Reviews

Breaking the Castle

Written and performed by Peter Cook. Directed by Caroline Stacey. The Street Theatre, Street Two. 28 February – 14 March 2020 and touring

The latest offering from The Street’s First Seen program, Peter Cook’s first play Breaking the Castle, is an extraordinary and beautiful portrait of an actor’s life as he descends into and then overcomes meth addiction. It begins with what seems like a conceit: David Smith (played by Cook) as an actor, talking about how in control and connected with the audience he is and more tenuously, how the audience themselves were reacting.

Our Solar System

Adelaide Fringe. Safari Street Creative. Written & Performed by Spencer Scholz. Directed by Samantha Riley. The Barbara Hardy Garden, Holden Street Theatres. 28 Feb – 14 Mar, 2020.

Solo performances are a uniquely risky endeavour. The performer may enjoy freedom from the complications than can come with collaboration, but must also bear the burden of essentially complete responsibility for a successful outcome.

Schapelle, Schapelle

Adelaide Fringe. Piano Room Productions. The Parks Theatre, 46 Cowan Street, Angle Park, SA, 5010. 12-15 March, 2020.

Every Aussie of a certain generation is aware of Schapelle Corby. We’ll never forget the distinctive name, the drugs charges, the Indonesian trial, the colourful family, the unscrupulous lawyers – and of course, the role that news media played in determining how we viewed all of these aspects of the case.

Attila

Music by Giuseppe Verdi. Librettist: Temistocle Solera. Co-production by Teatro alla Scala and Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Opera Australia. March 2020.

Just when you thought Opera Australia couldn’t possibly squeeze any more opulence onto the stage of the Joan Sutherland Theatre, along comes this mind-boggling production of Verdi’s second opera.

Attila was composed by Verdi in his early 30s before he produced his long list of blockbusters.  This Australian premiere of the opera was made possible by a co-production with the famous La Scala in Milan, where it was first staged in 2018 and attracted great adulation. 

Jekyll and Hyde

By Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn. Laughing Horse Productions. Directed by Zoe Jay, musical direction by Liam House. Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, WA. March 13-21, 2020

Laughing Horse Productions’ Jekyll and Hyde opened on Friday 13th, which seemed a perfect date for the opening of this very dark musical. Unfortunately, was the day that the Prime Minister announced the recommendation that large events be cancelled following the weekend - setting off a rash of cancelled shows, uncertainty and fear within the theatre community.

Firebringer

Music and Lyrics: Meredith Stepien & Mark Swiderski. Book: Nick Lang, Matt Lang & Brian Holden. Spotlight Basement Theatre, Ashmore, Gold Coast. Director: Mitchell Walsh. March 13 – 28, 2020

Firebringer deals with climate change but from a very different point of view. To quote the director’s notes, “Firebringer tackles the current climate crisis with an almost stupid, low-brow and idiotic humour” and as such may not appeal to everyone.

Set around the dawn of civilisation, the story is presented in a way that makes much use of a number of swear words (which were the creation of a more recent age).

The Bridges of Madison County

Book by Marsha Norman. Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Based on the novel by Robert James Waller. Hayes Theatre Company. Directed by Neil Gooding. March 6 – April 5, 2020

This musical is like a good slow cooking recipe. You add all the ingredients, leave it in a pot and come back hours later, where the lamb is falling off the bone. Many aspects of the production are very tasty. The music by Jason Robert Brown has a mixture of folk, country, pop and operatic influences. It’s easy to see why It won Tony Awards in 2014 for its score and orchestrations. The five piece ensemble assembled for the production by Musical Director Geoffrey Castles allowed the musical juices to stew sumptuously, as the temperature on stage heated up.

Two Crews

By Nick Power. Lady Rocks & Riddim Nation. Adelaide Festival. Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre. 10-14 March, 2020

Two Crews is a thrilling and joyous hip-hop dance collaboration between two different hip-hop groups – Lady Rocks and Riddim Nation– with wonderful choreography by Australian hip-hop master, Nick Power.

Emerald City

By David Williamson. Directed by Sam Strong. MTC Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, 140 Southbank Blvd, Southbank. 6 March – 18 April, 2020.

David Williamson’s plays often provide a microscopic view of some of the more staunch Anglo-Celtic aspects of Australian culture. The incisive manner in which he dissects some of the questionable aspects of stereotypical Australian characteristics shows a discomfort with the way they expose parochial attitudes and behaviours. Emerald City examines the film and publishing industries but echo many of Williamson’s own personal experiences of being a writer who is caught up in the cultural rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne.

Elegies – A Song Cycle

Music & Lyrics: William Finn. Director: Jason Langley. Musical Director: Heidi Loveland. Choreographer: Joseph Simons. Griffith University Musical Theatre Students, Burke Street Studio, Woolloongabba, Qld. 10-14 Mar 2020

William Finn’s Elegies has love, loss, and a smattering of humor in its life-loving song cycle of family (particularly Jewish New Yorkers), friends and acquaintances. Using 9/11 as his jumping off point and also reflecting on the AIDS crisis, the songs chronicle the lives of those Finn has loved and those who have died in tunes that are melodic, catchy, and tellingly simple. Normally staged with a cast of five, this production uses twenty-three on basically a bare stage except for four meccano-like towers on which the cast pin photos of the characters they sing about.

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