Tag Archives: Review

Review: Short and Sweet, week 2

By Erica Brennan

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Week two of Short and Sweet at King Street theatre was a mostly enjoyable evening with a variety of theatrical offerings. I really do find it difficult to review these short plays because despite my personal taste or critique I can see that a lot of heart and bravery goes into each piece. But we persevere…
First up was ‘Disposable’ written by Jodi Cramond and directed by Rachel Chant. I was very impressed with the play’s opening moments and its use of silence as we watched a man convince himself to jump off his milk create ledge. As his argument unfolded for suicide he became engaged in a verbal sparring match with two bystanders. Delightfully surreal plot points and simple staging were ‘Disposables’ strong points but the characterisation was a bit too showy to do the script enough justice. Lines were being overplayed where restraint may have been more endearing to its arguments.

Next was ‘A Burning Ambition’ by Cerise de Galder; A fictionalised take on the story Joan of Arc. It focuses on a moment where Joan informs her childhood friends of her mission from god. I thought the subject matter was absolutely fascinating and the script made some bold choices to blend archaic and modern terms. With maybe a little more workshopping it could be a striking combination of language but a reliance on gags and out of place comedy left me confused as an audience member. Lovely engaging performances from Gabriella Florek with her stage mates only a step or two behind.

Third in the line-up was the thriller-movie-esque ‘Bus Trip’ by Kathry Yuen. A monologue delivered with confidence and charm by Michela Carattni and strongly staged by Alison Albany. A woman rides the bus the first time. She is excited by her freedom before her life is ended so quickly that she doesn’t even realise it’s her lifeless body the other passengers are running from. I enjoyed the drama of it and its ‘Sixth Sense’ twist of plot which I never saw coming.

Next we had ‘The gospel According to Bowser’ an absurd piece where the family pet dog Bowser explains the creation of his gospel – his owners at the top and the pound as purgatory. It was a very funny piece and incredibly detailed in its performance. The cat (Kim-Cuong Do) and dog Bowser (Chris Miller) are hilariously convincing and committed in their portrayal of the household pets. Your heart breaks a little bit when cat, Pussums ,introduces the idea of the universe as a random place and shakes Bowsers world to the core. A clever little piece in every way.

The final piece on offer before interval was ‘Diet Dilemma’ a humours look at the ‘new age’ fear and control issues associated with what we consume. Director Jacque Vickers does a great job of bringing out the comedy in the piece. The Actors, however, looked far too aware of themselves, almost breaking into laughter a few times but also obviously enjoying themselves which is always a pleasure to watch.

First up after interval was the rather serious ‘Shockhold Syndrome’ written and directed by Sandy Maestro. This exploration of victim’s attachment to their abuser was written smartly and with excellent use of repetition and subtle shifts of language. I was quickly drawn into the complexity of the two women’s situations and curious as to how it could unfold. I found the performances quite strong and was happy to sit and listen for quite some time only wishing the awkward staging had supported the text better.

Next was ‘Snapped’ by Sally Davies. A satisfying round of storytelling even if the premise of broken relationships due to a falsified photograph was somewhat ordinary. It was an easy piece to watch, very engaging because of the many direct address to the audience. I found the characterisation somewhat laid back and wondered how the story would have benefited with more energy from the performers.

Number 8 on our list was ‘Waiting’ by Kylie Rackham and directed beautifully by Heidi Lupprian. Mrs O’donnell befriends a young man named Mark who loves music but lacks almost everything else in life. A unique story of friendship and guilt. An ambitious story for ten minutes with the charters meeting building a relationship, losing Mark to a car accident and finally Mrs O’donnle provides a heartbreaking affirmation that it was not her fault. Quite an arc, but performed commendably by actors Sandra Cample and Challito Browne.

