Reviews

Hoke’s Bluff

Written, co-directed and performed by Gemma Paintin & James Stenhouse, with Laura Dannequin; additional text by Nick Walker. China Plate and Warwick Arts Centre for Bristol Old Vic Ferment. Arts House, North Melbourne. 24-27 May 2017

Here is a show from Bristol Old Vic which has to be one of the most original, intelligent, energetic, disciplined, funny-yet-horribly-sad shows I have seen.  Ostensibly, it is about ‘sports’, but more accurately about the culture of sports - a kind of meta-sport since the sports being played on stage merge and make no distinction between gridiron, baseball, basketball and ice hockey.  It is a show about the huge investment of emotion made in sport, about the ephemeral elation of winning and the self-loathing despair of losing. 

The Children's Hour

By Lillian Hellman. Wyong Drama Group. Directed by Andy Kabanoff. Wyong Grove Theatre. May 19-27, 2017

Scandals, lies, innuendo, disgrace, homophobia, suppressed desire and the dire consequences of allowing conservatism to run amok are themes which are all too familiar these days. The Children's Hour, containing all of these themes and many more to be ruminated on afterwards, was written in 1934.  Lillian Hellman (1907-1984) was quite the liberal/feminist rebel in her day.

Jesus Christ Superstar

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics: Tim Rice. Blue Mountains Musical Society. Director: Jessica Lovelace. Musical Director: Matthew Lovelace. Choreographer: Emma Joseph. Blue Mountains Theatre. May 20 – June 4, 2017.

Jesus Christ Superstar as staged by BMMS is a hi-tech, hi-energy, spectacle. The show’s setting has been changed to a post-apocalyptic future, with plenty of wild-looking types and lots of dancing. Lots of dancing. Imagine Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome re-staged as a School Spectacular.

Heroes

By Gabriel Bergmoser. Directed by Dexter Bourke. Bitten By Productions. Club Voltaire, North Melbourne. 25 May – 3 June 2017

A rock band formed by high school mates is on the brink of success: after years in pubs and other low status venues, they are about to sign with a prestigious label.  But all is not what it seems.  Long hidden undercurrents, repressed animosities, jealousy and even loathing surface in the suddenly openly fraught relationship between band founder Nick (Blake Stringer) and lead singer Jake (Matt Phillips).  Sacrifices have been made for the sake of ‘the band’, but now, with recognition and money at stake, naked ambition comes out.

Run for Your Wife

By Ray Cooney. Centenary Theatre Group. Director: Alan Youngson. Chelmer Community Centre, Chelmer, Qld. May 6 – 27, 2017.

Ray Cooney’s farce Run for Your Wife belongs in the trouser-dropping tradition of Carry On movies with lots of broad sexual innuendo and characters that include vacuous bimbos, bumbling police-officers and stereotypical gays.

Hapless taxi-driver John Smith has two wives, two flats, and a split-second timing schedule as he juggles both. It all unravels one night when he gets mugged and ends up in hospital. That’s the premise of this comedy that ran 9 years in the West End.

 

 

Wicked

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman. Based upon the novel by Gregory Maguire. Willoughby Theatre Company. The Concourse Theatre, Chatswood. May 20 – June 4, 2017.

Willoughby Theatre Company’s production of the musical version of Gregory Maguire story of Wicked – The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is a pure spectacle for all who make the trip to the wonderful Concourse Theatre.

Forget-Me-Knot

By David Tristram. The Basin Theatre. May 19 – June 10, 2017

Nestled into the base of the Dandenong Mountains, The Basin Theatre is exquisitely surrounded by bushland, just outside of suburbia.

Their second production for 2017 is the English farce, Forget-Me-Knot, a tricky script to tackle due to multiple twists and turns in the storyline, which is unfortunately riddled with inconsistencies. The Basin Theatre has performed quite well under the constraints provided by this awkward piece of writing.

Happy Days at War

Written, produced & co-directed by Leah Milburn-Clark. Co-directed by Jay Peardon. Believe Productions Australia. Northcote Town Hall, West Studio, Northcote VIC. 18-21 May 2017

Happy Days at War depicts a young German couple ‘F’ (playwright Leah Milburn-Clark) and ‘M’ (co-director Jay Peardon) in 1939 Germany - that is, Germany with the National Socialists in power and on the brink of war.  M is a devout Nazi, who gets a job on Hitler’s staff, and a virulent anti-Semite.  He makes such statements as, ‘the air is cleaner now the Jews are gone.’  F protests ineffectually against such statements, but the couple are, nevertheless, happy and in love. 

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx. Book by Jeff Whitty. Directed by John Boyce. Arts Theatre, Brisbane. May 13 – 27, 2017.

When a young man graduates from Princeton he has to move to Avenue Q to live while he tries to find his purpose in life. This is a rundown, poor area of New York where he meets friends, finds love and then loses it for a while. What is different in this musical is that the majority of characters are puppets, not the pure innocent ones of Sesame Street which was the inspiration of the idea, but rather ones showing the full range of human strengths and weaknesses. There are only three human characters in the play.

Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler. Manly Musical Society. Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly. May 19 – 27, 2017

Sweeney Todd has some of the most fiendishly clever and wicked music and lyrics from any musical. Who else but Sondheim could make you laugh at eating human flesh?

"It's fop. Finest in the shop. And we have some shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd on top!"

For this reason and several others the musical is extremely demanding for a community theatre to stage. The challenge is to be as brilliant as the musical itself.

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