Monday, December 10, 2012

Comedy: Stephen Merchant

Hello Ladies
Astor Theatre
December 6, 2012

It’s a fair assumption that most of the audience at Stephen Merchant’s three sold-out Astor shows were hard-core fans of the vertically unchallenged British comedian and his collaborator Ricky Gervais.
Gervais has had comedy superstar status for years – I remember seeing him gigantically reproduced on a whole-side-of-building billboard on Sunset Boulevard ­as far back as 2008. Merchant may be Larry David to Gervais’s Jerry Seinfeld, but he’s steadily emerging in his own right.
On the strength of this poised, neatly calibrated, and very, very funny solo show, it’s easy to see why.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Theatre: Glengarry Glen Ross

By David Mamet
Little y Theatre
Directed by Mark Storen
Designed by Fiona Bruce
Featuring Georgia King, Ella Hetherington, Caris Eves, Holly Garvey, Leanne Curran, Alexandra Nell and Verity Softly
Music by Andrew Weir and Ben Collins
Blue Room Theatre
Until December 8
Leanne Curran and Georgia King
There’s a reason Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s Pulitzer, Olivier and Tony award-winning 1984 drama, is having major revivals all across the US.
It can be found in the forsaken suburban tracts and vacated foreclosures that have hollowed out many American cities, so much like the worthless developments that Mamet’s salesman are hawking to their unsuspecting clients.
Little y Theatre’s production at the Blue Room has an all-female cast (although it’s required to use the script’s male character names and pronouns). Even if you’re not a devotee of gender-swapping theatre, a revival of a play about real estate is as appropriate a place as any to do it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cabaret: Meow Meow

Astor Theatre

November 16, 2012

I had a diverting conversation with my wife on Friday night about the allure of the extraordinary Melissa Madden Gray, the artist known as Meow Meow.
She briefly wondered whether the boundlessly pneumatic cabaret artist appealed more to blokes. And as I helped Meow crowd surf over our heads while she sang Come Dance with Me, I confess I was reminded of Bob Menzies’ famous “I did but see her passing by …”
But Meow is much more clever than that. Her full-frontal attack on glamour, her insurgency in the war of the sexes never says “come hither”. “Come over here and do what you’re told” is more like it. Whatever empowerment is, that’s what Meow Meow is peddling. She’s got a joke about what boys like and guys want – and the women are in on it.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, November 19, 2012

Theatre: Managing Carmen

Black Swan State Theatre Company/ QTC
Written by David Williamson
Directed by Wesley Enoch
Designed by Richard Roberts
Lighting design by Trent Suidgeest
Sound design by Tony Brumpton
Audio Visual design by Declan McMonagle
Featuring John Batchelor, Tim Dashwood, Claire Lovering, Anna McGahan and Greg McNeill

Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until December 2

At 201cm tall, David Williamson could have been an AFL ruckman. Instead, he used his 1970s heyday to establish himself as Australia’s pre-eminent, and most bankable, playwright.
With Managing Carmen, Williamson returns to footy 35 years after The Club, his signature hit about shenanigans at a barely-disguised Collingwood.
We’re back at the Pies, but this time it’s conniving managers and their precious players – rather than coaches and board members – who take centre-stage.
As an exposé of big-time sport, it’s 30 years out of date; as an argument for tolerance and honesty, it’s wafer-thin and unmemorable, and, in a gobsmackingly horrible first half, it reduces its actors to the grossest of caricatures.

But here’s the thing. Like a battered old champ having a bad day, Williamson demands to be taken on his own terms, and treated with caution if not respect.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Theatre: One Night Echo

