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REVIEW: Australian Realness by Zoey Dawson

North Fitzroy, Melbourne. Christmas. 1997.

Mum is carrying a load of groceries and a box filled with Christmas presents, while dad plays around with his latest creation – the puppet of a baby. Daughter is heavily pregnant and asleep on the couch, while her parents reminisce about the lives they had before children and a mortgage. Soon, their Daughter’s partner arrives – a woman and a dock worker. Then their Son strides in, all suited up, wheeling and dealing on his brick of a mobile phone.
A suburban family home at Christmas is a ripe location for drama, even in the hands of a nascent writer; everyone has been there and we all know what tensions lie beneath. Mum wants everything to be perfect. Dad wants to help out, but has a project of his own that needs attending to. And the kids, well, they have their own lives now and they can’t always see or know what’s going on with Mum and Dad now.
Playwright Zoey Dawson has made her name on the independent stages of Melbourne as a writer who g…
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REVIEW: A Midnight Visit

You are welcomed into a funeral home. This feels right. It feels real. There’s a tension in the air, though. Mourners don’t know each other and don’t know what awaits them. Who has died? How did we all know deceased?

Everyone grieves in their own way and each audience member who attends A Midnight Visit will experience this dreamscape - inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe - uniquely. Three groups are ushered into the labyrinthine space through different entrances. And then we are left to our own devices to find our way through the maze.
The first room we came across was a bedroom, dimly lit, dark green walls, rich dark furniture and a four-poster bed. A woman stood at the end of the bed, singing mournfully. We briefly witnessed this performance and then, as the woman hurried away, we explored the bedroom.
A Midnight Visit is as much about the detail in the sets as it is in the experience of performance. You are immersed into this world and every photograph or painting can be s…

REVIEW: ‘night, Mother by Marsha Norman

While her mother Thelma is looking through the kitchen for a particular sweet to eat, Jessie is in the attic looking for her father’s gun. Thelma wonders what Jessie needs a gun for, living out in the country and hardly ever leaving home. Jessie explains, calmly, that she is going to kill herself.
Jessie is living at home with her mother because she has epilepsy and is unemployable because of her seizures. Jessie’s marriage has broken down and her son is a criminal. She also, as far as I could tell, has depression – but the play never makes this explicit.
Marsha Norman’s 1982 work won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The same year, Sam Shepard’s True West, was shortlisted for the prize. Shepard’s play gets produced all the time, but this was the first chance I’ve had to see ‘night, Mother.
In many ways the play feels like a time capsule, and Iron Lung Theatre’s production drives that home with a detailed period set by Juliette Whitney. The rotary dial phone. The step stool. The furnitur…

REVIEW: My Dearworthy Darling by Alison Croggon & The Rabble

A woman lies on a rock, writhing. She is in a state of ecstasy; part bliss and part religious fervour. She is listening and waiting for God. A man enters. He berates the woman for losing something of his. The tableau has turned from the epic to the domestic, a space that The Rabble have played with before, particularly in Joan, their deeply affecting exploration of Joan d’Arc and her lack of voice.
My Dearworthy Darling is a collaboration between The Rabble (Emma Valente, Kate Davis) and writer Alison Croggon, poet, novelist, librettist, critic and author of other texts for theatre. And it feels like the perfect fit.
The Rabble’s work is often inspired by well-known texts, though what they produce may simply echo, rhyme with or retaliate against stories we have heard or told ourselves. Frankenstein. Story of O. Orlando. Cain and Abel. All these works were as much about our histories with these texts as about the stories themselves.
Their work is created in collaboration with actors, d…

REVIEW: Pomona by Alistair McDowall

“Moss and lichen carpet the corners of cracked paving along the periphery of the site, and all around Pomona is a defiant hive of life that has thrived on the urban decay that came before.” -Pomona: The lost island of Manchester, The Guardian,7th August, 2014
In the space where Salford, Trafford and Manchester meet, there’s an island that was once home to thriving docks; it now sits overgrown, graffitied and abandoned.
In Alistair McDowall’s 2014 play, Pomona, after the island, itself named for the Roman goddess of fruit trees, it is owned by a man named Zeppo and guarded by a man named Charlie. And that urban decay attracts a variety of other characters from the fringes of Manchester society.
Ollie comes to the city looking for her sister, but the truth of what has happened to her becomes more and more unclear the closer Ollie gets to the centre of the story. And the audience is kept off balance by the shifting narrative focus and slippery characters, all of whom are trying to cover t…

