Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Cabaret in the Day

A most exciting season coming up at the Mosman Art Gallery
Book now ! See you on Sunday at Song to Sing O


Until now, cabaret has always been associated with sophisticated nightspots in the city where food, drinks and parking are guaranteed to add another hundred dollars to your forty five dollars-and-upward priced ticket.

Mosman playwright, director and producer, Melvyn Morrow, co-author of the hit musicals SHOUT! and Dusty, has come with what he describes as first class entertainment for economy class price.

From the end of June to the start of September this winter, north shore theatre lovers are in for a feast of cabaret with a difference at Mosman Art Gallery.

And the difference? Time and cost.

Cabaret in the Day.

“What better way to spend a winter afternoon,’ says Morrow, ‘than after a nice lunch at home to walk or drive to Mosman Art Gallery where there’s lots of free parking and take in top class cabaret that’s reasonably priced?”

Morrow won national acclaim as Gilbert and Sullivan updater for The Australian Opera. The Australian even dubbed him ‘our very own W S Gilbert’.

Father of The Chaser’s Julian Morrow (‘His mother and I frequently watch him on TV and visit him in jail’) Morrow cut his satiric teeth in the sixties writing songs and sketches for Gordon Chater and Jill Perryman at Sydney’s Phillip Theatre and for the now legendary The Mavis Bramston Show.

He believes there is a large audience for quality cabaret starting mid-afternoon in winter and guaranteeing that everyone will be home by five, “with luck, for G and T.”

‘We’re presenting four original shows, three nostalgic valentines and one cheeky salute to Broadway, all with sensational stars.

On the G & S front, June 30th sees Sydney Savoy star, Christopher Hamilton, playing the original Savoy patter man, George Grossmith, in A Song To Sing O, which Morrow originally directed at the actual Savoy Theatre on London’s West End. ‘It’s the very model of a minor major musical,’ says the author-director, ‘and a feast of fabulously funny Gilbert and Sullivan songs with the added joy of half a dozen terrific Grossmith comic classics.’

On July 14, the show is Our Glad, Memories of Gladys Moncrieff, Australia’s sweetheart of song. Australian Opera star Christine Douglas is joined by the multi-talented accompanist and baritone, Glenn Amer, to recreate a 1940’s Bundles For Britain concert in which Our Glad sings all her big operetta and musical hits including Vilia, The Merry Widow Waltz, We’ll Gather Lilacs, Tea For Two, a host of others and, of course, Love Will Find A Way.

Broadway Bard (July 28th) was the toast of the 2011 Sydney Fringe Festival winning rave reviews and going on to delight packed audiences at Canberra’s Teatro Vivaldi. Its cheeky premise is that if Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing musicals, and so many of his famous characters suddenly find themselves belting out Broadway hits. The show stars brilliant young music theatre performer, Julian Kuo, accompanied by Australia’s hottest new musical director, Mark Chamberlain.

Says Kuo, “I’ve always been a massive fan of both Shakespeare and musicals, and in this show, I get to do both. Just how lucky can you get? As well, I just love the intimacy, interaction and unpredictability of cabaret. It keeps me and a band of Shakespearean characters on our taps as well as our toes.’

Finally in the season, on September 1st, Mr Showmanship, Glenn Amer returns in Romance! ROMANCE!, a journey through the nostalgic world of musical romance. With the fingers of Liberace and the voice of Mario Lanza, Amer plays and sings items from Bach to Bacharach, from The Warsaw Concerto to I’m In Love With Vienna and from April In Paris to September Song.

“I love songs with beautiful melodies and words which explore emotions while actually having something to say. Romance for me is a glorious journey, and I just love lashings of musically whipped cream on my theatrical chocolate cake,” says the amiable Amer. “The thing I like about cabaret is its immediacy, and especially the freedom to choose what music clearly appeals to the audience. And my request segment is one of the show’s highlights.”

One thing is for sure: Sunday afternoons this winter will be warm and welcoming at Mosman Art Gallery.


Friday, 21 June 2013

PS I Love You -live at lunch at Chatswood The Concourse

A wonderful lunchtime concert


This wonderful short lunchtime concert was the third in the Concourse’s Live at Lunch series, and had the theme of ‘love’. Featuring one of Opera Australia’s brightest opera and musical comedy stars, Taryn Fiebig (soprano) with renowned flautist Jane Rutter, and with Christopher Cartner on piano, a delightful selection of romantic, classical and popular operatic hits for flute, soprano and piano were played.

The wonderful trio had much fun and obviously enjoyed themselves hugely, as did the small but very appreciative audience, who ranged from tiny, doll-like, sleeping babies to struggling pensioners with walkers. (There were a lot more of those!)

Rutter wore a black sparkly dress with a feathery boa neckline and Fiebig an off the shoulder white Grecian style gown with a ruffle. Cartner accompanied on piano, rippling and sparkling excellently.

It was a terrific performance, showing both the powerful melancholy side of love (e.g. Russalka’s ‘Song to the Moon’) as dramatically, passionately sung by Fiebig and the funny side (‘The Boy From’ in Sondheim’s witty tongue twister.)

