Reviews

Gwen in Purgatory by Tommy Murphy

Company B. Director: Neil Armfield. Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney until September 19. La Boite, Brisbane September 29 to October 24.

It began like a Lucille Ball style sitcom. Gwen, aged 90 (played elegantly by Melissa Jaffer) is alone in her new home with all the appliances still to be unpacked, but just can’t quite make it in time to pick up the telephone. The rings always stop just before her creaky bones get to the hand held phone on the kitchen bench top.

Golden Soil by Carol Dance

Double Dare Productions. Parade Space, NIDA, Sydney. August 4 – 14.

Six actors search valiantly, but mostly in vain, for viable characters in new Australian play Golden Soil.

It's never quite sure what it wants to be.

Is it agitprop, or something political, starting with a whole company song that has Brechtian or political protest aspirations? Extended, heavy-handed didactic passages in news broadcast format follow.

Norm and Ahmed by Alex Buzo.

Directed by Alex Pinder. La Mama, Melbourne, until August 15.

Anyone who wants to know anything about playwriting, directing, acting and designing has until August 15 to get themselves to La Mama and see this brilliant account of Mr Buzo’s (a national treasure, surely) faultless first play.

Stop.Rewind

Red Stitch Actors Theatre (Vic.). July 21 – August 21.

This is polished theatre at its best – and the best part is its Australian. Author Melissa Bubnic joined Red Stitch Actors Theatre as Writer in Residence in 2009 and has been developing Stop.Rewind over the past 18 months as part of the theatre’s Writers Program.

The Boy From Oz

By Nick Enright and Peter Allen. Spotlight Theatre Co. Gold Coast (Qld.). Director: Rhylee Nowell

The Boy From Oz is yet another hit for Spotlight Theatre Co.

Mary Poppins

Disney Theatrical Productions (Australia). Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne (VIC). Australian Premiere - July 29.

I didn’t think it possible, but Disney Theatrical Productions have created a show that is more spectacular than Wicked on exactly the same budget. And the differences are not subtle – every aspect of this production is considerably more impressive and advanced than it’s older sibling. Mary Poppins is $14 million very well spent.

A Voyage Round My Father by John Mortimer

Canberra Repertory Society. Director: Ross McGregor Set Design: Russell Brown. 30 July – 14 August

With his childhood dominated by his witheringly intelligent, sarcastic, grumpy bully of a father who happened to be blind, you might have expected Mortimer’s autobiographical play to be maudlin. Voyage Round My Father is certainly poignant, but mostly it's very funny. Canberra Rep’s production is a thrill to watch: clever, sympathetic and nuanced, and full of visual ironies.

The God Committee

By Mark St. Germain. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Andrew Doyle. Set: Colin Mitchell. Lighting: Mark Hammer. July 15 to August 29.

This 2006 off-Broadway ‘issue play’ fits the Ensemble’s thrust stage like a glove — a heart surgeon’s rubber glove, perhaps. As St. Patrick’s Metropolitan Hospital’s weekly transplant committee meets to decide which of three recipients should receive a suddenly available donor heart, so the audience presses in on three sides round the table, weighing up the arguments, participating in the urgent life-or-death decision making.

La fanciulla del West

By Giacomo Puccini et al – based on the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco. Opera Australia. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Sydney. Until August 6.

What was part of the theme from Music of the Night, from The Phantom of Opera, doing in the middle of a Puccini opera? It was one of a number of unexpected surprises which I enjoyed in this production. Apparently the estate of Puccini noticed the similarity too, and filed a suit against Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was settled out of court.

Class of 77

Boroondara Theatre Company in association with Camberwell Youth Theatre. Kew Renaissance Theatre (VIC). July 23 - 31.

David Hines’ Class of 77 is a new Australian musical that introduces us to a class of high school students graduating in the late 1970s, and then transports us to their fifteen-year reunion in 1992. “The world of 1992 Australia is very different to what existed in 1977 and through the script and music we see just how different.”

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