Saturday, 26 April 2014

Strictly Ballroom the Exhibition

oh the wonderful costumes! Fans of the classic Australian movie and those fascinated by costume design, fashion and theatre will love this exhibition. It is 30 years since the movie started the world dancing .The Strictly Ballroom story began as a short play developed by NIDA students ( with Baz Lurhman himself in it) . The movie has gone on to win 8 AFI and 3 BAFTAS and has become one of Australia’s most successful films ever grossing over 80 million dollars at the box office! Its soundtrack includes popular songs Cindy Lauper’s ‘ Time After Time’ and John Paul Young’s ‘ Love Is In The Air ‘. Just opened at the Powerhouse and and linked in to the musical currently showing at the Lyric Theatre ,the small but amazingly bright bold and colourful exhibition is downstairs on Lvl2 . It is immaculately presented and designed. The exhibition celebrates the sequinned splendour of the iconic stage and screen musical , now regarded as an Australian classic, and tells the ‘Strictly Ballroom’ story through design drawings, cast and set photos, performance and rehearsal clips. But the major highlight is 40 of the original costumes for the movie created by Catherine Martin. The extraordinary detail in some of the ‘larger than life’ costumes is exceptional, some taking hundreds of hours to complete. As you enter the exhibition from the escalators one of the first things you see are the amazing fluoro ‘Fruity Mambo’ outfits for the new stage version all green frills, ruffles and masses of beading . (what is interesting is to compare the screen and stage versions) . There is also a selection of three Prada outfits Catherine Martin has worn at award ceremonies such as the Oscars. Throughout the exhibition there are TV screens with edited scenes from the movie running on a loop. There’s fascinating footage of the original NIDA play plus pictures of the NIDA one and the STC version .There are also notebooks and assorted workbooks used in the establishment of the various characters and lots of the designs in association with the various costumes. Three wheeled costume clothes racks are included along with hairpieces , shoes ,jewellery etc . At various points there are detailed descriptions of the costumes displayed. For example we learn about Scott ‘s (Paul Mercurio’s) Matador costume with its hundreds of hand sewn sequins and the matching Flamenco dress for Fran (Tara Morice) which was hand made by costume designer Angus Strathie’s mother. We learn that for each costume in the movie indications were given about the cut and fabric for dressmaker Nola Lowe and men’s tailor Tony Bonnico and Anthony Phillip . (There is an exquisite white men’s suit for example.) But it is the huge frothy competition costumes that amaze. You could spend hours poring over the incredible detail in some of the costumes with the beading , fringes, use of feathers etc .Some white , some with feathered shoulders, some fluoro bright ; one is scaly silver sequined like a fish, some with flower /fruit tendril decorations with a cascading ,flowing line . What is also of interest is the use of layers, various textures etc in the outfits. And how some appeared to be skimpy but had skin coloured inserts where appropriate. Much fun is had with the use of a reflective mirror background and a revolving glitter ball .An enthralling ,dazzling exhibition . On View: The Strictly Ballroom story Dates: From Saturday 5 April 2014 Hours: 10.00am to 5.00pm daily Address: Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo


hmmm .Terrific cast but just missed the mark ... Some people do need to have happy ever afters’. This is an intense, intriguing work with solid performances and excellent technical aspects, and the idea behind it is terrific , but I am afraid it just misses the mark. The title I gather comes from what Lucy says at one point – ‘Being in love is like travelling through Wonderland’ .Young lovers Lucy and Max bitterly blame each other for the collapse of their relationship. WONDERLAND has been written by Alexandra Howard, who also plays Lucy opposite Samuel Doyle as Max. It has just had a short season in Canberra before this Reginald run. From the moment we enter the auditorium to take our seats, and for quite a lot of the play, the action is constrained and focused on Lucy (Alexandra Howard) and Max (Samuel Doyle ) in spotlights on their black chairs upon raised platforms. The soundtrack, when appropriate, is pulsating and fragile. The play looks at our expectations as children and how they change when grown up, – what are the grown up rules and how do we learn them? Do Lucy and Max have unreasonable expectations of their relationship? The work is about love, how our illusions are shattered as we grow up, and attempts to find out what people want from relationships. What is happiness? As Lucy says at one point, It is all a question of ‘value’? Is love all you need? What are the differences, if any, between the expectations of men and women in a relationship? Huon Manningdale’s lighting is magnificent, clear when required, ominously spooky and threatening when needed. There is a feeling of childlike wonder with the fantastical set designed by Andrew Grenfell,- the paper stars and mobile and the moon design on the sheets for the huge double bed. Art and theatrical drama collide as we enter a vibrant set similar to that of Wonderland in Alice’s story. (I liked the huge giant face sculpture with shattered teeth that from a certain distance appeared like a cityscape, and the spiky lines of the tree branches). The strange, detailed set could be said to represent the ‘ monsters ‘ or dark side hidden within Lucy and Max as they (surprise ,surprise) are reminded that fairytales don’t exist in the real world,— especially when it comes to relationships. Both Lucy and Max have monologues and talk to each other at times there are overlapping speech patterns and question and answer and sometimes one or the other acts as narrator for the show. Very handsome, bearded Doyle as Max performs with great intelligence and conviction and shows us flashes of moments of drama to vary the rather one note tone of the work. Howard, as Lucy, in a beautiful white lace dress, digs deep for her performance but it is rather difficult to connect because of her intense, idiosyncratic and inward looking approach. Memories of young love generally fade as we age, making it easy to forget the variety of strong emotions we felt earlier in our lives. WONDERLAND is an ambitious work written and performed by a young woman about love and romance that didn’t quite work.. Running time 1 hour 40 (approx) including one interval A Lexx production, Alexandra Howard’s WONDERLAND played at the Reginald Theatre, the Seymour Centre between the 8th and the 12th April.

