Friday, December 9, 2011

Theatre: Taking Liberty

Deckchair Theatre
Written by Ingle Knight
Directed by Chris Bendall
Designed by Andrew Bellchambers
Featuring Stuart Halusz, Luke Hewitt, Benj D’Addario, Greg McNeill, Craig Williams and Nick Candy
Luke Hewitt, Greg McNeill and Benj D'Addario
 As luck would have it, in September 2008 I celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Bond syndicate’s famous America’s Cup victory on San Diego Harbour aboard an exact replica of the nineteenth century schooner that won the trophy that has carried its name ever since. 
Meanwhile, back in WA, Ingle Knight had a hit on his hands with Taking Liberty, his rollicking tale of the triumph of Australia II that ended “the longest winning streak in world sport”.
And I can understand why. This revival by Deckchair Theatre pushes every button you would expect from an unashamed hagiography. It’s funny, disrespectful but affectionate, gloriously false and yet emotionally true. And, against all the odds, it’s genuinely, physically, exciting.
You can be forgiven for approaching a play about some yacht race with trepidation, but I can safely say that if you’re looking for a fabulous time out on the ocean this month, but want to keep your feet dry doing it, Taking Liberty is the show for you.   

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Theatre: Private Lives

By Noël Coward
Onward Production
Directed by Marcelle Schmitz
Set design by Brian Woltjen
Costume design by Steve Nolan
Featuring Kirsty Hillhouse, Michael Loney, James Helm, Michelle Fornasier and Rosemarie Lenzo
Subiaco Arts Centre
Until December 10
Michael Loney and Kirsty Hillhouse (pic: Jon Green)
Noël Coward’s Private Lives is given a glittering, unsettling revival by Sally Burton’s Onward Production at the Subiaco Arts Centre in a sumptuous production marked by bravura performances by its stars, Kirsty Hillhouse and Michael Loney, and an expertly paced reading by director Marcelle Schmitz.
Schmitz is a considered and talented director, and she is neither spooked by the domestic violence that haunts the play nor bogged down in it. She gives the play’s sharp glamour and wit a full head of steam, and her cast take glorious advantage of the license given them. 
Private Lives is like a dazzling stranger at a glamorous party; impossible not to admire, hard to resist, but dangerous to love. If you do, though (I did), be wary of the dark place behind those lovely, sparkling eyes.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian               

Theatre: Who's Afraid of the Working Class?

By Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas and Melissa Reeves
Directed by Rick Brayford
Set and costume designer Patrick Howe
Performed by WAAPA Aboriginal Theatre students Karanata Kadarmia, Haylee Rivers, Tobiasz Millar, Jadene Croft, Paddy Ahkit, Alexandra Lane, Dimity Shillingworth and Shakira Clanton
Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA
19 – 24 November, 2011
Alexandra Lane and Tobiasz Millar  (pic: Jon Green)
There was a powerful and revealing moment during the curtain call on the last night of WAAPA Aboriginal Theatre’s production of Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?
As she was taking her bows, Alexandra Lane jubilantly flexed her biceps and let out a triumphant yell, which was picked up and repeated by others in the cast. It was an expression of relief and achievement, as you’d expect from kids at the end of a grueling year’s study, but, more than that, it was an affirmation of strength: the strength they’ll need as indigenous performers to pursue their ambitions in the theatre; the strength, on the evidence of this barnstorming production, they have in abundance.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Theatre: The Man the Sea Saw

Spoontree Productions and the Awesome Festival
Wolfe Bowart
His Majesty’s Theatre
November 25 - 26, 2011

How many Wolfe Bowarts are hiding out in Perth? The native Arizonan has lived quietly in WA for years, but it’s taken this year’s Awesome Festival to finally get him to perform his acclaimed physical theatre in his adopted home town.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to be recognized at the local IGA, though. It’s simply that his shows, which have included the Helpmann Award-nominated Letter’s End and the international hit LaLaLuna are in such demand around the globe that he has never found the time.
On the strength of his charming, mischievous The Man the Sea Saw, it’s easy to see why. And it was nice to think that, for once in his career, Wolfe Bowart could drive home after work. He should do it more often. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian    

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Theatre: Tipsy

Nicole in Red
Directed by Mark Storen
Written and performed by Ella Hetherington, Georgia King, Sarah Nelson, Dawn Pascoe and Nicole Warren
Music by Rhoda Lopez, Joe Lui, Beth Sheldon and Geoffrey Harrold
Little Creatures Loft
Until November 23

