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Category Archives: Canberra Repertory Society

The Book of Everything

book of everythingLet me just say this up front: there is nothing funny about domestic violence. However, if you don’t laugh all the way through this play, there’s something wrong with you! I would guess the only people not laughing would be abusers themselves, so maybe we should keep one eye on the auditorium during performances!

Canberra Repertory’s whimsical production of The Book of Everything is a magical piece of theatre that could transport someone of any age back to their childhood. The simple, very human joy of simply telling a story is not lost in the dark themes that emerge…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 13 September 2013 in Canberra Repertory Society, Canberra Theatre, Theatre

 

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Lost in Yonkers

Theatre 3 has seen some fine productions over the years, but few of the calibre of of Rep’s current production of Neil Simon‘s Lost in Yonkers, the preview for which I saw tonight.

Lost in Yonkers is apparently a well-known play, which simply reveals my ignorance, because I’d never heard of it until I heard about Rep’s production. It’s the story of two brothers left with their cantankerous grandmother when their recently-widowered father has to go on the road to repay the debts incurred in the course of losing his wife to cancer. The Second World War being underway, and the Great Depression just barely relegated to memory, opportunities are few, but the loyalty of this barely functional family forms a great basis for Simon’s exploration of human relationships.

And the cast delivers Simon’s characters with aplomb. Lachlan Ruffy has received more than a few compliments for his theatrical activities, and this production demonstrates how well-deserved they are. His performance of Jay strikes a careful balance between the impetuousness of childhood and the control of a maturing adolescent. He is complemented wonderfully by Pippin Carroll, who plays the younger brother Arty with a comparable balance of naivety and wisdom beyond his years.

Bridgette Black’s Bella brought a lot of energy to the stage throughout the show, and with just the right amount of pathos to be able to carry off her more intense monologues as the plot reached its crescendo, without losing anything from the character’s comic qualities.

It is the illusion of ease with which the play is delivered that really stamps this as a production of the highest calibre. There is no point at which the actors appear to be labouring, which of course indicates that they’re working harder than most do. This production has that wonderful quality that marks all the best productions; a simple, forthright telling of a story, with nothing to draw our attention to the artifice of the theatrical process. It puts the audience at ease and creates exactly the right environment for the suspension of disbelief.

One of the noteworthy elements that goes into producing this effect with this production is the use of the New York accent. One of the most difficult American accents for Australians to emulate, this cast have pulled it off admirably. Even Paul Jackson, who may be thought to have had a head start on the accent, must have worked hard to get his gangster right. Despite a few slips of pronunciation from one or two members of the cast, the greatest achievement here is the uniformity of the accent across the cast, which is, when using foreign accents on stage, more important that accurate emulation from any individual actor. And when it comes to the use of foreign accents on the Canberra stage, I’ve rarely been convinced; this may be only the second or third Canberra cast who have caused me to forget that they’re a bunch of Australians bunging on an accent.

Lost in Yonkers is a solid production; one of the very best I’ve seen on the Canberra stage in my (almost) fifteen years in this town. Brilliant performances, superb direction, a great set, clever lighting and Neil Simon’s excellent script make for a laudable production. The rule here is, see this show, or forfeit the right to speak with any authority on the quality of theatre production in Canberra. That is all.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 13 September 2012 in Canberra Repertory Society, Canberra Theatre, Theatre, Theatre 3

 

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And Then There Were None

There’s a bit of a risk involved in seeing a show you’ve been involved with yourself. I did sound for a production of And Then There Were None in Theatre 3 back in 1998, when I first moved to Canberra, so there was no way I was going to miss seeing Rep’s production of it this year!

One thing that surprised me was how many lines I recalled. I had none previously, although there were plenty of cues. Still, you wouldn’t think I would recall them twelve years later with no contact with the play in the intervening years. And I really didn’t remember the outcome. Not a skerrick of it. At any rate, it was a trip down memory lane.

The risk, of course, is that my view of the play is coloured by my memories of the production I was involved with. Not that they should be compared. I was involved with a student production by CADS (the defunct Canberra Amateur Dramatic Society), directed by relatively inexperienced directors, whereas Rep’s production boasted the very deft hand of Duncan Ley as well as a host of experienced Canberra actors. And it showed. This was a great show that gave the play a lot more life than ours did. And it’s needed with Agatha Christie‘s dialogue. It gave the odd nod to Film Noir, which at times was just a little too much at odds with the text, but more often suited it well.

The set, as dark and gloomy as a stage set can be, didn’t seem to add much apart from making the Film Noir reference, but it suited the purpose and certainly gave room for the performers to die the most excellent deaths.

