Crikey has launched Australia’s newest arts website, The Daily Review — the new home for theatre criticism and debate. Come join the discussion.READ MORE
Bart Sher, Tony-award winning director of South Pacific recently helped me re-examine my notional prejudice as regards the pedigree of musicals. They can come from any source, he contends; which necessarily includes films. In the case of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, his laissez-faire approach becomes much easier to defend than in some others. (I know what you’re thinking: An Officer And A Gentleman. Yes. That puts the counter-argument.) And, after all, though a film, it was a musical film, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Jeffrey Lane. And it’s Yazbek that effected the transition from film to Broadway (after a stint, the previous year, on a San Diego stage) in 2005. In that year, it was nominated for no less than 10 Tonys and as many Drama Desk awards. It’s been running, somewhere in the world, almost every year since and now it’s Australia’s turn. About time.
To be brutally honest, while the plot is almost fiendishly clever, with the odd exception, the dialogue is often hamfisted; gags obvious. Particularly if you’ve already seen the film. It’s really the songs where one finds all the wit. The rest is down to characterisations.READ MORE
The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! No they’re not — they already came in 1940.
Who knew that Russian Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky married a Brisbane heiress and lived some time in that city after fleeing Russia for Paris when Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over in 1917? Not this little black duck, any more than would most Australians citizens without a deep interest in Russian-Australian relations.READ MORE
At what stage is a classic piece of theatre, or a playwright, ripe for parody? Gilbert and Sullivan had their works in copyright for a hundred years so that no liberties could be taken either with the text or the production; Shakespeare, of course, is fair game for any theatre company, as La Boite’s next radical production of Romeo and Juliet will prove.
But where does Noel Coward, whose plays are only about 80 years old, fit into this theory? Is it all right to spell out the subtleties of the subtext, add gratuitous cross-dressing, and camp the whole play up?READ MORE
I was just a little bit too grown-up (or so I fancied) for Grease when it arrived on the scene in 1978. I’d just finished high school and was possessed of a peer-pressured, or self-possessed, need to seem, if not be, cool, at least by association. Ironically, this tended to mitigate against overt enjoyment of this musical. Covertly, of course, it was a different story: I’d always liked the escapist denial of the ’50s, which pretended everything and everybody was OK.
The decade in which rock ‘n’ roll was born was redolent with lifestyle imagery: the overblown cars, dos and clothes. I sometimes wished I’d been born in ’49, rather than ’59, in the US, so I might’ve found myself slap bang in the middle of this post-war milieu. Of course, this halcyon status only really pertained to the white middle-class, which is what I mean by the denial necessary to be able to get off on it.READ MORE
Is it a concert? A film? A theatrical experience? All of the above, really.
Just when you thought it was safe to venture back into the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, for another Australian Chamber Orchestra tour (how do they do so many, in any given year?), just when you think you’ve go a handle on the length, depth, breadth and shape of the orchestra’s “wares”, Richard Tognetti and team throw another curveball right at’cha.
With The Crowd, the ACO has bent it like Beckham. It’s been and gone, but it’s called The Crowd. My first reference point for anything of that title is a silent film, directed by King Vidor, released in 1928. Ah yes, I remember it well. Especially in hindsight, it’s regarded as a milestone in the art of cinema. For students of history, it was nominated for an award (Unique & Artistic Production) at the inaugural Oscars, the following year. But, as far as I know, this didn’t factor into RT’s thinking on the subject. But Gustave Le Bon’s book of the same name, that harks back even further (to 1895), did. Le Bon’s estimation of the power of the crowd was that of an indomitable force and, rather chillingly, his prescience in predicting the ensuing century would be the era of crowds seems to have been borne out in the blackest of ways, bearing out the social psychology he theorised, in terms of impulsiveness, irritability, volatility, inability to reason, and so on. RT’s other major literary influence in conceptualising this aural and visual adventure has been Elias Canetti: specifically, his tome, Crowds & Power. Canetti’s perspective on the crowd is more esoteric, poetic: he seems to see it as an organism of sorts, a kind of animal, acting in an elemental fashion. Tognetti sent a copy to filmmaker Jon Frank before they joined forces to deliver this cinematic opus, which puts me in mind of Koyaanisqatsi and its oeuvre.READ MORE
Increasingly, we’re a nation of singletons. The trends and statistics are irrefutable. (In fact, we’re a global community of singletons.)
The very present theatre-maker, Augusta Supple, always with her finger on the pulse and awake to any irregularity or change to the cultural heartbeat, feeling for any new snags in the social fabric, recently brought us Singled Out, which follows in the footsteps of her earlier productions.READ MORE
Formed in 1999, The Cinematic Orchestra has always had a unique sound. With their unusual blend of jazz and electronics, they’ve had a successful run of underrated hits that have featured in movies and television, including Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds and One Tree Hill. For a teaser performance, they have played at the Arts Centre’s new Hamer Hall as part of the Melbourne Festival.
Frontman Jason Swinscoe, a former DJ from South London, plays the electronic sounds, blending them artfully to create soft, husky acoustics. Swinscoe embarked upon his musical journey at the tender age of eight, learning guitar and eventually forming his first band Crabladder in 1990 while he was a university student. Crabladder performed similar experimentation with music, creating hybrids of punk and jazz, before the group separated and Swinscoe went on to form The Cinematic Orchestra, a band of a more soulful effect, with a mellow bluesy jazz sound.READ MORE
Sydney-based theatre company Version 1.0 has really forged a place for itself in the forensic investigation of issues of social, political and cultural importance. And its latest production, The Vehicle Failed to Stop, is just as topical a subject to explore as any others it has taken its torch to: the Wollongong sex-for-development scandal and teenage cyber-bullying, for example.
The Vehicle Failed to Stop is verbatim-style theatre that takes its pen-knife to the privatisation of security in war zones, carving a picture of modern-day war with the use of transcripts from media, court proceedings and other public records.READ MORE
Shakespeare’s King Lear has been adapted countless times, with Lear’s greed for his daughter’s love, his increasing instability and the ripping apart of his family a story that resonates across time and cultures.
In this adaptation for the Malthouse Theatre, Lear is an indigenous Australian and his kingdom is the outback. In the context of Aboriginal history, including their relationship with the land and struggles to retain a sense of traditional culture in Western society, the messages inherent in Shakespeare’s original script align powerfully.READ MORE