Sunday, 19 July 2015

English National Opera The Pirates of Penzance

Much fun - a wonderful very traditional version here's my Sydney Arts Gudie review Tarantara ! Tarantara! Yes, it is the wonderful English National Opera in their wickedly delightful version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ever popular THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE directed by Mike Leigh. Leigh ‘s film is a vibrant and essentially traditional production, and is a treat for all of us Gilbert and Sullivan fans . Musically it is glorious under the magnificent dynamic baton of maestro David Parry. The orchestra is splendid and the singing heavenly ( a CD please! ). What I particularly noticed was the attention paid to very precise elocution and diction, and a crucial factor in deciphering Gilbert’s tongue twisting lyrics. One of the ‘big three’ of the evergreen ‘G& S’ canon of delightful operettas, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE has a silly whimsical plot of love, pirates, police, possible deception and a twisted paradox. It is hugely enjoyable fun that tempts audiences to sing along and dance rather surreptitiously in the aisles. The set designs are bright with very simple lines and panels of colour- featuring plenty of aquatic blues. The show opens with a telescope like effect to reveal the pirate ship, which then shifts for assorted scene changes. Sliding panels are used at times. Costumes are from the Victorian era. Mabel and her bevy of sisters wear bustles. Frederic at the opening of Act 2 is wearing a dinner suit. Major General Stanley has a spiffing tremendous red army uniform and plumed helmet and a very elegant velvet dressing gown. There is a huge pendant photo of Queen Victoria that descends when the Pirates are advised to yield. Robert Murray plays our hero Frederic, ‘the slave of duty’. He looks a little old for the part- Frederic is a mere twenty one years old- but he cuts a handsome figure and what a voice- glorious! His duet with Mabel in Act 2:- ‘Stay, Fred’ric, stay” … “Ah, leave me not to pine” … “Oh, here is love, and here is truth” was ravishing , and the ‘A Paradox ‘ was a lot of fun. Claudia Boyle played the part of Mabel. She was pert, pretty, kittenish and vivacious. She came across as being a trifle brittle–and possibly a trifle screechy in her high notes- nevertheless she gave a tremendous, delightful performance and she handled the coloratura fireworks marvellously . The ladies chorus of Major General Stanley’s daughters were very impressive. It was interesting to see that Leigh doesn’t give Mabel a spectacular, big entrance in Act 1 but rather gets her to step out from the back of her chorus of sisters. Rebecca de Pont Davies was tremendous as Ruth, the gallant ‘piratical maid of all work’, characterised by a slight limp , a hearing trumpet and protruding eyes. Joshua Bloom played the part of our splendid Pirate King with relish, presenting his characters in a cartoonish/storybook way with a black Pirate hat and an imposing coat with epaulets ( no parrot). was tremendously sung with enormous relish The assorted motley crew of Pirates were great fun. As Frederick points out, they are not sinister and dangerous, but rather soft hearted- ‘They are all noblemen who have gone wrong.’ Jonathon Lemalu played the part of the Sergeant of Police with a glorious swirly curly beard. His lament that ‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one’ was fabulous and the men’s police chorus were excellent. Andrew Shore was a delightful, imposing presence as Major General Stanley. Highlights were his delivery of the introductory patter song and the great sleepwalking song- ‘I thought I heard a noise’. A wonderful time was had by all… Come friends who plough the sea … Running time- 2 hours without interval. This wonderful English National Opera production of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, distributed by Potential Films, is screening at selected cinemas from Saturday 11th July. Running time – 2 hours ( no interval ) The wonderful ENO The Pirates of Penzance screens at selected cinemas as of July 11 For more about Opera On Screen : ENO The Pirates of Penzance, visit )

