God of Carnage

By Yasmina Reza. Directed by Leigh Barker. Next Step Productions. Chapel off Chapel. 19th – 29th November, 2014

Actor/Producer Leigh Barker makes his directorial debut with the much awarded black comedy God of Carnage, which must surely be one of the most produced shows in modern theatre. With a sure hand he pulls together four excellent performances from a highly skilled cast, allowing them enough freedom to explore comic business, without damaging the truth of the characters or the overall arc.

Don Pasquale

By Donizetti. Opera Australia. Director: Roger Hodgman. Conductor: Guillaume Tourniaire. Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre. Nov 19 – Dec 12, 2014.

As with Tosca the previous week, this was a lavish production. The set comprised three house fronts, double-story, which swung around at the end of the overture to become the interior of Pasquale’s house. It was very impressive.

The second scene, usually set in Norina’s home, was set outside in a street café, which worked well, although I would have preferred Malatesta to move the table away from the others while he was having a private conversation with Norina.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Based on the novel by C.S. Lewis. Book Lyrics and Music by Irita Kutchmy. Chatswood Musical Society. Zenith Theatre, Chatswood. Nov 14 – 22, 2014.

Imagine being told at 5.30 pm that you are going to play the lead in a musical in just over two hours.  The pulse of young Benjamin Hamilton must have been racing when the Director Laura-Beth Wood gave him the news that the boy playing Edmund Pevensie had been taken to hospital after hurting himself at school.

Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Adapted from Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0, after Euripides, with contributions and dramaturgy by Morgan Rose. La Boîte Indie and Motherboard Productions with the support of QPAC. Roundhouse Theatre. 12-29 November, 2014

It is always refreshing to see a contemporary adaptation of a classic: you get to see history in the making without getting bogged down in academia and there’s room for spontaneity, creativity and the flexibility to address a modern audience who are there to be entertained, not educated. Director Dave Sleswick could also see in Charles Mee’s adaptation of Euripides famous play a correlation between the story and the current state of Australia's political landscape and wanted, in this production, to include his own message.

Scandalous Boy

Written and Directed by David Atfield. Presented by the The Street in association with David Atfield. World Premiere. The Street Theatre, Canberra. 14-23 November, 2014

Antinous, the Roman emperor Hadrian’s young lover, inspired a religion and dozens of exquisitely beautiful statues of his perfectly proportioned naked form. And it’s these statues that give Scandalous Boy its aesthetic – the colours of the set and lighting are the rich and muted cream of marble (as always with The Street shows, the production values are excellent and it looks stunning). Most strikingly, though, Antinous himself is presented as a statue coming to life to tell his story.

High Society

Music & lyrics Cole Porter, book Arthur Kopit. Players Theatre, Ballina (NSW). Director: Paul Belsham. November 14th to December 6th, 2014

Ballina Players final offering for the year, High Society, was well received by the capacity audience. This effervescent tale made popular by Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 movie, filled the theatre with Cole Porter’s infectious score and had the partons humming along and tapping their feet right from the start.

Bracken Moor

By Alexi Kaye Campbell. Independent Theatre, Adelaide. Directed by Rob Crosser. Odeon Theatre, Norwood (SA). November 14-22, 2014

Bracken Moor is an ingeniously multi-layered work – equal parts hard-hitting social commentary, heart-wrenching family drama and chilling gothic horror story.

Set against the backdrop of the 1937 Yorkshire mining crisis, the play opens with aristocratic mine-owner, Harold (Brant Eustice), deciding to lay off over 100 workers, despite the protestations of foreman, John (Angus Henderson).

Calpurnia Descending

Written by Sisters Grimm. Directed by Declan Greene. Merlyn Theatre, Cooper’s Malthouse (Vic). Nov 13 – 30, 2014.

Sometimes, when confronted with spectacular talent, those around them are held in such thrall that no-one is prepared to say “you just crossed the line from innovation to indulgence” – or from “excellence to excessiveness.” This seems to be the case with the amazing combination of Ash Flanders and Declan Greene (Sisters Grimm) – it appears no one has told them that the work loses its brilliance when it becomes schoolboy campery.

Cyrano de Bergerac

By Edmond Rostand. Adapted and Directed by Andrew Upton. Original translation by Marion Potts. Sydney Theatre. Nov 11 – Dec 20, 2014.

The scene was set for a starry starry opening night when into the audience strolled Robert Redford, accompanying Cate Blanchett, in a break from  filming their movie Truth,  that is being shot in Sydney.

Sitting on the other side of Cate was, of course, her husband/ director/ adaptor Andrew Upton.

Any distraction was soon swept away by Upton’s production which blissfully resisted the temptation to update the period in which the play is set – allowing the text and performance to shine.

Pennsylvania Avenue

By Joanna Murray-Smith. Melbourne Theatre Company (Vic). Director Simon Phillips Musical Director: Ian McDonald. Set and Costume Designer: Shaun Gurton. Video Designer: Chris More. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. 8 November - 20 December, 2014

Pennsylvania Avenue is less about script, and more about performer. Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith has, after all, written this one-woman show for Bernadette Robinson to play, and what a performer she is! Director Simon Phillips completes the Trinity with his return to MTC.

A contemplative tone pervades as Harper reminiscences on her retirement day after 40 years service in the East Wing of the White House. Her improbable impact on Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush resemble a Forrest Gump influence.

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