Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Theatre: The Shadow King

William Shakespeare's King Lear 
adapted by Michael Kantor and Tom E Lewis
Malthouse Theatre
Directed by Michael Kantor
Designed by Paul Jackson, Michael Kantor and David Miller
Musical direction John Rodgers
Performed by Jada Alberts, Jimi Bani, Frances Djulibing, Rarriwuy Hick, Damion Hunter, Kamahi Djordon King, Tom E. Lewis and Natasha Wanganeen, with musicians Selwyn Burns, Djakapurra Munyarryun and Bart Willoughby
Heath Ledger Theatre until 1 March

Let’s be clear: despite its title, its language and its setting, The Shadow King is King Lear, Shakespeare’s, and all theatre’s, supreme drama.
In a remarkable achievement, Michael Kantor and Tom E. Lewis (who also plays the king) have stripped half its length, all but eight of its 21 characters (no sadistic Cornwall, no grasping Albany, no loyal Kent), changed the gender of one of them (Gloucester), presented a radically altered text in five indigenous languages as well as English, and delivered an always satisfying and sometimes transcendent version of the play.
As Djakapurra Munyarryun’s phenomenal, keening voice sings all the sorrow of tens of thousands of years, signed, date stamped and filed; as Frances Djulibing falls to the ground from the cliff her son imagines for her; as Tom E. Lewis dances, distracted, in the dust, the unsurpassable art that lies at the heart of Shakespeare’s greatest play, and this memorable, iconic, imagining of it, rises up from the red dirt and takes us in.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


By Suzie Miller
Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Directed and designed by John Sheedy
Choreographer Danielle Micich
Featuring Harrison Elliott, Mohammed-Adel Berrached, Rikki Bremner, Toby Derrick, Yilin Kong, Jacinta Larcombe
The Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre
February 22 – March 1

Our political parties would do well to dig deep into Suzie Miller’s ONEFIVEZEROSEVEN for a glimpse into the lives and opinions of the next generation of voters and leaders.
As they did two years ago in Driving into Walls, Miller and Sheedy use young performers who are primarily dancers to represent these kids and their thoughts. They are also strong actors, and the result is more nuanced than its predecessor.
ONEFIVEZEROSEVEN is also far more optimistic and, I suspect, more representative of what’s happening for most young people.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, February 24, 2014

Theatre: An Iliad

Homer’s Coat
for the Perth Festival
Written by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson
Based on Homer’s Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Performed by Denis O’Hare, with Brian Ellingsen
Sunken Gardens, UWA
Until February 26
(Albany Entertainment Centre February 28)

We begin with Homer, and nothing other than the Bible and Shakespeare has influenced us more. The poem of the uber-warrior Achilles, that begins “Goddess, sing the rage of Achilles, murderous, doomed, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls”, is as bloody and propulsive as anything ever told. In it, for the first time, psychologically identifiable personalities emerge from the shade.

The American actor Denis O'Hare and his director friend Lisa Peterson have long harboured the idea of bringing The Iliad to the stage, and the result is an unmitigated triumph.
The character O’Hare creates is universal. He’s the man in the tattered coat who’s always looked at the world and seen it for what it was. He’s the miller and the little tramp, Falstaff and Quixote, written by Chaucer and Shakespeare, Voltaire and Cervantes, Nick Cave and Tom Waits.
And, of course, he’s the first of them all. He is Homer.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Krapp's Last Tape

By Samuel Beckett
Directed and performed by Robert Wilson
His Majesty's Theatre

Krapp’s Last Tape, the short play by Samuel Beckett brought to His Majesty’s Theatre by the preeminent American theatre artist Robert Wilson for the Festival of Perth, is a work of forcible noise and long silences.
In one of those silences, the sound of someone sobbing could clearly be heard in the audience. I’m unable to say whether it was from high emotion engendered by Mr Wilson’s performance, or because she was desperate to escape from the theatre.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fringe World 2014

