Reviews

The Wharf Revue: 2016 AD

By Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. August 31 – September 3, 2016.

That clever trio is “Back to Bite You” with a program that makes the most of a year that has, both locally and internationally, lent itself to ridicule and revue. And where better to set their snappy snipes than on the steps and columns of Ancient Rome – or Australia 2016 AD.

Grease

By Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Australian Performing Arts Network. Directed by Olivia Collier. Regal Theatre, Subiaco, WA. 26 Aug - Sep 4, 2016

The musical Grease at The Regal Theatre is a lavish, high energy production, produced by the Australian Performing Arts Network. It features professional stars alongside local, emerging artists and a supporting cast of young performers.

Guest artists Lynne McGranger (Miss Lynch), Carmelo Pizzino (Vince Fontaine) and John O’Hara (Teen Angel) add a great deal of pizazz to the show, with McGranger’s comedic teacher and O’Hara’s fabulous “Beauty School Drop Out” highlights of the show.

Around The World in 80 Days

Written by Toby Hulse (from the novel by Jules Verne). Directed by Terence O’Connell. Alex Theatre St Kilda. August 23 – September 4, 2016 – then National Tour.

There’s no doubt in my mind that once this production settles in, and the actors relax, this will become a much funnier show; as it stands, it’s a pleasant, if overly long, homage that doesn’t realise its full potential, and that’s a pity.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

By Bertolt Brecht. Theatre Works, Acland Street, St Kilda (VIC). 25 August – 10 September 2016

The temptation – in the age of Trump – to update and make ‘accessible’ Brecht’s satiric parable about the rise of Hitler and the Nazis is well nigh irresistible – and this production gives in to it.  The play is not exactly Brecht’s best work, but it is continually revived: it has a black, cynical and chilling humour and its warning of incipient fascism is, sadly, ever topical.  Written in 1941 and intended for the American stage, Arturo Ui was not, in fact, performed until 1958 – and in Germany.  (Hence the famous warn

Kooza

Cirque du Soleil. Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, Sydney. Opening Night August 25, 2016; from November 24, Skygate Brisbane Airport; from January 20 2017, Flemington Racecourse; from April 13 2017, Belmont Park Racecourse, Burswood, WA.

Cirque du Soleil is never just a circus! It’s a bright, acrobatic entertainment cavalcade that balances thrills and laughter, daredevil and slapstick in an expertly choreographed and perfectly timed performance. The precision of the international cast of artists and dancers is always meticulous, the antics of the clowns just a little bit different, the costumes colourfully sparkling and the music pushes the hype of the big top even higher.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

By Christopher Hampton. Adapted from the novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclox (1782). Director: Bruce Parr. Villanova Players. FT Barrell Auditorium, Yeronga SHS, Annerley (Qld). 26 Aug – 11 Sep 2016

Although it’s thirty-years old, Christopher Hampton’s much-praised adaptation of Choderlos de Laclox’s epistolary novel about salacious sex games in the salons of Parisian aristocracy in 1782 still has the power to connect with a modern audience. Revenge and seduction are the key themes of the piece in a plot that has the Marquise de Mertueil challenging her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont to seduce the convent-reared, 15-year-old Cecile. He accepts, but his real conquest in the amour stakes is to bed the religiously devout Madame de Tourvel.

Freud’s Last Session

By Mark St. Germain. Directed by Chris Hamley. Hamley Productions. Backspace, Theatre Royal, Hobart. 26 August – 3 September 2016

Mark St. Germain’s play  Freud’s Last Session is a speculative what-if – what would happen if Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, two of the greatest minds of last century, got together to discuss – everything?

Freud’s Last Session, the inaugural production by Hamley Productions, directed by veteran director/actor/writer Robert Jarman had an experienced cast and crew of well-matched actors: Chris Hamley (C.S. Lewis) and Michael Edgar (Freud).

Strings Attached

Australian Dance Party. Directed by Alison Plevey. Nishi Playhouse, New Acton, Canberra. 25–27 August 2016

With limited opportunity to attract widely recognised talent, it's possibly predictable that a startup dance company's public debut would set out to distinguish itself in choreography, dance style, music, or production.  Strings Attached, Australian Dance Party’s inaugural offering, is a medley of pieces that set about distinguishing itself on all four counts.  Other than by using the one set (beautifully decorated with string nets) and more-or-less the same cast, what chiefly connects the pieces in Strings Attached is an impression that danc

Two Jews Walk Into a Theatre…

Devised and performed by Brian Lipson & Gideon Obarzanek. Directed & choreographed by Lucy Guerin. Auspicious Arts Projects. Arts House at North Melbourne Town Hall. 22 – 28 August 2016.

So… there are two men sitting in a theatre foyer, waiting for a show.  They don’t know each other.. but a conversation begins.  Because they’re two old Jews, the conversation begins with argumentative kvetching.  Look at this foyer.  It’s too small.  They turn a Town Hall into a theatre – and the theatre is – what? -  big enough for maybe four hundred people?  Can four hundred people fit in this foyer?  No.  It’s too small…

Which Way Home

Written and performed by Katie Beckett. With Tony Briggs. Directed by Rachael Maza. Darebin Arts Speakeasy & ILBIJERRI Theatre. Studio, Northcote Town Hall. 25 August – 3 September 2016.

Which Way Home has had a long gestation during which Katie Beckett has picked up some writing awards.  We can see why with this show.  With Jane Bodie as dramaturg and Rachael Maza as director, Which Way Home mixes broad comedy with the most touching emotions – and a heartbreaking backstory.  The way the characters transform, revealing more and more of themselves up to the final moments is handled beautifully, with smooth transitions into and out of the past.  This is not a show of high drama emotions; apart from a few flashes of exasperation or a

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