Reviews

Underground.

Written and directed by Paulo Castro. The Basement. AC ARTS. (S.A.). Until 25 September.

Experimental theatre often fails because of a lack of story and character arcs, not so Underground, which stakes itself in different territory. In a word: brilliant. Reminiscent of ABC3's The Tribe, the underground attracts all the people society wants to forget: gang members, sexual fetishists, paranoids, schizophrenics, political agitators, alcoholics, drug addicts, homosexuals, depressives, nationalists and suicides.

Dancing at Lughnasa

By Brian Friel. Epicentre Theatre Company (NSW). Zenith Theatre, Chatswood. September 18 to October 2.

I approached Epicentre’s Dancing at Lughnasa with trepidation. In the early 1990s I’d seen the extraordinary Abbey Theatre production from Ireland, when it toured here. It had left an indelible theatrical stamp.

Happily this community theatre production of the bittersweet Irish drama has its own joys, in a credible, cohesive interpretation, with rich veins of humanity, pathos and humour, courtesy of director Abi Rayment.

Our Town

By Thorton Wilder. Sydney Theatre Company Director: Iain Sinclair. Set: Pip Runciman. Lighting: Nick Schlieper.

Though probably the most performed American play ever, Thorton Wilder’s 1938 masterpiece rarely gets a major professional production in Australia; which makes this almost-traditional, very moving Sydney Theatre Company staging worth travelling far to catch. Affirming life while facing the inevitability of death, Our Town urges us to celebrate even the smallest events of our daily life — so seeing a great play very well done must deserve special celebration.

Hamlet

Yohangza Theatre Company Dunstan Playhouse (SA) – Oz Asia Festival, 15-18 September 2010

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, as performed by the Yohangza Theatre Company, is one of the most moving versions of Shakespeare I have ever seen. The company, which formed in 1997, has a vision to create a unique world in which Asian performance traditions are given universal expression on the international stage. They take plays which were once traditionally centered on dialogue and replace it with actors using their physical bodies to convey images and create the mis-en-scene.

Les Misérables

By Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer. Miranda Musical Society. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. September 15 – 19.

For a fourth time, mega-musical Les Misérables is a box office smash for Miranda Musical Society.

What a well-warranted success it is.

Syncopation

Chapel Off Chapel (VIC). The Follies Company in association with Auspicious Projects Inc. September 9 – October 2

As a critic, it is always refreshing to find yourself so swept up in a show that you stop thinking and suddenly realize that you can’t remember how long it was since you last made a note in your little black book.

Bare.

By Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo. Sydney Fringe Festival and Beryl Segers Presents. The New Theatre Director: Tamsin Rothschild, Musical Director: Andy Peterson. Choreographer: Chris Bamford. Opening night September 15.

Bare’s story centres around two star-crossed (read: gay) teenaged lovers who attend a contemporary Private Catholic Boarding School – in and of itself an allegory of America’s repressed, right-wing upper class. One shakes one’s head at the notion that any play in the modern age still needs to deal with themes with sexual repression. Lord knows that any Sydney production would be preaching to the converted!

Four New Works

La Mama (VIC). September 9 – 19

Daniel Kahans was born in Shanghai in 1934, graduated in medicine in 1955 and qualified as a psychiatrist in 1965. In his spare time, he plays the cello. But this is not a mere hobby – Kahans is an internationally renowned cellist, having previously performed the world premiere of the Kabalevsky Cello Sonata at Wigmore Hall, London. Four New Works is an intimate chamber production that draws inspiration from Kahans’ varied walks of life.

Don Giovanni by Mozart

The Opera School Melbourne. National Theatre, St Kilda. Director: Cameron Menzies. Musical Director: Trevor Jones. Saturday September 4, 2010

In the seventies I attended the National Theatre Opera School for some years. There were language, music and movement classes, performances of scenes from opera, and one major production each year. That was eventually taken over by the VCA, but died a few years ago. Last year Linda Thompson, former principal with Opera Australia, later head of music at Monash University, revived the concept and Don Giovanni was their first full production.

The Trial

Adapted by Louise Fox from the novel by Franz Kafka. Produced by Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Melbourne and ThinIce Perth. Director: Matthew Lutton. Set: Claude Marcos. Lighting: Paul Jackson. Wharf Theatre, Sydney until October 16. Subiaco Arts Centre, Perth - October 23 – 30.

One of the most disturbing and influential novels of the 20th century, Franz Kafka’s The Trial is no easy candidate for stage adaptation. Unfinished at the time of its 40 year old author’s death from tuberculosis in 1925, the novel follows an increasingly desperate year in the life of Josef K. as he fights a nameless charge against him through the corrupt and uncaring Austro-Hungarian courts.

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