Friday, 25 July 2014

Sport For Jove's A Doll's House

This is a splendid production SPORT FOR JOVE A DOLL’S HOUSE REGINALD THEATRE SEYMOUR CENTRE JULY 2014 This is a stunning extremely relevant production that speaks to today . It is set right on Christmas in 1878 and performed in period costume . Cook’s deft direction of the text utilises a fresh , newly vernacular translation and it works brilliantly . Costume and set designer Hugh O’Connor has has been inspired to chose and place items of period furniture (armchairs, chaise longue, piano, hatstand, coal stove) on the small stage , to create the illusion of a Norwegian upper-middle class home of the era , which are backed by an opaque blue-lit wall ( glorious , delicate and atmospheric lighting by Gavan Swift). Why is it that a woman asserting her opinions or ideas is still regarded as counting for less than a man’s opinion? And a single woman of middle-age is regarded as ‘ tragic’ and that women are still generally defined by titles such as ‘ mother’ or ‘wife’ before we accept them as people in their own right? Nora (Matilda Ridgway) is the seemingly perfect doll-like wife of Torvald Helmer (Douglas Hansell), a lawyer about to become a top merchant banker. Social success is theirs with three perfect children and the sturdy, loyal Helen (Annie Byron) to help cushion domestic hassles .Material success is about to fall into their lap. What could go wrong? Nora at the beginning of the play is regarded as a spendthrift, patronised and indulged by Torvald. The coming of Krogstad reveals to the audience that it was she who saved her husband and family when, unable to cope with the pressures of work, his mental collapse threatened them all. It is revealed that Nora borrowed money from Krogstad to fund a health-restoring year away and has been paying it back since through scrimping and saving in her housekeeping money. That she forged her father’s signature on the contract is something that drastically comes back to haunt her. She, in kindness, persuades Torvald to give Kristine a job at the bank without realising that this will result in Krogstad being sacked to make way for her. Beautiful, dewy Ridgway is brilliant in capturing the contrast and depth of Nora so that the transition seems perfectly natural .At first all seems a Dickensian fairytale happy family – but is it? When she madly, almost hysterically, performs the Tarantella under husband Torvald ’s direction we see the marriage shattering and her life unravelling through the imagery of the wild dance. We can touch the grief, long before the play’s conclusion and Nora’s shocking ( to some ) epiphany. Douglas Hansell is terrific as Torvald, lively and intriguing yet a man hopelessly trapped in his times and social position. He seeks to won and control Nora regarding her as another possession. He is blind to Nora’s predicament and when she turns on him in the final confrontation scene his world comes crashing down. The final long scene was played with great intensity . For once we see the children, who are absolutely adorable and enchantingly played by Bill and Thom Blake. Slimy Nils Krogstad – as portrayed by Gooley - was also terrific in Cook’s production. His nervous tension, energy, and fear combined with Uriah Heep unctuous energy made him charismatic and to a degree sympathetic especially with his unexpected salvation towards the end. He delicately treads the fine line between menace and victim of life and circumstance Daper , elegant Barry French brings sweet sadness and credibility to the role of Dr Rank , Torvald’s old friend who is secretly in love with Nora .Kristine,Nora’s old friend , who arrives on Christmas Eve with just a small bag and thin coat , is now a downtrodden penniless widow , drooping and stoic and terrifically played by tall , dark Francesca Savige. It is Nora and other women’s lack of freedom to move – economically, emotionally, physically- that still reverberates today . As Everywoman Nora insists “I think I am a human being before anything else. I don’t care what other people say. I don’t care what people write in books. I need to think for myself.” Running time 2 hours 50 mins (approx) This tremendous production by Sport for Jove of Ibsen’s ‘ A Doll’s House’ runs at the Reginald Theatre Seymour Centre 19 July – 2 August 2014 .

