Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Calendar Girls

By Tim Firth. Castle Hill Players. Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill Showgrounds. February 3 – 25, 2017.

Director Annette van Roden captures the complexity of this play in these words:

On the surface, it’s a comedy about a group of women getting nude for a calendar but it’s much more than that. The play is about community, loss, support, acceptance, camaraderie, tolerance and love’.

Tim Firth’s stage adaptation does capture the appeal of the 2003 film of the same name, but he has created a play with many scenes and almost as many costume changes, to say nothing of the props for the calendar shoot. It’s a difficult play, more filmic than theatrical, and requires a great deal of energy and organisation.

As such, it’ a play of challenges for the director, the designers, the stage manager and the actors who, as well as having to “get nude”, have to create together the intimacy of a group of seven women who have forged friendships as members of the local Women’s Institute. Following a shared loss, they take on the task of raising money for a memorial settee in the relatives’ room of the cancer ward of the local hospital.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Huff

Playwright/Performer: Cliff Cardinal. Native Earth Performing Arts (Canada). Sydney Festival. Australian Exclusive. Director/Dramaturg: Karin Randoja. Seymour Centre. 24-28 January, 2017

Growing up on an indigenous reservation in Canada is not much different, it seems, from growing up on similar reservations in other countries. Cut off and isolated from the mainstream by legislation, distance and lack of opportunity, some adults turn to drink and abuse. Kids ‘huff’ (sniff) gasoline, sneak porn magazines and find a secret place to read them – in this case, an abandoned motel – a place to hide from the realities of a dysfunctional world. But wherever they go the ‘Trickster’ – bad luck, misfortune, adversity – finds them.

Cliff Cardinal blends the realities of tribal beliefs and mysticism with forced segregation and assimilation in this heart-wrenching story of brothers trapped in a barrage of abuse and hardship following the death of their mother. They cling together, trying to sustain each other, but gradually give in to the darkness that creeps after neglect, addiction and despair.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

King Roger

By Karol Szymanowski and Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. January 20 to February 15, 2017.

Conceived by Karol Szymanowski and his co-librettist Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz in 1918, King Roger was first performed in 1926, but was produced very few times until Charles Mackerras conducted its London premiere in 1975. Since 1988 it has seen a revival, with nineteen performances across the world. It comes to Australia for the first time directed by Kasper Holten in a collaboration between Opera Australia, The Royal Opera House and Dallas Opera.

The program describes it thus: as“It is a rare opera. There is no death, no duel, no romantic entanglement or disguise. It is the story of an inner struggle … between Christian restraint and reason on one side and pagan abandonment to hedonistic pleasure on the other”. It revolves around the 12th Century Sicilian King, Roger, who is torn between his orthodox religion and the call of a strange, new Bacchanalian-type faith proclaimed by a man who is known as “The Shepherd”.

The set designed by Steffen Aarfing is dominated by a huge head that symbolises perhaps how “man and society are ruled by intellect”.Light plays over it throughout the first Act, emphasising the changes of emotion in the music and the voices. In Act 2 it revolves to reveal the three storeys of Roger’s palace, where he paces up and down spiraling staircases in a frenzied attempt to resist the erotic call of the Shepherd and his followers. In Act 3 the stage becomes a glowing, sacrificial bonfire before which a distraught Roger almost gives in.

In the original libretto, King Roger converted and followed the Shepherd, but Act 3 was rewritten halfway through composing the opera to have a much less definite ending. Despite his love of the romance of Mediterranean culture . . .

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

Stolen

By Jane Harrison. National Theatre of Parramatta. Riverside Theatre Parramatta. June 2 – 17, 2016.

Stolen

Jane Harrison’s poignant play about the experiences of the Stolen Generations has been performed all over Australia and in the UK, Hong Kong and Japan. It is apt that this new production, directed by Vicki Van Hout, opened during Reconciliation Week.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

 

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