actors in a fusion of Brechtian and Chinese style, this international fusion made for a fascinating production.

Lest We Forget

In the Best Moments – Choreographer: Ma Cong. We Who Are Left – Choreographer: Natalie Weir. Company B – Choreographer: Paul Taylor, Staged by Richard Chen See. Queensland Ballet. Playhouse, QPAC. 29 Jul – 6 Aug 2016

Excellence is on show at the Playhouse. Once again the Queensland Ballet has shown how far they have come in five short years under the artistic leadership on Li Cunxin. Dancing better than ever, this young company’s talent was put to the test time and time again in their latest program Lest We Forget, a triple bill of dance works themed on the effects of war.

Shirley Valentine

By Willy Russell. KADS. Directed by Jodi Cant. KADS Town Square Theatre, Kalamunda, WA. 8-30 July, 2016

As the curtain closed on Shirley Valentine, presented by KADS, a significant proportion of the audience remained in their seats, calling “Encore!” and “Shirley!” It was the first time that I had experienced that in Community Theatre in Perth, and is testament to the level of enjoyment experienced in the capacity audience.

Actress Jenny Howard McCann was a delightful choice to bring this iconic single hander to life. She makes a lovely Shirley, quickly establishing an easy rapport in this intimate theatre, giving Shirley warmth and familiarity.

Trevor

By Nick Jones. Directed by Denis Moore. Red Stitch Theatre, St Kilda. 29th July – 26th August, 2016.

Bravo Red Stitch! No other theatre company brings us contemporary plays, never seen before in Australia, with such depth and scope. Trevor is a delight from start to finish – though there will be some who fear that the ending might be that of the true story that inspired the play, where a pet chimp named Travis went rogue and mutilated its owner.

The Mill On The Floss

Adapted from the novel by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) by Helen Edmundson. OpticNerve Performance Group. Theatre Works, Acland Street, St Kilda (VIC). 28 July – 13 August 2016.

On a bare stage, eight actors, dressed simply in white, skirts for the women, grey jackets for the men, play fourteen clearly demarcated characters.  With these apparently – but only apparently – simple means, director Tanya Gerstle brilliantly creates a contemporary interpretation of a much loved, classic 19th century novel.  We are in Lincolnshire, we are back in the 19th century at a mill on the (fictitious) River Floss.  A bright, curious, highly intelligent and adventurous nine-year-old, Maggie Tulliver (Maddie Nunn), reads vora

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