29 December 2010

2008 Reviews

Finally, all the 2008 reviews are up.

RIP Ralph McLean

The arts community is saddened to hear of the death of Ralph McLean on 25 December 2010.

Most recently known for Yartz on Channel 31, there are few theatrey people in this town who have not been interviewed by or at least had a good chat with Ralph.

I didn't know him well, but he always made me laugh when we nattered at shows and one day I'll take his advice and write a review that is only a sentence long.

He will be missed.

The funeral is at La Mama on Thursday 30 December at 3pm, followed by a  wake at the Union Club Hotel.

Photo taken by Ali Alexander  2006 at the wine shop in Spring St.

28 December 2010

What I loved 2010 (best of...)

Sometimes we all need a break and for the first time in a long time I avoided the theatre for a month.

Already there are shows I wish I'd seen and I didn't make 100 reviews for the year, but there's 2011 to reach that goal.

So before 2011 reminds us how we're all a year older, thank you to everyone who reads Sometimes Melbourne. Google Analytics shows me that there are a lot of you and I'm thrilled every time you drop by or chat to me in real life.

I also want to thank the lovely JoJohn, Karla and James for their guest reviews during the year and everyone who reviews for AussieTheatre.com.

And thanks to everyone else who reviews, blogs, tweets, comments or joins in wine-fuelled post-show conversations. It's not always easy to put your name to your honest opinion, so I especially love people like Alison, Chris, John, Richard and Cameron, who all see over 100 shows a year and – even when there's bickering and name calling (only sometimes by me) – they all love and support Melbourne's theatre and art.

Sure reviewers certainly don't always agree with each other, and their readers are rarely shy to express their own disagreement, but even when we see the same shows, we all see something different. That's the joy of art. If it were objective and clinical, it wouldn't touch our hearts and we would never care enough to spend such chunks of our lives creating it, sharing it and indulging in as much of it as we can.

So it's time to remember another year of amazing theatre in Melbourne and those shows that made me so glad that I went out instead of staying home to watch Masterchef. 

Outstanding Artists 2010

Raimondo Cortese for Intimacy

Declan Greene for Moth
with bonus points, to be shared with Ash Flanders, for
 Little Mercy
and ... Gingo.

Anna Cordingle
y (set and costumes) and Paul Jackson (lighting) for Sappho... in 9 Fragments


Hannah Norris
My Name is Rachel Corrie
Phil Zachariah for Charles Dickens performs A Christmas Carol

I'm sorry that I didn't write a review for this bloody gorgeous show. After years of taking it to country towns and suburban town halls (with a visit to the Carlton Courthouse and the Famous Speigeltent), Phil Zachiriah and director James Adler made it to the centre of Melbourne and the gold-leaf splendour of The Athenaeum theatre. And this tiny show had standing ovations and teary-eyed cheers each night of its short run. Not only does it remind us what a master storyteller Dickens was (really, if you're a writer and anyone has ever mentioned that you need to think about your story... read this bloke), but it lets Phil be Charles Dickens – the role he was born to play. Dickens staged readings of his stories and, as he's no longer around, he's passed the spirit to Phil.  From Scrooge to Tiny Tim, Phil inhabits every character with the kind of love that makes them as real as our own mad families at Christmas time and it's the kind of holiday tradition that transcends faith-based celebrations to sit as one of the great stories of love and redemption that should be an end-of-year tradition for everyone.

Outstanding Productions 2010 


Kunst Rock: Die Roten Punkte – Button Eye Productions and Full Tilt
Carnival of Mysteries – Finucane & Smith

Special mention

Miles O'Neil's World Around Us

Boston Marriage – MTC

Dos or Duo – Stuart Christie and Kane Petersen

[title of show] –  Magnormos

Special mention

Another Opening, Another Show –  Manilla Street Productions

and I really enjoyed Mary Poppins

Human Interest Story –  Malthouse Theatre, Lucy Guerin and Perth International Arts Festival 


