Friday, 22 June 2012

Start Times

Your thoughts please, readers
Why are some theatres fanatical about starting on time and have lock out periods etc and are super efficient with their timings yet others do not open the doors until after the given start time and then it takes an extra 15 or 20 minutes for the audience to be seated and the running time of the show is an extra 20 minutes/half an hour from what we are told as well ? This is sort of OK I guess if you have a car but for those of us who depend on theoretically called 'public transport' it is really inconvenient as we miss connections and it can add an hour or more to the travel time home which is not good especially late at night

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

When Dad Married Fury

Here's what I said for artshub

With the author himself in attendance on opening night, Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre brings us yet another scintillating work by David Williamson. Very well structured and flowing cinematically, biting and witty in short, sharp scenes, it features many caustic one liners and has the audience in fits of laughter at times.
When Dad Married Fury examines the political and religious divides of contemporary Australia. Director Sandra Bates has a fabulous cast to work with.
Hard-nosed older businessman Alan (Nick Tate) is rich. Extremely rich. How he made his oodles of money and survived the GFC, seemingly without caring about the suffering of those who were wiped out financially, is questionable , but as the main beneficiaries of his will, Ben (Jamie Oxenbould) and Ian (Warren Jones ) aren’t really going to examine their father’s ethics too closely.
Ben’s wife Laura (Di Adams) is a ‘lefty’ with major scruples. Her mother, Judy (Lorraine Bayly) lost her husband and all her money as a result of the GFC and Alan’s shady financial dealings. So Alan’s posh 70th birthday celebrations were always going to be rather fraught.
At his birthday party, Alan introduces his new wife, Fury (Cheree Cassidy) to his family and the fur flies – metaphorically speaking. Deep family fissures are revealed and secrets uncovered. More bombshells are dropped at the catastrophic party which is the climax of the first half.
As unscrupulous business mandarin Alan, Nick Tate is excellent. We can in some ways sympathise as he blames the Wall Street sharks for the financial fallout that followed. But why did he marry Fury and agree to no pre-nup? Does she really love him? Does he love her?
Fury (a stunning Cheree Cassidy) , an ex-beauty queen, is a wealthy business woman in her own right, running a very successful card design business. At first she tries to be pleasant to Alan’s family, and has a charming facade, but we gradually learn that she is a right wing Bible bashing fundamentalist, and vehemently anti-gay. However she does have a good, very moralistic side too, revealed when she discovers Alan’s financial shenanigans.
Exquisitely dressed Sue, Ian’s wife, is magnificently played by Lenore Smith. Hard and determined, she just wants what is right, which is for Ian to get his share of the mega-inheritance when appropriate. At first she is bitchy and totally anti-Fury but gradually she grows to know, understand, and even like her.
Catty lefty Laura (magnificently played by Di Adams) is almost diametrically opposed to Fury’s views, and has no qualms about ruining Alan’s birthday celebrations despite the other family members’ pleas. Williamson uses Laura as his voice to express his concern about various social justice issues. Both Laura and Sue have some devastating one liners about Fury before we meet her.
As Alan’s sons Ben and Ian, who want and expect a slice of the pie, Jamie Oxenbould and Warren Jones are excellent .We see the interfamily scheming, wheeling and dealing, the hidden jealousies.
I was most impressed by Marissa Dale-Johnson’s simple, rather minimalist set design, which features just a few multi-purpose chairs and tables and an all over, collage-like wallpaper design of Australian currency to almost Pointillist effect. Peter Neufeld’s understated but very effective lighting compliments it well.
A scintillating play, full of wicked barbs, that raises some thought-provoking issues about the current state of Australian society.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
When Dad Married Fury
By David Williamson
Director: Sandra Bates
Set Designer: Marissa Dale-Johnson
Lighting: Peter Neufeld
Wardrobe Coordinator: Terri Kibbler
Cast: Warren Jones, Jamie Oxenbould, Lenore Smith, Di Adams, Lorraine Bayly, Nick Tate, Cheree Cassidy
Running time: 2 hrs 15 mins (including interval)

Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
May 3 – June 16

Theatre Royal, Sydney
June 22 - 23

Friday, 1 June 2012

120 Birds at Parramatta

This was a terrific show at Parramatta. Required viewing  if you are interested in Australian dance history
This dazzling show was sheer enjoyment. A potted ‘factional’ (i.e. a melding of fact and fiction) history of dance in Australia in the 1920’s and 30’s (think prima ballerina Anna Pavlova and the Ballets Russes as envisioned in Graeme Murphy’s Poppy, Tivoli and Nutcracker) and featuring a terrific cast, it is the culmination of 20 years of dance and research by choreographer/performer Liz Lea.
In 120 Birds, a dancer has found her voice. It opens in 1933 and we, the audience, are attending an elegant fundraising soiree to celebrate a decade of ‘Company Elle’. Madame Elle (Liz Lea) is the narrator, telling the story behind the scenes of the company, the hardships of their travels both around Australia and overseas, the drama of love, and an acknowledgment of the massive influence of Pavlova, the Ballets Russes, and Denishawn.
Black and white footage of the period is cleverly montaged – some of it is a hoot. We see Madame as a young entertainer at Manly, with lifesavers at Bondi; there is a hilarious ‘Berlei Maid’ underwear modelling sequence, plus a mention of the 1932 Australian cricket team. We also see incredible footage of Annette Kellermann as well as a sensational tap-dance by Stan Ray and George Moon.
There is also ‘social dancing’ such as the waltz, the slinky and passionate tango, and the Charleston (featuring an ironic, sculptural solo to a voiceover of a complicated description of how to do the Charleston), all of which blend live performance with black and white film. There is some ballet, but hardly any pointe work.
A lot of the choreography is ‘modern’, almost German Expressionist like Wigman, some of it influenced by the showbiz world and jazz of the period; and some possibly early Balanchine, or influenced by Denishawn (there is a fun, very difficult sequence of a ‘modern’ dance rehearsal to Indian dance counts), and of course the major influence of the great Pavlova (as well as hints of Ashton, with a ‘mermaid’ solo by Ash Bee). The finale features allusions to Perrot’s ‘Pas de Quatre’.
Named after the 120 birds in Pavlova’s entourage – Pavlova was a great collector, which caused major transport and customs headaches – the show is a celebration of Australian dance history steeped in humour, fashion and feathers. Pavlova toured here in 1926 and 1929, and in 1923 toured India. As with Helpmann and Ashton, Pavlova was a major inspiration and influence for Lea’s fictional Madame Elle. And yes, there is a tribute to her famous ‘Dying Swan’ solo.
Inspired by Florence Broadhurst and based on the Ballets Russes, Erte etc are the numerous stylish costumes to die for. Oh! The beading! The jewels! The headdresses! Miss Phryne Fisher would love them. A lot of the work is danced in light sandals or strappy, small heeled ‘chorus’/’character’ shoes. The ‘modern’ works are mostly barefoot.
The excellent set designs include folding screens and chairs, cushions and are objects which are also Ballets Russes/Broadhurst inspired – I particularly loved the Broadhurst bird painting projected on the rear screen.
The four main cast members – Lea, Ash Bee, Miranda Wheen and Melanie Fayd’herbe de Maudave – are sensational. We see how the small company grows together and has its ups and downs and fractured interwoven relationships. The denouement provides another unexpected jolt – I won’t say more or I‘ll spoil it, but special mention must be made of the sometimes Louie Fuller-like use of rippling material, providing an almost vaudeville finale to Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. Lea as fiery Madame Elle is inspiring and dynamic, a glorious performance. Demanding, witty and acerbic, she was sometimes caustic in her comments and at other times wistful, especially when pondering her inevitable future once she could no longer perform.
Wickedly wonderful, this is the glorious ‘factional’ story of Company Elle and its major place in Australian dance, where history blends with imagined autobiography. Required viewing.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
120 Birds
Concept & direction: Liz Lea
Choreography: Liz Lea and Co 2012, and Leisl Bourke, Laura Caldow, Federico Farfaro
Performers: Melanie Fayd’herbe de Maudave (Palomeres), Miranda Wheen, Ash Bee and Liz Lea with Toni Allen, Madeleine Bullock, Charmaine Hallam and Glenys Harris
Film edited by Tim Cowie and Liz Lea
Costume and set: Liz Lea and Gabriella Csanyi Wills
Costumes made by Liz Lea, Nina Caie ,Bruce Scott, Kevin MuScatt, Pam Diver and the company
Lighting design: Gillian Schwab
Riverside Theatre, Parramatta
May 23 – 26