The second piece, ‘Plaisir d'Amour’ was also quite lyrical, yet melancholy. This mood continued later with ‘Belle Nuit’, remembering past lost love. The haunting, lyrical side of love was seen in the exquisite, elegiac flute and piano duet ‘Mon Coeur s'ouvre a ta voix’ adadpted from St Saens’ Samson et Delila; it ravished the senses.

We also saw love’s whirlwind joyous exuberance with Fiebig as Eliza from My Fair Lady expostulating that she ‘could have danced all night’.

Proud, passionate, fiery Latin love (paso doble and staccato toreador stamps anyone?) and love of one’s country was exemplified by ‘Grenada’ with us imagining Rutter as Pavarotti and Fiebig as Domingo. There was also an earlier, jaunty, Carmen-ish sounding like piece where Rutter made the flute purr. (‘Il Bacio’ I think).

‘La Vie En Rose’ was given a very refined, rather wistful, operatic performance – no dark Piaf like earthiness here!

Due to public demand the delightful show ended with the audience joining in a rollicking version of the Brindisi from Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ as an encore.

Ahh... l’amour.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

PS I Love You
Taryn Fiebig – soprano
Jane Rutter – flute
Christopher Cartner – piano

The Concourse, Chatswood
19 June

A wonderful concert most enjoyable

NDT live at the Sydney Opera House

NDT were very briefly here live ( not a screening ) at the Sydney Opera House
here's my artshub thoughts

Nederlands Dans Theater

  • A most exciting quadruple bill, very well balanced, that showcases the extraordinary talents of the Nederlands Dans Theater’s dancers. Technically they are superb – refined, extremely virtuosic and full of sinuous fluidity. All this is contrasted with sharp, short, angular movements and the occasional incorporation of speech when required.

We in Sydney are very privileged to have this short Sydney visit, and dance luminaries from around Australia dotted the audience at opening night. The season was one of the major events in Sydney’s dance calendar for this year.

It is important to note is that this is probably the last chance for Australian audiences to see Jiří Kylián’s choreography performed by NDT until at least 2017, as he has just announced the withdrawal of his works, as of 2014, for three years. (Kylián was head of NDT for years and you could say his work is almost the definitive ‘house style’ of the company.)

There is also an Australian link to the company: Danielle Rowe, a former member of the Australian Ballet, is now performing tremendously with NDT.

This live program combines works from two screenings of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) performances I have seen previously, and they worked magnificently live on stage. The evening opened with Sweet Dreams, which begins with a female dancer very carefully picking her way over a line of green apples. One of the two Kylián ‘black and white’ ballets in this program, this work could be viewed as rather strange and nightmarish, with Kylián ‘examining the complex world of the human subconscious’. The apples represent temptation and forbidden desire, as in the ‘fall’ in the Garden of Eden. The cast comprises four couples in black corset/bodice leotards and tights or, for the men, black trousers. The snappy lighting is sensational – the couples are mostly divided by square shafts of light that at times look like different levels/platforms on the stage. The apples are used in various ways: sometimes ironic, sometimes comic or serious.

The work features amazing, sculptural, athletic pas de deux and upside down lifts, and also the use of a ramp (at one point a woman is upside down on the ramp and there is a ‘rain’ of apples). Sometimes the choreography is insect-like with almost impossible lifts. Toward the end there is an image of the dancers with their hands, like binoculars, peering at the audience.

This segues straight into Sarabande, which features absolutely stunning, very detailed bell-like period dresses, suspended on wires, mysteriously hanging mid-air. Performed by six men, this powerful dance piece is a testosterone showcase,  bursting with barely contained energy. The men wear white tops (at least at first) and in the opening, in the golden light, breathe and ripple like the sea.

A deep Graham plie is favoured and Kylián demands incredible use of a very flexible back. Tiny isolated movements such as fingers fluttering or checking the hold on an ankle are important. Tai- chi like movements are also incorporated. Are there hints of a Maori haka? Sometimes the men are suddenly explosive in their frantic action and we see this in the sweat dripping from the cast. Lighting ranges from almost clear angelic white to Caravaggio- like gloom. At a couple of points the choreography was reminiscent of Graeme Murphy’s work. Amplified groans,  thuds, yells, percussive slaps etc are heard as the men crawl, leap, slide, spiral turn... Towards the climax the Bach violin concerto leads to sensational individual solos and a weird laugh at the end. There was also a ‘feminization’ of movement in certain of the solos that was intriguing.

The featured middle work, Sh-Boom I found contrived and artificial. It was supposed to be loads of frothy ‘fun’ but I didn’t really ‘get’ that, although the rest of audience seemed to enjoy it immensely. The opening and closing sequences had blonde Silas Henriksen in white, doing repeated phrases of movement and flashy a toothy grin at us then energetically leading the ensemble.

I was reminded in parts of Matthew Bourne’s Town and Country  and with the guys in their white underpants are we meant to think of his Spitfire? Or is it that the work is stripped back and very revealing? There are also possible allusions, chillingly so, to the musical Cabaret. Created in 1994, this is a supposedly playful work set to the music of Vera Lynn and Stan Freberg, golden oldies where men in love attempt to impress women. It has apparently been updated and revised several times.

