Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Theatre: Private Lives

By Noël Coward
Onward Production
Directed by Marcelle Schmitz
Set design by Brian Woltjen
Costume design by Steve Nolan
Featuring Kirsty Hillhouse, Michael Loney, James Helm, Michelle Fornasier and Rosemarie Lenzo
Subiaco Arts Centre
Until December 10
Michael Loney and Kirsty Hillhouse (pic: Jon Green)
Noël Coward’s Private Lives is given a glittering, unsettling revival by Sally Burton’s Onward Production at the Subiaco Arts Centre in a sumptuous production marked by bravura performances by its stars, Kirsty Hillhouse and Michael Loney, and an expertly paced reading by director Marcelle Schmitz.
Schmitz is a considered and talented director, and she is neither spooked by the domestic violence that haunts the play nor bogged down in it. She gives the play’s sharp glamour and wit a full head of steam, and her cast take glorious advantage of the license given them. 
Private Lives is like a dazzling stranger at a glamorous party; impossible not to admire, hard to resist, but dangerous to love. If you do, though (I did), be wary of the dark place behind those lovely, sparkling eyes.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian               

Theatre: Who's Afraid of the Working Class?

By Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas and Melissa Reeves
Directed by Rick Brayford
Set and costume designer Patrick Howe
Performed by WAAPA Aboriginal Theatre students Karanata Kadarmia, Haylee Rivers, Tobiasz Millar, Jadene Croft, Paddy Ahkit, Alexandra Lane, Dimity Shillingworth and Shakira Clanton
Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA
19 – 24 November, 2011
Alexandra Lane and Tobiasz Millar  (pic: Jon Green)
There was a powerful and revealing moment during the curtain call on the last night of WAAPA Aboriginal Theatre’s production of Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?
As she was taking her bows, Alexandra Lane jubilantly flexed her biceps and let out a triumphant yell, which was picked up and repeated by others in the cast. It was an expression of relief and achievement, as you’d expect from kids at the end of a grueling year’s study, but, more than that, it was an affirmation of strength: the strength they’ll need as indigenous performers to pursue their ambitions in the theatre; the strength, on the evidence of this barnstorming production, they have in abundance.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Theatre: The Man the Sea Saw

Spoontree Productions and the Awesome Festival
Wolfe Bowart
His Majesty’s Theatre
November 25 - 26, 2011

How many Wolfe Bowarts are hiding out in Perth? The native Arizonan has lived quietly in WA for years, but it’s taken this year’s Awesome Festival to finally get him to perform his acclaimed physical theatre in his adopted home town.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to be recognized at the local IGA, though. It’s simply that his shows, which have included the Helpmann Award-nominated Letter’s End and the international hit LaLaLuna are in such demand around the globe that he has never found the time.
On the strength of his charming, mischievous The Man the Sea Saw, it’s easy to see why. And it was nice to think that, for once in his career, Wolfe Bowart could drive home after work. He should do it more often. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian    

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Theatre: Tipsy

Nicole in Red
Directed by Mark Storen
Written and performed by Ella Hetherington, Georgia King, Sarah Nelson, Dawn Pascoe and Nicole Warren
Music by Rhoda Lopez, Joe Lui, Beth Sheldon and Geoffrey Harrold
Little Creatures Loft
Until November 23

Ella Hetherington (pic Travis Macrae)
I’m no fashionista, but Tipsy, Velvet Sushi designer Deborah Mckendrick’s collaboration with actor/director Mark Storen and some of the brightest young performers in Perth was intriguing enough to get me to the Little Creatures Loft to check it out.
I’m very glad I did.
Tipsey wasn’t uniformly slick, or particularly meaningful, but it was feisty entertainment, great to look at and a lot more besides. It’s important to see our performing artists working with commercial enterprises without losing their spark or compromising their integrity; it’s encouraging to see popular spaces like the Little Creature’s Loft used inventively and effectively; and it’s stimulating to see our fashion shown to winning effect on vibrant performers, and not just spiritless mannequins.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer

