Reviews

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s novel, as adapted for the stage by Helen Jerome. Brisbane Arts Theatre. 8 March – 13 April, 2014.

This style of play gives Arts an extra edge over other Brisbane theatres: visually stunning, a big cast of talented actors, and a great night out at an affordable price.

Everything falls together here – set and costume designs, astute direction, effective lighting and sound support, gracious pace  ̶  making it a must-see for drama students: the British Empire/Regency period alive on stage, with actors who ‘live’ in their period costumes!

 

The Tiger Lillies

The Street Theatre, Canberra. 18th March 2014

The Tiger Lillies are a musical trio from Britain, comprising the founder Martyn Jacques (vocals, accordion and piano), Mike Pickering (drums, percussion and backing vocals) and Adrian Stout (double bass, musical saw, theremin and backing vocals).

Their style is quite a mixture: obvious Brechtian influences, a dash of punk, the darker edge of old folk songs, a bit of Jacques Brel, and a nod to Parisian cabaret. All this creates a strange but compelling soundscape where the audience comes along on an eerie narrative journey.

Deathtrap

By Ira Levin. Director: Ian Rigney. Therry Dramatic Society. The Arts Theatre, Adelaide (SA). March 20-29, 2014.

When you put an ingenious text together with a highly regarded theatre company, a proven director, and a cast with top-level experience, you're bound to get something satisfying - and this latest version of Deathtrap certainly is, even if those familiar with the play may feel that a certain sparkle has been lost from the text over time.

Neighbourhood Watch

By Lally Katz. Melbourne Theatre Company / Belvoir. Directed by Simon Stone. Set and Costume Designer: Dale Ferguson. Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper. Composer and Sound Designer: Stefan Gregory. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. 17 March to 26 April 2014.

Neighbourhood Watch is about the rich complex life of Ana, an acerbic aging Hungarian woman.  Our amazing matriarch of theatre Robyn Nevin is truly a ‘tour-de-force’ as Ana, who is depicted through her interactions with the people living around her.  It is fascinating to watch Ms. Nevin’s rich and multi-layered characterization.  Working opposite her, Megan Holloway, as Catherine, adroitly bridges the gap of portraying a vague self-interested young actor and Ana’s younger self, both on treacherous journeys to adulthood.

Quartet

By Ronald Harwood. Javeenbah Theatre Company, Gold Coast. Director: Joan Stalker Brown. March 21st – April 5th, 2014.

In bringing to the stage this tale of former thespians, each an operatic star during their careers, now in the autumn of their lives, Joan Stalker Brown delivers a believable slice of life for those of us who look forward with apprehension to old age. 

With a cast of four senior citizens (who are hardly offstage for any length of time) we enter the dilemma they face when only 3 of them want to relive past glories and recreate their “tour de force” the quartet from Rigoletto.

 

Guys and Dolls

Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser. Book: Abe Burrows, based on the characters of Damon Runyon. Harvest Rain. Director: Tim O’Connor. Musical Director: Maitlohn John. Choreographer: George Canham. Concert Hall, QPAC. 20-23 March 2014

Guys and Dolls is a very dated musical and in this productions feels as though it has gone well beyond its use-by date. A quintessential American musical, or more specifically a Broadway one, it was written 64 years ago when people were still reading Damon Runyon. At the time Frank Loesser’s adaptation of the characters was considered brilliant, but times change and what was considered a classic yesterday, today seems merely tired and old-fashioned.

Madame Butterfly

By Giacumo Puccini. Melbourne Opera Company. Director: Caroline Stacey. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. The Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne: March 21 – 24, 2014. Alexander Theatre, Monash University: May 3, 2014.

I saw this production of Madame Butterfly in 2007 and I’d like to report that it still works well. The sliding doors were used effectively to reveal or close off parts of the stage. The pebble pathways downstage contributed to an authentic look.

Oklahoma!

By Rodgers and Hammerstein. Miranda Musical Society. Director: James Worner. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. March 19 – 23, 2014.

Close your eyes and try for a moment to erase 70 years of musicals from your memory as Paul Holmes’ orchestra strikes up the first strains of the lush overture of Oklahoma!

All those decades on it’s hard to shake labels like classic and landmark, and a reputation in some quarters for being a bit folksy and old-fashioned, but the revolutionary 1943 show that changed musicals forever is still a treat.

Blood Brothers

Book, lyrics and music by Willy Russell. Directed by Chris Parker. Manilla Street Productions. Chapel off Chapel (Vic). March 19th – April 6th, 2014

There is such a vast difference between dour British musicals and the fabulous Broadway creature that it may seem there is no common ancestry. The last vestiges of glitter and sparkle (what little there was to begin with) have been eliminated in this pared-back-to-the-bone production from Manilla Street Productions and director Chris Parker. It’s sparse, and stark – without embellishment, and you find yourself assessing the purity of the piece, aided by a stunningly talented cast.

The Pride

Side Pony Productions. Director: Zoe Parker. Bondi Pavilion Theatre. Mar 18 – Ap 5, 2014

Using director Zoe Pepper’s fascination with lions and the disconcerting similarities she found between “the structure and brutality of their social patterns” and human behaviour, this devised piece of theatre is basically about “falling in and out of love and the lengths people go to rationalise behaviour that is basically about survival”.

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