Second to last was ‘2 count’ by Jodi Cramond. A Short and Sweet Dubbo winner staged aptly by Lisa Eismen. I thought it was a very human enquiry into one man’s struggle with OCD. At times I felt the character was being portrayed as ‘crazy’ when the text cried out for more normalisation of his behaviours. Performer Nick Dale at time is truly charming. Some startling philosophical revelations come from a man who believes ‘to count is to know’ and expresses the fear of having a story but no purpose which left me hanging on his every word. I was impressed with the use of repetition to drive dramatic points home. A wonderful inclusion in the festival.

And lastly we had ‘Rick and Rod’ by A. Patrick Nilan. A comical duologue between two penises. I really was hoping to make it through a Short and Sweet season without a penis play but as far as they go this was quite good. The costumes where phenomenal and detailed and quite confronting. It was very cleaver and beautiful characterisations from Patrivk Nilan and Alastair Buchanan. Their performance as the confused and friendly male organs should be commended.


Review: The Venetian Twins, presented by New Theatre.

Aussie larrikin meets Carnevale in New Theatre’s The Venetian Twins

by Tiffany Hoy

Venetian Twins_New Theatre

An Australian musical based on an 18th century Goldoni classic? I really didn’t know what to expect, but The Venetian Twins is a playful comedy full of mistaken identity, jealous lovers, plenty of slapstick and even a nipple twist (or two).

Identical twins, Tonino and Zanetto, have been separated since birth and are as different as can be – one a Venetian gentleman, the other a country bogan. When each rock up at the same town (somewhere between Verona and Goondiwindi), to meet their respective girlfriends, chaos ensues.

Wine is turned into VB, bananas appear from some surprising places, and commedia is interrupted by good old Aussie slang.

Nick Enright and Terence Clarke’s libretto provides plenty of opportunities for laughs, and with director Mackenzie Steele at the healm, New Theatre’s production does not miss a trick.
The action is driven by mistaken identity and the machinations of would-be suitors – with some very funny songs throughout, sending up various musical styles.

White faces, stock characters and the odd Plague Doctor mask pay homage to commedia dell’arte traditions, on a set that recalls a travelling show with hessian sackcloth and a diamond-patterned drop. Low lights are used to great effect, as are giant picture frames and burnished mirrors, whisked about the stage for quick reveals and clever scene-setting. Set designer Sean Minahan and costume designer Alice Morgan have created a striking world in which the actors run riot.

And do they ever!

The cast as a whole are a very talented, well-oiled team, as you’d expect from the New Theatre, with impressive professional credits to everyone’s name. The script gives a lot of room to romp, and there’s no holding them back from the farce.

Jay James-Moody does admirable double duty as both twins, Tonino and Zanetto, with playful renditions of each character (he had me thinking there were two different actors till interval – der!).
In slinks Pancrazio, the villain of the piece, played by Dean Vince. Tall, bald and with a painted white face, Vince’s Pancrazio is a marvellous sort of diabolical cabaret Lord Voldemort – well worth seeing! Vince had the audience gleefully hissing back in his number, Hiss the Villain, with sly banter and slick dance moves.

Marisa Berzins as Beatrice, Tonino’s empassioned lover, steals the show with her fabulous soprano voice and hilarious scenes involving wind machines and rose petals that brought the house down.
Arlecchino and sassy Columbina (Zac Jardine and Debra Bryan) are a mischievous pair, Stephan Anderson makes a suave Florindo, with designs of his own, and Andy Johnston as the dandy Lelio keeps Rosina (Meagan Caratti) on her toes. And The Judge (Peter Flett) is not so holier-than-thou as he pretends…

The band does an impressive job of swapping between various musical styles – cabaret, operetta, Aussie folk song – and their moments of interaction with the cast are a highlight.
All in all, it’s a great night of fun – go see it! And get a seat down the front, as the venue lacks a little in mic support, and you won’t want to miss a single hilarious moment.

The Venetian Twins is showing at the New Theatre in Newtown, 13 November – 15 December. Click here for tickets and theatre information.

