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Vale Naoné Carrel

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Naoné Carrel and Elaine Noon in Calendar Girls, along with that amazing smile

My Facebook feed is awash this morning with tributes to the very deserving Naoné Carrel. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing her as well as most of these friends did, but hers has been one of the faces that I have associated most closely with great nights in foyers and great moments in auditoria.

I met Naoné when she was President of Canberra Rep, and I had turned up early to a meeting of the Network of Amateur Theatre Organisations feeling rather like a very small fish in a very big pond. Her face beamed as she welcomed me and suddenly I felt like the pond was much smaller.

I had seen her on stage, of course, much earlier than that. I first saw her last century in The Dresser. And also while I was an undergrad I recall being enthralled with her performance in Death of a Salesman at the ANU Arts Centre.

The theatre community here is the richer for having had not only a performer of her calibre, but also an individual whose smile would light up the room. She will be missed.

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Naoné Carrel and Raoul Craemer in a promo shot from To Silence

For the big picture, here’s a sampling of reviews of Naoné’s shows:

 

 
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Posted by on Friday, 7 March 2014 in Canberra Theatre

 

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The Fridge

fridge_covThe latest instalment from Made In Canberra, The Fridge is an amusing piece of work that manages to avoid the worst of predictability but doesn’t quite distinguish itself with dialogue that encourages the suspension of disbelief. With characters that all seem to say exactly what they mean all the time, there is not a lot of room for the cast to perform. The words take over, and even the best one liners fall flat.
The program and advertising makes reference to Monty Python repeatedly, and attempts to position the play as a continuation of this tradition. This may go some way to explaining the lack of subtext. Python was certainly capable of developing great characters with little or no subtext, but here it…
The rest of this post is published over on Australian Stage.
 

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The Reluctant Shopper

reluctant shopperAn enthusiastic audience welcomed Bruce Hoogendoorn’s latest play to the Courtyard Theatre tonight. A simple but effective comedy, The Reluctant Shopper kept its audience engaged and the laughs rolling freely.

Faced with the grim news that consumers aren’t spending, the local business council engages the services of Barry to blackmail one of the city’s more wealthy citizens, Sam, to spend his ill-gotten but sizable nest egg in their members’ businesses. In the course of this task, Barry manages to set Sam up with shopaholic Lisa, and the two find they have complementary interests: Lisa likes spending money, and Sam has a lot of money…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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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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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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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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