The Ballad of the Plague Doctor

The Laudanum Project. Club Voltaire. 14 Raglan St, North Melbourne. 22-23 February, 2013.

The Ballad of the Plague Doctor is an odd beast (I use that last word very deliberately). It’s a piece of spoken-word storytelling, delivered by an onstage narrator who is hideously made up with pallid skin, dark circled eyes and pockmarked face, garbed in a black smock.

Holding the Man

By Tommy Murphy based on the book by Timothy Conigrave. La Boite @ the Roundhouse Theatre, Brisbane. Director: David Bertold. Design: Brian Thomson. 16 Feb – 16 Mar 2013

Despite its critical success first-time around, and productions in San Francisco and London, I found La Boite’s new production of Tommy Murphy’s Holding the Man decidedly undercooked as a piece of drama. Today, with HIV under control with a cocktail of drugs, it’s easy to forget that back in the eighties at the height of the epidemic, death was around every corner. The play addresses these issues with this gay love story, but too often the emotion is a ripple when it ought to be a roar.

At Last: The Etta James Story

Writer: John Livings. Room 8. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Director/Producer: Simon Myers. Producer: Moira Bennett. Musical Director: John McAll. 19th February – 3rd March, 2013. (World Premiere). Also at Sydney Opera House from 30th April to 5th of May.

Thunder and lightning may have been the talk of the town in Melbourne on Thursday night (21st), but inside the packed Athenaeum Theatre Vika Bull and The Essential R&B Band were whipping up a storm of their own.

Electrifying and down right seductive singing by Ms Bull is the centrepiece in a narrative concert focused on the life of music’s ‘original bad girl’, Etta James.

Mrs Warren’s Profession

By George Bernard Shaw. Sydney Theatre Company . Wharf 1. Director: Sarah Giles. 19 February – 6 April, 2013, then touring before a return season, 4 – 20 July, 2013.

Because of the times in which it was written (1893) this terrific early Shaw drama — here given a welcome rare revival by the Sydney Theatre Company — is powerfully constrained and guarded. Hypocrisy rules and nobody may even whisper what the ‘profession’ of the title might actually be. The play had been immediately banned by Britain’s censor, The Lord Chamberlain, who branded it ‘immoral’ and ‘improper for the stage’.

Calendar Girls

By Tim Firth. Based on the Miramax motion picture by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth. Directed by Catherine Hill. Canberra Rep. Theatre 3 Acton, Canberra. Feb 15 – Mar 2, 2013.

Calendar Girls is a comedy with heart. How can it not be, with moments of grief, clear-sightedness, determination, and truthfulness, mixed with women with hearts of gold?  The cast assembled by director Catherine Hill managed to express all this and more. Truly a golden ensemble!

The Boys.

By Gordon Graham. Doncaster Playhouse. PEP Productions (Vic)). Feb 15 – 23, 1013

Beware: The Boys (directed by Justin Cleaver, assisted by Lorraine Williams)is not a light-hearted night out.  Advertised as MA, it contains frequent course language and strong adult themes. Said themes include: crime, ailing health, misogyny and domestic abuse.

Adelaide Fringe Festival 2013 Reviews.

Glory Dazed

Holden Street Theatres. March 1 - 17

Glory Dazed is a play that makes a straightforward but overtly disturbing observation: we pay more attention to, and take better care of, returned soldiers who suffer obvious physical injuries (missing limbs etc) than we do of those who suffer psychological distress. Why is that?


Music by Giuseppe Verdi. Book and Lyrics by Arrigo Boito. Directed by Simon Phillips. Conducted by Antony Walker. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. February 15 – March 16, 2013.

When Giuseppe Verdi commenced work on Falstaff, he asked his collaborator Arrigo Boito to squeeze all the juice from the Shakespearean glass and leave none of the pips in it. After more than century it still tastes freshly squeezed and remains an opera that makes you laugh on a regular basis.

The plot is roughly the same as The Merry Wives of Windsor. The central character Sir John Falstaff tries to seduce married ladies, who in turn trick him for his lechery.

He is large and very unattractive, but very happy in his splotched skin.

Liberty Equality Fraternity

By Geoffrey Atherdon. Ensemble Theatre (NSW). Director: Shannon Murphy. February 13 – March 9, 2013.

Take the suggestion that anything you write or post on Facebook, any email, any text that you send, could be hacked and twisted to be used against you in some way, and you have the basis for Geoffrey Atherden’s latest play. It’s fast, it’s believable … and, in true Atherden style, it’s funny – fortunately, for without the humour, it would be uncomfortably scary.

Murdered to Death

By Peter Gordon. The Basin Theatre Group (Vic). Directed by Don Harrod. February 15 – March 9, 2013.

It’s always a pleasure to drive out to The Basin to visit this theatre group because they make patrons feel so welcome. Having said that, the script has a very slow set-up and that wasn’t helped by one member of the cast drying completely and an awkward silence on stage on the second night. However, by the second scene the laughs were coming thick and fast and the audience clearly enjoyed the evening and the spoonerisms of Inspector Pratt…who really was one!

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