Friday, August 28, 2015

The Mars Project (★★★★)

Written and directed by Will O’Mahoney
with WAAPA 3rd Year acting students 
State Theatre Centre rehearsal room
Until 29 August

In 2013, at the suggestion of WAAPA’s programme director Andrew Lewis, the playwright and director Will O’Mahoney embarked on a project to devise and mount an original production with the academy’s then first-year acting class.
The result, The Mars Project, ranks among the most ambitious and impressive new works to arrive on the Perth stage this year.
It must have been a daunting exercise for O’Mahoney; seventeen young actors, a big chunk of two years of their finely honed talent – and a blank piece of paper.
It’s a cast full of enormous potential, and all of them shine very brightly in a work that, perhaps, could only ever have emerged under WAAPA’s auspices, and that we are very fortunate to see.
 Read the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, August 24, 2015

Carrie the Musical (★★)

By Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D Cohen
Based on the novel by Stephen King
WAAPA 3rd Year Music Theatre students
Directed by Crispin Taylor
Music Director David King
Choreographer Christabel Ellis
Set Design by Madeleine Watt
Lighting Design by Amelia Blanco

Geoff Gibbs Theatre, WAAPA
Until August 29

In 1988, the Royal Shakespeare Company was persuaded to mount a ghastly musical based on an infamous horror story that became one of the biggest flops in Broadway history. Twenty-five years later the show was given a makeover and returned to the stage. The stinger, of course, was that it was still awful. 
None of this is the fault of this cast, another marvellous herd of all-singing, all-hoofing WAAPA musical theatre students, all of whom make the most of a very bad lot.

Let’s hope the Australian musical theatre is able to support professional careers for the stampede of ability heading its way.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Theatre: Latitudes (★★)

By Mark Walsh
Directed by Mikala Westall
Designed by Patrick Howe
Sound design Will Slade
Lighting design Chris Donnelly
Performed by Tessa Carmody, Jo Morris and Claire Munday
Until February 21

I have an aversion to plays – Peter Shaffer’s Equus comes quickly to mind – that insist on explaining themselves to you. No such accusation can be levelled at Mark Walsh’s Latitudes (at the Blue Room, directed by Mikala Westall).
It’s an opaque, convoluted affair that, despite strong performances and an impressive creative team, defied my best efforts to untangle.

Read the complete review in The West Australian.

Dedications (★★★★)

Written and performed by John O’Hara
Written and directed by Anthony Harkin
Musical director/piano Luke Hunter
Cello Anna Sarcich
Downstairs at the Maj
20 – 22 August 2015

Perth-born and WAAPA trained (as is his co-writer and director Anthony Harkin), John O’Hara has forged a fine career as a character principal in juggernaut musicals like Cats and, most recently, Wicked. Dedications is his first cabaret, but he and Harkin are as sure-footed, poised and nuanced as the most experienced of its exponents.
Their idea is inspired: bouncing off the real-life Dedications and Love Songs, Richard Mercer’s long-running late night show on Sydney FM radio, O’Hara plays an eclectic mix of lost souls and hopeless romantics, all calling in to empty their hearts to the unseen, endlessly sympathetic, “Love God”.
And he sings. Brilliantly. All those power ballads, from Whitney to Katy, Lionel to Huey, that make the FM world go round.
And when O’Hara dangles himself from an imaginary coathanger in a heartbreaking version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire, and follows with a transfixing take on Annie Lennox’s endlessly amazing Why, a great little show becomes something much more substantial. Someone needs to bring it back soon.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, August 17, 2015

Theatre: All that Glitters (★★★)

Devised by Gita Bezard, Adriane Daff, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs and Kathryn Osborne
Directed by Gita Bezard
Designed by Tessa Darcey
Lighting and sound Joe Lui
Performed by Adriane Daff, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs
Blue Room Theatre
Until August 29

Here come the Hunters again. Smart as tacks, sexy as all get out and prolific to the point of frenzy, Perth’s theatre’s indie darlings The Last Great Hunt return after a few nanoseconds absence with maybe their smartest, sexiest and most frenzied show yet, 55 minutes of social conscience in skin tight gold lamé to the beat of Taylor Swift.
After “All That Glitters…” we are, of course, meant to fill in the unsaid “…Is Not Gold”. Our country, they say, is doing terrible things to asylum seekers, and we are complicit by our high-life acquiescence, our casual racism and, even more, by the facile sterility of our opposition to these policies and attitudes.
Fair enough too. It’s a point worth making, and the Hunters go in pretty hard at us, and themselves, doing it.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Theatre: Hamlet (★★★★½)

Matilda Ridgeway and Josh McConville
By William Shakespeare 
Bell Shakespeare
Director Damien Ryan
Designer Alicia Clements
Lighting designer Mat Cox
Featuring Josh McConville, Matilda Ridgway, Sean O’Shea, Doris Younane, Ivan Donato, Michael Wahr, Philip Dodd, Robin Goldsworthy, Julia Ohannessian and Catherine Terracini
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until August 16

