Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Ferrucio Furlanetto in Recital with Igor Tchetuev

Presented by Opera Australia at the City Recital Hall, Sydney. 27th September and 29th September 2017

Hailed as “the world’s finest bass”, Ferrucio Furlanetto made his opera debut at La Scala Milam in 1979 in Verdi’s Macbeth. Since then he has sung in opera houses all over the world, in roles from Don Giaovanni to Mephistopheles to Don Quixote. He is also widely acclaimed as a concert singer on the international stage.

Born in the Ukraine in 1980, pianist Igor Tchetuev has performed in France, Prague, Berlin and St Petersburg – and as a soloist with the Miami New World Symphony and the Israel Chamber Orchestra. His recordings have received many accolades, especially that of the first six volumes of the Complete Beethoven Sonatas.

Together they are a formidable musical alliance, a tour de force ……

Review originally published in StageWhispers magazine

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Urban Kali

By Rakini Devi. Dance Projects and Riverside Theatres. September 22 and 13, 2017

 

Over 27 years, Rakini Devi has developed four ‘theatre works’ to the Kali, the Hindu goddess who is the divine protector and destroyer of evil. As the culmination of her doctorial thesis into Kali iconography and how sacred Hindu iconography can relate to secular feminism, Urban Kali is a protest against the rise of racial and misogynist atrocities in India.

Devi mixes traditional Indian classical dance with visual images and sound effects in her interpretation of these themes. An unsettling example is the image of disembodied blood covered hands wringing over a basin of blood while a voice over chillingly describes the many and horrifying ways in which new born baby girls have been murdered.

Concentrated spotlights pierce the otherwise dimly lit stage, highlighting the intricate hand and foot movements, rigid control and shimmering costumes in the more traditionally choreographed segments of the performance. But when Devi rolls and writhes across the floor in a more contemporary, interpretative movement, she merges into shadow and is lost in the darkness.

Pervading the performance is a jarring discordance of sound, so loud at times that, despite the fact that I covered my ears, they were still hurting an hour after the performance. Such volume is unnecessarily invasive and detracts from rather than enhances a performance, especially in a small theatre space where the acoustics are particularly good. For me this became a painful distraction from a performance that, as with many interpretative abstractions, requires patient attention and tolerant concentration from its audience.

Review originally published in StageWhispers magazine

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Ladies in Lavender

By Shaun McKenna, based on the story by William J. Locke and the screenplay by Charles Dance. Castle Hill Players. The Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill. September 22 – October 14, 2017.

Director Meredith Jacobs and her design team have lovingly converted the stage of the Pavilion Theatre to a seaside cottage in Cornwall in 1937. Family photographs hang from brown picture rails. A mantle clock sits on the shelf above the fireplace. Two easy chairs with crocheted antimacassars are turned to face the sea.

From them, the ageing Widdington sisters, Janet and Ursula, look over a carefully tended garden to the rocky shore below, where, after a stormy night, they find a young man near to death. He is Andrea Marowski, a violinist from Poland, who was hoping to make his fortune in America.  They take him in, nurse him back to health and become increasingly attached to him – Ursula especially.

Based on a story by William J. Locke, the 2004 screenplay of Ladies in Lavender was written by Charles Dance. In adapting it for the stage, playwright Shaun McKenna has lovingly retained the evocative poignancy of the story and its heart-warming characters. With original music (Joshua McNulty), stylish period costumes . . . .

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Ghosts

By Henrik Ibsen
Belvoir, Upstairs Theatre. 
September 16 – October 22, 2017

Eamon Flack describes his adaptation as “ a fairly direct rendering of Ibsen’s play into a language that makes sense to us today but still retains the feeling of the past”. The “unspeakable subtext” of the plot that, in 1882, caused such controversy, may be less scandalous today – but a play that exposes the “ghosts” of oppressive interpretations of religion and marriage, domestic violence, adultery, alcoholism, incest, disease and euthanasia seems to speak as clearly to a contemporary audience as it should have done in the 19th century.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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The Night Alive

By Conor McPherson. O’Punksky’s Theatre in association with Red Line Productions. Old Fitz Theatre. Sep 13 – Oct 14, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the tradition of contemporary Irish theatre, Conor McPherson mixes humour and the macabre in this gritty black comedy. His characters are as graphically realistic as the cluttered, shabby room in which they meet – and under the direction of Maeliosa Stafford, they meet with the rhythm and cadence that make them uncompromisingly Irish in a play that moves frighteningly quickly at times – and just a bit slowly at others.