There is a sharp, angular pas de quatre for the women reminiscent of Macmillan’s Las Hermanas. It also features a magnificent black and white jacketed John/Marcia routine delineating the breakup of a relationship (done by one performer) with a large microphone. This work also features a magnificent nude male solo with discreet, gloomy, hand-held bobbing lighting and strategic placement of a saucepan. Confetti rained on the audience at the end.

To the haunting, driving music of Philip Glass, in the ghostlike, dreamlike Shoot the Moon, the final work of the evening, we catch glimpses of the intimate life of three couples (possibly three generations?). The pas de deux are visually stunning with some amazing, very unusual and difficult lifts and poses. The lyrical, atmospheric lighting is superb. In some ways it has a despairing Chekhovian atmosphere at certain points. I also had the feeling there was a possible Pina Bausch influence. There is an incredible, tense pas de deux where the couple do not look at each other.

Revolving walls, with striking William Morris-like black and white wallpaper, create three separate rooms, each revealing their own story. There is also much symbolic use of a closed/open door and/ or window - the start or end of the relationship? Climbing up the wall seems to references to silent movie.

‘Life could be a dream’ indeed.

Rating: 4 stars

Nederlands Dans Theater
Sweet DreamsChoreography: Jiří Kylián
Staged by Lorriane Blouin
Music: Webern
Lighting: Jiří Kylián (concept) realised by Joop Caboort
Decor: Jiří Kylián
Costumes: Joke Visser

Choreography Jiří Kylián
Music: J S Bach
Lighting: Jiří Kylián (concept) realised by Joop Caboort
Costumes: Joke Visser
Decor: Jiří Kylián

Choreography: Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot
Assistant to the choreographers: Lorrinae Blouin
Music: Vera Lynn and Stan Freberg
Lighting: Tom Bevoort
Decor and costumes: Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot

Shoot The Moon
Choreography: Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot
Assistant to the choreographers: Anders Hellstrom
Music: Phillip Glass
Decor and costumes: Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot
Live camera: Bart Coenen, Rupert Tookey

Sydney Opera House
13 – 15 June

Becoming Traviata

A most incredible film part of the Sydney Film Festival

Love found and then lost in BECOMING TRAVIATA
Love found and then lost in BECOMING TRAVIATA
This superb, enthralling film will have opera and theatre people agog. One of the many films of this year’s Sydney Film Festival it came under their ‘Sounds on Screen’ section. It is a fascinating insight, a unique documentary behind the scenes of an opera production- in this case LA TRAVIATA at the Aix En Provence festival of 2011, directed by Jean-François Sivadier .
Based on Alexandre Dumas’ play LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS, the Opera is a standard in the repertoire of almost every Opera Company and the protagonist, Violetta, is regarded as a major test piece of a soprano’s career.
For those unfamiliar with it, the plot of  LA TRAVIATA is briefly as follows, – Violetta, a top Parisian courtesan, finds her true love and a chance of redemption with a young man, Alfredo, but then is forced to give all that up when the young man’s father pressures her to sacrifice her love for the happiness of his family , saving Alfredo’s sister from scandal. From wild parties to pure love to a lonely death from consumption, LA TRAVIATA is about a woman’s life, intensely lived, followed by her heroic sacrifice .
Some would nitpick that film director Béziat does not give us a brief summary of the plot as above of the opera beforehand, rather he just assumes we are  opera lovers  familiar with it and he jumps straight in .Others would carp that there is no interview with Dessay and her thoughts about playing Violetta. Instead, we have a scene with a rehearsal pianist enthusiastically analysing the drama in Verdi’s music (for example when Violetta tries to steel herself to break up with Alfredo and how this is shown in the music). We also see a scene where Dessay and Sivadier analyse a single phrase – ‘E Strano’ (‘how strange’) .
Instead BECOMING TRAVIATA concentrates on Verdi’s glorious music and the fascinating intensive rehearsal process.  In the film directed by Philippe Béziat we follow renowned soprano Natalie Dessay joining forces with innovative opera and theatre director Jean-François Sivadier in their challenging, risk taking production. Orchestrally, it features the excellent London Symphony Orchestra who play Verdi’s tumultuous, passionate music gloriously. The camera work is superb with occasional tremendous use of close up.  I loved the lingering over the messy paint studio, and the shocking transformation of Dessay to a white faced very ill Violetta towards the end.
We see tech rehearsals and planning, huge (sometimes confused) chorus and also the more intimate individual rehearsals for the leads (Alfredo and Violetta especially) . Sivadier, always energetic and full of ideas, reminds Dessay that VIoletta can be in fact as heavy and demanding a role as HAMLET or Nina in Chekov’s THE SEAGULL. There are also Ophelia like references.
Director Beziat attempts to document the ‘Sivadier method’. Yes there are wonderful close ups but Sivadier’s  approach discards ‘traditional’ hoary choreography , old fashioned crinolines and a huge feature chandelier for a far more ‘Expresionistic’ almost Tanztheater approach seeking to completely emotionally involve the audience. We see the cast refine their movements, characters, articulation and gestures and how Sivadier has developed a tremendous rapport with his cast during the challenging but exciting rehearsals.
Diva Natalie Dessay is amazing and gives her all. Her ‘Sempre Libre’ is amazing in Act 1 and the shattering finale is heartbreaking. We also see her rehearse Violetta’s collapse at the end . Terribly handsome tenor Charles Castronovo (Alfredo) is magnificent and sings divinely. His solo arias ‘ De’ miei bollenti spiriti / Il giovanile ardore ‘ are wonderful and the duets exceptional. And there is the catchy well known Brindisi drinking song in Act 1 ‘Libiamo ne’ lieti calici . Alfredo’s father Giorgio Germont is marvellously played by rumbling bass – baritone Ludovic Tézier .His ‘ Pura siccome un angelo’ from Act 2 is tremendous .
Various shots of the production are interwoven with actual performance combined to create a fascinating, enthralling film. Bravo !
The complete production of this version of LA TRAVIATA was filmed and is available separately on DVD.
BECOMING TRAVIATA was part of the Sydney film Festival screening 13 and 15 June.  Running time  was 113 minutes. The documentary was screened in French with English subtitles.

