Reviews

Top Girls

By Caryl Churchill. New Theatre, Newtown (NSW). July 9 – August 3, 2013.

And they are! Alice Livingstone has assembled a ‘top’ cast of feisty females to take a New look at this once controversial – and, unfortunately, still very relevant – play by British playwright Caryl Churchill.

Oleanna

By David Mamet. Directed by Ange Arabatzis. Presented by Art of the State (Vic). Revolt Melbourne Artspace, Kensington. Until July 14, 2013.

Whichever way you look at it, Mr Mamet’s knee-jerk reaction (which premiered in 1992) to a famous 1991 sexual harassment case in the USA is a peculiar choice for an airing today. It’s dated, ideologically suspect, inflammatory schtick that, infuriatingly, has a bet each way on whose side you’ll take as the events unfold.

War Horse

Adapted by Nick Stafford from the novel by Michael Morpurgo. Direction: Drew Barr. National Theatre of Great Britain & Global Features Production. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. From 11 July 2013.

Magnificent theatre is the only way to describe the National Theatre of Great Britain’s production of War Horse. The story of illiterate farm-boy Albert and his horse Joey, who is sent off to the First World War as a cavalry horse, and Albert’s subsequent enlistment to find him, is powerfully evoked by a large ensemble cast and some brilliant life-size horse puppets created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company. Within minutes of the play beginning you believe the puppets are real and forget they’re being manipulated by three people per horse.

Project Rameau

Australian Chamber Orchestra & Sydney Dance Company. The Playhouse, QPAC. 11 -13 July 2013

That choreographer and artistic director Rafael Bonachela decided to match his Sydney Dance Company with the Australian Chamber Orchestra as equal star attractions was divine inspiration.

Jean-Philippe Rameau composed a great deal of music for dance theatre and was widely popular throughout Europe towards the end of the Baroque era. Yet when Rameau died, his works were largely forgotten; even today orchestral concerts and classical music radio stations tend to overlook his music.

Squisher and Squasher and the Great Bug Hunt

Written and directed by Emma Davis. Old Mill Theatre, South Perth, WA. July 8-13, 2013.

Squisher and Squasher and the Great Bug Hunt is a school holiday show written and directed by Emma Davis and produced by Emma and Ben Davis.

A beautifully conceived show, it has audience participation every few minutes, simple likeable songs, a happy story and a healthy dose of education as we meet Princess Charlotte who has lost her golden butterfly hair-clip and her friends Squisher and Squasher who work with the audience to find a golden butterfly for her.

Gypsy

Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Arthur Laurents.. Directed by Gale Edwards. The Production Company. State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. July 6th-14th, 2013

When words fail us, we go back to the alphabet for superlatives…and words truly do fail me in describing this astonishing production. So:-

A -Astonishing, I’ve already used. Awesome, yes indeed, plus arousing, artistic, awesome…how much time do you have?

B ..Beautifully staged and brilliantly realised on all levels. Brave and bonzer also come to mind.

C is Caroline :- charismatic, candescent, comedic, confronting, classy, consummate, cutting edge…..

Cosi

By Louis Nowra. Old Nick Company. Director: Robert Manion and Katie Robertson. Theatre Royal Backspace, Hobart. June 13 - 22, 2013

The production of Cosi by Louis Nowra, presented by Old Nick Company at the Theatre Royal Backspace in Hobart, presented this reviewer with a dilemma. Who, in a large cast of competent actors, stood out for praise? The simple answer, although something of a standard cliché, is that it truly was an ensemble piece, with everyone working well. The most important and obvious point of this cast was that the characters were on display, not the actors.

The Pirates of Penzance

Music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W S Gilbert. Director Meg Warren. Musical Director Graham Ford. Choreographer Tamblyn Smith. Presented by Diamond Valley Singers and Eltham Orchestras (Vic). Until 13 July, 2013.

Upon leaving the Warrandyte High School Theatre after the Diamond Valley Singers and Eltham Orchestras’ spirited account of this classic comic opera, I couldn’t help but contemplate how much poorer our musical world would be if the works of Gilbert and Sullivan had never existed. They are perfectly compelling beasts – providing, at once, the challenges of the fiendishly difficult ‘patter songs’ for which they are most famous, and the equally recognisable choruses that provide ensembles with the opportunity for a wonderfully big ‘sing’.

Cinderella (or Goodness Triumphant)

Opera by Gioachino Rossini. New English translation: Lindy Hume. Recitatives: Narelle French. Director: Lindy Hume. Conductor: Wyn Davies with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra Conservatorium Theatre, Southbank, Brisbane. 6 July 2013

2013 seems to be the year of Cinderella. First we had Queensland Ballet’s production of it and now Opera Queensland get into the act with a work that is listed as number 29 on the world’s most-performed operas.

My Leonard Cohen

Written and Directed by Stewart D’Arietta. Music and Lyrics by Leonard Cohen. Chapel off Chapel. 6th- 14th July, 2013

The gift of Music is a powerful thing. Cohen has that gift not just in his music but in the power of the lyrics that go with it. Stewart D’Arietta, a great musician in his own right, has the gift of interpreting what Cohen has created, and he brings to that art all the power that a master craftsman can give. He’s charismatic, gob-smackingly good and, dare I say it, even sexy, his slight frame filling a much larger space and giving an aura of command and authority to the performance.