Reviews

The Merchant of Venice

By William Shakespeare. Bell Shakespeare. Director Anne-Louise Sarks. The Playhouse - Canberra Theatre Centre, 13-21 October 2017; The Playhouse - Sydney Opera House, 24 October – 26 November, 2017.

Subtle and nuanced, with superb characterisation, Bell Shakespeare’s latest Merchant of Venice is a beautiful interpretation, much of which hinges on a densely-layered and very human characterisation of Shylock. Mitchell Butel imbues Shylock with dignity and grace, making an absolutely recognisable orthodox Jew right down to what sounded like authentic Hebrew prayer.

Angelique

By isthisyours? - presented by Insite Arts and Adelaide Festival Centre as part of the inSPACE program. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide. October 13-21, 2017

Are we the centre of our own universe or are there higher powers at work influencing our choices?

Formed in 2008 by five female creative minds isthisyours? is an inspiring theatre collective. I made the fortuitous decision to attend opening night of the company’s latest offering, Angelique, the result of a collaboration with writer Duncan Graham.

I want to share my secrets with you about how this show shattered all my pre-conceptions on the ways theatre can change you, but I fear I would damage the mystique.

The Season

By Nathan Maynard. Directed by Isaac Drandic. Tasmania Performs. Commissioned by Sydney Festival, Ten Days on the Island & Melbourne Festival. Melbourne Festival. The Coopers Malthouse Merlyn Theatre. 12 – 15 October 2017

The Season is an undoubted crowd-pleaser – a rambunctious family comedy-drama that is warm, funny, sad, sexy and maybe just a little corny in the best sense.  It takes us somewhere we’ve most likely never been – Big Dog Island in wild Bass Straight for ‘the season’ when the Duncan family gather to return to country and to hunt the migratory mutton birds, or shearwaters, for meat, oil and feathers.  We see the hunting – in which knotted grey rags stand in for the birds – but the play tells us no more than is necessary about that.&n

All the Sex I’ve Ever Had

By Tina Fance, Alice Fleming & Darren O’Donnell in collaboration with the performers. Directed by Darren O’Donnell. Mammalian Diving Reflex. Melbourne Festival. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. 12 – 15 October 2017

Aren’t people amazing?’ the Companion whispers as another bit of someone’s sexual history is narrated from the stage.  She’s right: they are amazing.  Such experiences, such memories!  And to look at them, would you even suspect?  On stage, six ‘seniors’ – three women, three men – all over sixty-five, are lined up behind microphones like a panel for a Q&A after a show, complete with an MC (Moses Carr, a mere twenty) to one side. 

Annie

By Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Northern Light Theatre Company. Shedley Theatre (SA). October 13-28, 2017

The comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” was turned into a Broadway musical in 1977, followed by the smash hit movie Annie in 1982. In Northern Light Theatre Company’s production, this family musical has lost none of its charm as director Fran Edwards endeavours to recapture the wonder of the heart-warming tale of red headed orphan, Annie. Forgetting the old adage to never work with children or animals, Edwards takes on the challenge of steering the large cast.

Heathers: The Musical

By Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy. Phoenix Ensemble (Beenleigh, Qld). Oct 13 – Nov 4, 2017.

Heathers: The Musical is the perfect 80s movie flashback! It’s Pretty in Pink meets Breakfast Club with a side of Carrie to the beat of a Footloose soundtrack. And with its murders and suicides and dark moral ground, it doesn’t come with an empowering take-home message safe for children.

An Evening With Liz Callaway

Musical Director: Alex Rybeck. QPAC & Qld Conservatorium Griffith University. Cremorne Theatre, QPAC. 13-14 Oct 2017

With a crystal chandelier, a hint of plush red drapes suspended on either side of the stage, and some arresting lighting pools, the Cremorne Theatre was the perfect setting for Broadway star Liz Callaway to prove she knew her way around a cabaret room. Singing theatre songs, film songs, and little bit of vintage pop, her act was basically a run-down of her prolific career and life.

Macbeth

By William Shakespeare. Dionysus Theatre (Vic). October 13th – 21st, 2017

With a theatrical scene that has, in the past, been flooded with adaptations of the classical cannon, why should we pay attention to another theatre company trying to make sense of another dead white man’s words? But to Director Emma Sproule, adapting Macbeth is exactly the point. With a cast of 19 powerful women (with two highly talented young girls – Leikny Middelton and Harriet Byron) and only three males, this interpretation aptly exploresthe challenges women still face in attaining and, thusly, sustaining positions of authority today.

On A First Name Basis

By Norm Foster. Harbour Theatre. Directed by Peter Kirkwood and Nicola Bond. Camelot, Mosman Park, WA. Sep 15-24, 2017

Harbour Theatre’s On A First Name Basis was a sweet, moving little comedy. Well constructed by playwright Norm Foster, it is written with lovely moments, but it is also very dependent on having an excellent pair of actors to steer it to success.

Directors Peter Kirkwood and Nicola Bond chose ideal actors. Jarrod Buttery and Meredith Hunter, both excellent, well-respected performers in their own right, have previous on-stage relationships and work together seemingly organically and intuitively.

What Rhymes with Cars and Girls

By Aidan Fennessy. Music and Lyrics by Tim Rogers. Melbourne Theatre Company. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. October 11 – 14, 2017

Backing this production as leader of a skilled musical trio, Tim Rogers watches a love story unfold around the songs from his solo album, What Rhymes with Cars and Girls. Written by Aidan Fennessy  – “ I was struck by the musical diversity of the album ... and had one of those moments when I thought, ‘This sounds like a musical’… and took it from there” – the play is a raw urban romance set across class divides. Though it could well stand alone, the songs make it more gritty, more intimate and more universally appealing.

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