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Category Archives: Adelaide Theatre

The Ballad of Backbone Joe

This, believe it or not, was my first experience of cabaret. Well, at least my first experience of cabaret with the name ‘cabaret’ plastered all over the place. I’ve experienced cabaret before, it seems; I just wasn’t quite sure it was cabaret. This cabaret performance, however, was deemed to be cabaret by the people who run the Cabaret Festival in the capital city of the Festival State. Being quite unaware of what technically constitutes cabaret, I think these are the people to trust. And the experiment was worthwhile.

The Suitcase Royale, creators of The Ballad of Backbone Joe, are a tidy little Rag’n’Bone trio from Melbourne who’ve played at a range of festivals and events around Australia, the UK, US, Ireland and Germany. For a taste of their sound, have a listen to this. Their music is right up my street, and given the nature of cabaret, that’s the best feature. I could have forgone the story of Backbone Joe, who I never really came to care about (or possibly even understand), and I would have enjoyed listening to a little more of the music these guys created with such incredible vim! I would have enjoyed just as much some more of their humour, which was impeccably timed.

But seriously, I don’t see myself becoming a big fan of cabaret. Anyone who’s read more than one post on this blog knows that for me the holy grail of theatre lies somewhere between plot and character, so cabaret is always going to leave me a little cold. Nonetheless, the convivial nature of the form redeems it. In musical theatre, I often feel that when character and plot are too thin, a production just seems disingenuous; I don’t care about the story, I don’t care about the characters, and I have no reason to care about the performers unless I know them personally. Cabaret doesn’t suffer the same problem, because the performer connects with the audience regardless of the depth of connection I feel with the plot or character.

I’ll be watching out for more of The Suitcase Royale; mainly for their great music, but also because if this is cabaret, I like cabaret.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 15 June 2012 in Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide Theatre, Cabaret, Theatre

 

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Hamlet

Having secured what I knew to be the last available ticket for Yohangza Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet, I was surprised to find myself sitting next to the South Australian Premier and his wife for the performance. The irony of watching a king’s downfall orchestrated through a theatre production while sitting next to the leader of a state government in a theatre was not lost on me, but I doubt that Mike Rann and his wife felt the same pangs of guilt as Gertrude and Claudius.

Played by Eun-Hee Kim, this Gertrude is perhaps not as guilt-ridden as some I have encountered. But whereas Gertrude is often portrayed with an underlying sense of her own moral corruption, Kim has given her an aloofness, lasting until Hamlet finally reveals his hand following the theatre scene. I prefer this change, as risky as it might be. It holds more weight with Shakespeare’s text, and in this production, in this context, it provides a profound shift in the character that is necessary to add depth for its Australian audience. This is not a criticism of the performers, but a play performed in Korean for a predominantly English-speaking audience can’t skimp on such details.

Hamlet certainly doesn’t. Played by Jung-Yong Jeon, his vacillations are as palpable as that fatal hit, and his descent into madness is beautifully paced; almost undetectable. Claudius could perhaps have emoted rather more; by both dress and demeanour he emerged more western than the rest of the cast. But in all, this cast expended enough energy and elicited enough pathos to warrant a standing ovation from the opening night audience (though the premier, notably, remained seated).

A minimalist set spares no effort, with a centre rostrum raised in the middle of what must be hundreds of kilos of rice, and surrounded by traditional Korean artworks, and Korean percussive instruments. These instruments are put to excellent use by the cast, whose timing and energy is perfectly synthesised. More intriguingly, Korean Shaman rites are used to ensure the story is at home in its Korean context.

This is a remarkably sensitive production of what I think is Shakespeare’s greatest work. It is faithful, if such a word can really be applied to any production of Shakespeare’s work later than the seventeenth century, to the characters, their motivations, fears and desires; as well as their circumstances. And it dispels in my mind any doubt that the stories of Shakespeare are absolutely universal in their application to humanity.

 

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Toy Symphony

There is an understated richness in every aspect of Toy Symphony. From the rigid, unforgiving box set, to the delicate simplicity of its marvellous performers, to Michael Gow’s unassuming dialogue, the play is replete with this marvellous juxtaposition of natural simplicity with deep pathos…


The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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