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Plays

Oct 14, 2013

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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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Melbourne

Sep 25, 2013

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The cast of Hard Rubbish | Malthouse Theatre (Pic: Jeff Busby)

There were moments of true hilarity and amazement as we watched a mélange of household items take battle against the relentless march of sleek Nordic surfaces.

The men and women of “Men of Steel” must have balls of steel and stamina to match to endure this physical riot of an evening, as they breath miraculous life into the most mundane of discarded household items. Before this show, I could never imagine feeling teary over the “death” of an old comfy chair, nor horror at the sight of a broken top loader washing machine being flogged and strung up by a chest of drawers.

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Circus

Aug 22, 2013

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A performer in Wunderkammer | Malthouse Theatre

It loosely translates as The Chamber of Wonder and it’s not hard to see why. Created by Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa Ensemble, this gravity defying, body contorting spellbinder has to be seen to be believed. An Australian grown show that has finally returned to Melbourne’s shores, Wunderkammer is a seven-person ensemble act that boasts an alluring blend of circa, burlesque and cabaret.

Known for his work with Rock’n’Roll Circus, Australian Museum and the Australian Theatre for Young People, director Yaron Lifschitz has manipulated different cultures of music and interpretive dance to breathe life into something very unique. Performed by Nathan Boyle, Jessica Connell, Robbie Curtis, Casey Douglas, Brittannie Portelli, Kimberly Rossi and Duncan West, Wunderkammer has no dialogue, but it does tell a story. Each performer has a character, whether it be a clown, a puppet, or a trapeze artist, Lifshcitz’s crew is not here simply to do tricks and handstands — they each communicate some sort of tale. Though one could argue that there are gender politics afoot, it seems more likely to be an exploration of the dynamics of a close-knit family.

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Melbourne

Aug 8, 2013

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Alison Whyte in The Bloody Chamber | Malthouse Theatre (Pic: Jeff Busby)

“It is the key that leads to the kingdom of the unimaginable,” describes Angela Carter’s pastiche reimagining of Bluebeard. He is talking about a key to a small room in the furthest reaches of his castle; a room that his new wife has been forbidden to enter; a room that she has defiantly explored; a room that she aptly coins: The Bloody Chamber.

The Bluebeard legend tells the story of a French nobleman with blue facial hair who has wed several times before, his previous wives all mysteriously vanished. The legend begins with Bluebeard’s most recent marriage to an impoverished and naïve young maiden who he has been decadently courting in Paris. But on his wedding night he goes away on business, giving her the keys to all of the rooms in his castle including his private chamber, which he insists is the only room she must not enter. Desiring to unlock the secrets of his soul, she is overcome by curiosity and enters the chamber. Inside, she discovers the bodies of her husband’s previous wives all grotesquely strung up on hooks: the dark truth of his murderous soul.

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Melbourne

Jul 24, 2013

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It is tempting to call White Rabbit, Red Rabbit an unreviewable play. It has no director, no scenic designer, and a different actor playing the single role at each performance.

On stage there is a white ladder, and a black table and chair. On the table there are two glasses of water, a spoon, and a single manila envelope containing the script. Actors performing White Rabbit, Red Rabbit are asked to do three things: to not see the play, to not drink from the glasses of water on the stage, and to prepare an ostrich impersonation.

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Melbourne

Jul 4, 2013

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The cast of The Dragon | Malthouse Theatre (Pic: Jeff Busby)

Director Marian Potts’ energetic production of The Dragon at the Malthouse, a rumbling critique of a corrupt and corrupting political culture, is well-timed given the strange shenanigans going on in Canberra. But it’s ultimately let down by a lack of cohesion and a pedestrian ending that feels only semi-cathartic.

That is not to say my guest and I didn’t have a very enjoyable evening. I have always liked the story of Lancelot a medieval jock with all the right instincts minus finesse or discernment. Played with beefy abandon by Jimi Bani, Lancelot can’t help involve himself in others mischief, going after dragons and falling in love at first sight.

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Melbourne

May 23, 2013

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Catherine McClements and Julie Forsyth in Phèdre | Malthouse Theatre (Pic: Rush)

Lighter moments amid a Greek tragedy of jealously, screaming frustration and illicit love all played out brilliantly at the Malthouse Theatre on a cold autumn night in Melbourne. How much better can it get?

Bell Shakespeare’s production of Jean Racine’s 17th century classic stars Catherine McClements in a tour-de-force. bringing to the title role a stalking multi-dimensional animalism, full of pathos, nuance and self-reflective humour. If she doesn’t win awards for this amazing performance there is no justice.

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Melbourne

May 16, 2013

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Jacek Koman, Belinda McClory and David Paterson in Dance Of Death | Malthouse Theatre

The blackest of comedies, Friedrich Durrenmatt’s Dance of Death is a complex and absurdist piece of literature. Adapted from August Strindberg’s 1900 play about a marriage gone psychotically wrong, this bleakly hilarious play is currently being hosted by the Malthouse Theatre, under the skillful direction of Matthew Lutton.

The first thing that the audience member will be struck by is the intriguing mise en scene. Tony Award-nominated designer Dale Ferguson has conceived of something truly remarkable with this set, constructing it entirely in a glass box with the audience members arranged on each side. All three actors — Jacek Koman, Belinda McClory and David Paterson — remain on stage the entire time, even while they are not involved in the current scene. This is strategic: it adds to the claustrophobic feel of the script and the overall entrapment the characters suffer from.

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Dance

Mar 18, 2013

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Skeleton | Beckett Theatre

No stranger to hosting the weird and the wonderful, this season at the Malthouse Theatre a wonderfully grotesque ballet is gracing the stage by visionary Larissa McGowan.

Beginning her career as a winner of the Queensland Ballet Scholarship at the Victorian College of the Arts, McGowan has gone on to win numerous titles, from the Victoria College of the Arts’ most outstanding dancer and best female dancer at the Helpmann Awards. In conjunction with director/choreographer Sam Haren (Fronteras Americans/I Am Not An Animal), McGowan created Skeleton, an ensemble contemporary dance piece.

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Melbourne

Feb 22, 2013

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The cast of Pornography | Malthouse Theatre

I don’t usually like to mix metaphors, but in this case I will make an exception: this abysmal train-wreck of a play should have been strangled at birth.

Director David Myleg makes a brave attempt with a professional and in places technically slick production, and his actors are for the most part quite good. But they fight a battle they massively loose — especially when attempting regional British accents.

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