Thursday, September 26, 2013

Theatre: Storm Boy

By Tom Holloway
from the novel by Colin Thiele
Barking Gecko and Sydney Theatre Company
Directed by John Sheedy
Designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell
Lighting design by Damien Cooper
Sound design by Kingsley Reeve
Puppetry directed by Peter Wilson
Performed by Joshua Challenor (alternating with Rory Potter), Trevor Jamieson, Peter O’Brien, Michael Smith and Shaka Cook
Heath Ledger Theatre
Until October 5

Mr Percival with Michael Smith
It's all but instinctive to insert "the much-loved" before the title, Storm Boy. Colin Thiele's novel of loneliness, love and the hard truths of growing up is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and is constantly being rediscovered by new generations of kids, in classrooms and libraries (it has never been out of print), on film and the stage.
This ambitious, heartfelt co-production will do nothing but enhance its popularity and reputation.
This paper has described Barking Gecko as Perth's most exciting theatre company; it is, and it is also our most ambitious. Their work over the past couple of years has gone to a new level of creativity and production quality, thrilling for their young audiences, and fulfilling for their parents (and grandparents). The scope of the productions it has in the pipeline, in partnership with the Sydney Opera House, Opera Australia and the world's premiere stage company, Britain's National Theatre, is astonishing. 
It's like the Dockers making the grand final.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Broken Colour and The Boat Goes Over the Mountain

At the Blue Room:

Broken Colour
By Nina Pearce
Directed by Mike McCall
Designed by Iona McAuley
Lighting designed by Andrew Portwine
Sound design by The Men from Another Place
Performed by Caris Eves, Hannah Day, James Helm and Nina Pearce

Until October 5

The Boat Goes Over the Mountain
Written, directed and performed by Andrew Hale
with Dave Richardson
Designed by India Mehta
Until September 28

Caris Eves and James Helm

Mental illness is a difficult subject for the theatre, because finding a dramatic path between impenetrability and over-clarification requires delicate tightrope walking. That's why Equus, with its wretched psychoanalytical recapitulations of everything that happens in it, is among the worst of plays. No such danger here. Nina Pearce's Broken Colour, a drama of anxiety and ecstasy, is a considerable achievement.

 The Boat Goes over the Mountain is a dramatic monologue by Andrew Hale about his journey to South America with the sole intention of ingesting ayahuasca, a psychedelic concoction reputed to be a path to self- knowledge. 
Hale is a considerable theatre artist; however, the spasmodic narrative and lack of interaction with the play's location are serious shortcomings here.

Link here to the complete review of both productions in The West Australian

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Arena: Michael Jackson - The Immortal

Cirque Du Soleil
Perth Arena
Until September 22

Baaska Enkhbaatar
Of the 19 Cirque Du Soleil productions playing around the world, nine are permanently in Las Vegas; the Canadian troupe has hit treacherous paydirt in the Nevada desert.
It's hard to know whether its shows ever really "say" anything, but this one, a shameless, thematically shambolic tribute to the late King of Pop Michael Jackson says a lot about both its production values (very high), and its artistic sensibility (not so much).

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Theatre: Macbeth

by William Shakespeare
 Class Act
Directed by Stephen Lee
With Nick Maclaine, Rhoda Lopez, Angelique Malcolm, Shirley Van Sanden, Kyle Sargon, Daniel Buckle, Stephen Lee and Patrick Whitelaw
Subiaco Arts Centre Studio
Until September 14; then in schools

When you watch Shakespeare performed for students, the immortal power of his language most impresses you: “one fell swoop”, “the milk of human kindness” and the “poison’d chalice”, everything that follows that “damned spot” and “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” all come from Macbeth.
Class Act has produced an unpatronising, economical Macbeth for high school students. If its audience (which, by the way, was immaculately attentive throughout the performance I saw) can take these words and ideas away with it, and know from whence they came, that’s a treasure beyond reckoning.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bear with me!

I know a lot of people are having trouble accessing posts on this blog via Internet Explorer. It seems the problem is to do with cutting and pasting from Word documents into the blog - it makes HTML go to the Bahamas or something.
I'm working on it, and hopefully it will get well soon. All being well the Shrine review and Turnstile Awards stories should now be readable. Please keep checking in!

Music: Amanda Palmer and Grand Theft Orchestra

Astor Theatre
September 8 2013

I was unforgivably late to American punk cabaret diva Amanda Palmer’s Astor show, and caught only the last song by the support act, Die Roten Punkte.
By then, Palmer and her Grand Theft Orchestra, Jherek Bischoff (bass) Chad Raines (guitar) and Michael McQuiken (drums) were on stage themselves, enthusiastically backing up the Aussie comedy-rock duo’s rambunctious magnum opus, Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I Am a Lion).
Bischoff remained on stage for two solo numbers, and blew the evening away.
His first, Kule Kule, by the Congolese band, Konono No1, was an irresistible attack of solo bass rhythm. It was followed by the most beautiful ukulele playing I’ve ever heard, on A Semiperfect Number, which he wrote for the Kronos Quartet’s 40th birthday.
Like fellow Amanda Palmer alumna, the cellist Zoe Keating, Bischoff used live electronic sampling to create dense sound patterns underneath the uke, which he played like a classical guitarist. Simply amazing.
Palmer will never be an anti-climax, though.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Theatre: Shrine

Whitney Richards
Tim Winton
Directed by Kate Cherry
Designed by Trent Suidgeest

With Paul Ashcroft, John Howard, Luke McMahon, Sarah McNeill, Will McNeill and Whitney Richards
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
August 31 – Sept 15, 2013

Shrine, the third of Tim Winton’s annual forays with Black Swan into writing for the stage, leaves unanswered the question posed by his earlier Rising Water (2011) and Signs of Life (2012).
There’s no doubting his quality as a writer, the impact of his language and his instinct for character. He also has a wonderful knack for the transcendent, especially when his characters find themselves alone and exposed to nature.
Is this, though, enough to make him a playwright? Is the poet in Winton also a songwriter?