Ella Hetherington (pic Travis Macrae)
I’m no fashionista, but Tipsy, Velvet Sushi designer Deborah Mckendrick’s collaboration with actor/director Mark Storen and some of the brightest young performers in Perth was intriguing enough to get me to the Little Creatures Loft to check it out.
I’m very glad I did.
Tipsey wasn’t uniformly slick, or particularly meaningful, but it was feisty entertainment, great to look at and a lot more besides. It’s important to see our performing artists working with commercial enterprises without losing their spark or compromising their integrity; it’s encouraging to see popular spaces like the Little Creature’s Loft used inventively and effectively; and it’s stimulating to see our fashion shown to winning effect on vibrant performers, and not just spiritless mannequins.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer

Perth Theatre Company and Weeping Spoon Productions
Created and Performed by Tim Watts
With the collaboration of Arielle Gray
Construction by Anthony Watt
Sound design by Tim Watts and Matt Cheetham
Production by Chris Isaacs
STC Studio
22 November – 3 December, 2011

The first scene of the globe-trotting Alvin Sputnik is as touching and brilliantly realised as anything you’ll ever see anywhere. Behind a circular screen, lit al la Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, and plucking on his ukulele, Alvin (Tim Watts) sings to his dying wife, begging her not to go tonight. Her pale puppet body breathes silently until, as her husband watches helplessly, it is wracked by death throes and expires. A glowing form – her soul, her spirit – leaves her body and floats away.
You think immediately of the beautiful opening tableau of the magical Up, and how completely they both draw you into the story that is to follow.
That story of how Alvin pursues his lost wife’s soul into the depths of the ocean, incidentally finding a new life for mankind from the climatic disaster that has drowned and wrecked the world above, is told in live, puppeteered and animated scenes of wonderful technical skill and inventiveness by Watt. The deep sea diving-suited Alvin, in various forms but most often a simple hand glove with a fishing float for a head, meets a stock array of dangers and challenges to achieve a kind of apotheosis, finally giving himself to be re-united with his Elena and save the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Puppet Theatre: Adam Polichineur de Laboratorie

by Stephane Georis
directed by Francy Bégasse
Performed by Stephane Georis
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle
for The Fremantle Festival
November 16 - 20, 2011

Puppetry sure ain’t what it used to be. In the Belgian puppeteer Stephane Georis’s wild ride through science and history, life, love and death, Adam Polchineur de Laboratorie (roughly The Professor in his Laboratory) at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, very little you’d identify as a puppet makes an appearance. Unless, of course, you think zucchinis, carrots and cauliflowers are puppets. Oh, or bread rolls – lots of them, in all shapes and sizes.
Director Francy Bégasse has Georis uses all these items and more, pulled from his cupboard and manipulated on a laboratory bench, to great effect as he investigates ballistic theory, the survival of the fittest and the ascent (and looming descent) of man. The dinosaurs terrorize the world, little fish swallow tiny fish (all in the guise of the aforementioned bread rolls) and in turn are chewed up by larger and larger ones, monkeys become apes and men, and mankind marches on to its materialistic destiny.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Theatre: Blood Brothers

by Willy Russell
Directed and designed by John Senczuk
Featuring Ian Toyne, Sarah McNeill, Richard Mellick, Simon Thompson, Nick Maclaine, Garreth Bradshaw, Julia Hern, Maree Cole, Tyler Jones, Charles McCombe and Amanda Muggleton
 The Metcalfe Playhouse
Until 4 December

Willy Russell, Amanda Muggleton and Perth are words that fit well together. For a substantial number of theatregoers, they may be all a reviewer needs to report, along with a number for bookings.
It’s easy to understand why. La Muggleton has wowed our audiences, most notably in Russell’s Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, repeatedly and unfailingly for so many years that the actress and playwright are inextricably linked in our hearts and minds.
But before you make that booking (call 9228 1455, by the way), a few words of warning. Unlike Shirley and Rita, Blood Brothers is a big cast show, and a musical to boot. While Muggleton’s Mrs Johnstone is unquestionably its star vehicle, she’s not the show’s entire focus, or even its central character. And while it shares Russell’s concern with Britain’s class system and the trouble it causes, this is a darker, ultimately tragic, story with a much different mood than his other hits.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Theatre: They Ran 'til they Stopped

