Monday, 30 January 2012

Ordinary Days - Darlinghurst Theatre

here's my review for Sydney Arts Guide

Fresh and vibrant, this is a delightful, elegant and witty intimate 'chamber musical', a wonderful way to start this year's season at Darlinghurst Theatre.

With music and lyrics by Adam Gwon, wonderful Squabbalogic (who brought us [Title of show]) now bring us this Australian premiere. Director Grace Barnes has assembled a fabulous cast that gives very strong, finely tuned performances.

The show follows the story of four New Yorkers whose lives intersect on swarming streets and quiet rooftops as they embark on a quest for self discovery and fulfillment, happiness, love and elusive taxis. As in one of the songs of the show, 'The Big Picture', ORDINARY DAYS celebrates the way millions of individual stories can be interwoven in unexpected ways to make life an extraordinary journey.

We see the interlocking lives of the four characters: one of  the younger two is geeky, nerdy Warren ( brilliant Jay James-Moody) , who is house and cat sitting for a rebellious artist .He finds touchy grad student Deb’s (marvelous Erica Lovell) notebook with all her work for her thesis on Virginia Woolf. They organise to meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art .Deb is very stressed , yet confident within herself - until her supervising professor criticises her latest installment of work( her 'I don't want to be here' and 'Calm' almost stop the show).

Meanwhile, we also meet the lovely Claire (excellent Rachael Beck) and her very toothily tall, handsome boyfriend Jason (Michael Falon) .They are struggling to cement their relationship and work out what is happening , especially when Jason first moves in ( 'The Space Between') . Jason is trying to establish himself in New York and Claire's heart, and Claire can't quite let go of her past ('Let Things Go').

All four of them end up at the Met on a Saturday afternoon - their characters interconnect and their 'ordinary days' end up being a tangle of conflict, loss , uncertainty and the search for the meaning of life. We see how an individual can feel worthless and insignificant, and yet simultaneously have an unconscious life changing effect on someone else.

Gwon's lyrics are humorous, smart and satirical. Lovell's Deb has great fun with writing emails to her supervising professor requesting an extension for her thesis work, and a very complicated order at Starbucks, not to mention becoming lost and extremely exasperated at the Met!. Claire has a momentary almost nervous breakdown ( 'Gotta Get Out' ).There is a daring , heart-warming moment for Warren and Deb ( ' Rooftop Duet') that flows to 'I'll Be Here' for Claire - which is extremely beautiful and moving ,again showing how a small interaction can change lives.

James Browne's set designs are contemporary minimalist; Mondrian like reflecting sliding glass doors/windows with some movable benches and tables. All this is complimented by Sian James-Holland's excellent , delightfully atmospheric lighting .  

Paul Geddes as musical director is sparkling on the piano, complete with small Statue of Liberty.

ORDINARY DAYS is no ordinary musical. The show’s running time is 90 minutes without interval.

Adam Gwon’s ORDINARY DAYS opened at the Darlinghurst Theatre on Thursday  19th January, 2012 and runs until Sunday 19th February, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

28th January, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- ORDINARY DAYS, Adam Gwon, Grace Barnes, Jay James- Moody, Erica Lovell, Rachel Beck, Michael Falon, James Browne, Sian James-Holland, Paul Geddes, Lynne Lancaster, Sydney Arts Guide.

Coffee and Cloakrooms

I am not sure if anyone else has noticed , but some theatres do not have cloakrooms ( which can make it very awkward) and also several theatres do not serve coffee at their bar (although they sometimes do serve alcoholic drinks) which makes it extremely difficult if you are an exhausted theatre reviewer - or indeed tired audience member -who needs a caffiene hit and doesn't drink alcohol !!

the STC's History Of Everything

Just quickly to jump up and down and turn cartwheels and rave about this amazing show

