Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

By Dale Wasserman, adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey. Sport for Jove. Seymour Centre. August 3 – 19, 2017.

Ken Kesey’s controversial novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was based upon his experience as an orderly at a mental hospital in California. It was adapted for the stage by Dale Wasserman in 1963 with Kirk Douglas in the leading role, and the 1975 movie adaptation directed by Michael Douglas won five Academy Awards.

Whilst it exposed issues about oppression and control and the bizarre ‘medical’ treatments such as shock therapy and lobotomies being used in some institutions at the time, director Kim Hardwick’s vision is more comprehensive and symbolically suggestive:

“Ken Keseys’s metaphor for modern America is that of a mental hospital. In this case a womb-like institution able to retard development and hamper spiritual, mental and emotional growth”.

Under stark lighting designed by Martin Kinnane, on Isobel Hudson’s sterile white set, framed by plastic curtain strips and reflected in perspex mirrors, Hardwick’s vision is realised. The seemingly soul-less inmates are monitored at all times, 1984-style, with any untoward action censured by the omnipresent voice of the tyrannical Nurse Ratched.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

 

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The Jungle Book

By Craig Higginson, based on the book by Rudyard Kipling. Nautanki Theatre. Lennox Theatre, Riverside Parramatta. Aug 3 – 5, 2017.

Nautanki Theatre have undertaken a play that requires fairly difficult physical choreography and characterisation – and a lot of organisation. This is always hard, especially if moving on to the stage with only a short time to co-ordinate the action and dialogue.

Often this results in awkward hesitations and broken pace, and unfortunately this was the case on opening night.

Whilst they must be admired for their enthusiasm, the cast seemed somewhat out of kilter with the action, despite their obvious fitness and physical stamina. This resulted in untidy scene changes that need much tighter direction and rehearsal. Similar problems with lines led to embarrassing pauses that spoilt the continuity of the dialogue.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Technicolour Life

By Jami Brandli. The Depot Theatre, Marrickville. July 26 – Aug 12, 2017

In her commitment to giving voice to female protagonists, playwright Jami Brandli makes “no apologies for writing complicated, big, sometimes messy and often times funny, plays about women”. Far from being messy,Technicolor Life is very cleverly crafted and is yet another play that meets Depot Theatre’s aim to challenge its audiences.

It is very entertaining, despite the fact that it explores a range of thought-provoking themes. Through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Maxine and her family, Brandli’s play covers aspects of love, ambition, war, rape, post traumatic stress, voluntary euthanasia, divorce, remarriage – and the need to stay strong and independent. And it does so without preaching or moralising!

Julie Baz’s direction matches the pace and style of Brandli’s writing with a clear and empathetic vision.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

Hello Goodbye & Happy Birthday

By Roslyn Oades. Malthouse Theatre and Melbourne Festival production. A Performing Lines tour for Road Work. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. July 27 to 29, 2017 and touring.

Winner of the 2014 Green Room Award for outstanding writing/adaptation for the Australian Stage, Roslyn Oades’ and her cast use her very unusual ‘headphone verbatim’ documentary theatre technique to explore both coming of age … and ageing.

Based on eighty long-form interviews with late teenagers and over 80 year olds, Oades set out to explore “the bookends” of life – the beginning of making one’s own way in life, and the looking back nearer the end. Not all of the interviews are featured in the finished work, but they are all part of the research that led to the poignant insights of the final ‘audio script’.

The style is a little difficult to accept as the script is recorded and played to the actors through headphones. Veteran actor Jim Daly plays characters as diverse as a stroke victim and a young man …

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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The Women of Lockerby

By Deborah Brevoort. Castle Hill Players. The Pavilion Theatre. July 21 – August 12, 2017.

Is it possible that we may, some day, come to take acts of terrorism as facts of life?

Will they simply become another chapter in a history book?

Will we forget those whose lives were lost, or how horribly they died?

Not if theatre sustains its centuries old objective of finding a way to reflect on and interpret the world on the stage.

In The Women of Lockerbie, playwright Deborah Brevoort confirms that tradition – and Bernard Teuben’s production for Castle Hill Players ensures the beautiful language and carefully drawn characters of her play make the messages of Lockerbie endure.

The Pavilion Theatre stage becomes a frosty night on the hills of Lockerbie. It is the winter solstice, seven years exactly since Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to New York was blown up over the town, killing 243 passengers and 16 crew. As the wreckage rained down over Lockerbie, buildings were destroyed and 11 villagers killed.

Tonight, as the villagers keep their annual vigil, paying homage to those who were lost and those who were left to mourn, a still-grieving American mother searches the hills of Lockerbie for some sign of her son, whose body was never found.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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An Inspector Calls

By J. B. Priestly. Pymble Players, NSW. 19 July- 12 August, 2017

J. B. Priestly’s play, written in the mid 20th century but set in 1912, has been described as “a potent blend of fine dramatic craft and good old-fashioned social conscience” and Helen Williams’ production for Pymble Players emphasises both qualities of the play. Though set in England over a century ago, the play has resounding messages that are still relevant today.

