Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Theatre: Hart (★★★★½)

by Ian Michael and Seanna van Helten
Directed by Penny Harpham
Designed by Chloe Greaves
Sound designed by Raya Slavin
Lighting designed by Katie Sfetkidis
AV designed by Michael Carmody
Performed by Ian Michael
Until June 11

One moment, early in Ian Michael’s powerfully argued tour de force, Hart, says it all. It wasn’t the archival images of Aboriginal men in chains in work camps, although they were deeply humiliating and sickening.
It was a simple statement of fact, from one of the four indigenous men whose interwoven stories Michael tells in Hart, whose lives have been affected, directly or indirectly, through the stolen generation: “I was given an age by the government”.
Michael gives a wonderful, controlled performance, and he’s given great support by his director, Penny Harpham, designer Chloe Greaves, sound designer Raya Slavin and lighting designer Katie Sfetkidis.
Between them they have created a moving, enlightening and entertaining work that is an important addition to our understanding of these terrible events.
I hope you are able to see it. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Monday, May 30, 2016

Theatre: Sugarland (★★★★)

by Rachael Coopes with Wayne Blair
Australian Theatre for Young People
Presented by Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Directed by Fraser Corfield and David Page
Designed by Jacob Nash
Lighting design by Juz McGuire
Sound designer by Guy Webster
Costume design by Ruby Langton-Batty
Performed by Narek Arman, Eliza Logan, Xanthe Paige, Calen Tassone, Jonas Thompson and Dubs Yunupingu
State Theatre Centre Studio
May 27, 28 & 30, 2016

Narek Arman and Jonas Thompson
 No two remote towns are the same, but Katherine, in the Northern Territory, could serve as a model for them all. The Australian Theatre for Young People’s Sugarland, set in its red-dirt streets, is about the lives of children in all those dusty towns, learning to get by, maybe even get ahead, against formidable odds.
Rachael Coopes, working with Wayne Blair, developed Sugarland over an extended period in Katherine, and its sense of place is deep-rooted and immaculately drawn. So, too, are the characters that Coopes, Blair and the directors Fraser Corfield and the late David Page bring to life in the play.
Sugarland is not perfect; the lucrative song competition that drives the story is a shaky, brusquely resolved, vehicle.
But the lively authenticity of the characters and their situations, and the wonderful performances by the entire cast, make Sugarland a vivid, sometimes excruciating, window into fragile lives in hard places.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Theatre: I See Red (★★★½)

WAAPA  3rd Year Performance Making Students
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
May 19, 20, 2016

There wasn’t a string to be seen on stage, but in the hands of fourteen graduating year students from WAAPA’s Performance Making course, guided by Spare Parts artistic director Phillip Mitchell, there was no doubt what you were watching.
It’s testament to the reach and variety of modern puppetry that WAAPA, always conscious of the career prospects of its students, has introduced puppetry into its syllabus; after all, if you want work in The Lion King or Warhorse…
The nine short, devised pieces all reference Little Red Riding Hood (although the show is all grown up in tone and content), and it’s an inspired piece of curation.
The passing of Spare Parts’ beloved master puppeteer and State Living Treasure Noriko Nishimoto this week has saddened the whole WA arts community, but nothing could blunt the excitement of the student performers and their supporters in the foyer after the show. 

That’s exactly how Nishimoto, a committed educator throughout her long career, would have wanted it. Because, to quote Dylan Thomas: “Though lovers be lost love shall not”. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cabaret: Nailed It! (★★★½)

Music and Lyrics by Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer and Andrew Spano
Performed by Andrew Spano
Accompanied by Rainer Napoli
Downstairs at the Maj
26 – 28 May 2016

This year’s cabaret season at The Maj gets in full swing with Nailed It!, Andrew Spano and Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer’s tantalizing collection of songs about love and other disasters.
The songwriting duo is steeped in style; there’s a lashing of Sondheim, lots of lounge, a bit of Bens Folds and even a taste of Tom Lehrer.And while love pokes its hydra-headed dilemmas into much of the material, the songs never wallow in it.
If Nailed It! is a sign of what’s in store Downstairs at the Maj this year, it’s a very good one.
The 2016 programme combines big names and famous subjects with some real dark horses, and in a town that’s short of good cabaret in the setting it’s meant for, that’s more than we can hope for. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Theatre: Belated (★★½)

by Liz Newell
Directed by Emily McLean
Designed by Tess Darcey
Sound and lighting designed by Joe Lui
Performed by Benj D’Addario, Emily Kennedy, Maja Liwszyc and Peter Lane Townsend 
Until May 28

