Reviews

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

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Northern Light Theatre Company. Shedley Theatre. Director: Lauren Scarfe. Musical Director: Helen Loveday. Choreographer: Thomas Phillips. April 1-April 16, 2016.

She's been the belle of the ball for so many years, the archetypal underdog through innumerable versions of her story...Can Cinders still manage to entertain us after all this time? You bet she can.

Minefields & Miniskirts

By Terrence O’Connell. Javeenbah Theatre, Gold Coast. Directed by Gaye Gay. Apr 1 – 16, 2016.

Adapted from the original book of Siobhan McHugh, Minefields & Miniskirts represents the reminiscences and experiences of the Vietnam War of five different women from various walks of life.

Originally produced and directed by Terrence O’Connell in 2004, it gives us a look inside these women – retelling real stories about real people who crossed their paths in Vietnam during the conflict.

King Charles III

By Mike Bartlett. Almeida Theatre Production. Sydney Theatre Company. Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay. Mar 31 – Apr 30, 2016

He thought the day would never come. At last Charles III has ascended to the throne and we meet his ever so familiar family mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II. There was no need to waste time introducing most of the characters. We know Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry already. Each eliciting a laugh when we recognised them.

The playwright could cut to the chase of an epic constitutional crisis making November 11, 1975 look civilised.

Shabamalam

Written & performed by Kate Dehnert. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. ACMI Games Room, Melbourne. 26-27 March; 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17 April 2016.

Kate Dehnert (another Moosehead and RAW Comedy winner) hurls herself into her show with a manic, frenetic energy that is curiously vulnerable and engaging.  She boogies, she rants, she speaks in different voices.  She doesn’t let up.  Only for scant moments do we see what might be the ‘real’ Kate Dehnert behind the manic screen.  What’s intriguing and what grips your attention for her fifty or so minutes is the contrast and tension between the mode of delivery, the absurdist humour and the dry, bleak satire in the material.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Music and Lyrics By William Finn. Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Vic Theatre Company. Directed by Ben Giraud. Southbank Lawler Theatre March 30 - April 10, 2016.

In the midst of the MICF, this little musical packs more laughs and talent into 100 minutes than MOST of the other shows put together.

Beautifully crafted, “Spelling Bee” packs humour, back-story, emotional insight and great musical numbers into its 100 minutes of a school spelling bee and the effects it has on the various participants.

Pygmalion

Composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Lyric Opera of Melbourne. Director: James Cutler. Conductor: Pat Miller. Chapel off Chapel. April 5 – 9, 2016

Lyric Opera love a challenge, and the more obscure the choice the better. This was the biggest one yet, but they triumphed magnificently.

Rameau’s Pygmalion is a one act opera in the form of an “acte de ballet”, which has large tracts of ballet, and a very light plot. The potential for boredom was immense, but in this production there was always something happening, and it was always interesting.

The Philadelphia Story

By Philip Barry. Presented by The Therry Dramatic Society. Directed by Kerrin White. The Arts Theatre, Adelaide, 31st March-9th April, 2016

Philip Barry’s bitingly witty 1939 comedy of manners is given a generally solid revival by the Therry Dramatic Society. At its best, this production offers an intriguing window into the quaint, sometimes bizarre social rituals of a bygone era.

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