Monday, 24 October 2016

Untamed - Sydney Dance Company

This was totally brilliant . magnificent double bill will leave you breathless and stunned with awe at the superb performances. The brilliant Sydney Dance dancers excel themselves and are in top form.
Opening the program was Gabrielle Nankivell’s Wildebeest,  first seen in 2014 as part of New Breed.
Nankivell is based in South Australia. Darkly hypnotic and haunting, Wildebeest seeks to explore the hidden ‘beast’ of the dancers. The dancers reveal various aspects of the beast – at times they are like Ents in the forest , or a startled feral creature. Sometimes they all run herd-like.
A lone beast is fragmented and altered each time it makes contact with a nearby group. Nankivell’s choreography is very demanding and athletic. It is also very detailed with assorted avian and creature-like details. They fly, they strut, they explore their surroundings and nervously sniff the air …Some of the slick ensemble choreography is machine like, or like clogs interlocking, as the dancers trace the evolution from animal to human to machine/robot and even beyond.
Bernhard Knauer has a compelling opening solo looming out of the darkness – is he a just born creature finding his feet? – at times he is like a controlled puppet, other times he is explosively exploring space.
Cass Mortimer Eipper intently prowled and sinuously coiled and stretched like a large cat and Charmene Yap also had a tantalizing solo. There is a terrific duo from Holly Doyle and Todd Sutherland . And Janessa Dufty has an intense , gripping Shaman like closing solo.
Luke Smiles’ electronic soundscape is extremely powerful, pulsating and humming. The unisex costumes by Fiona Holley of shorts and tops were in various autumn shades and dark colours.
The second work was Bonachela’s Anima. Dazzling abstract dance, Bonachela’s work attempts to explore the boundary between form and spirit, expressed through the way the dancers utilize their extraordinary elevation and almost fly. Bonachela’s choreography is at times extremely demanding and athletic.
London based, Bulgarian born Dobrinka Tabakova’s elegant ,passionate and haunting score ( Insight for Strings trio , written 2002) was in parts driving and relentless, in other sections heartbreakingly elegiac and lyrical (hints of Tavener’s Protecting Veil). Aleisa Jelbart’s costumes looked like light sleepwear, and a couple of the men were topless. There was no set as such, rather breathtaking lighting and visuals by Clemens Habicht and Benjamin Cisterne whose lighting design glows and luminously transforms the dancers, drenching them in colour – including blinding whites, searing reds and zippy turquoises.
Slinky sculptural pas de-deux blend to astonishing trios with unusual lifts. Bonachela’s choreography demands soft feline jumps combined with long, stretched line as the dancers dart and leap. A highlight would have to be the extended tender and intimate pas de deux for Cass Mortimer Eipper and Petros Treklis with its aspects of male competition and tension, attempts to reach out and withdraw, elegantly detailed hands and an idiosyncratic use of elbows expressing physical longing and desire. Juliette Barton and Sam Young Wright followed this with another mesmerizing duo and the ensemble returned for a leaping finale.
The Sydney Dance Company’s production of UNTAMED is playing at the Roslyn Packer theatre until October 29. Running time 1 hr 45 minutes including one interval.

