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Category Archives: Theatre 3

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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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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