Other Desert Cities

By Jon Robin Baitz. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Mark Kilmurry. 4 September – 18 October, 2014

Another cracking Broadway play gets a first Sydney production at the ever-alert Ensemble. Jon Robin Baitz’s ‘Xmas reunion from Hell’ family drama is smart, funny and bitingly confronting. It’s played up to the hilt by a cast that revels in the terrific dialogue and peel-away family secrets.

“I don’t have a bigoted bone in my body,” declares Polly (Deborah Kennedy), the loudmouthed, bigoted matriarch of the Wyeth family, as she welcomes her wary daughter Brook (Lisa Gormley) to her first Xmas at home for 6 years.

A Conversation

By David Williamson.Ensemble Theatre. Director: Sandra Bates. The Concourse Chatswood. 10 to 27 September 2014

The Passion flows like blood and music…

This is the second in David Williamson’s Jack Manning Trilogy, written between 1999 and 2006 and presented at the Ensemble theatre. On the surface these plays deal with the processes and outcomes of ‘community conferencing’ or transformative justice’ in Australian society. Beneath the surface they deliver a roller coaster ride of intense emotions; exposing grief, anger, retribution, love and finally forgiveness and perhaps even redemption.


A Doll’s House

By Henrik Ibsen, in a new version by Lally Katz. La Boite and Brisbane Festival. Roundhouse Theatre. 6 – 27 September 2014

This is the finest piece of theatre I have seen this year! I recommend it wholeheartedly to all Brisbane Festival visitors who enjoy live theatre.

Lally Katz adopts an accessible modern prose style, salted by repetiteur passages. This works nicely, requiring neither an orchestra nor actors with trained singing voices. The whole production is visually stunning and performed beautifully.

Calvin Berger

Book, Music and lyrics by Barry Wyner. Directed by Casey Gould.Lawler Theatre Southbank (MTC). 4 days only from Sept 10 – 13, 2014.

It’s always a delight to be given a surprise gift – and Calvin Berger is certainly that. It’s new and fresh (despite being a high school version of Cyrano de Bergerac) and full of charm; a terrific evening’s entertainment with catchy songs and terrific lyrics written in the same mode as Jason Robert Brown’s 13. The book is smart and witty with plenty of quirkiness but without resorting to too many cliches. This time the teenagers are older – all 17 – and suffer the angst that goes with that age.

Liberty of the Press

A celebration of untold stories of the Gold Rush. Presented during Melbourne Fashion Week by Barking Spider Visual Theatre. State Library of Victoria, 4 September 2014.

Who would have expected that Melbourne Fashion Week could include such an original gem of a spectacle as Liberty of the Press?

We waited, not knowing what to expect, in the dim light under the magnificent high dome of the La Trobe Reading Room in the State Library of Victoria.  All around us, people who were not, apparently, the audience, sat under their green reading lamps, doing what people normally do in libraries and perhaps wondering what was going on. 


Sons and Mothers

By Alirio Zavarce. No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability. Touring August - October 2014

Damien Turbin’s mum was told that he wouldn’t  eat, walk or talk. She gave up her work and for his first four years virtually lived by his hospital bedside. Hers is just one of the stories of love and self-sacrifice told by Sons & Mothers, an exceptionally moving performance by Alirio Zavarce and the No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability.

Waking Up Dead

By Trudy Hellier. Directed by Susie Dee. Performed by Caroline Lee. fortyfive downstairs. 4 to 14 September, 2014

Waking Up Dead is an exploration of the toxic effect of grief mixed with betrayal. It is about a woman who discovers, in the wake of her husband’s murder, the life she has been living is not the construction she has invested in.

How deeply and satisfactorily one responds to this play will be individual; it is an organic work that has been launched with integrity by three consummate talented women for a thinking audience.  My response is mixed.

The Effect

By Lucy Prebble. Melbourne Theatre Company (Vic). Director Leticia Caceres. Set Designer Andrew Bailey. Video Designer Chris More. Sumner Theatre, Southbank. 16 August – 20 September, 2014

The Effect takes depression, fast becoming a well-worn theme in contemporary theatre, and poses the question should we be popping those anti-depressants quite so easily. Frequently classified as a ‘chemical imbalance’ requiring medical intervention, this narrative asks why so many people in our society are medicated, when most display only mild depressive symptoms.

Cash on Delivery

By Michael Cooney. Ballina Players. Director: Mary Richards. Players Theatre, Ballina. Sept 5th – 20th, 2014

Great casting makes this comedy a fantastic piece of theatre. Mary Richards has assembled a talented group to bring Michael Cooney’s side-splitting comedy to the Players Theatre.

Heading the line up are Michael Sheehan, Dylan Wheeler, Clem Halpin and Brian Alston, ably supported by Alexander Ellen, Simon Dubber, Peter Spill, Murray Hand, Tilly Todhunter and Ellie Kelly-Lloyde.

The Harbinger

Written and Directed by David Morton and Matthew Ryan; Puppetry and Stage Designer – David Morton; Lighting Designer – Whitney Eglinton; Sound Designer - Tone Black Productions; Costume Designer – Noni Harrison; Performed by Kathleen Ion, Barb Lowing, Emily Burton, Anna Straker and Giema Contini. Dead Puppet Society at Gasworks Arts Park on September 5 & 6, 2014, then touring.

This exceptional work is basically a delightful telling of a fairy tale for adults.  Rural towns in Victoria are very privileged to have the opportunity of such a magical evening of entertainment; it is not to be missed if you get the chance. 

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