The Duck House
Written by Gita Bezard
Directed by Kathryn Osborne
Performed and devised by Alissa Claessens, Brendan Ewing, Fran Middleton, Will O’Mahoney and Tyrone Robinson, with Tim Watts
November 8 - 17, 2012
Fran Middleton, Brendan Ewing and Alissa Claessens
For students of Greek mythology (and, after a quick refresher course on Wikipedia, us mere mortals), the central conceit of The Duck House’s stylish, brittle party piece at PICA is a delicious game of spot the nymphs and satyrs.
The party in question has been thrown by Theo (Will O’Mahoney), whose unrelenting narcissism gives his eponymous alter-identity away immediately. He’s hired a chick named Echo (google “Echo, Greek mythology”) to serve drinks. The guests arrive; his diffident, intelligent mate Eddie (Brendan Ewing), the magnetic, luminous Celeste (Alissa Claessens) and a lithe, shadowy young man (Tyrone Robinson) with hair swept over like horns. She is Selene, goddess of the moon; they are her lovers Endymion, the astronomer, and Pan, the goat, the god of the wild. This is no safe place for either Echo the nymph or Echo the girl, and, as in the myth, it tears her apart.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Theatre: Picasso's Goldfinch

Written by Tom Jeffcote
Directed and designed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Performed by Andrew Hale and Tiffany Barton
The Blue Room
Until November 17

“They ought to put out the eyes of painters as they do goldfinches, in order that they can sing better.” The famous, if a little woolly-headed, quote from Picasso is the reference point for Tom Jeffcote’s story of a painter and the women who shape his life.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Theatre: Ghosts

By Henrik Ibsen
Class Act Theatre
Directed by Stephen Lee
Performed by Whitney Richards, David Meadows, Graham Mitchell, Angelique Malcolm and Andrew Southern
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
Until November 3

Who’s afraid of Henrik Ibsen? All that Lutheran hand-wringing. All that rain.
Certainly the audiences that trampled over each other to see Greta Scacchi in Aarne Neeme’s 1991 production of A Doll’s House overcame their qualms, and this production of Ibsen’s Ghosts, in the same building, deserves an audience as well.
Not that it quite justifies trampling; this is a modestly staged production, given a workmanlike rather than inspired treatment by director Stephen Lee, but there’s enough quality on show to make for a worthy evening’s entertainment.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Theatre: Eve

The Nest Ensemble
Devised by Margi Brown Ash, Leah Mercer and Daniel Evans
Written and performed by Margi Brown Ash, with Phil Miolin and Roland Adeney
Directed by Leah Mercer
Until November 10

Margi Brown Ash (pic Leigh Brennan)
The starting point for Margi Brown Ash’s tour de force of stage writing and performance is the sad story of Eve Langley, a little-known and largely forgotten novelist and poet who worked from the 1930s until her lonely death in a little shack outside Katoomba, NSW, in 1974.
This is no mere biographical drama, though. Ash combines some of Langley’s writing with those of her self-appointed literary Siamese twins, Flaubert, Dickinson, Keats, Shakespeare and, especially, her beloved Oscar Wilde, in a poetic, combustible interior monologue of reminiscence, longing and heartache. Her own writing fits seamlessly into that high company. It’s thrilling, gorgeously imaginative and physically potent.
I recall, years ago, jumping straight to my feet to applaud Peter Carroll and Ron Blair’s The Christian Brother. I did it again, for many of the same reasons, for Margi Brown Ash and Eve.
Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Theatre: The Awesome Festival

Tom Flanagan
The Awesome Spiegeltent
Until October 19

Catch the Rain
Ellis and Céire Pearson
The Bird Hide
Until October 15

Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and his Singing Tiger
Phil Burger and Stuart Bowden
The Awesome Spiegeltent
Until October 15

The Awesome Festival in the Perth Cultural Centre is an eye-opening and exhilarating experience for a far-too-grown-up geezer like me.
I took in Spare Parts’ tender, expressive Hachiko and Yirra Yaakin’s Promethean Noongar fable Kaarla Kaatijin (link here and here to their reviews in The West) before seeing the South African father-daughter team of Ellis and Céire Pearson’s Catch the Rain, a parched morality tale of water, drought and corporate greed.

Tom Flanagan is a hugely talented physical performer, and his Kaput, in the Spiegeltent (now there’s a piece of arts infrastructure that’s paying off in spades), is a hilarious adventure in misadventure and back-to-front logic. As he fell through walls and tangled with ladders, glue buckets and other runaway inanimate objects, Flanagan channels every slapstick genius from Buster Keaton to Los Trios Ringbarkus. (Link here to the complete reviews in The West Australian).

