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Showing posts from February, 2019

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…

REVIEW: Sweet Phoebe by Michael Gow

Frazer and Helen are a middle-class married couple with A-type personalities who do everything a thousand percent. They are in complete control of their burgeoning design careers and their marriage is solid. They check in with each other, they are supportive and attentive. And they set aside time for sex. Everything in their life is moving like clockwork.
When their friends, who are off to a retreat for a week for couples counselling, ask Frazer and Helen to look after their dog, Phoebe, Helen says yes, to Frazer’s annoyance. But soon enough, Frazer and Helen have bonded over how great their marriage is, how sad they are for their friends – and Phoebe becomes another goal, another routine to tick off their list of daily accomplishments.
Everything is going well until Phoebe gets out and runs away.
Michael Gow’s play is twenty-five years old and is definitely a period piece, which Red Stitch’s new production embraces. Not that it’s embarrassing early 90s clothing, but it does drop the…

REVIEW: Barbara and the Camp Dogs by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine

“I am angry. That’s what rock is supposed to be. Full of pain.”

Barbara and her sister René front a band called The Camp Dogs when Barb can book gigs, which is sometimes just busking. Meanwhile, René loves an audience so much, she does a Singing Sheilas cover show at the casino. They’d love to have steady work together, but they know what the music industry is like. That’s where the anger comes in.
The Malthouse audience (“they’ll touch anything”) enters the Merlyn theatre to find it’s been turned into a low-rent music venue, complete with sticky carpet, a chalk board to announce the band and the happy hour specials, and some terrible furniture to seat some lucky audience members. We’re here for the gig and the stories in between the songs, but there’s more to Barbara and the Camp Dogs than listening to rock’n’roll in a space that feels like a hipster pub.
When René talks about anger early on, it’s a laugh line. She’s rolling her eyes at her head-strong sister yelling at the venue m…

REVIEW: Merciless Gods by Dan Giovannoni

Red curtains adorn the back of the stage. A slice of blue cuts through the black. The playing space is intimate, at first crowded by a group of friends at a dinner party, telling stories of revenge. It’s petty to begin with and then it becomes a game of one-upmanship. And even though these middle-class people are safe, the stories of a travel-writer mate become stomach-churning.

This is the introductory tale in Christos Tsiolkas’ short-story collection “Merciless Gods” and it’s the opening piece in the stage adaptation by playwright Dan Giovannoni and Little Ones theatre company.
Tsiolkas is merciless with his characters, always. He paints stunning portraits of the cultural spread of Australians, men and women, gay and straight. The lives they lead might be bleak, but they are always suffused with truthfulness and occasional – very occasional – moments of tenderness.
Giovannoni has transformed several of the “Merciless Gods” short stories into short plays. Groups of friends. A family …

REVIEW: Cock by Mike Bartlett

John has been with his boyfriend for seven years, so it’s a surprise to them both when John meets and falls in love with a woman. But is it love or is it infatuation? Or maybe it’s just the allure of something different or a kind of normalcy that society has convinced him he really wants?
Mike Bartlett’s Cock is a brutal play about society’s expectations – the kind that is bred into us – and a man who cannot make a decision. This production, directed by Beng Oh, is fast-paced and never lets up long enough for the audience to catch its breath. One minute, John and his boyfriend’s relationship is breaking down. The next they are reconciling because the woman John has fallen in love with is following him, stalking him.
Or is that the lie that John tells his boyfriend to make everything seem better? Like when John tells him that the woman is “manly” – as if that might soften the blow, as if you can ever soften the truth that you’ve cheated on someone.
I first saw Cock at the Melbourne Th…

REVIEW: The Butch Monologues by Laura Bridgeman

Representation matters.
In the discourse surrounding representation on stage and screen, whether we are talking about gender, race or disability, the argument always seems to be that the path to equality will be difficult or impossible. That years of cis white male supremacy will be difficult to overcome. And that’s probably true, but I look at something like The Butch Monologues, as a kind of grass roots campaign for representation that isn’t difficult or impossible. It exists and it is brilliant.
Playwright Laura Bridgeman has spent years talking with butches, transmen and gender rebels across the UK, the United States and the Caribbean – and now she has collected those stories into a series of monologues that explore gender and sexuality for self-described “butches”.
The monologues are all brief, allowing for dozens of them to paint a portrait of the butch experience across the world. Performed at Theatre Works as part of Midsumma, five readers tackle the wry, amusing, shocking, a…

REVIEW: Truly Madly Britney by Alberto Di Troia

Adam and Steve, a gay couple from Australia, have maxed-out two credit cards to travel to the Mecca of hyper-consumerism, Las Vegas, to see Britney Spears with a meet-and-greet after. Their relationship is under some pressure from the money they’ve spent on the trip so far, though Steve (Adam Garner) assures Adam (Nick Clark) that the whole experience is bringing them closer together.
They are staying in suburban Vegas with Chad Hardcastle, a hyper-masculine, good ol’ Christian, definitely heterosexual, Britney stan, whose obsession with the pop-star rivals Steve’s – except Chad thinks he and Britney are going to get married.
After Britney sprains her ankle and the concert Adam and Steve were supposed to attend gets cancelled, Steve’s mania about meeting the megastar goes into hyper-drive. Upon meeting Judy and her son Kevin, who is getting to meet Britney through the Grant-A-Wish Foundation, Steve starts to concoct a plan to attain his goal – and will let nothing get in his way.
Alb…

REVIEW: Underground Railroad Game by Jennifer Kidwell & Scott R. Sheppard

As the American Civil War rages on, a black slave woman hides in a barn. Not knowing where to go next, she takes a moment to savour an apple, when a man bursts in. She is terrified as he grabs her, struggling to get away. He tries to calm her down, explains that he is a Quaker – and he’s going to help her get across the Mason-Dixon line, to a life of freedom.
This is the opening scene of a worthy play about race in America; a history lesson that hits the notes you would expect in such a story. But this is not the play you are really watching. This is a literal history lesson, with two teachers re-enacting this moment for a modern history class.
The facts of history can be dry, though. How does the education system effectively engage the student body with stories of the American Civil War? In this classroom, it’s by playing a game.
The class/audience is divided into the Union Army and the Confederate Army – and already there’s a tension in the room. Who wants to be the ones cheering f…