Welcome to the city on the Fringe of the World. Here's the Perth Fringe Festival happenings (at least those parts of this many-headed monster that happen to me!) day-by-day from curtain up on January 24 until it collapsed on February 23. 
There are spot reviews of all the shows I see, with links to full reviews of those that appeared in The West.. 
This year followed The West's (and, indeed, most people who cover fringes') lead and give nasty star ratings for the shows I see. 
It's not my natural inclination to treat performance like Olympic diving,  but it seems it's a useful tool, especially for companies and producers looking to get to other events, so there you go.
Feel free to disregard them (or anything else I say) because, in the end, fringe is all about trusting your instincts, keeping your ear to the ground and your finger on your mouse and unearthing those little nuggets of genius for yourself.  
I can tell you, for example, that the three shows I really should have seen, Lost and Found's La Voix Humaine, Gillian Cosgriff's This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things and Holland Street's Point and Shoot, all of which garnered piles of 5-star ratings and Fringe World awards, I passed over or only found out about too late.
(Incidentally, they're examples of why the so-called Fringe Encore in the Urban Orchard should actually include "by popular demand" return performances of shows like this, instead of what amounts to a two-week piss up that only disrupts other traders, including PIAF, and runs the risk of damaging Fringe World's well-deserved reputation.)  

So, just click the "Read more" tag below, and let's get cracking!

Opera: The Old Maid and the Thief

By Gian Carlo Menotti
Love Opera!
For Fringe World 2014
Musical director Lochlan Brown
Director Kathryn Osborne
Set and Costume design Philippa Nilant and Sally Phipps
With Nola Formentin, Michael Heap, Jenna Robertson and Alexandra Bak
Perth Town Hall
Until February 22


I’m no opera buff. I went to the splendid Perth Town Hall for Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief mainly to see how Kathryn Osborne, one of our best young theatre directors, would approach her opera debut.
The answer is very well. And that’s only one of the pleasures of this fun tale of lust and larceny in small-town, early 20th century America.

Theatre: These Guys

Variegated Productions
Created by Libby Klysz, Brent Hill, Ben Sutton, St John Cowcher and Michelle Nussey
Directed by Libby Klysz
Performed by Ben Russell, St John Cowcher and Michelle Nussey, with Alwyn-Nixon Lloyd 
For Fringe World
PICA until Feb 22

There’s only one thing wrong with this gem of a Fringe show: it leaves you wanting more, but the bastards won’t give it to you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Theatre: Second Hands

Little y Theatre
Written and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler
Developed and performed by Austin Castiglione, Nick Maclaine, Holly Garvey, Georgia King and Renee Newman-Storen
For Fringe World
PICA until Feb 22

I suggested to some people who had just seen Jeffrey Jay Fowler’s ghoulish suburban comedy, Second Hands, that he could be the next David Williamson.
They were horrified that I would consign such an adventurous young writer to the remainder bin of Australian theatre, trotting out middlebrow current affairs dramas to pad out the subscription brochures of the state theatre companies, but they rather missed the point.
Which is that Fowler has the rare gift of writing genuinely funny, genuinely sharp dinner-table dialogue, and the ability to ratchet it up and down the emotional scale from banter to desperation at will. Only time will tell how Fowler chooses to use his ability; what’s indisputable is that he’s got it, and in spades.

Theatre: First Day Off in a Long Time

Written and performed by Brian Finkelstein
For Fringe World
Blue Room until Feb 22

There can’t be a tougher gig in comedy than writing for US talk shows; every line is genetically modified, every set up is massaged like Kobe beef, every punch line goes under an electron microscope. If you haven’t got it, every time, your career can be nasty, brutish and short.
Brian Finkelstein swims in those shark-infested waters (The Moth, Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O’Brien), and the fact that he’s come out alive, with both his humanity and sense of humour intact, is a testament to the guy.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, February 17, 2014

Theatre: The House Where Winter Lives

Written by Fran Moulds, Maxine Doyle, Matt Blake and Peter Higgin
Directed by Peter Higgin and Maxine Doyle
Design by Sean Turner and Olivia Altaras
Performed by Matt Blake, Kat McGarr (alt. with Fran Moulds)
PIAF until March 23

Ollie is four-and-a-half, slap-bang in the middle of the age group Punchdrunk’s The House Where Winter Lives is recommended for. He’s got bright, alert eyes and a shock of jet-black hair. When Mrs Winter put a little dollop of dough in front of him and announced that he and the other kids around her kitchen table were going to make gingerbread men, he could contain himself no longer:
“I already had some gingerbread, THIS MORNING!”
With that, the walls between us and Mr and Mrs Winter (Matt Blake and Olivia Altaras) dissolved, and we were in the Winters’ cosy kitchen, sheltered from the snow and any 21st century, middle-of-Perth reality that tried to impinge on us.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Theatre: You Once Said Yes and Tag. You're It

You Once Said Yes
Look Left Look Right
Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Katie Lyons
Directed by Mimi Poskitt
PIAF until March 2