Slava's Snowshow

I absolutely loved this
more than recommended
Here's my review for Artshub

By Lynne Lancaster | Friday June 14 2013

Created (two decades ago now!) in Moscow by the master clown, Slava Polunin, Slava's Snow Show has toured internationally ever since, playing to audiences now counted in the millions. It first played Sydney in 2000, and had another Australian tour in 2009. Now it’s back, treat yourself: this is one of those rare, magical theatrical events that is for everyone and transcends description.

The staging is sensational, to say the least. Full of vivid spectacle – the bubbles in the first half, the shattering, blinding coupe de theatre (to the music of Carmina Burana) that is the finale, Slava’s Snow Show is also full of childlike wonder, joy and imagination. A bed, curtain and broom become a sailing ship. A crew member is washed overboard and rescued (beware of the sharks!) Scary things lurk inside the cupboard.

Constructed around a series of short vignettes, the show also includes a group of the clowns conducting the audience in various sounds, reactions and applause. The set is made to look like hanging felted panels decorated with stars – which are reversed for the finale and turn out to have wonderfully textured soft sculptures on the back.

There is a terrific cast of eight, with Slava’s role – the lead clown, dressed in yellow and red – shared by Robert Saralp and Derek Scott. The other clowns wear long green coats. All wear traditional clown makeup with whiteface, red nose, extra long black shoes and here, winged hats. They evoke a sense of loneliness, and all have very sad eyes. Observe how in the first half the yellow clown tries to kill himself – at first with a lllllooooonnng rope, before trying to electrocute himself (using balloons on a wire) before finally there comes a Saint Sebastian-like scene where he is punctured with arrows. (The ‘death scene’, in which he plays heavily to the audience, is brilliant). At various points the action is very funny, at other moments extremely poignant and moving.

The production is magnificently acted, featuring wonderful use of expressive mime and excellent comic timing, as well as the use of slow motion. The sharp-eyed will spot allusions at one point to Gogol’s The Overcoat, and at another what seems to be a Laurel and Hardy-like routine. A trio of the green clowns miming to ‘Blue Canary’ is another hilarious highlight.

The audience is covered in dry ice, smothered in theatrical ‘snow’, and at interval the cast continues the performance and ventures into the audience. (Warning! If you are in the first few rows of the stalls you will most probably get wet.) The audience, emotionally involved throughout, was ecstatic at the opening night of this production, and could have stayed for hours playing with the ‘snow’ and giant balls.

Rapturous, wondrous, spellbinding theatre.  

Rating: 4 stars

Slava’s Snowshow
Artistic Director: Vladimir Filonov
Sound Technician: Gleb Titanyan
Light Technicians: Sofya Kostleva Denis Minakov
Stage Technician: Oleksiy Tofymchuk Vitaly Galich
Company Manager: Eleen Dolmatova
Performers: Robert Saralp, Derek Scott, Andrey Klimak, Evgeny Perevalov, Ira Selberstein, Nikolai Terentiev, Aelita West, Bradford West
Running time 1 hour 45 mins (approx) including one interval
Theatre Royal, Sydney
7 – 23 June

Additional dates:
Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane: 26 – 30 June
Canberra Theatre Centre: 3 – 7 July
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne: 17 – 28 July

