29 April 2012

April review previews

Red Stitch Actors Theatre
29 April 2012
Red Stitch
to 26 May

Stockholm continues Red Stitch's not-to-be-missed 2012 season. Why I know that it's is bloody great theatre: After the show, I sat with my friend and we talked about how it related to our lives.

We didn't talk about the quality of the post-show wine or about the performances or the design (all great). We talked personally and exposed issues in our own relationships that we'd normally hide. The ability to  reflect on your own life may be the line between entertainment and art; it's certainly the line between being glad I went to the theatre rather than staying home to watch The Voice.

Todd and Kali are young and gorgeous and have enviable sex. They gutted their house to create a love nest that they never have to leave and ignore phone calls from Todd's mother. Loving Ingmar Bergman films, they are planning a trip to Stockholm and are practicing their Ikea-Sweedish, as Todd prepares a perfect dinner and Kali checks his phone for messages.

More on AussieTheatre.com

Australia Day
Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company
26 April 2012
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 26 May

Jonathan Biggins's Australia Day is Aussie-Aussie-Aussie as a CWA lamington and as comforting as wrapping a sausage (animal or soy) in white bread and adding tomato sauce.

The MTC pack us into the 4WD for a day trip to generic-regional Coriole where the Australia Day Committee are planning the annual celebration on the oval. There's Brian (Geoff Morrell), Mayor and running for Liberal pre-selection;  Robert (David James),  Brian's best mate and next in line to be Mayor; Wally (Peter Kowitz), a local builder who calls a spade a spade; Marie (Valerie Bader), the CWA rep who loves her grandkids; Helen (Alison Whyte), a sea changer, Birkenstock-wearing, single mum Greens council member; and Chester (Kaeng Chan), an ABV (Australian born Vietnamese) primary school teacher.

These are folk who say "get a wiggle on" and "what's eating you". We know them so well (even if we haven't met anyone like them) and the planning meetings are so real that they send shivers of recognition through anyone who has sat on a committee or spent hours dealing with the public liability nightmare that the sausage sizzle has become.

More on AussieTheatre.com

Far Away
SaySix Theatre and Lil Artists
25 April
45 Downstairs
to 13 May

If I need Wikipedia to explain ANYTHING, I suspect that there's something wrong – especially when it's a piece of theatre.

SaySix Theatre and Lil Artists are presenting Caryl Churchill's Far Away at 45 Downstairs. Written in 1999, this is its first Australian production and takes it from a rolling English countryside to a thick and expansive Aussie rainforest.

Young Joan (in an honest and natural performance by 10-year-old Skylah Cox) is staying with her aunt (Caroline Lee) and uncle. After being woken by a human scream and investigating, her aunt tries to hide the truth before bringing the child into their secret.  Next Joan is an adult (Suzannah MacDonald) and starting her first job as a milliner, where she wins the attention of fellow-worker Todd (Paul Ashcroft) and begins to question why the hats are destroyed after the parades.

More on AussieTheatre.com

The Magic Flute
Opera Australia
21 April 2012
The State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
to May 12

In 2005, the New York Metropolitan Opera created an abridged family-friendly version of Mozart and Schnikeneder's  The Magic Flute. Heading the creative team was Julie Taymor, Tony-winner for her direction of the uber-gorgerous stage production of The Lion King, and the result is as magical as Mozart could ever have imagined with flying bird puppets that sweep across the audience, Ladies with floating heads,  adorable giant dancing bears and intimidating fire-faced priests

Having loved The Lion King and Taymor's film work, my expectations for this production were high; especially as there is no reason why the Opera Australia production shouldn't be as wonderful as anything at The Met.

Introducing opera to children; introducing opera to anyone is brilliant, and will create a fan for life if that first experience is a great one. As this production was conceived for children, it was wonderful to see people much younger than me in audience.  Not only are they better behaved than many dragged-along partners, but they get it; they accept worlds where people sing and magic is natural and don't roll their eyes because they can hear the set being moved.

Taymor knows that best children's theatre is just as much for grown ups and never cuts a corner or assumes that young minds aren't smart, but OA hasn't quite got the the balance. There seems a reluctance to let go and really have fun in case the opera-buff adults get upset.

more on AussieTheatre.com

Alma Mater
Fish & Game and Arts House
18 April 2012
Arts house, North Melbourne
to 13 May

We have such intimate relationships with the too-many screens in our lives. I'm not brave enough to try a screen-free day; I even read books on screen. Theatre is one place that they get turned off and we share an experience with a room of people. But Alma Mater claims to be the first iPad theatre and you're handed you a screen when you arrive and sent you into a small white room by yourself.  

The Arts House program continues to challenge our perceptions of performance and encourages artists to find new ways to reach us. The idea of Alma Mater is that you're looking at the room through the digital screen, like a camera, and move around the room lining the screen up with the room with its white bed and seat. Then as you turn around two pairs of shoes appear on the floor...


The Histrionic
Malthouse Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company
15 April
Merlyn Theatre
to 5 May

Until I hit Google, I didn't  know about Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. A quote from the New York Times that his works are "the most significant literary achievement since World War II" crops up a lot. As an over-educated reader, I guess I should know him, but The Histrionic hasn't encouraged me to seek out more Bernhard.


But what makes this production so intriguing and enjoyable is that director Daniel Schlusser and his wonderful cast make us care for everyone else on the stage. The good-hearted landlord (Barry Otto), his wife (Kelly Butler) and daughter (Katherine Tobkin) and Bruscon's wife (Jennifer Vuletic) and children (Josh Price and Edwina Wren), say little, but great theatre and irresistible performance isn't really about getting the most lines.

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