The set, designed by Reg Lunn, provides the perfect background: the plush dining room of a prosperous ‘self made’ man aspiring to step even further up the English social ladder. Dinner has finished. The port is served. The family has gathered to celebrate the engagement of their daughter to the son of another prosperous, and decorated, industrialist.

But, just as the toast is drunk and the proud father begins to bluster about personal success and deny the threat of a looming war with Germany, an Inspector calls – and, bit by bit, an embarrassing and shameful succession of prejudices and injustices are exposed. One by one every member of the Birling family – and their son-in-law to be – are disgraced and besmirched because of the result of their treatment of a young girl regarded by each as below their social status.

Phil Lye blusters and puffs as the ambitious father, Arthur Birling; Liz Lynch postures as his haughty, pretentious wife, Sybil.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

The Plant

By Kit Brookman. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Elsie Edgerton-Till. 8 July – 5 August 2017

Three times a year the Ensemble runs a play it doesn’t reckon will get big audiences in tandem with a crowd-pleaser. Sometimes there are three performances in a day — two of one, one of the other. The setting of the ‘less important play’ inevitably suffers.

So it is with The Plant by Kit Brookman, inaugural winner of the Ensemble’s own playwriting competition. With none of the costumes and setting and lighting and sounds of Neville’s Island, the biggie it shares the limited premises with, nevertheless there is no doubt about which is the better, funnier, more gripping play.

On a green stage with large green curtains and a handful of props, a mother and her three children portray their family drama. Harry, the dad, has died suddenly three years ago. Sue, the mother, (Sandy Gore) is trying to cope with little help from Erin (Helen Dallimore),

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell

BBonnie Lythgoe Productions. State Theatre, Sydney. July 7 – 16, 2017.

 

The old grandeur of the State Theatre is the perfect venue for this holiday time production, conjuring as it does the past theatre ‘glory’ of the old London theatres where ‘pantos’ still bring cheer to wintery London Christmases.

Slathered with all the buttery corn and slapstick of comedia, and some definitely questionable non-P-C jokes and add libbing, Bonnie Lythgoe’s production of Christopher Woods’ adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s story has the everything one expects of pantomime. There’s fun, colour, lights, singing, dancing … and lots of audience involvement led by the infectious talent of veteran British actor/comedian Kev Orkian as the pirate Smee.

From his first moments on the stage, Orkian has the audience in his very experienced hands, with children and adults alike responding to his jokes and asides. The consummate energy and enthusiasm he exudes sets the zany pace that is pantomime.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

Diary of a Wombat

Based on the book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.  Monkey Baa Theatre Company. Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre. April 18 – 24, 2017

Monkey Baa’s adaptation of Jackie French’s first book about Mothball the wombat is true to Bruce Whatley’s vivid illustrations depicting a week in the life of this endearing but mischievous mammal who spends the days sleeping, eating, sleeping, scratching, sleeping … and finding as many ways as are possible to annoy the family whose garden she has chosen to make her home.

Directed by Alice Osborne and accompanied by cellist Oonagh Sherrard, three actors – Michael Cullen, Julia Ohannessian and Shandell Pratt – manipulate puppets created by Bryony Anderson to bring into another dimension the enchanting character of the wombat, as well as playing the bemused couple whose life Mothball has invaded.

True to the sparse diary-style language of the book, the performance has no dialogue, thus relying perhaps a little too much on the assumption that the young audience is familiar with the book.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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The Rasputin Affair

By Kate Mulvany. Ensemble Theatre  (NSW). April 1 to 30, 2017

The multi-talented Kate Mulvany has let her very vivid and extremely articulate imagination run wild in this farcical interpretation of the assassination of Rasputin, the mystic ‘monk’ who wormed his way into favour with the Russian royal family prior to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The play is a romp – a mischievous piece of theatre that pushes the boundaries of style and pace, reaching a crescendo of ridiculous, well-timed action that will either delight – or dismay.

Directed by John Sheedy on a quirkily designed set (Alicia Clements) with surprising lighting effects (Matthew Marshall), this is an extraordinary production that has the pace, action and fun of a Feydeau. And though it is not the usual fare expected by Ensemble audiences, full marks to artistic director Mark Kilmurry for taking the risk of including something a bit outrageous and edgy in the Ensemble season.

The mystery of Rasputin’s ‘powers’ and the surrealism of his assassination – he apparently survived poisoning, shooting, bludgeoning and eventually died only when he was wrapped in a carpet and drowned in an icy river – provide the background for the play.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.