Sunday, 14 October 2012

One of the silliest, funniest shows I have seen in ages 
here's my Sydney Arts Guide reveiw

Witches, wizards and Muggles of all ages will love this magical, hilarious riot. The house was in hysterical fits of laughter the whole show. Some audience members  wore wizard robes.

‘The un authorised Harry experience’, it is for Harry Potter fans of all ages .It is I suppose  best if you and love the books and movies and have a yearning to study or teach at Hogwarts . In ‘Reduced Shakespeare ‘/’One Man Lord of the Rings’ style it is an epic, witty distillation of the seven books by JK Rowling and follow Harry’s  life and adventures at Hogwarts.

The over three hundred characters in the books are here all played by two magnificent actors: Jesse Briton and Garry Trainor in exuberant form. This is the terrific Sydney cast of a show that originally began as a five minute skit in London in 2005.

Developed by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, it has packed out audiences in London, Edinburgh and Canada , is nominated for Olivier awards  and now is touring internationally. Fast paced, madcap and witty, the Potter books are treated and distilled with massive love and respect but the jokey, improvised feel is still there.

The set at the beginning has a large soft toy nursery version of a train engine , doubling as the famous Hogwart’s Express .There are also  sheet covered mysterious items eventually revealed as a coffin ( spooky ) – relating to the darker side of the books , a wardrobe ( that opens for  a blank screen) and a brightly painted flat for The Forbidden Forest .  

Slighter taller, thinner Briton appears to be the more ‘zany’ of the two and has great fun playing an enormous number of characters with different wigs, props, voices etc. Including an authoritatively wicked Lord Voldemort (ssshhh – You Know Who)  with devil’s horns.  

Trainor mostly plays Harry and is seemingly the more controlled and responsible one. Both act as narrator in parts and are identically dressed in blue jeans and a black tshirt .Both are extremely energetic and flexible and obviously have a whale of a time, performing with great comic timing and dexterity.

Much fun is had with puppetry for a couple of the characters (eg Dobby) and there is great use of a powerpoint/cgi screen effect to whizz us through Book 3 . There is also very effective ‘magical ‘ lighting at times ( eg the Deluminator , and the wizard duels. ).

There are so many highlights but special mention must be made of the various appearances of Ron Weasley , Hermoine Grainger , Dobby the house elf, Hagrid, Sirius Black  and Dumbledore among others.  And the fabulous Quidditch game that has the whole audience participating is glorious fun. (The appearance of the ‘golden snitch ‘is a hilarious show stopper).

The finale, with the duet by Harry and Voldemort to ‘I Will Survive’ is a wickedly witty way to end the show . Book now.

POTTED POTTER, with a running time of 90 minutes, is playing at the  Sydney Theatre between the 9th and 14th October and then tours. For more information visit the website at

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- POTTED POTTER, Sydney Theatre, Sydney Theatre, Lynne Lancaster, Sydney Arts Guide    

