Reviews

Scandalous Boy

Written and Directed by David Atfield. Presented by the The Street in association with David Atfield. World Premiere. The Street Theatre, Canberra. 14-23 November, 2014

Antinous, the Roman emperor Hadrian’s young lover, inspired a religion and dozens of exquisitely beautiful statues of his perfectly proportioned naked form. And it’s these statues that give Scandalous Boy its aesthetic – the colours of the set and lighting are the rich and muted cream of marble (as always with The Street shows, the production values are excellent and it looks stunning). Most strikingly, though, Antinous himself is presented as a statue coming to life to tell his story.

High Society

Music & lyrics Cole Porter, book Arthur Kopit. Players Theatre, Ballina (NSW). Director: Paul Belsham. November 14th to December 6th, 2014

Ballina Players final offering for the year, High Society, was well received by the capacity audience. This effervescent tale made popular by Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 movie, filled the theatre with Cole Porter’s infectious score and had the partons humming along and tapping their feet right from the start.

Bracken Moor

By Alexi Kaye Campbell. Independent Theatre, Adelaide. Directed by Rob Crosser. Odeon Theatre, Norwood (SA). November 14-22, 2014

Bracken Moor is an ingeniously multi-layered work – equal parts hard-hitting social commentary, heart-wrenching family drama and chilling gothic horror story.

Set against the backdrop of the 1937 Yorkshire mining crisis, the play opens with aristocratic mine-owner, Harold (Brant Eustice), deciding to lay off over 100 workers, despite the protestations of foreman, John (Angus Henderson).

Calpurnia Descending

Written by Sisters Grimm. Directed by Declan Greene. Merlyn Theatre, Cooper’s Malthouse (Vic). Nov 13 – 30, 2014.

Sometimes, when confronted with spectacular talent, those around them are held in such thrall that no-one is prepared to say “you just crossed the line from innovation to indulgence” – or from “excellence to excessiveness.” This seems to be the case with the amazing combination of Ash Flanders and Declan Greene (Sisters Grimm) – it appears no one has told them that the work loses its brilliance when it becomes schoolboy campery.

Cyrano de Bergerac

By Edmond Rostand. Adapted and Directed by Andrew Upton. Original translation by Marion Potts. Sydney Theatre. Nov 11 – Dec 20, 2014.

The scene was set for a starry starry opening night when into the audience strolled Robert Redford, accompanying Cate Blanchett, in a break from  filming their movie Truth,  that is being shot in Sydney.

Sitting on the other side of Cate was, of course, her husband/ director/ adaptor Andrew Upton.

Any distraction was soon swept away by Upton’s production which blissfully resisted the temptation to update the period in which the play is set – allowing the text and performance to shine.

Pennsylvania Avenue

By Joanna Murray-Smith. Melbourne Theatre Company (Vic). Director Simon Phillips Musical Director: Ian McDonald. Set and Costume Designer: Shaun Gurton. Video Designer: Chris More. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. 8 November - 20 December, 2014

Pennsylvania Avenue is less about script, and more about performer. Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith has, after all, written this one-woman show for Bernadette Robinson to play, and what a performer she is! Director Simon Phillips completes the Trinity with his return to MTC.

A contemplative tone pervades as Harper reminiscences on her retirement day after 40 years service in the East Wing of the White House. Her improbable impact on Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush resemble a Forrest Gump influence.

It Could Be Any One Of Us

By Alan Ayckbourn. Directed by Erik Strauts. St. Jude’s Hall, Brighton (SA). November 13-22, 2014

This latest offering from the talented St. Jude’s Players is an atmospherically staged and energetically performed production of a sedately formulaic play.

A Christmas Carol

Adapted by Benedict Hardie & Anne-Louise Sarks from the novel by Charles Dickens. Belvoir St Theatre Upstairs. Nov 8 – Dec 24, 2014.

On a bleak, dark stage cold with flurries of snow, Ebenezer Scrooge hunches over his desk, endlessly checking his riches. Behind him, Bob Crachit waits quietly for the end of another day. The silent, empty stage and the two lonely figures are a stark introduction to this new adaptation of Dickens’ time-honoured tale.

Requiem for Dalinka

By Peter Marks & Ben Pfeiffer, dramaturgy by Deborah Rechter. Gasworks Theatre, Albert Park (VIC). 12-22 November 2014.

Possibly Requiem for Dalinka is a great play.

Tosca

By Puccini. Opera Australia. Director: John Bell. Conductor: Andrea Molino. Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre. Nov 12 – Dec 13, 2014.

This was a lavish production. Minimalist was nowhere to be seen as every set towered over the performers. In Act 1 the church of Sant' Andrea della Valle looked magnificent with layers of gold on the walls and in the gaol of Act 3 a guard patrolled the upper level.

Setting the opera in Nazi Germany worked well. I particularly liked the “shepherd boy” being a young Jewish lad inside the gaol, with an uncertain future. In the second act Scarpia molests an embarrassed female officer in front of the other soldiers.

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