La Boite’s Indie season is here again. It kicked off what I like to think is the ‘official theatre season’ in Brisbane – as May rolls around into what passes for winter here – on a warm night last week. The first of the 2014 indies is a lovely production directed by Anthony Skuse of Amy Herzog‘s 4000 MILES, a multiple-award winner fairly fresh from off-Broadway, and from Mophead and Catnip who are based in Sydney. Welcome to town!
A disclaimer up front – I’m currently serving on the Foundation of the Empire Theatre and am a former Board member. If, then, you think the following should be taken with a grain of salt, so be it!
Theatre, oh theatre, how I love you in all your moods and guises. I’ve been in love with you for many years – too many to recall – and I’ve never lost the excitement and the anticipation of the magic that is made present from talent, sweat and tears. A group of strangers come together to experience something only fully realised in the dynamic of a single moment of pure community.
The theatre is also powerfully transformative of individuals and communities small and large. Playwright Arthur Miller once noted that the theatre is the place where strangers come together in a civilising act as important as road and bridge building. Maybe it’s because of the power theatre holds that, throughout history, it’s been one of the first agencies to be closed down by repressive regimes. Individuals and communities can be changed – are changed – when they come together to be refreshed and renewed, to be inspired, to laugh, to weep, and to think out loud in front of themselves – that last one from Martin Esslin, another great of the theatre. This communing was something I experienced afresh last Thursday night at the opening of the Empire Theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe’s classic of the modern musical theatre, The Phantom of the Opera.Continue reading Review: The Phantom of the Opera – Empire Theatre (Toowoomba)
The American novelist Stephen King once described the best stories as those that focus on either almost everyone in an entire community or those that focus on just a few critical characters. Cock is definitely in the latter category. Directed by Leticia Cáceres, this touring production of Mike Bartlett‘s sharp and witty play takes the most fundamental concepts of a love triangle and turns them on their heads. I absolutely loved the production. With innovative direction, stellar acting and inspired writing, Cock is a fine example of modern theatrical story-telling. Continue reading Review: Cock – La Boite Theatre Company and MTC at the Roundhouse
Guys and Dolls – what an absolute cracker of a show. I’ve seen it live several times, watched the (1955) movie with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando more times than is normal, and even played Miss Adelaide in my hometown’s local production. Needless to say I was thrilled to be headed to QPAC’s Concert Hall last Friday night for the opening of this play the first for Harvest Rain Theatre Company’s 2014 Season and also first full season as a professional musical theatre company.
The show is set in New York in the 1940s and most of the action takes place on and around Broadway (with a flying visit to Havana). The central plot of Guys and Dolls is a romance; it follows the story of gambler, lady’s man and ‘sinner’ Skye Masterson who, as a result of a misplaced bet, falls in love with Sarah Brown an earnest, uptight, Salvation Army missionary. The subplot includes another romance in a different key – that between Miss Adelaide a Broadway showgirl and another gambler, the hapless Nathan Detroit.
The show opened at the 46th street theatre in New York in 1950 and has enjoyed immense success ever since. The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is hilariously timeless, and the music/lyrics by Frank Loesser are an absolute delight. Revered classics such as Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat performed so joyfully in this production by Daryl Somers playing Nicely Nicely Johnson, and Luck Be a Lady are, of course, remarkable, but it is the lesser know numbers such as Sue Me, More I Cannot Wish You and Marry the Man Today that really show Loesser’s genius as a lyricist and composer. It’s a classic of the modern American musical theatre and is a great choice for Harvest Rain. Continue reading Review: Guys and Dolls – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Concert Hall QPAC
Image: Liam de Burca – Matt Young and Anna Burgess
In art and in life there are truths and there are ‘truths’. The former is a universal concept of pure objective fact – acceptable or otherwise -to all who cross its path. The latter is a more personal, subtle idea influenced by our individual subjective life experiences. Through Good-bye Miss Monroe, playwright Liam de Burca thoroughly examines both of these definitions of truth through the lens of American dance director, Jack Cole. Continue reading Review: Goodbye Miss Monroe – danceAtlas at Metro Arts
Images: Dylan Evans Photography (Main Image L-R: Trevor Stuart, Jessica Marais, Amy Ingram, Anthony Standish, Benjamin Schostakowski, Jennifer Flowers, James Stewart)
Cosi by Louis Nowra is a much-loved and, by now, a classic in the canon of modern Australian plays. According to David Berthold, it’s also the playwright’s personal favourite. It’s certainly admired by La Boite Theatre Company who have produced it three times over the years. The latest has just opened at the Roundhouse under the direction of Mr Berthold and it’s a production that finds the rhythm of the play’s compassionate heart.
Filled with marvellous characters, and set in an asylum during the Vietnam War, Cosi follows the adventures of young Lewis (Ben Schostakowski) a uni student, who gets a job helping the inmates “put on a show.” He’s all for a bit of Brecht but Roy (played with glorious gusto by Trevor Stuart) is adamant that the music of the spheres must be heard in their shabby little theatre, and so it’s Mozart’s opera Cosi Fan Tutte that gets the nod. It’s as nutty an idea as is possible to imagine, and perfect given the play’s setting. No one can sing, one can hardly speak – all are damaged and apparently incapable of any kind of cooperative activity. Young Lewis (‘Jerry’ to Roy’s ‘Martin’) is clearly out of his depth.
‘Putting on a show’ plays are ready-made for comedy. Typically we are treated to agonising (hysterical) auditions; shambolic (hysterical) rehearsals and, finally, awful (hysterically awful) performances. There are often great one-liners and in-jokes for the theatre crowd so there’s a lot to laugh at. By the way, the little theatre that designer Hugh O’Connor creates in the big room at the Roundhouse is just delightful. Cosi is no different in this regard, but there’s a whole lot more going on.
One of the great strengths of Nowra’s play is its ability not only to make us laugh but also to make us feel the hurt of those we’re laughing at. Cosi also makes plain the importance of so much we take for granted. As we watch the hapless troupe and their director grope and stumble around it’s clear that they are, perhaps for the first time ever, rediscovering what it means to be useful. No longer isolated they come together squabbling, arguing points of view finding a kind of collective wisdom and joy on the fly. Continue reading Review: Cosi – La Boite Theatre Company at the Roundhouse Theatre