Female of the Species

By Joanna Murray-Smith. Hunters Hill Theatre. Director: Jennifer Willison. The Ryde Club. 17 June – 3 July, 2022

Reviewed : 17 June, 2022 *

Photo : provided

Jennifer Willison finds all the fun as well as the ‘bite’ in her production of Joanna Murray-Smith’s satire on “celebrity feminists”. She keeps the pace fast – from the opening monologue it’s clear Willison is going to make the audience sit up and be entertained.

Catherine Potter delivers that monologue succinctly, introducing Margot Mason as strong, in command, but suffering writer’s block as she attempts to begin yet another dissertation on breaking the ‘feminine mystique’.

Potter is an experienced actor and she finds the cynical conceit and acerbic arrogance that Murray-Smith has hidden in Margot’s telephone conversation with her publisher. She makes Margo self-assured, a little scornful, lying easily about her lack of progress. She shows her as confident, secure in her own space and in her ability to bluff her way through the phone call, yet betraying just a little bit of the nagging self-doubt that is to become intrinsic to the action – and is really the basis of Murray-Smith’s satire.

Photo : supplied

Potter establishes the scene, moving surely on Willison’s bright, contemporary set where white and green predominate and light filters though French windows from the garden outside onto Margo’s desk, the focal point of the action … or inaction as the case may be!

Enter Molly (Bettina Girdler) through the open French window, as Margot, unaware of her visitor, ponders about the title for her book. When Molly suggests “The Female of the Species”, Margot realises she is not alone, and the play really begins.

Molly is an ex-student who has several axes to grind with Margot, and she’s come armed, literally, with handcuffs, chains  … and a gun. She’s determined to make Margot pay for letting her down and letting her mother down, fatally.

Girdler shows the range of emotions that Molly is carrying in a pacy, expressive performance that fuses the exuberance of youth, the anger of criticism, and the pain of grief with well-directed comedic timing. This stormy Molly is the antithesis of Margot’s steely control, and Girdler and Potter play off each other adeptly.

Enter Tess (Tonia Davis), Margot’s daughter, a weary mother, plagued by three noisy children, so much so she has left them alone and sought solace in her mother only to overhear Margot disparaging her life choices to Molly. Davis balances exhaustion with righteous anger, siding with Molly and sustaining the pace that Willison realises is imperative to make the rest of the action work.

Photo : supplied

Murray-Smith has set the scene for her three strong female characters to analyse the many facets of being the ‘female of the species’ – from fame and feminism to marriage and motherhood – and they do so effectively, especially when faced with three males who Murray-Smith craftily creates as caricatures or stereotypes.

Anthony Slavern plays Tess’s bespectacled husband Bryan, Dan Ferris the Italian taxi driver over-anxious to tell his life story and Michael Richmond is Theo, Margo’s publisher and long-time friend. Slavern and Ferris both bounce onto the scene in keeping with the tempo – and make the most of the crafty lines that satirise their characters. Richmond changes the tenor slightly but only momentarily!

The play has been ‘doing the rounds’ since 2006, but it still packs a punch when the satire and comedy are accentuated – as Willison is doing successfully in this production.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening Night

The Weapons of Rhetoric

Bach Akademie Australia. Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Saturday 11th June, 2022

Reviewed : 11 June, 2022

Image: Courtesy Australian Digital Concert Hall

Rhetoric is the art of effective or persuasive speaking, but the voice isn’t the only “weapon” that can “speak” rhetorically. Last weekend ABC classical played 100 tracks that have persuasively set scenes in a range of different films. Hearing them takes the listener back to a time, a place, an emotion – just as effectively as words spoken in different tones or pitches.

In her book The Weapons of Rhetoric, Judy Tarling, considered the “world-wide expert on all things to do with rhetoric” writes of the historical importance of rhetoric and its links to music. Madeleine Easton and the Bach Akademie turn to Bach to explore that relationship between music and rhetoric.

