Thursday, April 21, 2011

Theatre: Die Winterreise (The Winter Journey)

Presented by ThinIce and Malthouse Melbourne

Songs by Franz Schubert
Conceived and directed by Matthew Lutton
Original text by Tom Holloway
Choreography by Chrissie Parrott
Composition and Sound Design by Kelly Ryall
Lighting design by Paul Jackson
Music supervisor Iain Grandage
Performed by Paul Capsis, James O’Hara, George Shevtsov and Alister Spence
State Theatre Centre Studio
19 - 30 April, 2011

George Shevtsov and Paul Capsis in Die Winterreise
If Matthew Lutton’s notable extrapolation from Franz Schubert’s song cycle Die Winterreise has a flaw, it’s incidental to the piece he and his creative team and performers present on stage at the STC Studio.
I strongly advise you not to read the director’s programme notes or the advance publicity for the show. I think they create misleading impressions or, at the very least, limit your ability to immerse yourself in the work and let your mind be provoked by its powerful imagery and sensory stimulations.
If that means your understanding of the story Lutton is telling is different from his intention, that’s not a failure on your part, or his. Rather, it’s a demonstration of the power of the imagination – the artists’ and yours – to draw a limitless range of conclusions from the same material. And somewhere in that universal yet singular process is the genesis of art.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Theatre: Her Holiness

Written by Justin Fleming and Melvyn Morrow

Directed by John Senczuk
Featuring Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Jay Walsh, Brendan Ewing, Alinta Carroll, Alysha McGreevy, Charlotte Westrip, Corinne Davies, Richard Mellick and John Aitken
Metcalfe Playhouse
April 16 - 18, 2011

The Mary MacKillop that emerges from Justin Fleming and Melvyn Morrow’s Her Holiness is far removed from the St Mary of recent hagiographic pop nationalism, but not so far that we can’t understand the love and loyalty she has inspired in the century since her death.
This isn’t the great play about Mary McKillop that waits to be staged; when it is, it will contain many of this one’s strengths.
As played with obstinate strength and real warmth by Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Mary may have had a heavenly calling, but her cares and ambitions were for the far-flung, backward settlements of colonial Australia. God may have forsaken them, but sure as hell Mary wasn’t going to.
Starting with literally nothing, and blessed by wanting nothing more, she and her order, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, founded schools and orphanages from Ceduna to Mackay, along the way attracting the enmity of many in the fiercely patriarchal Irish hierarchy of the Australian Catholic church.
Much of the action revolves around their repeated attempts to bring Mary down, and her just as determined efforts to keep doing things her way. It’s a great story, and Her Holiness rattles along well while it’s being told.
Other parts of the play are much less interesting. In particular, some long scenes between a contemporary Australian journalist (also played by Beresford-Ord) and the current Pope Benedict XVI (John Aitken) are flimsily constructed and tediously discursive. They do serve a purpose, but they are a dramatic weight the show struggles to carry.
Caitlin Beresford-Ord as Mary MacKillop
By and large, though, Her Holiness is a worthwhile insight into the life and career of our newly-minted saint. Director John Senczuk deals with the text sensitively and efficiently. He’s assisted by solid and engaging performances from the women in his supporting cast, Alinta Carroll, Alysha McGreevy and Charlotte Westrip as Mary’s very human and spirited acolytes and Corinne Davies as a wealthy supporter with all of Mary’s determination and forcefulness.
Brendan Ewing, as the feverish Father Julian Woods and Richard Mellick, in a number of smaller parts, make the most of their opportunities. The venerable John Aitken and Jay Walsh, as the various popes and bishops in Mary’s life and afterlife, are burdened with much of the play’s more awkward text, and in all fairness they often make hard going of it.
Her Holiness is the first production in the Metcalfe Playhouse, a 280-seat auditorium inside the Empyrean function centre in Lake Street, Northbridge. The space – formerly an IMAX cinema – needs a bit of fine tuning, but is a welcome and, it’s claimed, reasonably affordable addition to Perth’s theatre stocks.
With, I’m delighted to report, the most comfortable seats, a legacy of its former life, I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a play from. 

An edited version of this notice appeared in The West Australian of 18.4.11 link here