Reviews

The Waiting Room

Born in a Taxi & The Public Floor Project. Director: Penny Baron. Live sound: Michael Havir. Improvised Lighting: Greg Dyson. Stage Manager: Emily Adinolfi. Performed by Penny Baron, Andrew Gray, Carolyn Hanna, Kate Hunter, Nick Papas and Tamara Saulwick. Dog Theatre, Footscray (Vic). 22 to 26 September

The Dog Theatre and Dancing Dog Café is charming oasis right in amongst the huge inner west diversity of Footscray. This very popular venue was the “Winner of Best Venue: Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards 2009” and is presenting ‘A Menu of Physical & Visual Theatre’ for this years Fringe. A rich and interesting selection curated by Peta Hanrahan.

The Ballad of Backbone Joe

Suitcase Royale. Wharf 2, Sydney Theatre Company. Until October 2.

Really silly! Really bizarre and silly! Vaguely organised chaos! Australian comedy direct from Edinburgh Fringe acclaim. Backbone Joe is a punch-drunk Aussie bare-knuckle bush town boxer, who fights all comers in a local abattoir, which doubles as a boxing club. Did he kill his wife in a fit of passion? Detective Von Trapp arrives in the remote bush town to investigate. If that sounds even vaguely logical, I apologise.

Rigoletto

By Giuseppe Verdi. Opera Australia. Director: Elijah Moshinsky. Conductor: Giovanni Reggioli. Set Design: Michael Yeargan. Lighting Design: Robert Bryan. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House until November 4. Then Melbourne.

As certain a crowd-puller as anything in Opera Australia’s repertoire, Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 take on Verdi’s powerful melodrama returns for more spins of its marvellous revolving set. Though almost 20 years old, the production’s 1950s Fellini-inspired design still seems a great idea. The dissolute Duke of Mantua’s opening party comes hot from La Dolce Vita, with drunk/drugged couples twisting the night away, cardinals dancing with circus girls, and toffs betting on races with fashionable lady jockeys riding puffing, crawling aristocrats.

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!

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