Red at the Ensemble Theatre

An excellent show .. here's my Artshub review
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Colin Moody and Stephen James King in RED. Photo by Natalie Boog.  
This Ensemble Theatre production of John Logan’s Red – a captivating play about art, life and success – is brilliantly performed by Colin Moody as the brooding Rothko, and Stephen James King as his younger assistant, Ken. Set in the 1950’s, in Rothko’s cluttered studio, you can literally smell the paint and turpentine that’s used in the show. Unpainted canvas and buckets of paint are everywhere, and prominent is a large blank canvas, waiting... At the beginning of the show Moody as Rothko is sprawled in a chair, staring at the audience. As the play unfolds, we increasingly see Rothko through his assistant’s eyes. Ken arrives for an interview to become Rothko’s assistant, a position which involves preparing canvases, stretching and priming them, and being a general dogsbody. From the outset, Ken’s role as Rothko’s assistant, and Rothko’s role as employer, is clearly defined: ‘I am not your rabbi, I am not your father, I am not your shrink, I am not your friend, I am not your teacher,' Rothko insists. Yet over the next two years of the play’s time frame, Rothko in some ways plays all those roles, and Ken learns how to deal with Rothko’s extremely unpredictable temper. Rothko is cold, dominating and assertive. He demands, snaps, lectures and bullies Ken. We learn about Rothko’s attitude towards his contemporaries and rivals, such as Jackson Pollock and Roy Lichtenstein. We learn of Rothko’s ideas on art and colour as inspired by great artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Goya and Matisse, and also how his Jewishness has shaped his perceptions. As Rothko, Moody is powerful, hypnotic, intense and electric. We also learn more about Ken, and how his parents were murdered in a pained, tragic monologue which King delivers excellently. Ken acts as a provocative sounding board for Rothko’s theories on life and art. One powerful scene between them features a great discussion about the ‘meaning’ and ‘emotion’ of colour – the various shades of red, black and white, for example .Why is black regarded as bad luck and linked to death? Another depicts the two exuberantly, almost choreographically, priming a huge canvas with a particular shade of red (Ken calls it ‘dried blood’). Red is all about looking; the artist’s ‘eye’, and the struggle to depict what is seen in the imagination on canvas. It also explores the struggle to live creatively, and raises questions about art and morality. Rothko is working on a major commission for the posh Four Seasons restaurant. Is he selling out and succumbing to commercialism, against all his principles, or revealing his soul? An enthralling play about the meaning of life and art and the search for truth. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Red
By John Logan
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Assistant Director: Brian Meegan
Designer: Lucilla Smith
Lighting Designer: Nick Higgins
Wardrobe Coordinator: Lisa Mimmocchi
Dialect Coach: Natasha McNamara
With Colin Moody and Stephen James King
Running time: 90 mins (approx) no interval The Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
September 6 – October 6

lynne lancaster the lunch hour

A Darlinghurst Theatre review for Sydney Arts Guide

OffIce Politics gone comically haywire in THE LUNCH HOUR

This show is for all theatre people who have worked in a ticketing box office/call centre with annoying, idiotic customers. It has an excellent, very strong cast who are terrific, but the play is somewhat confused, jumbled and artificial and just misses the mark. The idea behind it is excellent, some of it was spot on and very close to the bone, other sections disappoint.

It could actually be two plays – there is quite a distinct division between the two halves as well as the introduction of an extra character.

The play is set in a box office call centre and is Aronsten’s follow up to HUMAN RESOURCES, previously staged at Darlo.

In Act 1 we first meet Martin, the call centre supervisor, (Gerry Sont) – fussy, obsessive, he is stressed and a worrier. He is also a caffeine freak, and his team call him ‘Daddy’.

His team is secretly writing a play about Martin in the hope of winning a playwriting competition. However , Martin has submitted his own play for the prize, based on his staff and their thwarted lives and he leaves it as a ‘gift’ and wakeup call when he mysteriously vanishes, having won the prize.

Act One introduces the team and we see how they end up attacking Martin (the finale to Act 1 is quite simian and scary really). We see how they play various ‘games’ and do everything they can to avoid answering calls while simultaneously secretly working on their collaborative play lampooning Martin.

In Act 2 the team discover the play that Martin has written about them and go on to rehearse it. We get to know the characters a lot more, through Martin’s eyes, and it is also in some ways a journey of self discovery for them all.

Catherine (Angela Bauer), the actress and playwright stuck in a rut and dependent on the insights of her astrologer, has a sharp, searing, drunken segment brilliantly performed. Chris, ( Shaun Rennie ) would be writer and who acts as narrator for part of the time, is excellent .

There is also a featured section for obstreperous, extremely opinionated lesbian hip hop ‘comic’ Fran (Branden Christine). And we see buxom, provocative Felicity (Briallen Clarke) and partner Simon (Sonny Vrebac ) who attend an audition and then go through relationship crisis when one is more successful and has more job offers than the other .

Bali Padda as Ali, the officer cleaner who is dragooned to  play ‘Martin’ in Act 2 is great .Fran and Ali are Aronsten’s excuse for some racist and sexist ‘jokes’ and more  bad ‘jokes’ in the finale as well as some of the off-colour swearing  elsewhere  in the play .

