Reviews

Love Me Tender by Tom Holloway

Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney. Director: Matthew Lutton. Until April 11.

Bold, engaging and at times verbally graphic, this work by writer Tom Holloway and director Matthew Lutton discusses the human elements of love, parent-child relationships, fears and sacrifice. Inspired by Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis this play follows a mother/wife, father/fireman, policeman and two human narrative agents. The main characters explore their inner thoughts about domesticity, relationships, gender roles and animalistic intentions.

The Suicide

By Nikolai Erdman, re-imagined and Directed by Simon Stone. The Hayloft Project. Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre - March / April 2010.

Cloaked in a synthetic haze and with a floor covered in road-base, the mood is already heavily burdened with metaphor when the ensemble suddenly bursts onto the stage for a robust vocal rendition of a chamber orchestra. And so begins this delightfully off-beat production. With no prior knowledge of the source material and a fully Australianised re-working of the dialogue, the former references to Soviet oppression were lost on this reviewer, but the themes of commercial opportunism were still resonantly universal.

Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett

Malanda Theatre Company (Qld). Director: Jim Hill.

Alan Bennett's play, Habeas Corpus, is not the normal run-of-the-mill comedy. Plagued by vertically-challenged trousers, disappearing breasts, and pompous doctors, the Malanda Theatre Company's first production for 2010 is a farce with intellectual undercurrents. Acted on the simplest of sets - three chairs and a vacuum cleaner - the play is a fast-moving feast consisting of poetry, song and good comedy acting. Howard Smith, complete with the obligatory deep, reassuring doctor's voice, excels as the frustrated Dr. Wicksteed.

Bliss

Opera by Brett Dean, libretto by Amanda Holden, based on the novel by Peter Carey. Opera Australia. Director: Neil Armfield. Conductor: Elgar Howarth. Set Designer: Brian Thomson. Digital Lighting Displays: Chris Twyman

A brand-new home-grown opera in a $2 million production at the Sydney Opera House is something to celebrate. Brilliantly set and directed, and with a stand-out central performance, Bliss is certain to make its mark on international stages in the coming years. Bravo, Opera Australia.

The Boys by Gordon Graham

Director: Dannielle Ashton. Old Mill Theatre, South Perth, WA. February 5-20

The Boys is definitely not a ‘pleasant’ night out. Vaguely based on the Anita Cobby case (though by a West Australian author), it tells of a family tied to an unthinkable crime and the effect it has on the women in particular. Dannielle Ashton is known for producing hard-hitting theatre, and she pulls no punches. This was raw and confronting. Her casting was outstanding, especially with the women, and the men – particularly Murray Jackson provided strong support.

WOMADelaide 2010 – Sounds of the Planet

Set amongst the majestic Moreton Bay Figs of Adelaide’s Botanic Park, WOMADelaide rolled into town over the Adelaide Cup long weekend to supply yet another dose of world music, arts and dance to Australia’s culture devotees.

Extended over three days and four nights for the first time in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Adelaide Festival, the program boasted a stellar line-up including sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, The Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa, Split Enz legend Tim Finn and WOMAD’s favourite son, Xavier Rudd.

Jigsaws by Jennifer Rogers

Director: Sue Hayward. Koorliny Arts Centre, Kwinana, WA. February 12 – 27

This Western Australian play was one of a surge of locally written plays of late, and at over twenty years of age it is the grandmother of the bunch. Now presented as somewhat of a ‘period piece’, its issues of sisterhood, and mother and daughter relationships, remain pertinent for a new generation. Set in the home of matriarch Emma, and her sister Nelly (which for me screamed South Perth or Como), the stage was beautifully dressed, while costumes nicely revealed both character and era.

The Return by Reg Cribb

Director: Jeff Hansen. Melville Theatre, Palmyra, WA. February 12 – 27

The Return seems to be becoming one of Perth’s most frequently performed plays – and little wonder; this locally relevant script is a delight for theatre companies. Having said that, it seemed an odd choice for Melville – there have been some excellent recent versions and Melville’s regular audience seem to prefer something a little gentler. Jeff Hanson made some different directorial choices and the style of this show was distinct. A quality cast performing on a very realistic set overrode the few directional choices that did not quite gel.

Flatspin by Alan Ayckbourn

Director: Geoffrey Borny. Canberra Repertory Society. 5 – 20 March

Girl meets boy. Girl concocts elaborate lie to seduce boy. Girl finds herself up to her ears in a drugs bust. Farce ensues. Canberra Rep is in top form with Flatspin, the second of Alan Ayckbourn's Damsels in Distress trilogy. Lainie Hart is feisty and vulnerable as daft, sexually frustrated, unemployed actress Rosie, Ross Walker is rather gorgeous as would-be love interest Sam, Jerry Hearn plays dapper boss Maurice as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III from Magnum PI, and Rob de Fries draws howls of laughter with his hysterical turn as Tommy, a dimwitted ex-army thick-neck.

Mortal Engine. Chunky Move.

Director and Choreographer Gideon Obarzanek; Interactive System Designer Frieder Weiss; Laser and Sound Artist Robin Fox; Composer Ben Frost; Costume Designer Paula Lewis; Lighting Designer Damien Cooper; With Kristy Ayre, Sara Black, Marnie Palomares, Lee Serle, James Shannon, Adam Synott, Jorijn Vriesendorp. The Merlyn Theatre at the Malthouse, Melbourne until 13 March, then Sydney Theatre, 5–15 May, 2010.

This piece of dance, multimedia and physical theatre uses the synergy of lighting, sound and video infused with movement, dance and performance. Gideon Obarzanek has created a masterpiece by integrating the energies of both machines and mortals. Utilising modernity in the form of ‘computer art’ by interactive system designer, Frieder Weiss, lighting design from Damien Cooper and laser and sound from Robin Fox produces a work that is not only mesmerizing but hypnotic and remarkable.

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