Mary Poppins - as performed by Willoughby Theatre Company

This was terrific
Willoughy Theatre presented the now-standard much loved Disney/Cameron Macintosh version, with small adjustments from the London version which was seen here at the Capitol several years ago.Matthew Bourne’s choreography is not retained but rather altered and adapted by Declan Moore and Janina Hamerlok .
Set in Edwardian times, the ever popular MARY POPPINS is based on the books by Australian author P.L.Travers, and narrates the tale of the rather dysfunctional Banks family, whose lives are changed completely and unexpectedly with the arrival of a new nanny, Mary Poppins.
The Banks children, Michael and Jane, have driven to distraction a harassed series of nannies of late. Will Mary Poppins be able to cope? Does she fulfill the selection criteria of both parents and children? You’ll have to see the show to find out …
Under the fine direction of Declan Moore, there were wizard special effects, splendid versatile unfolding/sliding sets , excellent use of projections and back drops , masses of bright and colourful costumes and several HUGE production numbers that brought the house down. Not forgetting a terrific spectacular starry finale . The casting was strong with excellent performances all round. The orchestra as led by musical director Andrew Bartle was splendid.
In the first half, the huge breathless show stopper number is the almost impossible to spell or pronounce ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.
I saw the ‘team Bert’ cast of children. There were huge casts especially for Supercal and Step In Time for example , both exuberantly performed and the audience roared its approval.
Leading lady Michaele Leisk as Mary Poppins is super efficient , briskly elegant and yet also a bit cold and aloof perhaps – possibly a being from another world, a wish fulfillment dream nanny ? She has wonderful fun, looks stunning with her iconic bag and parrot umbrella , and sings and dances splendidly, weaving her spell over the audience and the Banks household.
Born to play the role of Bert,  tall gangly Matt Hourigan was magnificent in his performance , from his first appearance mesmerizing the audience as the good hearted , at times rather cheeky chimney sweep ,narrator, artist, dancer, and general theatrical magic maker.
Chim Chim Cher-ee was marvellous and the extended Step in Time with his tap dancing solo thrilled , dazzled and had the audience cheering. His subtler, quieter moments are handled well and contrast delightfully with the epic production numbers.
Strict precision and order are what are required by the actor playing George Banks, and Brad Clarke develops his seemingly rather pompous ,cold and wooden character to reveal the sad, torn, harried and stressed man inside in a finely nuanced performance. His uncertain situation– facing a financial crash and unemployment– is still extremely relevant today.
Nina Marsh is terrific as Mrs Banks, an exquisite picture of Edwardian loveliness. We follow how her character grows stronger as she attempts to save the rather stormy Banks marriage and deal with almost impossible domestic situations.
The children Jane and Michael were delightfully played by Stella Constable and Nicholas Cradock at the performance I saw. Overworked , stressed Mrs Brill the cook/housekeeper was wonderfully played by Donna Fitzgerald and Kris Fenessy had a great time as the boneless, clumsy Robertson Ay.
As the ‘nastiest nanny in the world’ , ‘The Holy Terror ‘devilish Miss Andrew, Karen Oliver in severe, disapproving black has great fun stealing the show with enormous relish. The confrontation scene between her and Mary Poppins ( Brimstone and Treacle) saw her portrayed as a pantomime villain with green and red lighting .
Playing the Game and Feed the Birds were presented with a light touch, not quite as dark as they might be, and Neleus the Statue’s search for his father is quite downplayed .
Graced with the delightful presence of the Mayor of Willoughby in the audience , this terrific production by Willoughby Theatre Company had the audience enchanted. It dazzled and delighted. Quick – if you haven’t already booked, almost the entire season is already sold out but extra performances have been added due to public demand . Check with the box office now !
Running time allow 3 hours ( roughly ) including one interval
MARY POPPINS is playing at the Concourse until October 30.

