Written by Matt Cox. Original incidental music Brian Hoes. Directed by Mitchell Walsh. Spotlight Theatre – Gold Coast. 14th – 30th January, 2022.

Yes, we’re in the midst of a pandemic, but if you think there’s nothing left to laugh about, you clearly haven’t seen Puffs, a high octane homage to Harry Potter movies (without the copyright or royalty issues). It’s living proof that chaos doesn’t have to be a downer!

The Comedy of Errors

By William Shakespeare. Presented by the Australian Shakespeare Company. Directed by Glenn Elston. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. December 18th to February 19th 2022.

This is one of Shakespeare’s earlier works and it provides plenty of opportunity for unbridled silliness and rollicking physical theatre. Glenn Elston has chosen to use the Commedia Dell’Arte box of tricks including stock characters, masks, exaggerated costumes and Punch and Judy slapstick to bring this tale of twins separated early in life to the stage.

Lost In Shanghai

By Jane Hutcheon. Sydney Festival. Seymour Centre. January 12 – 16, 2022.

True stories are so often more compelling than fiction: real characters call more urgently to us, especially when they’re generations of one family shaped and battered by big historical events.

44 Sex Acts in One Week

By David Finnigan. Club House Productions. Sydney Festival. Seymour Centre. Directed by Sheridan Harbridge. January 12 – 16, 2022

If you are in a long-term relationship, the idea of 44 Sex Acts in One Week seems more than a little farfetched. Perhaps a year might be more realistic?

The concept did not deter the opening night crowd, who were noticeably younger than many regular Sydney theatregoers. Perhaps they pondered that they might be up for it.

Originally staged downstairs at Belvoir St, this fruity romcom is a hoot and felt at home on the larger arena-like stage of the York Theatre.

Black Brass

By Mararo Wangai. Performing Lines WA. Directed by Matt Edgerton. Belvoir St Theatre. Jan 6 to 23, 2022.

A cleaner walks into a recording studio strewn with beer bottles and empty pizza cartons. His life is in as much chaos as the room – struggling to keep his job, his girlfriend and residency.

Just as many tertiary-qualified migrants take up low paid manual labour to make ends meet, the irony of this this play is that a celebrated performer in his homeland is cleaning up the rubbish of Australian musicians. 

Defying Gravity

Caroline O’Connor, Naomi Price and Irene Lysiuk. Guest: Luke Kennedy. Musical Director: James Dobinson. Concert Hall, QPAC. 8 January 2022

At the last minute Amy Lehpamer, who was one of Defying Gravity’s leading ladies, had to pull out because of Covid, so her replacement, Opera Queensland allumna Irena Lysiuk had 48 hours to learn the whole show. A formidable feat, but she came through with flying colors and her vocals more than matched her esteemed co-stars Caroline O’Connor and Naomi Price.

A capacity house rose to the occasion giving thunderous support to the three divas who were obviously thrilled to be back on stage doing what they do best.

Oracle – A Mythical Journey Through the Stars

Bass Fam Creative. Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, Jan 5 – 8, 2022; Gluttony: Adelaide Fringe, Feb 18 - Mar 20.

Tempestuous Melbourne weather and rising Covid cases - what better way to escape than into a mythological world, set in the constellations? From the creative team behind Matador and Mansion, comes the new show Oracle - a superb blend of circus, burlesque, eclectic dance, and contemporary storytelling.

This is one for gods and goddesses alike across the planetary sky, through the oceans, embarking on a national tour with the world premiere launched on the fifth of January in Melbourne at the Playhouse, Arts Centre followed by Brisbane and Adelaide.

The Kaye Hole

Reuben Kaye and guests. Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Brisbane. 6 January to 12 February 2022

How do you describe Reuben Kaye? A cabaret MC extraordinaire dressed in a skimpy industrial-strength mini, with a black bin-liner cape and platform boots – get the picture? A diva alliance between the wink of Liza Minnelli's false eye lashes and the smirk of Rocky Horror's Frank-N-Furter. Clearer? The voice of rock royalty and street smarts of your favourite Jewish comedian?

The Wizard of Oz – a Pantomime.

By John Morley. Director: Barb Wainwright. Musical Director and Song Writer: John Da Cruz. Mousetrap Theatre, Redcliffe. January 7 –16, 2022.

Naturally, when you go to a show with this title you immediately remember the film of that name, a film that still appears regularly on our television screens. Well, this pantomime has some connections with the action centred on Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion as they travel from Munchkinland on the yellow brick road to the land of Oz. The good and wicked witches are essential but the path they take is far more complex and crowded. This was an interesting version which kept the audience absorbed by, and sometimes vocally reactive to, what they were viewing.

Girl From The North Country

Book by Conor McPherson. Songs by Bob Dylan. Sydney Festival. Theatre Royal, Sydney. Opening Night: January 8, 2022.

1934. The Great Depression. Duluth, Minesotta, northern regional USA.

A bleak boarding house raises its spirits for one last Thanksgiving, as foreclosure and dispossession loom.

Certainly not escapist fare for the times if that’s what you’re looking for, but for a couple of years now I’ve been attracted to the idea of a musical theatre score drawn from the songs of Bob Dylan, part of the soundtrack of my youth. It made such sense to me, if done right.

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