The Duck House/ Performing Lines
Written by Gita Bezard
Featuring Whitney Richards, Arielle Gray and Lawrence Ashford
November 10 - 19, 2011

Whitney Richards and Arielle Gray
An empty place at a table is like a hole in the heart. It’s the pointy end of grief, a reminder that you cannot go back, and cannot stay the same.
Gita Bezard’s They Ran ’til they Stopped tells of what happens to three people when the fourth of their household dies. We never know what happened to her, all we know is that she is gone.
It's unsettling and uneasy (and this reviewer confesses he came to it after a too-long day), and sometimes feels more an exercise than a fully realised piece, but it’s fine work by some emerging theatre practitioners.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian   

Monday, November 14, 2011

Theatre: Lorelei

Deckchair Theatre
Devised by Mark Storen and Chris Bendall
Directed by Chris Bendall
Musical director Tim Cunniffe
Design Fiona Bruce
Featuring Rhoda Lopez and Mark Storen

The Lorelei, the siren who lured Rhine shipmen onto the rocks with her song, returns as a cabaret singer who entrances a wandering sailor in this pastiche of songs, some of ports and the sea, by Mark Storen and Chris Bendall, who also directs.
Storen plays Buzzard, the lonely sailor, enchanted by the vamp Lorelei (Rhoda Lopez) and led by her across the seven seas to ports from here to New York City.
Let’s start at the top. Fiona Bruce has delivered a winning design for the show, with cabaret tables dotting the floor and stages surrounding the audience. It’s fun to be in and great to look at as the two performers bob up around and among you. Lopez starts in spectacular form, with Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam, and is shipshape and sexy throughout. Storen’s powerful and somewhat threatening aura makes his capsize from someone who might do anything to Lorelei into someone who would do anything for her even more effective.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Theatre: Slut

Little y Theatre
Written by Patricia Cornelius
Directed by Emily McLean
Featuring Chloe Flockhart, Liz Frodsham, Nicole Warren, Megan Moir, Georgia King, Alexandra Neil and Sarah McKellar
Blue Room Theatre
Until November 19

Georgia King
The Little y Theatre, formed by Georgia King, Mischa Ipp and the late Alexis Davis in 2010, made a galvanizing debut in June with Scent Tales, one of the real highlights of the Perth stage this year.  This production is very much King’s baby. She’s a terrific young performer, and her assured style permeates this story of a girl, Lolita, fallen down, as told by her seven friends and classmates.
When it all comes together, as in the fabulous funny-scary scene when the girls, in their “angry year”, prowl and snarl through an adolescent pre-menstrual animal kingdom, there is anger, humour and insight in equal measure. When their focus is not themselves and their own lives, but Lolita the Slut and hers, it loses these qualities.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian          

Monday, November 7, 2011

Theatre: Music from the Whirlwind

by John Aitken
Directed and designed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Performed by Brendan Ewing
The Metcalfe Playhouse
3 – 5 November, 2011

Theatre should give us entertainment, emotion and education. Whatever else you say about the revival of Music from the Whirlwind, WA playwright John Aitken’s powerful exposé of the dangerous relationship between Dmitri Shostakovich and the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, it certainly delivers on the last of these. Brendan Ewing, the edgy, distinctive actor who plays the Russian composer in this single hander, provides plenty of the others.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Friday, November 4, 2011

Theatre: When the Rain Stops Falling

Black Swan State Theatre Company
Written by Andrew Bovell
Directed by Adam Mitchell
Designed by Bryan Woltjen
Lighting design by Trent Suidgeest
Sound design by Ben Collins
Featuring Vivienne Garrett, Julia Moody, Fiona Pepper, Igor Sas, Scott Sheridan, Steve Turner and Alison van Reeken
 Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until November 13

Julia Moody and Scott Sheridan (pic: Gary Marsh)
With the sad, exquisite When the Rain Stops Falling, Black Swan have unquestionably kept the best of their first year’s tenure as the core tenant of the State Theatre Centre ‘till last.
Andrew Bovell’s family saga charts the lives of seven connected characters over four generations, eighty years and two continents; it’s a complex, highly structured work that requires the utmost clarity in its script and staging to avoid disintegrating into confusion. That it succeeds so well is greatly to the credit of Bovell’s disciplined, highly literate writing and the painstaking management of scenes and characters by director Adam Mitchell. It is also indebted to a cast of West Australian actors who would, I think, do it proud on any stage, anywhere.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Theatre: Blood Will Have Blood

