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Dance

Sep 26, 2013

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The cast of Happy As Larry | Seymour Centre

It might appear to occupy the space occupied by cynical commercialism, but Stomp, now in its 22 year, is a work of legitimate, utterly original and dynamic physical theatre. It all started in Brighton, in England, and just goes to show: crowd-pleasing is crowd-pleasing, sometimes at least, because it’s downright thrilling. Shaun Parker & Company seemed to come from nowhere, exploding onto the Australian and international dance scene in similar fashion.

The Stomp set is like a hybrid of (for anyone that remembers) Top Cat’s animated back alley, Sesame Street and a derelict dead end from NYPD Blue. Or something. It’s a world populated by jump and jetsam, dreck and detritus. All of it discarded, as useless. All of it useful. Watching and listening is an object lesson in resourcefulness, inventiveness and creativity, apart from anything else. Shopping trolleys. Garbage cans and lids. Zippo lighters. Matchboxes. Newspapers. Plastic bags. Body parts (still attached). Just about everything you can think of is persuasive fair game.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Stomp / Happy As Larry | Various, Sydney”

Dance

Sep 2, 2013

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Lee Serle and Kirstie McCracken in Double Think | Seymour Centre

Force Majeure recently presented a short season at The Reginald, in association with Seymour Centre, comprising two dance-theatre works, devised and directed by award-winning choreographer Byron Perry. Both are duets, featuring Kirstie McCracken and Lee Serle.

The first, Gogglebox, affectionately celebrates our long-standing addiction to television and was designed to mark the imminent passing of analogue. There is nothing heavy, arcane, deep or meaningful in this piece, which was developed in just a week. That’s it’s strength, as it playfully explores our wholesale, voluntary dependency on entering altered, vegetative states via the infamous box, slowing brain function to virtual imperceptibility, rendering us just this side of clinically dead.

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Plays

Aug 22, 2013

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The cast of Delectable Shelter | Seymour Centre

Delectable Shelter is the latest instalment in the 2013 Reginald Theatre (downstairs, Seymour Centre) season, presented by Critical Stages and The Hayloft Project; written and directed by Benedict Hardie. On its website, Hayloft describes this play as a black comedy about white terror and the comic sensibility implicit in that description is a very good guide to the work itself. A motley crew of well-to-do palefaces have been corralled into a subterranean bunker, to avoid whatever acme apocalypse has befallen the rest of Earth’s hapless inhabitants trapped on the surface.

It’s Tor (Jolyon James), apparently, who’s saved them. Tor is a tall, strange savant well-versed in the mathematical dimensions of the situation they face. He has handpicked a correspondingly strange and necessarily wealthy family to sustain the Aryan purity of the human race, to the extent it still exists. The plan, through rigidly-rostered progressive bonking sessions, is to repopulate.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Delectable Shelter | Seymour Centre, Sydney”

Plays

Jul 31, 2013

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Camilla Ah Kin, David Roberts and Tony Llewellyn-Jones in The Hansard Monologues

In what seems to be a growing body of verbatim theatre, The Hansard Monologues enters the fray. A co-production sponsored by Seymour, Merrigong and Casula Powerhouse, it charts the matters of public importance that emerged over the last three years of minority government.

The HM was conceived and produced by former Sydney Morning Herald editor Peter Fray; written by Katie Pollock and Paul Daley. If you’re even vaguely inclined to pollie-watching, there’s likely to be quite a lot that’s familiar, as if certain utterances and speeches, bidden or unbidden, are still rattling ’round in your head. I can barely begin to imagine what trawling through three years of the official parliamentary record to edit the highlights must’ve been like, although perhaps this parliament has been, for all sorts of reasons, more consistently memorable than most; or, at least, more closely scrutinised by the media scrum.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Hansard Monologues: A Matter Of Public Importance | Seymour Centre, Sydney”

Plays

Jul 25, 2013

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Andrew Benson in The Importance Of Being Earnest | Seymour Centre

Since the title of the play implies it is, indeed, important to be earnest, let me just say this production might as well be dubbed “The Impotence of Being Earnest”. Oh sure, it looked good on paper. I was keenly marketed. I was looking, quite earnestly, forward to it. Not least because, not so very long ago, the very same director, Brandon Martignago, working with the very same company, Burley Theatre, has presided over the immensely impressive Beautiful Thing, in the very same theatre.

But this was the Earnest you have, when you’re not having an Earnest. Imagine Benny Hill producing Wilde’s play and you won’t be too far off the mark. There’s a man in drag. Overacting. Comic cliches. I can almost hear Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax, as I write. Worse still, it’s based on fuzzy thinking: while there are certain concessions to the here and now, mainly by way of Mason Brown’s rather dubious costumes and set (I’ve no idea, for example, why so much of the action is confined to an area so long and shallow, delineated by a sheer, white curtain which would’ve looked more at home in a warehouse apartment than Algy’s flat in Half-Moon Street), the inescapable cadence of the text remains late 19th century. Which begs questions: how can or does one drag it into the early twenty-first, without it kicking and screaming for mercy and Oscar spinning  in his premature grave? Yes, yes, fair enough. Licence is granted in the text, which tells us the time is “the present”, but you have to be able to make it work. I mean, a world where class, society and fashion are everything is so hard to imagine now, right? Well, not for Martignago, who confesses in his programme notes that these were obsessions (of others) he was struck by when he first moved to Sydney.

