Reviews

Running with Emus

By Merrilee Moss. La Mama Courthouse. March 2020

The beautiful dulcet tones and clarity of Julie Nihill’s voice and the sincerity of her stage presence, as the aging Patricia Reilly, instantaneously connect with the audience to engage us with the themes of this absorbing family and social history. 

It is mostly set at the back of Patricia’s country cottage where she has bunked up in her sleep-out.  This is perhaps due to the house being over full of memories and the hoarding of a lifetime. 

Pirates of Penzance

By Gilbert and Sullivan (adapted by Trevor Patient and Chris Cox). Platinum Entertainment. Directed by Katrina Patient and Trevor Patient, Musical Direction by Chris Cox. Quarry Amphitheatre, City Beach WA. Mar 12-22, 2020

Platinum Entertainment’s production of Pirates of Penzance is one of their best shows to date, but has been plagued by some terrible timing, opening at the emergence of concerns about Coronavirus, and also coinciding with some inclement weather - such a shame as this vibrant and fun production is a great antidote to the current gloom.

The Ballad of Mulan

By Michelle Yim. Grist to the Mill Productions (UK). Adelaide Fringe. Studio, Bakehouse Theatre. 4-14 March, 2020

The Ballad of Mulan is one of the most popular and well-known Chinese legendary folk tales. It first appeared in the 6th Century AD, but is actually set during the 4-5th Century AD in the turbulent Northern Wei era (386-536 AD).

Breaking the Castle

Written and performed by Peter Cook. Directed by Caroline Stacey. The Street Theatre, Street Two. 28 February – 14 March 2020 and touring

The latest offering from The Street’s First Seen program, Peter Cook’s first play Breaking the Castle, is an extraordinary and beautiful portrait of an actor’s life as he descends into and then overcomes meth addiction. It begins with what seems like a conceit: David Smith (played by Cook) as an actor, talking about how in control and connected with the audience he is and more tenuously, how the audience themselves were reacting.

Our Solar System

Adelaide Fringe. Safari Street Creative. Written & Performed by Spencer Scholz. Directed by Samantha Riley. The Barbara Hardy Garden, Holden Street Theatres. 28 Feb – 14 Mar, 2020.

Solo performances are a uniquely risky endeavour. The performer may enjoy freedom from the complications than can come with collaboration, but must also bear the burden of essentially complete responsibility for a successful outcome.

Schapelle, Schapelle

Adelaide Fringe. Piano Room Productions. The Parks Theatre, 46 Cowan Street, Angle Park, SA, 5010. 12-15 March, 2020.

Every Aussie of a certain generation is aware of Schapelle Corby. We’ll never forget the distinctive name, the drugs charges, the Indonesian trial, the colourful family, the unscrupulous lawyers – and of course, the role that news media played in determining how we viewed all of these aspects of the case.

Attila

Music by Giuseppe Verdi. Librettist: Temistocle Solera. Co-production by Teatro alla Scala and Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Opera Australia. March 2020.

Just when you thought Opera Australia couldn’t possibly squeeze any more opulence onto the stage of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, along comes this mind-boggling production of Verdi’s second opera.

Attila was composed by Verdi in his early 30s before he produced his long list of blockbusters.  This Australian premiere of the opera was made possible by a co-production with the famous La Scala in Milan, where it was first staged in 2018 and attracted great adulation. 

Jekyll and Hyde

By Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn. Laughing Horse Productions. Directed by Zoe Jay, musical direction by Liam House. Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, WA. March 13-21, 2020

Laughing Horse Productions’ Jekyll and Hyde opened on Friday 13th, which seemed a perfect date for the opening of this very dark musical. Unfortunately, was the day that the Prime Minister announced the recommendation that large events be cancelled following the weekend - setting off a rash of cancelled shows, uncertainty and fear within the theatre community.

Firebringer

Music and Lyrics: Meredith Stepien & Mark Swiderski. Book: Nick Lang, Matt Lang & Brian Holden. Spotlight Basement Theatre, Ashmore, Gold Coast. Director: Mitchell Walsh. March 13 – 28, 2020

Firebringer deals with climate change but from a very different point of view. To quote the director’s notes, “Firebringer tackles the current climate crisis with an almost stupid, low-brow and idiotic humour” and as such may not appeal to everyone.

Set around the dawn of civilisation, the story is presented in a way that makes much use of a number of swear words (which were the creation of a more recent age).

The Bridges of Madison County

Book by Marsha Norman. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Hayes Theatre Company. Directed by Neil Gooding. March 6 – April 5, 2020

This musical is like a good slow cooking recipe. You add all the ingredients, leave it in a pot and come back hours later, where the lamb is falling off the bone. Many aspects of the production are very tasty. The music by Jason Robert Brown has a mixture of folk, country, pop and operatic influences. It’s easy to see why It won Tony Awards in 2014 for its score and orchestrations. The five piece ensemble assembled for the production by Musical Director Geoffrey Castles allowed the musical juices to stew sumptuously, as the temperature on stage heated up.

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