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Who Knows

A terrific production .Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide Sydney premiere of this originally Tasmanian play went off with a bang and was hugely enjoyable, cast and audience having a delightful time. Whovians can spend hours gleefully noting all the Doctor Who allusions and in-jokes – the play is littered with them.
Director Kyle Stephens and his small cast have done a sterling job in bringing this fun play to life. The script is very cleverly written and in some ways structured like a two part story from the early years of the Doctor. There is a major cliffhanger at interval .
Originally premiered in 2009, McIntyre set himself the task of using a quote from every single Doctor Who story and it is great fun. The play has several NSW and local references, – it would be interesting to compare with the Canadian version that has just been completed.
The set very cleverly conveys the ‘just outside a conference ‘ feel in Act 1, and in Act 2 we are in a secret room with a cage and what could be a TARDIS. And I liked the Dalek!
WHO KNOWS tells the story of Russell Lambert (no relation to Verity?), a downtrodden, now unemployed ‘loser’ ( or is he? ) who is awkwardly celebrating his thirtieth birthday and is passionate about the BBC/ABC show Doctor Who. On the eve of the Doctor Who National Convention– and uncovering the threat of a pair of mad dastardly villains plotting their domination of the world as we know it – Russell learns that you don’t need to have two hearts to be courageous but it sure helps.
The play also deals with Russell’s typical male fear of acknowledgement and commitment to his girlfriend Sara, who is frustrated at his insistence on keeping their relationship secret . We also see his troubled family past , his
uneasy relationship with his brother Peter, and his father. It all ends happily – or does it ?
A slightly ridiculous highlight of the play is in Act 2 when Russell, Fraser and Peter are kidnapped and locked in a basement, and the two Who fans deal with this unlikely arrangement by asking each other what happened in “The Visitation” (including obligatory delay to discuss how much they hated Adric) while Peter has a crisis attack about the fact that he doesn’t understand a word .
Russell is brilliantly played by Josh Shipton, trying to look like Tom Baker, with a captivating gravelly deep voice .He has a wonderfully mobile , expressive face and a powerful presence. We see how Russell grows and changes emotionally during the show. He channels his inner David Tennant particularly in Act 2 when trying to convince Hilda to stop the proposed carnage .
Amy Fisher is tremendous as stunning Sara, Russell’s girlfriend. Bright and resourceful she is also athletic , clambering through air vents and good at self defence. Her appearance in Act 2 through the air vent in a glittering electric blue slinky catsuit stops the show.
As mad wheelchair bound Hilda, the mysterious founder of the Doctor Who Fan Club of NSW , who wallows in the past glory of the act that she once was an extra in “The Underwater Menace” (third fish person from the right) Carmen Lysiak is splendidly chilling . She has a frightening Davros like monologue in Act 2.
Tall, dark and handsome Edward Ransom is splendid as Peter, Russell’s brother on holiday here in Sydney from London. The family bickering and guilt scenes were tremendously played.
Cute young, possibly gay and slightly weird Fraser, with allusions to Patrick Traughton’s recorder playing, who dresses in full kilt for most of the time and has a crush on Russell , was delightfully played by Simon Lee.
Roger was tremendously played by Yiss Mill , the fake beard in Act 2 sort of making him look like Roger Delgado’s The Master. Or should that be John Simm? Is he intentionally evil,or is he really one of the ’last believers’?
Whovians will love it and non Doctor Who fans will also enjoy this production . Go on, find the sonic screwdriver, have another jelly baby , sit back , relax and enjoy .
Running time 2 hours including one interval
WHO KNOWS by Paul McIntryre is playing at the King Street Theatre, corner King and Bray street, Newtown until  12th July..
QR Code - Take this post Mobile!