Waverley Lugarbrae Pirates of Penzance

Ahoy me hearties! .There was much fun at Bondi and muscially it was superb .
here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide

Ahoy me hearties! If Gilbert & Sullivan operetta is your thing, this is a bright, sparkling production of PIRATES OF PENZANCE, brought to us by the Waverley Lugarbrae Players in their 53rd year.   This is a production of the revised, updated Broadway version and is glorious fun. Classic Gilbert & Sullivan, it is one of the ‘big 3 ‘ ( ‘Pirates of Penzance ‘,’The Mikado’  and ‘HMS Pinafore’) .While it has a  typical Gilbert & Sullivan silly plot it is full of wonderful roles with great characterization , Gilbert’s witty satirical lyrics and Sullivan’s lilting catchy tunes. It can be quite difficult technically to perform and provides enchantment for all the family.

Vocally it was excellent with some terrific leads. Someone should make a cast CD of the show as musically it was absolutely marvelous under the energetic, scintillating baton of Rod Mounjed .(The orchestra was squashed in the ‘pit’ in front of the audience and could do with more room) .

Our dashing hero Frederick ,’the slave of duty’ with matinee idol good looks and a fine tenor voice, was Julian Brun. He looked every inch the romantic lead in Act 2 in cravat, breeches and blue coat and his ‘Oh is there not one maiden breast’ in Act 1 had all the ladies swooning. He would make a great Nanki-Poo (in ‘The Mikado’)  or student prince Karl Franz.

Dark haired Mabel (Chloe-Anne McKenzie), with huge eyes and a luxurious voice to match, was magnificent. No wonder her ‘Poor wandering One’, with its demanding coloratura fireworks ,entranced Frederick!  Their duet in Act 2 (‘all is prepared’) was lyrical and melting.

Our swashbuckling Pirate King, in a purple cummerbund and red bandana, was nimbly played by Glen Stelzer, in thrilling voice- more John English in style than Anthony Warlow. Full of bravado, Stelzer played him to the hilt and had a whale of a time. His lieutenant Samuel was excellently played by Sam Hile.’With Cat Like Tread’ stops the show to huge roars of enthusiasm.

Major General Stanley was delightfully played by John D. Morrison (ex Mayor of Waverley) who delivered the fiendishly difficult tongue twisting patter role superbly. He was indeed ‘the very model of a model Major General'.

The rubbery, obsequious yet determined Sergeant of Police was excellently played and sung by Steve Wells who led the choruses of ‘When A Foeman Bares His Steel ( Tarantara , tarantara ‘) and  ‘When A Felon’s Not Engaged In His Employment’. (‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one’ ) to great acclaim.

Our Ruth, the ‘piratical maid of all work’ was terrifically played by Tara Hennessy looking  a lot younger than the 47 as stated in the role. In Act 2 she was stunning in a dark red/burgundy outfit .

There was great ensemble work, especially for the three main corps – Pirates, Major-General Stanley’s daughters, and the police. The small stage was over packed at times .The choreography was lively and the complicated crowd scenes handled deftly. There were some lovely floral costumes especially for Mabel and her sisters in Act 1, some snazzy police uniforms in Act2 and ermine and red velvet for the coronets in Act 2. And the Pirates were a clean but rather rag tag lot.

I think you will leave the show with a big grin on your face. Hugely enjoyable and the audience loved it.

Catch the Pirates if you can at the theatre in the Church in the Market Place at Bondi Junction. The show, running approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 20 minute interval, is playing this coming Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Bookings 93895361.

© Lynne Lancaster

21 May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- PIRATES OF PENZANCE, Gilbert and Sullivan, Waverley Lugar Brae Players, Churh In The Marketplace, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster.

The Regals Sweet Charity

A very good performance at Kogarah
Here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide
For all you cool cats The Regals Musical Society has brought us the ironically bittersweet production of ‘Sweet Charity’, the optimistic ,cautionary tale of Charity Hope Valentine, a girl who just wants to be loved.