Cabaret in the Day - Of Bing I Sing

The second concert in this year's series at Mosman Art Gallery
The latest in the Cabaret in the Day series at Mosman Art Gallery was Of Bing I Sing , saluting Bing Crosby (1903 -1977 ) , the legendary 20th century American crooner and movie star.
Recording more than 1700 songs, Crosby’s distinctive warm bass-baritone voice made him the best-selling recording artist of the 20th century, having sold over one billion records, tapes, compact discs and digital downloads around the world.
Written and directed by Melvyn Morrow, it was presented as a dialogue between Glenn Amer ( ‘” the musical mastermind of Moss Vale ‘’) who has ‘’ the fingers of Liberace and the voice of Mario Lanza” and a collection of 378 78 format style recordings of Crosby, and Rob Palmer, star of Better Homes and Gardens and Dancing With the Stars.
Amer at the shiny black piano was dressed in a dapper suit , Palmer in front of a large black and silver mike was far more casual in a t-shirt and denim. Palmer was tanned and had a dazzling cheeky grin .Palmer had a long introductory monologue explaining how the two met.
The piece  was not really biographical per se rather a voyage of discovery through a collection of some of Crosby’s songs. Some facts were mentioned ( and statistics rattled off ) about his records and his 53 various movies ( especially the “Road” movies with Bob Hope ) . Crosby’s private life was briefly mentioned too..
Mostly however it was the songs… Palmer and Amer jumped around chronologically but we heard for example Blue Skies and You’ve Got Me Where You Want Me towards the start of the show and the catchy Alexander’s Ragtime Band which had everyone bopping along. They were followed by Play A Simple Melody.
We then heard Don’t Fence Me In and from 1948 Ghost Riders in the Sky. This was followed by the poignantly beautiful Toora loora Looral ( That’s an Irish lullaby ) and the extremely moving Galway Bay .
Amer then charismatically sang Danny Boy which led to a hot tango like Amor Amor Amor that the audience absolutely loved.
We then jumped to I Love Paris which segued into in the infectious toe-tapping In The Cool Cool Cool of the Evening ( from the 1951 film Here Comes the Groom ).
1944 was a big year for Crosby with at least three hits – I Love You , I’ll get By As Long as I Have You and the romantic ballad I’ll Be Seeing You.
Palmer talked about Crosby’s image as Mr Nice Guy – but was he ?( not according to one of his son’s books ..)
The led to a fiery ,seductive Latin- American style Temptation by Amer that sizzled and the audience absolutely adored .The mood then changed to True Love.
Palmer briefly talked about Crosby’s extremely successful career which led to a delightful most impressive medley by Amer of some of his other hits.
We then leapt to Love Thy Neighbour, followed by Would You Like To Swing On A Star and We’ve Only Just Begun.
Much was then made of I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas with the audience singing along . According to Guinness World Records, Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas” has “sold over 100 million copies around the world, with at least 50 million sales as singles”
There was a hushed silence as we listened to Amer’s 78 copy of Crosby singing Accentuate The Positive on Amer’s portable gramophone. That led to the final song Now Is the Hour. The audience went wild and for an encore we had the exuberant Macamara’s Band with the audience singing and clapping along.
Melvyn Morrow then introduced Zach Selmes who performed a song or two to wet our appetite for his concert the next in the series Poisoning Pigeons in The Park.
Running time – just over 90 minutes (roughly) no interval
Of Bing I Sing , part of the Cabaret in the Day series , was at Mosman Art Gallery 16 October 2016

Who Speaks for me ?

hmmm I was a bit disappointed in this show .Here's my thoughts for the Guide  
Yes ,’’ verbatim theatre ‘ is about narrative and telling stories and yes it is most important that these particular stories be told, and we hear different voices from around the world ( in this case in particular our Asian neighbours ) but I wouldn’t really classify this as ‘theatre’ as such , rather perhaps as an autobiographical talk or lecture?
We learn the stories of three very different yet at times similar stories of families who have been refugees and asylum seekers, facing the problem of survival in their home country, escaping and being in horrendous refugee camps and then the culture shock of arriving in Australia , not speaking English and depending on another family member to translate and be their ‘voice ‘. Issues such as forced marriages, workplace bullying and living with disability are also raised.
Performance 4A have created a now recognized major position within the local theatre scene by using a fairly specific format: creation of autobiographical shows telling Asian-Australian stories, crafted from spoken narrative, archival audio and projected photos and footage (including The Serpent’s Table; Yasukichi Murakami – Through a Distant Lens and Stories East & West).
Their most recent production, In Between Two, was premiered as part of the Sydney Festival earlier this year.
This production is a collaboration between National Theatre of Parramatta and Performance 4A. We follow the lives of three families one from Bhutan , one from Cambodia and another from Vietnam .What shines through is love of family , a strong work ethic and persistence in the struggle to simply survive. Also how thrilled these families are to end up here in Australia.
All three groups simply stand stiffly at the microphones either side of the stage . Much is made of rare, treasured family photos interwoven in the narrative.
First, we meet Puspa Lal and Chandra Acharya, bright and colourful in Bhutanese clothing, a husband and wife who fled Bhutan with their three children after the government expelled all ethnic Nepalis from the country. The Acharyas were in various refugee camps for an unimaginable 17 years (!) before being granted Australian visas, during which time their three young children became adults.
They arrived in Sydney as part of a major humanitarian program to settle 5000 Bhutanese refugees in Australia. Here in Sydney Puspa helps new migrants adjust to life Australia and Chandra is learning English but depends on Puspa to translate and speak for her.
Next we learn about the life of Vietnamese refugee, Bà Quôc Viêt, who fled her homeland by boat with her daughter Sophie To. Bà and Sophie left Vietnam by a fishing boat after the VietCong occupation of their village, and were dramatically rescued at sea by a US naval ship who ferried them to a refugee camp in Singapore. They were resettled here in Australia in 1983 .
Renowned in Vietnam and parts of south-east Asia for her cooking expertise, Bà Quôc Viêt never let a lack of English get in her way, especially when it came to communicating with her grandson William who was born profoundly deaf. As William only learned English at his special needs school, Sophie has to translate between Bà, William and his boyfriend Michael.
The final tale is the story of Cambodian mother and son Vanna and Ly Heang Seang who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror. A pregnant Ly Heang, her husband and three small children walked to Thailand – she carried baby Vanna the whole way. Ly Heang Seang, once here in Australia, was desperately determined to get her driver’s license – she sat for the written test a total of 31 times before succeeding!
Throughout her story, Ly Heang Seang relies on her son, Vanna, for communicating in English including aid in the meetings with his school principal and at a later stage, providing the words to assist Ly Heang Seang to triumph over workplace bullying .
The stories of these strong, inspirational women shine through. Their incredible stories serve to remind us of the suffering and strength at the core of the migrant and asylum seeker experience.
Running time just under 90 minutes without interval.
WHO SPEAKS FOR ME?, co-directed by Annette Shun Wah and William Yang, played at Riverside Theatres Parramatta between the 12th and 15th October. Cast- Ly Heang Seang, Vanna Seang, Ba Quoc Viet,n Sophie To, William Uy Vu Le, Puspa lal Acharya, Chandra Acharya