Tag. You’re It
Renegade Productions
Written and Directed by Alexa Taylor
Fringe World until Feb 15 

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid”, as Raymond Chandler once put it. Writing about Sin City Northbridge, no doubt.
Site-specific theatre, in all its variations, is a feature of both this year’s festivals. We’ve already marvelled at Situation Rooms, and we’ve still got The House Where Winter Lives to come.
So, on a steamy Perth night, I took to those mean streets. Twice. First with the UK company Look Left Look Right’s devious You Once Said Yes, and then with WA outfit Renegade Production’s playful Tag. You’re It.
Each has its own subtext – and even message, if you like. Each involves you moving from encounter to encounter, situation to situation as you walk those streets alone. While it’s not surprising that the experienced, tech-savvy British crew deliver a more surprising, elaborate and entertaining experience than the comparatively basic local production, there is plenty to like about both.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Circus: Bianco

Nofit State Big Top
Ozone Reserve
Until March 1

It’s as though a grown-ups circus – that Canadian one, for example – has left town with its set, but, absent-mindedly, left its tent and a pile of scaffolding behind.
A bunch of scruffy kids, one of whom, fortunately, is a dab hand at Meccano, has commandeered the space, and the resulting hi-jinks, the ebullient, light-as-air Bianco, will be lighting up the Ozone Reserve until the start of March. It will be the runaway hit of this year’s festival.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, February 10, 2014

Theatre: Not by Bread Alone

Created and directed by Adina Tal
With the Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theatre Ensemble
Original music by Amnon Baaham
Performed by the actors and translators of the Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theatre
Regal Theatre
Until February 12

Not by Bread Alone, performed by 11 actors from Israel’s Nalaga’at Deaf-Blind Theatre,  is a production so unusual in both content and purpose that it resists the function of a critic. It alters the usual shape and direction of the transaction between the performer and the audience in a way that defies judgement.

The fundamental line of the performance is “Welcome to our lives, to our darkness, to our silence”. The horror of loneliness, of frustration and grief it conjures up is overwhelming. Imagining what this dark, silent world must be like is impossible, like imagining death.
But, as Not by Bread Alone convincingly shows, that is far from the truth. Rather, the truth lies in the start of Hanina’s welcome, because these people do have lives, and dreams and ambitions (some also have seeing, hearing children), and they have the courage – and this production has the skill – to invite us in to share them.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Mies Julie

Baxter Theatre Centre, University of Cape Town
Written and directed by Yaël Farber
Based on August Strindberg’s Miss Julie
Music by Daniel and Matthew Pencer, performed by Brydon Bolton and Mark Fransman
With Hilda Cronje, Bongile Mantsai, Thoko Ntshinga and Tandiwe Lungisa
The Octagon until Feb 13

The core mechanism of Apartheid was to keep people apart, in chains if necessary. But now, on Veneen Pas, “Weeping Farm”, the Voortrekker farmer’s daughter, Julie (Hilda Cronje), and her father’s servant, John (Bongile Mantsai), are bound together, by forces they can neither avoid nor control. He is on a chain, kept from the world outside by ancestral ties and indentured servitude; she is in a cage, trapped by her bitter inheritance and new fears. When John says to her, “So here we are – free at last,” freedom is a hollow lie that overwhelms them.
Strindberg’s Scandinavian discretion, in his original Miss Julie, made his characters’ repression and transgressions even more shocking. Here, in the hot, dry grazing lands of South Africa, everything is laid bare like the red soil and the roots of ancient evils. John says of his masters’ historical crimes, and his ancestors’ dispossession: “They try to cover it up, but they can’t hide what they have done.”
Much that Strindberg threw a veil over is exposed. What is implied in Miss Julie is explicit here. The writer and director Yaël Farber’s imagery, at its best, is memorable, but her dramatic craft doesn’t quite match the power and vision of those images.
Mies Julie is breathtaking (as are both Cronje and Mantsai’s performances), but, finally, it falls short of the truly great theatre it had the potential to be. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Friday, February 7, 2014

Theatre: Dogmeat

MKA: Theatre of New Writing
By Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Directed by John Kachoyan
With Luke Mulquiney, Devon Lang Wilton, Eric Gardiner and Tobias Manderson-Galvin
PICA until Feb 8

MKA, the much-admired Melbourne company established four years ago to foster new writing for the theatre, makes its Perth debut with a revival of its first play, co-founder Tobias Manderson-Galvin’s Dogmeat. 

