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Category Archives: Tuggeranong Arts Centre

Wyrd Sisters

Tuggeranong Arts Centre‘s Women’s Theatre Forum is creating some great opportunities, and it’s encouraging to see regular performances in Tuggeranong’s magnificent theatre. My opinion is that in terms of space, acoustics and relationship between stage and auditorium, this remains the single best theatre space in Canberra, and it’s unfortunate it’s been such a struggle to see it used more. The set for Wyrd Sisters is one of the best I’ve seen in this space, so I was very pleased to see the auditorium so near to full for tonight’s performance.

They were a very responsive audience too. The sisters of the title did a great job with Stephen Briggs’ very clunky script, and attracted plenty of laughs with the one-liners scattered through it. Briggs really hasn’t given any of Pratchett’s characters much to work with, and a few moments fell flat on the back of his spartan and somewhat filmic dialogue and scenography.

The play has a huge and diverse cast of characters, and director Kerrie Roberts did very well at casting performers with complementing multiple characters, which can often be a confusing task. Overall it’s an impressive cast, although comic timing may not have been everyone’s forte.

As a play for the Women’s Theatre Forum, I am not sure it quite gives adequate focus to the witches, or to Duchess Felmet. The action and plot really centre on the ineffectual Duke and his fool, played by Tony Cheshire and Jonathan Sharp, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of directing in other productions. Despite the strength apparent here, I would certainly have enjoyed seeing greater depth and greater attention for Janine O’Dwyer’s lovable Nanny Ogg, Elaine Noon’s forthright Granny Weatherwax, and Tracy Thomas’s young and idealistic Magrat.

Nonetheless, Wyrd Sisters is a funny and enjoyable show with an enthusiastic cast intent on engaging with their audience. You’ve got two more performances if you want to see it.

 

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The Piano Diaries

I’m a sucker for an immigration story, and Joanna Weinberg’s latest offering, The Piano Diaries, starts with one, so I was engaged from the get go with both her story, and her intoxicating voice.

I know I commented on a recent post that I might not be a particular fan of cabaret, but this was marvellous. While The Piano Diaries doesn’t have a plot in the conventional sense, Weinberg’s autobiographical stories are wonderfully full of the froth and bubble of life, flowing from the joys of a child’s fascination with her parents’ happiness to the darkness of witnessing racial vilification. These stories, fragments of a life story, provide a backdrop for the seemingly-effortless grace with which Joanna engages her audience.

London-born Weinberg grew up in South Africa (yet another reason for my interest; stories of South Africa fascinate me) and much of the material for this show is inspired by her childhood and youth in South Africa, with much of the remainder relating to her migration experience in coming to Australia. The Winds of Fear explores this, with its humble reference to the South African migrant as the “privileged of the refugees”. The unique perspective of South African Australians on this topic is refreshing, and Weinberg’s stories really speak to the immense value of a diverse society.

Weinberg took joy in complimenting Tuggeranong, even likening its Town Centre to Florence, repeatedly! No compliment was received with anything less than a hearty laugh by Tuggeranongians, who apparently take much less delight in the simple beauties of a well laid-out urban entity. It is Weinberg’s simple delight in the varied experiences of her life that make this show so charming, though. It is wonderful to just hear stories gleaned from life experience that then translate so beautifully into song, and the articulation between story-telling and song is what makes this show really special.

If nothing else, I’m finally sold on cabaret.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 30 June 2012 in Cabaret, Canberra Theatre, Theatre, Tuggeranong Arts Centre

 

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Playing Gertrude’s Horatio

Although I grew up in that period when Shakespeare was well and truly out of favour in New South Welsh schools, I have loved his work ever since I first gave Hamlet the time of day at the age of 21. This was the year when Kenneth Branagh put the whole damn thing on screen, and even that self-indulgent marathon wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm. Shakespeare’s plays, layered as they are with so many diverse readings, are always ready to yield another insight or provoke another idea. Among my favourite of Shakespeare’s provocations is Tom Stoppard’s magnificent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This play, derived from Hamlet, features I think the best description of theatre ever devised. Offering a performance to a pair of potential customers, the leader of a performance troupe explains their creative oeuvre:

“We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory.”

The importance of blood, or more precisely, violence, can’t be underestimated in Shakespeare’s work…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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Smart Casual

A great energy filled Canberra’s southern reaches tonight as local comedians warmed up a more-casual-than-smart audience for Smart Casual. Jokes about bogans (and boganism) predictably abounded, and were well-recieved by their targets. As well as these almost-obligatory barbs there were quite a few gems, particularly from the very sharp-witted Tom Gibson…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

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Every Single Saturday

Before going along to see Every Single Saturday I must admit to a little apprehension. It is the same fear I face every time a conversation turns to sport or someone makes a comment vaguely sports-related and then looks at me as if I am expected to make a certain type of comment. That’s right, I’m a member of Australia’s smallest minority group: the Sports-Ignorant. Thankfully, although it really is all about soccer mums and dads, Every Single Saturday makes life easy even for the Sports-Ignorant. There’s even one of us amongst the characters!

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

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Thoughts on Directing ‘When He Was Famous’

Well it’s time for another first… but this is scary!

I have just handed over a show to my assistant director, Seth Robinson, before the last two dress rehearsals! Now, I can’t complain too much. I’ve done this because I’m off to Fiji to attend my nephew’s wedding, but it really is scary to think that this show will go on without me. Even at opening night!