Cabaret in the Day - Gilbert and Sullivan forever !

The first of this year's series at Mosman Art Gallery this was terrific.Here's my review for the Guide
The first of this year’s Cabaret in the Day series as excellently directed by Melvyn Morrow was the wonderful ‘Gilbert and Sullivan forever!’ starring Andrew O’Keefe and Glenn Amer.
The best of G&S in an hour and a half was presented by O’Keefe (The Chase, Weekend Sunrise) who is a Mosmanite, and Amer who has been described as ‘the man with the fingers of Liberace and the voice of Mario Lanza ‘.
Together they become a cast of hundreds as we dashed exuberantly through some of Gilbert and Sullivans much loved operettas as well as some rarely heard works too.
O’Keefe was something of a chameleon, from petulant King Gama to the Lord High Executioner, from judge to sad jester, and not forgetting his  playing a debonair Frenchman. Amer who also played many and various roles was in great form on the keyboard and sang wonderfully too.
From the dashing , thunderous opening chords of the overture to The Mikado played by Amer at a breathless ,exuberant pace , we knew were in for a terrific time.
The show was interspersed with information and witty anecdotes about the lives of Gilbert and Sullivan, social comment and delved into the history of some of their productions.
We first saw and heard O”Keefe as the suave , sophisticated Judge with flashing eyes in Trial By Jury. Then came the magnificent tongue twisting patter song My Name is John Wellington Wells from The Sorcerer. Amer followed with another very wistful moving piece from the same operetta.
We then jumped aboard HMS Pinafore and O’Keefe was deliciously, pompously aristocratic as Sir Joseph Porter ( When I Was A lad) followed by a rollicking, swaggering Pirate King from Pirates of Penzance that brought the house down and would have garnered many recruits.
Audience participation was encouraged and given for the next song,  A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One (also from Pirates).
Next we turned to Patience and O’Keefe and Amer as Bunthorne and Grosvenor respectively performed the witty duet When I Go Out of Door. 
The next three songs were from Iolanthe, When All Night A Chap Remains  and When Britain Really Ruled The Waves and as a duo instead of the usual trio Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady.
O’Keefe became stooped, menacing and cruel as King Gama from Princess Ida If You Give Me Your Attention who ‘can’t think why’ he isn’t liked.
This was contrasted with a heartfelt rendition by O’Keefe of Koko’s Tit – Willow song from The Mikado that was exquisitely moving and a wickedly delightful duet ( Amer as Katisha). This was followed by Sir Roderic’s Ghost Song from Ruddigore.
We then moved to the Tower of London and the Yeoman of the Guard with an extremely poignant and moving performance of I Have A Song To Sing O.
Next stop was Venice with the bright and buoyant We’re called Gondolieri  from The Gondoliers, and Amer also performed the lyrical Take A Pair of Sparkling Eyes from the same operetta.
We then heard about some of their lesser known and now rarely performed operettas in particular Utopia Ltd and The Grand Duke and we heard the Grand Duke’s Song Take My Advice When Deep In Debt reminding us that at the casino the bank is bound to win!
Amer played a medley of various famous Sullivan melodies before an encore was enthusiastically demanded and the audience joined in With Cat Like Tread from The Pirates of Penzance with great gusto bringing the concert to a conclusion.
Melvyn Morrow then introduced Rob Palmer and Zach Selmes who will be performing in the other two Cabaret in the Day concerts that will take place later this year, and they each performed a song from their respective shows .
The audience vociferously cheered and thunderously applauded at the end of this glorious afternoon.
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes without interval.
This concert was performed at  the Mosman Art Gallery on Sunday October 9.