Kids come to Dr Brown's rescue
Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown (Phil Burger) and his Singing Tiger (Stuart Bowden) were a smash at this year's Edinburgh Fringe (link here to a review from that season) and I'm sure they will be here. Burger is a remarkable performer (think Sasha Baron Cohen; even better, think Alan Arkin); bemused, sly and inventive, he sent the kids in the Spiegeltent wild with mischievous delight. Bowden, as his sidekick and foil is every bit as entertaining as he rides the waves of improvised mayhem Burger creates with a huge grin and a tiny ukelele. If this show was the late night feature in the tent at the Fringe it would be a sensation; for kids, and the grown-ups with them, it's nothing short of a mid-day miracle. 

Wolfe Bowart is a native Arizonian who now lives in Perth, and last year’s Awesome Festival gave him a chance to play to his adopted home crowd for the first time.
Bowart returns with Letter's End, just as impressive as his 2011 show, The Man the Sea Saw, but even more fun and engaging for young audiences. It's a freer expression of his performance skills and less of a formal narrative than its predecessor.

Theatre: Deckchair folds

Rose Parker sings for the diggers: the 2001 Len Hall Game
It's tragic to hear of the demise of Deckchair Theatre, for thirty years a Fremantle institution and a unique and important part of the fabric of theatre in WA.
Like everyone, I'm grateful for the scores of original works, many about the history of Western Australia and the characters that peopled it, it commissioned and produced, and the terrific productions and performances it gifted us.
I have a personal reason to be grateful for Deckchair's commitment to Fremantle, and a special reason to record its passing. For seven years I worked with Deckchair on the Dockers' Len Hall Game ceremonies and a host of other presentations on Fremantle Football Club match days and other events. Some of those productions – the 1999 Vietnam and 2001 Kokoda Trail/ Tobruk tributes, the three-part Sense of Place series about Fremantle's identity (the first time the Australia Council had directly funded a sporting club) and the season opening 2001: a Football Odyssey, which was without doubt the best thing in the club's annus horribilis – will always be remembered. Along the way the club and the theatre company won state and national awards for their work together, but, more importantly, helped create that difference about the Dockers that contributed mightily to its ability to withstand the bad times and prosper in the good.
With Deckchair now gone, and the threat of the Dockers heading off to a shopping centre in distant Cockburn seeming more real every day, these are worrying times at the port. Let's hope the old girl lifts up her skirts and does some high kicking again soon!
My commiserations to Phil Thompson, Angela Chaplin, Chris Bendall and all the creative people who did such great work at Deckchair; the admirable Barry Strickland, David Gerrand, Rose Lenzo and everyone else who put in the hard yards in the back office and board of the company. A job very well done.       

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Theatre: The Warrior and the Princess/ Tinkertown

The Warrior and the Princess
Blue Moose

By Shirley Van Sanden
Directed by Monica Main
Performed by Brian Liau, Rhoda Lopez, Ian Toyne, Monica Main, Shirley Van Sanden and Marty Liang
The Blue Room
Until October 20

by Nathaniel Moncrieff
Directed by Sam Farringdon and Nathaniel Moncrieff
Performed by Phil Miolin, Tessa Carmody, Hannah Day, Jeremy Levi and Felicity Groom
The Blue Room
Until October 13

In The Warrior and the Princess, Shirley Van Sanden has taken the story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in WWII Lithuania, and fashioned an inventively told and moving tale of universal human sympathy and courage.
That history is long and complex, and, in the hour or so at her disposal, a bit too much of Van Sanden’s dialogue serves exposition rather than the development of character and relationships, but she holds our interest in her story and makes us care about her people, and that’s a fine achievement.
There’s a harrowing momentum in Nathaniel Moncrieff’s writing that gives his actors plenty to work from.
But the characters in his Tinkertown talk too much, and, consequently, often don’t say nearly enough. Moncrieff would do well, I think, to heed the example of many of his heroes, count the words in his script and re-write it with half as many of them. 