REVIEW: Come from Away by Irene Sankoff & David Hein

Where we you on September 11th, 2001? What were you doing when you heard the news? What do you remember of that day? Of the next day and the week that followed?
After the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, the United States closed its airspace for the first time ever – and many planes headed for America were diverted to a small town with a large airport on the island of Newfoundland in Canada. On a normal day, the airport in Gander would welcome half a dozen planes. On September 11, 38 planes with nearly 7000 passengers landed there. Welcome to The Rock.
I had read about the town of Gander at the time – about the people of the town who pitched in to help these “come from aways” and of those people who were landed there for several days, stuck between where they boarded and where they were headed. And Gander airport itself has a fascinating history, once being a mandatory stop between North America and Europe in the days before planes could fly that distan…

REVIEW: Solaris by David Greig (based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem)

Arriving on a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, Kris Kelvin (Leeanna Walsman) is confronted by beings who are almost human, while digging through the digital archives of Dr Gibarian (Hugo Weaving), who recently died. She must try to understand what these creatures are and what other mysteries lie on the planet below, under the roiling oceans that cover its surface.

Like the Malthouse’s other current production, Wake in Fright, David Grieg’s new play is based on a novel that has also previously been a film. In fact, Stanislaw Lem’s book has been adapted into two films, several operas and a play or two before this. It’s no surprise that it would inspire great filmmakers and playwrights to bring their own versions to life; alien entities, memory and lost loved ones are all rich elements with which to explore the themes of loneliness and otherness.
Designer Hyemi Shin creates a cool, minimalist environment that’s efficiently modular; its swiftly moving doors and sliding panels e…

REVIEW: Wake In Fright by Declan Greene

Much like Malthouse’s production of Picnic at Hanging Rock, this new version of Wake in Fright feels urgent and relevant and a response to both the classic film and the novel – as well as an interrogation of our view of those texts and ourselves as Australians. Adapting the story into a one-woman performance starring Zahra Newman gives us a whole new context through which to examine the work.
“Where are you from?” is a kind of benign question on the surface. It suggests interest, but is really a kind of microaggression for non-white citizens of Australia. Zahra explains to us, before the show starts (but it has already started), that an Uber driver asked her this question recently and her response was to ask where he was from.
“Broken Hill” was his response. The name evokes the kind of town that Wake in Fright is set in – rural, mining, remote. And Zahra has her own thoughts on the place and a story of poisoned children she read about – a truth the Uber driver didn’t want to acknowle…

REVIEW: Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill

Three women sit in a backyard, empty tea cups on the lawn by their feet, when a fourth woman – a neighbour, but an interloper – arrives and tries to fit in. It’s a Saturday afternoon ritual for these three ladies, who have known each other for years, talking about their favourite television shows, shops on the local high street, the weather, their families and parallel universes. It’s comfortable and mundane and there’s something scratching under the surface of their suburban lives, but they aren’t ready to acknowledge it yet.
Playing at just under an hour, Caryl Churchill’s play has a lot to say in an unconventional way – though not entirely surprising, if you’ve seen other works by her. This one felt very similar to her play Far Away, both engaging in its flights of surreality and sometimes maddeningly obtuse. The text does not allow the actors an easy time of it; the backyard discussions are poetic, not realistic and they demand a specific kind of rhythm.
Director Jenny Kemp, whos…

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Fringe Wives Club in “Glittergrass”

The Fringe Wives Club has taken their first show “Glittery Clittery” around the world, where they fought The Patriarchy with #Glamtivism. It was a variety show where they mixed in songs and storytelling and audience participation. With such a clear vision, the three original members might have done more of the same in a new show – but to avoid the notorious “difficult second album”, they have expanded the band and their repertoire.
Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson, Vicky Falconer-Pritchard – the original Fringe Wives – have invited Laura Frew and Sharnema Nougar on board, along with a band, to stage a bluegrass show with sequins instead of rhinestones. They may have more of a budget now, but it doesn’t quite stretch to gemstones yet.
The show starts off with a medley of pop songs you’ll recognise – feminist anthems remade in the style of country songs, as the Wives welcome you to their hoedown. It sets the mood for a concert that embraces and amplifies the multitude of talents amongst the…