Never Did Me Any Harm

Here's  my review of this excellent show for artshub

The first show for 2012 as part of the Sydney Theatre Company season and also a Sydney Festival event, this is a confronting, challenging and thought provoking work that looks at that eternal hot potato: parenting. It will lead to lots of heated discussion, even if you're not a parent.
Using Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap as well as the idea of 'helicopter parents' as a springboard, to prepare for this extraordinary dance/theatre work, director and choreographer Kate Champion (Not In A Million Years, The Age I'm In) and her company interviewed a wide sample of people from all ages and backgrounds to establish a cross section of views on parenting.
In a typically messy, rather dry Australian backyard – with shed for Dad, bicycles, plastic buckets, a rubber tyre as a swing, assorted chairs etc – the amazing cast of six play various young children, angsty teenagers and worried, harassed parents, using the verbatim text that was collected from the interviews and turned into an ironic, biting, searching script. In one of the voiceovers we hear a young man almost scarily brag how he can get anything he wants.
It's all done in a cinematic, multi-layered series of vignettes. Fluid, free-flowing monologues are interwoven with fabulous dance passages. Using live monologues, voiceovers and movement, it raises and discusses numerous issues of parenting: is it really rewarding?; do all parents love their children?; at what age should breast feeding stop?; the safety of children linked with over control (where a mother takes over and wrecks a throwing game, for example); and the huge responsibility of parenting. In contrast, Heather Mitchell has a splendid monologue by the pool as a middle-aged childless woman who could never see herself as a mother.
In this production, the dance element is rather overwhelmed by the script. Choreographically, there are some wonderful wrapping/enfolding moments in short duets or trios, but most of it is everyday movement heightened and extended. In one section there is a fabulous exhausted (also possibly sleepy and bored) duet with various words running down the tree and the dancers’ bodies (“Grow up”, “Can't go back” etc). In another section there’s a trio where the family – mum, dad and unhappy kid – pose for photos at what seems to be a birthday party and the child keeps on trying to escape their control.
Joshua Mu as the young, troubled, possibly autistic child whose mother loves him to distraction is terrific; he has a very exciting solo with his shadow, emphasising his sense of 'otherness'. Kirstie McCracken, with her shaved head, gives a brilliant performance as an aggressive pre-teen. And Alan Flower, one of the non dancers, is tremendous when portraying a little kid tricked into a daredevil 'game' in the backyard.
On the production side, Max Lyandvert's throbbing soundtrack is powerful, haunting and hypnotic. And Geoff Cobham's splendid lighting reminded me somewhat of the style of Chunky Move performances, with the use of computer grids that ripple, move and look like ECG graphs or tiles – here used to express the frustration, rage or trapped helplessness of the various characters.
The show ends on a poignantly hopeful note, with heavily pregnant Sarah Jayne Howard communing with her unborn baby and staring into the future.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sydney Theatre Company/Force Majeure present
Never Did Me Any Harm
Director: Kate Champion
Set and Lighting: Geoff Cobham
Composer/Sound Design: Max Lyandvert
Dramaturg: Andrew Upton
Cast: Christina Chan, Vincent Crowley, Marta Dusseldorp, Alan Flower, Sarah Jayne Howard, Kirstie McCracken, Heather Mitchell, Joshua Mu
Wharf 1 and 2, Sydney Theatre Company, Walsh Bay
January 11–February 12, 2012


Here's what I wrote for Dance Informa about this wonderful show

Categorized | Australian Reviews


Babel Sydney Theatre
January 2012
As part of Sydney Festival
By Lynne Lancaster.
One of this Sydney Festival’s major events, Babel is a mesmerizing and enthralling piece that will leave you gasping.
Two of Europe’s hottest choreographers, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet, bring us an extraordinary company of eighteen dancers and musicians in a powerful, hypnotic, swirling maelstrom of searching for identity and culture.
The driving concept of the work is based on the Biblical story of the building of the Tower of Babel and how language (both spoken and physical) and body emerge as the hidden forces behind all human interaction.
The international language of ballet is French, but Cherkaoui and Jalet combine Western contemporary dance with different movement styles from around the world, including break dance, hip hop, ballet and martial arts in tandem with a haunting and thrilling eclectic soundtrack of rhythm and voice.
The incredible cast throw themselves into the work with amazing energy. Various sections are developed into a vivid chaos of multilingual chatter, with some of it funny and some quite angry. Simple acts are highlighted, like hanging out the washing while singing. At times the casts’ hands are like stars; there is violence but also much fragile, hesitant tenderness.
Highlights include an amazing performance by Ulrika Kinn Svennson. Sooty eyed and incredibly tall, she teeters along in knee high black boots as an exquisite robotic doll. There is a sequence where she is gleefully ‘inflated’ by two Japanese men and in another she acts as a multilingual customs/security guard at the airport.
In one section Darryl E. Woods enters like a conquering king and gives a biting tongue-in-cheek monologue on how the English language has dominated the world. Another sequence looks at mirror/motor neurons and the philosophy of connectedness. In another moment an erudite, philosophical Frenchman gradually becomes a Neanderthal like grunting caveman.
There is a topless, writhing, sculptural pas de deux and some most unusual male pas de deux, one in particular that is based on martial arts. There is a lot of energetic machismo, with the atmosphere at one point like a footy team celebrating. This is contrasted with a piece where after a stunning pas de deux one of the dancers is caught in a cell and unable to escape.
The score is a musical fusion of East and West, with interweaving Hindi beat, dramatic Kodo drumming and haunting lyrical medieval music including flute and harp.
Gormley’s timeless, fragile and versatile set of hardy silver metal frame cubes are at times reflective against the plain black scrim. The cubes interlock, tilt, slide and rotate allowing the cast to build the Tower of Babel.
A stunning, breathtaking analysis of the human condition and the need to communicate.