Link here to the complete reviews in The West Australian

Thursday, October 4, 2012

WIN!: The NT season at Luna

Luke Treadway in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Anyone who's seen the "live" filmed performances by the National Theatre at Luna will tell you how brilliantly they've captured some of the best shows you're never likely to see otherwise in Perth.
Luna have stepped up to the plate with a generous offer to Turnstiles readers to be their guest at this season's three productions, Simon Stephen's hit stage adaptation of Mark Haddon's international best seller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Julie Walters and Rory Kinnear starring in Stephen Beresford's The Last of the Haussmans and Nicholas Hytner's definitive production of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens.
To win one of four double passes to each of the films, email me at with the name of the playwright of the show you'd like to see.

You can also  link here to purchase tickets online through the Luna Palace website. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Theatre: Boy Gets Girl

Black Swan State Theatre Company
Written by Rebecca Gilman
Directed by Adam Mitchell
Designed by Fiona Bruce
Lighting design by Trent Suidgeest
Sound design by Ben Collins
Featuring James Hagan, Ben O’Toole, Myles Pollard, Whitney Richards, Helen Searle, Steve Turner and Alison van Reeken
 Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until September 30
Alison van Reeken and Myles Pollard
 The opening tableaux of the American playwright Rebecca Gilman’s gripping, malevolent Boy Gets Girl is a striking display of the strengths of director Adam Mitchell’s production.
We find Theresa Bedell (Alison van Reeken), a New York City magazine feature writer, in a set (superbly designed by Fiona Bruce) that is an abstract exercise in perspective, diminishing up a raked stage and down lines of massive re-enforced concrete sections towards a vanishing point obscured in shadows. There’s music, and traffic, but somewhere, close by, Theresa thinks she hears a noise, senses a presence; and we do too. She walks warily upstage towards the darkness, peering into it for the intruder. The stage fades to black. Welcome to her nightmare.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Edgar Metcalfe 1933 - 2012

The greatly respected actor, author, director and artistic director Edgar Metcalfe has died, aged 78.
His enormous contribution to Perth theatre will be remembered with affection and gratitude.

Link here to Stephen Bevis's piece in The West Australian

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Theatre: The 2012 Turnstile Awards

This year’s Turnstile awards ceremony was a glittering affair in the Bill Walker Room at Subiaco Oval, immediately after the Dockers v Melbourne game on September 1. If a crowd won’t come to you, you should go to a crowd.
MC George Clooney warms up the
crowd with some Ben Cousins jokes
Thanks to everyone who attended, and a special thanks to George Clooney for stepping in as master of ceremonies when neither Michael Loney or Stephen Bevis could make it.
The Turnstile Awards for excellence in theatre in Perth are given to outstanding locally mounted stage shows between September and August each year. There’s no set number of Turnstile winners, and no attempt to rank the shows in order of merit.
In the past year, I reviewed 57 eligible productions (up from 34 last year) for either or both The West Australian and this blog. Of course it’s not a completely exhaustive list, and I apologise for the absences. Once again, I didn't consider cabaret, comedy or improv theatre, although there were some very fine productions in those categories, especially at the Fringe and Perth Comedy festivals, which both deserve an honorary Turnstile for the huge contribution they made to the popular arts in Perth this year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Theatre: On the Misconception of Oedipus

Malthouse Theatre with Perth Theatre Company
Devised by Zoe Atkinson, Matthew Lutton and Tom Wright
Written by Tom Wright
Directed by Matthew Lutton
Designed by Zoe Atkinson
Lighting design by Paul Jackson
Composition and sound design by Kelly Ryall
Performed by Natasha Herbert, Richard Pyros and Daniel Schlusser
STC Studio Underground
Until September 15
Richard Pyros and Natasha Herbert. Photo: Garth Oriander
In the 18 months since artistic director Melissa Cantwell and general manager Nick Clark took the Perth Theatre Company to its new home in the State Theatre Centre’s Studio Underground, they have polished it to a high gloss.
Because the company has only scant resources to support its ambitions, it’s been a process that has required judiciously cultivated artistic relationships (with the Tim Watts gang and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre in particular) and Cantwell’s sharp, urban eye for work that delivers on both style and substance.
In this she has much in common with Matthew Lutton, the ludicrously young Perth director now working out of Malthouse. It’s his collaboration with the writer Tom Wright and designer Zoe Atkinson that has delivered Cantwell the brilliantly conceived and executed On the Misconception of Oedipus.

