Reviews

Spring Comedy Double Bill

Brad Checks In by Paula Noble and Summer of Blood by Robert Armstrong. Blancmange. Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst (NSW). August 27 – September 7, 2013

Reviewing productions involving other Stage Whispers reviewers is an interesting challenge. Stephen Carnell has his producer’s hat on for this double bill of new Australian comedies, as well as directing one of them.

This short season is the very first staging of two new comedies with commercial aspirations (the writers are also co-producers), and both feel in need of further dramaturgy, with Summer of Blood clearly the stronger of the two offerings as they stand.

Empire

Terror on the High Seas. A spectacle by Toby Schmitz. Rock Surfers Theatre Company. Directed by Leland Kean. Bondi Pavillion Theatre. September 5 – 28, 2013.

This was a bizarre and at times difficult night in the theatre. Ironically it began with such glamour.

No less than 18 characters walked onto the stage – splendidly dressed for a 1930’s cruise. The set, costumes and lighting looked spiffing. Witty lines held out promise for what smelt like a sparkling Agatha Christie murder mystery on the high seas.

The first sign that this theatrical vessel had some leaks came when the theatre filled with haze, and without air conditioning the atmosphere made the audience very drowsy.

Circus Oz: From the Ground Up

Directed by Ed Boyle and Mark Finch
His Majesty's Theatre, Perth (WA
). August 29-31, 2013.

As a regular His Maj patron, it was a little disconcerting to go to the Circus at The Maj. Rough and ready circus types clambouring over the seats pre-show, where we had watched the opera only a couple of weeks ago, felt somehow ...wrong...until the show started for real and it was just so brilliantly right.
 

Steel Magnolias

By Robert Harling. Director: Natasha Boyd. The Mount Players (Vic). Mountview Theatre Macedon. August 25 – September 14, 2013

Steel Magnolias, a skillfully written work by Robert Harling, will make you laugh and make you cry in this beautifully handled production by the great team of theatre makers that constitutes The Mount Players.  

On a practical and purposeful set (Alison Dudon) of a hairdresser’s salon in dusky pinks and greens, many social pretenses are dropped and a tender, moving story of women’s loyal and loving friendships is played out to significant cathartic effect.

Straight

Written by DC Moore. Directed by Dean Bryant. Red Stitch Theatre (Vic). August 30th – Sept 28th, 2013. Australian Premiere.

Red Stitch has a perfect track record for choosing plays that are exciting and edgy, but without enough commercial appeal to prompt mainstage companies to mount productions. All of which plays into our – the audience’s – hands. We get to see great plays with terrific acting and innovative direction in the best possible production. Straight is no exception. Moore’s play about an urban couple, fallen on hard times and trying to build the domestic dream in a studio flat, is very very funny.

Iphigénie en Tauride

By Gluck. Lyric Opera of Melbourne. Chapel off Chapel. Director: Nathan Gilkes. Conductor: Pat Miller. September 2 – 7, 2013.

Lyric Opera of Melbourne continues to lead the way with innovative productions of forgotten operas. I had never encountered this Gluck masterpiece, but was blown away by the drama and the beauty and strength of the music.           

However, it was the exciting production which I will remember.

Salome

By Oscar Wilde. Presented by Little Ones Theatre and Malthouse Theatre. Directed by Stephen Nicolazzo. Dramaturgy - Natalia Savvides. Set and Costume – Eugyeene The. Tower Theatre. August 30 – September 14, 2013.

Little Ones Theatre’s slick and flippant production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome is lively, loud, lighthearted and wickedly profane.  It’s an ‘in-your-face’ cabaret performance with loads of well-dressed and undressed ‘eye-candy’ and more than just a hint of Jean Genet.

Little Ones Theatre has made a fascinatingly provocative reworking of Wilde’s reworking of a Biblical Story.  

Bijou

By Chrissie Shaw. Directed by Susan Pilbeam. The Street Theatre, Canberra. 29 August – 8 September 2013

In a story set in cabaret and punctuated with song and dance, Chrissie Shaw performs as Bijou, after writing the show on the basis of personally researching the background of a photo of Madame Bijou and patching together a story based on the facts she was able to dig up.  The story unfolds from the present backwards, eventually revealing how a fairly hardened performer and brothel madame emerged from an innocent religious girlhood.

Dead Man Brake

By Alana Valentine. Director Anne-Louise Rentell. Merrigong Theatre Co. Gordon Theatre Wollongong. August 28 – September 7, 2013

A real and disastrous train crash on the south coast train line near Waterfall, ten years ago, is the subject of this unique piece of theatre. Some years ago Merrigong Theatre Company stated that they wanted to tell “stories of local relevance but universal resonance”, a fine ambition for a  regional theatrical producer, and this production honours this in many ways.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber. Directed by Julie Black. Metropolitan Players. Civic Theatre, Newcastle. August 28 – September 7, 2013.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical about a scarred genius’s love for a young opera singer receives splendid treatment in this production. Indeed, this staging, the first by a non-professional company in NSW, is far superior to the work’s first professional Australian production that I saw in the 1990s.

That did little for me and accentuated the writing weaknesses, but this one kept me engaged – indeed, enchanted – throughout its two acts.

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