The Prince is on a roll. There are all-night queues for Benedict Cumberbatch’s West End stand, and Bell Shakespeare’s short season at the Heath Ledger is a sell-out.
As it should be.
This Hamlet, with its clear and intelligent direction by Damian Ryan, should completely satisfy both aficionados and newcomers to the greatest of plays.
If that’s too bold a claim for the play, there’s no doubting its hero is the first of drama’s characters. He utterly dominates his play, physically and intellectually. He speaks a third of its 4,000 odd lines; it needs no secondary plots or truly independent second lives.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Circus: Absinthe (★★★★)

Ukrainian furniture removalists were never like this
The Empire Spiegeltent
Perth Arena Forecourt

Until August 29

Those wonderful folks who gave you Empire a couple of years ago are back, with Absinthe, and it’s a doozy.
Since it premiered in 2006, the show, mounted by the Australians Wayne Harrison and Ross Mollison, has taken Manhattan, and then Vegas – where it is approaching its 2000th performance at Caesar’s Palace – by storm.
What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, though; this touring production has the same structure as its stay-at-home sibling, with its MCs, The Gazillionaire and his ditsy side-kick Abby Bobbins, dispensing gobsmacking crudities and introducing a dazzling line-up of twirlers, balancers and fliers.
Cabaret circus is the 21st Century’s vaudeville, and it’s no wonder that the public flocks to it. If you liked the Perth Fringe smash La Soiree, you’ll LOVE Absinthe. And if Cirque du Soleil’s philosophical meanderings leave you a little underwhelmed these days (I plead guilty), Absinthe will quickly cure what ails you. Yowzah!

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Circus: Totem (★★★★)

Anything you can't do…
Cirque du Soleil
The Grand Chapiteau
Belmont Racecourse
Until September 27

You don’t have to buy into Cirque du Soleil completely to admire what the Canadian juggernaut has accomplished in its 30-year history.
It has had a revolutionary effect on circus and its staging, both by the shows it has mounted, and by its influence on other circus companies around the world.
Perhaps that cross-fertilisation is beginning to work back the other way, because Totem, the latest CdS show to visit Perth, is both more traditional and yet more contemporary than we’ve previously seen from it.
There’s still a certain amount of its trademark mumbo-jumbo to wade through, but what Totem really is about is production impact and bang for the buck, and it certainly delivers on both.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Music: Tim Minchin with Lucky Oceans, family and friends (★★★★)

Sonic Sessions
Fremantle Town Hall
August 6, 2015

Outside the Fremantle Town Hall last night, a friend said that, 20 years on, she’d be able to boast that she’d been at this gig by Tim Minchin.
That may be a little overemphatic, but it’s easy to see where she was coming from. The chance to see a genuine phenomenon (and there’s no doubt that’s what Minchin is), surrounded by his family and close friends, talking and performing his way through his lucky life and gilded career for a rapt hometown audience of 500, was something very special.
Especially so when he was coaxed through that story, and accompanied on his songs, by the wonderful Lucky Oceans, whose pedal-steel playing was downright celestial.
This was especially so on Charlie Rich’s gospel anthem, Feel Like Going Home, one of a sprinkling of covers including a bluegrass version of Muddy Waters’ Got My Mojo Working and the Stones’ Shine a Light that got the old hall rocking.
Indeed, it felt at times like a Sunday session at Clancy’s, Minchin’s uncles’ famous pub just up the road, where the young Minchin pulled beers and listened to Oceans and another uncle, the legendary Jim Fisher.
Uncle Jim was there, on guitar and mandolin, as was his cousin Tom, who played bass and contributed bullroarer vocals on Shine a Light, and Minchin’s long-time drummer, Ben Vanderwall.
Minchin’s brother Dan and sister Nell played and sang, and old friend Karl Wendt joined him on Tim’s powerful early break-up ballad, At Least I Tried.
The stories, of Tim’s childhood vicissitudes, the family pianola on which he learnt his trademark breakneck blues scales, were touching, happy, sad and revealing. Growing up as an artist, working at the Blue Room, Barking Gecko and, a sad irony, the Perth Theatre Company (note to George Brandis: international success and excellence in the arts don’t just happen; they are nurtured and seasoned by small companies in little theatres).
Put together, it was a window into the Minchin provenance, a combination of influences and opportunities that make him the ultimate jack of all trades and master of them all – or, as he put it, allow him to “make people think I’m smarter than I am – and it’s fucking worked!”
It sure has.

This review appeared in The West Australian 8.8.15

Here are a couple of the songs from the show, recorded (on a shaky camcorder) at an earlier get-together at the Sydney Opera House.

Shine a Light, with Tim and Cousin Tom:

and Harbour Lights, with Tim and Uncle Jim;