The show ends in a mini-musical with the cast in a ‘Cabaret’ or ‘A Chorus Line’ spoof and having a whale of a time. But there is no real resolution. Does Martin return, and forgive the team for the ‘I hate Martin’ attack ? Will management from head office arrive ?

Whilst the show has great performances, it is a somewhat disjointed collection of pieces in a weird, surrealist, black comedy way that was sometimes funny but more frequently not .  

Chris Aronstein’ s THE LUNCH HOUR, with a running time of 100 minutes including one interval , and directed by Kate Gaul, opened at the Darlinghurst Theatre on Tuesday 11th September and runs until Sunday 7th October, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- THE LUNCH HOUR, Chris Aronstein, Kate Gaul, Angela Bauer,   Branden Christine,    Briallen Clarke,   Bali Padda,  Shaun Rennie,  Gerry Sont,    Sonny Vrebac, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

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Mobile: (61) 0408278706.


NDT in Move to Move

here's my Sydney Arts Guide  thoughts  ...

Netherland Dance Theatre's MOVE TO MOVE

This is an extraordinary recording of the Nederlands Dance Theatre in their home theatre the Lucent Theatre in Den Hag of four short works. For dance affecionados this is a must see as NDT, revered in the dance world, so rarely tour to Australia.

NDT1 is the main company of 30 dancers, established in 1959, currently with English choreographer Paul Lightfoot as artistic director .NDT11 was formed in 1978 and is made up of younger dancers and usually features newer choreographers. Here we see and get a feel for both companies, with an interview with Lightfoot and Sol Leon during the ’interval’, and the works are introduced by a dancer in the cast. There are four works in the programme and we see the audience arrive as well as dancers limbering up before the performance, the lighting and tech people and follow a dancer into the wings .

The photography is intimate and revealing and great use of closeup is made where appropriate. The works transfer marvellously from the stage to screen .We see the dancers breathtaking technical ability and their fluid flexibility. Technically the dancing is sublime and the dancers revel in the challenge of the different styles.

The works are:-

‘Left Right Left’. Choreographed by Alexander Ekman, associate choreographer of NDT11, it opens with the dancers in sculptural Anthony Gormley like poses of waiting. It examines human movement from a rhythmic, timing (counts) and intense concentration perspective and there is spectacular lighting . A woman in an elegant red dress parades carefully and slowly across the stage mysteriously ‘framing’ the performance. Humourous snippets of voiceovers are included from interviews of audience members commenting on the performance and also form cast members (from this we learn the woman in red was injured during rehearsals). Synchronised robotic movements and breath control are extremely important. In a synchronised treadmill section, where weight, balance and control are very important the dancers seem to ‘fly’ . A funny sequence is included where the dancers have been filmed performing choreographic phrases from the work outdoors, and the odd public reactions.

For me the least successful work was ‘Secus’ , choreographed by Ohad Naharin , seconded from the Batsheva Dance Company .This was originally part of a three piece work  ( ‘Ballet Three’) for NDT1. Pure abstract dance, for me there was no interaction at all with the audience .It was disjointed and fragmented and didn’t really ‘go anywhere’ .And the blaring start and jarring electronic soundscore was quite offputting.There appeared to be some Cunningham and /or Forsythe influence – a use of intense stillness contrasted with sudden explosive movements and wonderful soft jumps. Small repeated phrases of movement , falls and some amazing male pas de deux are featured. The finale had a modelling catwalk feel to it. The dancers absolutely love it and threw themselves into the work with massive enthusiasm.

Then came ‘Silent Screen’, which used cinematic techniques and a triptych of huge screens, with the haunting, reflective music of Phillip Glass.  There are references to the world of silent movies, but the way I ‘read’ it was that it was a couple’s anguish at the loss of their child. It is quite Surrealist in parts with turbulent clouds in the background and at one point a beach that segues to a snowy forest – images that the dancers step out of. Much use is very effectively made of silhouette.

