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LLOYD BRADFORD SYKE | October 21, 2013 | DANCE | |

REVIEW: Rising | Riverside Theatres, Parramatta

Parramasala is a bigger-than-Ben Hur international contemporary arts festival that takes to the streets of Parramatta annually. Its intention is to celebrate the global influence and impact of Asian arts and cultures. Now in its fourth year, it’s matured to fulfil that mission admirably. And colourfully. Better yet, it embraces sophisticated performances such as Aakash Odedra Company’s Rising, which includes choreography by living legends Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Aakash.

In this case, the “company” is comprised solely of Aakash. And Rising is, indeed, an apt title for this body of works, since Odedra is a rising star, a light on the hill, internationally, in contemporary dance.

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LLOYD BRADFORD SYKE | October 21, 2013 | PLAYS | |

REVIEW: Hay Fever | New Theatre, Sydney

To the best of my knowledge, the Blisses in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever are unrelated to Harry Bliss and relations, the subject of Peter Carey’s novel and Ray Lawrence’s film. But, who knows? Certainly, there’s a large quantum of eccentricity that pervades both families.

Take Judith, for example. She’s the very quintessence of the egocentric, fading actress, making the most of every opportunity, on and off stage, to be the centre of attention, and almost nothing, no matter how high-pitched or histrionic, is out of the question, to get it. As such, it’s a God-given role for Alice Livingstone, who has both an apparent penchant and perspicacity when it comes to such characters. Her English accent fluctuates here and there, but her washed-up femme fatale is just what the doctor, or the playwright, ordered.

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LLOYD BRADFORD SYKE | October 17, 2013 | PLAYS | 4 |

REVIEW: Hamlet | Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney

Toby Schmitz in Hamlet | Belvoir St Theatre (Pic: Brett Boardman)

We all know that, to make a Hamlet, you have to break a few eggs and, if there’s anyone that’s known for doing that, it’s young gun director Simon Stone. Sometimes, said eggs are cracked with deft precision; at others, they fracture in an unexpected way and end up all over the floor. When critics laud Simon, he seems to exhibit no loss of composure but, if we say, now and then, ‘oh, Simon, what a mess!’, he’s tended to attribute it to our misunderstanding of cooking technique.

The universally admirable thing about the talented Mr Stone is he’s prepared to test new recipes, experimenting with texture and flavour. He’s done it with Hamlet, cutting scenes, characters, tracts and diatribes, to remain true to the spirit of the play. That’s the argument. And it’s very substantially sustained.

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LLOYD BRADFORD SYKE | October 17, 2013 | COMEDY | |

REVIEW: The Wharf Revue | Glen Street Theatre, Sydney

The cast of The Wharf Revue | Glen Street Theatre

Pity the poor Wharf Revuers. Each and every year, they’re at the mercy of the political milieu. It’s an invidious place to be. What if no buffoonery should surface? No scandals be forthcoming?

Happily, the parliamentary landscape and beyond, to the big business horizon, still features plenty of both. The team comprises the usual suspects, in longstanding co-creators Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott, though Scott sees to have taken a step back from his performing and musical direction responsibilities, relinquishing the last to Andrew Worboys, whose quite a character in his own right. A couple of years back, Amanda Bishop joined the team and, now, Simon Burke. It’s a pretty solid and promising cast, you’d have to say. And that promise translates to one of the best Wharf Revues ever.

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ALISON COTES | October 17, 2013 | BRISBANE | |

REVIEW: Women In Voice | Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane

The idea began in a pokey little West End feminist café back in the 1990s, when a small group of women, led by Annie Petersen, decided that it was time to give some of Brisbane’s women singers a public voice.

It was an immediate success and, in the 20 years since, has showcased 68 local women, some of whom went onto become, or already were, legends in more than just their own lunchtimes. Think Deborah Conway, Katie Miller-Heidke, Katie Noonan, Deborah Cheetham, Jeannie Lewis, Carol Burns and the sadly-missed Chrissie Amphlett and Sue Dwyer, both of whom died last year. The final tribute to these two wonderful women added another emotion to this memory-filled event.

Women In Voice offers a history of the development of some of Brisbane’s best female singers, as well as a rowdy, raucous, loud and literate concert in its own right. Each of the five or six singers (there were five this year) is given control over her own set f numbers, and then the five sections are loosely stitched together by a compere, this year Alison St Ledger, who was in the very first concert in the Sitting Duck.