Review: The Cranston Cup FInal

by Emily Elise

Theatre Sports, Enmore Theatre 24th November 2012.

Improvisation is a scary beast. To face it, one might have great triumph and be heralded as the improv- slayer, on the other hand the beast could devour you whole in front of a packed theatre. This is why I love going to watch the best of the best battle it out.

I had butterflies for what I was about to witness. I wanted it to be amazing, I wanted to watch and celebrate success and I hoped that I was not about to witness embarrassing failure… now I want everyone to breathe a sigh of relief. The Cranston Cup Final at the Enmore Theatre on Saturday night will probably be responsible for a few more smile wrinkles in my old age.

Choosing the theatre sport games they wished to play such as an ‘epic’ scene, a poetry rollercoaster or just “a scene with canned goods” , each team was also given another stimulus ranging from an exotic location to free reign with an audience member’s text messages. The audience was taken on a journey through an alphabetic gondola ride, the ‘best day ever’, a Catholic confession and quite a few man snogs, whilst scores from five judges accumulated to decide the winner. Big congratulations to the winners of the Cranston Cup ‘Mother Father’, but with only a couple of points between the rest, all the players deserved the rumbling applause they received throughout the whole show.

If you have never seen theatre sports and don’t know what I am going on about, check out http://www.improaustralia.com.au which has all the upcoming shows and workshops etc. I cannot recommend getting out to one of their shows more. Bring your friends, your Mum, your neighbour, your Partner or anyone! You’re guaranteed a laugh a minute (at least).

Review: ‘Prime:Orderly’

By Erica Brennan

Prime: Orderly – Riverside Theatre’s, Parramatta

Prime: Orderly is a new dance work in two halves. It is the culmination and distillation of chorographer Dean Walsh two year fellowship researches into sub-scapes and human-animal movement studies. A subtle and rich new chorographic language that draws on Walshes 23 years experience as a dancer and transcends this virtuosity by applying a humours touch to its subject matter. Prime: Orderly is an experience to be immersed in, not a story to be followed or observe and draw conclusions from. It flicks between moments of pedestrian conversations to deep, raw, primal gestures, and effortlessly back again. Creating a movement score I have never seen in a dance work before. A brave and inspiring piece of performance.

I was hooked from the first moment I walked in. Perhaps empathising a little too much with the poor alien like creature that greeted us centre stage as we entered. It was a puppet, part human, part hammer head shark, strung up by large fish hooks, ready for an experiment or a tourist photograph. Adding to the uncomfortableness and feeling of being trapped is a hooded sweat-suited figure watching you as you try and sneak past to take your seat. These opening Moments of Prime: Orderly thrust you headfirst into a charged exciting space. You certainly don’t skink dreamily into a world. No. You are dropped in and rendered somewhat speechless by its cruel beauty and detail. ‘Am I an intruder?’ I asked myself. ‘Oh no that hooded thug is going to do something aweful to the puppet and terrify me!’ I think and I cross my arms in front of myself protectively. Yet I can’t take my eyes of the scene before me and my curiosity is rewarded.

All aspects of this production from lights and sound , to performers and the design, work seamlessly together to keep you inside the piece at all time. You are never quite sure of where you are inside it but it certainly never lets you miss a beat or step outside and wonder about your shopping list for tomorrow. The opening moments are bizarre, sci-fi bizarre! With fish hooks being cut off the our shark specimen and our hooded figure stripping off to reveal a faceless, featureless blue uni-tarded man underneath. This blue man (Dean Walsh) stops his suspicious wanderings occasionally and treats us to a clownish lecture on his first shark sighing while surfing. The images given to us are thrust against each other odlly and the images themselves are foreign. However as a whole Prime: Ordley is completely recognisable and contemporary in its invocation of fear and suspicion. The first half finishes with a guest speaker who is somehow associated with the subject matter of marine life. Tonight it is Dr Anthony Granville Marnie biologist and shark specialist who speaks about his relationship to these magnificent creatures.

