Reviews

The Secret River

Adapted by Andrew Bovell, from the book by Kate Grenville. Sydney Theatre Company. Directed by Neil Armfield. Set Design by Stephen Curtis. Composer – Iain Grandage. Musical Director – Isaac Hayward. Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay. February 1 – 20, 2016, then touring.

There are times a quasi-theatre geek becomes aware of the circulation-restricting pleb pants they wear as they sit poised to review something that cannot be simply summed up with generic praise. It's daunting enough that this is a 'return' season of a benchmark production which achieved justifiably passionate reviews three years ago. It's a two-fold dilemma: what can be said that hasn't been said before? And how do you describe something that really needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated?

Quartet

By Ronald Harwood. Director: Andrea Moor. QTC. Playhouse, QPAC,.30 Jan – 21 Feb 2016 (and then touring regionally)

In an age that’s obsessed with youth culture it’s a pleasure to welcome Quartet, a well-made West End play with elderly characters that unashamedly entertains. Set in a retirement home for opera singers, musicians, and their like, Ronald Harwood’s play about mortality and the loss of one’s skills as one ages, resonates with confronting reality.

Jack of Hearts

By David Williamson. Ensemble Theatre (NSW). January 29 - April 2, 2016.

David Williamson is so tall that he needs to duck (slightly) to avoid hitting his head on the top of the door frame as he leaves the Ensemble Theatre auditorium.

The Playwright/Director of this production literally and figuratively towers over Australian drama.

Who else can pen an original new play with a cast of seven, for a company with no Government subsidy, and almost sell out before opening?

Sense and Spontaneity

The Shambles, Perth Cultural Centre, Fringe World, WA. Feb 1-4, 2015

Sense and Spontaneity may very well be the sweetest show at the 2016 Fringe World Festival. With beautiful manners, and lovely costuming this warm hug of an improvised show is overwhelmingly "nice".

Esther Longhurst and Jessica Messenger have an obvious love for the novels of Jane Austen and at the performance I viewed, the real life romance of audience member Isabelle was given an Austen makeover and was presented as a long-lost Jane Austen manuscript.

Gruesome Playground Injuries

By Rajiv Joseph. Directed by Kristen Twynam-Perkins. The Parrot House, Maylands WA. Feb 1-3 2016

Those familiar with The Parrot House (formerly known as Chrissie Parrot Arts Centre) in Maylands, will find that it has been turned back to front for its stint as a Fringe World venue. With a bar, outdoor area and food on the premises the venue feels refreshed and rejuvenated. Likewise, those who saw Gruesome Playground Injuries during its Playlovers' season last year, may be surprised at how different this play looks and feels.

The Abduction from the Seraglio

By Mozart. Melbourne Opera. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. The Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. February 3, 5 & 9, 2016

Seraglio is one of Mozart’s lesser-known works and is a throwback to earlier times with few roles, lots of arias and few ensembles. So the spotlight is fully on the soloists, and Eddie Muliaumaseli’i impressed in the low bass role of Osmin. His voice was big and beautiful and all the low notes were there.

The Seagull

By Anton Chekhov. Directed by Cheyney Caddy, Black Apple Theatre, Northcote Town Hall, West Wing Studio Two, 189 High Street, Northcote. 2–7 February 2016.

It would seem a rather risky exercise to create a contemporary adaptation of a Chekhov play. His texts are weighted by emotive characters and impassioned speeches and seem so unlikely to be relevant in a 21stcentury context. Surprisingly, this play lends itself to being transplanted into the suburban badlands of Putin’s homophobic Russia much more easily than expected. This is what makes this version of The Seagull quite radical and the concept is, on the whole, carried with confidence, charm and wit.

Gone

By Dion Teasdale. Midsumma Festival 2016 (City of Port Phillip Cultural Development Fund). Gasworks Arts Park, Albert Park (Vic). Director Dion Teasdale. Sound Design: Nathan Baird. Lighting Design: bluebottle . Choreography Sunny Ford. 3-6 February, 2016

When Alex Riley wakes on the morning of his 40th birthday he is in for rude shock. His penis has gone, vanished, disappeared. Alex, an erotic gay fiction writer, has quite the reputation about town, with an online profile to match. News of Alex’s misfortune travels the social media networks and leaving him to ponder his own identity, and loss of currency in the sexual marketplace.

North by Northwest

Adapted from Ernest Lehman’s film script by Carolyn Burns. Directed by Simon Phillips. State Theatre Arts Centre Melbourne. Jan 29 - Feb 13, 2016.

Premiering last year with MTC, this production of the iconic 1959 Hitchcock film took Melbourne by storm, though I missed it. I can only assume that something has been lost in the transference to the much larger State Theatre.

The Measure of a Man

Performed and devised by Gavin Roach. 2016 Midsumma Festival. Gasworks Studio Theatre, 21 Graham Street, Albert Park, 1-6 February, 2016.

The title alludes to historical figures who use this idiom to refer to spiritual and moral standards that define a man’s place in the world. Roach is no less probing in his deliberations on what it means to be a gay man in contemporary society. This performance is an extremely personal journey, which provides a frank account of the insecurities, longings, and compulsions that plague the protagonist. Roach’s character is alluring and the explicit nature of his revelations is a fascinating journey into a psyche that is rarely given such detailed attention.

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