Reviews

Prompter

Director/Co-Writer: Sam Fox. Co-Writer: Patrick Pittmen. Hydra Poesis. Production Manager: David Primmer. Art House, Meat Market. Friday 9 – Sunday 18 August, 2013.

Hydra Poesis, founded by Sam Fox, collaboratively develops interdisciplinary performances to critique social injustice and inequalities. In this production they raise questions about how processes of reporting and social media impact on our understanding of the events of the world and individuals’ responsibility for their responses. Unforeseen consequences add drama and some pathos.

The Phantom of the Opera

By Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Free Rain Company. Producer: Anne Somes. Associate Producer: Chris Neal. Director: David Harmon. Canberra Theatre, ACT. August 9 – 18, 2013

Why do theatre patrons love to see The Phantom of the Opera even after so many years? Is it for the spectacle? The much-loved songs? The orchestral score heard live? The romance and emotion? All these were present at Free Rain’s production of this musical, a first for Canberra.

Miss Saigon.

Music: Claude-Michel Schonberg. Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jr & Alain Boublil. Additional Material: Richard Maltby Jr. Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University Third Year Musical Theatre Students. Director: Michelle Miall. Musical Director: Matthew Samer. Choreography: Helena Moore. Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank, Brisbane. 9-17 August, 2013.

This was a terrific production of Miss Saigon – emotional, spectacular and thrilling. With a cast of 32, and an orchestra of 19, director Michelle Miall time-after-time created memorable theatrical images.

Schonberg, Boublil and Maltby’s sung-through musical, based on Madam Butterfly and set in Vietnam and Bangkok during the Vietnam War, has never failed to move an audience with its powerful and emotive music and this production was no exception.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

By Tom Stoppard. Sydney Theatre Company. Sydney Theatre. 6 August to 7 September, 2013.

Two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, only briefly sketched out as childhood friends of the Prince, wait in confusion to be included in the main play, to be given a back story, a purpose. They are, to paraphrase Pirandello and Beckett, two characters in search of an author, two actors waiting for their own Godot. 

Friday

By Daniela Giorgi. Old Fitzroy Theatre (NSW). Aug 6 – 13, 2013.

In Australia we’re blessed with some wonderful, desert-dry political satirists.  Think The Hollowmen, The Chaser boys, The Sydney Wharf Review mob, Clarke and Dawe, to say nothing of our cartoonists, comics and columnists. And with reality stars like Slipper and Thomson, Obeid and Macdonald and all the Sydney rorters at ICAC, who needs to make this stuff up?

Penny Plain

Written and directed by Ronnie Burkett. Theatre of Marionettes. Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne. 8th – 18th August, 2013.

There is no doubt that Ronnie Burkett is astonishingly talented. His marionettes are so convincing that often you forget that they are not flesh and blood actors. Even more amazing is the fact that Burkett manipulates all 15 or 16 of them on his own, acting every role with different voices. It’s a staggering achievement and he holds the audience in thrall. He’s also a very good actor and doesn’t miss a single nuance or subtextual moment or expression.

The Glass Menagerie

By Tennessee Williams. La Boite at The Roundhouse. 3 – 31 August 2013.

Beware! You won’t forget this theatre experience. It engages you, then breaks your heart.

Director David Berthold decided to take a slightly different approach to his production: he brought the action forward to the1970s, adjusted the very 3D action to 2D so he could present it in three-quarters round, and retained many of the playwright’s ‘personal whims about the production’ that modern directors sometimes ignore because they find them twee or unnecessary. Berthold succeeds on all counts.

Hairspray.

Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan. Music by Marc Shaiman Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman. Gosford Musical Society (NSW). Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford. Director: Chris King. July 25 – August 10, 2013.

Gosford director Chris King sure knows how to stage a party. Take, for example, the final ten minutes of his production of Hairspray. To the irresistible rhythm of ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ he steadily fills the wide Laycock Street stage with manic energy, super-bright costumes and pulsing lights. The packed audience rise and dance, having as much fun as the happy cast. Then come balloons, streamers and explosions of confetti.

Don Parties On

By David Williamson. Canberra Repertory. Directed by Aarne Neeme. Theatre 3, Acton, Canberra. 2–17 August, 2013.

Being a Williamson play, this sequel to Don’s Party was bound to be clever. By turns catty, conciliatory, witty, and philosophical, it raises the most pressing political question of our time in the context of the 2010 federal election and somehow manages to focus equally on peeling open that most common but most delicate of human foibles, sexual attraction.

Botanica

By MOMIX. Conceived and designed by Moses Pendleton. Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre. 7 to 11 August, 2013.

Botanica is a well-paced, abundant and engulfing work, a visual feast richly informed and buoyed with a great eclectic cultural mix of music.  My overall response is that it is an exquisitely realized design, a rare gift of theatrical interpretation.  It is a wonderful journey amongst anthropomorphized flora, fauna and natural phenomena.