Image: Courtesy Australian Digital Concert Hall

To help the audience begin that exploration they call upon two masters in the art (and  weapon) of rhetoric – Jonathan Biggins, actor and writer, and Jonathan Horton, QC and accomplished pianist. Together they explain the history of rhetoric from its early Greek origins – and the similarities between the principles of spoken and musical composition.

Easton believes that Bach’s music holds the attention of his listeners “in exactly the same way as a classical orator”, and in a carefully chosen and beautifully performed program, she  supports her claim most effectively.

From short ‘conversations’ between two instruments to parallel discussions by a lone instrument, to six instruments  weaving around each other, the musicians of the Bach Akademie demonstrate what Tarling describes as the “shared language of music and speech”. Rhythm, time, pace, tone, phrase, emphasis, articulation are just some.

Image: Courtesy Australian Digital Concert Hall

Bach’s “Rhetorics” are performed by Easton (violin), Julia Fredersdorff (violin), Karina Schmitz (violin and viola), James Armstrong (violin), John Ma (viola), Laura Vaughan (viola da gamba), Jenny Eriksson (viola da gamba), Anthea Cottee (cello) Kirsty McCahon (violone), Mikaela Oberg (flute) and Neal Peres Da Costa (harpsichord).

From the Sonata No 2 for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord to the Ricercar a 6 to the Brandenburg Concerto No 6, they show just how persuasive and discursive music can be. In the Adagio and Fugue from Sonata No 1 in G minor, Madeleine Easton skilfully demonstrates how one violin can ‘hold a four way debate on a single instrument”. Performing the Puzzle Canons from Musical Offering 1079 the musicians expounded Bach’s musical answer to a verbal challenge from Frederick the Great.

Between performances, the guest ‘orators’ informed and enlightened the audience with historical and musical insights into just how we can be manipulated by the many “weapons of rhetoric”.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine.

Terrain

Bangarra Dance Company. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. 9 – 25 June, 202

Reviewed : 10 June, 2022*

Photo : Daniel Boud

The wide, open stage of the Drama Theatre is Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre). Lightning flashes across a stark white stage and thunder crashes and echoes invoking this vast, changing  landscape of desert and salt pans that are magically transformed by the run-off of monsoon rains. Set designer Jacob Nash and lighting designer Karen Norris come together to recreate the dramatic vagaries and colours of this place that has been the home of the Arabunna people for thousands of years.

Kati Thanda is their Terrain. They  have “read the landscape … known its purpose”, cared for it and worked within its cycles for generations. Arabunna elder Uncle Reg Dodd’s stories of his Country are re-told through a contemporary perspective in Bangarra’s Terrain.

Photo : Daniel Boud

First performed in 2012, this intricately contrived piece of theatre returns after 10 years because, as choreographer and artistic director Frances Rings explains, “There has been an increase in concern around the management of environments, and more research into Indigenous ways of understanding Country … That knowledge is powerful and valuable”.

Terrain explores that knowledge in nine inspiring dance sequences performed to an evocative score composed by creative maestro David Page. Rings describes it thus: “David was able to bring the vision to life on another level. It’s a score that carries you to Country … through his sonic architecture”.

Photo : Daniel Boud

Sixteen highly skilled dancers move to that sonic architecture to conjure the terrain of Kati Thanda and the corresponding culture of the Arabunna people. They do so in choreography that accentuates the features that are so distinctly characteristic of our indigenous dance culture; movements that curve and flow close to the land or reach up high above it. Movements that combine ancient symbols with contemporary variation. That convey messages in ways that are discretely and intrinsically unique.

In Red Brick the dancers hear the ancestral Calling to Country that takes them via a complex manipulation of Shields, that symbolises the struggle for land rights and recognition to be Reborn through knowledge and customs among the Spinifex around Lake Eyre. Salt signifies an “abstract landscape that resonates with ancient power” and Scar the disruption inflicted by man on nature. Landform symbolises regeneration and healing leading them to Reflect on a new horizon that brings a rejuvenating Deluge of transformation and hope.

