Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

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.

 

The Laden Table

By Yvonne Perczuk, Nur Alam, Raya Gadir, Chris Hill, Marian Kernahan & Ruth Kliman. bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company. KXT – Kings Cross Theatre, Kings Cross Hotel. March 10 – 25, 2017.

 

Like the long table that dominates the set (designer Courtney Westbrook), this play is also ‘laden’ – with diverse opinions, racial and religious vilification, family values and traditions and strong, passionate characters that articulate their beliefs and emotions in meaningful and judiciously scripted dialogue. It is also ‘laden’ with love surmounts barriers and promises hope.

Three years in the making, the play has brought together six writers in collaboration with an extraordinary collection of Moslem and Jewish Australians who have shared their stories, experiences and ideas. Together they have created a play that they hope will, through the transformative power of theatre, help to break down barriers and promote harmony.

“There are no answers in the play, but we hope that it’s clear that we are all at the same table with so much in common.”

 

The play entwines two families and their stories. The Fishmans are Jewish. The patriarch, Abe (Geoff Sirmai), is a Holocaust survivor who has recently lost one of his sons in a terrorist attack in Israel. The Ka’adans are Moslem. The matriarch, Zainab (Gigi Sawires), was brought to Australian by her son and daughter-in-law. She is passionate about her religion, and yearns for the home and garden she had to leave when Haifa was attacked.

Her grandson, Mousa, an engineer has recently returned from the Middle East where he met and fell in love with Ruth, an Australian doctor working in Israel – and the granddaughter of Abe Fishman. This is the complication that, in true Greek and Shakespearean theatre style, underlies the plot.

The production truly realises bAKEHOUSE theatre’s double commitment to new and emerging artists, as well as bringing together a large, ensemble cast of diverse backgrounds and experience. But it is no mean feat to direct a play that interweaves two families sitting at the one table but telling two different stories.

Director Suzanne Millar always manages large casts with consummate ease. And this play is no exception. On the intimate KXT stage, she is able to focus on telling eye contact …

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

Blink

By Phil Porter. bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company / Luke Rogers / Stories Like These. Kings Cross Theatre. Feb 9 – Mar 4, 2017.

Jonah grew up on a farm and spent his teenage years with a camera keeping watch for marauding hoons who began attacking the property after the death of his father. Sophie grew up on the Isle of Mann then moved with her father to share the ground floor of two flats in London. When her father dies and she loses her job, she moves into the first floor flat and renovates the other as a rental property, though she feels that she is gradually disappearing.

Both their mothers have died of pancreatic cancer. They are both now alone.

Three years after his mother’s death Jonah finally opens a letter she has left for him. He’s been holding off opening it because it’s his last tangible tie with her. In it he finds she has left him some money – a substantial amount – buried behind the barn. With this in hand, he moves to London, and leases Sophie’s ground floor flat.

If this seems like the beginning of a conventional love story, it isn’t. Rather it’s a ‘quirky, dysfunctional’ love story about two lonely people who connect via, incredible though it may seem, a WiFi baby monitor, which Sophie sends unanimously to Jonah. He watches her – and she feels less invisible. He follows her – and she pretends she doesn’t realise until, eventually … but saying any more would give too much away.

This is a gentle, touching play that is a reprieve from the bleak themes and troubled characters that people so much theatre and cinema.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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The Trouble with Harry

By Lachlan Philpot. Siren Theatre Company. Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre. Feb 16 – Mar 3, 2017

Lachlan Philpot continues to make theatre that cuts edges in both style and subject matter. In this play, based on the story of Harry Crawford (born Eugenia Falleni, also known as Eugene Falleni and Jean Ford) a female-to-male transgender man convicted in 1920 of the murder of his first wife, Annie Birkett, Philpott imagines the complexities of sustaining such a secret and the constant threat of what exposure might bring.

Based obviously on a wealth of historical data – records of the court case itself, which included statements by Crawford’s daughter and stepson, press stories that sensationalised the case, and subsequent biographies –Philpott re-creates a family trying desperately to be ‘normal’, but dogged by rumour and innuendo. He does this in a play where energy and pace are demanded by the combination of styles – narrative comment, realistic scenes, telling soliloquies – and the concise, succinct dialogue.

His writing is tight, yet the characters are clearly defined. Scenes are interspersed and interrupted by two suburban voyeurs, a man and a woman whose comments, as neighbours, passers-by, underline the gossip and interference spawned by the close proximity inner-city living after the first World War.

Kate Gaul’s direction is as tight as the writing. She sets a fast pace and the scenes connect and interconnect quickly and smoothly . . . .

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

Visiting Mr Green

By Jeff Baron. Pymble Players. February 15 – March 11, 2017

This delightful two-hander has been produced around the world since 1996. It’s tender yet thought provoking, and its messages lose none of their impact despite the twenty years of ‘progress’ since it was first performed.

Director Catherine Potter was “drawn to Jeff Baron’s plays because of the intimacy of his work. In Visiting Mr Green he introduces us to two disparate characters, both isolated and both hiding a secret”. She translates that intimacy into a production that is warm and intensely personal, gently exposing all the underlying complexities of the characters and the secrets that they hide.

Ross is a young Harvard graduate who is doing well. Mr Green is a crusty old Jewish widower, living alone in a New York tenement. Ross almost hit Mr Green as he was crossing a busy street. His ‘visits’ are a community service based upon the near accident. He wasn’t really in the wrong – and Mr Green doesn’t really want him around. But Ross persists, and thus develops a strangely poignant relationship that allows both characters to lower their defences.

Dave Kirkham is a suitably crabby and reclusive Mr Green. With his usual height and energy reduced by a stooped back and sluggish, deliberate movement, his Mr Green is ……

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.