STC's Pinocchio

Absolutely glorious ! Here's my delighted rave for Sydney Arts Guide ‘Are you brave enough to be real’? A fabulous bright bold and colourful re telling of this much loved Carlo Collodi story for all ages that enchants .Yes , this is still a very moral story , of a little puppet who wants to be real , about not telling lies , with the extendable nose and there is also a subtle anti-bullying message. Windmill’s staging under the brilliant direction of Rosemary Myers was wonderful including some terrific use of film , shadow puppetry , revolves and other exciting special effects . There are various revolves, peepholes , doors etc in the multi-level set which is based on a tree trunk. It was all colourful and stylised (the waves for example were Hokusai like). At times it was scary particularly in Playland when Pinocchio discovers the truth about the poor donkeys. Other times it was much fun and funny – the children in the audience loved it . Musically its range varied from sort of Wiggles , showbiz ,pop/rock to soft ballads etc and was splendid. (None of the Disney songs from the well known much loved movie are included .) The choreography was tight and included ‘tutting ‘. There’s plenty of emotional interaction with the audience , including things for cynical adults ( eg Stromboli being willing to sell his own grandmother as the cliché goes and also Stromboli’s cold hearted determination to turn back Gepetto’s small dinghy ) and the dialogue has puns and dad jokes and combines wit and innocence .. There are local and modern references to the Logies , ‘Fitness First Fox’ and upset superstars thumping paparazzi for instance . Man of a thousand voices and masks the extraordinary Paul Capsis has a fabulous time as the villainous , malevolent Stromboli the richest man in the world . ( He ranges from school zebra crossing man , a devilish puppet master wreaking havoc pulling strings , the captain of a huge ship to flamboyant film director and more … ) it is interesting to note he is the only character in white face makeup. As Pinocchio the wooden boy with a heart, tall gangly Nathan O’Keefe is superb. Naughty and cheeky he has much fun stopping the show in Act 1 when totally bored and fed up with school with ‘I Know ; A typical small boy he is embarrassed when being dropped off for school by his parent and he wants the most expensive ‘cool’ shoes around ( Romper Stompers oh yeah everyone has them ).Along the way he grows and learns many hard lessons . As his father Gepetto , a lonely aging man, Alirio Avarce in Australian green and gold was terrific. Diminutive Danielle Catanzariti was wonderful as the mysterious Blue Girl , who we see tragically meet her end joyously riding a motorbike right at the beginning . Is she a bubbly ghost or ? Pinocchio’s other animal friends Kitty Poo and Foxy are brilliantly played by Jude Henshall (in Harlequin like diamonds who wants to be a huge pop star and sings gloriously) and cool , snazzy ,wily and slick Luke Joslin in a shiny retro 1950’s J.O’K suit . In some ways they are cousins to Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser from ‘Cats’. Cricket – as delightfully puppeteered by Jonathan Oxlade – is tremendous and acts the moral compass for the show. This version of Pinocchio is a contemporary yet timeless telling of the story that is in fact quite dark at times but wonderful .Thoroughly recommended . Based on the Carlo Collodi books, and adapted for the stage by writer Julianne O’Brien and director Rosemary Myers, PINOCCHIO runs at the Sydney Opera House 13 April – 4 May 2014 Running time 2 hours 10 mins (approx) including one interval