The second half pushes further into the pedestrian and everydayness of movement and our relationship to the ocean and yet goes deeper. A piece structured over the unfolding of a 1 hour scuba dive as an audience member you get lost in the incredible effort and importance of breathing. Balloons are blown up and lead the performers around the space. They leap and roll and judder into animal movements before walking and talking in conversationally about their latest dive. The performers breathe and breathe and breathe, taking it far too seriously before surprising us all and booming into microphone the infamous ‘Luke. I am your father.’ The audience laugh in relief and we enjoy watching them pull apart the coral shaped set, scrunch it up and throw it into a net with little skill (they kept missing – which was great). Then we stopped laughing when suddenly struck by the fact that this could be our oceans, our coral our marine life we are destroying so carelessly.

A powerful, visceral experience by a truly skilled and informed practitioner. I’m still thinking about it, still excited by it. Keep an eye on Dean Walsh and get to his work. You won’t be sorry.




Review: short and sweet in Broken Hill

By Heidi Hendry

The Short+Sweet Theatre aim to develop and showcase excellence using the ten minute theatre form. Sponsored by West Darling Arts and in association with the Broken Hill Repertory Society Inc, the Short + Sweet Theatre expanded this year to include Broken Hill, NSW.

Locals were encouraged to be involved with writing, directing, producing, acting, stage management, lighting and sound.

5 ten minute plays were performed at Theatre 44 on Wills St on Friday 26th, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October.

Daydream Believer, written by Deb Hunt and directed by Marilyn Harris was set underground in the Daydream Mine. Set both above and below ground, the play made excellent use of the 2 sides of the stage to create the effect of distance. I was a bit distracted by the helmet shadow over the eyes of the three actors, but found the Tour Guide(?) warm and believable. Anthony & Cathy/Cookie interacted well as the arguing couple.

You Must Be One Since You Said It, written and directed by Leah Maj, wasa story of schoolyard bullying. The technique of having Leah (Ella Fobister) standing in the middle of the stage with the bullies walking behind throwing out their lines at her, while she fumed, was an excellent technique. I would have liked to see Ella further forward on the stage, and there was one interaction where she turned her back on the audience, which could have been choreographed differently, but I liked her emotional strength, and her fury was palpable. Eric (Ryan Baker) did not have many lines but I felt he was quite believable.

Clean Sweep, written and directed by Deb Hunt, was a clever and funny story of a principal and a janitor, but was really a story of power and where powere really lies. Clever stagecraft and positioning as well as excellent choice in cast produced a well delivered, very believable pas de deux. Anna Cannillas and Fred Peters can be proud of their performance.

The Artist in Residence written by Jason King, directed by Marilyn Harris, was my favourite. Excellent writing, well executed, humourous, and almost professional in its delivery. John Harris, as the Painter, engaged my attention from the moment the curtain opened. Marilyn Harris, as the First Buyer, conveyed a wry humour, and was clearly enjoying her role. The puns on the paint names produced a lot of laughter in the audience.

A Town On The Edge Of Sundown written and directed by Adelaide DeMain, used a completely different format to present a narrated story about Broken Hill. It definitely conveyed the essence of Broken Hill drawing in the various elements of life here. And a standout performance by AJ Bartley as Priscilla.

After the plays were done the awards were presented. Clean Sweep will be taken to Sydney to be showcased in the Short+Sweet Sydney festival, and each of the other 4 plays will be available for directing & performing in that same festival. Best Actor went to Fred Peters, Best Actress to Ella Fobister, Best Director to Marilyn Harris, and Best Play to Clean Sweep.

Overall, it was a lovely evening, and fantastic to see the talent that Broken Hill has to offer. I hope to see more of this calibre of work, and hope that the West Darling Arts will support more of this. I am eagerly looking forward to the next production.