Photo : Daniel Boud

The colours of the landscape are replicated in the costumes made from woven fabrics that pick up the varied tones of the desert terrain – lovely sandy beiges, rusty browns, light chartreuse and vivid blues that are reflected in the painted images of the landscape that frame the stage.

The nine inter-connected sequences of Terrain trace the history of the Kati Thanda – and in doing so tell the story of the wider Terrain that is Country. It’s a potent piece of theatre told powerfully, perceptively – brilliantly brought back to the stage as the government makes its pledge to the Uluru Statement form the Heart and a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

Terrain will be in the ACT at Canberra Theatre Centre from 28 – 30thJuly, and moves to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre from 4 -13th  August.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening Night

Moulin Rouge – The Musical

Book by John Logan. Presented by Carmen Pavlovic, Gerry & Val Ryan and Global Creatures. Capitol Theatre. From June 2022

Reviewed : June 3, 2022*

Photo : Michelle Grace Hunder

La Féerie, a French title that translates as “fairy play”, was a French theatrical genre known for “fantasy plots and spectacular visuals,” lavish scenery and technical stage effects. Moulin Rouge – the Musical slips almost seamlessly into a modern interpretation of that genre.

It is everything you’d expect La Féerie to be! A fantasy plot complete with hero, heroine, villain and cheeky storyteller. A hint of ‘revolution’ in the “Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love” cry of the Bohemians. Multiple elaborate sets that fly up and down or slide in and out. Hundreds of lights and lighting effects. It’s raunchy, fast, colourful, sparkly. There’s singing, dancing, leaps, high kicks and acrobatics. And lots more!

Photo : Michelle Grace Hunder

Just like the movie – only different … because it’s live! It’s there ‘in your face’, the energy firing from every high note, every leap, every quip, every smirk. It starts with Zidler’s opening wink and doesn’t stop until the last, frenzied notes of the finale. Sure, there are the touching love scenes and the moving love songs, but they don’t last for too long, because this Moulin Rouge is live, and  the “show” is the reality.

Le Moulin Rouge, the Parisian cabaret named after the red windmill that shines on its roof, was opened in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller, who wanted it to become  a “universal symbol of femininity and the art of dance”. The artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalised it in his many sketches and paintings. Though it burnt down in 1915, it was re-established and remains today as one of the places to go in Paris.

Baz Luhrmann based his move on some of the stories of the Moulin Rouge, even re-incarnating Charles Zidler as Harold Zidler, the cabaret host. Moulin Rouge – the Musical honours the movie, though there are a few differences. Some of the original songs have gone but there are70 songs, from 160 songwriters and 30 publishers. Satine is a more an empowered ‘leading lady’ than a poor prostitute. The Duke is stronger, more involved. And Nini is Satine’s friend rather than the Duke’s spy.

Photo : Michelle Grace Hunder

Simon Burke shines as Zidler. He’s suitably cheeky, wickedly suggestive. He infuses the role with lively energy and chutzpah, yet tempers it with his fear for the future of the company and concern for Satine. Burke has made his mark on stage and screen, in dramas and in musical theatre, both here and overseas. In Zidler he shows just why he is a real Australian theatre treasure.

Burke leads a cast of strong performers.

Alinta Chidzey is a stunning but introspective Satine, carrying the pressures of saving the company, her new love and her failing health. Chidzey balances all of this as well as singing superbly as the company ‘diamond’.

Des Flanagan plays Christian, the young American songwriter finding his way in the world. He shows the youthful trust and naivety of the character … and sings it joyfully.

The Duke is played by Andrew Cook, who shows the different dimensions of the character –  chauvinist, benefactor and arrogant aristocrat.

The bohemian artistes of the Left Bank bring both humour and politics to the story.