This was just before Christmas 2011 ... here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide
For one night only we were privileged to be treated to some fabulous French talent.

The first half was a terrific performance of French songs by Mdme Amandine Petit, conductor of the Sydney French choir, with pianist Elodie Sablier. They have formed a duo called 'Ooh La La ! ', exploring the classical lounge repertoire for voice and piano - look out for it.

Petit, very elegant in a grey dress performed a set of French songs including some Piaf classics (' La Vie En Rose ',' Milord' etc).The set was the sofa for OUPS , a microphone and a birdcage. Petit's lovely voice is somewhat lighter, purer , less smoky than Piaf's and ranges from the lighter, sardonic in tone to the ( in Piaf mode) the rather darker and eerie 'Milord' and the final ' Padam ' which was rather eerie, ominous and waltz like.

Non Piaf songs included 'Autumn Leaves ' and 'Tel qu'il est'. Petit has an incredible range and versatility and in a couple of the songs sang both the French and an English translation .The audience was riveted and enthralled .Wow!

With just a tiny pause we were straight into OUPS, a short contemporary dance piece by Berengere Fournier and Samuel Faccioli. It uses poetry in movement and humour to explore the early stages of a couple's growing relationship, sustaining the drama with precise and energetic movements to create a captivating visually entrancing depiction of their journey. From rather sweet touches to hot and steamy unbridled passion, the performance is inspired by ordinary, everyday gestures but transforming them into an alternative visual sign language.

The pas de deux plays around with the idea of contrast and whether they are sombre or playful there are satirical undertones. Precision , trust and accuracy as well as split second timing are the foundations of this duet as well as humour, sensitivity and acrobatics.

Some of it is almost death defying. Fournier wears a black dress, possibly 1940's ish, yet 'timeless' in style. Faccioli is in white shirt, black trousers and natty waistcoat.

The set is very simple - just a small double-seater sofa and a pair of large boots. You can see the influence of Phillipe Genty (and Decoufle) and also Pina Bausch, Meryl Tankard  and possibly Nijinska's 'Les Noces' .There are at times some marvelous use of percussive almost Flamenco like feet rhythms.

Some of the extraordinary choreography is extremely hot, sexy and wild yet simultaneously incredibly controlled .There are some extraordinary lifts , frozen 'caught' tableaux and some most unusual partnering and balances. The sofa is almost a third person in the work as it is sat upon, hidden behind, flipped etc.

Repetition and echoing of repeated phrases of movement is sometimes used, combined with some wonderful very complicated rhythmic portes des bras sequences. Even a single finger is very important (eg used for supported turns).

An astonishing performance and I am most anxious to see more - looking forward to their planned show at the Opera House in 2012.

OUPS ran for an hour without interval at the Tom Mann theatre for one night only on Friday 23rd December, 2011.

