Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Musical theatre: The Beautiful Game (★★½)

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Book and lyrics by Ben Elton
Director and choreographer Meryl Tankard
Musical director David King
Set and costume designer Sallyanne Facer
Performed by WAAPA 3rd Year Music Theatre students
Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA
August 20 – 27, 2016

The Beautiful Game is a musical about the lives of the players in a Catholic soccer team, and their friends, during the deadliest period of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
In 2000, when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton premiered the work, no one could be sure that Ireland’s sectarian violence had finally ended. Lloyd Webber has compared The Beautiful Game to South Pacific, which premiered only four years after WWII and was controversial for the issues it raised so close to the events on which it was based.
At the time, The Beautiful Game must have seemed just as topical and confronting.
Unfortunately, that’s the only real similarity between the two musicals. For all its sincerity and earnestness, The Beautiful Game feels like a rushed side project for two successful and very busy writers.
Meryl Tankard, who choreographed The Beautiful Game’s original West End season, returns to it as director. Her participation, supported by the Jackman Furness Foundation, is one of the visits to WAAPA by internationally recognised creative artists that undoubtedly enrich its students’ learning.
On this occasion – unusually for WAAPA – the same isn’t entirely true of the audience’s experience.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: A Tale of Two Cities (★★½)

By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud
Directed by Hugh Hodgart
Set and costume design by Chris Kydd Brain
Performed by WAAPA 3rd Year acting students
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, WAAPA
19-25 August, 2016

From “It was the best of times” to “It is a far, far better thing”, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities burned into the mythos of generations of misty-eyed boys and girls. Sydney Carton’s martyrdom stood alongside Captain Oates’s walk and the Spartans’ last stand as paragons of noble sacrifice and grace in the shadow of death.
Terence Rattigan and John Gielgud wrote their stage adaptation in 1935 but, for a charmingly generous reason, it stayed in the cupboard for 78 years.
This production by WAAPA’s graduating acting course students, then, is one of its rare outings. To be honest, it quickly becomes apparent why so few producers have felt compelled to give it an airing.
And perhaps, after a year that’s brought us a muscular Coriolanus and a mighty A View From the Bridge (to say nothing of the music student’s absolutely fabulous Drowsy Chaperone), it’s almost a relief to find that, unlike Lucie Manette, WAAPA isn’t perfect!

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Theatre: I Do I Don’t (★★★)

Written and performed by Whitney Richards
Directed by Rachel Chant
Sound designer and composer Brett Smith
Lighting designer Joe Lui
Choreographer Claire Nichols
Blue Room Theatre
Until September 3

I’m a Whitney Richards fan.
She’s back in town with I Do I Don’t, an honest, often painful, recollection of her early life and fractured family.
It’s clear that there have been some rocky times for her over the past few years in the bigger ponds she’s been swimming in, and this has sparked a desire – compulsion even – to reconstruct the past that she finds in scraps of memory, the casual documents of life, and conversations with family members. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Othello (★★★½)

By William Shakespeare
Bell Shakespeare
Director Peter Evans
Designer Michael Hankin
Lighting designer Paul Jackson
Composer/ sound designer Steve Toulmin
Featuring Ray Chong Nee, Yalin Ozucelik, Elizabeth Nabben, James Lugton, Michael Wahr, Edmund Lemnke-Hogan, Joanna Downing, Alice Keohavong and Huw McKinnon

Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until August 20

Donald Trump may boast, “I am what I am”, but Shakespeare’s irreplaceable villain will have none of it.
Iago (Yalin Ozucelik) warns us, in the first minutes of his play, “I am not what I am”, and tells us much more besides; his hatred of his brilliant general, Othello (Ray Chong Nee), the reason for it, and his lethal intention.
We’ve barely opened this whodunnit, and we already know its who, why and how. The many surprises that follow arise from Iago’s sheer audacity.
He is an improviser and a tightrope walker. He sets action in motion and exploits whatever emerges to his best advantage.
And, ironically, it’s the one thing he plans in advance that brings him undone.

This Othello may not quite reach the heights of last year’s dazzling Hamlet, but it’s another reason for us to be grateful to Bell Shakespeare for bringing us fine productions of some of the greatest works of the world’s theatre. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Theatre: The Trembling Giant (★★★)

Those Who Love You
Written and directed by Monty Sallur
Performed by Zoe Street and Peter Lane Townsend
Blue Room Theatre
Until August 27

Monty Sallur tells the grim, interesting story of two renegade survivors of ecological disaster hiding from a brutal governing corporation and nurturing what we gather is one of the very last remaining trees.
Every day Flint (Peter Lane Townsend) takes the risky trip from their grey bedrock bunker to search for naturals – the rare rich soil left on the surface – to feed the tree while Margo (Zoe Street) stays behind to tend to it.
Sallur (who also directs) gives us a convincing, though quickly sketched, picture of a barren world where the remnant population live in cities of heaped-up one-room cubes, and stony storms rumble across overwhelming desolations.
Despite my concern that so much of our best new writing centres on dystopia and apocalypse (perhaps, as one of the generation who have exploited the world like none before, I shouldn’t be surprised that those who are going to inherit whatever is left should be bleak about the future), The Trembling Giant is a worthy addition to the repertoire of independent theatre in WA.

Read the complete review in The West Australian 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Theatre: The Caucasian Chalk Circle (★★★★)

by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Ralph Manheim
Black Swan State Theatre Company and The National Theatre of China
Directed by Dr Wang Xiaoying
Designed by Richard Roberts
Costume Designer Zhao Yan
Mask designer Prof Zhang Huaxiang
Lighting design by Mark Howett
Composer/sound designer Clint Bracknell
With Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Adam Booth, Kylie Farmer, Luke Hewitt, Geoff Kelso, Alex Malone, Felicity McKay, Lynette Narkle, Kenneth Ransom, James Sweeny, Steve Turner and Alison Van Reeken
Music performed by Clint Bracknell and Arunachala

Heath Ledger Theatre
Until August 14

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht’s 1944 parable of tyranny and the “terrible temptation to do good”, is based on an ancient Chinese folk story dramatized eight centuries ago as The Circle of Chalk.
The fulcrum of the story, though, is told in many forms in many cultures dating back as far as the legend of the judgment of Solomon.
So there’s a fine sense of closing another circle in this cooperative production of a German play set in the USSR, translated by an American, staged by an eminent Chinese director with a creative team from both China and Australia, performed by an Australian cast, with a deliberate and significant contribution from the inheritors of a living culture with stories that date back tens of thousands of years.
It’s an ambitious culmination of the tenure of Black Swan’s departing artistic director Kate Cherry and the signature piece of the company’s 25th anniversary season.
Happily, the result is a clear and persuasive staging of Brecht’s tale, and a rollicking entertainment to boot.

Read the complete review in The West Australian