Strictly Ballroom

A good prodcution but I much prefer the movie sorry folks Here's my artshub review The stage version of the classic Australian movie, Strictly Ballroom, has the audience dancing in the aisles at the end... almost. It is executed in a pantomime, cartoonish sort of way which works quite well…. mostly. The storyline is very similar to the movie and its three main hits, ‘Perhaps’; ‘Time after Time’ and ‘Love is in the Air’ are all included. Some extra songs work well and the cast is magnificent, especially Thomas Lacey as Scott and Phoebe Panaretos as Fran. As the audience enter the theatre, with MC/DJ JJ Silvers (Mark Owen-Taylor) on stage, we are divided into various colours that represent the dance studios that compete in the championships. The walls are covered in retro posters. There is audience participation in both halves of the performance that this reviewer enjoyed. And the costumes are bright, bold and wonderful. The spangles! The glamour! The ruffles and frills! The feathers! The beading! The incredible eye makeup and hair! When the opening scene segues to the competition waltz with the ‘Blue Danube’, Strictly Ballroom is at its finest. But, like Moulin Rouge, this performance is far too busy, with masses of scenery sliding in and out and the cast frantically appearing briefly only to disappear. The iconic ‘Time After Time’ scene, complete with clothes-line and Coke sign, loses its impact as we see Doug Hastings dancing alone downstairs. And this reviewer questions the decision to include ‘Habanera’ from Bizet’s Carmen in ‘A Life Lived In Fear’. John O’Connell’s choreography is brilliant, combining display Federation steps, showbiz musicals and Flamenco. Some of the rhythms and counts, especially in the Act 1 finale, ‘A Life Lived In Fear’, are extremely complicated. Are we meant to pick up allusions to Doctor Zhivago with its folk dance in ‘Dance to Win’ and to Les Miserables in ‘New Steps Nightmare’ in Act 2? Thomas Lacey as Scott brilliantly inhabits the questioning young champion, but he is not really given the chance to show the deep heart of the rebellious dancer within. He seeks to be original and asks, for example, what does fellow competitor Wayne Burns (Jarryd Byrne) think of the steps? Should Scott stick to the Federation rules and win the Pan Pacific? Or, like his father Doug (Drew Forsthe) does he take the path least followed and face failure? Scott has a wonderful mirror dance sequence using Diane Warren’s ‘Shooting Star’ that could stop the show but just falls short. Fran is superbly played by Phoebe Panaretos. We see her change from ditzy, clumsy bespectacled amateur to proud, confident, sizzling Flamenco dancer in a striking red outfit. She sings superbly too! Scott and Fran have a magical duet ‘Beautiful Surprise’ that is a highlight of the evening. The whole ensemble is terrific. Special mention goes to Scott’s mother Shirley Hastings (Heather Mitchell) as the stressed but proud parent driven to distraction and hiding long lost family secrets. Scott’s father Doug - with his annoying habit of puffing on a breath freshener - has a whale of a time particularly in Act 2 with ‘Crazy Doug’ when Barry Fife is telling Scott what happened in 1967-68. Fran’s father, Rico, (Fernando Mira) is at first dangerous and threatening then enthusiastically helps Scott and Fran prepare for the Pan Pacific. When teaching Scott the Flamenco steps he is elegant, noble, proud and fiery. A huge production number, ’A life Lived In Fear’, the Act 1 finale, almost ignites at times. And Fran’s grandmother, Abuela, (Natalie Gamsu) is tremendous. The dominating President of the Federation, vile Barry Fife, is excellently played by Robert Grubb. Les Kendall, Shirley’s ex -dancing partner and Doug’s friend, is brilliantly brought to life by Bob Baines. This is a very slick production that could do with a little tweaking and editing. At times, the musical isn’t given the chance to develop and reveal character truths, it refuses to let us get too close and involved and jumps between several songs too quickly. Sadly, there is superficial glamour and sparkle only.

The Australian Ballet in Manon Lush , lavish and opulent this is a story of youthful , fragile innocence corrupted , a journey from glittering luxury to the depths of poverty and despair. A wonderful revival of the major full length Macmillan work, the Australian Ballet were in fine form and performed magnificently .The performance was richly detailed and the ensemble was impressive full of lowlife vigour and technically wonderful. Macmillan’s very athletic and demanding choreography is extraordinary and speaks volumes without saying a single word . There are several astonishing , ravishing pas de deux spaced throughout the ballet for Manon herself including a joyous, lyrical move falling in love with Des Grieux in Act 1, the delicious , exuberant bed room scene one that follows, also with Des Grieux with headlong rushes and jumps into his arms contrasted with smaller more intimate gestures of affection, (closely followed by an amazing, lust and corruption pas de trois between Manon , Lescaut and Monsieur G.M. while Des Grieux is momentarily away); there’s the horrific explicit rape scene with the jailer in Act 3 and the final, exhausting pas de deux. As well, there is the magnificent extraordinary set piece in Act 2 Scene 1 at Madame X’s where Manon is passed around by the men like a jewel , just another possession to be owned, with Monsieur G.M. saying ‘she’s mine’ and poor Des Greiux shocked and broken hearted at her deception. You could, at times, pick phrases of movement from Macmillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ .In the powerful opening scene of Act 3, with the arrival of the poor convict girls off the ship , in their patterns and lines of movement , there were hints of ‘Giselle’ and ‘Swan Lake ‘. The sets, costumes, and lighting were, as always, impressive and the orchestra under the energetic enthusiastic conducting of Niclolette Fraillon played the reworked lyrical Massesnet score superbly. Leanne Stojmenov in the eponymous role of Manon was excellent. We see her arrival in Paris all fresh and innocent , and then her pimping and corruption by Lescaut and Monsieur G.M. We see her beautiful radiance and elegance at Madame’s ball and then her tattered, exhausted despair at the end. We get the feeling that although yes she does love Des Grieux she is still out for all she can get , which is why she agrees to seeing Monsieur G.M. Daniel Gaudiello as our lovestruck hero des Grieux was superb , a terrific ‘danseur noble’ and passionate actor , showing off his clean ,elegant technique and ‘line’ , and wonderful jumps and turns. In his enthralling introductory falling in love with Manon solo in Act 1 you could practically hear him speak . Bravo. Chengwu Guo as Manon’s brother Lescsaut had great fun and danced terrifically in the very demanding role (for example the ‘drunk’ solo and pas de deux in Act 2 ) . in some ways it is as if he is narrating the show , as he begins it so dramatically hidden under that large hat and is in Manon’s thoughts at the end. As his sultry mistress Ako Kondo had great fun as did Olga Tamara as Madame X . Matthew Donnelly as vile Monsieur G.M. was cold, aloof and threatening yet lusted after Manon . A terrific production which showcases the glorious dancing of this excellent company . Running time 2 hrs and 45 minutes including two intervals The Australian Ballet’s MANON runs at the Joan Sutherland auditorium Sydney Opera House until April 23. For more about The Australian Ballet in MANON, visit