Excerpts from William Shakespeare

Directed by John Sheedy
Set and costume designer Daniel Ampuero
Performed by WAAPA 3rd Year Acting students Ben O’Toole, Lara Schwerdt, Griffin Blumer, Ryan Jones, Jessica Clarke, Kali Hulme, Joshua Brennan, Emma Chelsey, Michael Drysdale, Charlotte Hazzard, Philippe Klaus, Nicole Shostak, Nic Westaway, Alex Williams and Gemma Willing
Subiaco Arts Centre
October 22 - 27, 2011
Griffin Blumer and Emma Chelsey
WAAPA’s class of 2011 have topped off their training with a wild ride through Shakespeare at the Subiaco Arts Centre in Blood Will Have Blood. While it didn't work at all for me as a piece of cogent theatre, the imagination of the guest director, Barking Gecko’s John Sheedy, and the talented student designer Daniel Ampuero deliver a fascinating exercise for these dazzling young things, and a glimpse of what they will become.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Theatre: Adam and Eve

The Wet Weather Ensemble
Devised by Ian Sinclair, Moya Thomas and the cast
Directed by Moya Thomas
With St John Cowcher, Alicia Osyka, Ian Sinclair and Moana Lutton
The Blue Room Theatre
October 11 - 29, 2011

This Adam and Eve is an exhilarating account of man’s first disobedience, the fruit of a forbidden tree and the loss of Eden. A modern re-telling of The Fall could easily descend into mere parody or undergraduate piffle, but in the hands of director Moya Thomas and a cracking quartet of young actors, there’s not the slightest risk of that happening.
The hilariously droll St John Cowcher sets the tone in best Hugh Laurie (pre-House) style, and from then on it’s a whacky rollercoaster ride of cultural references and theatrical tomfoolery. Along the way the lost and lonely Adam (Ian Sinclair) meets his heavenly Eve (Moana Lutton) out the back of a club called Eden, and it’s love, and the fate of mankind, at first glance. It’s as if there’s no-one but them in the world.

Theatre: Flirt Fiction

Red Rabbit Collective
Written and directed by Jessica Craig-Piper
With Lawrence Ashford, Zoe Cooper and Kathryn Delaney
The Blue Room Theatre
October 5 - 22, 2011

I’ve been looking forward to the next outing by Jessica Craig-Piper and the Red Rabbit Collective since their Jack and Jill also at the Blue Room last year. While their new work, which comes here fresh from a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, confirms that promise, it’s a disappointment in a number of ways.
Flirt Fiction steps away from the domestic drama of Jack and Jill in favour of a more artificial structure and mannered approach. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a pity they chose, on this occasion at least, not to continue to bring the perspective of young artists to real life as it is lived by their generation.

Upstairs, Upstairs: Black Swan launches its 2012 season

Let's go upstairs with Alison van Reeken (Boy Gets Girl)
The irony of Black Swan's second season at the State Theatre Centre is that economics appears to have forced it into the complex's big upstairs room, the Heath Ledger Theatre, for all six of the works it is mounting in 2012. From what I can gather, the STC's other resident, the Perth Theatre Company, is also grappling with the financial equation of using the smaller Studio Underground space in the complex.
It's ironic because Black Swan demonstrated this year that it has the pulling power to fill the Heath Ledger and you'd have thought that, flush with burgeoning box office revenues, increased corporate support, some high profile private generosity and the lion's share of government funding  for theatre in Western Australia, it would be able to turn its enviable position into more of the edgy product – the current season of The Damned is a case in point – you assume the Studio was built to house. 
That it appears not to be able to make the sums work for the Studio suggests the economic settings are fatally wrong for the space. If Black Swan can't make it work, you'd have to wonder who can.
Having said that, I think it's fair to say the season of six plays the company's artistic director Kate Cherry (who directs three of them) unveiled last night – in the Studio of all places – focus more tightly than last year on the company's brief as the State theatre company, with two new works on West Australian themes, two other new Australian plays and two established works from the last couple of decades by a British and an American writer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Theatre: The Damned