Photo : Michelle Grace Hunder

Tim Omaji is suitably proud and prudent as Toulouse-Lautrec, satirist and champion of the people. Omaji has a powerful stage presence, which he uses to give verisimilitude to this role.

As does Ryan Gonzalez, who plays his friend and coproducer, Santiago. Gonzalez is a triple threat performer whose whose experience in cabaret, film and theatre bring convincing strength – and a lot of humour – to this role.

The ‘Lady M’s’, whose sassy boldness and feisty dancing typify just what people expect of the Moulin Rouge, are played brilliantly by Samantha Dodemaide (Nini), Olivia Vásquez (Arabia), Ruva Ngwenya (La Chocolat) and Christopher J Scalzo (Babydoll). With them, another twenty singers and dancers bring a wealth of talent and tireless, spirited energy and zest to the production.

Moulin Rouge – the Musical has invaded the Capitol Theatre. Its iconic red windmill dominates one side of the proscenium arch, the huge blue elephant ‘dressing room’ the other. Light shine red and bright, heart shapes dominate and music and dance reign, bringing a little bit of ‘hot’ Paris to wintery Sydney.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine.

*Media preview

Galileo

Sydney Choreographic Ensemble. Riverside Theatres Parramatta. 1 – 4 June, 2022

Reviewed : 2 June, 2022*

Photo : Daniel Asher-Smith

Galileo is a new contemporary ballet by choreographer Francesco Ventriglia, the artistic director of the Sydney Choreographic Centre. Founded by Ventriglia and Neil Christopher   in early 2021, the centre made its mark on the Sydney dance scene at Riverside Theatres in April last year with its stunning production, GRIMM. It returns to Riverside with its latest production that is equally as stunning.

Ventriglia bases his choreography around the work of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. Specifically, he takes Galileo’s discoveries about motion – speed, freefall, trajectory and inertia –  and, to the music of fellow Italian geniuses, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Corelli and Monteverdi, transforms them into human movement that is startlingly creative and beautiful.

Photo : Daniel Asher-Smith

Ventriglia muses in the program notes about the physics of movement: “We run and we stand still. We fall and rise again. We dance alone and with others. Our movement is gloriously human … and yet we are at the same time forever subject to the strict laws of physics”.

Eleven dancers – Siobhan Lynch, Isaac Clark, Bridget McAllister, Veronika Maritati, Hugo Poulet, Zachary Healy, Ginger Hobbs, Connor McMahon, Ashlee Wilson, Caitlin Halmarick and Sienna Bingham – transmute his musings into subtle sequences of intricate movement that link the physics of motion with time, tempo, control, restraint … and human emotion.

All are there in this incredibly complex performance. Moments of complete stillness lead to intricate choreographic moments, too many to try to describe in words. For instance, a dancer is held high on the hands of two others, and delicately peddles in the air, until, moved like a pendulum, she is gradually lowered to merge with others into a more complex choreographic interpretation of time and space.

Photo : Daniel Asher-Smith

Singly, in pairs or as an ensemble, they bring Ventriglia’s tribute to the scientific and musical maestros of the 16th century into a 21st century contemporary ballet that plays before a backdrop of light beams that intersect and refract or join together in a pulsing planet-like formation, and finally become the night sky shining on eleven pairs of hands, that tremble together to the final moments of Monteverdi’s “Lamento della ninfa”.

These dancers are extremely skilled and highly motivated. In only four weeks they have perfected nineteen separate, complicated sequences. Ventriglia admits he has worked them hard but the pride and compassion with which he speaks of their talent and commitment is echoed in the flawless precision and obvious joy with which they perform.

Photo : Daniel Asher-Smith

What a coup for Riverside, once again, to premiere the work of this new, incredibly inventive company! What a shame – as I have written so often – that it runs for so short a time! But that’s what Riverside is all about – a broad, diverse program that reflects the diverse interests of its wide, western Sydney audience.

