Friday, October 30, 2015

Cabaret: Fancy Meeting You (★★★★)

by Izaak Lim, Amalie O’Hara and Kathleen Douglas
Music by Harold Arlen
Directed by Michael Loney
Performed by Anne-Marie Biagioni, Cassandra Charlick and William Groucutt
Downstairs at the Maj
29 - 31 October, 2015

Fancy Meeting You is the third outing for the team of writer Izaak Lim and director Michael Loney in the Downstairs at the Maj cabaret seasons, and, while it’s something of a departure from their previous shows, it’s every bit as successful.

Their formula is as simple as it effective; take a great American songwriter – composer or lyricist – and build a narrative around their songs. You’ve Got That Thing and Exactly Like You were biographical pastiches of Cole Porter and Dorothy Fields respectively, but Fancy Meeting You breaks the mould, using the songs of Harold Arlen to tell a neat story of love faithless and faithful set in a joint something like the Cotton Club.

That story takes in themes of race and homosexual love that give it a contemporary relevance without weighing down the evening’s entertainment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Theatre: Macbeth (★★★)

by William Shakespeare
WAAPA 3rd Year acting students

Roundhouse Theatre, ECU Mt Lawley
Until 16 October

Whether it’s in anticipation of the looming 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, or a reflex action in response to the real-life slaughter of the innocents with which we are constantly assailed, there’s a lot of Macbeth about these days.
Which is no bad thing for admirers of this most efficient of Shakespeare’s killing machines. It's barely half the length of Hamlet, but is pound-for-pound, and by a very great margin, the most poetic of his great tragedies.
Then there's the dark unreality, the hallucinogenic quality, of Dunsinane and the charnel house made there by its lord and lady.
And there is also some of Shakespeare’s greatest contributions to the language, from “fell swoop” to “screw up courage”, from “double, double, toil and trouble” to “out, damned spot”, reaching its apogee in Macbeth’s great hymn of nihilism, “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”.

…Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

If that doesn't make you shudder, even four centuries leter, you need to take a good, hard look inside yourself.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Puppet theatre: Cloud Man (★★★½) and The Secret Life of Suitcases (★★★)

Ailie Cohen and Lewis Hetherington
Awesome Festival
Until October 11
(Recommended for 4+ year-olds)

The work of the Scottish puppeteers Ailie Cohen and Lewis Hetherington is always good, and the simpler it is the better. At its best, it’s magical for all ages.
Cohen and Hetherington are at Awesome with two shows. The first, Cloud Man, a solo performance by Cohen, tells the story of Cloudia’s search for these “very quiet, very shy, very hard to find” creatures who hide from us in the clouds. 

Cohen returned a couple of hours later, with her collaborator Hetherington, in The Secret Life of Suitcases. Larry, a tall, thin, tube of a man, works in an office where he revels in the mundane. That won’t do at all, and a mysterious suitcase arrives to whisk him away to a beautiful, leafy park, on a boat to a desert island and off into space in a rocket.
If I had to choose between them, Cloud Man’s simple charm particularly won me over. The good, better and best news is that it’s not a choice you have to make.          

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: TILT (★★★½)

WAAPA  3rd Year Performance Making Students
Blue Room Theatre
Until October 10

WAAPA’s Performance Making course is celebrating its first graduating class with TILT, a short season of their work at the Blue Room Theatre.
Some of the six self-devised pieces are of a piece with the indie theatre that dominates our burgeoning fringe festivals and popular small venues like the Blue Room; others operate in hybrid territory between and apart from those templates.
It makes TILT exciting and engrossing theatre-going.
With their world-class training from WAAPA and all their talent and daring, these are twenty young artists with a lot to offer the big, wide world they’re about to step into.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Benjamin and Me (★★)

Whiskey + Boots
Written, directed and performed by Mark Storen
Illustrated by Jacinta Larcombe

Blue Room Theatre
Until October 24

You’d be forgiven for imagining that a show called Benjamin and Me about a boy and his dog would be a sweet, whimsical story of friendship and loyalty. Probably sentimental, perhaps a little sad. With an adventure thrown in.
You certainly get the adventure, a breakneck, seesawing tale of flying machines, mind-robbing villains and feline heroines, lost tribes and menacing hyenas, but any whimsy or sentimentality it might have had gets lost beneath the action.
As for the sadness – I can’t go into detail, but there really should be lots – I’m afraid you are left with neither the time nor energy to feel it.
If the kids in the performance I saw were a little quiet and dazed, it’s probably because there was little left for them to do.

