Monday, June 27, 2016

Theatre: The Astronaut (★★★★½)

Created and performed by Samantha Chester
Directed by Frances Barbe
Composer Ekrem Mulayim
Designed by Isabel O’Neill
Lighting and vision designed by Matthew Osborne
Until July 9

 The best physical theatre occupies the space between the abstraction of dance and the directness of drama, and when it clicks it has the power and insight of both.
Last year, Dalisa Pigrim’s Gudirr Gudirr, a transcendent example of the form, had me spellbound. It’s happened again, this time courtesy of Samantha Chester’s mysterious, superbly executed and ineffably sad The Astronaut.
Even more than Pigrim, Chester eschews text in favour of movement and image.
The space that creates, in the words of The Astronaut’s director – and Chester’s colleague on the faculty of WAAPA – Frances Barbe, operates between “the performer’s intention and experience of a work and the audience’s perception and experience of it”.
Though I took some different, personal, thoughts away with me (perhaps because of my direct memory of those scratchy images), I’m sure my admiration for The Astronaut will be shared by everyone lucky enough to experience it.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Theatre: What’s Love Got to do With It (★★★)

The Cutting Room Floor
Directed by Rachael Woodward
Designed by Olivia Tartaglia
Devised and performed by Tristan Balz, Jacinta Larcombe, Mariah O’Dea, Zoe Hollyoak, Tristan McInnes, Phoebe Sullivan
Blue Room Theatre
Until June 25

The highlight of TILT, the WAAPA Performance Making course’s final showcase last year, was a button-bright boardroom satire about love, heartbreak and how those maladies might be ameliorated, or cured completely, by pharmaceutical means. 

It was a killer idea that, with just the merest tweaking, could go into the Fringe or a Blue Room season with “sold out” written all over it.
In retrospect, “merest tweaking” was a bit optimistic.
Morphing a show from a 20-minute-long skit into a 50-minute-long play isn’t simply a matter of adding more of the same.
It requires wholly new elements; plot and character development, a genuine narrative arc, action and reaction, a twist or two – just about everything that a skit can do without but a play must have.
What’s Love Got To Do With It hasn’t yet completely found its feet (if anything, the storyline was not as clear as it was in the shorter version) but there’s more than enough wiz and bang on show to thrill its audience.
And, maybe, get some “sold out” signs up at the Blue Room. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Theatre: Angels in America (★★★½)

Stuart Halusz and Jo Morris (pic Daniel James Grant)
by Tony Kushner
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Directed by Kate Cherry
Designed by Christina Smith
Lighting design by Matt Scott
Composer and sound designer Ash Gibson Greig
With Adam Booth, Stuart Halusz, Felicity McKay, Jo Morris, Will O’Mahony, Kenneth Ransom, Toni Scanlan and John Stanton

Heath Ledger Theatre
Until June 19

Tony Kushner’s celebrated Angels in America is a great small play set inside an epic one.
It’s, at once, tightly bound to a particular time and place (America, 1985) and a freewheeling millenarian phantasmagoria.
And it’s a prescient play (or, at least, a lucky one): Kushner’s ferocious angel may not have brought in the Millennium, but its wings beat above New York on 9/11; in the here and now, Donald Trump’s ascendant star uncannily looms above the play.
As thoughtfully directed by Cherry, and with excellent work from all five principal actors, it would stand as complete, deeply thought-provoking, theatre on a smaller canvas.
Kushner, though, has wider and greater ambitions. Hr is attempting nothing less than, as he subtitles his work, “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”.
This ambition provides Cherry and her designer Christina Smith with some big-moment opportunities and some functional challenges.
There’s also some textual baggage that could have been jettisoned without our understanding of Kushner’s purpose being hampered in the slightest.
But that’s okay.
I hope Cherry, as a parting gift, has embedded Angels in America Part 2: Perestroika in a future Black Swan season.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Theatre: So Long Suckers (★★★½)

Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company and Bunuba Cultural Enterprises
 Script by Peter Docker
with Ian Wilkes, Emmanuel James Brown and Kyle J Morrison

Directed by Kyle J Morrison
Design by India Mehta
Lighting design by Chris Donnelly
Music and sound design by Darren Reutens
Starring Peter Docker, Ian Wilkes and Emmanuel James Brown
Subiaco Arts Centre until June 4

So Long Suckers is a cry from the heart about the destructive power of grog in the Aboriginal community. As its writer, Peter Docker, says, “Grog. Police. Jail” has replaced “guns, germs and steel” as a principal agent of the dispossession of the original owners of the country and a wider, similarly disempowered, population.
The play works around a metaphor with wide and direct historical resonances; that alcohol figuratively “cuts off your head and takes it away” – a fate literally and famously suffered by the characters’ outlaw heroes, the Noongar Yagan, the Bunuba Jandamarra and Ned Kelly.
“Men without heads”, on the booze, in cars, on trains, in parks and on the street, are easy targets for the system of summary arrest and the dreaded bench warrants that endlessly ensnare them.
So Long Suckers is not easy theatre, and its density and aggression occasionally reduces its impact.  There’s no denying, though, that it is an impressive gathering of artistic talent, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, to expose an evil that afflicts communities, families and individuals across a land we are still learning to share.

Read the complete review in The West Australian