Reviews

Beyond Therapy

By Christopher Durang. 1812 Theatre (Vic). Directed by John Mills. May 29th to June 21st, 2014.

Never let it be said that 1812 Theatre doesn’t take risks. Not content to present “same old – same old” plays in their repertoire, they reach for the offbeat and unusual and challenge their stalwart audience time after time. Beyond Therapy is a case in point.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

New Music: Jeanine Tesori.New Lyrics: Dick Scanlan. Book: Richard Morris & Dick Scanlan. Savoyards. Director: Johanna Toia. Musical Director: Shane Tooley. Choreographer: Jo Badenhurst. Iona Performing Arts Centre, Wynnum.31 May – 14 Jun 2014

A vibrant and winning performance by Astin Blaik in the title role and snappy dance routines by Jo Badenhurst were the pluses of Savoyards production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The Leenane Trilogy

The Beauty Queen of Leenane; A Skull In Connemarra; The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh. The Kin Collective. At fortyfive downstairs, Melbourne. The trilogy 1, 9 & 15 June. SOLD OUT. Beauty Queen 28-31 May; Skull 3-7 June; Lonesome 10-14 June.

Having opted to see the entire Leenane Trilogy in one fell swoop, I came away with a number of impressions.  First, three 100 minute plays in seven hours, spoken by some cast in impenetrable ‘Oirish’ accents, may not be the best idea.  Second, it’s a challenge to build and dress three sets on the one day (suggestive designs by Casey-Scott Corless).  Third, there appear to be two Martin McDonaghs.  One displays great if melancholy insight into human behavior and emotion, can makes us laugh even as we wince, and has his audience gripped by that u

The Phantom of the Opera

By Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Babirra Music Theatre (Vic). Director: Neil Goodwin. Musical Director: Phil Osborne. Choreographer: Di Crouch. May 31 – June 14, 2014

For their 100th show Babirra chose one of the most technically demanding in The Phantom of the Opera. Considering they were using a smaller stage than previous productions I’d seen, this was a big ask, and they triumphed.

The show opens with the chandelier rising from the stage to the ceiling at the end of a short auction scene, as the overture commences. The chandelier swung out over the audience and upwards to a spectacular show of pyrotechnics and an ovation from the audience. It set the tone.

Brothers Wreck

By Jada Alberts. Belvoir Street Theatre, Upstairs. 24 May – 22 June 2014

Jada Alberts’ first play was inspired by a suicide within her family in Darwin and her fear of so-called suicide contagion. Hence the title of her play: named after kindred shipwrecks nestling together at the bottom of Darwin harbour.

Young fisherman Ruben struggles to deal with the suicide of his cousin; his mother is dead, his father gone AWOL and the aunt who adopted him battles for life in hospital. Ruben’s turned to drink, courts police arrest and mournfully keeps returning to the scene of the suicide.

Rabbithead

Directed by Tim Sincalir. Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre, WA. 27 May - 14 June 2014

I happened upon the synopsis of Rabbithead in the Blueroom brochure shortly after seeing the show, and discovered that it bore almost no resemblance to the show I had just seen. I found this strange, but not as strange as the show itself.

The opening to the show is one of the sweetest I have seen in years. On a stage covered in fluff or fairy floss, a cute pink rabbit puppet appears and charms the audience. The fact that the rabbit seems to choke to death only slightly diminishes its sweetness.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

Written by Nassim Soleimanpour. The Street Theatre, Canberra, ACT. 28 May - 1 June, 2014.

Do you dare to try a different play? A play that doesn’t have a director? Where the actor is doing a cold reading? Where each night might be subtly or grossly different, depending upon who is part of the theatre, whether actor or audience?

Jesus Christ Superstar

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Manly Musical Society. Director: Carl Olsen. Musical Director: Anthony Cutrupi. Choreographer: Alison Logie. Star of the Sea Theatre Manly. May 23 – 31, 2014.

After travelling to Sydney’s extremes for two community theatre productions of rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar in ten days, the big plus is that I was rewarded with two very distinct directorial visions.

The rock opera sparked outrage and protests outside theatres in the 1970s; not surprising with its depiction of Christ’s story using ‘the Devil’s music’, an implied sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene, drunken disciples at the Last Supper and an ending with no resurrection.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Noah Smith, based on the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson. KADS. Directed by Tim Edwards and Michael McAllan. Town Hall Theatre, Kalamunda, WA. 9-31, May 2014

Based on the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson, KADS' production of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Noah Smith, has a sense of its novella origins and an unusual presentation style.

Kate O'Sullivan and Stuart Porter ostensibly play the maid and butler, but they actually narrate, soliloquise, commentate, provide an insight into other characters’ thoughts, play a plethora of minor characters and act as stage crew. Excellent performances from this duo are much of the key to the success of this production.

The Government Inspector

By Simon Stone with Emily Barclay. Incorporated musical by Stefan Gregory. Belvoir & Malthouse Theatre co-production. Directed by Simon Stone. The Playhouse, Canberra. 28–31 May 2014

Let’s get this production’s weaknesses out of the way.  The plot-within-a-plot convolutions in the play’s first two-thirds were rarely entirely unpredictable, and the conversation was mostly uninspired; and, with more work, the direction of the play within the play could have been far more entertaining in its deliberate weakness than it was.