Read the complete review in The West Australian 

Theatre: Rain (★★★★)

Drop Bear Theatre
Composed by Edwina Cordingley
Designed by The Seam
Performed by Sarah Lockwood, Carolyn Bechervaise and Zoë Barry
Awesome Festival
Until October 11
(Recommended for babes in arms and crawlers)

The audience at Rain didn’t applaud at the end of the show. A couple of them nodded off during it. Quite often they were more interested in each other than the performers. There was a disconcerting amount of hugging and smooching going on.
Mind you, the oldest of them was less than a year old, so all this unusual audience activity was to be expected.
For Brandon, Rosalind, John, Jarrah, George, Zoe the Adventurer and all the other squirming, hugging, napping, gurgling and grinning bubs there, it was the time of their just beginning lives.

Read the complete review in The West Australian and have a sneak peek here:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Theatre: The Red Balloon (★★★★)

By Albert Lamorisse
Adapted by Hilary Bell
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Directed by Chrissie Parrott
Set and costumes designed by India Mehta
Lighting designed by Trent Suidgeest
Sound designer and composer Ash Gibson Greig
With Dylan Christidis, St John Cowcher, Ella Hetherington, Eloise Hunter, Ben Mortley and Sarah Nelson

State Theatre Centre Studio
Until 17 October

To successfully adapt a well-known and loved film to the stage takes a little luck and lots of good decision-making.
Hilary Bell’s adaptation of Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 Oscar-winning short film The Red Balloon has both in spades.
In its original form, the story is a simple one, but Bell fleshes out the enigmatic original, largely by the introduction of three animal characters that narrate and comment on the otherwise all-but-wordless action. They are wise and entertaining additions.

It was an inspired decision to invite the celebrated choreographer Chrissie Parrott to direct the show. Her sensibility fits perfectly with the mood of the work, and the dances of balloons, the boy and girl, and the vermin, are highlights.
Kids are the best reviewers of their theatre, and they do it in real time, with laughter, gasps of wonderment and, especially, questions.
There were plenty of all three for this wonderful, impressively staged, story.

Read the complete review in The West Australian.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Theatre: Head Full of Love (★★★½)

By Alana Valentine
Queensland Theatre Company/Performing Lines
Directed by Wesley Enoch
Associate director Catarina Hebbard
Designer Susanne Roanuike
Performed by Paula Delaney Nasarski and Annie Byron 
Margaret River Cultural Centre
September 24, 2015
An old woman (Paula Delaney Nasarski) sits on a low stool crocheting. Around her are bundles of wool and the instruments of her craft.
“Old” is a relative term, though. We're in the town camp outside Alice Springs, and there you can get very old very young. As the woman, Tilly, says, in the town camps “bad things happen, and they happen to you”.
Bad things do happen in Alana Valentine’s sad, sweet Head Full of Love, but good things too, and in the most unlikely of ways.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Extinction (★★)

By Hannie Rayson
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Directed by Stuart Halusz
Set and costumes designed by Bryan Woltjen
Lighting designed by Trent Suidgeest
Sound designer and composer Ben Collins
With Hannah Day, Matt Dyktynski, Sarah McNeill and Myles Pollard

Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre
Until 4 October

Hannie Rayson’s Extinction is anchored solidly enough on reality: the effort to locate and preserve the elusive tiger quoll, mainland Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial.
Equally factual is the conflict that pits environmentalists and local residents against the mining companies interested in exploiting reserves of brown coal in the hinterland of the Otways, the temperate rainforests in Victoria that are among the quoll’s last habitats.
So there’s something to be learnt from Extinction, which is fortunate for its audience, because there’s not much else to take from it. This play perches uncomfortably between several stools and doesn’t really get a purchase on any of them.

Read the complete review in The West Australian