In Liz Newell’s Belated, silence may not always be golden.
Dean (Benj D’Addario) walks into the one gin joint in all the towns in all the world. Blythe (Emily Kennedy), working the late shift, is suitably unimpressed, but she’s in a dark place, and an accident waiting to happen.
So, it turns out, is he.
Blythe is couch surfing with her life-long friend Max (Peter Lane Townsend) and his partner Norah (Maja Liwszyc). There’s no love lost between the two women, leaving Max in the middle of a tightly wound domestic triangle.
It becomes a rectangle when Max unwittingly becomes party to what has transpired between Blythe and Dean, who turns out to be much more than a stranger passing through their lives.  

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Perth Comedy Festival

Gen Fricker (★★★)
Perth Comedy Festival
Mt Lawley Bowls Club
May 13, 2016
Gen Fricker is solidly in the “a funny thing happened to me” mold – in her case including an inconvenient attack of a virulent strain of acne, a wisdom tooth extraction gone haywire, meeting the new boyfriend’s misogynist former schoolmates and starting work in the graveyard shift at Triple J in the shadow of the Sydney Seige.
She finds out that turning 26 already pushes you out of all sorts of demographics – including her own station’s target audience – and the lifestyle of “disgusting” 19-year-olds.
There’s the underlying story of her part-Maori ethnicity (she’s a self-described “Cinnamon Swirl”, half white, half “Mouldy”) and a sense of youthful cynicism giving way in to experience and self-awareness throughout.
If that process comes at the expense of some cheap laughs, it makes her a more interesting person in return. 

Sarah Callaghan (★★★½)
Perth Comedy Festival
Mt Lawley Bowls Club
May 13, 2016

Sarah Callaghan is quite something, but not quite the something she seems. She may have been born and raised in Uxbridge, in her eyes at least a cripplingly disaspirational West London satellite town where “dreams disintegrate into pieces of shit”. She may even actually live in a dingy 5 x 3m room with a broken curtain rail in her mum’s house under the Heathrow flightpath.
But there’s nothing dingy about her comedy – it’s as carefully polished as the shoes that are her pride and joy (she’s got a great but unrepeatable Imelda Marcos gag with the punchline “head over heels”), and her life story doesn’t mention her stint at Chicago’s Second City School (think Alan Arkin, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, just for starters).
So her Anglo-bogan, passive/aggressive character may be just that, but it’s finely-honed and convincing, and, like our own Steve Hughes and Jim Jefferies, a great platform to make her point as well as her jokes. 

Read complete reviews of Fricker and Callaghan in The West Australian

Andrew Maxwell (★★★

Perth Comedy Festival
Perth Town Hall
May 5, 2016 
Andrew Maxwell cracks on about Aussie backpackers in his Perth Comedy Festival show, Yo Contraire. They pop up everywhere, he says, even, during The Troubles, happily working in Belfast pubs that no sane person would have gone near.
Well, if there's anything as ubiquitous as our compatriots abroad, it must be Irish comedians.
This festival we've already had David O'Doherty and Tommy Tiernan, with Jimeoin still to come, and there are dozens more doing the rounds of international comedy.
There’s clearly a comic efficiency dividend if you don’t have to establish that you’re funny – because you’re Irish, and you just… are. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian  

Speedmouse (★★★★)
Written and performed by The Umbilical Brothers

David Collins and Shane Dundas

Regal Theatre

April 30 and May 1.

It risks being patronising to say that an act that’s played with great success around the world for a quarter of a century is getting better, but the Australian comedians Dave Collins and Shane Dundas, the Umbilical Brothers, sure look to be doing it with a scintillating revival of their venerable show, Speedmouse.
Collins and Dundas rattle out a faultless parade of their goodies; fast-forwarding, pausing and rewinding, instantly transforming themselves into Velociraptors or diving underwater, channelling Yoda and Superman or showing us dozens of new and hilarious ways to give someone the finger.
It’s great to see performers who know exactly what they are doing and don’t try to pretend otherwise. If you’re tired of comedians who make out they’ve landed on a stage in front of you by accident with nothing prepared for your entertainment, the unashamedly unaccidental Umbilicals are just the act for you.