Bolshoi Ballet's Lost Illusions

Hmmm .The dancing was fabulous but I was a bit disappointed Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide to be expected from the Bolshoi Ballet this full length narrative ballet , rechoreographed by Alexi Ratmansky in 2011, features superb, dazzling dancing, delightful music and opulent sets and costumes. However, I was left feeling emotionally detached and disappointed. Loosely based on Honoré Balzac’s 1843 novel of the same name, the ballet was premiered in 1936, and performed by the Marinsky at the Kirov. However, its aura of decadence, deceit and corruption (including the patrons who supported ballerinas financially in return for “favors”) caused the Soviet government to immediately remove it from the repertoire. In this revival, to a commissioned score by Ratmansky’s favored composer, Leonid Dsyatnikov, the story is basically the same as the original Vladimir Dmitriev libretto. Lucien (Vladislav Lantratov), a young composer, falls in love with a Paris Opéra ballerina, Coralie (Diana Vishneva), who becomes his and inspiration and muse for a very successful ballet ,’ La Sylphide ‘. However, lured by fame and money, Lucien abandons Coralie for her calculating rival, Florine (Ekaterina Shipulina), who ultimately makes a fool of him, thus shattering his “illusions” and leaving him alone and heartbroken. The rehearsal studio scenes as imagined are almost straight out of Degas and the main characters are loosely based upon two famous rivals of the 19th century ballet world, the ethereal Marie Taglioni (Coralie) and the earthy Fanny Elssler (Florine). Ratmansky makes subtle nifty choreographic references for those in the know — emphasizing, for example, the quick , fleet footwork Ellsler was famous for, and the lightness that was Taglioni’s forte — but without making the work seem dusty and old fashioned . The first act “ballet within the ballet” (“La Sylphide”) is period perfect, even including an airborne ballerina flying on wires as was exemplified in that era. Ratmansky really goes all out however in the final act ‘parody’ of the pirate ballet , in which his comic and one could almost say over-the-top steps allow Florine to mock Lucien’s music, including brazen shoulder- and leg-baring and a series of fouettés performed on a table top.( Hints of Bejart’s ‘ Bolero’ perhaps). But the fluid, rapid succession of scene changes , with the curtain billowing and people anxiously running on and off gave the audience no real chance to get to know Coralie, Florine or Lucien, and consequently the audience has little empathy them. Technically the dancing was glorious (particularly that of Vladislav Lantratov as Lucien. There was fine ,vibrant ensemble work by the tremendous corps de ballet . Ratmansky’s choreography was at times fiendishly difficult and featured some unusual lifts in the pas de deux. Our leading man, gifted young composer Lucien, was brilliantly danced by handsome Vladislav Lantratov.This production shows off his superb, clean technique , terrific jumps and tours and his tremendous partnering . He is , as one of my colleagues has put it ‘ a whirlwind unto himself throughout ‘ feverishly trying to express the dilemma that eventually tears him apart . Diana Vishneva ( Coralie ) channels her inner Olga Spessiva with hints of Giselle and Ashton’s Marguerite. The epitome of a ‘Romantic’ ballerina, she has an exquisite, fluid line , lyrical arms and was glorious in the pas de deux . Florine ( Ekaterina Shipulina) was more outgoing and wordly than Coralie .She was brassy and coquettish and had great fun leading Lucien on . She scintilated particularly in the ‘pirate’ ‘ballet within a ballet’ in Act 3 . Overall, while spectacularly danced , the result is somewhat over cluttered and does not really do justice to the ‘Human Comedy’ of a story trying to balance social realism and lyricism . Next in the season of screenings is “Marco Spada,” an 1857 “pirate ballet” recreated by French choreographer Pierre Lacotte for Rudolph Nureyev in 1982, and revived in 2013 at the Bolshoi. Running time 2 hrs 45 (approx) including one interval. The Bolshoi Ballet in Lost Illusions was screening at selected cinemas 29th & 30th March 2014. For more about The Bolshoi Ballet in Lost Illusions, visit

