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Category Archives: Free Rain Theatre

The Dark Side of Midnight

Political turmoil is an incubator of dramatic writing, and historical plays about moments of political change are relatively common. Less common are plays set in moments of political turmoil that are about the lives of people who lived through these moments, rather than about the political agitators who created them. This is a shame, as Tessa Bremner’s play The Dark Side of Midnight demonstrates with its very heartfelt story about British colonists living through the Partition of India…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Australian Stage, Free Rain Theatre, Pure Theatre

 

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Oklahoma!

Free Rain really are gracing the stage of The Q at the moment with their production of Oklahoma! The classic musical has certainly been in good hands under the direction of Anne Somes and musical direction of Leisa Keen, and the energy on opening night was simply infectious.

Despite being a musical, and a light one at that, there is some genuine depth to these characters. Jenna Roberts’ portrayal of the heroine is particularly noteworthy, but they all sit in the shadow of Tony Falla, Amy Dunham and Mathew Chardon O’Dea who shine in the love triangle. Despite being given very little to work with by the writers, they have developed an engaging story that really moves along.

I was particularly impressed with the cast’s American accents. Perhaps for the first time in Canberra, a local cast has successfully emulated a single American accent, rather than the more common practice of each cast member using an accent from a different part of the United States. It may not have been a perfect Oklahoma accent, but even the cast of the 1955 film didn’t manage that!

There is something unfortunate in the fact that, when they wrote Oklahoma, Rodgers and Hammerstein didn’t see the value in the pioneering story that underlies the central love story. It leaves the love story a little hollow, and turns references to Oklahoma’s journey to statehood into quaint oddities. I think that with more focus on this aspect, the story would resonate much more deeply, and the central love story would be enhanced by a heightened sense of purpose and destiny.

In all, this production of Oklahoma!is certainly one of the better musical productions of recent years.

 

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Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen’s novels don’t appeal to me greatly, but the quality of her wit is superb. Although Sense and Sensibilityis not a novel that readily lends itself to a dramatic adaptation, Canberra’s own Jodi McAlister has done a fine job of condensing Austen’s story into two hours of engaging stagework.

One of the most memorable characteristics of Austen’s work is the importance of the subtext, and the many paradoxes that are inherent in such a context. Drama, of course, thrives on paradox and subtext, but the sheer volume of these found in Austen’s work has been the downfall of many dramatisations of her stories. In this production, I think both Jodi McAlister and Liz Bradley are to be commended for their work in focusing the attention and keeping the journey of the characters paramount.
A great performance by the cast was punctuated by three stellar performers in the roles of the three Dashwood sisters. Alex de Totth, Ylaria Rogers and Nicola Grear are most notable in the degree to which they are able to balance the humour of their roles with the truth of their characters’ experiences. This is critical to Austen’s stories, and the success of this production owes much to these three performers.
I have never been a great fan of Austen, but have always enjoyed the quality and intensity of her satire, and am very pleased that this production managed to express it so well.
 

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The Three Sisters

Chekhov bores me. There, I said it. I have spoken the unspeakable; Chekhov bores me. And yet, this play left me at a bit of a loss. How can you have a play that is thoroughly boring populated by characters that are infinitely intriguing? It should be an impossibility. But apparently it’s not.

To be perfectly honest, I thought Free Rain’s production of The Three Sisters to be the most profoundly astute and engaging interpretation of a thoroughly useless play I have ever encountered (and I have encountered many useless plays). Each character was carefully constructed, and portrayed brilliantly by a cast that has clearly engaged with Chekhov’s text on an intimate level.

Don’t take my description of Chekhov’s play as useless to be a negative thing. The play triggered thought, and because nothing seemed to happen, there was time to drift through thought without missing anything particularly important. Nothing was particularly important. At least, not to the mind of a cynical gen-xer like myself. But it would be nice if there were more opportunities to just sit and think.

This play is worth seeing twice, and I’m going back tomorrow. I’m hoping to be able to drift through those sections of the play that I didn’t drift through last time, and vice-versa.

Not the kind of play I would want to see every time I go to the theatre, but this was an opportunity not to be missed, and Free Rain should be commended on a splendid and invariably worthwhile production of something completely useless.

 

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