I love a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is quite true of Rep’s production of And Then There Were None. Really, no Agatha Christie play can be taken too seriously; they get awfully dry awfully quickly otherwise. This production manages to hold the attention marvellously.

 

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Jazz Garters

Well, I’ve finally done it. More than twelve years after moving to Canberra, I have finally been to one of Rep’s winter variety shows. I recall that it was originally recommended to me in 1998 as an undergraduate beginning a Theatre Studies major at the ANU, as an excellent example of the music hall tradition, so there’s something bittersweet in having finally attended in the same week that the ANU’s Theatre Studies major met its demise.

The cast certainly delivers. After a slightly flat first half, which could be put down to opening night, the second was quite magical. Ian Croker’s rendition of Minnie the Moocher got the audience engaged, and Christine Forbes followed this with a beautifully theatrical The Girl from 14G, about which she bragged that she was overjoyed to be able to wear her pyjamas on stage!

I felt my personal cringe factor rise when we were informed that the finale was to be a rendition of Peter Allen‘s perfectly horrid canticle I Still Call Australia Home, but it dissipated completely with the cast’s magnificent send-up of the song’s overwrought history.

A variety show stands or falls on the energy of its cast, and this cast certainly works hard for their applause. After a flat start, the energy flowed and made Jazz Garters a fun and entertaining show, well worth a night out.

 
 

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Deathtrap

Canberra Repertory opened Deathtrap tonight. A comedy about an ageing playwright ready to kill to get what he wants.
What I found most interesting about Deathtrap was its style. This is a play by an Australian playwright, written in the late 1970s, and very much set in that time and place; but it has all the hallmarks of an excellent British comedy from the 1960s. The madcap humour, dialogue almost entirely dependent on wit, and a very conventional structure, all mark this play as something other than what it is, and were I not aware that it was an Australian play, I would have assumed it wasn’t, despite the references to Sydney’s northern suburbs.
It is a lot of fun: one of those plays that you could well come away from with a sore belly from all the laughing. I didn’t, though. Maybe the timing was a bit off due to opening night nerves, or maybe I just like a little more meat on characters’ bones than Levin provides, but it was good.
 
 

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Cosi

We went last night to the opening of Cosi, which was a great affair, as you would expect. Cosi is the story of a young graduate sent to direct a play with a group of patients at a mental asylum. Funny enough as a situation comedy, but Louis Nowra has deftly wound broad humour around a story about the importance of love over politics.
In this production, the comedy outshines the potentially didactic moralising, just as it should, and as a result, the moral stands on its merits, couched in comfortably broad Australian humour.

Bringing classics to the stage is what Canberra Rep does best, and when you stage something that is as well-known as an enjoyable play as Louis Nowra’s Cosi, you get to pick from the best actors Canberra has to offer. That’s what happened here, and it’s one of the main reasons this show is so enjoyable. This is a spectacular cast, and every nuance of Nowra’s characters is instinctively brought to life. They enjoy the show even more than the audience, I’m sure; and even with a few members of the cast needing to work hard to stifle a laugh now and then, they never missed a beat. Who can blame them? After working so hard to deliver the comedy of Nowra’s lines, to finally have an audience roar into laughter is a rewarding experience.

Canberra Rep’s Cosi is simply one of the best nights out you’ll find.
 
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Posted by on Friday, 21 November 2008 in Canberra Repertory Society, Canberra Theatre, Theatre

 

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Pygmalion

Busy as I am, I took the last chance I would have to see Canberra Repertory’s Pygmalion, and I am glad I did. Living up to their excellent reputation, Rep presented a thoughtful and challenging piece of theatre.

Often, a great set and spectacular costumes simply make the performers look dull, as happened with Opera Australia’s My Fair Lady, but not so in this case. A beautifully modern set, clearly a product of 21st century mentality, served as a symbolic gesture to this early 20th century story, complementing the costumes beautifully; and the cast earned every part of it.
As always, accents are a problem with this story. Accents are a difficult thing in theatre, and Shaw does no one any favours by writing a play that is absolutely centred on accent. Jessica Brent’s Lisson Grove dialect was acceptable, and her recieved pronunciation was appropriately awkward. Other characters, however, had no excuse for sounding stilted. The production, nonetheless, survives its slowness, the pathos of Shaw’s characters shining through in the second act just as it should, and the awkwardness of Shaw’s ending was deftly handled.
I really liked this production. Maybe I was just relieved that the cast had taken the time to understand the characters, unlike the cast of My Fair Lady. It was slow, but didn’t drag. It was awkward, but even that was appropriate. In all, a great show.
 
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Posted by on Saturday, 4 October 2008 in Canberra Repertory Society, Canberra Theatre, Theatre

 

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