Sherlock Holmes ; A Final Adventure- Genesian Theatre

A most interesting and fun play at the Genesian . Here's what I said for Sydney Arts Guide
Enter the 1893 Victorian world of 221B Baker Street , a cold and foggy London, and Sherlock Holmes and Dr .John Watson. Conan Doyle’s stories continue to be enormously popular and now we have both ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Elementary’ on our TV screens.
Directed with a deft touch by Michael Heming, the play is performed with great relish by the cast and mightily enjoyed by the audience. Dietz first wrote his adaptation, a re-working of the 1899 Gillette play, back in the mid-2000’s, even winning the Hugo Award in 2007.
The fast paced plot niftily combines all the elements that Holmes fans have come to expect: suspense, intrigue and incisive ,witty dialogue, It combines elements of ‘ A Scandal in Bohemia’ and ‘The Final Problem’ with some neat changes and twists and added romance.
The show follows Holmes and Watson , racing against time, as they ‘assist’ the King of Bohemia in recovering an incriminating photograph that threatens to destroy the king’s impending marriage and thus the union of two great powers of Europe. Can Holmes do it? Holmes discovers that his nemesis Professor James Moriarty is also involved in the blackmailing scheme, setting the stage for a dramatic final showdown between the two mortal enemies. It opens with the news of Holmes’ ‘death’ and includes some very tense confrontation scenes between Homes and Moriarty , a very melodramatic curtain to take us to interval and an explosively powerful scene in a gasworks. Mrs Hudson , Dr Watson’s wife Mary ,Inspector Lestrade and the Baker Street Irregulars are mentioned briefly but not seen and there is no violin playing. Holmes affecionados (aka ‘Sherlockians’ ) will have great fun picking up various quotes included from other stories (eg ‘The Empty House ‘, ‘The Naval Treaty’etc).
Debbie Smith’s set design eloquently and efficiently evokes cluttered 221B with an armchair here, Landseer like paintings on the wall, a wax cylinder /gramophone .. (no VR in bullet holes though) It also allows for fluid cinematic scene changes such as to the gasworks. Michael Schell’s lighting is very atmospheric and effective.
The show is narrated by Dr John Watson , Holmes’ stalwart friend and companion , excellently played by John Grinston who gives a well rounded, intelligent performance full of warmth and concern.
John Willis–Richards as Holmes is superb, generally playing him as very dapper , elegant and finicky. We feel his ennui , delight in his battle of wits with Moriarty . He has a luminous, incisive presence. Along with Watson we decry his cocaine addiction. Willis-Richards channels Basil Rathbone somewhat and also to a degree the great Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch . He is  catlike and a great master of disguise and accents. The whole time it is like a chess game – he is a step or two ahead of his opponents. The iconic Reichenbach Falls scenes are effectively done, with Watson’s narration extremely poignant.
With his bushy caterpillar eyebrows Marty O’Neill however as Professor Moriarty while quite good just falls short I am afraid and doesn’t match the famous descriptions or Paget drawings of the ‘Napoleon of Crime ‘ – he’s not stooped , no oscillating head . He plays Moriarty more like a Southern colonel ,and was not coldly menacing enough (although he certainly tried) .I did like his dapper, tres elegant looming first appearance in Holmes’ memory (very effective use of a screen) and the way the rose visual theme was carried through.
The tall, hulking ,pompous King of Bohemia was delightfully played by Mark Nagle straight out of the Paget illustrations. He is in some ways portrayed as Ruritanian and very silly, but still imposing His melodramatic first appearance is a little over the top.
Leading diva Irene Adler, the only woman to outwit Holmes, was scrumptiously played by Emma Medbury. Coolly scheming and intelligent she is also beautiful – no wonder she impresses Holmes and has men falling at her feet in raptures. The love scenes were delicately handled.
Spoiler alert! In this version Godfrey Norton is actually a dastardly villain, James Larrabeee, in cahoots with Morarty, Handsome Tom Atkins plays him as smooth urbane and ultra sophisticated. His spitfire sister Madge , often disguised as a maid or other servant, was very well played by Bec Piplica. And Marley Erueti is great as Sid Prince the safecracker as well as other supporting roles. other minor supporting male roles.
A very enjoyable performance . Come Watson, the game is afoot! Running time just under two hours (approx) including interval.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE is playing the Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent Street, Sydney until Saturday 9th August.
QR Code - Take this post Mobile!
Use this unique QR (Quick Response) code with your smart device. The code will save the url of this webpage to the device for mobile sharing and storage.
Download the PDF FILE for this page