© Lynne Lancaster

24th December, 2011


Love Never Dies

here's what I thought for artshub
Bigger than Ben Hur, this is a grand, all-out, ultra-lavish mega musical that has to be seen to be believed.
Fitting superbly into the Capitol, the show opens with Ben Lewis as the Phantom struggling with writers’ block. A decade after the original Phantom of the Opera, he has escaped from Paris with the help of Madame Giry and Meg, and is now known as Mr Y, the mysterious masked manager of a huge Coney Island variety palace. In some ways he is like a villain from The Matrix; in others he’s torn and tormented. With a powerful, explosive and difficult opening – straight into 'Til I Hear You Sing' – Lewis looms menacingly, towering physically and vocally over the entire production. It is a glorious performance.
Aristocratic wastrel Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny (Simon Gleeson), having caroused his fortune away brings his wife Christine – now an established prima donna – and their son Gustave to New York for a lucrative engagement for the Hammersteins. Raoul and Christine unexpectedly meet up with Madame Giry and Meg ('Dear Old Friends'). But the crucial reunion is between Christine and the Phantom.
As in the original Phantom (and many Gothicky romances) he enters her room through a mirror. They have a glorious set of duets – 'Beneath A Moonless Sky' and 'Once Upon Another Time' – that reveal the intimacy between them and explains what happened after the Phantom vanished from the Paris Opera all those years ago.
The Phantom threatens Gustave, who has great musical potential, so that Christine will agree to sing for him. But he relents once the truth about the boy's parentage is revealed. In being forced to sing for the Phantom (the title song, in Act 2), Christine has to gamble her marriage to Raoul and the future of her son. She also unwittingly destroys the hopes of the two other women who have given their all for the Phantom: Madame Giry and Meg.
Anna O'Byrne as Christine is magnificent, with a glorious soaring voice; she’s a prima donna indeed. Gleeson performance as Raoul is also magnificent, especially during his 'Why Does She Love Me?' Tyron Geany gives a lovely performance as Gustave; Maria Mercedes as the obsessive, stern and rather forbidding Madame Giry is brilliant; and it is a delight to see the wonderful Sharon Millerchip as Meg (a role she played in the original Phantom).
The huge, spectacular set designs by Gabriela Tylesova are on a scale rarely seen; they are amazing. They 'fly' in, revolve, tilt – and the Phantom's half mask is incorporated into the design. There are also shades of the barricades from Les Miserables and also Starlight Express.
The costume designs are ravishing. Special mention must be made of the stunning 'peacock' dress and design Christine wears in Act 2 for 'Love Never Dies', and of the glorious dresses for Meg and the ensemble in her delightful set piece 'Bathing Beauty'.
If you know your Phantom, there are musical snippets cunningly sprinkled throughout the show (eg echoes of 'Prima Donna' for Christine, and 'Angel of Music'). There’s also some rather strange integration of 80s rock music rhythms and heavy electric guitar ('The Beauty Underneath'). Elsewhere there is possibly a Sinatra flavour (Raoul's 'Why Does She Love Me ?'). The large orchestra, under maestro Guy Simpson, is magnificent. I’m afraid that the lyrics by Glenn Slater were at times rather trite, however.
Graeme Murphy's choreography is dazzling – if you know his work and look closely there are small quotes from his Tivoli and Nearly Beloved in particular.
A dark work, rather light on the humour and heavy on the tension, this production may leave some Phantom fans cold; some will hate it. But I found it extremely impressive, with magnificent performances. It is a lavish, opulent melodrama that is an extraordinary piece of entertainment.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Love Never Dies
Director: Simon Phillips
Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Glenn Slater
Book by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton, Glenn Slater and Frederick Forsyth
Additional lyrics: Charles Hart
Orchestrations: David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Choreography: Graeme Murphy AM
Lighting Design: Nick Schlieper
Sound Design: Mick Potter,br> Set and cotsume: Gabriela Tylsova
Musical Supervisor: Guy Simpson
Cast: Ben Lewis, Anna O'Byrne, Maria Mercedes, Simon Gleeson, Sharon Millerchip, Emma J Hawkins, Paul Tabone, Dean Vince, Tyron Geany (with Ky Baldwin, George Cartwright and Jack Lyall)
Capitol Theatre, Sydney
January 12th–April 1st, 2012
Bookings and more information:

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Turandot - Opera Australia 2012

A scene from the current revival of TURANDOT

Bold, vivid and startlingly original this is a spectacular revival of the excellent Graeme Murphy production. Puccini's opera was left incomplete at his death in 1924 and was finished by his colleague Franco Alfano in 1926.

It is a mythical tale set in China. Prince Calaf falls in love at first sight with the cold, ruthless Princess Turandot, daughter of the Emperor. To obtain permission to marry her, a would-be suitor has to solve the three riddles she has set - but beware, a wrong answer results in death. Calaf solves all three riddles , but Turandot is still extremely hesitant. He offers her a loophole: he agrees to die at dawn if she can discover his name.

This is a visually stunning production with fabulous designs by Kristian Fredrickson and dramatic yet delicate lighting by John Drummond Montgomery.

