Reviews

Il trovatore

By Giuseppe Verdi. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Jan 29 – Mar 5, 2013.

Verdi’s opposition to oppression is certainly evident in Il trovatore, and the setting of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s makes it even more poignant because the oppression is historically closer. The persecution of artists (the troubadour, Manrico), gyspsies (Azucena and her mother before her) prevailed into the twentieth century, as did the conflict between rich and the poor.

Blaze

PANdADDY Production. Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. Director: Anthony van Laast. Artistic Director: Chris Baldock. Set Designer: Es Devlin. Lighting: Designer Patrick Woodroffe. 23- 27 January, 2013

Pumping out any number of impressive moves, head spinning, and one armed hand stands this week comes Blaze, a celebration of street dancing, in Melbourne after its premiere in London’s West End, and tours of the Netherlands and the UK.

MC Tony Mills urges those gathered to ‘make some noise’ as sixteen dancers and breakers take the stage. After a rather languid opening we are thrust into a high energy and mega volume affair that maintains pace by launching into new songs before the previous one ends.

Charley’s Aunt

By Brandon Thomas. Genesian Theatre Company. January 12 – February 23, 2013.

Young sweethearts courting without a chaperone? Unthinkable!

Well, we’re talking 1892, when British farce Charley’s Aunt had its initial huge London success. 120 years later the comedy really does show its age at times but most members of the packed Sunday afternoon audience at Sydney’s Genesian Theatre had an absolute ball.

Act a lady

By Jordan Harrison. By The Scruff Theatre Company. Director: Andrew McMillan. La Mama Courthouse. January 16 – 27, 2013.

By The Scruff’s debut performance Act a Lady is a fast paced, gender-bending play-within-a-play.

Vieux Carré

By Tennessee Williams. Itch Productions. Director/Co-producer/Costume Design – Alice Bishop; Lighting Design – John Dutton; Set Design and Scenic Artist – Alexandra Hiller; Vocal Coaches – Les Cartwright and Jarrod Benson; Stage Manager – Harriet Gregory and Set Construction – Colin Orchard. For Midsummer Festival at 45 Downstairs (Vic). January 17 to February 3, 2013.

They say the best thing a director can do for her actors is create the appropriate atmosphere for a play’s characters to come to life in.  For invoking a magic little part of New Orleans in the 1930’s, at 45 Downstairs, full marks must go to Alice Bishop, as director of this rich and satisfying production of Vieux Carré by Tennessee Williams.   

A Masked Ball

By Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Antonio Somma. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Jan 16 - Feb 12, 2013

The opera opened with striking 3D images of young and beautiful bodies, onto which pictures were projected of dramatic moments. A high and deep cement structure then descended, pieces rose up and down, sometimes creating balconies.

Onto the stage came the enormous chorus, all in suits, only differentiated by the numbers printed on them. They were wearing white padded helmets over their heads. An unkind member of the audience said they resembled bandages.

Acidtongue and Dollface

Written and Directed by Christopher Bryant Cast: Kristina Benton – Susan’s Mother, James Cerche – James, Trelawney Edgar – Susan, Christian Hoegh – Susan’s Father. The Owl and the Pussycat, Richmond (Vic). 10 – 20 January 2013.

The stakes were too high for this opening night.  The Owl and the Pussycat have been extremely courageous in their recent offerings and MKA has just treated Melbourne audiences to a string of great productions.  So my expectations were high. So - what follows is an attempt to understand why and what this production is lacking.

OVO

Cirque de Soleil. Written and Directed by Deborah Colker. The Grand Chapiteau, Docklands (Vic). From January 17th, 2012

When I told my Beloved that the new Cirque de Soleil show we were seeing was about insects, he quipped “Should we take Aerogard?” We didn’t, and we weren’t at risk from the “insects”, only from the air-conditioning. Essential on the hottest night of the year, (we would have died without it) the noise from it was both deafening and painful, but not distracting. Nothing can ever distract from the magic and wonder that is at the core of every Cirque de Soleil show.

The Small Poppies

By David Holman. New Theatre, Newtown (NSW). January 17 – 26, 2013.

The Small Poppies may be about little Aussie kids and written thirty years ago but this New Theatre production shows it never grows old.  David Holman’s play expresses our 1980s confidence in multiculturalism and, crucially, the power of good teachers to guide young kids to embrace difference.  That, sadly, may sound dated but, with these particular kids at their first day of big school, Holman’s message is never heavy-handed.

Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare. The Australian Shakespeare Company. Artistic Director / Producer: Glenn Elston. Costumes: Karla Erenbots. Musical Director: Paul Norton. Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. 20 Dec, 2012 - 9 Mar, 2013.

After 25 years staging outdoor theatre it seems Glenn Elston is far from giving the game away. And why would he? A Glenn Elston production in the Botanic Gardens is as much part of Melbourne's summer tradition as the Boxing Day test, The Australian Open, free symphony concerts at the Myer Music Bowl and barbecues by the Yarra River.

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