Reviews

Vere (Faith)

By John Doyle. State Theatre Company SA and Sydney Theatre Company. Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, October 12 – November 2, 2013 and Sydney Opera House, November 6 -December 7.

The droll humour of broadcaster John Doyle, his sharp wit, erudition and compassion, are all there in this his second play, a black comedy which, indeed, occasionally struggles under so many guises.

At the heart is Paul Blackwell, so engaging and unmannered as the 62-year-old physicist Vere, who is told at the start that within a month dementia will crumble his best asset. Doyle’s tender empathy to Vere’s impending voyage was so obviously informed by watching his own Dad go through the same rapid mental decline.

The Web

By Kate Mulvany. Bakehouse Theatre (SA). Directed by Yasmin Gurreeboo. October 23 – November 2, 2013.

Most 16 year olds are quite familiar with social networks and the internet. They are consistently chatting online using various social media, whether it is to blog or Skype, and using the net to entertain and inform.

However, in The Web, by Australian playwright Kate Mulvany, Fred (Michael Lemmer) doesn’t use Facebook, Twitter, or Bebo.  In fact, he’s just trying to get past a terrible family tragedy which compounds his shy, insecure personality and his disappointing school marks.

The Music Man

Book, Music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson. Strathfield Musical Society. Latvian Theatre, Strathfield. October 18 - 26, 2013.

Strathfield’s The Music Man is an enjoyable production, ably directed and musically directed by Cathy Boyle (assisted in musical direction by Natalya Aynsley), and choreographed by Cameron Forwood.

Hamlet

By William Shakespeare. Belvoir. Director: Simon Stone. October 12 – December 1, 2013.

Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play and one of his most influential, so it’s little wonder that whenever a company puts it on its playbill that it comes with a lot of added pressure and expectation. I did have high expectations for this production. It has such a superb cast it seemed like it would be an obvious win for Belvoir. But a strong cast and solid production support cannot save a show if its structure is flawed.

Butterflies Are Free

By Leonard Gershe. Lambert House Enterprises and Emu Productions in Association with the UE Company. Directed by Les Solomon. King Street Theatre, Newtown (NSW). October 17-November 3, 2013.

This production was one of an inaugural 'repertory season' of two plays being presented in tandem. Butterflies was staged in the foyer space, while Three Winters Green (also directed by Les Solomon) ran at different times on the main stage and featured three of the same four actors.

Solomon's decision to showcase this fine group of actors under such demanding circumstances proved to be quite shrewd, as he's also an actor's agent. After seeing these gifted young actors perform, one can say his enthusiasm is certainly justified.

Into the Woods

Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Book: James Lapine. Ignations Musical Society. Director: Nathan Sibthorpe. Musical Director: Ben Murray. Schonell Theatre, Brisbane, 18-19 Oct 2013

To celebrate their 40th Anniversary Ignations Musical Society embarked on a concert series of musicals based on literary works. Produced over a three week period, with three different casts and creative crew, it was a mammoth undertaking which this experienced company came through with flying colours.

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, Book by Jeff Whitty, Directed by Amy Copeland, Musical Direction by Cameron Zingel, Choreography by Carly Hallet and Amy Copeland. Ipac Theatre, Wollongong. October 16 – 19, 2013

This is a show that should never have to close. It is a joyous confection of song, dance, strong story line and incisive social comment. Above all it is hugely entertaining and very, very funny.

Camp Rock

Book by Robert L Freedman and Faye Greenburg. Music by Various – adapted and arranged by David Lawrence. Stage Masters. Directed by Jess Benney and David Venn. Randall Theatre South Yarra. 17th-27th October, 2013.

What a delight to see the Musical Theatre ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ on stage NOW. There’s talent galore on the stage amongst the teenagers, so much so that seasoned performers like Rohan Browne and Cameron MacDonald barely make an impact, though their presence must be a comfort to the young cast.

The show is pure Disney….light on a workable book and full of cliches, heavy on music, almost all of it forgettable. But the talent is so great that you really can’t go past this for entertainment. It’s pure joy for cast and audience alike.

Next to Normal

Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Music by Tom Kitt. Director Mark Taylor. Musical Director Emma McGeorge. Set Designer Sarah Tulloch. Presented by Pursued by Bear. The Shirley Burke Theatre (Oct 17–20) then Chapel off Chapel (Oct 24– 27) (Vic).

Why a new independent theatre company would choose the treacherously difficult and equally problematic Next to Normal as their debut production escapes me. Sure, it has a manageable cast of only six characters, but the talent required for each of those characters is monumental – especially the leading role of Diana, who spends the night in the spotlight waging an intensely personal war against the challenges of mental illness.

The Shadow King

Created by Tom E Lewis and Michael Kantor. Coopers’ Malthouse Theatre (Vic). October 16 – 27, 2013. World Premiere.

It isn’t necessary to know Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear before seeing this fascinating production. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t; for, although The Shadow King borrows heavily from the Lear story, Shakespeare’s greatest strength is surely the marvellous poetry of his language, the rhythm and meter. That is all but discarded and replaced with new text, some in English, some in Kriol (pidjin) and some in native dialect, much of it paraphrasing the original text.

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