Reviews

Song Contest – the Almost Eurovision Experience

By Glynn Nicholas. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The Alex Theatre, St Kilda. April 1 – May 1, 2016

Song Contest was very loud and lots of fun. It’s hard to take off something as over the top as Eurovision, but they succeeded and the audience loved it.

Though not having as much space as the original, the set was impressive with scaffolds on either side housing upstairs space for interviews with hosts from other countries, and lots of lights.

The Game’s Afoot … or Holmes for the Holidays

By Ken Ludwig. Castle Hill Players. The Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill Showground. April 8 – 30, 2016.

Paul Sztelma continues his ongoing ‘fling’ with Ken Ludwig in this quirky bit of farcical fun. Light on plot but heavy on melodrama and mayhem, the play gives both director and actors the chance to push pace, pitch and plausibility to their perplexing perimeters.

The play is set in the mid 1930s in the Connecticut mansion home of playwright-cum-leading-actor-cum-amateur-detective William Gilette (Jason Spindlow), whose Sherlock Holmes-style thriller has just closed after a long run … and an attempted murder at the final curtain call.

Charlie Pickering, How to Tame a Wild Squirrel

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. 7-9 April 2016

The image of the slick and successful television personality of Charlie Pickering makes it difficult to imagine him back on the stage in a stand up routine. This is an opportunity to see a raw version of the now polished persona we have become accustomed to. Pickering is astonishing in his ability to expose the daring that is required to perform in this context.

Old Times

By Harold Pinter. Directed by Tony Knight. Mystique Productions and Tony Knight-Acting. Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre. 6-9 April, 2016.

Bryan Ferry’s mid-70s-era interpretation of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" doesn’t get nearly as much exposure or recognition these days as this reviewer believes it should, so director Tony Knight’s decision to open his production of Harold Pinter’s 1971 play with the unmistakable Ferry croon certainly grabs the attention.

Savages

By Patricia Cornelius. Darlinghurst Theatre Company. Eternity Playhouse. April 1 – May 1, 2016

Savages is about four blokes on a cruise trying unsuccessfully to leave behind the baggage of their disappointed lives and loves.  

Written by a woman, Patricia Cornelius, directed by a Brit, Tim Roseman, it’s a portrait finally of Australian misogyny – of four men, manic and fearful, defensive and two-faced to each other, but driven by their camaraderie and desperate escapism towards a violent assertion of their sexual needs.  Such men crossed the path of Dianne Brimble who was killed on that P&O cruise back in 2002.

Daisy Berry, Am I Mental?

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Highlander, 11a Highlander Lane, Melbourne, 5-16 April 2016.

Daisy Berry’s question “Am I Mental?” is largely rhetorical in this show, although she is willing to subject herself to an assessment of her mental health by her audience. Daisy confronts issues that are often secretly harboured and repressed. Questions about sexuality, heritage, family life and the importance of physical appearance are all dealt with in a very personal and candid manner.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

By Tom Wright, from the novel by Joan Lindsay. Black Swan State Theatre Company, with Malthouse Theatre. Directed by Matthew Lutton. Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, WA. April 1 – 17, 2016

Picnic at Hanging Rock is an interesting, modern interpretation of the Joan Lindsay novel, presented on a stark stage This co-production of Black Swan State Theatre Company, with Malthouse Theatre, uses five actors, all of whom play multiple roles.

Playhouse Creatures

By April De Angelis. Directed by Jordan Best. Produced by Pigeonhole Theatre. Q Theatre, Queanbeyan. March 31 – April 9, 2016

Playhouse Creatures makes wonderful debut by Canberra’s new theatre company, Pigeonhole Theatre.

Cirque Adrenaline

Directed by Neil Allan Dorward. Arts Centre Melbourne. April 1 – 10, 2016

For a century they were called “Speciality” or “Spesh” acts. They appeared not just in circuses and side-shows but also on stage in Vaudeville/Variety shows. They were the mainstay of breaking up the more traditional or high profile acts - after all, who can compete with a Pop Star or dancing elephants? Then, in the late 20th century, Cirque du Soleil changed the game and made the “Spesh Act” into an Art Form, and everybody else followed.

Ariadne Auf Naxos

By Richard Strauss. CitiOpera. Director: Stella Axarlis AM. Musical Director: Dr David Kram. Hawthorn Arts Centre. April 2 – 10, 2016.

My previous experience of Ariadne Auf Naxos was the Victorian Opera production in 2009, which was very impressive. It is not the sort of opera one would expect from a semi-professional company like CitiOpera.

However, they did a surprisingly creditable job.

A lot of this was due to the conducting of David Kram, who coaxed a full Straussian sound from the small orchestra. There was a lovely sweep to the music, but the singers were still able to be heard. Partly this was to do with the quality of the performers.

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