Reviews

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

By William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin. Adelaide Youth Theatre. Star Theatres, Adelaide 28 February -1 March, 2014.

For their Adelaide Fringe production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Adelaide Youth Theatre has cast some older actors than the company normally uses, due to the show’s subject matter.

The show is a tongue-in cheek, sometimes ribald examination of America’s Spelling Bee circuit and includes delightful characters together with great songs.

Eugene Onegin

By Tchaikovsky. Opera Australia. Co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London and Fondazione Teatro Regio, Turin. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. February 28 – March 28, 2014

Eugene Onegin is Tchaikovsky’s and co-librettist Shilovsky’s adaptation of Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse about love and rejection. It is, in turn, romantic and sad, and shows the powerlessness to avert impending tragedy once decisions have been made – and the music echoes these sentiments in themes and notes that rise and fall and rise again.

Playground

Music and Lyrics by Nick Hedger. Performance Coach: Jason Langley. Movement Adviser: Cherie Hill. Chapel off Chapel. February 28 - March 2, 2014

Nick Hedger, Nick Hedger, Nick Hedger….I’m saying the name three times so that you never have any excuse to say you don’t remember it. Of course, if you’ve already been exposed to Hedger’s astonishing talent, there is no way you could ever forget it.

The Mountaintop

By Katori Hall. Queensland Theatre Company. Playhouse Theatre, QPAC. 22 February – 16 March 2014

We’ve all heard of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and remember he was assassinated in the 1960s. That’s all you need to know because Katori Hall’s play is his fictional final night.

 

The Seagull

By Anton Chekhov, adapted by Hilary Bell. State Theatre Company of South Australia. State Theatre Company Scenic Workshop, Adelaide Festival Centre. February 21 - March 16, 2014.

For its Adelaide Festival production of The Seagull the State Theatre Company of South Australia uses traverse staging with minimal stage dressing and props as an inspired means of disengaging audience members from their surrounds, effectively immersing them only in the mood and story of this 1890’s classic piece.

Sensitively directed by Geordie Brookman and staged in the State Theatre Company’s atmospheric Scenic Workshop, the Company’s production of Anton Chekhov’s famous play is a new adaptation by Australian playwright Hilary Bell.

Reflect

FORM Dance Projects and Riverside Theatres present Dance Bites 2014. Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres Parramatta. 26th February to 1st March 2014.

Form and Dance Bites have brought some exciting new choreography and performers to their audiences. Reflect is no exception. In fact, the choreography is so intricately specific that one has to marvel at the creative concentration and collaboration of choreographer Sue Peacock and production designer Andrew Lake and the time it must take to conceive and plan a piece such as this.

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Bronte, adapted by Vince Foxall. Directed by Greg Carroll. The Australian Shakespeare Company. Rippon Lea Estate till 13th March, 2014.

The setting is sublime, the lawns of Rippon Lea House at twilight, the audience picnicking in front of the simple rostrum stage, the gloriously formal array of trees and shrubs as the backdrop. And then there is Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s sprawling Gothic novel adapted by Vince Foxall (who has received acclaim that continues to baffle me).

ONEFIVEZEROSEVEN

By Suzie Millier. Barking Gecko Theatre Company. Directed by John Sheedy. Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA. Feb 22 - March 1, 2014.

Barking Gecko Theatre Company presented this World Premiere production, by Suzie Millier, as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

ONEFIVEZEROSEVEN is the middle offering in a trilogy that began with Driving Into Walls and follows an Australia-wide investigation into the ideas and views of teenagers. The opinions and voices of over 1200 teens became the themes and stories of this piece, named for the average number of items in a teenager's bedroom, that combines apparently verbatim theatre with dance and movement.

The Last of the Red Hot Mamas

Marika Aubrey. Neil Gooding Productions. Hayes Theatre Co. Sundays Feb 16 – Mar 2, 2014.

Audience members of my generation will remember 1960s black and white TV broadcasts of older, amply-proportioned American singer Sophie Tucker, whose life and career are now joyously celebrated in Marika Aubrey’s cabaret The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.

Fewer will know of her early career struggles, blacking her face with burnt cork, though maybe they’ll recall similar Black and White Minstrel variety shows which lingered on the Tivoli circuit into the 1960s, and beyond that on TV.

Below Babylon

Directed by Ashley Tardy and Finn Gilfedder Cooney. Bitten By Productions. Revolt Theatre, Kensington Vic. February 18 – March 1.

Below Babylon, a new play from Bitten By Productions, is a piece that’s full of potential. Set in a dystopian world of gun-wielding “enforcers”, it concerns Lincoln, a former member of this mysterious profession, who’s waiting for his past to catch up with him, ie for his nemesis to track him down and finish him off.