The concept of the fan , as concealing curtain, as veil , as an item that can be invitingly displayed and then snapped shut and taken away , is a recurring visual motif throughout the production. Much use is made of wonderful Peking Opera like makeup, especially, for instance, for Ping Pang and Png and the 'lion' like very threatening bare chested executioner. There is also use of Peking Opera/Kabuki like symbolism in, for example, the use of the red ribbons for the death of the Prince of Persia. There is also complicated use of 'koken'. There are some wonderful mask like designs for the moon.

Choreographically, there are huge writhing swirls of movement .The chorus as crowds in the city ripple, seethe, withdraw and open out in dramatic procession. (Murphy also uses this most effectively in his later AIDA returning in the winter season). There are also hints of his POPPY in the bell-like choreography at one point for Ping, Pang and Pong in Act 3 and his SALOME in the temptations that Calaf is offered in the same scene.

As the imperious, icy princess Turandot, Susan Foster was most impressive. She contrasts dramatic power and towering presence in her entrance and riddle scene , stark but with plush vibrato, with more subtle phrasing in the Act 3 love duet, emphasizing the transforming effect of Calaf's persistent yearning for her .When she wears the enveloping veil in Act 3 are we meant to think of Myrthe in GISELLE?!

Rosario La Spina's strong, powerful voice is perhaps more suited to the lyrical Italianate repertoire, and his Calaf was possibly a trifle lukewarm, but his 'Nessun Dorma' in particular was excellently sung.

As the gentle, true Liu, who sacrifices her all for love, Daria Masiero has an an active vibrato in Act 1 combined with melting pianissimi in Act 3 contrasted with poignant colour in her darker , dramatically lyrical 'sacrifice' scene in Act 3. Jud Arthur's Biblical looking Timur was very dramatically effective especially in Act 3 with his sad farewell of Liu. As the court officials Ping ,Pang and Pong,  Andrew Moran , Graeme Macfarlane and David Corcoran all brought tremendous musical versatility and dramatic presence to their roles :  the extended opening scene they have in Act 3 works brilliantly with wonderful use of Chinese bamboo screens.

In the supporting roles Warwick Fyfe was chillingly strong as the Mandarin. Warren Fisher as the mountainous, bell-like Emperor was hugely, darkly imposing.

The Opera Australia Chorus and the children's chorus under the direction of Anthony Hunt and Francis Greep gave excellent performances as the oppressed and terrified Peking citizens, weary of the bloodthirstiness of Turandot's savage rule. Their singing was thunderous or lyrically musing and caressing, with great dynamic control, particularly at the end of each act. the children's chorus was delightfully sweet.

Conductor Arvo Volmer brought out the contrasting textures and highlights of Puccini's lush score, an unusual mix of dissonance and lyricism.

A very strong, most exciting production that after twenty years, is still gripping and powerful.       This production runs for 3 hours for 3 hours including two intervals.

Opera Australia’s production of TURANDOT opened at the Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House on Tuesday 17th January and plays until Monday 19th March, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

26th January, 2012

Tags: Sydney Opera Reviews- TURANDOT, Opera Theatre Sydney Opera House, Graeme Murphy,Puccini, Kristian Fredrickson, John Drummond Montgomery, Susan Foster, Roserio La Spine, Daria Massiero, Jud Arthur, Andrew Moran, Graeme Macfarlane, David Corcoran, Warwick Fyfe, Warren Fisher, Anthony Hunt, Francis Greep. Arvo Volmer, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster.

Annie January 2012

marvellous fun
here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide

Siena Elchaar, Anthony Warlow, Alan Jones and Todd Goddard in ANNIE. Pic Jeff Busby

Leapin' lizards folks, this show will have you dancing in the aisles.What an amazing way to start a year of theatre going with this incredibly fresh,vibrant major revival of this mega musical with a stunning cast of Australian theatrical legends. There have been two other major productions of Annie , in 1978 and 2000 .

Set in New York City at Christmas 1933 this is a joyous feel good musical based on the much loved comic strip. It tells the rags to riches story of an eleven year old  orphan, Annie,abandoned as a baby, who somehow survives life in an appalling orphanage -under the mismanagement of Miss Hannigan- and ends up being adopted by a billionaire, Oliver Warbucks.

There is lots of social and political comment - we see the extremes of terrible poverty and the effects of the Depression -for example the orphanage and especially the homeless Hooverville Annie finds herself at one stage in - which is all contrasted with the lavish understated opulence of the Warbucks mansion.