Review: Frank Christie, Frank Clarke – part of the Sydney Fringe Festival

By Shelley Frame

Parking and then walking through The Norton Street Piazza, I couldn’t believe that it took so long for a professional performance space to become established. It is by far the most perfect venue, smack bang in the middle of one of Sydney’s best eating and drinking neighborhoods (and its open late), public transport a breeze and a flat rate parking station, nearly unheard of anywhere else in Sydney!

The venue itself, The Italian Forum Cultural Centre, is sparklingly new and oh so cool, with art from The Fringe Arts at The Forum Show in the foyer and super cute bar tenders. So expectations were high, but the cast of Frank Christie Frank Clarke! Did not disappoint.

It’s the standard story of bad boy, good at heart trying to make it with the use of a few scams in a tough world, the whole time being pursued by the police and vengeful husband, throw in a love interest, an overly zealous drama queen, 2 great mates, a token Aboriginal grandmother and the desire to become a media mogul and American politician, yeah, it’s your basic Australian gold fields musical drama.

It is always a worry going to see musical theatre that the whole evening could turn into cringe worthy amateur hour, but this cast more than proved themselves to be exceptionally strong musicians who seemed to arrive at every note effortlessly and cover every corner of the theatre without any assistance.

There were moments of awkwardness between Frank Gardiner (played by Brent Dolahenty) and Wu Lin (played by Lena Cruz) when their duets A Fire Place in My Life and In The Rain seemed overly serious and uncomfortable in a show that seemed much more at easy being playful and quirky. Thankfully things got back into the swing of it with amazing and dynamic duets between Erni (played by Timothy Monley) and Dave (played by Trent Kidd) Won’t Whinge and Won’t Whinge reprise were classics in pantomime style. Frederick Pottinger (played by John Derum) and James Torpy (played by Laurance Coy) performed Vengeance in such an energetic way it was hard to keep up with them and left us inclined to support them in their evil plans to capture Frank Gardiner.

Director and Stage Mangaer, Aarne Neeme, worked with the original design concept of Peter Flemming and Allan McFadden, that of the 19th Century music Hall style. The playful use of hats as costumes and props all happen around the brilliant musicians at the center of the stage. At times this seemed a little messy but allowed for free use of the space and audience participation.
With so many exceptionally good performances to choose from across the Fringe Festival, Frank Christie Frank Clarke! would be a good choice if you are looking for old school entertainment and enjoy to a laugh. It’s appropriate enough that I have no problem recommending it if you wish to take children along or as the beginnings of a night out on Norton street.

Performances are at The Italian Forum Cultural Centre entrance in the piazza, 23 Norton Street, Leichardt, 27 September and 29 at 9pm; and September 28 and 30 at 6.30pm. Tickets are $25, $20 for concession and can be booked online at sydneyfringe.com.au or welovefrank.com.au, or by phone on 9020 6980. Or go to Italian Forum Cultural Centre Facebook page and take advantage of the 2 for 1 ticket deal they have advertised at the moment.

Review: The 8 Reindeer Monologues

by Erica J Brennan

I have a particular fondness for dinner theatre because it implies a whole evening devoted to good company, good food, and nothing but pure entertainment. Living and working in Sydney and recently becoming more involved in experimental and interdisciplinary arts, I relish the chance to get back to a live show that lets nothing but my funny bone be tickled. Therefore it was with some excitement that I made a long cold drive up the Great Western Highway towards the Leura Golf Course and The 8 Reindeer Monologues.

This production takes the form of eight monologues loosely centered around a confessional telling of some shady crime the holly jolly Santa Claus has committed against his one of his reindeer. In an extremely haphazard and shallow way a longer list of dark deeds in uncovered over the 2 hour show. Vixen is claiming rape and Rudolf the lovable red nose reindeer has been reduced to a huddled mess after witnessing something he shouldn’t have. Mrs Claus is an alcoholic who likes to strap elves to her genitals. Written here, these individual elements sound like interesting fodder for a vicious cabaret, but in putting them together this production has some very hit-or-miss moments.

