Reviews

Massacre

Directed and written by Paulo Castro. Produced by Colectivo 84 (Lisbon). Australian Tour co-produced by Stone/Castro. Performed by Paulo Castro and John Romão. SEGUE Festival at the Street Theatre, Canberra, 9 May 2015 and La Mama Courthouse, Melbourne, 13 - 17 May 2015

As we were ushered in, we were asked to take a seat near the centre perhaps so that the performers could direct the full intensity of this extraordinary piece directly at us, breaking the metaphorical fourth wall with glares straight into our souls—or at least, that was how it felt. Paulo Castro’s Massacre is blood-soaked poetry full of anger, resentment and accusation, with moments of quiet beauty and foreboding moving towards horror. This is not a straight retelling of the story and there is no realistic "massacre" as such.

A Bengal Tiger At the Baghdad Zoo

By Rajiv Joseph. Directed by Andre Victor. Playlovers' Theatre, Hackett Hall, Floreat, WA. May 8 -23, 2015

Some productions have a more difficult gestation than others, and it would appear Playlovers' A Bengal Tiger At the Baghdad Zoo pregnancy and labour were more fraught than most. Directed by debut director Andre Victor, it is very powerfully acted and the excellent performances make up for any shortfalls in production dressing.

Very simply staged — in a very minimalist style — which may be more accident than design, the lack of decoration has the advantage of throwing more emphasis on the actors.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Book: Richard Morris & Dick Scanlan. Music: Jeanine Tesori. Lyrics: Dick Scanlan. UMMTA. Director: Spencer Hadlow. Musical Directors: Taylen Furness/Vanessa Tunggal. Choreographer: Keshia Contini. Union Theatre, University of Melbourne. May 8 – 16, 2015.

This was an unusually conservative choice for a University company, but very well done. Minimalistic sets were pushed around stage, allowing quick changes of scene. The direction was excellent.

Grace Haslinghouse was a feisty Millie with an excellent voice and she worked very well with Tom Kantor as her love interest, Jimmy. His light lyric tenor was a delight.

The Crucible

By Arthur Miller. Directed by Jordan Best. Canberra Repertory. Theatre 3, Acton, Canberra. May 1 – 16, 2015

The set design by Michael Sparks is otherworldly, a forest from an imagined time and place with rope branches hanging with ominous portent, and simple benches doing double or triple duty as a bed or table or wall. The set is lit expertly to a design by Kelly McGannon. The emotional temperature of the work is heightened and enhanced by this combination. Sound design by Jordan and Peter Best is subtle.

Le Noir: The Dark Side of Cirque

Canberra Theatre. May 6–10, 2015

Former violinist Simlon Painter and entertainment organiser Tim Lawson, in creating the vision for this show, whose world tour commences in Australia, have created something that rivals Cirque du Soleil itself for sheer magnificent spectacle.  Under the obviously exacting direction and choreography of Neil Dorward, every act without exception enthralled the audience with daring; tight execution; and superb showmanship.

The Wizard of Oz

Adapted by the Director Adena Jacobs, cast and creatives from the novel by L Frank Baum. Belvoir. May 2 – 31, 2015

“Excruciating!”

“I am 84, thank goodness I will never have to see a play like that again before I die!”

“The dog was good!”

These were three comments heard from paying customers walking out of the theatre after the one act self-described ‘radical feminist take’ on the beloved Wizard of Oz.

The company warned patrons to leave children at home, but the thought crossed my mind that if there have been two acts – many in the audience would have gone home early.

Dogfight

Music and lyrics by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul. Book by Peter Duchan. Neil Gooding Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co. May 1 – 31, 2015.

Nations have sent young men off to war, underprepared, for generations, returning them to society unsupported, but who’d have thought someone could write such a poignant, gritty, affecting rock musical about it; a musical that juxtaposes the rock and folk idioms, redolent of the mid 1960s, with a distinct musical theatre voice.

A relatively sparse, satisfying script, seamlessly integrates with a dramatically rich, dense score, which always advances the narrative or the emotional and psychological core of the piece.

La Soirée

Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). Backstage at the Playhouse, Brisbane. May 9-24, 2015.

With alternative late night cocktail cabaret influences of burlesque and a touch of camp a lá Spiegeltent, La Soirée wowed the audience again with its return season at the Playhouse last night. QPAC opened up the stage/backstage only for this intimate collage of a variety of international contemporary circus acts where most of the show is performed on a small circular stage with the audience in-round or seated in elevated rows. With the stage and atmosphere already set on arrival, the show had already begun .......

Frame of Mind & Quintett

Rafael Bonachela & William Forsythe. Sydney Dance Company. Southbank Theatre (Vic). 6-16th May, 2015

What a glorious treat to see the Sydney Dance Company in the appropriately sized Sumner Theatre. Whilst classical ballet remains rigidly connected to its roots, contemporary dance continues to evolve in ways we wouldn’t have imagined when the SDC captured our imaginations some 40 years ago.

The School for Scandal

By Richard Brinsley Sheridan. New Theatre, Newtown, NSW. April 28 – May 30, 2015

Director David Burrowes has brought Sheridan’s play slap bang into the 21st century in everything apart from the beautiful language and the satirical characters. The set is sparse, minimalist; the costumes vivid, suggestive; the lighting bright; the sound loud, pumping and the direction stylised, contemporary. All very different from what one expects of a play written by a 26 year old in 1777!