23 February 2012

February review previews

The Wild Duck
Malthouse presents a Belvoir production
21 February 2012
Merlyn Theatre
to 17 March

Melbourne's Hayloft Project gang flew their The Wild Duck back to the Malthouse from Belvoir Street with a swag of 2011 awards and the opening night anticipation was palpable.  Riveting in its intimacy, this is the kind of theatre that will ruin lesser productions for you. So book now and read the reviews later, because tickets are disappearing by the minute.


The Fallen Tree
La Mama
15 February
La Mama Theatre
to 4 March

I heard about the 2009 Black Saturday fires from Facebook while enjoying coconut pie in green and rainy Ubud, Bali. I couldn't have be more removed from the winds and oven-hot dryness, but was back in Canberra on a similar day in 2003 when I had packed a box of photos, wasn't letting the cats outside and was ringing friends who lived near the suburb of Duffy. Everyone I know survived, but a few evacuated, one had the fire stop at his front door and one family watched their house disappear in minutes. The stories from bush fires strike the spot in our soul that knows fear and integrating these stories into our culture is such a part of our community recovery.

Christine Croyden wrote The Fallen Tree in response to Black Saturday as "an attempt to make sense of something that made no sense". Director Wayne Pearn and designer Alice Bishop use the tiny black space of La Mama to evoke a visceral sense of a destroyed and blackened world.  The green isn't there yet, but the smell of eucalyptus promises that recovery is slow, but inevitable.


9 February 2012
Sumner Theatre
to 14 March

Heartfelt and honest performances from a wonderful cast are reason enough to see the MTC's Tribes

With three extravert, attention-seeking adult children living with their over-achieving parents, there's rarely a quiet moment in this house. Dad (Brian Lipson) is a writer and a never-wrong academic, Mum (Sarah Peirse) is trying to write a detective novel, daughter (Julia Grace) is trying to be an opera singer and son 1 (David Paterson) is working on a thesis. It'd be a bohemian middle class paradise, if it weren't for the constant arguing. The only one who misses out on a daily tiff is son 2, Billy, (Luke Watts), who's deaf.


British writer Nina Raine's script soars when we're caught in the emotions and dilemmas of these complex people, but, as Billy and Sylvia force change, the metaphorical and literal deafness begins to dominate and the author's voice butts in to lecture. 


Two by Two
11 February 2011
to 19 February

As it's Saint Valentine's Day week, it's a commercial glut of glittery hearts and factory roses as we're told to face the future as the gods intended: as a wholesome twosome. Blah to that; celebrate instead by going to fortyfive downstairs to see Little One's Theatre's  Two by Two.

It's raining; it's been raining for so long that Carl (Gary Abrahams) and Jack (Paul Blenheim) can see the huge boat from their high-rise city apartment window. Jack's packing supplies and listening to the radio for unlikely evacuation news.  As a painter, Jack's ticket to board is at the end of the queue, but Carl's a doctor – someone with useful post-ammageddon skills. Both know why they're not staring in this episode of The Love Boat,  especially as their boy/girl couple neighbours went days ago. But there's hope when Duckie (Zahra Newman), a patient of Carl's, turns up with a baby and is desperate to board.

Darkly funny and unexpectedly confronting,  Two by Two was developed at NIDA and won the 2011 Malcolm Robertson Prize (for awesome writing).


Nicolazzo's Little Ones Theatre develops and presents new Australian plays and "work that allows you to love ferociously, abandon yourself and let your heart explode".  Working in Melbourne and Sydney, they premiered the likes of Declan Greene's Home Economics and promise to keep questioning and confronting with the kind of passion and intelligence that wakes up our hearts and makes us thrilled to go the theatre. 

Good People
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
5 February 2012
Red Stitch
to 3 March

Good People was nominated for Best Play at the 2011 Tony's.  It's damn good writing by David Lindsay-Abaire, and the Australian premiere by Red Stitch made me remember why this company is so damn good.

Margie (Andrea Swifte) lives in "Southie", a poor Boston neighbourhood where she's just been fired from her job at a dollar store by the son of an old friend (Rory Kelly). With a disabled adult daughter, a cow of landlady (Olga Makeeva) and no jobs around because of the recession, she's running out of choices, until she meets her teenage boyfriend (Dion Mills), who's now a wealthy doctor and married to a younger woman. He got out of Southie, so maybe he can help.

Lindsay-Abaire's script is full of screaming subtext and as allegiances change, it surprises as it holds onto its secrets. His characters are not nice people. Each struggles with happiness and is faced with wondering if life really could have been different.

Director Kaarin Fairfax grasps the tone perfectly by ensuring that the dark humour hurts.

A Chorus Line
Tim Lawson
7 February 2012
Her Majesty's Theatre
to 10 March

1975's A Chorus Line is one of my favourite shows. I can sing along to every number, I blubbed during Every Little Step, the 2006 documentary about its Broadway revival, and I'm happy to admit that I love the often-knocked 1985 film version. After all, this is the musical that won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and it took Cats to knock it off the longest-running Broadway show pedestal. It oozes heart and passion and guts and is for everyone who has worked so hard to get what they want and still missed out.

On an empty Broadway stage, a cattle call audition is down to 17; there are only eight spots to fill. Rather than keep dancing, the director asks the dancers to stop performing and tell him something about themselves, and he has to deal with having an ex-lover in the line.

This touring production is the first professional Line in Australia since 1993, so the first time for many to experience why this show is so loved. Like all professional Lines, it's pretty much what was seen in 1975 with the same design and the original production's direction and choreography has been restaged by Baayork Lee (the first Connie).  It's a warm nostalgic connection knowing that 37 years later, we're sharing the same show.

One reason I like seeing shows during a run and not on opening night is to feel how a paying audience responds; and the response on the night I went was, "Meh". Forget what reviewers and friends say, the best way to see how a performance is working is to sit in the audience.

Yes, Prime Minister
Andrew Guild, Simon Bryce and Tim Woods
2 February 2011
Comedy Theatre
to 4 March

As a QandA watcher, of course I love the terribly witty and glorious British telly series Yes Minister and Yes PM. And now we have of the new stage version by the series writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn with Philip Quast (one of my favourites). Could this be commercial theatre with intelligence and guts?


Give it a miss


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