Perth Theatre Company and Weeping Spoon Productions
Created and Performed by Tim Watts
With the collaboration of Arielle Gray
Construction by Anthony Watt
Sound design by Tim Watts and Matt Cheetham
Production by Chris Isaacs
STC Studio
22 November – 3 December, 2011

The first scene of the globe-trotting Alvin Sputnik is as touching and brilliantly realised as anything you’ll ever see anywhere. Behind a circular screen, lit al la Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, and plucking on his ukulele, Alvin (Tim Watts) sings to his dying wife, begging her not to go tonight. Her pale puppet body breathes silently until, as her husband watches helplessly, it is wracked by death throes and expires. A glowing form – her soul, her spirit – leaves her body and floats away.
You think immediately of the beautiful opening tableau of the magical Up, and how completely they both draw you into the story that is to follow.
That story of how Alvin pursues his lost wife’s soul into the depths of the ocean, incidentally finding a new life for mankind from the climatic disaster that has drowned and wrecked the world above, is told in live, puppeteered and animated scenes of wonderful technical skill and inventiveness by Watt. The deep sea diving-suited Alvin, in various forms but most often a simple hand glove with a fishing float for a head, meets a stock array of dangers and challenges to achieve a kind of apotheosis, finally giving himself to be re-united with his Elena and save the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Puppet Theatre: Adam Polichineur de Laboratorie

by Stephane Georis
directed by Francy Bégasse
Performed by Stephane Georis
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle
for The Fremantle Festival
November 16 - 20, 2011

Puppetry sure ain’t what it used to be. In the Belgian puppeteer Stephane Georis’s wild ride through science and history, life, love and death, Adam Polchineur de Laboratorie (roughly The Professor in his Laboratory) at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, very little you’d identify as a puppet makes an appearance. Unless, of course, you think zucchinis, carrots and cauliflowers are puppets. Oh, or bread rolls – lots of them, in all shapes and sizes.
Director Francy Bégasse has Georis uses all these items and more, pulled from his cupboard and manipulated on a laboratory bench, to great effect as he investigates ballistic theory, the survival of the fittest and the ascent (and looming descent) of man. The dinosaurs terrorize the world, little fish swallow tiny fish (all in the guise of the aforementioned bread rolls) and in turn are chewed up by larger and larger ones, monkeys become apes and men, and mankind marches on to its materialistic destiny.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Theatre: Blood Brothers

by Willy Russell
Directed and designed by John Senczuk
Featuring Ian Toyne, Sarah McNeill, Richard Mellick, Simon Thompson, Nick Maclaine, Garreth Bradshaw, Julia Hern, Maree Cole, Tyler Jones, Charles McCombe and Amanda Muggleton
 The Metcalfe Playhouse
Until 4 December

Willy Russell, Amanda Muggleton and Perth are words that fit well together. For a substantial number of theatregoers, they may be all a reviewer needs to report, along with a number for bookings.
It’s easy to understand why. La Muggleton has wowed our audiences, most notably in Russell’s Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, repeatedly and unfailingly for so many years that the actress and playwright are inextricably linked in our hearts and minds.
But before you make that booking (call 9228 1455, by the way), a few words of warning. Unlike Shirley and Rita, Blood Brothers is a big cast show, and a musical to boot. While Muggleton’s Mrs Johnstone is unquestionably its star vehicle, she’s not the show’s entire focus, or even its central character. And while it shares Russell’s concern with Britain’s class system and the trouble it causes, this is a darker, ultimately tragic, story with a much different mood than his other hits.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Theatre: They Ran 'til they Stopped

The Duck House/ Performing Lines
Written by Gita Bezard
Featuring Whitney Richards, Arielle Gray and Lawrence Ashford
November 10 - 19, 2011

Whitney Richards and Arielle Gray
An empty place at a table is like a hole in the heart. It’s the pointy end of grief, a reminder that you cannot go back, and cannot stay the same.
Gita Bezard’s They Ran ’til they Stopped tells of what happens to three people when the fourth of their household dies. We never know what happened to her, all we know is that she is gone.
It's unsettling and uneasy (and this reviewer confesses he came to it after a too-long day), and sometimes feels more an exercise than a fully realised piece, but it’s fine work by some emerging theatre practitioners.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian   

