Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2019

REVIEW: Disinhibition by Christopher Bryant

Flick, known on Instagram as Flick.Eats, and George, known on Tumblr as Boyance, are social media influencers. Flick.Eats posts FODMAP recipes and Boyance is living his best gay life online, but both are lies – constructions of the kind of personalities that get likes and shares and re-blogs. When Microsoft releases a new artificial intelligence bot onto Twitter – Tay, whose followers are #TaysTeam – the world of fake online personas gets trickier to navigate.
Who are Flick and George, really? Do they even know anymore?
Disinhibition plunges the audience right into the internet, the opening scene a perfect recreation of a Twitter interaction: someone posts a photo of their cute dog, lots of other users retweet it and someone @s the original poster, telling them their dog is prettier than they are. All social niceties are gone; people will say anything to each other online.
Presented by Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) and directed with a sure hand and clear intent by Artistic …

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…

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…

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Garry Starr Conquers Troy

Last year, Garry Starr explored every genre of theatre in order to try to save it. Now that he’s saved theatre, he wants to make sure actors out there know how to be the best skilled actor (or, skactor) they can be. Garry has written a book called “An Actor Pretends” about the history of pretendism.
Chapter by chapter, Garry’s vast knowledge of being a triple threat is explored on stage in front of our very eyes. He explains how to audition for a director when you’re waiting on them in a restaurant. He tells us how to act when we inevitably move to Hollywood and get botox and we can’t move our face. And then there’s his unconventional method for learning lines by osmosis.
Rubber-faced actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith is so damn charismatic that he’ll have you on his side within minutes – and have some of you up on stage as part of Team Garry, if you dare. If you don’t want to participate, don’t sit in the front row like I did; though my moment in the spotlight only consisted of…

REVIEW: Dance Nation by Clare Barron

Ashlee, Zuzu, Luke, Sofia, Maeve, Amina, Connie and Vanessa are a dance group of pre-teens on the cusp of puberty, dreaming of success as a dance competition takes them all across the United States. Dance Teacher Pat runs a tight ship, walking a fine line between being encouraging and squeezing all the enthusiasm out of his troupe. But this isn’t just a show about making your dreams come true, it’s about dealing with the pain of hormones and the physical strain of dancing, even at a young age.
We’re thrust into their world with a tap routine that even professionals would find strenuous – and it claims its first victim, with Vanessa’s leg shattered beyond repair. The visual is so striking and repulsive that it’s viscerally shocking and laugh-out-loud funny. Dance Nation is satire, yes, but at its heart it is a clear drama about growing up and becoming comfortable with your own body – as you learn its power and its weakness.
Director Maude Davey puts the ensemble through its paces, dir…

REVIEW: Muriel’s Wedding – The Musical by P.J. Hogan, Music & Lyrics by Kate-Miller Heidke & Keir Nuttall

Muriel Heslop’s life in the Queensland town of Porpoise Spit is one humiliation after another. She didn’t finish high school, she didn’t come out of secretarial school with any marketable skills and the friends she has don’t treat her very well. In the age of social media, nothing she does gets any likes.

To escape from her friends and family, she disappears into her bedroom and listens to ABBA songs and dreams of the perfect white wedding, proof – in her mind – that she has achieved greatness.
Based on the 1994 film by P.J. Hogan, the stage musical version, which premiered in Sydney in 2017, has been reworked a little since its premiere season and has just opened in Melbourne.
I have fond memories of the original film starring Toni Colette and Rachel Griffiths in their break-out roles of Muriel and Rhonda. Underneath the joyous ABBA songs and the upbeat ending, though, Muriel’s Wedding is quite a sad film; Muriel may suffer from some kind of depression and her mother, Betty, has been…

REVIEW: 33 Variations by Moises Kaufman

In 1819, Anton Diabelli, a music publisher, sent a waltz of his creation to all the important composers of the time, including Ludwig van Beethoven. He wanted to publish the collection of variations and Beethoven at first refused to be involved – and then he ended up writing thirty-three variations on Diabelli’s waltz.
In the present, musicologist Katharine Brandt is obsessed with trying to understand why Beethoven chose to write such a feat of musical composition. But as she gets ready to travel to Bonn in Germany to continue her research, she is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – and her daughter Clara wonders if her mother should even be going.
As Katharine’s body begins to deteriorate, we see her suffering paralleled with Beethoven’s frustration with the Diabelli Variations – and his struggles with losing his hearing. The deeper Katharine studies the great man’s work, the harder it becomes for her to understand his motivations.
Producer Cameron Lukey has assembl…

REVIEW: Jersey Boys by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice

Jersey Boys is a documentary-style musical about the lives of the original four members of the 1960s Rock & Roll band, The Four Seasons, and its lead vocalist Frankie Valli. It charts the band member’s early days in New Jersey through its rocky early years, where they borrowed money from mobsters to record their first singles, through to national and international fame. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005, beating The Drowsy Chaperone, The Color Purple and The Wedding Singer.
I’ve seen most of the Tony Award winners for Best Musical from the last twenty years and this one might well be the laziest in terms of script and production, but the songs of The Four Seasons are so iconic, seeing some of the band’s original magic recreated on stage was a lot of fun.
The show opens with a cover version of their 1976 hit “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” by a French rap artist, Yannick. It’s a fun way to acknowledge that the band’s songs are remembered and reinterpreted – but it’s…

REVIEW: Mr Burns – A Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn

How well do remember the episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob gets out of jail and tries to murder Bart? If you needed to tell the story, could you? Do you remember any of the jokes or set-pieces? How about the film references contained within?


In the first act of Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play, a group of survivors in a post-Apocalyptic America gather together around a fire, trying to remember the details of “Cape Feare”, the second episode of the fifth season of The Simpsons, which first aired in 1993 and has been replayed thousands of times since.
The grid is offline, nuclear power-plants have melted down, and in the weeks and months after this world-wide disaster, people are telling stories to pass the time and to connect with each other. This is and isn’t people telling ghost stories around a fire; the details are important, and this TV show is haunting them.
Telling stories and passing them on is a recurring trope in fiction about the end of the world. Beyond survival, pe…