Special mention

Monster of the Deep 3D –  Claudia O'Doherty

Best of the Best

Bare Witness  La Mama and fortyfivedownstairs 
That Face  Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Intimacy – 
Ranters TheatreMalthouse TheatreMelbourne International Arts Festival

Special mention
Happily Ever After – La Mama

My Favourite of 2010

Tomorrow, in a year  Hotel Pro Forma, Melbourne International Arts Festival

13 December 2010

Guest Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Opera Australia
Saturday 4 December 
The Arts Centre, State Theatre
to 18 December

Review by Josephine Giles

Too long between drinks, I had almost given up hope that I would see an opera in this country that would demonstrate on all levels just how wonderful this artform can be. But every now and then a production comes along that reassures me that opera can be fantastic, magical and engaging, OA’s revival of Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is so good it is almost impossible to imagine this opera being staged in any different way. 

First produced in 1993, and subsequently toured to the Edinburgh Festival to critical acclaim, this production has been revived a number of times in both Sydney and Melbourne. It is a testament to the power of the original vision, and the intelligent and informed revivals direction of Julie Edwardson, that the piece appears as fresh as new. The perfectly cast ensemble give no sense of recreating performances defined some 17 years ago – each of the singers inhabit their characters with confidence and imagination, imparting an infectious sense of enjoyment.

The success of this Dream owes much to the glorious design by Lurhmann’s creative partner Catherine Martin and Bill Marron. Transplanted in time and place to Indian 20s British Raj (a change one may think the Bard himself would be well pleased with), the stage is dominated by a three-tiered rotunda, set over a lily pond and overrun with vines from an encroaching jungle. The Athenians of Shakespeare’s play, embodying British upperclass properness, appear in Colonial style whites. Contrasting are the hot, vivid colours of the Indian inspired garb of the fairy world of Oberon and Tytania,  evoking a truly sensual fantasy land.

The middle level of the rotunda provides the stage for Orchestra Victoria, dressed for the occasion in military band uniforms, and conducted with sensitive precision here by Britten specialist Paul Kildea. Strategically placed monitors in the auditorium compensate for the lack of visual contact between the conductor and singers – made especially challenging by the complexity of Britten’s score – and an apron stage over the orchestra pit permits the singers to engage more immediately with the audience ( and overcome  the acoustic problems commonly associated with this theatre).

Special mention has to be made of the OA’s children’s chorus. As fairies and elves, they not only sing with beauty and precision, but dance and somersault around the stage demonstrating a level of stagecraft not always found in mature performers. Dressed in hues of red, pink and green, their presence adds both magic and joy to the proceedings. Children’s choruses often require a degree of forgiving compromise from an audience – that this isn’t needed at all is but one testament among many to the excellent direction of Edwardson, and the musical preparation by Anthony Hunt.

Time precludes me form mentioning all of the uniformly wonderful singers, except to say that all act with the same comfortable assurance with which they sing.  Special mentions go to Tobias Cole as the blue-torsoed dreadlocked Oberon, whose countertenor seems to have found a natural home in Britten’s music; Henry Choo (Lysander) and Dominica Matthews (Hermia), who too shine in this repertoire; and Conal Coad as an hilarious Bottom and Graeme McFarlane as a most light-footed Flute are scene stealers par-excellence. Actor Tyler Coppin, reprising the role he created in 1993, brings the whole night together as the mischievous Puck.

This most magical of Shakespeare’s plays has been deftly trimmed by composer Britten, and is complimented with an evocative score that grows on you as the night progresses. Baz Luhrmann’s creative talent completes the trifecta, making this a perfect opera. The show comes in at a bit over three hours, but I was engaged, even transfixed for all of that time. If you are afraid of, bored with, or new to opera, give it a go.  This could be the one that changes your mind. 

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com

29 November 2010

Review: The Creditors

The Creditors
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
19 November 2010
Red Stitch
to 18 December

Is love always a competition? Would we really rather that our exes thought we were happy than to actually be happy? August Strindberg had three wives and if his art is any reflection of his life, then there's no wonder that a long quiet monogamous life wasn't for him.