Opera's Triple Threat

this was fabulous
here's my rave for Sydney Arts Guide

Cheryl Baker
Cheryl Baker
A hefty combined birthday party (centenary for Britten, bicentenary for both Verdi and Wagner) this concert featured the combined dazzling talents of the  Sydney Philharmonia Festival Chorus and Orchestra under conductors Brett Weymark and Anthony Pasquill and especially the magnificent voices of Cheryl Barker and Stuart Skelton.
In the theatrical world, a ‘triple threat’ is an inspiring someone who can dance, sing and act. For this concert the idea was that the operatic ‘triple threat’ combined music, drama and passion and it did so in spades.
These were tenor Stuart Skelton’s only Sydney performances this year, straight after performances in London and just before he performs in the Paris , Seattle and Melbourne ‘Ring’ cycles and has  a return performance in Berlin with Sir Simon Rattle .It was the first time he has sung excerpts from Verdi’s ‘Otello’ and he did so brilliantly . Soprano Cheryl Barker has just finished performing ‘Madama Butterfly’ for the Welsh National Opera and we will soon see her in Opera Australia’s ‘Tosca’, and as Desdemona Queensland Opera’s ‘Otello’.
The Sydney Philharmonia Festival Chorus with over three hundred voices, was sensational – a stirring , thrilling performance. They were an energised, broiling mass , at times angry , at times celebratory or reflective – a huge wave of sound.
The Orchestra was excellent, dealing with everything from the sharp , spiky Britten in the first section to the lush, rather overwhelming Wagner in the final part.
Youngest first. The wonderful opening section was selections from Britten’s ‘Peter Grimes’. ( For those of us of a particular era the ‘Sea Interludes’ from this will always be associated with Graeme Murphy’s ‘Some Rooms’.) The opening section, ’Dawn’, conjured visions of shimmering sunlight and rippling waves. Other sections were far more tempestuous. The chorus ‘Old Joe Has Gone Fishing’ to a galvanising insistent drum roll was terrific.
Stuart Skelton stopped the show with his glorious , breathtaking solo ‘Now The Great Bear and Pleiades’ . Barker sang ’Embroidery In Childhood’ exquisitely. (She wore a long elegant blue gown throughout the show , Skelton traditional theatrical black ).
Back a hundred years for a selection from Verdi’s ‘Otello’ .Proud and passionate this section had aural hints of ‘Aida’, ‘Il Trovatore’ and ‘Turandot’ . It opened tempestuously, the chorus fabulous in their storm drenched yet celebratory ‘ Una Vela!Una Vela! Un Vessilo! ‘. Their ‘Viva !Evviva ! Viva il Leon di San Marco !’ was an extraordinary wall of sound.
There was a wonderful , touching duet for Chery l Barker as Desdemona and Stuart Skelton as Otello ( ‘ Gia nella  nota densa’) and Desdemona’s ‘Willow Song ‘ ( ‘ Piangea Cantando  nell’erma landa’ ) was tremendous. But Skelton brought the house down with his superb rendering of Otello’s tense death scene ‘ Nium mi Tema ‘ that was tremendously sung and acted.
After interval the third section featured excerpts from Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’, ‘Tannhauser’ and ‘Meistersinger ‘ . Highlights included the opening now world famous ‘Wedding March ‘ or Bridal Chorus ( ‘Treulich Gefurt’ ) and Lohengrin’s amazing solo ‘ in fernem Land, unnabar euren Schritten’ ) – once again Skelton was absolutely magnificent . Various other solos were used to showcase Barker and Skelton’s tremendous talents as well as that of the chorus in this vast, rather over-rich and overpowering section. Extra horns supplemented the brass section of the Orchestra for both this Wagner and the Verdi segments.
An absolutely ravishing, glorious concert that gave one goosebumps and shivers.
OPERA’S TRIPLE THREAT played at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House on the 8th and 9th June, 2013. Running time 2 and a half hours including one interval

Antony and Cleopatra at the King Street Theatre

here's what I thought for Artshub


Berynn Schwedt as Antony and Denby Weller as Cleopatra.
Punchbug bring us an unusual and striking production of this heavy historical play. With quite minimalist staging, much depends on the two main leads, and they do not disappoint.

Set in ancient Rome and Egypt, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra explores the tumultuous relationship between Mark Antony, one of the three rulers of the Roman Empire, and his lover Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow triumviri and the future first emperor of Rome.

Director Ira Seidenstein’s production is sparse, almost a ‘black box’ studio version, with just a few white panelled walls, occasional chairs and some small props. The (generally very young) cast copes excellently with all the doubling and tripling of roles required. Shifts between Roman and Egyptian scenes are usually distinguished by a loud conch-like horn that sounds like a ferry on the Harbour; percussion dominates the score. The Romans are dressed in elegant soft suits, the Egyptians and Antony’s side far more casually.  Cleopatra wears a sexy black leather outfit with a slashed ribbon bustier top.

Antony was excellently played by Berynn Schwerdt, a tall, thin, craggy rather scruffy man of multiple talents (army man, admiral, town planner and and and. ..). Roman to the core, he was an excellent commander and Triumvir.  He could be volcanic in anger (as we see in one of his interactions with Cleopatra). His death scene showcased yet more of his magnificent acting. Brilliant.

Fascinating Cleopatra, the bewitching ‘Serpent of the Nile’ was impressively played by Denby Weller. She was shown as imperious, demanding, proud, skittish, kittenish and full of suddenly changing moods. And yet always, always Egyptian and torn with the conflict of loving the foreigner Antony.  (Spoiler alert : her famous death scene has no hidden asp in a basket, rather it is a lethal self-administered injection, the syringes hidden in a small battered suitcase. )

In the smaller roles, special mention must be made of Brinley Meyer as Enocarbus – delightful compelling acting. Brava. Also keep a look out for the terrific Jonathan Dunk, imposing and in fine voice as Octavian. Bron Lim as various messengers and assorted underlings of both sides wore many different guises, and Yiss Mill as a musician, fortune teller and in other roles was also terrific. Some of the other smaller roles however were hammed badly and woodenly ‘telegraphed ‘ their emotions – perhaps this was due to opening night nerves ?