Pinchgut's Bajazet

A most unsettling , yet fantastic musically,performance .Here's my artshub review Directed by Thomas de Mallet Burgess, this latest offering from the wonderful Pinchgut Opera is – as one has come to expect from the company – gloriously played and full of absolutely splendid singing. What one particularly notices upon entry are the rather eerie skeletons in the gallery, emphasizing the sinister feel of the opera. The set, with its white bookshelves, scattered chairs and a fallen chandelier gives the impression of a harried war time atmosphere. (Though in Act 2 order seems restored, with large red curtains hung and the chandelier repaired and rehung.) Pinchgut’s production is performed with a relatively small cast of six, including two counter tenors (playing Tamerlano and Prince Andronico). The entire cast perform with passion and commitment, and sing superbly. Musically, Bajazet is lush and ravishing. There are some long, extended and difficult show-stopping arias in both halves, delightfully sung. The complicated plot is full of love, hate, revenge, power and hidden passion, though I found it rather static at times. Poor tortured Bajazet, deeply torn and troubled and conquered by Tamerlano, was splendidly performed by rugged Hadleigh Adams. Bajazet’s daughter Asteria – an excellent performance by Emily Edmonds – first appears clad in a rather tattered gown. She is proud and fiery yet trapped in a situation beyond her control. Threated by Tamerlano, she succumbs in order to attempt to save her father, but things go wrong. Prince Andronico, in love with Asteria, was excellently played and sung by the handsome Russell Harcourt, a counter-tenor in fine voice. Princess Irene, promised to Tamerlano in marriage, was given a commanding, wily and determined performance by the regal Helen Sherman. Her arias brought the house down. Conqueror of the world, the megalomaniac mass murderer Tamerlano, was energetically played by Christopher Lowrey (also a counter tenor). He was in fabulous voice, sinister yet fascinating. Sara Macliver as Idaspe, a ‘close friend’ of Andronico, was extremely impressive as well as severe in her black costume. Under the elegant, graceful baton of maestro Erin Helyard, the Orchestra of the Antipodes gave a refined, superlative performance on their period instruments. A most intriguing performance of this rarely seen opera. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Pinchgut Opera's Bajazet Music: Antonio Vivaldi Libretto: Agostino Piovene Director: Thomas de Mallet Burgess Designer: Alicia Clements Lighting Designer: Matthew Marshall Orchestra of the Antipodes conducted by Erin Helyard Cast: Hadleigh Adams, Christopher Lowery, Emily Edmonds, Russell Harcourt, Helen Sherman and Sara McLiver Running time: 3 hours 20 mins (approx) including interval City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney 4,5,7 and 8 July 2015

Bangarra's Lore

A glorious show here's what I said for Dance Informa Sydney Opera House. July 4, 2015. Two visually stunning, marvellously danced works—both world premieres—were presented in the latest thrilling programme by Bangarra Dance Theatre. A double bill under the umbrella title of Lore, this programme featured “dance stories of land and sea.” Both works displayed the trademark Bangarra style, which includes a combination of contemporary dance and Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander traditional dances. The opening work for the programme was I.B.I.S. (“Island Board of Industry Services”) choreographed by Deborah Brown and Waangenga Blanco. Exuberant, joyous and fun, it followed a day in an I.B.I.S. shop and celebrated community in a series of vignettes. Choreographically, there were sinuous, darting movements and fluid ripples, lots of wonderful slinky manoeuvring, unusual lifts and partnering, and a demand for a very flexible back. The tropical soundscape included waves and seabirds. There was a tightly-choreographed short sequence (perhaps hints of a Meryl Tankard influence?) for a line of women with shopping baskets, which was contrasted with a very hot, sexy and steamy men’s dance. There was also another wonderful women’s segment where they were waiting, silhouetted and stifling in the heat, sighing when the doors open and the air conditioning begins to work. Mention must also be made of the sardine tin and turtle sequences. The stock had a secret life of its own once the store was closed. Bangarra’s ‘I.B.I.S.’ for ‘Lore.’ Photo by Jeff Tan. Elma Kris was featured as the shopkeeper in I.B.I.S. and then as the spirit of the Sheoak in Sheoak, the second half of the double bill choreographed by Frances Rings. Sheoak was far darker than its previous work, and emphasised the Aboriginal/Torres Straight Islander connection to the land and environment. Acting as a plea for conservation and preservation, it noted the need to protect the ancient languages, customs and lore of the indigenous peoples of Australia. For this work, David Page created a haunting electronic/squeaky musical score that included beeps, pulses, throbs, hums and chanting. Jacob Nash’s eloquent, simple set designs included sculpturally hung rope that became roots/tentacles of the tree at times, or even a curved, trapping skeleton of branches. Here, Rings’ choreography was outstanding, as always. There were some unusual lifts, some challenging jumps and a wild, yet controlled, stormy atmosphere. The work opened with dancers undulating like spiders, as if under water. They were a writhing sculptural mass, perhaps of an eerie giant tree trunk at one point. At another point, a woman became like a wounded bird covered in oil. And another sequence featured a white shroud-like costume that was framed around the edges with lights that seemed at first to dance by themselves (like stars) until the dancers finally emerged from the fabric. Sheoak concluded as the company built a lattice of branches to protect Kris, symbolising the cultural heritage under threat. As always, Jennifer Irwin’s costumes were superb for Sheoak, ranging from almost skeletal, black-and-white body-hugging leotards to traditional outfits. I.B.I.S., on the other hand, featured women in bright, floral-printed 1950’s A-line skirts with Plumeria blossoms in their hair. Karen Norris’ lighting for both works was nuanced, dramatic and subtle. Overall, Lore was a glorious performance, a visual feast marvellously danced. Bangarra’s Lore Tour is coming to Canberra Theatre Centre on July 9-11, Merringong Theatre Company’s IPAC in Wollongong on July 23-25, Brisbane’s QPAC on August 7-15 and Arts Centre Melbourne on August 28–September 5. For more information, visit