Monday, November 14, 2011

Theatre: Lorelei

Deckchair Theatre
Devised by Mark Storen and Chris Bendall
Directed by Chris Bendall
Musical director Tim Cunniffe
Design Fiona Bruce
Featuring Rhoda Lopez and Mark Storen

The Lorelei, the siren who lured Rhine shipmen onto the rocks with her song, returns as a cabaret singer who entrances a wandering sailor in this pastiche of songs, some of ports and the sea, by Mark Storen and Chris Bendall, who also directs.
Storen plays Buzzard, the lonely sailor, enchanted by the vamp Lorelei (Rhoda Lopez) and led by her across the seven seas to ports from here to New York City.
Let’s start at the top. Fiona Bruce has delivered a winning design for the show, with cabaret tables dotting the floor and stages surrounding the audience. It’s fun to be in and great to look at as the two performers bob up around and among you. Lopez starts in spectacular form, with Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam, and is shipshape and sexy throughout. Storen’s powerful and somewhat threatening aura makes his capsize from someone who might do anything to Lorelei into someone who would do anything for her even more effective.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Theatre: Slut

Little y Theatre
Written by Patricia Cornelius
Directed by Emily McLean
Featuring Chloe Flockhart, Liz Frodsham, Nicole Warren, Megan Moir, Georgia King, Alexandra Neil and Sarah McKellar
Blue Room Theatre
Until November 19

Georgia King
The Little y Theatre, formed by Georgia King, Mischa Ipp and the late Alexis Davis in 2010, made a galvanizing debut in June with Scent Tales, one of the real highlights of the Perth stage this year.  This production is very much King’s baby. She’s a terrific young performer, and her assured style permeates this story of a girl, Lolita, fallen down, as told by her seven friends and classmates.
When it all comes together, as in the fabulous funny-scary scene when the girls, in their “angry year”, prowl and snarl through an adolescent pre-menstrual animal kingdom, there is anger, humour and insight in equal measure. When their focus is not themselves and their own lives, but Lolita the Slut and hers, it loses these qualities.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian          

Monday, November 7, 2011

Theatre: Music from the Whirlwind

by John Aitken
Directed and designed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Performed by Brendan Ewing
The Metcalfe Playhouse
3 – 5 November, 2011

Theatre should give us entertainment, emotion and education. Whatever else you say about the revival of Music from the Whirlwind, WA playwright John Aitken’s powerful exposé of the dangerous relationship between Dmitri Shostakovich and the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, it certainly delivers on the last of these. Brendan Ewing, the edgy, distinctive actor who plays the Russian composer in this single hander, provides plenty of the others.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Friday, November 4, 2011

Theatre: When the Rain Stops Falling

Black Swan State Theatre Company
Written by Andrew Bovell
Directed by Adam Mitchell
Designed by Bryan Woltjen
Lighting design by Trent Suidgeest
Sound design by Ben Collins
Featuring Vivienne Garrett, Julia Moody, Fiona Pepper, Igor Sas, Scott Sheridan, Steve Turner and Alison van Reeken
 Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until November 13

Julia Moody and Scott Sheridan (pic: Gary Marsh)
With the sad, exquisite When the Rain Stops Falling, Black Swan have unquestionably kept the best of their first year’s tenure as the core tenant of the State Theatre Centre ‘till last.
Andrew Bovell’s family saga charts the lives of seven connected characters over four generations, eighty years and two continents; it’s a complex, highly structured work that requires the utmost clarity in its script and staging to avoid disintegrating into confusion. That it succeeds so well is greatly to the credit of Bovell’s disciplined, highly literate writing and the painstaking management of scenes and characters by director Adam Mitchell. It is also indebted to a cast of West Australian actors who would, I think, do it proud on any stage, anywhere.