Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Theatre: Hamlet

William Shakespeare

Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Performed by WAAPA Third Year Acting students
Directed by John Sheedy
Designed by Patrick James Howe
Sound design by James Luscombe
Subiaco Arts Centre
Until March 22

James Sweeny and Grace Smibert
John Sheedy’s fresh, energised Hamlet shows its hand early. In its opening tableau, orderlies mop a bleak institutional common room, with its linoleum floor, green wall tiles and neon strip lighting. Mantovani’s saccharine, soothing ’50s hit, Charmaine, is playing. A green, illuminated hospital sign on the wall reads Helsingør. When Hamlet appears, he’s in dressing gown and trackpants, a patient’s tag on his wrist.
Now where have we heard that tune before? Where have we seen that room? Where have we seen this damaged prince?
Such direct and pervasive evocations (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with a more than passing nod to Marat/Sade) might rankle. In this case, though, they work so well and consistently that, unusually for referential treatments like this, they liberate rather than bind the action and the performances.
In both its own terms, and those it was designed to achieve, it succeeded entirely.  

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Theatre: The Importance of Being Earnest

Black Swan State Theatre Company
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Kate Cherry
Set design by Alicia Clements
with Adriane Daff, Jenny Davis, Rebecca Davis, Stuart Halusz, Michael Loney, Pete Rowsthorn, Scott Sheridan and Pauline Whyman
Heath Ledger Theatre
Until March 28
Scott Sheridan and Adriane Daff (Garry Marsh pic)
The full title of Oscar Wilde’s most famous and popular comedy is The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Play for Serious People. It’s both an invitation and an admonition.
Conventional wisdom has Earnest as a witty, farcical dissection of late Victorian attitudes to love, marriage (and, more recently and contentiously, sex and even homosexuality), but that’s probably putting the hansom cab before the horse. I’m of the view he was using their hypocrisies and paradoxes as a jumping off point for a pure entertainment rather than the other way around.
It’s a perfectly legitimate pleasure to sit in a comfortable seat in a dimly-lit auditorium watching attractive, extravagantly costumed people in ludicrously funny situations saying intricately clever and memorable things to one another.
This Earnest will give you some, but not all, of that well-deserved delectation. I wouldn’t be surprised if this production finds its rhythm as its season progresses; but, on opening night at least, I’m afraid it was dancing with a limp.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Perth Festival: It's a wrap!

This year’s Perth Festival gave us a clear indication of its director Jonathan Holloway’s vivacious, egalitarian view of the arts.
I doubt that Holloway has an elitist bone in his body, but he does have a tailor’s instinct for the warp and weft of artists and their performances. Much of what he delivered this year had the sheen of high art, but if he made a single selection for his programme that didn’t have genuine (and in many cases compulsive) appeal to enough people to seriously tick over the box office, I’d like to know what it was.
Jonathan Holloway
In the new festival landscape in Perth, with a mightily enlarged, high-octane Fringe offering shows at close to cinema prices in a carnival precinct going toe-to-toe with the established festival, Holloway approach is exactly correct, and crucial to his gig’s success.      
I can only comment about the theatre programme (for a comprehensive overview of the whole occurrence, link here to my friend and mentor Steve Bevis’s take in The West) but it was a unqualified success, both in its component parts and taken as a whole.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Music: Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet

Perth Concert Hall
27 February 2013

I’m curious to know what Laurie Anderson had in mind doing when she locked in the commission to collaborate and tour with the Kronos Quartet that saw her on stage with them at the Perth Concert Hall last night.
Landfall, the massive, elegiac work they performed was clearly not how Scenes From My New Novel, the title of the work they were commissioned for, was originally planned. No one can plan for a spring tide and a great wind from the south.
pic: Ben Crabtree
On October 29 last year, just as we were sending back our RSVPs for the Perth Festival launch, Hurricane Sandy smashed into the US Eastern Seaboard, wrecking the great Atlantic boardwalks and the communities behind it and flooding much of Lower Manhattan (including, we learn in Landfall, Anderson’s basement). That event, the foreboding of its approach and the effect, both physical and emotional, of its arrival, dominate the seventy-minute piece.
Ironic, then, that Anderson and Kronos were performing in Perth just as Rusty, our clockwise version of Sandy, was making a landfall of his own on the Pilbara Coast.
What transpired can’t be better described than it is by the great Ray Purvis in The West link here, and I share his enthusiasm entirely (although I’ve always been reminded more of John Huston in Chinatown than Darth Vader by Anderson’s pet vocoder voice). For me, it was a fitting end to a festival spinning around the eye of the avant-garde, especially in its American manifestations.