Sport For Jove 12th Night

And their 12th Night which I also reviewed for Sydney Arts Guide Another excellent Sport for Jove production , performed in rep with ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, this TWELFTH NIGHT has the atmosphere of a typical 1960’s Aussie summer right on Christmas time …. there is the feel of a joyous beach party ( think the recent wonderful production of Opera Australia’s ‘The Turk In Italy’) and water/maritime themes and analogies running through the show. There is also an ominous side, though, with shipwrecks and the presence of border guards/police demanding passports for example. Another theme is mirrors (a fun sight gag is when Sebastian and Viola as Cesario both put on a white hat as if either side of a mirror and don’t see each other. It is uncanny how alike they look) And a special mention as well for the design elements all of which are well executed Music also is a crucial part of the production with hits from the Beach Boys , Four Seasons and Roy Orbison amongst others incorporated into the performance. The play itself, was originally conceived as a Twelfth Night Christmas period jaunty entertainment and included several musical interludes which the director Damien Ryan has incorporated with relish. The complicated plot is somewhat as follows : a tremendous storm and shipwreck sees twins Sebastian and Viola separated with each thinking the other is dead. Viola decides to dress as a man, Cesario , and quickly becomes accepted as part of the Duke of Illyria , Orsino’s , entourage. Orsino is desperately in love with the snappish, elegant Countess Olivia who doesn’t return his love.. Instead , she falls in love with Viola as Cesario , when ‘he’ is sent as unwilling messenger , and meanwhile Viola is in love with Orsino…But eventually hidden secrets are revealed and all put to rights.Sebastian, having met Olivia and she mistaking him for Cesario, sleeps and marries him, is eventually reunited with his sister Viola who is revealed to be a woman and the attraction between her and Orsino is disclosed . Ryan is blessed with an exceptional Malvolio and Viola/Cesario in particular but the whole ensemble is terrific. As Viola/Cesario Abigail Austin is sensational. She is elfin and petite , quite a believable debonair young boy/man. No wonder the Lady Olivia is fascinated and the Duke likes him! A mysterious androgyny clings to both Viola and Cesario. Ryan possibly wanted to heighten the hidden ambiguity, which was so powerful in Shakespeare’s day, when all the players necessarily were men. – meaning a man would be playing a woman, impersonating a man. Confused? Having created her new identity as Cesario , (s)he is lively and spirited yet hides a great loss and a maddening, not to be revealed love. ( Until all is magically made right at the end ,at least for her… ). Robin Goldsworthy, our Malvolio, is splendid. He is played as a pompous , fussy , obsessive military character ( parking tickets on the ice cream van for example) yet underneath he has a huge hidden heart and he is presented very sympathetically. Goldsworthy has fantastic comic timing . His mean treatment by, and the ghastly‘prank played by Sir Toby , Maria and the others, I did not find funny but rather horribly cruel. Others in the audience however found it hilarious. Goldsworthy gives Malvolio a range of elements that delights and overtake us. We are enchanted and mesmerised . His energy ,conviction and range are magnificent . Anthony Gooley plays the cigar smoking , melancholy Duke Orsino with flamboyance and a touch of arrogance .He can ‘play’ quite dangerous if necessary . Tall Tyran Parke is terrific as the wise clown Feste, blessed with a sparking wit and a great voice. His finale ‘The Wind and the Rain’ is extremely moving. A jocular gag was Feste’s teasing of Cesario when, suspecting he is a she, begins to sing The Four Seasons song, ‘Walk like a man, talk like a man’ . While yes she is in mourning for her brother, Lady Olivia ( Megan Drury) is shown as a modern woman being aware of her present and future options . Drury finds a delicate balance between glamour and absurdity with an assertive confidence in her presence that effectively prevents Olivia’s femininity from ever being seen as weak. James Lugton as the rather dim , sozzled Sir Toby Belch and his partner in crime Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by Mike Pigott should also be mentioned .Their foolish antics cause much laughter . Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT is a story of love and confused identity set against the backdrop of the 1960′s. With its beautifully detailed ensemble work, the production is very funny as well as being, at times, deeply moving . A delight. If music be the food of love play on … With a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one interval, TWELFTH NIGHT plays in rep with ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL at the Seymour Centre until Saturday Apr 12.