The show begins cinematically with the use of cgi and projections - we start with an aerial view of New York and gradually pan and get closer and closer until we end up at the state Orphanage.

The late much lamented maestro Kristian Fredrickson's glorious costume designs are mostly grey/black and white for the poverty stricken, bright and colourful for Warbucks ' entourage and outside characters like the US Cabinet. The designs for Grace's dresses are particularly ravishing.

Pre-order the cast CD now - under the tremendous direction of Peter Casey musically the show scintillates and the cast is in glorious voice.

The cast is magnificent all round .There is some doubling/tripling of roles (as Warbucks staff,police, Hoovervillites,etc ) for the ensemble.

Nancye Hayes as Miss Hannigan , the whistle blowing , tormented and tormenting , over rouged , dipsomaniac , stressed head of the Orphanage, is superb and obviously having a whale of a time. You can see the psychological breakdown in 'Little Girls' , where she destroys a doll.

Australian favourite dapper, debonair  leading man Anthony Warlow is glorious as Oliver Warbucks.Perfect for the role he is in sensational voice and we see the change from cold, harried billionaire only concerned about his business and money to caring, would be father.

As his secretary Grace Farrell, elegant and super efficient, Julie Goodwin  is lovely and  just right.

The wicked 'Rooster' ( Ralph) Hannigan - so called because he crows like Peter Pan- and Lily St. Regis his girlfriend are brilliantly played by rubbery ex THE BOY FROM OZ Todd McKenny and the deliciously long legged Chloe Dallimore. Both are in dazzling ,magnificent form and stop the show with their rendition of  'Easy Street'. Their cynical evilness is rather glossed over.

The exuberant cast of orphan girls is delightful - excellent ensemble work and beautiful voices . Siena  Elchaar as Annie is magnificent - a glorious performance and she sings 'Tomorrow ' and 'Maybe' sensationally.

Radio shock jock Alan Jones is excellent as a beaming ,genial FDR.

And I mustn't forget the wonderful dog Sandy (played by Coogee).

Choreographically Kelly Aykers work is terrific .I was reminded a bit of the recent Matthew Bourne 'Mary Poppins' and there are allusions to 'Guys and Dolls' especially in 'NYC'.There are some extremely exciting huge production numbers especially for example 'Hooverville' and 'A New Deal for Christmas '. It is also much fun to see the backstage at the NBC Radio recording studio in Act 2 including the Boylan Sister's ' You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile'. And there are some delightful 'in-jokes' with the paintings Warbucks has installed in his gallery -Da Vinci's , Holbeins, Gainsborough ,Monets etc .and even possibly a Picasso.

While yes the show can be regarded as very dated and cloyingly saccharine sweet, the message of hope and optimism still carries through and is relevant to today.    

A marvelous must see musical for all the family.Don't miss it.

Karen Johnson Mortimer's production of ANNIE opened at the Lyric theatre, Star City on Thursday 6th January and is presently booking well into February, 2012.    

(c) Lynne Lancaster

6th January, 2012

Tags: SYDNEY PLAY OF THE WEEK, Sydney Theatre Reviews, ANNIE, Lyric Theatre Star City, Karen Johnson Mortimer, Anthony Warlow, Nancy Hayes, Todd McKenney, Chloe Dallimore, Alan Jones, Julie Goodwin, Jack Webster, Kelly Ayers, Peter Casey, Alan Jones, Siena Elchaar, Todd Goddard, Jeff Busby.