It’s not that I don’t think the cast is ready; they could open tomorrow and be fine, I’m sure, but I’m not ready to let it go! I mean, I’ve slogged away for the last two months with them, and they’re about to step up and perform, and I won’t be there to enjoy it!

Still, that doesn’t mean the rest of Canberra shouldn’t; so if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, call the Tuggeranong Arts Centreand tell them you’re coming!

 

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The Christian Brothers

I am getting a little bored with the whole “let’s say nasty things about the Catholic church” thing that our culture seems to have going on these last few years. Being an older play, Ron Blair’s The Christian Brothers doesn’t suffer from the same simplistic and one-dimensional depiction of Catholicism as its more modern counterparts. It’s refreshing.

This one-man play is about an ageing Catholic school teacher going through something of a crisis of faith in the strangely public context of his classroom. Perhaps the most interesting part of this play is how the classroom itself, while occupied by however many students the audience imagines to be there, can be at once public and private.
Veteran of the Canberra stage, Bill Boyd brings the flawed teacher to life brilliantly, eliciting empathy and laughter as we recognise those flaws that most of our teachers probably also had. This is a great production, and an hour well spent.
 
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Posted by on Friday, 16 October 2009 in Canberra Theatre, Theatre, Tuggeranong Arts Centre

 

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Puss in Boots

How the magnificent Nina Stevenson manages to harness the enthusiasm of more than 30 youngsters to fill a stage and tell a comprehensible story is beyond me, but with Puss in Boots, she has done this and more, because the show is a delight.

I took my own three youngsters (who have the energy of 30), and they sat enthralled, completely engaged by the show’s larger-than-life characters, especially the evil ones. And who wouldn’t be? There is some fine emerging talent on display, especially in the personages of Rebecca Riggs, who plays the evil sister Rubella, and Adrian Thomas, as her brother Snotty. Even at my age (and with my degree of evilness), I struggle to emit an evil chuckle, but Rubella’s cackle sent shivers down my spine. And their brother TJ, played by the engaging Rory Asquith, was as lovable as his sister was evil.
The principal cast is supported by a young ensemble equally noteworthy for their excellent performances; and the whole show is a magnificent showcase for the talents of these young Canberrans, who I expect will be entertaining us for decades.
 
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Posted by on Saturday, 3 October 2009 in Pied Piper Productions, Tuggeranong Arts Centre

 

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Krapp’s Last Tape

Opening at Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Krapp’s Last Tapeis one of Samuel Beckett’s more well-known plays.

Sitting, as I am, and contemplating what I want to say about Krapp’s Last Tape, I think about commenting on the set, the actor’s performance, the lighting, the direction; but all of that seems to undermine this play. This is a story about a man who made a decision decades ago, and whose existence is not haunted, but shaped by the consequences of that decision. And nothing matters more than that character.
Of course, the design elements have to be properly balanced, or the character won’t be visible. Ian Croker’s set, Jack Lloyd’s lighting, and Len Power’s sound design are as important as Graham Robertson’s performance, but all of these must be properly balanced, and nod gently to the presence of Beckett’s ‘hero’. I think this is the great strength of this production. All of these design elements are indeed balanced perfectly, giving the audience perfect access to the character.
I had read Krapp’s Last Tape many years ago, and enjoyed it at the time. Like any of Beckett’s work, it is difficult to read, but it absolutely sings when a performer embodies it. Graham Robertson is a veteran of the Canberra stage, and as one would expect, he brings Beckett’s miserable Krapp to life. His engrossing performance is punctuated with perfect delivery of Beckett’s dry humour.
I will argue to my dying day that the use of the word ‘absurd’ to describe Beckett’s world view is absurd. He is a logician, and his work epitomises logic. It might baffle a person who tries to read it, but in performance Beckett’s work is simplicity itself. And Krapp is a superb example of Beckett’s magnificent capacity to tell a story. Nothing beats that.
 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 29 July 2009 in Tuggeranong Arts Centre

 

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The Learned Ladies

The Learned Ladies is one of Moliere’s ingenious comedies, and his genius lies in his capacity to incorporate incidental humour into circumstantial humour inherent in the plot, and still deliver an insightful and meaningful story. These days I consider myself lucky if a comedy is even funny, but to have humour on so many levels combined with a story of value is an unparalelled joy.

Under the direction of Geoffrey Borny, and I remember his direction well from my uni days, the cast delivered an exquisite performance; well-timed, responsive to the audience, and in every way relevant despite its age.
Diane Heather and Graham Robertson gave stand-out comic performances in their hilarious roles, and Andy Burton’s Clitandre and Eleanor Garran’s Henriette were spectacularly entertaining in their more serious roles. Terry Johnson was no less noteworthy as the simpering Trissotin, proving a worthy foil for Clitandre, and a balanced complement to Naone Carrel’s appropriately ghastly Philaminte.
I couldn’t help thinking that I would like to see a staging of this play set in 21st Century Australia, with the learned ladies of the title cast as chardonnay socialists and their more pragmatic counterparts as wealthy but down-to-earth Australians.
Regardless, this was an excellent production, and while I am disappointed that I couldn’t be directly involved in it, I was pleased to be able to spend an afternoon in hysterics in the auditorium.
 
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Posted by on Saturday, 11 October 2008 in Canberra Theatre, Theatre, Tuggeranong Arts Centre

 

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