Sunday, November 27, 2016

Theatre: Signifying Nothing (★★★★)

Written and directed by Greg Fleet
Designed by Joe Lui
Performed by Nicola Bartlett and Greg Fleet
with Luke Hewett, Roz Hammond, Matt Dyktnski, Sarah McNeill, Russya Connor, Summer Williams, Katie Keady and Matt Penny
Blue Room Theatre
Until December 3

Paul and Lanie Macbeth (Greg Fleet and Nicol Bartlett) are a power couple of big fish in the very small pond of WA politics. She’s a lawyer, he’s the new Member for Cannington and a Man Who Would Be King.
Which doesn’t bode well for Premier Byron Duncan, or even the Macbeth’s good mate James Banquo (the terrific Luke Hewitt).
But while Fleet  may be a celebrated stand-up comedian, he’s no fool. He’s adroitly dodged the traps lying in wait for this production; it’s not a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and neither is it a parody of WA politics.
I’ve no doubt that there’ll be people who find Signifying Nothing far from their liking, but, for me, it’s another highlight in a Blue Room season that’s had a bundle of them.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Theatre: Tissue (★★★★)

Devised and directed by Samantha Maclean and Timothy Green
Performed by Ann-Marie Biagioni, Elijah Melvin and Taryn Ryan
Blue Room Theatre
Until November 26
(l-r) Taryn Ryan, Ann-Marie Biagioni and Elijah Melvin
Twenty minutes or so into Samantha Maclean and Timothy Green’s slick, erotically-charged Tissue, I stopped taking reviewer’s notes. My last scribble, a not particularly perceptive “Oh Boy! Wowee!”, was testament to both the sheer quantity of its action, and the dazzling way it had been delivered.
The story is as contemporary as the last time you Googled, but as old as time. Zoe (Taryn Ryan) and Alex (Elijah Melvin) meet in one of those modern on-line ways, and Tissue tells the arc of their love affair, through attraction, affection, compulsion and addiction. It’s pornographic, onanistic and obsessive, love measured in hits, clicks and comments, but its mutant beauty is something Sophocles and Euripides would understand.

Read the complete review in The West Australian 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Tartuffe (★★★★)

by Moliere
adapted by Justin Fleming
Black Swan State Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company
Directed by Kate Cherry
Designed by Richard Roberts
Lighting designer David Murray
Sound designer Tony Brumpton
With Jenny Davis, Darren Gilshenan, Tessa Lind, Hugh Parker, James Sweeny, Steve Turner, Alison van Reeken, Emily Weir and Alex Williams

Heath Ledger Theatre
Until November 6
En garde! Emily Weir and Steve Turner
We’re in a ritzy two-story house in an affluent Australian suburb (an eminently liveable set by Richard Roberts). There’s a party going on.
It’s Moliere’s Tartuffe, but the house, the people in it, and the language they use, are straight out of David Williamson.
Justin Fleming’s adaptation of the great French comedy of extremely bad manners doesn’t tamper with the characters and their station in life, or the arrangement of the text.
That takes a little getting used to. Rhyming couplets, of which the dialogue in Moliere and Fleming’s adaptation is composed, can seem to our unaccustomed ears like pantomime doggerel.
But the director Kate Cherry and her cast take on the audience’s early qualms with heedless confidence, and it pays off.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Gutenberg! The Musical! (★★★★)

by Scott Brown and Anthony King
Directed by Erin Hutchinson
Musical director Joshua James Webb
Performed by Andrew Baker and Tyler Jacob Jones
Hellenic Club, Stirling St, Perth
Until November 5