Congratulations to Francesco Ventriglia, Neil Christopher, the dancers of the Sydney Choreographic Ensemble – and Riverside – on this beautiful production.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening Night

 

Before the Meeting

By Adam Bock. White Box Theatre. Directed by Kim Hardwick. Seymour Centre, NSW. 21 May – 11 June, 2022

Reviewed : 25 May, 2022*

Photo : Danielle Lyonne

Adam Bock is a Canadian playwright working in America. Before the Meeting  is one of his most recent plays. First performed in 2019 at the Williamstown Festival in the United States, it is set in the basement of St Stephen’s church, where a branch of Alcoholics Anonymous meets regularly. Bock’s characters come together beforehand to make the coffee and ensure the chairs in the meeting room next door are set up. Gail is in charge. She’s a bit bossy but caring. Nicole is young, pregnant and collects jokes about addicts. Ron is older, a hypochondriac who agitates about the arrangement of the chairs. Tim is a ‘newbie’. He’s shy, edgy and unsure.

Bock creates characters that you feel you might have met before. Kim Hardwick makes sure you won’t forget them. She is an astute and empathetic director who, with her cast, finds all the fears, frailties and moments of strength that Bock has given these characters. They are vulnerable but here, together, before the meeting, they find a vestige of hope.

Jan Phegan plays Gail. It’s not an easy role. Along with her addiction – and because of it – Gail carries a weighty load of personal guilt. She tries to assuage the effect of this in her management of the “coffee committee”. She is a caring friend and mentor to Nicole. She tolerates most of Ron’s complaints, though not his obsession with the chairs! But it’s obvious she’s constantly uneasy.

Photo : Danielle Lyonne

Phegan depicts all of this in a performance that is convincingly real. She rarely leaves the stage, yet she sustains the taut edginess of someone who is keeping personal demons almost under control. It is not until a very long monologue, some time into the play, that those demons are revealed. Phegan – and Hardwick – handle that explicit revelation extremely well. Carefully directed timing, tiny pauses, strained facial control, stillness broken by moments of agitation give truth to a confession of guilt that is quite confronting, but doesn’t prepare the audience for the vicious bitterness of her daughter, Angela, in a scene that follows.

Ariadne Sgouros bursts onto the stage as Angela, angry, frustrated, determined that Gail will never meet her granddaughter. Hardwick makes that one short scene memorable. The rage she allows Sgouros to instill into her diatribe is loud and brutal, exposing the awful damage Gail’s addiction wrought on her family. It is a challenging scene and Hardwick allows the pace to quicken, the voices to rise, the tension almost to snap.

Alex Malone, as Nicole, watches them, helpless. Shock and compassion flit across her face as she sees the woman she has leant on so painfully exposed. Nicole spends many moments of the play watching – and Malone is good at ensuring those moments reveal Nicole’s intuitiveness and growing strength of determination. “He let me fall,” she repeats, explaining  how her partner’s lack of care led to her miscarriage, and emphasisng her resolve to remove herself from a such a fraught relationship.

Photo : Danielle Lyonne

Whilst Nicole’s ‘addict’ jokes pepper the early moments of the play, Ron brings the teasing humour that highlights Gail’s tenseness. Tim McGarry makes the most of this playful mocking. The Ron he plays is loose, provocative, energetically dancing around the stage, gauging Gail’s response as he moves towards the chairs. He too has the watchful eyes of the addict – wary, quick to react to reproach, but protective of those about whom he cares.

Tim Walker plays Tim. He finds the wariness in this young man, his cautious confusion.  But Gail is used to making reluctant newcomers feel at home, Ron is happy to have someone new to entertain – and Nicole is attracted to his hesitancy. Tim soon thaws and becomes part of the “coffee committee”, but Walker never lets him completely relax until his angry reaction to breaking his ‘pledge’.

