Reviews

Old Times

By Harold Pinter. Directed by Tony Knight. Mystique Productions and Tony Knight-Acting. Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre. 6-9 April, 2016.

Bryan Ferry’s mid-70s-era interpretation of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" doesn’t get nearly as much exposure or recognition these days as this reviewer believes it should, so director Tony Knight’s decision to open his production of Harold Pinter’s 1971 play with the unmistakable Ferry croon certainly grabs the attention.

Savages

By Patricia Cornelius. Darlinghurst Theatre Company. Eternity Playhouse. April 1 – May 1, 2016

Savages is about four blokes on a cruise trying unsuccessfully to leave behind the baggage of their disappointed lives and loves.  

Written by a woman, Patricia Cornelius, directed by a Brit, Tim Roseman, it’s a portrait finally of Australian misogyny – of four men, manic and fearful, defensive and two-faced to each other, but driven by their camaraderie and desperate escapism towards a violent assertion of their sexual needs.  Such men crossed the path of Dianne Brimble who was killed on that P&O cruise back in 2002.

Daisy Berry, Am I Mental?

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Highlander, 11a Highlander Lane, Melbourne, 5-16 April 2016.

Daisy Berry’s question “Am I Mental?” is largely rhetorical in this show, although she is willing to subject herself to an assessment of her mental health by her audience. Daisy confronts issues that are often secretly harboured and repressed. Questions about sexuality, heritage, family life and the importance of physical appearance are all dealt with in a very personal and candid manner.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

By Tom Wright, from the novel by Joan Lindsay. Black Swan State Theatre Company, with Malthouse Theatre. Directed by Matthew Lutton. Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, WA. April 1 – 17, 2016

Picnic at Hanging Rock is an interesting, modern interpretation of the Joan Lindsay novel, presented on a stark stage This co-production of Black Swan State Theatre Company, with Malthouse Theatre, uses five actors, all of whom play multiple roles.

Playhouse Creatures

By April De Angelis. Directed by Jordan Best. Produced by Pigeonhole Theatre. Q Theatre, Queanbeyan. March 31 – April 9, 2016

Playhouse Creatures makes wonderful debut by Canberra’s new theatre company, Pigeonhole Theatre.

Cirque Adrenaline

Directed by Neil Allan Dorward. Arts Centre Melbourne. April 1 – 10, 2016

For a century they were called “Speciality” or “Spesh” acts. They appeared not just in circuses and side-shows but also on stage in Vaudeville/Variety shows. They were the mainstay of breaking up the more traditional or high profile acts - after all, who can compete with a Pop Star or dancing elephants? Then, in the late 20th century, Cirque du Soleil changed the game and made the “Spesh Act” into an Art Form, and everybody else followed.

Ariadne Auf Naxos

By Richard Strauss. CitiOpera. Director: Stella Axarlis AM. Musical Director: Dr David Kram. Hawthorn Arts Centre. April 2 – 10, 2016.

My previous experience of Ariadne Auf Naxos was the Victorian Opera production in 2009, which was very impressive. It is not the sort of opera one would expect from a semi-professional company like CitiOpera.

However, they did a surprisingly creditable job.

A lot of this was due to the conducting of David Kram, who coaxed a full Straussian sound from the small orchestra. There was a lovely sweep to the music, but the singers were still able to be heard. Partly this was to do with the quality of the performers.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ballet by Liam Scarlett. Based on the play by William Shakespeare. Music: Felix Mendelssohn. Arrangements & Additional Orchestration: Nigel Gaynor. Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Nigel Gaynor. Queensland Ballet & Royal New Zealand Ballet Co-Production @ Playhouse, QPAC. 1-16 April 2016

Everyone loves a happy ending and A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives us not one but three. Maybe that’s the reason Shakespeare’s comedy has been so popular for over 400 years. The combination of fairies, rustics and lovers has been irresistible to choreographers for decades and Liam Scarlett’s new vision of their escapades has all of the magic of a master conjurer.

Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare. Bell Shakespeare. Directed by Peter Evans. Designer Anna Cordingly. Playhouse, Canberra Theatre, 1-9 April 2016

Heads and maidenheads allude to murder and rape. That is made clear by the testosterone-fueled speech given a bearded Capulet servant, setting the tone for the play from the outset.  Peter Evans’ take eschews simpering romance, restoring Romeo and Juliet to its violent and lustful essence. The servant is a composite of Shakespeare’s characters Sampson and Gregory, and what was dialogue between two becomes a spoken inner monologue full of sex, rage and brittle bravado. The speech is just one example of the sheer genius of the editing.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

By Christopher Hampton, based on the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos. National Theatre Live at Donmar Warehouse. Nova Cinema, Carlton (VIC) and other cinemas nationally from 9 April, 2016

The source material for this enduring play is Choderlos de Laclos’ novel, Les Liaisons Dangerous, first published in 1782.  It is a tale of deceit, betrayal, hypocrisy and sex games among the French aristocracy.  Although frequently banned, the novel has been in print ever since, probably because the world and people don’t change that much – and the baroque trappings, the lace and the stays, and the amorality of these 18th century aristos all enable us to contemplate these vices with some objectivity.  And it has an implicit feminist argu

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