Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Theatre: I Do I Don’t (★★★)

Written and performed by Whitney Richards
Directed by Rachel Chant
Sound designer and composer Brett Smith
Lighting designer Joe Lui
Choreographer Claire Nichols
Blue Room Theatre
Until September 3

I’m a Whitney Richards fan.
She’s back in town with I Do I Don’t, an honest, often painful, recollection of her early life and fractured family.
It’s clear that there have been some rocky times for her over the past few years in the bigger ponds she’s been swimming in, and this has sparked a desire – compulsion even – to reconstruct the past that she finds in scraps of memory, the casual documents of life, and conversations with family members. 


Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Othello (★★★½)

By William Shakespeare
Bell Shakespeare
Director Peter Evans
Designer Michael Hankin
Lighting designer Paul Jackson
Composer/ sound designer Steve Toulmin
Featuring Ray Chong Nee, Yalin Ozucelik, Elizabeth Nabben, James Lugton, Michael Wahr, Edmund Lemnke-Hogan, Joanna Downing, Alice Keohavong and Huw McKinnon

Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until August 20

Donald Trump may boast, “I am what I am”, but Shakespeare’s irreplaceable villain will have none of it.
Iago (Yalin Ozucelik) warns us, in the first minutes of his play, “I am not what I am”, and tells us much more besides; his hatred of his brilliant general, Othello (Ray Chong Nee), the reason for it, and his lethal intention.
We’ve barely opened this whodunnit, and we already know its who, why and how. The many surprises that follow arise from Iago’s sheer audacity.
He is an improviser and a tightrope walker. He sets action in motion and exploits whatever emerges to his best advantage.
And, ironically, it’s the one thing he plans in advance that brings him undone.

This Othello may not quite reach the heights of last year’s dazzling Hamlet, but it’s another reason for us to be grateful to Bell Shakespeare for bringing us fine productions of some of the greatest works of the world’s theatre. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Theatre: The Trembling Giant (★★★)

Those Who Love You
Written and directed by Monty Sallur
Performed by Zoe Street and Peter Lane Townsend
Blue Room Theatre
Until August 27
 

Monty Sallur tells the grim, interesting story of two renegade survivors of ecological disaster hiding from a brutal governing corporation and nurturing what we gather is one of the very last remaining trees.
Every day Flint (Peter Lane Townsend) takes the risky trip from their grey bedrock bunker to search for naturals – the rare rich soil left on the surface – to feed the tree while Margo (Zoe Street) stays behind to tend to it.
Sallur (who also directs) gives us a convincing, though quickly sketched, picture of a barren world where the remnant population live in cities of heaped-up one-room cubes, and stony storms rumble across overwhelming desolations.
Despite my concern that so much of our best new writing centres on dystopia and apocalypse (perhaps, as one of the generation who have exploited the world like none before, I shouldn’t be surprised that those who are going to inherit whatever is left should be bleak about the future), The Trembling Giant is a worthy addition to the repertoire of independent theatre in WA.


Read the complete review in The West Australian 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Theatre: The Caucasian Chalk Circle (★★★★)

by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Ralph Manheim
Black Swan State Theatre Company and The National Theatre of China
Directed by Dr Wang Xiaoying
Designed by Richard Roberts
Costume Designer Zhao Yan
Mask designer Prof Zhang Huaxiang
Lighting design by Mark Howett
Composer/sound designer Clint Bracknell
With Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Adam Booth, Kylie Farmer, Luke Hewitt, Geoff Kelso, Alex Malone, Felicity McKay, Lynette Narkle, Kenneth Ransom, James Sweeny, Steve Turner and Alison Van Reeken
Music performed by Clint Bracknell and Arunachala

Heath Ledger Theatre
Until August 14

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht’s 1944 parable of tyranny and the “terrible temptation to do good”, is based on an ancient Chinese folk story dramatized eight centuries ago as The Circle of Chalk.
The fulcrum of the story, though, is told in many forms in many cultures dating back as far as the legend of the judgment of Solomon.
So there’s a fine sense of closing another circle in this cooperative production of a German play set in the USSR, translated by an American, staged by an eminent Chinese director with a creative team from both China and Australia, performed by an Australian cast, with a deliberate and significant contribution from the inheritors of a living culture with stories that date back tens of thousands of years.
It’s an ambitious culmination of the tenure of Black Swan’s departing artistic director Kate Cherry and the signature piece of the company’s 25th anniversary season.
Happily, the result is a clear and persuasive staging of Brecht’s tale, and a rollicking entertainment to boot.