The classic tale of a fallen call girl with a golden heart, Charity seeks love. She is the hope that we may meet our true love in this strange world. She is the ‘charity’ that we offer when we take the risk and let our guard down and allow ourselves to know love and trust the fickle-finger–of-fate characters that come in to our lives. She is the ‘valentine’ we all wish for, someone who is compassionate, funny, loving brimming and full of life, and possibly scared of heights and commitment.

Set in New York in 1968 the show is really now a classic ‘period piece’ and could be quite dated, but here, with the right zingy cast, it still works wonderfully.

Director Ste Casimiro has a great cast to work with. The huge production numbers (especially ‘Rhythm of Life’ and the various dances at the Pompeii club (‘Rich Man’s Frug’ )as well as ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’) are marvelously handled. For a couple of the big numbers the cast are in the aisles, rippling through audience.

The trademark classic Fosse choreography, as recreated by Casimiro and Nalty, oozes and sizzles, exploding into exuberant life especially in ‘Big Spender’, (tawdry yet exciting) ,’There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This ‘ and the exultant ‘Rhythm of Life’ (oh yeah man), full of the Fosse dramatic hands, snapping fingers , the writhing sculptural masses and angular poses. Brilliant showbiz! The orchestra, under Kane Wheatley, was excellent. For this production they are squashed onto the tiny stage sort of as if they are the band at the Fan-dango ballroom .There were minimal sets and props and most effective use of cgi (for example the fireworks at Coney Island , the scene indicators).

Jessica Shanks in the eponymous role of Charity Hope Valentine (as played by Shirley McLaine  and Nancye Hayes amongst others)  is amazing, singing and dancing up a storm .With her petite ,elfin blonde bob  and dazzling performance she steals our hearts. As a downtrodden ‘dancehall hostess’ she tries to find something better for her life. Does she find it in the end? You will have to see the show to find out!.

As famous film star Vittorio Vidal, swanky and narcissistic, Claudio Acosta has a whale of a time hamming it up and deliciously oozing false ‘Latin lover’ charisma .His aristocratic sex kitten girl friend Ursula March wafting around in mink and pearls , thoroughly catty, is delightfully played by Christie New.

As tall, hulking, rather nerdy ‘goofball’ Oscar Lindquist ,Julian Batchelor is very good and has a fine voice but is rather unexciting I am afraid.

As Charity’s friend Nickie, Lauren Nalty, a fabulous dancer, smoulders, pulling out all the stops .Helene, Charity’s other friend , is wonderfully danced and played by Charisse Graber.

Flower power cult revivalist Mamma Brubeck of the Rhythm of Life Church (Virginia Natoli) brings the house down in Act 2 .

Overall a most impressive, very enjoyable production, featuring great lead performances .I am looking forward to THE HATPIN in October. On a cute, but most distracting note, I will end with a mention of the toddler who was right at the front in the audience and was absolutely entranced by the show , dancing around and almost getting on stage to join in.

With a running time of 2 hours, 30 minutes with one interval, Regals Musical Society's production of SWEET CHARITY (book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields), played the St George Auditorium Kogarah between the 15th and 19th May, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- SWEET CHARITY, Regals Musical Society, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster.