A key feature of this production is the way women are used and viewed, with women strongly playing men’s parts most effectively. Speech rhythms have been contemporised. Movement on the very small stage was at times very athletic, and included dance as well as more formal frieze-like blocks of movement, and also some rather risqué Commedia del’arte effects. Sometimes scenes were played for laughs when perhaps they shouldn’t have been (e.g. dragging poor Antony around when he is dying of his wounds). Some of the play could perhaps be trimmed a little, eliminating repetition.

Overall, however, an exciting, intriguing and challenging version of this long, complicated and convoluted history play.  There were cheers and whistles at the end and most enthusiastic applause.   

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5

Punchbug Productions in association with Emu Productions present
Antony and Cleopatra
By William Shakespeare
Director: Ira Seidenstein
Music: Yiss Mill
Lighting: Kyle Stephens
Running time: 3 hours 20 mins (approx) including one interval

 King St Street Theatre, Newtown
 4 - 15 June

Bangarra's 'Blak'

Here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide 


In three parts, some of this dance journey worked extremely well, some less so. All three sections were strong, the first two especially dark, dealing with major social and cultural issues. Technically the dancing was strong featuring the distinctive Bangarra style, blending contemporary dance and traditional forms.
Overall the production values were, as always for Bangarra magnificent, and included dramatic, atmospheric lighting. I particularly liked the spectacular rock design for the third section ,’Keepers’ with the wonderful use of what seemed to be water and mist ,and the fine line of raining sand at the end ,a terrific visual ‘coup de theatre.’
For me while the first section was very powerful it was the least successful. It was about men being initiated into the clan. The dramatic lighting created an ominous feeling. The dancers wore leather jackets and grey/black leggings. Some of the choreography resembled martial arts and there was a militaristic feel. Spears materialised from t-shirts. It was disturbing and threatening with hidden brutality just under the surface. The ‘clan’ or group was represented by white paint on the forehead. It was perhaps a bit messy and overlong and the pulsating, beeping, throbbing soundtrack was overloud and quite dominating.
‘Yearning ‘, the middle section, had seven women in five short sequences exploring various issues related to domestic violence, suicide and asserting personal identity. The long dresses with the linear designs were wonderful. There was a section where a female answered the repeatedly ringing phone ( a hanging payphone) and left the phone off the hook – she was comforted by her friends or were they watchful, supportive yet uneasy spirits? Another sequence has all the women in a row on hard plastic seats as in a hospital waiting room and they have short solos. The soundtrack for this section included speech and sounds of domestic violence.
The third section ‘Keepers’ had, as already mentioned, a fabulous rocky backdrop.  A ‘homage to the legacy of their elders, all those who went before them ‘, it was as if the dancers were the spirits of the environment .There was a great sense of ritual to the techno beat soundscape. The dancers wore skimpy black costumes (meant to be seaweed? ) Choreographically in some ways I was reminded of Macmillan’s ‘Rite of Spring’. There were huge group circular dances and the choreography at times demanded great fluidity of movement and sudden soft feline like jumps. There were also excellent slithery pas de deux.  A powerful piece provoking much discussion afterwards.
Bangara Dance Theatre’s BLAK, running 90 minutes without interval, opened at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House on Friday 7th June and runs until Saturday June 29 and then goes on to play Canberra and Brisbane.

The Australian Ballet in Symmetries in Canberra

I specially went to Canberra for this
here's what I said for Artshub


As part of its 100th birthday celebrations Canberra hosted the Australian Ballet in a short programme entitled ‘Symmetries’, which included a specially commissioned work ‘Monument’ choreographed by Garry Stewart.
First, however, was Balanchine’s ‘The Four Temperaments’ (1946) which oddly enough I enjoyed much more here in this Canberra performance than in the recent Sydney season. In this work Balanchine analyses and presents the formal structure and vocabulary of ballet in an abstract, almost clinical way. The sparse, refined choreography was performed elegantly and with great panache – it seemed new and fresh as if seen through different eyes.

The dancing as always was magnificent. Andrew Killian shone in his blazing ‘Choleric’ solo. Canberran Lana Jones also dazzled in her home town, giving a tremendous performance. And Leanne Stojmenov was marvellous. In this performance what I especially noted was the use of supported pirouettes in the opening section, demanding incredible control.

 Sheer theatrical bliss for the haunting, lyrical pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s  ‘After the Rain’, performed by Robyn Hendricks in a soft pink leotard and Rudy Hawkes in white trousers with a grey waistband. The magical, wistful, elegiac loving atmosphere was palpable. Fiendishly difficult to perform it was a giant crowd pleaser.

After interval came the specially commissioned ‘Monument’, choreographed by Garry Stewart of the Australian Dance Theatre. Sharp and futuristic in atmosphere and appearance it is based on the concept of the construction of the ‘new’ Parliament House and Canberra. Rear projections of animated linear architectural maps and plans were used. It was as if the dancers were the spirit of an architect’s imagination.

