Reviews

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

Written by Nassim Soleimanpour. The Street Theatre, Canberra, ACT. 28 May - 1 June, 2014.

Do you dare to try a different play? A play that doesn’t have a director? Where the actor is doing a cold reading? Where each night might be subtly or grossly different, depending upon who is part of the theatre, whether actor or audience?

Jesus Christ Superstar

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Manly Musical Society. Director: Carl Olsen. Musical Director: Anthony Cutrupi. Choreographer: Alison Logie. Star of the Sea Theatre Manly. May 23 – 31, 2014.

After travelling to Sydney’s extremes for two community theatre productions of rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in ten days, the big plus is that I was rewarded with two very distinct directorial visions.

The rock opera sparked outrage and protests outside theatres in the 1970s; not surprising with its depiction of Christ’s story using ‘the Devil’s music’, an implied sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene, drunken disciples at the Last Supper and an ending with no resurrection.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Noah Smith, based on the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson. KADS. Directed by Tim Edwards and Michael McAllan. Town Hall Theatre, Kalamunda, WA. 9-31, May 2014

Based on the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson, KADS' production of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Noah Smith, has a sense of its novella origins and an unusual presentation style.

Kate O'Sullivan and Stuart Porter ostensibly play the maid and butler, but they actually narrate, soliloquise, commentate, provide an insight into other characters’ thoughts, play a plethora of minor characters and act as stage crew. Excellent performances from this duo are much of the key to the success of this production.

The Government Inspector

By Simon Stone with Emily Barclay. Incorporated musical by Stefan Gregory. Belvoir & Malthouse Theatre co-production. Directed by Simon Stone. The Playhouse, Canberra. 28–31 May 2014

Let’s get this production’s weaknesses out of the way.  The plot-within-a-plot convolutions in the play’s first two-thirds were rarely entirely unpredictable, and the conversation was mostly uninspired; and, with more work, the direction of the play within the play could have been far more entertaining in its deliberate weakness than it was.

 

Shadowland

Devised, choreographed and directed by Pilobolus and their creative team. Arts Centre Melbourne. 28th May - 1st June (two shows Saturday and Sunday). NZ and other states to follow.

The long awaited opening night of Shadowland proved that there is still a child in each of us willing to believe in magic. The standing ovation, five curtain calls and encore proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. But was all the Hoopla deserved? Yes, all that and more.

Jesikah

By Phillip Kavanagh. State Theatre Company of South Australia. Director: Nescha Jelk. Space Theatre, Adelaide. May 27-31, 2014.

She is narcissistic, self-obsessed, manipulative. In an effort to gather around her the admiration and attention of 'friends', she may well be alienating - or worse - the only true allies currently in her life.

She is Jesikah, and she stands at the centre of the new State Theatre production that bears her name, a show that has been specially commissioned for the 2014 Education Program - aimed at secondary students - incorporating a school-targeted tour of outer-metro and regional areas in South Australia.

Mojo

By Jez Butterworth. Sydney Theatre Company. Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney. Director: Iain Sinclair. 17 May – 5 July 2014

Londoner Jez Butterworth was 24 when his play Mojo exploded onto the Royal Court Theatre stage in 1995. It won all that year’s Best Play awards and instigated a stream of high-powered gangster dramas for UK theatre and, especially, cinema. It’s well worth collecting in this vivid STC production, directed at a cracking pace by Iain Sinclair on a brilliant setting by Pip Runciman, quite the best I’ve seen at The Wharf.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

By Mark Haddon, adapted from the novel by Simon Stephens, presented by National Theatre Live via Sharmill Films. Encore screenings from 24 May, 2014.

As my colleague Coral Drouyn has already reviewed this production (and very enthusiastically too), I’ll raise another issue - and perhaps demur from Ms Drouyn’s approbation.

Madama Butterfly

By Puccini. Co-Opera. Director: Teresa Bremner. Conductor: Brian Chatterton. Athenaeum Club, Melbourne. May 23 – 26, 2014.

Co-Opera is a SA-based professional touring opera company which has been going for over twenty years. I attended the first of two performances at the Athenaeum Club in Melbourne, not to be confused with the Athenaeum Theatre, which was well attended.

The tour is mainly to country venues, requiring simplicity of production, and the single set had multiple levels with Japanese screens at the back. Props were mimed and a rag doll was used for the child. This all worked well. Though they usually perform in English, this was in Italian with sur-titles.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Conceived by Rebecca Feldman; music and lyrics by William Finn; book by Rachel Sheinking with additional material by Jay Reiss. Exclaim! Theatre Company. Director: Bryce Halliday. Choreographer: Monique Salle. Musical Director: Aaron Robuck. The Australian Hall, Sydney. May 23 – June 1, 2014.

Theatre-goers of my generation packed the intimate Richbrooke Theatre in Elizabeth Street in the 1970s for the original Sydney production of Godspell.

Slightly older audiences laughed themselves silly there at Phillip Theatre revues.

Now musical theatre students of AIM (Australian Institute of Music) use the heritage restored, flat-floored auditorium under its original name, the Australian Hall, as a classroom.*

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