Return to the Trees at Carriageworks

This was incredible
 here's what I said for artshub
A Return to the Trees is an astonishing piece of physical theatre, created by Strings Attached, a group of artists whose common aim is to create innovative theatre that challenges and transforms their audiences by reflecting on the mystery of human nature. Formed in 2007, the company’s style incorporates contemporary dance, physical theatre, aerial acrobatics, contraptions and multimedia – imagine a cross between Legs on The Wall, Force Majeure and Circus Oz and you’ll some understanding of the Strings Attached aesthetic.
A Return to the Trees is in some ways an apocalyptic imagining of the future. Set in the lowest rungs of a sci-fi/futuristic society where the Earth’s surface has been devoured by human greed and consumption, the company explores what it means to be human, in a world where survival is more important than custom.
The production investigates the transformations society may experience as a result of technical advance, overpopulation and climate change. As we continue to relinquish grass and grassroots for concrete floors and social complexity on computers, when artificial environments replace nature, will ‘Nature’ one day only be accessible to humans like wild animals in a zoo?
Dominating the stage is a towering, almost overwhelming eight metre high scaffolding structure; a futuristic, urban metal forest (are Tap Dogs in the next clearing?) upon which the fearless cast perform. These three men and two women seem boneless, and are death defying in their aerial acrobatics, bouncing, soaring, swooping and swirling with amazing balance and control.
Paul Selwyn-Norton’s choreography is often anthropomorphic, sometimes writhing and sculptural, sometimes oddly angular, though mostly fluid and based on the circle. Sometimes the cast are sloth like, sometimes they are slithery, or tumble in cascading rolls down a section of the looming structure; other times they are like mischievous monkeys. There is also a delightful romantic ‘bat’ scene with two cast members hanging upside down to close the show. At other points in the performance the cast were a wary, watchful group, aware of something just outside our line of vision but visible to them.
The highlights are a jaw-dropping, visually spectacular, extended aerial acrobatic/bungee solo and a section where the whole cast are bungee jumping/flying/hovering in harness. Dazzling stuff.
Nicholas Rayment’s lighting was extraordinarily atmospheric and lyrical. Benn De Mole’s rumbling, throbbing score, which also includes tinkling bells, pulsates, clicks and hisses like a weird forest creature. Pamela McGraw’s costumes could be described as ‘feral casual’, and allow great ease of movement even with safety harnesses attached.
A mesmerizing and visually stunning performance about the preservation of our fragile planet.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Return to the Trees
A new work by Strings Attached
Devised by Alejandro Rolandi and Lee-Anne Litton
Director: Alejandro Rolandi
Choreographer/Assistant Director: Paul Selwyn-Norton
Performers /Collaborators: Rick Everett, LeeAnne Litton, Kathryn Puie, Tim Ohl and Lee Wilson
Understudies: Triton Tunis-Mitchell, Venettia Miller
Visual Artist: Chris Wilson
Lighting Designer: Nicholas Rayment
Costume Design: Pamela McGraw
Rigging and Structure Design: Alejandro Rolandi
Composer: Benn DeMole
Carriageworks, Eveleigh
May 17 – 19

Angela's Kitchen at the Griffin/Stables

Paul Capsis was excellent
here's my review for Sydney Arts Guide
Griffin has another roaring success on their hands. Sorry folks, but if you haven’t already booked , the entire season of this show sold out before opening night – you will have to try and get a ticket to the season when it transfers to Parramatta Riverside later .

This is the hotly anticipated return season of the 2010 smash hit with the extraordinary Paul Capsis. Developed with overwhelming love and affection, this is an atmospheric solo autobiographical performance by and about Capsis and his family, most especially his grandmother Angela and his Maltese heritage. The show is in a mix of English and Maltese, with Maltese songs and music. It is warm, witty and loving with gentle humour. Some of it is very poignant and sad. This is mostly Angela’s story as seen through Paul’s eyes but also how Paul strongly identified with her and we see the interlocking family relationships.

Angela emigrated here in 1948 with her five children, sailing on the ‘Strathnavar’. We learn about the culture shock and the problems Angela and other family members had with assimilation and integration. Things were so different here.

Three things were of crucial importance to Angela: poverty, the war and the move to Australia. Angela’s work at the post office and love of bingo playing are mentioned. We learn a bit about the history and beauty of Malta – the soaring churches, the sparkling beautiful harbour, the dome on the Mosta, which still has a German bomb in it , and the oldest man-made structure on Earth (on Gozo).

We also learn about the massive bombing and destruction that took place during World War 2 and almost completely flattened Malta.

Luminous Capsis is a pocket powerhouse dynamo and gives an amazing performance. You may have previously seen him in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’, ‘The Threepenny Opera’, amongst many productions he has been involved in.

There are vivid characterizations of his family and assorted neighbours and friends , with an incredible vocal range and changes of pitch, accents and distinguishing ‘tics’ (for example Aunty Doris with a cigarette in her mouth, Clarrie the bingo caller).

There is a hilarious section where Capsis depicts the family at mealtime jumping between portrayals of various family members. How does he do it?!

Various scenes (as captioned on the back wall) include ‘ Postcard from Malta II’ for example or  ‘Nannu’ (about Capsis’ grandfather) or ‘Learning to work, learning to sing’ and we uncover further segments of Capsis’s  life and family history.

The set on the tiny Griffin stage includes a large kitchen cupboard, that is at once solid and ordinary,  yet is also ‘filled’ with mystery and suspense. The top of the cupboard has candles and other kitchen items used to symbolise the Island of Malta at one point. There is also the folding table and a fridge with a statue of the Madonna on top.