Scene changes in this production are as carefully choreographed as the action. The stage manager is almost ghostly as she glides across the stage, handing a change of jacket to one character, taking a prop from the hand of another as she leaves. In character, the actors freeze, allowing just a moment longer before they move into new light and another day

Bock’s characters are carefully conceived, their problems cleverly revealed, their relationships skilfully manipulated. They need understanding and compassion to be brought to life, and Hardwick and her cast are doing so most effectively.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening Night

Theatresports All Stars

Enmore Theatre, NSW. Sunday 22nd May, 2022

Reviewed : 22 May, 2022

Photo : Stephen Reinhardt

The Comedy Festival is over! But it closed with a bang! A mighty, improvised bang – fuelled and detonated by some of the best improvisors in the country! Inspired by two years of Covid closures and six weeks of political posturing, they hit the stage running, keen to consolidate their “All Star” status. Which they certainly did!

Directed by Michael Gregory, the production was announced by Rebecca DeUnamuno, and hosted by Adam Spencer and Jeromaia Detto. The ‘Stars’ were Amanda Buckley, David Callan, Ewan Campbell, Kate Coates, Daniel Cordeaux, Rebecca de Unamuno, Sarah Gaul, Scott Hall-Watson, John Knowles, Jeff Mesina, Lisa Ricketts, Kate Wilkins, Jioji Ravulo  and Linette Voller. With improvising musician ‘maestro’ Benny Davis.… and musical maestro Gep Blake showed just how impressive improvisation can be.

Photo : Stephen Reinhardt

Young improvisors in the audience (and there were many, including some high school Theatresports teams) were treated to tried-and-true impro games played by the “pros”.

Death in a Minute (or in this case two minutes) was one, Expert Double Figures another. With the topic “Mending a Tractor”, this became hilarious. “The Queen’s Lost Corgi” played in the style of Shakespeare, complete with ‘bog clowns’, showed what quick thinking, imagination and ‘going with the flow’ really mean!

Emotional Replay, with a team of four “Putting out a Fire”, was also a hit, especially when the final replay was Lust. Other Stars got involved by waving lengths of yellow and red material to make the flames, and a piece of blue material to make a very suggestive hose!

Photo : Stephen Reinhardt

And those in the audience who’d never seen Theatresports before could not have imagined that an imaginary tennis ball could be the stimulus for breaking down the Berlin Wall! Or that eight players would be quick enough to ‘accept’ a verbal cue and become the wall!

Improvisation is the basis for most of the secondary school Drama courses in Australia. It’s a core topic for both the Stage 5 and 6 courses in NSW, and where better for students to learn to improvise than by watching these performers at work … or by getting involved with Improv Australia and some of its many courses.

For example:

• Jeromaia Detto is leading a four-session course on Clowning beginning on 26th May. Places are still available.

• The Impro Australia Schools Challenge is in progress at the moment, with the Final coming up on 12th June.

• Celebrity Theatresports will return to the Enmore Theatre in August, and

• Finalists will challenge for Cranston Cup in December.

Check out all of this and more on the website improaustralia.com or just type in Impro Australia on your server!

photo : website

The Theatresports family is large and loving. Its generations go back decades into last century. It’s a happy family and members hold each other dear. It was no surprise then, that the All Stars used the last minutes of the evening to ask the audience to join with Impro Australia in sending their thoughts and wishes to John Knowles as his lovely, talented wife Ronelle faces her final battle against an insidious disease.

Our thoughts and wishes to you too, John.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

Cloudstreet

By Tim Winton. Adapted by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo. Glenbrook Theatre Company. Glenbrook Cinema. 20-28 May, 2022.
Reviewed : 20 May, 2022*
Photo : provided

Set in Perth between 1944 and 1964, Tim Winton’s novel is the saga of the Pickles and the Lambs, two families who share a large house in one of the poorer areas of the city. The Pickles inherited the house, which is haunted by the ghosts of badly treated aboriginal girls whose spirits have been trapped there until “love and new life” comes back to the house.