It is magical and lyrical, the choreographing demanding a long flowing ‘line’. The dancers have to be almost boneless, incredibly flexible and have a feline sinuous presence.  There are some dramatic solos and ravishing pas de deux.

'Shine a Light ‘choreographed by Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon for NDT1 is mostly about children’s nightmares but also delves into the male psyche. This is a mesmerizing, powerful, very moving work at times chilling, sometimes dreamlike. There is billowing dry ice and a terrifying brutal militaristic feel in parts, contrasted with strange, haunting Butoh like sections of a girl in a blue and white sort of eighteenth century style dress and a robotic, mysterious, mermaid- like strange figure in high white boots and long hair that obscures the face.  Some of the choreography is reminiscent of that of Matthew Bourne.

Nederlands Dans Theater’s production of MOVE TO MOVE, presented by Sharmill Films and Pathe Live, with a running time of 178 minutes, is playing at the Dendy Opera Quays, Chauvel, Event Bondi Junction and Hayden Orpheum Cremorne cinemas.

© Lynne Lancaster

11th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- MOVE TO MOVE, Netherlands  Dance Theatre, Dance On Film, Sharmill Films,  Dendy Opera Quays, Chauvel Cinema, Event Cinema Bondi Junction, Hayden Orpheum Cremorne, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

This website is copyrighted to David Kary.
  David Kary
Mobile: (61) 0408278706.

Clouds Over Berlin

This was part of Spring Dance ... here's what I thought for artshub

News, analysis and comment - performing arts 

Clouds Above Berlin

By Lynne Lancaster artsHub | Monday, September 03, 2012
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Antony Hamilton and Melanie Lane in Black Project 1. Photo: Jess Bialek.  
Programmed as part of this year’s Spring Dance season, Clouds Above Berlin – a challenging and confronting double bill of cutting edge, minimalist, deconstructed dance – consisted of two short works by Australian choreographers Melanie Lane and Antony Hamilton. Responses to the work were polarised: it seemed one was either mesmerised and entranced by the two pieces, or totally tuned out. First came Lane’s solo, Tilted Faun. Most of the work consisted of Lane, in dark jeans and top, elegantly shifting wooden, brick-sized building blocks, constructing towers and other forms, like a child playing with Lego. Or, in this case an angelic architect rebuilding the shattered and destroyed city of Berlin? According to the program notes, Lane was attempting to ‘explore the relationship between sound, objects and the body. A visual sound installation constructed with an orchestra of tape machines, objects and choreography propels a lone dancer through landscapes that are at times stark, melancholic and dark and mythical’. Well.... Weight and balance were important – at one point Lane carried a large number of blocks and held one with her chin to stop it falling. There were simple arm swings and yoga-like stretches, a block held above her head with arms outstretched. Sometimes she shifted just one block, at other times several simultaneously. There was a lot of use of pause and blackout. A long, slithering body line was developed when shifting the blocks, while at another point Lane seemed to put her arm through a tower of blocks. The music – eclectic beeps, growls, clicks, and bird calls – burbled its accompaniment. The second work, Black Project 1 resembled a cold, post-apocalyptic vision of humanity. A couple, seemingly covered in grey ash, are revealed in a monochromatic landscape. Their movements are synchronised, often twitchy and robotically puppet-like, and featuring incredibly demanding use of the pelvis and lower back. Some of the movement is lizard-like and slow motion is briefly used. There was also very effective use of floorwork, falls and rolls. The two dancers used white tape and sprayed graffiti on the back wall like blurry stars to ‘enhance’ the futuristic, bunker-like atmosphere (recalling a previous work by Hamilton, 2008’s Blazeblue Oneline, a merging of hip-hop, graffiti and contemporary dance). CGI swirls were used to great effect, as was white chalk (to draw circles on the floor) and white, reflective face or body paint . Choreographically there was also wonderful, sculptural tree-like posed tableaux with arms as waving branches, and at another point angular rotor-like arm movements. The electronic music throbbed and pulsated. Special mention must be made of the lighting by Max Stezl. At times very gloomy, at others like searchlights, it was a critical part of the show. In the strange finale the dancers at times, because of the lighting, became almost invisible . It all ended with clouds floating across the set and lighting; a combination of strobe lighting, spinning helicopter blades and throbbing music. The audience was assaulted, challenged and provoked in this most unusual program. Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5 Clouds Above Berlin
Spring Dance 2012
Curated by Rafael Bonachela Tilted Fawn
Choreography, concept, performer: Melanie Lane
Sound composition and installation: Chris Clark
Artistic Collaboration: Margan Belenguer
Dramaturgy: Bart van Der Eynde
Costume, props: Melanie Lane
Lighting: Max Stezl Black Project 1
Choreography, concept, design: Antony Hamilton
Performers: Antony Hamilton, Melanie Lane
Video projection: Olaf Meyer
Set construction and production management: Matthew Scott, megafun
Music: Robert Henke Vaino and Fennesz
Costumes: Antony Hamilton
Producers: Freya Waterson and Lee Cumerlidge, Insight Arts Sydney Opera House
August 29 – September 2