A warning was attached to the promotional material stating that The 8 Reindeer Monologues is an ‘adults-only black comedy’ and I have no objection to dark material (must laugh other wise we cry right?) but be warned that the blackness of this comedy runs the gamut from the absurd to the upsetting. No topic is off limits.

I wanted to enjoy it, I really did, particularly because I very much wish The Blue Mountains had a theatre scene worthy of its seething creativity. However I struggled to muster warm and fuzzy feelings about attempts to make comedy out of pedophilia and bestiality, at least when such humour relied on sometimes shallow and stereotypical characters. I personally felt as though some of the subjects could have been treated with a little more subtlety or sensitivity, though I did chuckle a few times but more out of awkwardness than anything else. The audience around me seemed to enjoy sections of the story more than I did with a little good natured heckling happening from a few sides. Some of the performers incorporated it well in to their act, others seeming terrified that people had spoken up. The performers themselves got stronger as the evening went on, and I would expect continued improvement throughout the rest of the run.

It takes an incredible amount of energy and effort to put together any type of live performance and I hope to see much, much more created and performed in the Blue Mountains. The 8 Reindeer Monologues is a challenging piece of comedy, and I recommend going to see it with an extremely open mind.

Performance Dates in July Friday 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th Saturdays 7th, 14th 21st and 28th
Tickets from $40.
Leura Golf Course Sublime Point Rd Leura
For Bookings and More Information http://www.whatsantadid.com.au/tickets/

Review: BTC’s Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is a musical that is best approached with some prior knowledge of the show’s history and content. Originally developed as an off-broadway show, this cotemporary adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play presents a story of the rather violent sexual awakening of a group of teenagers who are growing up in a strict Christian society and authoritarian school system. The musical adaptation contains some intentionally confronting images and ideas, but does so amidst high energy rock music and with moments of cheeky fun. The show’s sense of satire is clearly directed at those elements of contemporary society that still resemble the 19th century Germany of which Wedekind’s play was so critical.

Blacktown Theatre Company’s production of Spring Awakening approaches the story with just the right degree of intimate abandonment. The production is, in many regards, just like the teenagers it depicts; energetic and lively, sometimes lacking subtlety, but full of the in-your-face attitude and confidence that makes it so much fun to watch.

The young actors that make up the core ensemble in this production approach their roles with a contagious enthusiasm, and possess a strong chemistry that supports the two leads and helps carry the audience through many of the more confronting scenes. The performance has some rough edges, but the collective charisma of the cast makes this less of an intrusion and more a part of the charm of the whole production.

Both Nicole Lotters and Julian Luke do a great job in the lead roles of Wendla and Melchior, but where the show really comes alive is in the big chorus numbers where the rest of the talented cast members get the chance to show their stuff. The night we saw this show there were some scenes in which the fast-paced dialogue was easy to miss, though there did appear to be some teething problems with the audio. During the musical numbers volume, however, energy and clarity were not issues and the overall experience was enjoyable.

Staged in the hall of a segregated boys/girls school, the set effectively captures the spirit of teenage angst and rebellion, mixing classic portraiture and art with posters and album covers of deviant musical icons such as David Bowie, Bob Dylan and the Ramones. Surrounded by raw and polished timber, the effect is of a timeless teenagers bedroom that is both intimate and strange, rustic and refined. However, these visual elements are mostly on the periphery, leaving the performance space itself quite bare and open to the effective use of a few chairs, other props and lighting effects to transition scenes throughout the show.

Blacktown Theatre Company’s Spring Awakening does a good job of capturing the sense of raw, hormone-driven emotion that is the heart of this show, and is true to the spirit of the story in both it’s staging and performance.

For ticket information visit the Blacktown Theatre Company website at http://blacktowncitycommunitytheatre.com.au/