The Lambs, evicted from their farm in Margaret River, move into one side of the house. Their rent, earned from a grocery shop they set up in a front room, saves the Pickles from poverty, but also gives Sam Pickles money for gambling and Dolly Pickles money for drink.

The Lambs are quiet and industrious, but suffer on-going guilt about their son Fish, who suffered brain damage after nearly drowning.

Photo : provided

Winton uses the families to describe the many social changes that occurred post World War II in Australia. The adaptation, by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo, summarises their lives in an epic play, usually performed on two consecutive days – or over an afternoon and evening. Adapting the “trials and tribulations” of both families for the stage must have been a daunting task. Directing and managing the resulting epic is just as daunting.

Ainslie Yardley has assembled twenty actors to present forty characters in her edited version of the play that runs, with two intervals, for about four hours. It’s a long haul for the cast, who have many costume and character changes, and the eleven backstage crew who manage several sliding flats, a boat, a tent and a lot of furniture on and off the stage in a multitude of scenes. Yardley and her cast and crew accomplish that long haul with enthusiastic energy.

Stage manager John Bailey and his assistant Gabriel Pope are to be congratulated for ‘corralling’ so many bodies and props backstage with smoothness and lack of fuss. Coordinating scenes changes and lighting cues is always tricky, but actors moving off stage in light can detract from character and effect. Apparent lack of that coordination on opening night may improve during succeeding performances.

Sam and Dolly Pickles, played by Madeleine Sheehy and Shaun Loratet, portray the less savoury aspects of family life. Sheehy’s Dolly is loud and flashy, covering her insecurities with drunken flirtations. Loratet shows how easily Sam gives in to temptation and despair.

Photo : provided

Sophie Seaborn and Matt Kelly are Oriel and Lester Lamb. Seaborn uses a steady gaze and firm voice to show Oriel’s steely faith and righteousness. Kelly shows how Lester’s gentleness and caring balances Oriel’s severity.

Quick Lamb and Rose Pickles are the ‘stalwarts’ of the kids at One Cloudstreet. Through them the families’ stories are told most clearly. It is Quick and Rose who eventually bring the family together and free the house of its sad spirits.

Max Jackson is constantly in character as Quick, taking him from childhood to fatherhood in a very appealing performance. His Quick reaches out to the audience with sincerity and consistency.

Mya Pockran shows how young Rose bears the burden of her dysfunctional family, bolstering Sam’s depression, but disgusted by Dolly’s drunken disdain and overt adultery. Eventually she finds some self-respect and independence in work as a telephonist.

Marianne Gibney-Quinteros, as an older Rose, carries that independence into a relationship that takes her to the more sophisticated areas of Perth, but she evetually returns to Cloudstreet where she and Quick find each other, unite the family and free the house of its past.

Photo : provided

Through it all, Fish Pickles hovers, a disturbed being who is the only one who is aware of ‘the ladies’ who come to him at the piano in the ‘windowless room’ at the top of the house. This is a difficult role that Josh Stojanovic sustains convincingly, his eyes always looking beyond the moment to watery places only he can see.

Like other companies, Glenbrook has extended the epic nature of the play into a production ‘package’. For a community theatre company that means extra organisation, coordination and a host of volunteers. For example, patrons are offered the opportunity of ordering a meal to be eaten in the long second interval. This is served in the adjoining hall where, under the curation of Robyn and Alan Pope, a collection of photographs donated by local families has been tastefully mounted and displayed. Along with a video of old news articles and advertisements, they depict weddings, christenings, family gatherings and the fashions of the twenty years during which the Pickles and Lambs inhabited number One Cloudstreet.

Ainslie Yardley and Glenbrook Theatre Company are to be congratulated for embracing such a major undertaking and doing it with such enthusiasm and efficiency.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening Night

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