Sometimes the dancers, in white costumes with black lines, were like ancient Egyptians (Stewart’s choreography incorporates ‘Tutting’) measuring and/ or laying foundations. They moved with angular arms in corridors of light, at various points in dynamic diagonal blocks of movement or contrasting frieze –like sections across the stage. Sometimes it was as if the dancers were alien beings, descending from somewhere to mysteriously build Canberra.

The work uses typical very demanding Stewart choreography – I was particularly reminded of his ‘Birdbrain’ – but it wasn’t quite as ‘way out’ as it possibly could have been. Splintered, fragmented short solos are incorporated into the writhing sculptural ensemble masses.  At one point there is an ‘Expressionist’ machine like tableaux. Very effective use is made of silhouette. Huey Benjamin’s soundscape was a hypnotic, driving, edgy score that includes Tibetan chant and percussion.     
 A most exciting triple bill greeted with especial delight by native Canberrans.

Running time – 100 minutes (approx) one interval
MAY 2013

4 stars
The Four  Temperaments
Choreography: George Balanchine
Repetuteur: Eve Lawson
Music: Paul Hindemith ‘The Four Temperaments’
Lighting design: Ronald Bates, reproduced by Graham Silver
Solo pianist: Stuart Macklin

Pas de deux from After The Rain
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Music: Arvo Part ‘Speigel im Speigel’
Costume design: Holly Hynes
Lighting design: Mark Stanley reproduced by Graham Silver
Danced by: Robyn Hendricks and Rudy Hawkes

Choreography: Garry Stewart
Music: Huey Benjamin
Costume and set design: Mary Moore
Creative collaborator: Aldo Giurgola
3D animations: Paul Lawence-Jennings
 Lighting deisgn: John Buswell

Lineage at Parramatta

Again at Parramatta a great show combing Indian classical dance and  contemporary 

Here's what Isaid for artshub


By Lynne Lancaster | Wednesday May 29 2013

Lineage, a collaboration of traditional Indian dance forms of Kathak and Bharatanatyam.
Part of Form Dance and Parramatta Riverside’s ‘Dance Bites’ season this is the most exciting, colourful and rather exotic mixed bill that brings together traditional Indian dance and contemporary dance styles. It is a collaboration between Shruti  Ghosh and Aruna Gandhimathinathan using the Indian classical dance forms of Kathak and Bharatanatyam.

Abstract patterns and the compelling rhythms of the dance are used in a very exciting, mesmerizing display. Both Ghosh and Gandhimathinathan are magnificent performers and we see how the movement of even just a finger is important (the ‘mudras’ or hand positions). Mehndi (the hand decorations) is prominent in the featured solos.

The first half, under the umbrella title ‘Nritya Roopa’ opens with a short invocation piece to the gods. The dancers are in traditional classical Indian red and gold costumes with the formal makeup etc and form a striking sculptural tableau.   

In Shruti’s ‘Kathak Nritta’ solo there was dramatic use of her shadow behind her. What I noticed was the particular ‘epaulement’ for this style of dance, with a regal, rigid back but snaky, fluid expressive arms, delicate yet fiery and a use of their diagonal lines in various poses. There was an almost Flamenco-like rhythm of the feet and lots of turns showing off the glittering, swirling costume.

In Aruna’s ‘Jatiswaram In Bharatanatyam’ sinuous solo there is a use of the deep Graham plie and spiky fingers. There is extremely expressive, tightly choreographed use of the neck and eyes and while the choreography possibly seems ‘softer’ than the Kathak style it also perhaps seemed more vertical and ‘boxed in’. There is a duet to take us to the interval (‘Yahi Madhava’), opening with Aruna mermaid-like. Shruti then appears in a blue and gold sari, hair down. Here again there is very expressive mime and dazzling  footwork to difficult intricate rhythms contrasted with sculptural poses .It is supposed to be a conversation between Radha and Krishna and combines both styles wonderfully.

After interval there was a great shift to a meld of strong ‘contemporary’ yet indigenous (Bangarra -like) work with ‘Dark Dream’, an eerie, dramatic duet for two men – Thomas E S Kelly and Carl Tolentino. Were they dreaming? Was any of it real? You could also see hints of the classical Indian style.  It was performed with a soft, fluid angularity which was simultaneously definitely masculine.

One of the strangest ‘contemporary’ solos I have seen for a while was ‘A Dip for Narcissus’ that followed, choreographed and performed by Tammi Gissell. There was wonderful use of soft grainy photos and poetry text in the dreamlike, floating film projected on the back screen. Gissell’s body and costume had dye smeared on it .Confronting, a bit confusing and challenging, Gissell wore huge reflective goggles at one point and did a headstand in one of the three plastic buckets that were part of the set.

The finale of the programme was a wonderful dialogue between Aruna and Shruti’s two similar but different dance styles. Fresh and vibrant it was enchanting. Special mention must be made of the percussive music for this played by Prabhu Osoniqs on Hang that combined elements of the tabla, harmonium, sarangi, miridangam, violin flute and vocals. 

It’s a fascinating mixed programme showcasing some tremendous performances.

