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Category Archives: Theatre

Cannonballl

Cannonball starts well.

I’m impressed by the dialogue. I’m impressed by the actors. I’m impressed that it’s genuinely naturalistic and the media being projected is atmospheric and well coordinated.

Slowly, though, it unravels. Maybe I missed a thread somewhere, a vital piece of information that I needed to follow the plot. It started with two mates talking about girls, then one of them ends up with a girlfriend who becomes a wife and has a baby… and he slowly descends into a kind of depression, until the play peters out with us wondering whether he’ll take his own life or not.

By the end it’s feels terribly melodramatic without enough plot to carry the emotion. Which is a shame, given the promise the beginning held.

The quality of the performances don’t really decline, nor does the quality of dialogue, which is why I think it might be me who missed something. If you’re reading this, and you’ve seen it (as opposed to if you’re in it, or maybe even then!), let me know what you thought.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Wordplay

From the moment you walk in, Jess and Nick insist that you feel at home. Straddling the line between theatre and cabaret, this clever and well-written little piece explores the way we use words and how they can shape us and our interactions, so that welcome is highly strategic.

They insist it’s a play, but with a static set, audience engagement beginning before they kick off, and interjections on the way through, cabaret seems a more appropriate descriptor. The truth is it defies labels, but draws the audience into a conversation between two co-workers, chews up their sense of semantic signification, and spits it back at them unceremoniously.

Whether the use of audience involvement (yes they dragged me up the front) really works or not, I am unsure. On one hand, it stilts the third character: but at the same time, the irony of using someone unfamiliar with the material to deliver the most articulate assessment of the theme in a manner that is highly verbose and completely impenetrable, is a delicious irony. And I’m a big fan of irony.

If you happen to be fringeside, check them out.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre, Uncategorized

 

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Not About Heroes

My first show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was this rather intense exploration of the relationship between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. And after flying from San Francisco to Edinburgh and coming directly to the theatre, it’s an achievement not to be understated, that the play held my attention throughout.

The simple set being used for this fringe run works brilliantly, and provides excellent scope for the two performers to establish varied locations and times. Daniel Llewellyn-Williams, playing Sassoon, builds a strong presence in the early stages of the play, and transitions well to the rather more fragile Sassoon who reminisces at the end of the war. Iestyn Arwel, playing Owen, marks an inverse transition. It would be easy to dismiss the strength of his performance in the early stages, but the character is brilliantly established.

This is a strong piece exploring the relationship between two historical figures who were passionate about showing the horror, and not the glory of war. It is especially pertinent in the world’s current state, though it could perhaps draw a slightly longer bow into the present to ensure it doesn’t merely register as a history play.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 15 August 2017 in Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Talk

I was more than impressed by the set when I entered the Playhouse for tonight’s performance of Talk. Two levels and three separate spaces fill the stage, and I anticipate a masterpiece, judging by this work of art.

By halfway through, I’m disappointed.

Jonathan Biggins’ script deals with heady themes that are particularly pertinent in the current climate. News cycles, declining newspaper sales, irresponsible journalism and public broadcasters all come under scrutiny. And the resulting cacophony is as vague and impenetrable as the world it attempts to critique.

The complex set, while impressive, doesn’t help matters. It is broken, really, into three ‘panes’, which don’t interact with each other. Granted, the story takes place in three separate spheres that barely intersect, but the end result is a disjointed plot, and that’s something I don’t really find endearing.

Biggins’ naturalistic and humorous dialogue, even when it was delivered so well by the talented cast, doesn’t quite overcome the disjointed nature of the piece, and although I was engrossed enough to want to know what happens, I’m not sure I really cared that much about any of the characters.

Talk is a valiant attempt to critique this point in our history, and the journalistic forces that are shaping it, but it falls a long way short of a masterpiece.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 2 June 2017 in Canberra Theatre Centre, The Playhouse, Theatre

 

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The Age of Bones (Jaman Belulang)

On an island at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, a boy complains that his mother feeds him only rice, and is sent fishing. When he doesn’t return, the distraught parents enlist the help of an ageing local fisherman with a reputation for knowing his way around the sea. So begins a compelling retelling of a story that got lost in the 24 hour news cycle.

Sandra Thibodeaux’s engaging script was developed with the help of the Indonesian families unwittingly caught up in a political game that could hardly be more remote from their world. Rather than a land girt by sea, this Australia, as experienced by this unprepared boy, is as confusing and hostile as a sea girt by ocean. Thibodeaux’s play utilises both Indonesian and Australian traditions and iconography as reference points, anchoring this confused boy’s experience for the audience.