This new version of Strinberg's The Creditors by UK playwright David Grieg was commissioned by the Donmar Warehouse in 2008. The adaption maintains the formality a of Strindberg's language, but ensures that we can't dismiss the behaviour and emotional impact as a reflection of its time. Couples still hide behind decorum to rip shreds off each other and no one fights as dirty as someone trying to ruin love, apart from someone trying to make their lover love them better.

Whilst waiting for his beloved wife Telka (Kat Stewart) to return, crippled artist Adolph (Brett Cousins) takes counsel from the older and wiser Gustav (Dion Mills). Gustav insists that Adolph has been emasculated by his wife's independence and her writing career and can only regain his masculinity through sexual abstinence. It all makes complete sense to the sensitive artist, especially as the gorgeous Telka still flirts with no regard to his manhood. On her return Telka isn't keen on the idea and wonders why her husband wants to know too much about her ex.

In Strindberg's world, relationships are about personal gain and his characters show the side of love that is governed by ego, jealousy and control; where winning is far more important than how they play the game.  We all like to think that we're better than that – but I dare anyone to not recognise a moment or a motivation with regret.

The Creditors is an actors play. Each role is a gift for the cast who relish every syllable. This results in three different performances and as each character is so unaware of the feelings of other people this strengthens their isolation and leaves little room for authentic connection. If we felt too sorry for any of them or believed they could be happy, The Creditors might be too painful to laugh at 

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

19 November 2010

Fab TV Show Needs Fab People

 Wanna be on a brilliant telly show?

On Friday 26 November Princess Pictures and ABC TV need a crowd of people for the new series Outland.

Outland is written by Melbourne's John Richards, who (among other awesome things) has been a guest reviewer on here. He also blogs at The Outland Institute, which became a JOYFM radio show last year.

Princess Pictures have produced amazing shows like Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes and John Safran's Race Relations.

The show will be broadcast on the ABC in 2011 and is already being described as “The best gay and lesbian science fiction fan club themed comedy series ever." Yes, there are Dr Who jokes.

And you can be part of it! 

Volunteers will be the crowd for a re-creation of the Pride march.

To get all the info you need, email outlandpride@gmail.com

or go to this Facebook page and RSVP.

It's a great chance to spend a day seeing how a show is made and you might get your gorgeous face or elbow on the show

Outland is based on the only short film to play the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and the World Science Fiction Convention. It stars Christine Anu, Ben Gerrard , Paul Ireland, Adam Richard, Toby Truslove, is written by John Richards (Boxcutters) and Adam Richard, directed by Kevin Carlin (Newstopia, BoyTown, The Extra) and produced by Princess Pictures (Summer Heights High, We Can Be Heroes, John Safran's Race Relations, I Love You Too).

17 November 2010

Review: Mag and Bag

Mag and Bag
La Mama
7 November 2010
La Mama Courthouse

Mag and Bag live in a suburb that's still so working class that the tins are home brand, the Herald Scum St Mary poster has pride of place on the bar fridge and being called a Liberal is far worse than be called a cunt.

Barry Dickens wrote Mag and Bag in the late 70s and, even with some hip Latham and Abbot jokes, it's comforting to to see that little changes. There still nothing as good as cup of tea, curlers still create the best hair dos and bloody nature strips always have to be mowed. And I for one am looking forward to being a nutty old lady whose language will make the neighbours blush.

In a gorgeously designed house of chicken wire and op shop paintings, are two old women who have no one left to fight with. Like grotesque panto dames, they bicker, fight and abuse each other with a verbal dexterity only outweighed by their love. If it's true that we can really only be total cows to the people who love us, then Mag and Bag are BFFs... or they they believe that fighting is better than being old and forgotten. It's easy to laugh at swearing old ladies, but Camelina Di Gulglielmo and Maria Portsi let us see the regret behind the laughs.

Director Laurence Strangio (who directed Jackie Smith's The Flood last year) again captures the playwright's voice with an authenticity that lets us see the characters with the love Dickens had creating these two old horrors. So even if we might not want them as neighbours, watching them is a laugh-out-loud joy.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.