NT LIve Man and Superman

NT LIVE MAN AND SUPERMAN ( GEORGE BERNARD SHAW ) The latest in the terrific NT Live series of screenings , this is a long , rather unwieldy and verbose musing and analysis by Shaw on morals, marriage,money , class structure and the position of women in society with an extraordinary dominating ,dazzling bravura performance by Ralph Fiennes as John Tanner .It was first produced in 1905 at the Court Theatre in Sloane Square and was a huge success . Under the seamless assured direction of Goodwin this play is magnificently performed and given a scintilating energetic presentation by its large cast . There is tremendous ensemble performance and great work by all the many leads. It has in places been updated to now ( note the use of mobile phones for example) .Christopher Dram’s designs are splendid – wonderful clean clear window lined offices , a glorious hanging garden , rocky cliffs etc and the massive revolve is sometimes featured.Mozart is used to great effect in the scene changes . Costumes are roughly very tres chic 1950’s ( or retro) but eighteenth century for the lengthy ‘ Don Juan in Hell ‘ scene ( which is often excised ) . The entire cast is splendid but it is Ralph Fiennes as John Tanner’s play .Tanner , a rich dashing radical bachleor playboy, is devastatingly critical of himself and society . Driven to distraction by his friends obsession with marriage and having to flee from the attentions of heiress Ann Whitefield,now his ward, Tanner arrives in Spain and is captured by bandits.. In Tanners dream , he morphs into Don Juan and Anne becomes Donna Anna (from Mozart's Don Giovanni) and there is a a lengthy philosophical conversation in Hell. ( Which is delineated by clean , clear cold lines of the sparse set and a lift) . They encounter the Devil himself and Anna's father the Commendatore, as in the opera killed by Don Juan . Fiennes , bearded with a moustache, is a whirlwind dynamo from his first breathless entrance . Charismatic and determined he apears to have sloping shoulders and a strange ,springy walk. Fiennes gives a dazzling, hypnotic performance and handles the long monologues superbly. His chaffeur , Henry Straker, is delightfully portrayed by Elliot Barnes- Worrell .And I love the white Jaguare convertible! Our leading ingenue ( ‘heroine’? ) , Anne Whitefield , dark with huge eyes, is tremendously played by Indira Varma in a luminous performance.Anne is shown as fiesty , determined and questioning . learning to think for herself – or is she ? Her mother Mrs Whitefield is given a very stylish performance by tall ,blonde, elegant Christine Kavanagh. As lovelorn bandit leader Mendozza and the slinky Devil Tim McMullan , darkly swarthily good looking ,has a glorious time and plays both parts with enormous relish. As the Devil he has a spectacular entrance with red lighting for emphasis and especially as the Devil has a pantherine grace . Violet ( Faye Castelow ) is pert and pretty with short curly hair . Castelow gives a radiant performance and her role is used by Shaw to examine the position of women’s unsettled reputation in society , with her ‘secret’ husband ... Nic holas Prevost has much fun as distinguished elegant lawyer Roebuck Ramsden and the Commander ( in white with wings ) in the Don Juan scene . Young , handsome Frederick Kingsley shines as poor lovesick Octavius Robinson desperately in love with Anne Whitefield .Corey Johnson huffs, blusters and bluffs as grumpy very class conscious American Hector Malone , while his son , secretly married to Violet , is terrifically played by Nick Hendrix in a tense standoff , Shaw creating another fiery class and society strata discussion – but eventually , we gather , all will somehow end rather well for them . It all ends gaily , with more rants from Tanner and red herrings uncovered - except for Robinson and in fact Tanner who ruefully accepts that he has been caught by Anne . A terrific performance of this Shaw play. Running time – 3 hours 50 mins (approx) including one interval and feature interview during that interval with director Simon Goodwin NT LIve has encore screenings at the moment at selected cinemas

Pet peeve - mobile phones at shows

hi folks a pet peeve of mine is the use of mobile phones during a performance is it anyone else's ? WHY do people turn on their mobile phone and use them in the middle of a show? Especially as announements have usually already been made about 'please turn off your mobile phones' . Why do people have to be so instantly aware and connected to the outside world if they are at a performance, which is what they should be concentrating on? Ok , yes I know it can happen to anyone , that you think you have turned the phone off but you haven't , accidents are accepted ,but when audience members turn on their phones ,use them and take photos .. 1. It is rude to the performers 2.It is distracting to other audience members and - 3 - it can be quite dangerous actiually as the phones can interfere with the tech equipment of the show and bring the show to a crashing hault for days! also what about copyright !? (eg at the Opera House just for one example) Lynne