 Link here to the complete review in The West Australian 

Theatre: Home and The Polite Gentleman

The Polite Gentleman
The Moxy Collective

Directed by Adam Mitchell

Written and performed by Mark Storen

Until  September 22

The Broken Image Ensemble
Directed by Sarah McKellar

Performed by Caris Eves, Holly Garvey and Josh Magee

Until September 15

The Blue Room is enjoying a surge in popularity, with houses running at around three-quarters of capacity this year. That’s fortuitous for theatre in Perth, because the 36 independent productions mounted in its two small spaces comprise the lion's share of locally produced professional theatre in 2012.
It hasn't come at the expense of adventure and quality; at their boldest and best, Blue Room shows are as good as anything produced in this town.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Theatre: Annie

 By Martin Charnin, Charles Strouse and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Karen Johnson Mortimer
Musical director Peter Casey
Set Design by Kenneth Foy
Choreography by Kelly Aykers
Starring Nancye Hayes, Michael Cormick, Todd McKenney, Bert Newton, Chloe Dallimore, Julie Lea Goodwin and Claudia Fitzgerald as Annie
Burswood Theatre
Until August 23

Claudia Fitzgerald
Much depends on whether you’re going to Annie expecting a musical or an entertainment. As the former, it leaves a fair bit to be desired; as the latter, it’s got a lot to recommend it.
In truth, it’s a pretty slight work, missing most of the original Harold Gray cartoon strip’s Dickensian darkness and political sting. It’s not one of Broadway’s great scores either; the two big numbers, Tomorrow and Hard-Knock Life, would start on the bench at best in any of the great musicals, and there’s little else here that isn’t done much better elsewhere.
But Annie’s failings as a musical are hardly the fault of the big, diverse cast of this production, or the work of its creative team.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Theatre: Thrashing Without Looking

Created and performed by Elizabeth Dunn, Lara Thoms, Martyn Coutts, Tristan Meecham and Wiloh S. Weiland
Sound Design by Alan Nguyen
Until August 25

When the boundaries between performing artists and their audience come down, the mix can be unpredictable and a little intimidating.
The assumed contract – you perform, I observe and applaud (or otherwise) – is broken when you are in close contact, and even one-on-one, with the performer. What is my contribution to all this meant to be? Who will now give their approval? Am I to judge myself?

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, August 20, 2012

Theatre: Certified Male

 By Scott Rankin and Glynn Nicholas
Directed by Glynn Nicholas
With David Callan, Cameron Knight, Mike McLeish and Glynn Nicholas
Regal Theatre
Until August 25

In the Peter Sellers movie, Only Two Can Play, he plays a critic who reviews shows he doesn’t attend (so, as it turns out, he can indulge in a spot of womanising). He comes unstuck when the theatre he was supposed to be at burns down.
I thought a little wistfully of my fictional predecessor while I wished I wasn’t at the Regal Theatre as this remarkably unedifying story of four reprehensible men lurched towards its unsurprising and unsatisfying end.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Theatre: The Mousetrap

By Agatha Christie
Directed by Gary Young
Set design by Linda Bewick
With Robert Alexander, Travis Cotton, Linda Cropper, Nicholas Hope, Jacinta John, Gus Murray, Justin Smith and Christy Sullivan
His Majesty’s Theatre
Until August 26, 2012

Christy Sullivan, Justin Smith and Nicholas Hope
For most people of my vintage, and many bottled in much more recent years, Agatha Christie’s wonderful, devious books and their innumerable spin-offs in films and television are part of our psyche. In my case, they run even deeper, having written (along with my friend Dave Warner) and staged a series of murder weekends that unashamedly paid homage to her immortal whodunits.
The Mousetrap is the one pillar of the Temple of Agatha I’d yet to wrap my arms around; this mighty edifice has now ticked over sixty years continuously on the West End, the only play ever to become a permanent tourist attraction.
So I went to review the show feeling like an iceberg waiting for The Titanic to show up. The good news is that the great ship sailed past me unscathed, even if it didn’t melt me much in its passage.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian