The Present

By Andrew Upton, after Anton Chekhov’s Platonov. Sydney Theatre Company. Directed by John Crowley. Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney. August 4 – September 19, 2015

This was more like a symphony than a play. Think 1812 overture without the music. There were fireworks, guns, passion and huge helpings of  full throated Russian drama.

The leading soloists were Richard Roxburgh (Mikhail) and Cate Blanchett (Anna). The play is set at her explosive 40thbirthday party, in  Russia 1995 in a modern home,  more than a century after Chekhov first penned the play. 

The Songs of McKenzie-Spencer and Strano (Nailed It)

Chapel off Chapel July 20, 2015 and Edinburgh Fringe Festival 5-17 August

There’s a large and diverse contingent of Australians at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, but it’s hard to imagine anyone pleasing the crowd more than the wonderfully eclectic and super talented combination of Loclan McKenzie-Spencer and Andrew Strano.

Wheeler’s Luck

By Nigel Collins, Toby Leach and Damon Andrews. The Southside Players . Theatre Royal Backspace, Hobart. Director: Adam (Gus) Powers. 7 – 14 August 2015

The Southside Players’ Hobart version of Wheeler’s Luck (by arrangement with New Zealand Playwright’s Market) was a demonstration of good fun theatre show-casing talented energetic actors, with an excellent script. It was also one of the funniest nights’ I have spent at the theatre in months, maybe years. Wheeler’s Luck, written by Nigel Collins, Toby Leach and Damon Andrews is a hilarious romp, with three actors, playing fifty characters, set in one town.

What is the matter with Mary Jane?

By Wendy Harmer and Sancia Robinson. Seymour Centre (NSW). Aug 5 – 8, 2015, and touring

Theatre that educates and puts its audience in an empathetic position for the suffering, joy and triumph of another is what makes the performing arts so special. Within 60 minutes, you can leave the theatre with a newfound understanding of an issue, a person, a cultural way of life. When we learn, we grow. What is the matter with Mary Jane? is a beautiful illustration of the power of theatre in changing lives. The audience is given keen insight into the real-life story of Sancia Robinson’s battle with anorexia and bulimia.

A Man of No Importance

By Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Based on a film, ‘A Man of No Importance’. Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble (MUSE). King Street Theatre. Aug 5-8th, 2015

Having had no prior knowledge of A Man of No Importance, it was a pleasant, interesting, riveting and moving night to be able to watch this Australian premiere.

Einstein And The Polar Bear

St Jude’s Players. St Jude’s Hall Brighton, SA. August 6-15.

You don’t have to be Einstein to realise Adelaide audiences are enjoying St Jude’s Players current production. Actor-turned-playwright Tom Griffin’s Einstein And The Polar Bear is another success for this enduring seaside theatre company.

The Bleeding Tree

By Angus Cerini. Griffin Theatre Company. Director: Lee Lewis. SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. July 31 – September 5, 2015.

In a small rural Australian town, a shot disturbs the still of the night. Was this an act of cold bloody murder or self defence? Angus Cerini’s The Bleeding Tree brings into question the potentially harmful nature of our increasingly private society; should we really ignore the violence that goes on behind closed doors if we possess the power to stop it? 

The Mikado

Music by Arthur Sullivan. Lyrics & Book by William Gilbert. Directed by Pam TuckerTower Arts Centre. August 6-16, 2015

The SA Light Opera Society’s latest effort is a modestly scaled, but passionately performed  presentation of the perennial Gilbert & Sullivan favourite which, despite some odd rough edges, is likely to please fans of this songwriting team.

Production design is minimalist, but the few sets are painted in a strikingly detailed style by Monty Clements & Carolyn Adams, and together with the Cyndy Trezise’s boldly colourful array of costumes, The Mikado’s larger than life Japanese setting is vividly established.

Of Mice and Men

By John Steinbeck, adapted from his own novel. Sport for Jove Theatre Company. Directed by Iain Sinclair. The Playhouse, Canberra. 6–8 August 2015

Steinbeck's novella portrays a smart but uneducated man, George, as somebody patiently ready to assist his childlike family friend Lennie to survive a life that would otherwise cut him down with cruelty in the harsh Depression era.  Together, they perform unskilled work at one ranch and another, leaving once the work is done or Lennie's failure to control his own strength gets them into  trouble too serious for George to talk their way out of.

The Marriage of Figaro

By Mozart. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. August 6 – 29, 2015

As the overture suggests, The Marriage of Figaro is fast and fun, all the events of the frantic day ahead evident in “bubbling rhythms and cascades of instrumental laughter ... that capture the spirit and pace of the work” (Peter Bassett). That pace and Mozart’s passion and sense of fun are the essence of this most entertaining production directed by Sir David McVicar.

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