Madama Butterfly

By Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Luigi Illica & Giuseppe Giacosa. Opera Australia. Director, Moffatt Oxenbould; Conductor, Massimo Zanetti; Designers, Russell Cohen & Peter England. Sydney Opera House. January 7 – March 3, 2011.

Funny old art form, classic opera. Sublime music goes hand in hand with a mandatory suspension of disbelief. Currently I blame Puccini, who in this case wrote 1904 music of great range, maturity and power for a fifteen year old lead character. He could easily have aged his tragic geisha in her thirties: the story would still have worked. But, no; Cio-Cio-San, nicknamed Butterfly, tells the worried US Consul that she’s fifteen ‑ after he has guessed that she’s ten!

Mr Braithwaite Has a New Boy.

OutCast Theatre. Midsumma Festival 2011. Written and directed by Steven Dawson. Mechanics Institute Performing Arts. January 12 - February 12, 2011.

Steven Dawson's latest outing is Queer as Folk meets Pretty Woman.

The older Mr Braithwaite hires the crass Johnny (James Miller) and starts seeing him once a week. Apart from predictably falling in love, Mr Braithwaite is motivated by the awareness that he has less days in front of him than he does behind him. He wants to leave his estate to someone other than his despised brother-in-law.


By Roger Hall. Music by Michael Nicholas Williams and lyrics by Paul Jenden. Director: Adey Ramsel. AMICI Productions and Caught Jesters Theatre Company. Civic Theatre, Auckland (NZ). January 12 – 22, 2011.

It’s summer, it’s hot, the kids have worn out all the new Xmas toys and you in the bargain. They’ve seen every movie, used up all their phone credit and they are starting the litany of “I’m boreds”.

You could do a lot worse than introduce them to a good old fashioned panto – a huge dollop of fun, farce and fantasy where they get to laugh, boo, hiss and shout out things in their normal outside voices .

For A Better World

By Roland Schimelpfenig. Griffin Independent. SBW Stables Theatre. January 8 – 29, 2011

Avant-garde-retro was my initial response.

But while For A Better World felt a bit déjà vu for someone who grew up in the late 60s and early 70s, perhaps a new generation of performers and theatre-goers need the sort of avant-garde and agitprop political theatre through which the Vietnam War, conscription and other political and social issues were challenged.

This play dissects war too, current or futuristic conflicts, with a strong cross-generational allusion to Vietnam.

Snow on Mars

Theatre of Image. By Richard Tulloch. Music by Peter Kennard. Director: Gale Edwards. York Theatre, Seymour Centre (NSW) January 7 – 16, 2011.

Theatre of Image, under the leadership of Kim Carpenter, has the knack of producing beautiful looking productions which appeal to many senses in both adults and children.

Snow on Mars, which combines circus acrobatics, digital animation, choreography, music and video, is probably the company's most ambitious production to date.

As per the company's high standards, it was very attractive to look at, but I felt the combination of so many ingredients slightly overwhelmed the story.

A Life in Three Acts

Presented by Sydney Festival and Sydney Theatre Company. Written by Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill. Directed by Mark Ravenhill. Wharf 1. January 4 – 16, 2011

There’s a problem of identification here. The Wharf 1 program calls this a ‘play’. It isn’t: it’s a sort of an under-rehearsed chat show without a Michael Parkinson or an Andrew Denton to keep it flowing. And it’s in two acts, not three.

Aladdin and the Mysterious Magical Lamp

By Tim O’Connor and Sarah McIntosh. Harvest Rain Theatre Company, Cremorne Theatre, QPAC (QLD). Director: Sarah McIntosh. Designer: Josh McIntosh. 6 – 22 January 2011

Aladdin and the Mysterious Magical Lampmarks Harvest Rain’s third school holiday production at QPAC, and they have at last perfected the winning formula that makes a children’s pantomime truly fire – high energy, loads of silliness, some clever puppetry, audience participation and plenty of sight gags.


Briefs - The Studio, Sydney Opera House, January 4 – 15, 2011. Soap - The Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, January 4 – 23.

Briefs and Soap are two strikingly similar, yet wildly different and somewhat unexpected ‘circus-style’ shows playing a double bill at The House.

The Gruffalo’s Child

Adapted by Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchel from the children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Score by Jon Fiber, Andy Shaw and Olivia Jacobs. Christine Dunstan Productions and Tall Stories. Seymour Centre, Sydney. April 8 – 21, 2011.

This adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s sequel to The Gruffalo brings the original characters back to the stage with the addition of the curious, daring and very engaging, Gruffalo’s child. Played by Chandel Brandmarti, this brave little offspring of the Gruffalo is vibrant and bouncy, wide-eyed  and expressive, capturing the young audience and keeping it entranced, from the moment she slips off her sleeping father’s knee to find The Big Bad Mouse until she races back into his embrace after her adventures.

Dein Perry's Tap Dogs.

15th Anniversary Season. Directed and Designed by Nigel Triffitt. Capitol Theatre, Sydney. Five week season from January 5, 2011.

The last time I saw the Tap Dogs my son tapped away from inside the womb...  or so my wife reliably informs me.

So it was appropriate that, now aged 12, he accompany me to the company's latest production which debuted in Sydney.

It was tough to convince him to come, as sport not the arts, dominates his psyche.

But very soon he thanked me for dragging him along, as this show was as tough and physical as any titanic sporting contest.

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