Sport For Jove All's Well That Ends Well

Absolutely loved this a superb performance !Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL Lynne Lancaster ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL. Celebrating its 5th anniversary and Shakespeare’s 450th, this year Sport For Jove brings us a most fabulous production of this lesser known, rarely performed complex and difficult ‘problem play’ by Shakespeare . The play has a quite improbable, rather dark, implausible plot ( one can imagine it straight out of a TV soap – a desperately ill king healed , unrequited love leading to a forced marriage , a very intelligent woman foolishly chasing – going to extremes even – a man who has nothing but disdain and humiliation for her, a ‘bed trick’ ( recorded on a mobile )and eventually a reconciliation all in times of war. It is both a tragedy and a comedy Under the gripping direction of Damien Ryan and with its very strong, superb cast the audience can focus on the situations drama and story especially of Helena and Bertram and their emotional development. It has been updated with the use of mobile phones etc .Shakespeare’s language is clearly delivered and feels fresh and new. Raising issues of the value of virginity and a maiden’s honour against the backdrop of war and military honour,this plays questions the meaning and honour of both of these in awkward, testing circumstances . Issues of war ,battle security and betrayal are juxtaposed with portrayals of love and family . Ryan takes elements of tension eroticism ,humour and shock that are encapsulated in the original text, but also makes the plot line understandable and the central story gripping . The joyous sharp artists’ eye will greatly appreciate the full frontal nudity in the hot and steamy sauna scenes in Act1 when Helena chooses her unwilling husband Bertram .( Lots of haze , dry ice etc) .Toby Knyvett‘s lighting is masterful. Antoinette Barboutis‘ set designs utilise the stage wonderfully , sections slide in/out /up/down to become elegant rooms at Court , a military training camp, a field hospital tent ,a troop transport, a young rakes’ elegant black bedroom etc etc . As troubled Helena Francesca Savige was sensational, giving a luminous performance. She dazzlingly combines a spark of exuberant energy , resolution and considered determination .We first see her talking to herself and revealing to us the audience her hidden love for Bertram .Her healing of the king is deep and mysterious. We also see the kind, bright and vivacious side of her persona. Can she be happy? Will things work out? Her quest for a sense of wholeness and honour is hard fought and won with massive difficulty . Her most unwilling husband Bertram was terrifically played by very handsome Edmund Lembke-Hogan’s . He gives a fine , spirited performance as the charismatic princely rising young military man full of life and energy and also chillingly precise . He is very conscious of his status and position in society yet he gets into hot water with Diana. For him the revelations about Helena and her ‘return to life’ are a shattering, life changing experience . Special mention must be made of the terrific playing of George Banders as arty ,designer label loving Parolles . There is a dangerous wit hidden by his flamboyant tendencies and penchant for scarves . Is he perhaps a bit in love with Helena ? Charming, brave, gallant ,joyous and wonderful – his ‘pretend’ capture and sticky –tape torture by his ‘mates’ is deeply disturbing and terribly cruel , perhaps reminding us of Malvolio’s fate in Twelfth Night . In some ways he is The Outsider as is shown to a degree by his rather peacock like clothes and bearing. The ensemble work is brilliant – the troupe of young men/ soldiers (Robin Goldsworthy, Michel Pigott, Christopher Stalley, Damien Strouthos Christopher Tomkinson) are by turns very impressive, tough and wittily funny . The King of France is played by Robert Alexander who brings massive gravitas and experience with enormous attention to detail in this smallish but very imposing role . Sandra Eldridge (Countess Rousillon) and Eloise Winestock (Diana, Helena’s stand-in for the play’s “bed trick”) give strong performances too. The bleak ,grisly humour of the ‘clown’ Lavatch (Sam Haft) is here hauntingly accentuated by playing him as a severely wounded soldier flirting with his Florentine nurses, his legs blown off at the knees. A superb, fresh , crisp and vivid performance of this dark, unusual play .Running time 3 hour 10 mins(approx) including one interval Sport For Jove’s ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ plays in rep with their ‘Twelfth Night’ until 12 April.

Dirty Feet Out of the Studio

This was great Here's what I wrote for Dance Informa | Australian Dance Reviews, Reviews DirtyFeet Out of The Studio Print This Post Posted on27 March 2014. Tags: Amy Mauvan, Christopher Bunton, DIRTY FEET OUT OF THE STUDIO, Doug Niebling, Ivey Wawn, Matthew Massarria, Melinda Tyquin, Natalie Pelarek, Rob McCredie, Rosslyn Wythes, Sarah-Vyne Vassallo, Shopfront Theatre Shopfront Theatre, Sydney March 21, 2014 By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa. DirtyFeet presented two very different, exciting works in development on the cutting edge of contemporary dance. The black box studio of the Shopfront Theatre was extremely effectively used; cramped and busy in In Transit and coolly a precisely in What It Is. A frenetic, possibly overly busy piece at times, In Transit, choreographed by Sarah-Vyne Vassallo, took as its theme the fact that life is full of constant changes, choices, directions and opportunities that all create a cause and effect. It began with a couple with a huge map of the world discussing where they could go. Then there was a seething, rolling, sculptural mass across a single hand held light that loomed in the dark. Another slightly later section used the rhythm and repetition of ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ with the performance space divided into four lanes with large red and yellow caution roadwork barricades. The area was even further divided later with the use of barricade tape. DirtyFeet ‘In Transit.’ Photo by Hayley Rose Photography. In a couple of wonderful pas de deux there were some unusual lifts and partnering. Massaria had a terrific intensely dramatic solo utilizing a chair and shadows. Bunton had an anxious, angry solo trapped inside a square of the barricades, trying to escape. It was all about pathways of change and the cast at certain points would scurry to shift the barricades in various positions. There was a terrific enfolding pas de deux for Massaria and Tyquin which began with a Michaelangelo – like finger touching. It was bathed in golden light – was he ‘drawing’ the movement? Everyday speech was included as were ordinary daily movements and clapping. What It Is, the second work after a short interval, asked how much do we need to define what we are doing in order to be able do it? The three marvelous dancers were dressed in casual dance pants and tops. At one point each of them removed one top layer of clothing. McCredie’s challenging choreography included everyday movements mixed with intricate multi-layered dance. The beginning was like a slowly writhing vertical sculpture. Overall for me the work had a sort of Cunningham or McGregor-like feel. The dancers were like shop mannequins, neutrally staring at the audience, observing us looking at them. Again the full space of the theatre was used. Sometimes the dancers were extremely close to the audience, for other sections (divided by a snappy blackout) they were as far away as possible. The work, performed in silence, played with time, structure and number sequences could be changed in their running order if desired. Movements were repeated or tried a different way. There was a backwards tilt (demanding a wonderful use of a very flexible back), a section of repeated hand movements, rhythmic fists and shaking legs section, marching, a bounce-and–wobble sequence, and arms fluidly waving and shaking in another section. The final part had a far more relaxed, calmer feel yet was still very intense, with softer arms and the use of isolated movements. The three ended up on the floor again. Neibling’s lighting for this work, especially for the second half, was dark and dramatic and there was very effective use of shadows. .