There is a desperate poetry in Manderson-Galvin’s writing that requires great care in its staging, and Kachoyan and his fine cast gives it a clarity and precision that lets the writer’s words breathe.
Or gasp, snarl and whimper.
Ultimately, Dogmeat is as moving as it is horrifying. Manderson-Galvin is a poet as well as a playwright, and the blank verse of much of the dialogue is of deep quality and beauty.
He also understands the Well Made Play. For all its carnage and obscenity, Dogmeat tells its story with a meticulous respect for narrative very much in the great tradition of knockabout Australian theatre.

There’s an encore. A little later in the evening, MKA are giving readings of a work-in-progress, Will Mcbride’s Party Time Giftset, directed by MKA’s resident director Kat Henry. It’s clever, funny (and free), and, this Saturday night, it will be performed by a stellar cast of 25 (if they can round them up in time).

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Theatre: 10,000 Beers

By Alex Broun
Directed by Sussanah Thompson
Featuring Andrew Southern, James Porter, Joel Sammels and Paul Grabovic
PICA until Feb 1

This play about blokes who play football tells an authentic, convincing sporting story without a ball in sight. Well, not a football, at least (full-frontal nudity, adult language and themes warnings apply).
The 27 players from the Port Hedland Pirates are down in Perth for their end-of-season mad weekend. Their mission – to down 10,000 beers.
There is a stupendous bar crawl (it’s not a bad beginner’s guide to the watering holes of Perth and Freo), there is chundering, there are fights, there are the inevitable slobbering home truths. But there are also solidly drawn personalities and nuanced relationships, and a convincing transposition of the qualities and shortcomings the Pirates display on the field to their lives.
It’s fair to say that Broun and Thompson shy away from really exploring the darker side of these colossally male pursuits, but that would make 10,000 Beers a different play.
It would be hard, though, to make it more satisfying, insightful and entertaining than it already is. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: The Night Guardian

By Jessica Messenger
Ellander Productions
Featuring Ellen O’Connor, Nick Maclaine, Rhoda Lopez and Maitland Schnaars
PICA until Feb 1

There are some things that are just too hard to put on a stage. The antics of caped crusaders and their ilk are among them.
This attempt at the genre, by the tenacious Ellander Productions, falls way short of the mark.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: The Iron 'Ores

Presented by the Flag Sisters
The Flag Sisters with Igor Sas and Damien O’Doherty
Until February 4

This misguided show masquerades as a spoof on all things WA mining boom. It also imagines that it’s provocative, wickedly politically incorrect and scandalous.
What it is, instead, is clumsy, disgracefully underprepared, dreadfully old-fashioned and deeply unfunny.
It’s also a sad waste of the talents of Igor Sas and Damien O’Doherty, two very fine performers who, somehow, have landed in this thing.

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, February 3, 2014

Circus: Jerk

Casus Circus
Performed by Emma Sergeant
Directed by John Britton
Sound design and composition by Jay Radford
Until February 3

Jerk, the one-woman show performed by Emma Sergeant, co-founder of the Queensland contemporary circus company, Casus, is an exciting amalgam of theatre, dance, music and circus.
Sergeant uses magnificent physical and considerable dramatic skills to tell an apparently simple story in a dozen different ways, each time deploying different apparatus and techniques, and adding new layers of information and emotion.
I saw its first-ever performance and thought it was all but faultless. Like all new work, there are the occasional wrinkles that need ironing out and extraneous elements that could use shaving; but what Jerk is now, and what it certainly will become, deserves the highest praise. 

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian .

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Theatre: Run Girl Run

Devised and performed by Grit Theatre
Tom Browne, Laura Hughes and Clare Phillips
PICA until Feb 1

The sweaty, exuberant Run Girl Run has been touted as an exploration of gender expression, that sort of thing, and I can buy that. Fortunately, it’s way broader than that, and way, way more entertaining.
Three characters (played by Grit Theatre’s Tom Browne, Laura Hughes and Clare Phillips) are, literally, on a treadmill; three of them, set up facing the audience, towards which the characters saunter, break into a brisk walk, a jog and, finally, a breakneck gallop. There aren’t many shows you’d think to put a pedometer on, but this one would be a fascinating exercise.

(As it ended, I realised I had a lyric in my head. It was written by my mate Dave Warner over thirty years ago, and it’s as true today as it was then: “Just remember, while you’re here/ You march our march, you drink our beer”.)

Link here to the complete review in The West Australian.