Projections are used of various family photos and assorted shots of Malta all linked to where the Capsis family used to live. We also learn how Angela had seven children, 18 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and 7 great great grandchildren – an extraordinary family.

‘Some old, wrecked, precious things’ – treasured family items, are packed up in the giant folding table/case. Capsis ‘channels’ his grandmother in a red dress and black shoes.

With the show  there is a massive sense of love, family, community and yet, at the same time, displacement. This was a very moving, heartwarming performance. At the end there was prolonged, rapturous applause.

Julian Meyrick’s production of Paul Capsis's ANGELA’S KITCHEN,(with a running time of 90 minutes without interval), is playing the Stables theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross until Saturday 9th June, 2012 and then goes on tour.

© Lynne Lancaster

19th May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- ANGELA’S KITCHEN, Paul Capsis, Julian  Meyrick. Stables Theatre, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster.


Copper Promises

this was an amazing performance here's what I said for artshub

Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka is a new solo dance work by Victoria Hunt, exploring the cultural and physical journey of a female ancestor of Hunt’s and the history of a ceremonial house in New Zealand connected with Hunt’s Maori iwi (‘peoples’), Te Arara Tuhourangi.
Hunt visited the Tarawera ancestral mountain and lake and learnt the stories of the 1886 volcanic eruption that shattered her ancestor’s lives and displaced them from their land. Hinemihi was the carved ancestral meeting house where many survivors gathered to shelter from the volcanic eruption. Afterwards, it was assumed that the area was abandoned; Hinemihi was dug up and acquired by the Earl of Onslow, and transported to his home in Surry, England. She remains there to this day. Thus the show is a protest for appropriated ancestral treasures, a lament, a pilgrimage through time and space, interweaving Hinemihi’s story with Hunt’s own life and experiences, blending gesture and feeling as they echo across generations.
Copper Promises is looming, ominous and eerie. As you enter there is only very low lighting; the lighting that follows in the show proper is gloomy but dramatic. A major aspect of the work is the computer imagery and effects, and the lighting by Clytie Smith and Chris Wilson. Clouds scud by and film flickers like lighting, evoking disjointed, angular movement. In one section we see Hinemihi’s spirit trapped in an imprisoning square of light, trying to escape. In another sequence the lighting gives the impression of a time travelling spaceship, accompanied by James Brown’s pulsing, shuddering and throbbing soundtrack deeply.
Hunt is a very strong, athletic performer. She wears a simple, short shift or petticoat-like dress, and stands at one point standing in a glittering silence. Her choreography is often sculptural, Graham –like, earthbound, with aspects of traditional Maori choreography visible. Sometimes Hunt is catlike, at other times she crouches or instead becomes a wading or flying bird. In another section she is spider-like, contorted acrobatically. Sometimes she twitches nervously, Cunningham-like, or glides barefoot and pauses, posing on high demi-pointe.
At one point a mysterious ‘creature’( the spirit of Hinemihi?) emerges very slowly, Butoh-like in a corridor of light; in another section, featuring a most atmospheric use of mist and rain, Hunt/Hinemihi goes to step through a ‘window’ ( of light? Of time?).
Towards the end Hunt becomes the spirit of Hinemihi and is ghostlike in a golden light, lit from below, and she performs a monologue about the ancestral house, the economy and being transported, preservation of the land etc in a strange robotic voice while a computer generated image of a coin spins.
The finale, with the application of traditional Maori face paint, is absorbing and chilling.
This complex work is visually stunning and inspiring. It needs to be seen several times to grasp the many layers of meaning underlying it.
Rating: 4 stars
Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka
Concept/Choreography/Performer: Victoria Hunt
Lighting Design/Production Manager: Clytie Smith
Sound Design: James Brown, with sound by Horomona Horo, Densil Cabrera and Bob Scott
Video Design: Chris Wilson
Costume: Annemaree Dalziel
Installation Design: Hedge
Choreographic Consultant: Tess de Quincey
Cultural Informant: Charles Koroneho Running time: 55 minutes (approx) no interval
Performance Space at Carriageworks May 4 – 12