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Cabaret

Jul 25, 2013

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Alexis Fishman in Songs From Below 54th Street | Seymour Centre

Alexis Fishman is a geographical enigma. Born in Sydney, she graduated from WAAPA. And now lives in New York, because the irresistibly glamourous appeal of remaining a starving performer finally became too much for her. It was a dream she’d harboured since the age of 15 and her experiences so far have yielded her new cabaret, Songs From Below 54th Street, which she’s brought home, following a sold out debut season at the 54 Below Club; the former Studio 54 where celebrity coke-sniffers galore once gathered.

For those who haven’t sniffed too much coke and still have memories, Alexis Fishman might be known to you. Der Gelbe Stern (her brilliant Weimar cabaret from a couple of years ago). Dusty (her first professional outing, which garnered her a Helpmann nomination). Shout. Kiss of the Spiderwoman. And more. The ADF even asked her to entertain the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Plays

Jun 3, 2013

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Paul Holmes and Sarah Robinson in Educating Rita | Reginald Theatre

From the first beat, this production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita chugs along, like the little train that thought it could. The legendary Cypriot goldsmith, Pygmalion, has come a long way since Ovid’s Metamorphoses. But the statue carved here may give pause for deeper reflection.

This joint venture between Seymour and Paul Holmes Productions is a damn sight more difficult to fall in love with than Pygmalion’s carved-in-stone woman. So much is this the case that it raises serious questions about any semblance of quality assurance one might rely upon where Seymour is concerned, at east in its downstairs theatre. The last production in The Reginald was appalling. This would struggle to match the pointy end of amateur.

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Plays

Mar 11, 2013

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The cast of Songs For The Fallen | The Reginald

I saw this show as late as last year, as part of Tamarama Rock Surfers’ season at the Old Fitzroy Hotel. That now turns out to have been something of a harbinger, for the pub has now terminated TRS’ tenure, which makes their pursuit of a second venue, one much more consistent with the company’s name, look smart and prescient.

It’s part and parcel of The Reginald (the small downstairs Seymour) theatre’s mission to curate new, but also outstanding existing works, that deserve revival. Songs For The Fallen easily falls into that category. Just a few days ago, I wrote a piece on Brian Lucas’ Performance Anxiety. One of the breakthrough qualities of that work is its determination to do away with demarcations between theatre, dance, and other performative arts and embrace them all, or some, as is fitting and expedient. Force Majeure is another company one might cite as proceeding along similar lines.

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Plays

Feb 25, 2013

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Michael Brindley and Luke Willing in Beautiful Thing | Reginald Theatre

Jonathan Harvey’s 1993 play, honoured in its 20th anniversary year by this Mardi Gras production, is called Beautiful Thing. And Burley’s rendition of it is, thanks to director Brandon Martignago and a handpicked team.

We find ourselves in Thamesmead, in working-class south-east London, surrounded by bleak, post-war council housing estates. Immediately, set designer Jasmine Christie comes into her own. Extending right across The Reginald Theatre’s compact stage is the facade of a high-rise block of flats. It looks almost real (thanks to set builder Michael Watkins). We’re almost there. As we enter, we see the central character, Jamie (Michael Brindley), hanging around, on the balcony outside the unit in which he and his mother, Sandra (Amanda Stephens Lee), live. Also hanging around is their next door neighbour, Leah (Stephanie King). On the other side lives Ste (Luke Willing) and dropping by frequently is Tony (Andrew Hearle), Sandra’s new boyf.

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Plays

Jan 31, 2013

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The cast of Masi | Everest Theatre

Conch isn’t only a name for a large sea snail, or its shell. It’s a Kiwi theatre company, founded in Wellington, with hands across the South Pacific to Fiji. As with the shell, you can hear (and see) the sound of the ocean in it. I’m also presuming, as with the Marxist ska band of the same name, (The) Conch is a euphemistic abbreviation of consciousness.

Founded in 2002 by associate director Tom McCrory and artistic director Nina Nawalowalo, the company has experienced explosive growth and success (as far afield as London’s Barbican) — yet, aside from a previous visit in 2006 with Vula (Fijian for moon), Australia seems to be the unlucky country, inasmuch as being, seemingly, among the last to celebrate it. By rights, this should now change, dramatically, with the short Sydney Festival season of Masi just wrapped-up.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Masi (Sydney Festival) | Everest Theatre”