Antigone - Sport for Jove at the Seymour Centre

This was brilliant !! .Here's my rave for artshub  
Welcome to war torn, devastated Thebes. First performed in 441BC , this new adaptation by Damien Ryan resonates now – Anitgone is extremely strong, powerful and gut wrenching. The audience is grabbed from the start. Ryan’s updated text, the use of the word ‘terrorist’ mean that this suddenly becomes a fresh, vibrant seemingly new play and the audience engages with its ideas as if it was written yesterday. We have to consider the alienation and demonisation of those currently considered public enemy and the dilemma of personal sacrifices for the common good. We also need to think about the creation and evolution in this age of social media.
The play asks big questions that still divide families today. In Ryan’s production it has been updated to now and could be any war torn shattered country. It ask big questions about justice and faith. What do you do with the unburied body of a terrorist left to rot? A murderer, who has brought destruction, death horror and destruction to the community – yet that terrorist is your nephew, your brother denied burial rites?
Have the gods organised it all? If so why? Antigone demands answers to three major questions: should Polynices be properly buried (if not,why not?), if someone who buried him against the law should be punished and whether Creon's actions are just or not properly thought through.
The rubbled set ( Melanie Liertz) with its bashed somewhat floating and graffitied walls is most effective. The use of drumming and percussion as magnificently performed by Thomas Royce Hampton is chilling and thrilling.
The chorus (the people of Thebes), here led by a woman, Fiona Press – is splendid at times speaking in unison, at others in overlapping rhythms. All are individualise, some doubling as for example soldiers, guards or messengers. In stylish performances they guide our moral deliberations and force us to ponder the grey areas of right and wrong.
Antigone as magnificently played by Aandre Demetriades was a small, dark, courageous spitfire who defied the law and stood up for what she considered right. She demands justice and the right to bury her brother against all the patriarchal decrees. As King Creon William Zappa is superb in a towering performance. He has to choose and places his city-state above the welfare of his family, righteously upholding the law. We see him at first as a popular king announcing the introduction of Democracy. But events sharply change and we follow his Lear like fall – his stunned, shocked recognition of his niece Antigone and his first hurried denial, his charismatic hypnotic monologue describing the death of his nephews and why he ‘'has to' leave the body of Polynieces to rot unburied, and his shattered entrance, almost oblivious to Tiresias, at the end with the body of his son Haemon.
Antigone’s sister Ismene, acting as a foil to her sibling, is gentler and more law abiding. She fears Creon and hesitates, is torn in the family disruption.
Creon’s wife Eurydice ( Deborah Galanos ) is in Ryan’s version shown as an exhausted, overworked surgeon at a hospital with minimal facilities.
Haemon, prince of Thebes and engaged to Antigone is wonderfully played by handsome Joseph del Re. He is torn and unwillingly caught up in the tragic dilemma and situations. The love scenes between him and Antigone are beautifully done.
Anna Volska as the blind seer Tiresias acts as the voice of reason whose prophecy leads to the proper burial of Polyneices. A voice crying in the wilderness for justice asserts the right of the individual to reject society's infringement on her freedom to perform a personal obligation. But this can lead to tragedy.

Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5
Sophocle’s Antigone by Sport For Jove

Antigone Andrea Demetriades
Creon William Zappa
Ismene Louisa Mignone
Eurydice Deborah Galanos
Haemon Joseph Del Re
Tiresias Anna Volska
Director Damien Ryan and Terry Karabelas
Set and Costume Design Melanie Liertz
Lighting Matt Cox
Sound Design Bryce Halliday and Thomas Royce Hampton

Sophocle’s Antigone by Sport For Jove is at:
The Reginald, the Seymour Centre 6-22 October
Canberra 27-29 October and
Riverside Theatre Parramatta 9-12 November ​