The result is stunning. Set, costumes, video and puppetry combine smoothly to create a sense of simplicity that belies the many modes of communication being employed. The old narrator’s declining memory and eyesight provide slapstick relief from the story’s tragic ebbs and flows, and help to link us back in to the unfolding tragedy. Indeed, the play as a whole is inviting and riveting, and truly a joy to see.

You don’t have long left to get in to see it in Canberra, but if you miss it, you’ll be able to see it in Sydney next week. Don’t muck about.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 8 March 2017 in Theatre

 

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The Addams Family

addamsI laughed along heartily at The Addams Family, mainly because the cast worked so well to engage their audience. If only the musical itself was a little more innovative, this would be a brilliant show.

There was a palpable shift a little way into this opening night. It felt to me like nerves were very raw at first, but within twenty minutes or so, that was gone, and the receptive audience had warmed them up. Tim Stiles, in the role of Uncle Fester, seemed to be at centre stage when they clicked into gear, but the whole cast rallied beautifully as an ensemble and it was a beautiful thing to see this shift.

I loved the sharp attitude Lainie Hart brought to Morticia, and Gordon Nicholson delivered plenty of laughs as a trapped Gomez (I am impressed that he balanced the script’s stereotypes with some more subtle characterisation). In all, the cast and orchestra delivered a receptive audience with a truly engaging night of entertainment, despite working with a second-rate script.

I felt slightly uncomfortable about the paradox of a Spanish-American family who’d apparently migrated in the eighteenth century but still had a a Spanish accent and identified themselves as immigrants two hundred years later. Writing in 2009, I think Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice could have attempted to be more respectful, but it probably didn’t occur to anyone involved to consider the imperialism inherent in classifying anyone who isn’t an Anglo American as an immigrant. And it’s hardly a central element of the plot.

Regardless of the unfortunate stereotyping, the story and the values it espouses remain strong, and this, after all, is a light, fluffy musical comedy that trades on the reputation of a classic sitcom rather than the competence or cultural awareness of the writers for its success. It’s not an exploration of metaphysical significance or even a reimagining of a classic, but a vaguely-reasonable attempt to capitalise on nostalgia and turn a profit. It’s fun, and this cast enjoyed themselves enough to take the opening night crowd on a bit of a romp.

Perhaps these characters don’t ring completely true to the TV show I grew up with, but do we really expect them to? In the fifty years since The Addams Family ceased filming, our culture has shifted dramatically. Certain values have held fast, and this musical makes a valiant effort to be relevant… I’m just not convinced that remaking classics just for the nostalgia value is a worthwhile pursuit. Profitable, perhaps: but hardly insightful. And as much as I appreciate the odd bit of fluff, these times call for insight. And the book just doesn’t deliver however much the cast attempts to redeem it.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 3 March 2017 in Canberra Theatre, The Q, Theatre

 

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Member

memberpresspixI grew up in Sydney. I recall studying World War II in the western suburbs like it was a distant memory. I recall hearing about the Holocaust as if it was a side note to the war at school and at home as if it were an isolated and unrepeatable atrocity. I don’t recall ever contemplating whether such inhumanity could be perpetrated in the Sydney I lived in: it was simply beyond my conception.
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And yet, on so many nights when my parents tucked me safely into bed, men were beaten or murdered on the other side of the city because they were gay. The proximity of the horror is sobering. And it’s proximity that makes Member such a deeply moving piece of theatre.
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The protagonist is Corey, and we encounter him in an emergency ward, by the side of his adult son, who has been severely beaten. Encouraged by a pretty nurse to talk to his son, Corey describes a moment in his childhood that shaped his understanding of gay men, and determined his response to his son’s coming out.
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Ben Noble, who plays Corey in this one man show, delivers a brilliant, raw performance with his gut-wrenching script. He evokes a broad range of characters, many of them recognisable as archetypes and deftly held back from becoming stereotypes.
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Fairly Lucid Productions have failed, in this intstance, to live down to the standard their name describes. Indeed, the clarity with which this performance delivers its punch is amazing. I found it particularly difficult to walk out into the merriment of the bar, where everyone seemed oblivious to the horror that was just brought to life for us. I’ve long thought Sydney an ugly city with a heart of gold, but the Sydney I stumbled back into after seeing Member felt every bit as nasty as her neglected streetscapes have always looked.
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For me, the proximity of this story to my childhood home is deeply troubling. It further upsets my memory of what I perceived as a relatively tolerant and diverse society. But it also reminds us, and I think this is the intention of the title, that we are members of this society, and the responsibility for change rests with us.
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Plays like this are why theatre matters.
 
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Posted by on Saturday, 25 February 2017 in Blood Moon Theatre, Sydney Theatre, Theatre

 

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