ACO PIano quintets

a glorious concert here's my Sydney Arts Guide review   This was a superb concert, with the playing energetic and featuring a glorious, warm tone. The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s special guest artist was the  internationally renowned Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen.
First up, the Lutoslawksi ‘ Subito’ , the composer’s last work , featured Satu Vanska in a firecracker showpiece .It had an electric , explosive opening that was shattering and sharp. The piano as played by Jumppanen is tempestuous and tumultuous ,in wild ,spiky dialogue with the strings which snap and snarl or, sometimes, sing. It is a sharp, fractured piece.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor Opus 57 , is one of his best-known chamber works. Like most piano quintets, it is written for piano and string quartet (two violins, viola and cello). Written just before the Nazis invaded the USSR, Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet is a harrowing and dramatic musical premonition of the coming horrors . The work is divided into five movements and usually performed as an ‘abstract’ piece .It can be regarded as one of Shostakovich’s ‘public’ pieces and won him the Stalin prize.
The opening Prelude featured lush lyrical rippling piano that soared and was exuberant .There is a shimmering dialogue between piano and quartet. The second movement ( Fugue) evokes the wandering ‘Dimitri’ motif as heard in Mussorgsky’s ‘Boris Godunov’ and has been described as ‘an expression of endless suffering’. Eventually it stumbles to an end. The opening of the third movement was haunting with the strings sounding like woodwind .There is a melancholy ‘singing’ feel‘ .The Intermezzo had a dreamlike elegiac feel .The fourth movement ( Scherzo Allegretto ) sounded like a wild, spiky dance culminating in a fight . The final Fifth movement ‘Allegretto,’ had distinctive pizzicato playing by the strings .It was melancholy in tone yet lyrical. The piano at times had jaunty ripples , catapulting up and down the keyboard while the quartet acted as support.
After interval came a delightful surprise.Christopher Moore spoke about his viola and we heard an arrangement of a Brahms clarinet sonata for viola and piano. It had lyrical, singing viola and Jumppanen on piano was feverishly passionate in his energetic playing .
The main work however of the second half was the Dvorak Piano Quintet No 2 in A Major Op 81. Bright and melodious and regarded as ‘one of the greatest pieces of chamber music in the canon’ , first performed in combines Dvorak’s distinctive style of expressive lyricism with elements of Czech folk music. The piece was given an emphatic , impassioned performance. The first movement begins with a deliciously lyrical cello theme over piano accompaniment which is followed by a series of elaborate transformations .There are sudden changes from sharp and spiky back to lyrical and poignant and back to wild and dance like .The viola introduces the second theme which is another lyrical melody, but much busier than the cello’s stately line. Both themes are developed extensively by the first and second violins and the movement closes with a free recapitulation and an exuberant coda.
The second movement is marked ‘ Dumka’ a form that Dvořák also used in his ‘Dumky’ piano trio which features an exquisite piano theme separated by fast, happy interludes. It is exuberant at times with a Spanish feel , rippling piano and tempestuous swirls .The third movement is labelled ‘Furiant ‘ (a fast Bohemian folk dance ). It has a rippling, shimmering feel and superb piano playing . The cello and viola alternate a rhythmic pizzicato underneath the main tune of the first violin. The slower trio section of the scherzo is also expanded from the ‘Furiant ‘ theme, with the piano and violin alternating between the main melodies. There are many violin flurries. The fast Bohemian folk dance is repeated and the movement concludes very briskly.The Finale is delicate and star like with the piano birdlike at times trilling a repeated melody. The violin leads the theme into a fugue .There are some very melancholy sections leading to a frenetic, very powerful ending.
The ACO’s Piano Quintets concert plays the City Recital Hall between the 11th and 16th July and then tours nationally. Running time 2 hours (approx) including interval.
QR Code - Take this post Mobile!
Use this unique QR (Quick Response) code with your smart device. The code will save the url of this webpage to the device for mobile sharing and storage.
Download the PDF FILE for this page
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


This set the theatre alight .Here's my Mario review as on artshub



Blake Bowden gives a riveting performance that sets the theatre alight and has all the audience swooning.
A man. A microphone. A piano. The voice.
Directed by Chris Parker, this sensational show is an intimate cabaret-style celebration of the life and music of Italian American popular movie and opera star, Mario Lanza.  
The set is mostly bare except for a mic and a piano, some clever atmospheric lighting and a most effective use of shadows. In some ways it is similar, but also quite different to ‘Who Killed Mario Lanza?’ that I saw at Riverside a couple of years ago.  
In a jukebox musical style we follow Lanza’s life from scholarship at Tanglewood, his military service, rocky marriage, womanising, drinking, yo–yo weight problems, diva behaviour while filming The Student Prince and, of course, his popular hits.        
Tall, thin and toothily handsome with a glorious smile, Blake Bowden as Lanza exudes the aura of a clean-cut American kid of the 1950s. And can he sing!! (Bowden was recently seen as Lieutenant Cable in the Sydney production ofSouth Pacific). He effortlessly ranges from full classical opera, for example in ‘Your Tiny Hand is Frozen’; to Rodolfo from Puccini’s La Bohème, here sung in English, wittily flirting with a female audience member as his Mimi; to popular hits such as ‘Mama’, ‘Grenada’, ‘The Loveliest Night of the Year’, ‘With a Song in  My Heart’ and ‘Be my Love’. His is a glorious, riveting performance that sets the theatre alight and has all the audience swooning.  
Satirical musical wizard Phil Scott (of ‘Wharf Revue’ fame among other things) brilliantly plays all the other male characters including Stravinsky, Meyer, assorted voice and exercise coaches, radio announcers, theatre managers  and Mafioso. He performs brilliantly on the piano too, dealing fluidly with all the rapid style and genre changes at the flick of a page. He has great fun with the numerous costume changes.
The ending is perhaps a bit rushed, but very wittily done. Scott attempts to resolve the assorted rumours about Lanza’s death – was he poisoned by the Mafia? You decide.
For the glorious finale we are treated to a superb rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ from ‘Turandot’ that gives you goosebumps. You could hear a pin drop, before tumultuous applause explodes.
Rating: 4½ out of 5 stars
Conceived and performed by Blake Bowden and Phil Scott
Written by Phil Scott
Directed by Chris Parker
Hayes Theatre, Potts Point
9-12 July 