Miss Saigon at Chatswood

here's what I said about this great show for artshub

Set in 1975, during the last days of the American occupation of Vietnam, Miss Saigon tells the dramatic, moving story of a young Vietnamese girl, Kim (Veronica Alonzo) and an American GI , Chris (Jeremy Curtin) who briefly touch each other’s lives; a moment that changes their lives forever, especially when they are catastrophically torn apart by war.
Inspired by a photograph, in some ways Miss Saigon is a reworking of Madame Butterfly, and features a suitably operatic dose of lyrical romance, biting wit, passion, politics and corruption. It ran on Broadway, and in London, for over a decade and has had major productions world wide (the last Sydney season was 2007 at the Lyric).
Boublil and Schonberg’s musical is at times lush, melting and lyrical (‘Sun and Moon’) and at other times scary and menacing (‘The Morning of the Dragon’), and quite operatic in parts (again, the Puccini influence). The orchestra here, under the elegant baton of conductor Greg Jones soars, sparkles, and ominously rumbles.
There is fine ensemble work by all (especially in the spectacular ‘The Morning of the Dragon’, vivid in red and black, incorporating Asian martial arts; and also in the other huge production number in Act 2, ‘The American Dream’) and the company is blessed with some amazing leads.
Veronica Alonzo as Kim is fabulous – she sings divinely. We avidly follow her journey from relatively innocent country girl, to bar girl, to steely, determined young mother who, having experienced true love, sacrifices herself for her son. For a lot of the show her ‘otherness’ is emphasised and distinguishes her from the other women as she wears a modest white cheongsam rather than the raunchier, more revealing clothes the other bar girls wear.
Jeremy Curtin as Chris is fabulous. His ‘Why, God, Why?’ in Act 1 – quite an operatic tenor aria in most respects – is brilliantly sung; a total showstopper. He has a terrific voice and presence. We see how his falling for Kim creates massive problems. Chris is presented as a very likeable but flawed character who faces up to the consequences of his actions.
As the French/Vietnamese pimp, The Engineer, Mike Curtin is magnificent. Tall and gangly, he is all eyes and voice. He stops the show with his leading of ‘The American Dream’. His character is sleazy, corrupt, cynical and manipulative, and Curtin plays him with a comical and conniving mix of cowardice and glee.
Chris’ beautiful, apple-pie American wife Ellen, who has to face up to the consequences of what happened to Chris in Vietnam, is wonderfully played by Helen Harris. (There is a marvellous ‘Kim and Ellen’ duet in Act 2 that’s very moving.)
Chris’ stalwart friend John is terrifically played by Daley Chaston. His Act 2 opening song, ‘Bu Doi’, with a male chorus and shattering photographic images, is stirring and heartbreaking.
Thuy, the man Kim is locked into an arranged marriage with, is ominously, menacingly played by Daniel Placido.
As with Phantom of the Opera and its chandelier, and Les Miserables with its barricades, the big question with Miss Saigon is ‘How are they going to do the helicopter?’ Will it be real? CGI? I won’t spoil it, but will say that it is a very powerful coup de theatre.
Technically, the production crew were excellent. James Wallis’ lighting was terrific and Neil Shotter’s looming sets with various frames that slid in and out were marvellous.
‘The heat is on in Saigon’ – an enthralling, gripping night of musical theatre.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Chatswood Musical Society present
Miss Saigon
By Alain Boublil & Claude Michel Schonberg
Music: Claude Michel Schonberg
Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jnr & Alain Boublil
Additional material by Richard Maltby Jnr
Director: Anne Veitch
Musical Director: Therese Doyle
Choreographer: Kelly Goldberg
Set Design: Neil Shotter
Lighting Design: James Wallis
Cast: Veronica Alonzo, Jeremy Curtin, Mike Curtin, Daley Chaston, Daniel Placido and Helen Harris
Running Time: 2 hours 45 mins (approx) including one interval
The Concourse, Chatswood
May 4 – 12

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake in 3D

here's what I said about one of my favourite  works

Mesmerizing theatrical magic, this is enthralling, gripping stuff. Filmed in 2011 at Sadlers Wells in London this is a new 3D version of the iconic  Matthew Bourne’s ground-breaking  SWAN LAKE. Bourne’s work was first performed in 1995 and has swiftly become regarded as a classic,winning bucket loads of awards including Oliviers.

