Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

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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After The Dance

By Terrence Rattigan. New Theatre, Newtown (NSW). August 9 – September 9, 2017

After the Dance is perhaps the least well known of Terence Rattigan’s plays. Set in the years between the Wars, the play censures the wealthy “bright young things” who flout the foreboding signs of unrest in Europe in favour of drinking and partying. The criticism is gentle, exposing the fears and flaws that hide beneath the brittle personas that the characters assume.

Directed by Giles Gartrell-Mills, on a set designed by John Cervenka, the play takes place in the living room of David and Joan Scott-Fowler, who have always maintained that they married for fun rather than love. However Helen Banner, a very self-righteous young woman, has fallen in love with David and is determined to make him change his ways, divorce Joan, marry her and settle down to a more serous life. Unfortunately Joan really does love David, and Helen’s plans have much more complicated consequences.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

 

Or to be more precise, alive in Parramatta and Mittagong, thanks to Miranda Musical Society’s very professionally performed production. Deftly and economically directed by Geraldine Turner, the performers invoke the wide span of themes and emotions Brel managed to write about in his relatively short life – he died in 1978 at the age of 49.

From lost love to family relationships; from old age to military service, Brel’s songs not only pulled on the heart strings but reflected a society that needed to care more and reach out more widely to those around them. They lost none of this in the careful translation into English made by Eric Blau and Mort Schuman – and this collection of his work exemplifies both his skillful composition and his ability to write lyrics that told a story as well.

Read the full review in Stage Whispers magazine, here.

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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.