Pinchgut's The Chimney Sweep by Salieri

this was sensational !  loved it here is my rave for artshub  Pinchgut's production of Salieri's romp matches joyous, witty fun with exquisite, enchanting music.
The Chimney Sweep
Pinchgut Opera’s The Chimney Sweep by Antonio Salieri is a naughtily delicious, sensational production with magnificent playing and singing. As their first show for the year Pinchgut’s surprisingly hot and steamy rendition of Salieri’s rarely heard The Chimney Sweep delights both musically and visually. The team weave their magic mightily, redeeming the reputation of the man who's suffered so much at the hand of Peter Shaffer’s 1984 Amadeus.
Superbly directed by Mark Gaal and accompanied by one of Australia’s finest group of musicians, the Orchestra of the Antipodes, the magnificent ensemble cast are outstanding. Led by Maestro Dr Erin Helyard, they entrance and enthrall as they act out Salieri’s delightful romp. The show is a ‘singspiel’, so there’s quite a lot of dialogue. It is sung in English with surtitles above the stage.
The show also has a moral aspect to it, as it is partly about music and money–especially the way in which one can be used to obtain the other. It also parodies the Italian and German opera styles of the day. The ridiculous almost fairy tale plot can be summarised as follows: Volpino (Stuart Haycock), a chimney sweep, wants to marry Lisel (Alexandra Oomens), a cook. So they can become rich, Volpino decides to fleece Mr Bear (David Wolozsko) and Mr Wolf (Christopher Saunders), the respective lovers of Mrs Hawk (Amelia Farrugia), and her stepdaughter Miss Hawk (Janet Todd), by persuading the two foolish and vain ladies to fall for his charms. Posing as a travelling music teacher, he deftly manipulates all sides against each other, winning against all odds at the end. Various subplot twists see the other servants also ending up bettering their masters. In an intriguing twist, Gaal has the maid Fränzl played by a man. All of this is just an excuse for Salieri’s glorious music and absolutely exquisite singing.
The main kitchen set with its huge yawning fireplace as designed by Emma Kingsbury is reminiscent in some ways of a Medieval morality play. The warm wooden colours are continued through some of the exquisite beautifully detailed costumes.    
Stuart Haycock is terrific as roguish Volpino–his names translates as ‘Fox'–full of assertive business and with a captivating Italian accent. He sings enchantingly with an easy charm in a role that artfully blends romantic lead with comic foil. His chosen feisty and outspoken Lisel is delightfully inhabited by Alexandra Oomens, with the vocal charms of a soubrette. That the two are made for each other, Volpino makes clear from the start.
Christopher Saunders and David Woloszko are the unfortunate Mr Wolf and Mr Bear and make a great double act. Saunders is a very watchable and impressive comic actor, relishing every moment in the limelight and excelling in his ‘storm’ aria. Woloszko is a pompous round red ball, stealing chocolates, ‘revelling in some cuddly campery’ and showing off his refined, magnificent bass. He has a showstopping aria about his mounting debts in Act 2.  
As the not too bright Hawks, Amelia Farrugia and Janet Todd are comic delights and vocally superb. Their Act 1 rival sing-off in the Italian and German styles is a riot. Farrugia plunges into the  predatory aspect of the role with delight and employs her rich soprano and dazzling coloratura to great effect. Todd is, perhaps, even funnier for being a trifle more understated, and is hilarious in the very demanding show stopping aria in Act 1’s ‘music lesson’ where she ends up naughtily straddling the harpsichord in a highly lascivious manner. She’s spot on vocally and her surly, pouting demeanour with huge eyes hides a razor-sharp vocal technique. Her aria bemoaning women’s adherence to fashion in support of male oppression is delightfully ahead of its time, while her revenge aria, where she explosively threatens her rival, brings the house down again.
David Hidden as Tomaso, leader of the sweeps, plus a crowd of exuberant apprentice chimney sweeps from the Sydney Children’s Choir, make a most exciting, dramatic and spectacular entrance through the audience to help Volpino and put a massive kitchen fire out (all is right in the end).  
It is all about the art of finding Mr Right and deceiving and seducing everyone in sight while having fun and games of the very best kind, one in which murky undertones are only acceptable when love becomes a commodity. If you fancy a little light operatic relief and joyous witty fun with exquisite enchanting music, then Pinchgut Opera’s production of Salieri’s The Chimney Sweep is for you.
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
The Chimney Sweep
Pinchgut Opera
Orchestra of the Antipodes
Music: Antonio Salieri
Libretto: Leopold Auenbrugger 
Conductor: Dr Erin Helyard
Director: Mark Gaal