Rating: 4 stars
Dates: 23-25 May 2013
Running Time: 90 mins (approx) including one interval

Form Dance Projects and Riverside present

Walking the path of Lineage
Shruti  Ghosh and Aruna Gandhimathinathan
Music – Prabhu Osoniqs 

Dark Dream
Thomas S E Kelly and Carl Tolentino
Music – Venetian Snares, Bloc Party

A Dip For Narcissus
Tammi Gissell
Choreographed and Performed by Tammi Gissell
Music – Meredith Monk, Edgard Varese, Goldmund
Sound design Tammi Gissell and Thomas E .S Kelly
Poetry and projection Tammi Gissell

Expressions R & J at Parramatta

A most exciting performance here's what I said for Dance Informa

Categorized | Australian Dance Reviews

R&J – Expressions Dance Company

R&J – Expressions Dance Company Parramatta Riverside, Sydney
May 16, 2013
By Lynne Lancaster.
Sydney has been very lucky this past week to have visits from both the wonderful Australian Dance Theatre in their amazing G and the marvellous Expressions Dance Company from Queensland with Natalie Weir’s R&J.
R&J features superb dancing that is laser sharp and sizzling with death defying rolls, jumps, runs and catches in the pas de deux. The small cast is magnificent!
The ballet takes the well-loved Shakespearean story of Romeo and Juliet as its base. The work is in three sections – Act 1 is Passion, Act 2 is Romance and Act 3 is Devotion, using various elements of the story with a twist.
In the first two sections we see the enforced separation of the two lovers. In Passion, our Juliet (the award-winning Elise May) is dark, passionate and intense. Some of the amazing, flowing pas de deux is Graeme Murphy-like in its dazzling rolls, jumps, catches and enfolding. Our excellent Romeo for both this and the third section, Devotion, was the handsome Jack Zeising.
In Romance our Romeo is dark and curly-haired Benjamin Chapman, and his Juliet is the exquisite blonde Michelle Barnett. This act is far more concentrated on the sad death of the lovers after some tremendous pas de deux and pas de trios. Tall, bearded Thomas Gundry Greenfield looms as the ominous figure of Death.
Particularly for the first two acts, Weir’s choreography has a circular feel, contrasted with some laser-sharp scissoring lines of legs and arms and wonderful enfolding and entwining for the sinuous pas de deux. In Romance there are waltz like movements and large blocks of dance for the ensemble as guests at a party. Romance also features long arcing lines, a joyous lyricism and floating lifts.  
The third section Devotion, set in the 1950s, opens with a tender and intimate ticklish pas de deux of tiny movements of a hand or finger; you can almost hear Juliet (Riannon McLean) giggling. There are lots of repeated phrases of everyday movement as Romeo leaves for work/arrives home repeatedly with almost a Groundhog Day feel. Eventually the phrases change and our Juliet is left sadly alone…waiting.
Bruce McKinven’s set is mostly various tilted boxes of assorted sizes. For the middle section of the work there is also a coffin-sized box mysteriously lit from the inside. The final section includes two chairs forming a split sofa.   
John Babbage’s score drives the show. Sometimes it is Phillip Glass-like, sometimes it is hot jazz with a cool saxophone solo, at other points it is delicate, joyous or anxious. The lighting by David Walters is stark yet atmospheric, eerie at appropriate points, and there is a marvellous coup de theatre at the end that gives a soft, poignant lyricism.
R&J is a hypnotic, enthralling performance showcasing a splendid, passionate cast and sensational dancing. Bravo!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Monkey Baa in Millie Jack and the Dancing Cat coming up

Wonderful Monkey Baa are back with a return season of Millie, Jack and the Dancing Cat


Based on the book by Stephen Michael King

Adapted for the stage by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge & Tim McGarry
 �Delightful...very entertaining�  Sydney Morning Herald
 Starring   Alexis Fishman, Vincent Hooper, Tim McGarry & Greg Parke   

Directed                       John Saunders        Designer                      Imogen Ross
Composer                   Phillip Scott               Lighting Designer        Luiz Pampolha
Choreographer            Jack Webster                       Sound Designer          Jeremy Silver

Award winning children�s theatre company MONKEY BAA present the joyful musical MILLI, JACK AND THE DANCING CAT during the School Holidays at their new home, Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre from 3 to 27 July. 
 Milli, a solitary shoemaker, has a special gift for fixing things.  She can take a thing that is a nothing and make it...a something.  But the people in her industrialised town have no time or interest in the extraordinary.  They only want ordinary, practical things like boots.  Black boots, brown boots, ordinary, practical, familiar, everyday work boots! 
 Night after night Milli dreams that she is brave enough to show everyone what she can really do.  But each day is the same, until one morning she meets two vagabonds who come into town.
 Jack and his Cat dance their way into Milli�s life, and together they make the ordinary extraordinary and life is never the same again.
 Aimed at 3 to 9 year olds this very special musical focuses on the joy of creativity, of being brave enough to follow your dreams and the importance of friendship.
Terrace 3/1-25 Harbour Street, Sydney          
 Season:                       3 � 27 July at 11am & 1pm
Duration:                      55 minutes
Prices:                         $25pp / Family of 4 $90 / Family of 5 $110 / Groups 10+
Bookings:                     www.monkeybaa.com.au or call 1300 131 556