Thursday, July 26, 2012

Theatre: The Fremantle Candidate

Deckchair Theatre
Written by Ingle Knight
Directed by Chris Bendall
Designed by Fiona Bruce
Featuring Steve Turner, Geoff Kelso, Ben D’Addario, Igor Sas, Christie Sistrunk and James Hagen
Until August 5

John Curtin
I hope the teaching of Australian history has improved since my schooldays. Back then, after laborious lists of the early explorers and governors and hoary tales of squatters, shearers and swaggies (all the better for making sense of Waltzing Matilda, I suppose), the narrative all but collapsed.
Apart from the disgraceful marginalisation of Aboriginal history and the lives of women, perhaps the greatest tragedy was the paucity of our Twentieth Century political history. The mighty battles over free trade, the franchise and industrial relations, conscription, the banks and the communist party were a passing blur, and the great figures who fought them, Deakin, Barton, Fisher and Hughes, Theodore and Lang, Lyons, Chifley, Evatt and even the never-ending Menzies were derelict sketches without personality or insight.
With so little to spark our imagination, it’s hardly surprising that political biographies other than those of current or recent figures are so rare in print, on film or on stage. All the more reason to welcome Ingle Knight’s examination of the pivotal years in the career of perhaps our greatest, certainly our most intriguing, leader, John Curtin.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cabaret: Two Weeks in Paris

Devised and performed by Analisa Bell
Musical director Mia Brine
With Rhoda Lopez and Laura Hopwood
Downstairs at the Maj
11 – 14 July 2012

You’ve got to hand it to Analisa Bell.
I doubt even her most ardent fans (and she seems to have plenty of them) would claim she’s got one of the great voices, or that the shows she puts together downstairs at the Maj have any particular insight or wit, but there’s something about her that wins you over.
Maybe it’s her utter lack of pretension, the obvious pleasure she gets in being able to do the things she does, her wide-eyed ordinariness, that does the trick. Maybe it’s also her canny instinct for her audience that you have to admire, even if you don’t share their enthusiasm.
But let’s be frank. This little show, inspired, it seems, by an unexceptional two weeks' holiday in Paris, is a barely sustainable vehicle for Bell, and nothing she does in performance lifts it above a sort of musical slide night.

Theatre: The School for Wives

 By Moliére
Translated by Justin Fleming
Bell Shakespeare
Director Lee Lewis
Designer Marg Horwell
Lighting designer Niklas Pajanti
Composer Kelly Ryall
Featuring John Adam, Harriet Dyer, Meyne Wyatt. Andrew Johnston, Alexandra Aldrich, Damien Richardson, Jonathan Elsom and Mark Jones  
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until July 14

There hasn’t been a production of the great French dramatist Moliére’s work in Perth since the Georgian Film Actors Studio Theatre presented Don Juan at the 1990 Perth Festival. Edgar Metcalfe’s The Misanthrope at the Hole in the Wall 32 years ago was the last local professional show. That’s far too long to be deprived of one of the kings of comedy.
Fortunately, Bell Shakespeare has departed from its eponymous mainstay to take The School for Wives, Moliére’s satire of pre-nuptual shenanigans, on the road around Australia, and it’s to be admired for its endeavour and the technical quality of its touring productions.
Unfortunately, the production misfires. This is largely because of a translation from the original French verse into something like vernacular Australian English by Justin Fleming that too often sounds like The Sentimental Bloke or, worse, that cringeworthy, milquetoast rap that infects so many attempts to be street-wise these days.
Things lifted dramatically, though, whenever Harriet Dyer’s sweetly determined Agnes was on stage, and the climactic confrontation between her and Arnolde was far and away the most convincing scene in the play. Director Lee Lewis places the piece attractively in 1920s Paris, and designer Marg Horwell and lighting designer Niklas Pajenti support her cleverly with a silent movie-inspired setting that is apt and greatly entertaining. Mark Jones, a dead ringer for the comedian Bill Bailey, also plays upright piano, bells and whistles, and keeps the whole affair nicely in tune throughout. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian    

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Theatre: This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing

By Finegan Kruckemeyer
Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Directed by Noel Jordan
Designed by Alicia Clements, Quincy Grant and Trent Suidgeest
Performed by Ella Hetherington, Jo Morris, Sarah Nelson and Drayton Morley
Subiaco Arts Centre
Until July 21
Ella Hetherington, Jo Morris and Sarah Nelson
The most important thing is always the telling of the story; children demand imagination and clarity, and adults deserve it. This is the secret of fables and fairy stories, and it’s the standard by which theatre for children can best be judged.
By that measure, and plenty of others beside, Barking Gecko’s show for these school holidays, This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing, was a genuinely enjoyable experience for the parents, grandparents and stray adults in the audience. For the kids (the play is recommended for six-year-olds and up), I turned to the infallible wriggle-meter, and the needle swung well away from “Bored and Restless” to the “Got ‘Em” end of the dial after a bit of customary early shuffling, and despite a little impatience towards the end (the play might be just a smidgen long).
As always with kids, the more their imagination is engaged, the more their interest is aroused. The fabulous scenes where Morris’s Beatrix’s lighthouse ship, made from a lantern, a bucket and a whisk, sails away to adventure, and where Hetherington’s fierce Albienne, full of Joan of Arc-like martial ardour, fights off the invaders with flour and ice-cream scoops, had them especially gripped and entranced. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian     

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cabaret: Well Swung

 Devised by Mick Christo
Performed by Nick Christo and Chrystal de Grussa
Downstairs at the Maj
7 – 10 September, 2011

Cabaret is an intimate exchange between the performer and his audience, and when you're up that close and personal, it helps a great deal if you like the person you’re watching.
There are a number of ways this can happen, and the talent of the artist and the quality of the show are only two of them. In the case of Nick Christo’s Well Swung, the third, and so far best, of the Cabaret Soiree series downstairs at His Majesty’s Theatre, it was his generosity that won me over. It was apparent from moment one that Christo was going to struggle to tear our attention away from his side-kick, the riveting Chrystal de Grussa, but, instead of relegating her to supporting status, he gave her full rein, to the great benefit of the show.