Reviews

Which Way Home

Written and performed by Katie Beckett. With Tony Briggs. Directed by Rachel 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 Rachel 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 an

Dead Royal

Created and performed by Chris Ioan Roberts. Presented by fortyfivedownstairs and Cameron Lukey. fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. 23-28 August 2016.

Chris Ioan Roberts is a formidable performer who has created an acerbic tale which brings together two of the most controversial women of the 20th century. The haughtiness he conveys as Wallis, Duchess of Windsor is tempered with moments of plain vulgarity. She comes across as calculating while Lady Diana Spencer is portrayed as aimless and vacuous. The clever text shows how their celebrity status has worked both for and against them. While on the surface it appears that these two women are worlds apart, the play highlights their vulnerability to the allure of royalty.

The 39 Steps

Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the movie by Alfred Hitchcock and the novel by John Buchan. State Theatre Company SA. Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre. August 19-September 11, 2016.

British Playwright Patrick Barlow has a penchant for always challenging actors and with his company, The National Theatre of Brent, has even staged The Ring Cycle…with a cast of three. In fact, he and his company have overcome several similar apparent impossibilities, creating small-cast works in which, in his words, they have played “fifty Valkyries, ten thousand Zulus, the entire population of Nazareth and a million marauding Russians”.

Regression

By Gabriel Bergmoser, ‘deconstructed’ and directed by Joachim Matschoss. Bitten By Productions. Allpress Studio, Rupert Street, Collingwood (VIC). 23 - 27 August 2016.

Will (Tim Constantine), a twenty-five-year-old guy whose life seems to be going nowhere, is offered a chance to take part in a medical/scientific experiment that will take him back ten years into his own past. The confident, not to say arrogant doctor, Tyler (Tom Reed) emphasises to Will that this does not involve time travel.  Rather it will be a drilling down into Will’s memory - assuming that every experience that Will (or anyone) has ever had is buried or not so buried in his brain.  With some trepidation, Will agrees…  And confronts his fifteen

Avenue Q

Music & Lyrics by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx; book by Jeff Whitty. Beaumaris Theatre, Wells Road, Beaumaris, VIC. 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 August; 1, 2, 3 September 2016.

After the headline talent, commercial run of Tony Award winning Avenue Q at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne CBD (closed only 16 August), you might think it’s crazy brave of little, amateur Beaumaris Theatre to mount their production so soon – and you might expect some disappointment.  Not at all.  This is a vibrant, energetic production that delivers all the humour, cheerful cynicism, energy and poignancy – and professionalism - required.

Curtains

Book by Rupert Holmes. Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. The Production Company. Directed by Roger Hodgman. Arts Centre Melbourne. August 20th-28th, 2016

There is much fun to be had by cast and audience alike in Curtains. Rupert Holmes book is witty, smart and suitably 1950s hokey when appropriate. It lampoons musical theatre, critics, untalented stars and Whodunnits in a deliciously sophisticated and satirical way. The story is simple, yet complex. The leading lady is murdered on the opening night of a show bound for Broadway – but who is the murderer?

Oliver!

By Lionel Bart. ICW Productions. Directed by Charlotte Westrip. Joy Shepherd Performing Arts Centre, Mosman Park WA. 20-27 August, 2016.

ICW’s Oliver! has high production values, is well produced and nicely polished. It is being very warmly received by large audiences.

Conor Lowe and Lukas Steinwandel share the titular role. Lukas, on opening night, sported a gorgeous choir-boy voice, which compliments an angelic face. He was always in the moment, and handled this major role with apparent ease.

Fawlty Towers Live

Written by John Cleeese & Connie Booth.Adapted for the stage by John Cleese. Director: Caroline Jay Ranger. World Premiere Season. Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney. From 20th August 2016.

How great is this? I found it funnier than the TV show.

The Secret Garden

Music: Lucy Simon. Book & Lyrics: Marsha Norman. Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Director: Ian Good. Musical Director: Heidi Loveland. With the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Dr Peter Morris. Griffith University 3rd year Musical Theatre Students. Conservatorium Theatre, Southbank. 18-26 August 2016.

The Secret Garden, this year’s main-stage production by Griffith Musical Theatre’s graduating class was exquisite musical theatre. With fine and robust performances, striking set and costume design, and an orchestra that brought depth and subtlety to Lucy Simon’s score, it was worthy of Broadway. In actual fact I enjoyed it better than the original Broadway production because Ian Good’s direction clarified the rambling narrative and brought a warmth to the piece that I found missing in the original.

Titus Andronicus

By William Shakespeare. Red Phoenix Theatre & Butterfly Theatre Production. Holden Street Theatre. 18-27 August, 2016.

Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is what is called in theatrical terms a “pot-boiler”; deliberately sensational, excessive, and thoroughly entertaining. This production by Red Phoenix Theatre and Butterfly Theatre, which is (surprisingly) the South Australian premiere of this play, completely honours the sensational bloody “pot boiler” aspect of this play. With its cast of seventeen highly committed actors it is most certainly worth the price of admission.

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