Read the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, July 11, 2016

Theatre: Hobo (★★★)

By James Taylor
Jeffrey the Cat Productions
Directed by Ian Wilkes
Designed by Chris Brain
Performed by Maitland Schnaars, James Hagan and James Taylor
Blue Room Theatre
Until July 16

In James Taylor’s Hobo, a perfect storm of evils collides at the dead end of an alley. Among the excrement and urine, vermin and bottles of plonk, the homeless and destitute eke out a volatile and vulnerable half-life.

Hobo maintains an impressive authenticity, especially in its portrayal of chronic drunkenness and mental confusion.
However, the play is uneven in both its text and staging.
Part of the issue is in performance. James Hagan is a wonderful and imposing actor but his presence here, the sheer volume of him, is just too much for this play in this small space.
He needs to dial down so that Hobo can be heard and understood with the clarity it warrants.



Read the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Theatre: A PERFECT SPECIMEN (★★★)

by Nathaniel Moncrieff
Black Swan Lab
Directed by Stuart Halusz
Set design Frances Danckert
Costume design Lynn Ferguson
Sound design Brett Smith

Lighting design Joe Lui
With Adriane Daff, Rebecca Davis, Luke Hewett, Greg McNeill and Igor Sas

STC Studio until July 17

Luke Hewitt and Rebecca Davis
 The sad true story of Julia Pastrana, a Mexican Indian woman who was a sideshow attraction in the mid-19th Century, has been made into a sumptuous, generally successful but not especially remarkable, stage play by the writer Nathaniel Moncrieff, the director Stuart Halusz and the Black Swan Lab, the development project of the State Theatre Company.
Pastrana was the archetypal bearded lady, due to a cruel congenital condition that led its sufferers to be promoted as ape men and bear women.
The challenge of bringing Pastrana to the stage is deftly and sympathetically achieved by not representing her deformities. Adriane Daff, in a fine and touching performance, gives a sympathetic portrait of a wounded woman without the prurient distraction of her condition.
Luke Hewitt’s Theodore Lent is also convincing. The play is as much a picaresque exploration of the complete moral failure of a man as it is the tragedy of his victim.

Rebecca Davis threatens to run away with the show as Lent’s mistress, the acrobatic Marian Trumbull. The remarkably lengthy Davis makes it easy to see how she would be a hit in the ring or between Lent’s sheets, and she brings desperate power to her characterization.
The show is beautifully staged. Joe Lui moodily and imaginatively lights Frances Danckert’s revolving set and Lynn Ferguson’s rich costumes, and Brett Smith’s sound design and original compositions add greatly to its atmosphere and appeal.
Despite all those advantages, A Perfect Specimen ultimately lacks dramatic ambition. The narrative is determinedly linear, never truly taking us inside its characters or off its rails.
That does, of course, make this strange tale clear and easy to follow, but that comes at the expense of greater opportunities it could have taken, and deeper insights it could have found.


Read the complete review in The West Australian   

Friday, July 1, 2016

Theatre: Coincidences at the End of Time (★★★)

Written and directed by Scott McArdle
Second Chance Theatre
Designed by Sara Chirichilli
With Nick Maclaine and Arielle Gray
Subiaco Arts Centre
Until July 2

By the time Scott McArdle’s Coincidences at the End of Time gets under way, things have come to a decidedly un-pretty pass. Outside the beat up café Peter (Nick Maclaine) has holed up in, whopping great fire-breathing lizards are barbecuing whole neighbourhoods and a flesh-eating mist is gurgitating the survivors.
The waitress has been reduced to a smear of ash on the wall, while Peter has either had some pretty lucky escapes from the general misfortune or he’s disastrously bad at opening the café’s fiddly tomato sauce sachets.
For those of us familiar with the fashion for dystopia and apocalypse that infects our indie playwrights, the tea leaves are easy to read.
Of course – it’s a rom-com!