Reviews

Madame Butterfly

By Puccini, in an adaptation by Peter Hutchinson. Opera Australia. Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. August 18, 2018 and touring.

Once again, Opera Australia, supported by some generous donors, is ‘on the road’. Performed in English, in an adaptation by Peter Hutchinson that re-sets the opera into the mid-1950s, and directed by John Bell, a cast of wonderful singers accompanied by a chamber orchestra are taking Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to twenty-nine venues in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT.

A Doll’s House, Part 2

By Lucas Hnath. Melbourne Theatre Company. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. 11 August – 15 September 2018

If you’ve wondered what Ibsen’s Nora Helmer did after she slammed that door and left her husband and three children, this sequel gives an answer.  An answer.  It’s fifteen years later and Nora (Marta Dusseldorp) returns – through that very same door.  She’s discovered that her husband Torvald (Greg Stone) never filed for divorce which means that they are still married and (under Norwegian law of the time, say 1895) she is in legal difficulties and could lose everything she has achieved over those fifteen years of independence.

The Crucible

By Arthur Miller. Stray Cats Theatre Directed by Karen Francis. The Fishtrap Theatre, Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, WA. 15 - 18 Aug, 2018

Stray Cats Theatre presented a moving and heartfelt version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in the intimate Fishtrap Theatre in the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre.

The set design (Karen Francis and Bronwyn White) reminds us that this is a small colonial settlement at the edge of an untamed wilderness, and the frequent British accents reflect the immigrant nature of this colony.

The One Day of the Year

By Alan Seymour. The Therry Dramatic Society (SA). Arts Theatre, Adelaide. August 16th – 25th 2018.

In 1960 The One Day of the Year was rejected by the Board of the Adelaide Festival of Arts who felt that the play was too controversial and producing it could run the risk of insulting the RSL.  In July of that year the Adelaide Theatre Group, under the directorship of the inimitable Jean Marshall, mounted the world premiere of the play in Willard Hall, Wakefield Street. It turned out to be a production as controversial as the Festival Board had predicted and, with Jean and other participants receiving death threats, there was a heavy police presence on Opening Night.

Perplex

By Marius von Mayenburg. Joh Hartog Productions. Bakehouse Theatre, Adelaide. 15th-25th August, 2018.

Perplex may well prove to be a show that lives up to its title for most audiences, but director Joh Hartog has come up trumps with this outstanding production: a funny, heady, potent blend of the surreal with the absurd, set within the confines of a seemingly ordinary middle-class dwelling that actually intensifies the strangeness of what transpires there…

The Man from Earth

By Jerome Bixby, adapted by Richard Schenkman. Red Phoenix Theatre (SA). Holden St Theatres. August 16-26, 2018

There is nothing more certain, they say, than death and taxes. Mortality hangs over the head of each and every person on this planet. Some welcome it, some seek it, some fear it, some predict it, some ignore it. In this wonderfully challenging play The Man from Earth, we are faced with the question- what if we could be immortal? What would one do, faced with the prospect of living on and on, seeing those around you age and pass, but continuing to stay frozen in time?

Dybbuks

Concept & Direction Samara Hersch. Chamber Made and Theatre Works. Theatre Works, St Kilda, VIC. 14 – 26 August 2018

Dybbuks is an overwhelming aural and visual experience.  It is difficult to describe because to do so would likely be reductive and because it works – if you allow it –directly on the emotions, bypassing reason or ‘narrative’.  It is more performance art than theatre, more ritual as theatre.  It relies on certain Jewish rituals, but you do not need to be Jewish or know much about Jewish beliefs to be affected by it.  Indeed, the emotions conveyed, or represented, here are, or become in the course of the performance, universal bec

Calamity Jane

Adapted by Ronald Hanmer and Phil Park. From the stage play by Charles K. Freeman. After Warner Bros. Film written by James O’Hanlon. Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Music by Sammy Fain. One Eyed Man Productions in association with Neglected Musicals & Hayes Theatre Co. Canberra Theatre, 15 – 19 August, 2018 and Belvoir Street Theatre, 23 – 30 September.

Weaving elements of cabaret in with the classic musical, One Eyed Man’s Calamity Jane is a very different take to the 1953 film. It’s earthier, raunchier and more intimate. Seating a small number of the audience on the stage gives a sense of inclusion as well as providing ample victims for audience participation. Far and away the best thing about the show is the marvellous performance as Calamity Jane by Virginia Gay.

Fallen

By Seanna van Helten. Directed by Penny Harpham. She Said Theatre. Fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne. 15 – 26 August 2018

The premise of Fallen – as in ‘a fallen woman’ – is the suppression of women’s stories.  Playwright Seanna van Helten sets her play in a real place, Urania Cottage, where suppression of women’s stories was explicit, stated policy.  Urania Cottage – a ‘home of refuge and reform’, to quote the program notes from writer and director - was set up and overseen by Charles Dickens in the 1840s, to offer ‘young, destitute, underclass women the chance… to begin life afresh…’  But there were two co

Overture

Director & Choreographer. Jo Lloyd. Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall. August 14 – 19 2018.

Overture is an enjoyable and resonant work of contemporary dance.  The choreography is unique and intriguing – entrancing and absorbing - though difficult to describe. 

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