The Cartographer's Curse - at Parramatta

my thoughts for Artshub  
Strong and powerful with many interlocking layers of meaning, Cartographer's Curse is the latest production by the National Theatre of Parramatta. Supporting a newly established Arabic theatre company, Third Space Productions, in their premiere production.
Written and directed by Paula Abood, history is reimagined through the use of projections and other technology, spoken word in both prose and poetry, parkour movement and Qanuni music. Cartographer's Curse begins one hundred years ago. With red and blue crayons in hand, British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart François Georges-Picot met over a map and set about redrawing borders in very straight lines.
The effects of the colonial carve up resonate into the present. Into this swirling macrocosm of ever-shifting alliances and arbitrary borders, the audience enters the allegorical world of the Cartographer and his family. The chaos in which these imposed boundaries was forged is developed in complex layers and interwoven voices. A battle of ideals is seen against a backdrop of duplicity, resistance, sacrifice and disaster. The effects of power and greed on not only maps and borders, but also on families and freedom are witnessed. We see poverty, famine and forced conscriptions and political double dealing as the French and British diplomats bicker in the struggle to set themselves up in the region as the new colonial masters once the Ottoman Empire fell. 'The postcolonial and ongoing neo-colonial mess that started with those straight red and blue lines... remains with us today as refugees flee Syria and Iraq, the catastrophe that befell Palestine remains an open wound, and the frequent sectarian eruptive bursts of fire that plague Lebanon.' Abood reflects. Far from being fixed in the past, the marks of the 100 year old Sykes-Picot agreement are still visible today. The show is an allegory about what life was like around roughly 1916 and the kinds of oppression people endured, focusing on the effects on one family in particular.
Paula Abood is a community cultural development practitioner, writer, creative producer and educator, who’s written for performance, radio, publications and film and, in 2013, received the Australia Council’s Ros Bower Award for lifetime achievement in community cultural development practice.
The multi layered set (Jerome Pearce) is rather minimalist – white archways, stage left has the music set up, stage right a cluttered cupboard with various hand props used at times in the production allowing for fluid narrative and quick scene changes. There are wonderful projections used , from the opening and closing thistles to the bazaar to maps and black and white footage of troops on camels.
The small cast of six all have allegorical titles: the Cartographer was terrifically played by bearded, darkly handsome Ludwig El Haddad. The Spirit Poet (the Cartographer’s wife as played by Sara Saleh) is haunting and passionate. The Poet (Zainab Kadhim), the cartographer and spirit poet’s daughter, is passionate not just about poetry but freedom and her country. The Resistance ( Ali Kadhim ), the Poet’s brother, passionately tries to defend his country and ends up escaping to join The Resistance. Kadhim is an exponent of parkour movement and his thrilling passionate performance is incredibly lithe, acrobatic and agile. The Wandering Professor (grey bearded, bespectacled Ghassan Hage ) is nattily, jauntily dressed and acts as the European voice. The Merchant (Alissar Gazal) acts as world weary commentator and voice for the everyday poor people, telling of poverty and heartbreak.
The effects of the colonial-carve-up, a century ago, resonate into the present as history finds meaning in this eclectic multi layered new theatrical work, full of voices demanding to be heard.
Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5


Presented by National Theatre of Parramatta and Third Space Productions

The Cartographer: Ludwig El Haddad
The Wandering Professor: Ghassan Hage
The Poet Zainab Kadhim
The Spirit Poet: Sara Saleh
The Resistance: Ali Kadhim
The Merchant: Alissar Gazal Qanun
Musician: Mohamed Lelo
Director: Paula Abood
Assistant Director/Co-producer: Claudia Chidiac
Digital Artist: Jerome Pearce
Dramaturgy: Barry Gamba