Holland Street Productions are the tiny Perth theatre company that can. Their hits include the 2014 Perth Fringe winner Point & Shoot that went on to collect gongs at the Sydney and Brighton fringes, this year’s rambunctious Dr Felicity Rickshaw’s Celebrity Sex Party and the wonderful cafĂ© confessional, Fuck Decaf.
Which makes their decision, despite the in-house writing heft of Tyler Jacob Jones and Robert Woods, to take on a decade-old Off-Broadway pocket musical especially interesting.
It doesn’t take long to see why they did it. Gutenberg! The Musical! is a sleek, high-octane vehicle, and Jones and Andrew Baker keep their pedal to the metal for all its 85 minutes (plus a 20-minute recuperative interval that the audience needs as much as the performers).
Bud and Guy, two less-than-gifted writers, pitch their idea for a musical about, of all things, the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. Finding little information about Gutenberg on Google, they resort to a historical fiction (“fiction that’s true”) set in the happy but horribly filthy German town of Schlimer, inhabited by characters like his straw-blonde, half-witted assistant Helvetica and the Satan-worshipping Monk (both his name and profession).
As Bud and Guy are pitching in their street clothes, they identify the characters by putting on caps with titles like Drunk Man, Beef Fat Trimmer, Anti-Semite (a recurring gag), Rat and Whore on them. There are lots of caps – at one time they are pegged to a clothesline to form a Chorus Line – and they are swapped in a dizzying whirl of action.
Meanwhile, Bud and Guy use and misuse every convention of musical theatre – the happy opener, the rocking first act closer, the romantic ballad – in a series of adorably ridiculous songs (Joshua James Webb’s keyboard accompaniment is elite) as we thunder towards the inevitable happy ending.
If I’ve got an issue with the show, it’s only that it’s almost too fast, too jam-packed. Much as I enjoyed it – and that was very much – I was a little relieved when it was over.
That small discombobulation aside, Gutenberg! The Musical! is another winner from this great little troupe. I wouldn’t miss it for quids.

This review appeared in The West Australian 29. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Theatre: Frankenstein: Some Assembly Required (★★★)

Jessica Moyle
Feet First Collective
Directed by Teresa Izzard
Designed by Olivia Faraone and Olivia Tartaglia
Sound design George Ashcroft
Lighting design Dana Ioppolo
Performed by Zoe Hollyoak, Andrew David Sutherland, Haydon Wilson, Declan Brown, Bubble Maynard and Jessica Moyle
Moores Building Fremantle
Until November 5

The story of the scientist Victor Frankenstein and his Creature have been so imbedded in, and distorted by, popular culture that it’s hard to recall where it all began, in Mary Shelley gothic novel published almost two centuries ago.
There are no Herman Munsters or Frank N. Furters in the Feet First Collective’s take on the story, a genuine and often successful attempt to capture the spirit, if not the detail, of Shelley’s story.
There’s much to admire and enjoy in the approach the creator/director Teresa Izzard took to its telling. Its fragmented, immersive presentation, with the audience moving between the brooding spaces of the Moores Building while snippets of the story whirl around it, is ambitious and striking. Some of its tableaux, particularly the awakening of the Creature and the creation of a female companion for it, deliver an almost physical shock.
By and large the cast respond well to the challenges of the text and approach; Victor (Andrew David Sutherland) and the Creature (Haydon Wilson) perform a horrifying pas de deux as they descend to their fates, and the attendants/ female creatures Mary (Bubble Maynard) and the ill-fated Justine (Jessica Moyle) are delicate and frenzied in turn.
Zoe Hollyoak is less convincing as Frankenstein’s bride Elizabeth. Hollyoak is a unpredictable, high-energy actor, but this too-fragmented role didn’t play to her strengths. The empathy you should feel for the innocent Elizabeth doomed by her husband’s insane ambition is never given a chance to emerge.
Which is indicative of the show’s problem. Short scenes in different rooms means lots of clambering around and jostling for position, often for scraps of dialogue and action that hardly seemed worth the effort.
I know it was challenging, and imagine it was satisfying, to deliver the production in this way (and let me put on record that I have no problem at all with promenade theatre), but the audience is the purpose of theatre, not a mere witness to its progress.
A little less shuffling and a bit more card play would have made this undoubtedly impressive production much more satisfying.