I saw it live in London several years ago Other’s might be familiar with the original version that was filmed in 1996 with Royal Ballet superstar Adam Cooper in the role of the Swan/Stranger and Scott Ambler as the Prince, or may have seen it when it toured Australia in 2007.

Bourne's choreography is amazing, at times full of slow creamy movement, at other time, fast, witty and scintillating. What is interesting is that in this version, with the way that the film has been shot, we see some of the patterns of movement that are not usually observed, especially for the swans and, in some of the court, waltzes.

Being shot in 3D and with the use of close ups to emphasise emotion, this gives the feeling of being on stage as if one was a cast member.

The transition from stage to screen genuinely works. Lez Brotherston's set and costume designs are lovingly recreated and captured on screen, and the New London Orchestra under David Lloyd Jones, is splendid.

This version has been labeled the 'gay' or 'male'  SWAN LAKE with its extraordinary corps of dangerous, hissing , biting yet sculptural and beautiful male swans and the powerful dual role of the Swan/Stranger. But this is only part of it. It is a radical reworking of the traditional ballet and has some fabulous roles for the women (for example the Queen and the Girlfriend) and is full of smoldering sexuality, both gay and straight. The national dances in Act 3 are given a very modern, sophisticated slant.

The two main male roles are The Prince (Dominic North) and The Swan/Stranger (Richard Winsor). The lonely, yearning Prince is trapped in his golden cage of the royal world and trivial daily routine, dominated by his cold overbearing mother the Queen (Nina Goldman).

We see him as a very young boy at first, then grown up , disastrously meeting and falling for his girlfriend ((partly the Odile figure) - but his mother disapproves and the Private Secretary is manipulating the Girlfriend behind the scenes .  

Are the swans the Prince sees real or are they a figment of his imagination ?North as the Prince has an anguished, yearning solo at the end of Act 1 when he has been tossed out of the Swank Bar and realises he has been betrayed by his girlfriend. There is a powerful scene between the Prince and the Queen where the Prince begs for his mother's love, or indeed almost any reaction from her rather than simply her bland facade .She coldly refuses and reminds him that he is a man, a royal and must do his duty.

Richard Winsor as the Swan/Stranger is powerful, startling and compelling. As the Swan, especially at first, he is wild and feral, dangerous and could easily bite. He has marvelous huge soft jumps in Act 2. The pas-de-deux between him and the Prince is simultaneously tender and yet threatening.

As the Stranger, in tight black leather in Act 3, he oozes steamy sexiness and has all the women after him including the Queen. He is exuberantly, deliberately provocative and unleashes some explosive jumps.

Is he in cahoots with the Private Secretary? In Act 4 he is more the injured, doomed lover - his backwards entrance struggling upwards onto the bed is amazing and he has a dangerous suicidal leap at the end as he is pecked to death by the other members of his flock.

As the Queen, Nina Goldman is excellent, cold, brittle, and ruthlessly elegant with a boiling volcano of barely hidden repressed sexuality underneath. (Her flirting quintet in Act 1 with the young officers is actually quite toned down from what it could be, and look at how she is attracted to and flirts with the Stranger in Act 3). And I love that red dress she wears in Act 3!

The bratty, ditzy ,somewhat Duchess Sarah Ferguson like Girlfriend in the now famous 1980's style puffball pink dress is delightfully played by Madelaine Brennan. She does all the wrong gauche things, obviously has a whale of a time at the hilarious 'Moth' ballet and unwittingly contributes to the Prince's downfall .

In this version the evil von Rothbart figure is the manipulative Machiavelli like Private Secretary, here played by Steve Kirkham. He organises the scandals leading to the Prince's downfall and is also the terrifying doctor in Act 4. Here again we are left pondering, for the Prince, what is reality and what is only in his imagination?!

This is a magnificent film that gives audiences the chance to see a terrific cast in a splendid version. The film runs 2 hours without interval and is playing selected cinemas next weekend, Saturday May 4 and Sunday May 6, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

28th April, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- Matthew Bourne’s SWAN LAKE, Lez Brotherston, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, David Lloyd Jones and the New London Orchestra,Richard Winsor, ,Dominic North,,Nina Goldman, ,Madelaine Brennan,,Steve Kirkham, Joseph Vaughan