Read the complete review in The West Australian  


Paul Foot (★★★)

Regal Theatre
April 23, 2016
I’m not walking back my conviction that Paul Foot is as funny a comedian as walks the earth; one of those rare beasts who can have you helpless with laughter (there’s Spike Milligan in the firmament, Steve Martin and Billy Connolly among the superstars and Neil Hamburger on the festival circuit; our own Damien O’Doherty has it in her too).
So it’s a shame that Foot seems to be trapped in a blind alley. In his last foray here, with his Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major, and even more this visit, his interest in the process of comedy, clever and insightful as it is, comes at the expense of what makes him so special, the parallel universe of the imagination he inhabits so hilariously.
We get the idea behind Fun with Penny, an excruciatingly unfunny cross-dressing character with a penchant for audience humping, but she is, well, excruciatingly unfunny. We get the deconstruction, as we get the artifice of his long self-introduction and the way it skewers stand-up convention, but it’s all punctuation and not near enough of some of the wildest words in comedy.
It’s all a bit disappointing (though I’d never miss a chance to see him again).

David O'Doherty (★★★★)
Regal Theatre

April 19, 2016

I dodged a bullet last night when I decided not to wear my prized salmon pink T-shirt to the Regal to catch David O'Doherty's We Are All of Us in the Gutter, but Some of Us are Looking at Him.
Quelle chance! There he was, in an all-but-identical T-shirt, a bit "doughy" (his words), a bit avuncular, a bit ramshackle.
He was just like me. If I'd have been in pink. And Irish. And funny.
Very funny, in truth. O'Doherty has a sly accidental charm and a suitcase full of yarns of the possibly true story variety (he's a regular guest on BBC One's Would I Lie To You, where he'd be a holy horror to pick).
If you judge a comedian by the amount of stuff he can cram into his hour (and a bit in this case), O'Doherty's your man. If you like that stuff to be funny and a little bit wise as well, then his fart smartphone app and the consequences of mixing some of those super food concoctions with phenomenal amounts of booze (at a party to celebrate the success of the Irish marriage equality referendum) will suit you down to a salmon-pink T.        

Friday, May 6, 2016

Theatre: The Patriot Game

By Tom Murphy
Abandon Theatre Players

Directed by Ivan Motherway
STC Studio
April 27 - 30, 2016

There are times when a single, shocking event creates a chain of action and reaction, sometimes unbidden, its outcome often murky and much delayed – and the world changes.

A shot is fired outside a little Massachusetts village. A screaming child, her back ablaze, runs down a Vietnamese road. A young man stands in front of a tank in a Chinese square. A little boy’s body is lifted from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
A century ago, a rag-tag bunch of poets, apprentice politicians and wild-eyed nationalists are put up against a wall in Ireland after a Quixotic attempt to raise their countrymen against their English overlords fell on deaf ears.
These are the paroxysms of history, the moments when the world, whether it knows it or not, begins the process of saying enough is enough.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Theatre: A View From the Bridge (★★★★)

By Arthur Miller
Directed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait
Set designer Patrick Howe
Lighting designer Joe Lui
Sound designer Lewis Spragg
Costume designer Molly Werner
Performed by WAAPA 3rd Year acting students
Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA
30 April – 5 May, 2016

Elle Mickel, Brittany Santariga and Guiseppe Rotondella (pic Jon Green)
The graduating classes in the four WAAPA’s theatre courses will mount eleven public productions this year (three more than our State Theatre Company). If what we’ve seen so far is any guide, it’s a programme you shouldn’t miss.
None will be more unmissable than Lawrie Cullen-Tait’s masterful production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge.
The play is a room filling with gas from an unlit burner, waiting for a stray spark to ignite it, and Carbone (Guiseppe Rotondella) is as combustible a character as ever walked a stage.
Rotondella belies his 23 years in a performance as a man twice his age of wonderful maturity and strength.
A View From the Bridge is an important work, both in the American theatre canon and as a timely warning of the destructiveness of the walls we build, inside our families and around our communities.
Eddie is a sinner, but he is sinned against as well. He loses his capacity to love, but, as this breathtaking production of a great play shows us, it’s because he loves too much. 

Read the complete review in The West Australian