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Theatre: The 2012/3 Turnstile Awards

The Pav responds to Fiona Bruce's set for Boy Gets Girl
We're delighted to confirm the rumour that this year’s glittering Turnstile Awards Ceremony will be held in a hastily erected tent on the MCG immediately after the AFL Grand Final. The master of ceremonies will be Matthew Pavlich, who, hopefully, will be cup in hand.

Turnstiles are awarded to outstanding locally produced stage shows between September and August each year. There’s no set number of winners, and no attempt to rank the shows in order of merit.
In the past year, I reviewed 52 eligible productions for either or both The West Australian and this blog. It’s not an exhaustive list, and I apologise for the absences. Once again, I didn't consider cabaret, comedy or improv theatre, although there were some terrific productions in those categories.
It’s interesting how similarly each year’s rankings have panned out, even though I’ve made no effort to reach that outcome. Two years ago, ten shows collected a Turnstile; last year it was eight, and this year it’s nine. The good news is that this year the shows I thought well worth seeing (30) very substantially outnumbered those I’d have strongly encouraged you to avoid (11). There was only one production I gave my lowest rating to, and I know many people would be horrified at my low opinion of it! 

So, here, in chronological order, are the productions I thought earned a Turnstile:
    •     Perth Theatre Company’s brilliantly conceived and executed, high gloss On the Misconception of Oedipus, directed by Matthew Lutton with Natasha Herbert, Daniel Schlusser and Richard Pyros as modern manifestations of the infamous Sophoclean triangle.
    •    The tense, menacing Boy Gets Girl, Rebecca Gilman’s stalker thriller directed by Adam Mitchell for Black Swan, with great performances by Alison van Reeken and the genuinely creepy Myles Pollard, and a superb and, at one point, shocking set design by Fiona Bruce. 
    •    One of the performances of the year by Margi Brown Ash in Eve at the Blue Room, the sad story of the largely forgotten writer Eve Langley, written by Ash, Daniel Evans and Leah Mercer, who also directed.
    •    Mainly because it was so good, partly because Black Swan took a punt on it for the Perth Fringe, Stephen Adly Guirgis’s joyfully erudite New York drama The Motherfucker With the Hat, directed by Adam Mitchell (again) with a mighty performance by Rhoda Lopez and a scene-stealing one by Fayssal Bazzi.  
    •    Barking Gecko’s adventures continued with the delicate, good humoured Duck, Death and the Tulip, a story for kids about death, directed by John Sheedy with exemplary performances by George Shevtsov and the irresistible Ella Hetherington.
    •    At the Perth Fringe, the Duck House production of Jeffrey Jay Fowler's funny, fierce and sad Minnie and Mona, firmly controlled by director Kathryn Osborne and fearlessly performed by Arielle Gray and Gita Bezard.
    •    John Sheedy and Barking Gecko again, this time in partnership with WAAPA to deliver a fresh, energised Hamlet, with a passionate, sexy performance by James Sweeny in The Part, and a brilliant sound design by James Luscombe.
    •    Black Swan’s production of Other Desert Cities made John Robin Baitz’s sparkling story of familial and political disintegration in High Republican Palm Springs even better. Immaculately directed by Kate Cherry and designed by Christina Smith, with stellar performances by Janet Andrewartha and Conrad Coleby.
    •    Marthe Snorresdotter Rovic brought authenticity and magnetism to Hedda, her seamless, electric adaptation of the Ibsen classic, directed by co-adaptor Renato Fabretti with a cast including her fellow Norwegian Tone Skaardal and the charismatic, intelligent Phil Miolin (who had a very good year).
    •    And, finally, John Milson, who died early this year. Here, mate, have a Turnstile to go on with.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Circus: Cranked Up

Circus Oz
Performed by Ania Reynolds, Bec Matthews, Spenser Inwood, Vince Van Berkel, Carl Polke, Dale Woodbridge, Hazel Bock, Jez Davies, Kai Johnson-Peady, Mark Sheppard, Mason West and Stevee Mills
His Majesty’s Theatre
October 28 - 31, 2013

Mark Sheppard
I remember tagging along with Melbourne’s Soapbox Circus, and especially their funny, sport-mad strongman Greig (who later abandoned first names in favour of the initials HG and went on to bigger things), on a tour of Perth pubs and campuses with the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band in the mid-1970s. One of them taught me to juggle (only three balls, very badly).
Soapbox Circus went on to bigger things too, merging with Adelaide’s New Ensemble Circus to form Circus Oz in 1977. Now, 35 years later, an Australian Living Treasure – if circuses were awarded that honorific – they’re back in Perth, as energetic, committed and exuberant as ever.