Reviews

Once Were Leaders

Performed and written by Max Gillies. Sydney Opera House, February 9 – 14; Arts Centre Melbourne, March 13 - 28; with Brisbane and Darwin seasons to follow.

How perishable is political satire? That is the question which looms large when a master comedian revives sketches that date back more than 50 years.

The amusement depends on your age, perspective and interest in politics. For me seeing Max Gillies impersonate Sir Robert Menzies was fascinating but having not been around to see him as PM meant it sailed over my head.

How The Other Half Loves

By Alan Ayckbourn. Tugun Theatre Co. Tugun Village Community Centre, Golf Coast. Director: Annie Lotocki. February 12th – 28th, 2015

Set in two London apartments simultaneously, this farce looks at the way some people cover up extramarital affairs at the expense of innocent third parties and Annie Lotokie’s production was grand and middle-class at the same time, as was the interesting set. The elegance of Frank (Chris Hawkins) and Fiona (Viviane Gian) Foster’s lavish decor as opposed to Bob (Adam Skelton) and Teresa (Peta Simeon) Phillips’ meagrely furnished abode was visually great and workable.

Sweet Charity

Book by Neil Simon. Music by Cy Coleman. Lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Hayes Theatre Co.. Directed by Dean Bryant. The Playhouse, Canberra. 11–21 February, 2015

What an imaginative, skilled production Dean Bryant has devised of this work from which come “Hey, Big Spender” and several other musical hits; and what able talent has pitched in to make it the thoroughly delightful experience it is.  

Papillon

Presented by Highwire Events & Entertainment. Adelaide Fringe. Creative Producers, Elena Kirschbaum & Idris Stanton. Directed by Derek Ives. Gluttony (The Lotus Palace). Februrary 13 – March 13, 2015

Papillon is a joyous fusion of circus, physical theatre and cabaret. Though none of the various stunts are particularly original or groundbreaking, they are performed with impressive athletic finesse and endearingly cheeky good humour.

Chunderbelly

Adelaide Fringe / Matt Byrne Media. Maxime’s Wine Bar, Norwood. Feb 11 – Mar 15, 2015

The popular television drama Underbelly was a huge success in Australia and many documentaries and specials have popped up in response to its popularity. Matt Byrne is wearing many caps for his latest offering including that of writer, director, producer and actor. Chunderbelly is a spoof that focuses on the Moron family from the western suburbs of Birkenhead. His script pokes fun at the absurdity that lies at the belly of all crime families.

Rabbit Hole

By David Lindsay-Abaire. Arts Theatre Cronulla. Director: Cheryl Butler. February 6 – Mar 21, 2015

Richly deserving of its Pulitzer for Drama, Rabbit Hole shares thejourney of married couple Becca and Howie as they grieve over the accidental death of their four-year-old son, killed when he chased his pet dog in front of a car.

A sparse, poignant drama about grieving, it’s also rich in very human wit and ultimately opens the door to hope, evoking empathy, while eschewing the maudlin and melodramatic (the playwright provides three pages of precise instructions to ensure this).

The Comedy of Errors

By William Shakespeare. Directions Theatre. Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Director: Ingrid Ganley. 6 – 28 February 2015

Directions Theatre in Hobart has been presenting Shakespeare in the gardens at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens for sixteen years. Ingrid Ganley and Ros Peck began Directions Theatre in 1998 to provide Shakespeare to local, often new-to-theatre audiences, and last presented The Comedy of Errors in 2006.

Harvey Milk

Music by Stewart Wallace / Libretto by Michael Korie. Left Bauer Productions. St Kilda Town Hall. Conductor: Kathleen McGuire. February 7 & 8 2015

Melbourne continues to amaze me with the number of semi-professional opera companies finding niche markets for their works. As part of the Midsummer Festival, Left Bauer Productions introduced the Australian premiere of the American opera Harvey Milk, based on the first Gay Activist in America to be elected to public office.

Caravan Burlesque … Wilder West

Finucane & Smith. The Substation (Vic). Feb 5th – 14th, 2014

The Substation in Newport is an amazing arts space, hosting touring artists and local events. It’s a wonderful venue to create a burlesque club. Caravan Burlesque transformed the large space into an intimate cabaret style club with catwalk stage. The rich, red drapery and Chinese screens and lanterns were complimented by the cabaret tables completed with candles. The feeling of an underground Chinese nightclub from a by-gone era was almost complete (opium of course was missing).

The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas

Written by Dennis Kelly. Directed by Mark Wilson. Red Stitch. St Kilda (Vic). Feb 3rd – March 7th, 2015.

There are certain givens with any Red Stitch production. It will be superbly acted; it will punch well above its weight; it will confront you; and it will prove that the BEST theatre is not seen in the Main Stage or State Theatre companies…it thrives in small spaces and dares you to seek it out. You get all this for a fairly meagre ticket price (top price $39) even if it transpires that you don’t particularly like the play. Fortunately the play (by Matilda book and television writer Dennis Kelly) provides strong material for Director Mark Wilson and his cast to work with.

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