Riverside Parramatta
5-8 October 2016​

Patience at Shore school

this was glorious much fun here's my review for the Guide :
An outstanding relatively ‘traditional ‘ version of this much loved Gilbert and Sullivan favourite is currently showing at Shore school North Sydney.
The operetta is named after a naive village milkmaid named Patience. With its counterfeit pop idols, lovesick ladies and macho military men it is still very contemporary. The play is a witty satire on the Aesthetic movement of the 1870s and ’80s in England and, more broadly, on superficiality, pretentiousness, fads, vanity and hypocrisy; it also satirises pastoral simplicity, romantic love and military bluster.
Patience ( I saw Samanta Lestavel ,who alternates with Bregitte Lahood ) is being wooed by two rival poets – the trendy , ersatz Reginald Bunthorne -a parody of Oscar Wilde, Swinburne , Rossetti and other ‘aesthetic poets’ at the turn of the 20th century – ( as played by Dean Sinclair) and Archibald Grosvenor (Mitch Bryson), but Patience actually doesn’t care for poetry. Meanwhile…. all the well-born ladies in the village are in love with the two poet rivals, to the dismay of their soldier boyfriends in the Dragoons. In a bid to win back the hearts of their ladies, the military suitors decide to try poetry to win them back .Will they succeed? Will Patience discover what love is?!
Lovingly directed by Elizabeth Lowrencev with a fine touch, this production is a feast for the eyes with stunning sets by Bradley Hawkins – the opening tableaux in the forest glade is magnificent , and the garden in act 2 hints at the craze for Japanese styles during the 1870’s and 80’s.
Kyle Stephens’ lighting was lyrical and expressive. Sandi Tutt’s costumes were also glorious – spectacular uniforms for the Dragoons , and semi-medieval dresses for the ladies of the Chorus ( who reform to ‘standard’ late Victorian dresses with bustles at the end ). Bunthorne was a delight in his green suit and Grosvenor enchanting in his purple medieval troubadour like outfit with pageboy bob for much of the show ( when he ‘’reforms” ‘under compulsion” he is in a black and white striped and check suit).
Lyrics have been spiced up a little by Melvyn Morrow with contemporary references – there is a witty ‘Patience’ – a poetic ‘curtain opener ‘ as an introduction projected onto a screen during the overture to set the scene and explain the plot and also in particular the Colonel’s song in Act 1 ( “If you want a receipt for that popular mystery”) which had the audience cheering.
Under the dynamic, assured and passionate direction of Maestro Rod Mounjed the orchestra was splendid with Sullivan’s enchanting melodies lushly played and enchantingly sung. Vocally it was fabulous , the chorus excellent and the principals terrific.
Samanta Lestavel in the eponymous role was delightful as blooming, blushing Patience and was in fine voice. Her puzzled cheerfulness in Act 1 ( “I cannot tell what this love may be” ) changes sharply and dramatically in Act 2 “Love is a plaintive song” .There are hints of The Pirates of Penzance with Patience’s allusion to her duty.
Both Bunthorne and Grosvenor are portrayed as narcissistic and ‘’affected”. The two poets in the operetta are partial to reading their work aloud, particularly to the chorus of swooning , admiring maidens. Bunthorne’s style contrasts strongly with Grosvenor’s. Bunthorne’s is obscure , enigmatic and blusteringly emphatic, similar to Swinburne’s poetry in its style, structure and use of alliteration. Grosvernor’s pieces, pastoral and simpler, has allusions to the work of William Morris and Coventry Patmore .
As Bunthorne, Dean Sinclair has a wonderful time stealing the show whenever possible. His “Am I alone and unobserved? ‘ was great fun, and the duets with Patience, Lady Jane and Grosvenor were delightful.
From his first entrance and duet with Patience ( ‘’Prithee, pretty maiden “) Mitch Bryson as Grosvenor had all the ladies swooning and his lyrical tenor voice was captivating and enchanting. The duet for Bunthorne and Grosvenor ( ‘When I go out of door’) was a show stopper.
The dragoons were splendid with Anthony Mason as the Colonel, Matthew Cobb-Clark as the Major and  Spencer Darby as the Duke being in especially fine voice.
The entrance in Act 1 is thrilling and the trio for the Colonel Major and Lieut.The Duke in Act 2 ( “It’s clear that medieval art” ) when they appear dressed as Aesthetes was hilarious and featured impressive comic timing.
Rebecca Hart as Lady Jane was imperious and commanding –similar in personal style to Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell – and garbed in  a splendiferous, ravishing costume of bronze and black with a wonderful headdress. Her solo with the cello ( “Sad is that woman’s lot” ) in Act 2 was heartfelt, her duet with Bunthorne ( ‘So go to him, and say to him’) was sparkling and fun.
Recommended. There were lots of laughs throughout in this ‘mad and merry sweet caprice’.
Running time 2 hrs 40 ( roughly ) including one interval.
PATIENCE is playing at the Shore School North Sydney until October 8.