The Drowsy Chaperone

I absolutely loved this here's my Sydney Arts Guide review Sheer theatrical delight , this is a superb production of this rarely seen show. I saw the brilliant London version ( it’s also been on Broadway ) and it has been performed in Melbourne with Geoffrey Rush as Man in Chair , but so far as I am aware Sydney has not had a chance to be enchanted by it previously . Under the scintillating direction of Jay James-Moody , the superb ensemble glows .With its clever staging and terrific cast the production sparkles and delights. With its infectious rhythms , all-singing, all-dancing superb cast wonderful Squabbalogic have done it again !. For musical theatre fans it is witty distillation of history and an analysis of theatre itself. The show is a loving parody of 1920’s musicals purporting to be !a record of a November 1928 musical that comes alive in the’ Man in Chair’s enthusiastic imagination. There are theatrical in jokes and a cry for understanding for those of us who know and love musical theatre (note – before roughly the 1970’s). It is a 1920’s romantic comedy but the Man In Chair has a contemporary diatribe against marriage. It also includes what could be viewed as some rather risque double entendres and some racist and sexist elements which were quite acceptable in the 1920’s. And there is a segment of a precursor to ‘ The King and I ‘. The cast excel at the split second timing and period choreograph . We the audience are an imaginary guest of the ‘Man In Chair’ as played terrifically by Jay James- Moody ( who also directed the show) .The Man is still in his pajamas and slippers and you get the feel that he is very comfortable in those and rarely leaves his apartment . He also has a ‘thing’ about answering his incoming phone calls . His love of and enthusiasm for old musicals is infectious and his wry comments pepper the show. The set is his cluttered living room and kitchen of his New York apartment , with Playbill theatre posters everywhere on the wall , and there are ‘windows’ through which we can see ‘outside’ , hide the excellent band and are used for special effects . One set of kitchen cupboards slides out to become the ‘Bridal Suite’ , ironing boards and brooms are wittily used for the song, ‘I do I do In the sky’ .James –Moody in his persona as Man in Chair directly talks to us- the audience-, to whom he has a strong connection, and controls the audience’s reactions to almost all we see onstage . Our young ingeneue, sparkling sultry starlet Janet Van De Graff , the bride to be , was amazingly played by Hilary Cole in a dizzying display of triple threat theatrical multi talent . ( She was last seen in Squabbalogic’s ‘Carrie’ ) . And boy does she steal the show with her scintillating “ Show Off’ number which brings the house down.She is also exquisite in the rather strange ‘Monkey/Moon’ sequence. The Chaperone of the title was superbly played by Michele Lansdown .Lansdown has a strong presence – the Chaperone is played as world weary yet seductive and her main responsibility as she sees it is to get drunk. She stops the show with ‘As We Stumble Along’ her rousing big Leading Lady ‘anthem’ and has some glorious outfits to wear. As Robert Martin, the tall, dashing, debonair ,somewhat nervous groom, Brett O’Neill is superb as the leading man and seems to have stepped straight out of a 1920’s show. Towards the start of the show , his ‘Cold feets’ is at first a monologue, then a soft shoe duet which becomes a thrilling tap dance-off with friend George that stops the show .And I mustn’t forget the thrilling blindfold roller skating – is Robert ‘An Accident Waiting to Happen’ ? Second lead George , the best man at the wedding , was more than terrifically sung and danced by Ross Chisari , tossing off elegant double tours in ‘Cold Feets’ for starters and he sings well too. Blonde , ditzy chorine Kitty , who is claw full of ambition but unfortunately not too intelligent , is cutely , bubblingly played by Jamie Leigh Johnson .Tom Sharah was terrific as over the top Latin Lover Adolpho , somewhat a cross between Zorro and Rudolf Valentino with fake penciled mo , and swishing cloak. Sharah has great fun milking the role for all its worth .The almost stereotypical , cigar-chomping impresario, Feldzieg was most impressively played by Laurence Coy . The two pastry chefs (gangsters in disguise) were wickedly , delightfully played by Steven Kreamer and Richard Woodhouse. Underling ,the perfect butler (Chris Coleman )and elegant, harried rather vague hostess doddering Mrs Tottendale (Gael Ballantyne) were another tremendous pair. The jaunty, luscious Trix the Aviatrix was stunningly played by Monique Salle , who neatly steals the show in her on stage appearances and she also worked on the choreography for this show . A heartfelt ‘thank you ‘ to musical theatre for making life a little more bearable, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE is now regarded by some as a recent classic and it fits delightfully into the small space of the Hayes Theatre . A supremely clever , entertaining show that greatly appeals with its delicious humour. See it . As Man in Chair says, ‘it takes you to another world…away from the dreary horrors of the real world’ Running time 1 hour 50 (approx) no interval. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE plays the Hayes Theatre, Greenknowe Avenue Potts Pint until Sunday April 6. Running time 1 hour and 50 minutes without interval. For more about The Drowsy Chaperone, visit

