Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Theatre: The Mars Project (★★★★)

Written and directed by Will O’Mahony
Lighting designed by Chris Donnelly
Performed by Luke Fewster, Andrea Gibbs, Felicity McKay, Will O’Mahony and Steve Turner
The Blue Room
Until May 7

Andrea Gibbs (pic Cameron Etchells)
It’s only eight months since Will O’Mahony’s The Mars Project was staged by WAAPA’s 3rd year Acting students.
I questioned whether it could be successfully produced except under the auspices of an institution like WAAPA. O’Mahony has achieved it triumphantly.
The project of the title is a scheme to send four “colonists” on a one-way (and inevitably fatal) mission to the red planet.
Wren (Felicity McKay) joins 200,000 applicants for the project, and as her application survives cull after cull, down to the last 50, her ambition for fame and ruthlessness grows to a tragic intensity.
None of this matters to her autistic twin brother Sam (Luke Fewster), in his closed, compulsive world. Wren, like Earth to the silent Mars, was born with him but has chosen her own path.

It’s powerful, painful material, performed by an outstanding cast. Once again Andrea Gibbs shows that she’s as fine a dramatic actor as she is a comedian and improviser, in a performance that sits squarely in the human heart of this remarkable play. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Friday, April 22, 2016

Theatre: Cats (★★★)

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
From Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Design by John Napier
Music director Paul White
Choreography by Gillian Lynne
Burswood Theatre
until May 8

There’s little point in regurgitating the story of the gathering of a tribe of cats, the jellicles, under the kindly auspices of the wise and aged Old Deuteronomy to select the fortunate feline who’ll ascend to the Heavyside Layer and be given a new life.
It’s merely a vehicle – a thin and shaky one at that – to introduce the parade of characters Eliot versified.
Each, in turn, anchors a series of all-but-unrelated set pieces; when it comes down to it, Cats is a variety song and dance show.
It’s a snazzy one, though.
It’s easy to see why Cats has been so popular for so long, and why this season will sell its pajamas off, even if it’s a feast that is tastier than filling, and more spectacular than truly satisfying.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Theatre: Selkie (★★★½)

by Finn O’Branagain
Directed by Joe Lui
Choreography by Laura Boynes
Designed by Cherish Marrington
Sound and lighting designed by Joe Lui
Featuring Paul Grabovac, Ella Hetherington, Kynan Hughes and Yilin Kong
The Blue Room
Until April 30

Yilin Kong (pic Cameron Etchells)

The legend of the selkie, seal-like creatures who shed their skins to live on dry land among humans, is part of the folklore of the islands and coasts of the remote North Atlantic.
It’s easy to see why the playwright Finn O’Branagáin, whose interest in legend and myth was manifest in last year’s The Epic, would be drawn to the selkie, and its no surprise that Joe Lui should leap at the chance to direct the result.
They are a formidable team, and Selkie is a provocative and disquieting work.The story might have both more complexity and clarity (at 45 minutes, it has the time to deliver both), and, for all its quality, the design could use more depth and intricacy.
Even as it stands, though, Selkie is a noteworthy start to a Blue Room season of increasing importance to Perth theatre.

Read the complete review in The West Australian 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories (★★★½)

Adapted by Dan Giovannoni and Tom Kerridge
from the story by Reinhardt Jung
Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Directed by Luke Kerridge
Designed by Jonathon Oxlade
Lighting design by Chris Donnelly
Composer and sound designer by Ian Moorhead
Lead puppeteer Tim Watts
Bambert constructed by Hamish Fletcher
Performed by Igor Sas, Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris, Nick Maclaine and Tim Watts
State Theatre Centre Studio
Until April 23

The publicity for Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories recommends it for ages 8 to 108. Behind that ambitious marketing hyperbole, there lies a truth about the wonderful quality, and genuine fascination for all ages, of contemporary theatre for young audiences.
No-one has been more successful at it than Perth’s Barking Gecko Theatre Company under the audacious artistic directorship of John Sheedy,
Sheedy’s successor, Matt Edgerton, has assembled an A-list team for his first production, the adaptation (by Dan Giovannoni and Luke Kerridge, who also directs) of Reinhardt Jung’s 1998 German novel, Bamberts Buch der verschollenen Geschichten.
I have some reservations about the clarity of the story, and will be interested to see how it plays to those “all ages”, but, despite those misgivings, there’s no doubting that the skills and intent Barking Gecko has built up over the years remain strong as it enters its new era.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Theatre: Picnic at Hanging Rock (★★★★)

by Tom Wright
adapted from Joan Lindsay’s novel
Black Swan State Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre
Directed by Matthew Lutton
Designed by Zoë Atkinson
Lighting design by Paul Jackson
Composer Ash Gibson Greig
Sound design by J. David Franzke
With Harriet Gordon Anderson, Arielle Gray, Amber McMahon, Elizabeth Nabben and Nikki Shiels

Heath Ledger Theatre Until April 17
Arielle Gray, Nikki Shiels, Amber McMahon, Elizabeth Nabben and Harriet Gordon-Anderson (pic Pia Johnson)

The author Bruce Chatwin described Australia as “a country of lost children”. Unlike settled Britain or frontier America, the Australia confronting its European colonists was empty, smothering and malevolent. A wrong step, the unseen crossing of a creek, an open window, and, as in Frederick McCubbin’s Lost or Paul Kelly’s One Night the Moon, the bush closes in.    
It’s unsurprising that Matthew Lutton has been drawn to Picnic at Hanging Rock, an Australian classic and, more than that, part of our mythology.
The achievement of the production is transforming Lindsay’s faux-historicity and the soft-focused erotic mystery of Weir’s film (I’m not its greatest fan) into an all-stops-out horror story.
We never see the Hanging Rock. And this is no picnic.

Read the complete review in The West Australian