Operantics La Sonnambula

this was excellent .here's my Sydney Arts Guide review
This was another extremely impressive production by Operantics, dazzlingly sung.
LA SONNAMBULA started began life in Paris in 1827 as a ballet, at the height of a craze for stage works featuring somnambulism. Bellini’s opera was first performed in 1831. Various stars who have performed in the demanding roles include Pasta, Malibran, Callas, Pavarotti and Sutherland. More recently there was the controversial production in 2009 at the Met in New York with French soprano Natalie Dessay. Opera Australia’s most recent production was in 2010 with Emma Matthews.
LA SONNAMBULA is one of the bel canto operas, those early nineteenth-century Romantic works by Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti and their counterparts that emphasise virtuoso and exquisite vocalism as distinct from concentrating on symphonic musical development or ‘’ naturalistic “ drama.
The rather light weight, silly, early Romantic plot concerns Amina (Joelene Griffith), a Swiss village girl, betrothed to fellow villager Elvino (Michael Butchard) . All is joyous in their idyllic pastoral paradise until the arrival of a mysterious stranger, Count Rodolfo (Christopher Nazarian), whose admiration of Amina makes Elvino jealous.
Elvino’s jealousy is further enflamed when Amina is discovered in Rodolfo’s room at Lisa’s inn overnight. The confusion is eventually happily resolved when it is demonstrated that Amina is in fact an innocent sleepwalker, a somnambulist.
Minimalist in staging this version was quite traditional yet extremely effective. Surtitles were handily provided on the back projection screen. The set, apart from flowers entwined around the handrail and some hand props, was generally indicated by projections of charming atmospheric black and white illustrations – the village, Lisa’s inn, the old mill and more. It would be worth your while to look at the Independent Theatre’s Facebook page to discover the Sydney icons that Amina spends time walking across in her sleep.
There was no orchestra rather instead a piano score version was used, magnificently played by Nathaniel Kong. Ian Warwick and Keiren Brandt-Sawdy developed the small chorus as individual characters who gave finely nuanced performances. Brandt-Sawdy conducted passionately and energetically.
Our troubled heroine , vulnerable and naïve Amina was delightfully sung by Joelene Griffith who has a bright, full timbre and terrific voice with gleaming top notes and unforced agility in the demanding coloratura sections. She showcased a lovely legato and sang with great ease and expressiveness.
At the start (and end) she is all joyously bubbling ( “Come per me sereno / oggi rinacque il di! / “How brightly this day dawned for me”). The duets with Elvino ranged from exultant to strained and pleading once he has broken off the wedding. The famous sleepwalking scene was tense and terrific ( “Ah! non credea mirarti / sì presto estinto, o fiore / “I had not thought I would see you, dear flowers, perished so soon” ) – dance lovers will possibly pick up hints of the mad scene from Giselle that was first performed in 1841.
Our shallow, rather undecided hero Elvino was sung by tall Michael Butchard an excellent tenor with matinee idol good looks who sent marvellous unforced phrases of song lyrically soaring.
Miller-Crispe as the scheming worldly inn-keeper Lisa, in love with Elvino, was magnificent. Her seemingly heartbroken aria opening the opera “Tutto è gioia, tutto è festa…Sol per me non non v’ha contento / “All is joy and merriment… I alone am miserable” was moving but we uncover her jealousy and wounded pride and see the spiteful lengths she will go to throughout the opera. During the villager’s tale of the strange phantom they have seen, describing it to Count Rodolfo , Lisa plays the part of the ‘ghost’ with a red shawl ( scarf ?) over her head. Interestingly there is a loose end left at the end of the opera as Lisa simply vanishes…
Darkly handsome, charismatic Christopher Nazarian as Count Rodolfo was suitably mysterious and from his first entrance dominated the stage with his powerful , magnificently thrilling voice. He at first seems like a callous Lothario but when he spies Amina sleepwalking he does not take advantage of her and tries to defend her , insisting on her innocence.
Alessio in love with Lisa was delightfully sung by Christopher Curcuruto. As Teresa , Amina’s supportive foster mother, Jermaine Chau showcased her excellent mezzo voice.
This production was a terrific showcase of
wonderful young opera talent .
Running time 2 hours 40 mins (roughly) including one interval.
The Operantics production of Bellini’s La Sonnambula played at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney for a brief season which concluded on October 2.