By Reg Cribb
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Directed by Andrew Lewis
Featuring Sage Douglas, Amanda Woodhams, Claire Lovering, Wade Briggs, Greg McNeill and Polly Low
Designed by Alicia Clements
The Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre
October 14 - 30, 2011

Sage Douglas 
In a small town called Rainbow, where The Damned sets its scene, a pair of star-crossed lovers take a life.
Based in part on several tragedies across regional Australia, Reg Cribb’s sad story is about the isolation and alienation of young people in small towns, the damage it does them and that they do. It's a difficult tale to tell, and watch, but it succeeds against the odds because Cribb maintains a firm hold on the narrative and director Andrew Lewis has drawn fine performances from the young actors playing its central characters.
Kylie (Sage Douglas) was bound to meet Natasha (Amanda Woodhams) at Rainbow’s ramshackle high school, and just as certain to fall under her spell. Natasha is a Fury, contemptuous of everything and everybody about her, and she is bad medicine for the sad, impressionable Kylie. Into this small, corroding world comes Melody (Claire Lovering), a runaway from Perth’s western suburbs, and Kylie is entranced. But Melody isn’t like them, and her attachment to life, her self-regard, exposes the girls in ways Kylie can’t handle and Natasha won’t tolerate.

Music: Melinda Schneider

Doris Day – So Much More than the Girl Next Door

Written by Melinda Schneider and David Mitchell
Directed by Tom Healey
Musical Director Michael J Harding
Choreographer Andrew Hallsworth
Featuring Sam Ludeman and Rohan Browne
Regal Theatre
October 13 - 16, 2011

It’s interesting to see how far the tribute show has gone since someone first slipped on a sequined pantsuit and purported to be Elvis.
It’s even developed sub-niches, from the one-act cover bands, witness the multitudes of ABBAs, Queens, AC/DCs and Led Zeppelins plying their riffs around the globe, to the bio-tribute shows, the Lennons, Dustys and Orbisons that have sprouted up – most often from beyond the grave ­– and hit the world’s stages. There’s even, I believe, a three-day festival in Singapore with only tribute acts on its bill.
Melinda Schneider’s homage to Doris Day at the Regal is a little different. First, the object of her affection is still alive, 87-years-old and surrounded by her dogs, in leafy Carmel, California. Second, Schneider doesn’t actually purport to be Miss Day; she’s Ms Schneider throughout, weaving – with varying levels of success – her own story with that of her idol. And third, despite the aforementioned reservation, this is a genuinely felt and stylishly delivered example of its type that in some part at least transcends its genre.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Theatre: The Gondoliers

By W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of WA
Directed by Anthony Howes
Music Director Jon Tooby
Set Design by Dean Morris
Featuring Alan Needham, Terry Burridge, Joanna Potter, Ron Macqueen, Jesse Bartle, Justin Freind, David Cosgrove, Katherine Freind and Courtney Pitman
Octagon Theatre
6-15 October, 2011

Those artists who can engage our high, middle and low brows simultaneously are rare beasts, and their appeal endures. Shakespeare had that gift. The Beatles did too. So did the librettist, W.S. Gilbert, and composer, Arthur Sullivan, who dominated the popular theatre on both sides of the Atlantic and paved the way for the modern musical. As the lyricist, Johnny Mercer, said, “We all come from Gilbert”.
Proof of the continuing popularity of their operettas is the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of WA, which has revived at least one of them each year for a remarkable six decades since 1951. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Shaolin Warriors

Directed by Li Xining
Choreography by Su Dongmei and Li Chi
Composed by Liu Junke
Set Design by Chen Juan
Lighting design by Yang Weidong
Costume design by Jiang Xiaoming
Burswood Theatre
October 7/8, 2011

There’s been a monastery at Shaolin since the 5th Century AD, and records of the monks in combat date from the 7th Century. By the 16th Century, kung fu was an integral and famous part of Shaolin monastic life, exported throughout China and into Japan, Korea and Okinawa.
Shaolin kung fu has become a secular phenomena up there with the Cirque du Soleil franchise, the Blue Men and the various Celtic hoofers and Dutch fiddlers of present renown. 
These performers, most from poor rural communities in Shandong and Henan provinces, may not be monks, but they are brought up and live like them, spending long days from very early ages training and mastering their art. Indeed, this production’s story of a boy’s journey from initiation to full warrior status features two lads who couldn’t be more than eleven or twelve but could only have achieved their staggering strength and supple skill after many years of training.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian