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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Avenue Q

I think it was family loyalty that took me along to Avenue Q. That, and some pretty high recommendations on Facebook and She Who Must Be Obeyed telling me to go see it while I still had the chance. Honestly, the idea of yet another bit of children’s pop culture being appropriated for the adult market just wasn’t appealing.

But in true Canberra musical theatre style, our ‘amateurs’ have redeemed a rather dry book and presented something truly spectacular. Technically, it was almost faultless. Apart from a few occasions when I couldn’t hear the words over the band, I was blown away by how great these guys sounded. And it was a tiny band too; all I could see were two keys, two strings and a hitter who had plenty of space to rattle about in the pit.

The kudos, though, goes to a great cast, most of whom had to learn to control two bodies rather than the usual one. And it was fun just to observe as an audient that at first I had to keep reminding myself to look at the puppet rather than the actor! In time they blended, which just made the whole puppet/puppeteer thing work so well. At least in individual scenes it did.

As a whole show, though, Avenue Q just doesn’t hold together very well. Whose story is this? What is it about? And why couldn’t they just pick a story and stick with it? There are some interesting characters here that really deserve better treatment! But that’s musical writers for you; most couldn’t see a story if it played itself out on a stage in front of them!

I think, really, Avenue Q is a musical trying to be cutting edge and funny at the same time. It only succeeds in the latter, and occasionally fails at that because it’s trying to be cutting edge. Does that make sense? Probably not, but I know what I mean. And whatever it’s failings, Supa‘s cast and crew have outdone themselves. I had a ball.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 in ANU Arts Centre, Canberra Theatre, Supa Productions, Theatre

 

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22 Short Plays

Opening with a convivial vibe at The Street Theatre tonight, 22 Short Plays by David Finnigan is a series of shorts carefully drawn together from longer works and staged by Melbourne’s MKA.

It should not be taken as a bad thing that I really don’t want to see the more complete scripts these shorts came from. As they stand in this context, they’re often funny and always clever. While most of the characters tend towards either caricature or the absurd, there is the odd moment when something jumps out as rather more insightful, and the absurdity of the real world dwarfs the absurdity on stage. But it’s not often this kind of concept drama plays out well in long form, and perhaps Finnigan is a master of the short form.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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Broadway Bard

I have just had one of the most enjoyable experiences of Shakespeare’s work I can remember. Broadway Bard, part of the Sydney Fringe, is a show in which a bunch of random soliloquies or scenes (and even a couple of sonnets) and match it with a Broadway song. Simple enough. But the vivacity with which this concept has been realised is refreshing and very real.

Setting the tone by reminding us that Shakespeare didn’t write for academics, but for the brutal criticism of the paying customer, Julian Kuo, the voice of the show, proceeds at an almost frantic pace through a selection of bits of the plays and sonnets of the Bard. His recitations of Shakespeare’s words are just brilliant, and his performances of the musical numbers are inspired. He holds a great rapport with the audience throughout, and is most engaging as an almost-solo performer.

Kuo is supported by Isaac Hayward on piano, who must find it tiring at such a long sitting. His entrance, however, was awkward, and I’m not sure the director achieved what he was aiming for. Pianists, unless they are also actors, are probably best left at the piano. Especially the really good ones. Kuo could have used some better direction, too. Despite excellent presence, the stage at times felt like a large open paddock, and the plethora of props was really unnecessary. I suspect that it could be successfully staged with none, but at least half of the props really should have gone.

I forgot all that, however, during Kuo’s rendition of Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ speech, which, while a little difficult to relate to at first, given that Kuo had his back to the audience for far too long, really sprang to life when it segued so seamlessly with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The juxtaposition of these two pieces lent both an air of melancholy such as I have never seen more successfully brought about.

This, like many other moments, left me with goosebumps, and I don’t goosebump very easily. I almost found this journey through the familiar and not-so-familiar highlights of Shakespeare’s work to be more fun than seeing an entire play. Watch for it in Canberra!

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 10 September 2011 in Sidetrack Theatre, William Shakespeare

 

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