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Tag Archives: Tuggeranong

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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Manly Mates

Sir Robert Askin was the longest-serving premier of New South Wales in the twentieth century… as long as you don’t count little Bobby Carr, who served eight months longer, but whose term unfortunately stretched into the twenty-first century. It will not be news to many that such petty distinctions actually matter to the ruling class. It certainly wasn’t to me; which is why, when Frank Hatherley’s play Manly Mates landed on my desk, I was keen to see it produced in Canberra.

A fictitious story based on posthumous accusations levelled at Askin, Hatherley’s play plonks the jovial premier into a hotbed of gambling, womanising and crime (sometimes consecutive, other times concurrent). Joined by stoners, journalists, cops and shonky American poker machine salesmen, the scene in the private Octopus Room at the Manly Hotel is all too reminiscent of more recent rumblings of the political machinery behind closed doors in both New South Welsh and federal politics.

For this production, which later came to be declared the last of Canberra Dramatics’ productions, I handed the reins to James Stevens, who has done a great job with an unwieldy script and a large cast on Tuggeranong’s small stage. The show rolls along from one laugh to the next, and on opening night, despite a slow start, they developed a full head of steam for the hilarious finale.

It is great to see Michael Miller, who has performed in many of Canberra Dramatics’ shows, reprise the role of Askin in the company’s final production; he has a swagger befitting any crooked premier, and is ably supported by Rebecca Nicholson, another veteran of Canberra Dramatics’ productions, as the enthusiastic Pat. Don Wilkinson also returned for this production, as did Robbie Matthews, and these friends were joined by a number of performers who had not performed with Canberra Dramatics before, most notably among them Margie Sainsbury who landed the enviable role of Lady Molly Askin, and lends her an air of forced grace.

Although I haven’t had a lot to do with this last production, it has been a pleasure to see some of the journey this cast and crew have taken. They struck me from the beginning as a very cohesive group, and I am especially glad that James Stevens took on the task of directing them. Cerri Davis, who has worked in a number of different capacities with Canberra Dramatics over the years, also did a fine job in her first role as Production Manager.

In all, it was a great pleasure to see this hilarious play staged in Canberra, and it is a great finale to five years of productions.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 27 January 2011 in Canberra Dramatics, Canberra Theatre, Pure Theatre, Theatre

 

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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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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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