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REGINA BOTROS | October 17, 2013 | PLAYS | |

REVIEW: The Floating World | Griffin Theatre, Sydney

The cast of The Floating World | Griffin Theatre

Sam Strong returns from Melbourne Theatre Company in his role as associate artistic director to his former home at Griffin to direct this 1974, new-wave play. This ’70s movement in theatre brought the Australian voice to the stage and for the first time we saw and heard ourselves reflected like never before.

The Floating World speaks about the effects of the last world war on the diggers, long after the event, through the story of Les Harding (Peter Kowitz) and his wife Irene (Valerie Bader), as they travel on the vamped-up former troop ship, on the Women’s Weekly Cherry Blossom tour, towards Japan. It becomes apparent through the course of the play that Les was a POW during WW2 and as he sails towards his destination the memories of his past become too much to bear and the world he’s floating in becomes changed irreparably.

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MELINDA OLIVER | October 17, 2013 | MELBOURNE | |

REVIEW: Brief Encounter (Melbourne Festival) | Athenaeum Theatre

Jim Sturgeon and Michelle Nightingale in Brief Encounter | Athenaeum Theatre

On the surface, Noel Coward’s play Brief Encounter does not appear to take itself too seriously. With whimsical music, humour touching on slapstick, the breaking of boundaries between actor and audience and lighthearted dance scenes, an abundance of joy exudes from the stage.

But within the script lies a universal issue. When people choose marriage, career, and parenthood, adhering to the conventions of society, are they repressing their inner hopes and dreams? And if so, can this sacrifice be reconciled?

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BYRON BACHE | October 15, 2013 | CASTING | 12 |

Should this man play a Thai king? The (colour-blind) King and I

Teddy Tahu Rhodes

This week saw casting announcements from two of the biggest shows hitting stages across the country next year: Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Les Misérables, featuring a cast of seasoned musical theatre performers with nary a soap actor or reality TV personality among them, and The Gordon Frost/Opera Australia mounting of Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, starring 10-time Logie Award winner Lisa McCune as the sunny, widowed governess. McCune’s rumoured real-life love interest Teddy Tahu Rhodes, an ethnically white New Zealander, will play the King of Siam.

Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are a curious thing. For all their cheerful sentimentality, they’re overtly political works. At a time when political correctness was still a pejorative term, the duo tackled social issues others were afraid to touch. South Pacific, Flower Drum Song and The King and I talked about class and race in ways nobody had addressed in the theatre. But what was progressive in 1949 or 1958 doesn’t look so rosy in 2013, and the sentiments themselves are undercut by the constant, pervasive use of racist stereotypes and conventions by the duo.

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MELINDA OLIVER | October 15, 2013 | DANCE | 1 |

REVIEW: The Rite Of Spring / Petrushka (Melbourne Festival) | Comedy Theatre

The cast of The Rite Of Spring | Comedy Theatre

There appears little hope for the heart of humankind in the The Right Of Spring, with human sacrifice, depravity and the pushing of sexual boundaries unveiling from behind a veneer of regular society. With nudity, animalistic movements and sequences where women appear under attack, the audience is confronted and offered scarce relief from the sense of urgency.

It is no surprise that director and choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan chose such an earthy and raw approach in this piece for his company, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. The opening piece in this double bill has a pounding, haunting score by Igor Stravinsky. It reportedly caused a riot when it was first revealed 100 years ago, thanks to its bold segue from traditional classical music. Therefore, any reincarnation of the music must be matched by dance that stretches the performers and audience beyond their comfort factor.

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LLOYD BRADFORD SYKE | October 14, 2013 | PLAYS | |

REVIEW: Super Discount | Wharf 1, Sydney

The cast of Super Discount | Wharf 1 (Pic: Jeff Busby)

Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 1 production of Geelong-based Back To Back’s Super Discount arrests, even before it begins. On entering the theatre, one becomes aware of a magical site: a mini-me twister, apparently effected primitively (with dry ice and a few well-placed electric fans), rises heavenwards. It’s a neat trick that strikes as augural.

This was my first exposure to a Back To Back production, though I’ve certainly become aware of the heady reputation that precedes it. Without having read any other reviews, because of my lateness into the fray I’ve nonetheless become aware of a highly affirmative critical buzz about this play. Which makes my reservations that much harder to express, I suppose, given the nature of the company (all will become clearer). For, yes, I’ve reservations. Those reservations, however, don’t rest with the vision or mission of the company, which is, at once, understated, bold and necessary. To allude to those, I’ll borrow from the company’s own description, in saying it was formed, way back in 1987 (why haven’t we heard a lot more of it, sooner?), “to create theatre with people who are perceived to have a disability”. Yes, the choice of words alone is provocative. This is, indeed, where it begins to get interesting. And confounding.

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