Conversation Peice

heres what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide

Rennie and Alison in Lucy Guerin's CONVERSATION PIECE

Three actors, three dancers, six mobiles. Mix, stir and serve…

The idea behind this production, the latest collaboration between Melbourne choreographer Lucy Guerin and Belvoir, was great but I am afraid for me it didn’t quite work. Some of the audience loved it and found it hilarious, others sat there stony faced.

The opening of the show which runs for 70 minutes without interval is improvised so every performance is completely different. The concept  behind the work – the (in)formal use and analysis of language and its structure, and how in  a ‘Chinese Whispers ‘ like game everything gets twisted – was great , but this was far too long and self indulgent.

We see how language and communication can be fractured and distorted. The three dancers arrive on stage first and talk about everything and nothing, as you do amongst friends. In this performance for example it was about the pronunciation of ‘schedule’, who ‘Mitt’ was, and the name of Pancake.  The actors then enter, activate their earphones and recite back what they hear with disjointed giggles, laughs, umms , pauses…

The sparse set is a white square floor and a row of detachable, portable orange plastic seats that are sat on/laid across/rolled over and shifted where appropriate.

As the work continues various fragments of the original conversation are repeated in different sequences, out of order and context. The iphones are activated/unplugged at various points by the cast from connectors attached to a sound system that’s modified and linked to lines lowered from above. Assorted sound effects,  music and various apps ( guitar, percussion and so on) are tapped and reacted to by the performer who then responds as necessary to what happens. There are some interactions where the repeated phrases take on a completely different meaning.

There was some very exciting acting and dancing .Of particular note was Megan Holloway’s solo with her fabulous long flowing hair silkily flowing in her dance. Alisdair Macindoe, emphatic , boneless and rubbery gives an incredible performance. Matthew Whittet gives an endearing performance as a geeky guy with glasses, mostly shy and reserved.

Tiny, tentative movements develop into larger, more assertive ones (the extraordinary duet for Whittet and Macindoe is an example) and then, at other times, all of a sudden there is a huge shift in mood and the cast start wildly gyrating to a song. There are some amazing unusual lifts and off- kilter balances.

At the end there is an ominous feeling when Harriet Ritchie is isolated , penned in and verbally attacked by the rest of the cast.   An interesting, intriguing show, a fascinating collaboration across art forms that just doesn’t quite work. There was only a polite smattering of applause at the end.  

CONVERSATION PIECE opened upstairs at Belvoir Street on Thursday 30th August and plays until Sunday 16th September, 2012.

© Lynne Lancaster

3rd September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- CONVERSATION PIECE, Lucy Guerin, Belvoir Street Theatre, Harriet Ritchie, Matthew Whittet, Alisdair Macindoe, Megan Holloway, Sydney Arts Guide, Lynne Lancaster

This website is copyrighted to David Kary.
  David Kary
Mobile: (61) 0408278706.