Reviews

The Pirates of Penzance

By Gilbert and Sullivan. Opera Australia. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Conductor: Andrew Greene. Director: Stuart Maunder. Set: Richard Roberts. Costumes: Roger Kirk. Lighting: Trudy Dalgleish. Until November 6.

Who can blame Opera Australia for squeezing every potential dollar from their Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire? The bookings are always big, the audiences are always loudly appreciative and the famed comic operas can fund more eclectic, difficult, less obviously commercial productions like this year’s Bliss and next year’s Of Mice and Men.

TRUTHMACHINE

Grounded Astronaut Theatre.Studio 2, Northcote Town Hall (VIC). August 28 – September 1, 2010

During my pre-show research before seeing TRUTHMACHINE, I came across a 1996 book by James L. Halperin entitled… The Truth Machine. Set in the future, everyone must take a lie detector test in order to get a job, buy a car, or even get married. Eventually everyone wears the machines constantly, eliminating all social disorder and misconduct. I haven’t read this book – and neither, so it turned out, had the cast/creators. Amazingly, TRUTHMACHINE appears to be the perfect sequel to The Truth Machine.

When the Wheels fall off the World

By Avril Duck and Warren Clements. Director Guillaume Brugman. Tropical Arts, Cairns (Qld). Aug 19 – 29, 2010.

This is an interesting play about the relationship between and indigenous man and a white girl, set at a time when the world’s social order has seemingly collapsed. Performed in the Cairns Botanical Gardens, the play blended smoothly with the surroundings. Co-author Warren Clements had a strong presence as Will, the indigenous man whose life was so immersed in his culture, while Liza Parker, as Aphra, gave a convincing performance as woman whose social parameters had disintegrated.

Present Laughter by Noel Coward

Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group (Vic). Director: Jonne Finnemore. Aug 19 – 28, 2010.

S.T.A.G.’s production of Noel Coward’s light-hearted frolic Present Laughter was notable for excellent acting and direction. Famous actor Garry Essendine is about to tour South Africa, and the plot features the escapades involving his colleagues, friends, ex–wife, girl friends and long-suffering secretary. Coward, who originally played Essendine, described it as “a series of semi-autobiographical pyrotechnics."

Engine

By Janis Balodis. NORPA production in association with La Boite. Roundhouse Theatre. (Qld). Aug 25th – Sep 12th 2010

This splendid mocumentary of a family in crisis after their young son’s death in a car smash is an inspired creation as an educational attempt to curb young drivers’ deaths in similar circumstances. The title is unlikely to attract regular theatregoers, yet the topic and the performances are top class.

Harp on the Willow by John Misto

Wyong Drama Group. August 12 – 21.

Wyong Drama Group continues to provide its local community with entertaining theatrical offerings. Their latest outing, Harp on the Willow, is a refreshing, uplifting, well-rendered production.

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company / STC. Sydney Theatre. August 17 to September 25

EVERY so often an extraordinary theatre experience comes along; Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s original production of the Tony and Pulitzer winning August: Osage County ranks high among them.

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Book and lyrics by Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, music by Jed Whedon. Hunter TAFE Performing Arts. The Playhouse, Newcastle (NSW). July 9 to 18.

As the title suggests, this is a musical of today. But it is also in the best traditions of musicals, reworking an old storyline (think The Phantom of the Opera) and offering a tongue-in-cheek look at staple literary figures (the masked super-hero, the evil scientist whose villainy is punctured by love, the cute girl-next-door).

Outlaw by Michael Healy.

Directed by James Adler. Eagle’s Neat Theatre. Northcote Town Hall until September 3.

There’s a really interesting play to be written about the complexities of ‘Green politics’, but this inert, one-dimensional drama by Mr Healy isn’t it. It doesn’t garner any favours, either, from Mr Adler’s almost perfunctory ‘walk-on during the blackout, stand and/or sit around, walk-off during the blackout staging’ which appeared determined to disengage with the play’s all too fleeting and momentary moments of imagined intrigue and reduce it to a banal, self-interested and self-reverential soap opera.

Pin Drop.

Created and performed by Tamara Saulwick. Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall until Sunday August 29.

Sometimes, but only very occasionally, theatre-makers redefine what’s possible. Sometimes, the often fraught act of ‘collaboration’ evolves to result in a piece of theatre so hypnotic that you can’t actually believe what you are seeing. But rarely, in my experience, does a piece of theatre-making get so entirely under my skin that every single sense is startled into being in ways that I had never imagined possible.

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