Sydney Dance in Interplay

A most exciting triple bill here's my thoughts for artshub Lynne Lancaster Thursday 20 March, 2014 Presenting astonishing solos, a delightful male pas de deux, a terrific series of trios and quartets and fine ensemble work. Interplay L'Chaim. Image by Wendell Teodoro Interplay presents an exciting triple bill to celebrate Sydney Dance’s 45th year. The first two works of this performance in particular highlight the current ensemble of the dancers’ extraordinary technique. At times, they appear boneless. Each work demands a different atmosphere and style, yet all three complement each other wonderfully. The opening work, the world premiere of Bonachela’s ‘2 in D minor’ is dazzling and superb. Technically, the dancing is sensational, and talk about a sizzling, singing line! It is a mesmerising work that captivates. There is no real set, as such, just a black box and overhead light. Sometimes, the light creates squares on the floor. Musically, the performance is in effect divided into two, and features guest violinist, Veronique Serret, of the Australian Chamber Orchestra in a tremendous collaboration, interacting on stage with the dancers - possibly their puppet mistress and/or mirror - and Nick Wales’s electronic fragments. The dancers appear to move and breathe through the music, totally enmeshed in it . From the very beginning, this work is given a blistering performance. Bonachela uses ballet as his base, but with a twist. His fiendishly difficult work demands a laser-sharp line, fluid arms, incredibly soft jumps and ‘ballon’. There are some astonishing solos, a delightful and most unusual male pas de deux, a terrific series of trios and quartets and fine ensemble work with possible hints of Indian sculpture towards the end. In one solo, the dancer is like a fleet show pony with delicate feet and a fabulous soft jump. In another, the dancers mimic undulating sea creatures. Another viewing of Godani’s spiky, ‘Raw Models’, (last seen in 2011) reminds me of how unsettling it is. His snappy lighting adds to the sense of mystery. It is set in a confining, bleak, black box allowing us to concentrate on the dazzling, athletic dancing. 48nord’s electronic soundtrack throbs, crashes, beeps and hums. Godani’s very demanding choreography is curved yet fractured and angular at certain points. The opening sequence is spiky and spider-like, leading seamlessly to a fluid series of solos, duets and trios. The dancers are all in black costumes. Holly Doyle and Jessica Thompson have a fabulous sinuous duet and Andrew Crawford and Charmene Yap are stunning in their glittering duet which stops the show. The men’s duet ( Thomas Bradley and Cass Mortimer Eipper) is challenging and nifty too. Thomas Bradley has a mesmerizing frieze-like solo towards the end, demanding great suppleness and flexibility and which makes me think of Nijinsky’s ‘Faune’. It is a fractured, splintered work that is chilling, and rather overwhelming, with its powerful intensity. For me, the third work, ‘L’Chaim’ (‘To life’) is the least successful and somewhat disappointing. It asks questions about being a dancer and why professional dancers to what they do. However, it is almost messy, with an improvised feel. Trying to squeeze too much in, they unfortunately just miss the mark (although I must admit the audience, especially the younger members, do seem to greatly enjoy it). It begins suddenly, explosively and powerfully with the company going joyfully full-out, but, at one point, includes tearful sobbing. Zoe Coombs Marr is a disembodied voice (in some ways like an artistic or rehearsal director) asking various intensely probing questions such as: ‘Who’s the youngest?’; ‘Do you have a word for what you’re doing now?’; ‘What is your higher purpose in this dance?’ Breathless, the dancers attempt to answer as best they can while in the middle of dancing and keeping up with the rest of the ensemble (very tricky!) In some ways, this perhaps makes it similar to Ekman’s ‘Cacti’. Obarzanek’s choreography combines very difficult, athletic contemporary dance movements with Israeli folk dance steps and also some everyday movements, creating a unique, quirky vocabulary, with constant shifts in direction, speed and dynamics. Emphasis is placed on rhythm and percussion – hand claps, stamping - and in the infectious folk dance music. Coombs Marr eventually makes her way through the audience and to the stage, and the end is a joyous finale of group acceptance and the love of dance. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Interplay Sydney Dance Company Choreography: Rafael Bonachela, Jacopo Godani, Gideon Obarzanek Costume design: Rafael Bonachela, Harriet Oxley Costumes and Lighting: Jacopo Godani Stage and Lighting: Benjamin Cisterne Music: JS Bach, 48nord Commissioned score: Ulrich Mueller and Siegfried Roessert Violinist: Veronique Serret Composer: Stefan Gregory Stage and lighting design: Benjamin Cisterne Writer: David Woods Actor: Zoe Coombs Marr Sydney Theatre, The Wharf, Hickson Rd 15 March – 5 April Canberra Theatre Centre 10 – 12 April Southbank Theatre, Melbourne