The set, conceived by Amanda McNamara, expands the ‘unique’ Old Fitz acting space, into a squalid, one room, downstairs flat with a corner converted for use as a bathroom. Littered with clothes and other personal debris, the room is rented by Tommy (John O’Hare) from his uncle, Maurice (Patrick Dickson) who lives above. As the play opens, Tommy has rescued Aimee (Sarah Jane Kelly), after she was beaten by her ‘boyfriend’. Tommy is concerned. Aimee is wary. But she stays …

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

 

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A Letter From The General

By Maurice McLoughlin.
Hunters Hill Theatre, Hunters Hill Town Hall.
September 8 – 17, 2017

It is the 1950s In China. The Red Guard is on the rampage, destroying churches, missions and their schools and orphanages and forcing their congregations to join the fervor of the revolution. Many of the missionaries, priests and nuns suffer violence at the hands of the Guard: physical beatings, cruel forms of restraint, even death.

In an almost abandoned orphanage, five Irish nuns, a family they are sustaining and a priest who has escaped from the Guard await news of their future. Their fate is in the hands of the British Consul, the Red Guard and ‘The General’, who himself grew up in a Catholic orphanage.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Glorious

By Peter Quilter. Christine Harris and HIT Productions. Riverside Theatre Parramatta. September 5 – 9, 2017, and touring.

 

Director Denny Lawrence and HIT’s production of Glorious hits all the high notes that Florence Foster Jenkins misses! It is slick – and as colourful as Foster Jenkins herself.

Diana McLean carries the leading role with all the grandeur and eccentricity of the ‘diva’ herself. She sweeps through velvet curtains with confident aplomb; captivates her acolytes with buoyant charm; and ‘sings’ with all the happy, self-assured delusion that took Foster Jenkins to Carnegie Hall. McLean makes this part her own. She inhabits the character, finding the strong self-belief that sustained Foster Jenkins and the charisma with which she beguiled her friends and her audiences. Not an easy thing to do so soon after Meryl Streep, but McLean does it with style, making the most of the humorous asides in Quilter’s economic script.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Figaro

By Charles Morey, based on the play by Beamarchais. Genesian Theatre Company. Sep 2 – Oct 13, 2017

Charles Morey’s adaptation of Beamarchais’ 1778 play has some funny lines, and some of those that satirise politics still ring true today, but the story itself is relatively bland without the music and arias that Mozart used when he adapted the play for the opera stage. Sure, Figaro and Suzanne’s plots to outwit the predatory Count make for some comical situations, but this production requires a lot more experience to find the pace and energy required by commedia dell’arte pranks that would make the production.

Most of the action occurs before a very tall and very pink semi-circle of flats that is unrelieved by very much decoration or by subtle lighting. A change to the Count’s garden in the last scenes of the play is much more imaginative and clever, hanging baskets and topiary providing a colourful foreground.

Read the full review at Stagewhispers Magazine.

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Where the Streets Had a Name

By Eva Di Cesare, based on the book by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Monkey Baa Theatre Company. Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres Parramatta. Aug 30 – Sep 1, 2017

When your home is occupied and you have no right of return, you hold on to what you can: the key to the front door; the title deeds to your land; a jar of soil”.

In this sentence from her program notes, Eva Di Cesare defines the essence of Randa Abdel-Fattah’s novel – just as her perceptive adaptation and deft direction capture the novel’s messages of the personal/political effects of occupation, violence and injustice.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Melba – A New Musical

By Nicholas Christo and Johannes Luebbers. Hayes Theatre Company and New Musicals Australia. August 11 – September 9, 2017.

Writer Nicholas Christo and composer Johannes Luebbers must be delighted with this production of the musical they have spent “eight years and countless drafts creating”.

Adapted from the book Marvellous Melba by Ann Blainey, their MELBA is a tribute not just to the inspirational talent of the woman who became Australia’s “first great international presence” but to the strength and steely perseverance that made her our first self-made business woman. Using many of the arias for which she was so famous, Christo and Luebbers skilfully blend operaand musical theatre in a story of fame and success, heartache and longing.

The musical opens with the much loved soprano Emma Matthews as the mature, highly lauded Dame Nellie Melba returning Home Sweet Home to her adoring public. As her voice tremors on the final notes of Mozart’s “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro”, we are taken back in time – and  Annie Aitkin becomes the young Nellie Armstrong, caught between a difficult marriage, a son whom she adores and her determination to nurture her gifted voice.

 

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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