Reviews

+51 Aviación, San Borja

By Yudai Kamisato. Okazaki Art Theatre / Sydney Festival. Carriageworks. January 21 – 24, 2016

Playwright and director of the Okazaki Art Theatre, Yudai Kamisato has crafted this highly impressionistic, quirky tale of the immigrant experience and the politics of theatre-making. 

Elegy

By Douglas Rintoul. Directed by John Kachoyan. Lab Kelpie Productions. Gasworks / Midsumma Festival. Jan 19 - Feb 6, 2016.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to create great theatre. What it does take is wonderful writing, brave producers, an innovative and empathetic director, creatives who understand the aesthetics at work, and a fine actor of immeasurable skill and truth. Elegy, as a flagship for this year’s “Midsumma Festival”, has all of those things; and the whole is greater even than the sum of its parts.

Last Dance at Dum Dum

By Ayub Khan-Din. Nautanki Theatre. Riverside Theatre, Paramatta. January 21 – 24, 2016.

Nautanki Theatre continues its double aim: sharing the history and legends of India with a larger audience, as well as sustaining a strong sense of heritage for those of Indian descent. This play, however, also raises issues that are more universal – and certainly very relevant today - issues of people who feel displaced or unsafe in their own society and people who feel the need to flee religious, political or social persecution.

Alice in Wonderland Jr

Music and Lyrics by Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard, Oliver Wallace and Cy Coban, Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert, Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston. Music adapted & arranged and additional music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle. Book adapted & additional Lyrics by David Simpatico. Young Australian Broadway Chorus. Director: Robert Coates. Musical Director: Andy Coates. Choreographer: Jacqui Green. Southbank Theatre, The Lawler. January 22 – 30, 2016.

Having encountered the Young Australian Broadway Chorus before, I was keen to see another production, and it was amazing! Once again it showcased a young, energetic cast with tight choreography and strong singing.

The feature that particularly impressed me was the wealth of spectacular costumes. It seemed that no sooner had the ensemble gone off stage at the end of one frenetic number, than they were back on in a completely different costume for another.

Carrie

Music: Michael Gore. Lyrics: Dean Pitchford/ Book: Lawrence D. Cohen based on the novel by Stephen King. Director: Zoe Tuffin. Musical Director: Dominic Woodhead. Choreographer: Dan Venz. Wax Lyrical Production. Powerhouse, Brisbane. 21-30 January 2016

The much maligned musical version of Carrie plays surprisingly better than its spotty performance record has led us to believe. An infamous flop in the UK and New York in 1988, the show based on Stephen King’s Gothic horror novel was heavily revised for a successful Off-Broadway production in 2012. It’s this version of the script and score that Wax Lyrical has chosen to launch their company and the musical’s first Brisbane Season.

Liza’s Back (is broken)

Conceived by Trevor Ashley. Written by Phil Scott and Trevor Ashley. Musical Supervision and arrangements by Max Lambert. Fairfax Studio. Arts Centre Melbourne. January 20 – 31, 2016

Performers can be stars without having extraordinary talent; and some can have extraordinary talent without ever becoming stars. It’s quite rare for a performer to combine both without being a household name, but then Trevor Ashley is a rarity in so many ways. Most recently seen stunning audiences as M.

Tomorrow’s Parties

Forced Entertainment. Directed by Tim Etchells. Carriageworks, Sydney Festival. Jan 20 – 24, 2016

Tomorrow’s Parties is not an easy show. Not easy to perform and not exactly easy to watch either.

That’s because it’s anything but conventional theatre: it’s a performance that isn’t very physical and doesn’t really progress in any substantial way. It’s two people speaking, in turn, about ideas of the future, often insightful and profound, but when it comes down to it, for a very long time.

Cole

Performed by Michael Griffiths. Written by Anna Goldsworthy. Music and lyrics by Cole Porter. 45 Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne. 20-24 January, 2015.

First performed at last year's Adelaide Cabaret Festival and now in Melbourne for Midsumma, Cole is a cabaret show on the life and songs of Cole Porter as performed by singer-pianist Michael Griffiths. The clever script by Anna Goldsworthy weaves together a generous selection of timeless Porter tunes with anecdotes taken from his personal life, peppered with plenty of those bon mots he was known for knocking off.

Ladies in Black

Music and Lyrics by Tim Finn. Book by Carolyn Burns (Based on the book by Madeleine St John). Directed by Simon Phillips. MTC (with QTC). Southbank Theatre. Jan 16 – Feb 27, 2016

There’s much to love in Ladies in Black; for a start it’s a genuine home grown musical with all the traditions of Musical Theatre, and that makes it as scarce as hen’s teeth. Based on Madeleine St John’s novel “The Women in Black”, this show proves that lightweight doesn’t have to be a derogatory term….in this case it helps the show to fly and feel good throughout.

The Golden Age

By Louis Nowra. Sydney Theatre Company. Wharf 1 Theatre, Walsh Bay. Jan 14 – Feb 20, 2016

Louis Nowra’s 1985 classic The Golden Age sprang from a decade when our playwrights  wrote not domestic snapshots but big picture, big cast, thematically ambitious epics.

Nowra’s ironically titled play follows the discovery after nearly a century of a lost tribe of convicts in the wilds of Tasmania, but also trips through the collapse of civilisations from ancient Greece to Nazi Germany.  This is no less than the clash of culture and nature, of classes, of settler and indigenous histories, and what’s forging our national identity.