Assembly - Sydney Festival 2012

This was a total knockout , absolutely fabulous
Here's what I thought for artshub
This would have to be one of, if not the, best events of this year's Sydney Festival. A blending of dance with theatrical and operatic performance, this enormous work involves over 60 performers, including eight of Chunky Move's dancers as well as singers – six principals! – from the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.
Devised and choreographed by Chunky Move's Gideon Obarzanek in collaboration with Victorian Opera's Richard Gill, Assembly examines the enigmatic motions of crowds as well as being alone in a crowd. The set is 12 huge steps. At times the cast ebb and flow, as if in peak hour at Martin Place or in London's packed Tube; at times they march in unison, forming encompassing circles of movement.
From a dance point of view there is some fine ensemble work and some shining duets or solos. Half the cast are in reddish/orange/purplish colours, the others in bluey-green shades. Most are in casual streetwear. Sometimes simple movements are used (a hand on a shoulder, a tilt backwards or to the side); in others, Obarzanek's choreography is haka-like with the cast as opposing footy fans hissing, growling, stomping and spitting. In one section his dangerous, almost death-defying, choreography has the dancers falling or hurtling down the stairs; yet at other times it is writhing and sculptural. Some of the choreography is mechanical or robot-like, some of it Graham-inspired. In parts the cast are mindlessly herded like sheep. There are liturgical prayer-like references with bent elbows, and references to Graeme Murphy's Some Rooms – with the hands like birds or stars – and Siobhan Davies' Flock perhaps.
Richard Gill, the musical director, has moulded his singers into a marvellous group who work together gloriously in a thrilling mix of disjointed babble of incoherent speech, early music repertoire (Gesualdo, Purcell, Victoria), lyrically haunting plainchant, grunts, groans, sighs and a twentieth century song. They are capable of performing choreographed movement too!
All up, Assembly is a fascinating examination of human activities, both collective and individual, contrasting dancing and singing, order and chaos – all blended into a single work. It’s a dazzling collaboration, with extraordinary power and impact.
It is sad to realise this is Obarzanek's final work as director of Chunky Move, but what a magnificent way to bow out. It will be most interesting to see what he does next.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Chunky Move and Victorian Opera, with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs present
Director and Choreographer: Gideon Obarzanek
Assistant Choreographer: Stephanie Lake
Music Director: Richard Gill
Assistant Music Director: Daniel Carter
Lighting Design: Nick Schlieper
Associate Lighting Design: Tom WIllis
Costume Design: Harriet Oxley
Set Design: Gideon Obarzanek and Chris Mercer
City Recital Hall, Angel Place
January 11–14 2012

I Am A Camera - Sydney Festival 2012

here's what I said for arthub about the excellent 'I Am A Camera ' , part of the Sydney Festival

Warm, intimate and very revealing, I Am A Camera is a fabulous autobiographical show by renowned photographer William Yang.
Yang, whose previous shows include Friends of Dorothy and My Generation, has been a major fixture in the Sydney arts world since his first groundbreaking pictures of the trendy gay social scene in the 1970s. “I was a blogger before the word was invented,’' he claims.
Specifically devised for this year's Sydney Festival, I Am A Camera opens on two huge screens at the back of the tiny theatre, used for the projections of his glorious pictures. Stage right is the setup for the excellent musicians (Joshua Hill, Thomas Rann) who provide the rich, hauntingly atmospheric and at times elegiac score composed by Elena Kats Chernin. Sometimes there is plaintive cello, at other times softly tinkling bells and chimes; at other times still, it’s harsh, crashing percussion or blistering xylophone – all very effective, especially when we see the images of soaring misty waterfalls, or volcanoes, or the Barrier Reef or the creek beds where the Lambing Flat riots occurred.
This is, however, Yang's story. Dramatically dapper in red shirt with black waistcoat and trousers, he stands imposingly front and centre but it’s as if he is talking to a much-loved friend. What he presents is an illustrated biographical journey, part travelogue, part family reminiscences. Sadly some of the people he has photographed and befriended have now passed away. Some succumbed to AIDS (which he chronicled in his 1992 show Sadness). Now, however, he is increasingly losing friends and family to the ravages of old age, although some losses were totally unexpected.
In addition to its dominant theme of family ties, I Am A Camera also looks at the fascinating history of the Chinese Diaspora, which Yang illustrates in magical images he has taken during several journeys. There are fabulous, exquisite photographs of food, landscapes, seaweed, an amazing volcano and other exciting events interspersed with shots of celebrities and crowded family photos. He presents images from various trips – to a major photographic exhibition in the Chinese city of Pingyao, for instance, and another to the French-administered island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean; to New Zealand, to California to visit relatives, and to the country NSW site of the 1861 Lambing Flat anti-Chinese riots with a busload of Chinese-Australian history buffs.
Yang as raconteur has a very simple, unaffected and at times charmingly witty style of delivery, offering acerbic asides on mundane things such as bowling club food. Quietly powerful and moving, this is a deeply thoughtful and compelling reflection on the meaning of life, death and the beauty of nature. “I am a camera. I witness marvellous things,” he says.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sydney festival presents
I Am A Camera
Created and performed by WIlliam Yang
Music composed by Elena Kats –Chernin
Production Manager and Operator: Gordon Rymer
Percussion: Joshua Hill
Cello: Thomas Rann
Lennox Theatre, Parramatta Riverside
January 13th–15th, 2012
Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre
January 17th–22nd, 2012