28 June 2012

June review previews

The Butcher Shop Revue (Redux)
Badass Productions
15 June
Red Bennies

As winter forces some of us into thermal underwear, others are happy to warm us up by getting their gear off. From the exquisite subversion of The Glory Box (The Burlesque Hour) at 45downstairs to the many classes where middle age women realise just how hot they are, Melbourne may soon deserve number plates with "The Burlesque State", and  The Badass Burlesque Company are a saucy new company to keep an eye on.

The Butcher Shop Revue had a short season at The Butterfly Club that led to a night that had Red Bennies filled to over flowing. 


The Golden Dragon
Melbourne Theatre
22 June
MTC Theatre, Lawler Studio
to 7 July

Another reason to love theatre in Melbourne: just when you think you've seen your favourite production of the year, a week later there's one that's even better. With The Golden Dragon, the MTC's Lawler Studio Season continues to have the bold and exciting voice that is so often missing from main-stage productions.

The story is based around a Thai Chinese Vietnamese restaurant called The Golden Dragon and the people who live in the flats above. Far from the sitcom is sounds like, it tells its story in seemingly unrelated snippets and hints. German writer Roland Schimmelpfennic (translated by David Tushingham) embraces a Brechtian distance that combines third-person narratives and speaks its pauses and directions. This is magnified as the cast play multiple characters who are further alienated from expectations as men play women, Caucasians play Asians, old play young and Ash Flanders plays a sexually abused cricket. 

This style of writing leaves the cast with no option but to find the human essence of the character, the stuff that should never be defined by age, gender, or ethnicity.

The Golden Dragon almost demands a second viewing, even if just to watch the cast without worrying about the story or to dissect the writing to see where it hides its secrets and how it builds its love. This is theatre that makes you work, but it's worth it; it isn't one to miss.

I really like Chris Boyd's review.

From The Ground Up
Circus Oz
21 June 2012
Circus Oz 
Big Top, Birrarung
to 15 July
then touring

How awesome are Circus Oz?

It's 34 years later and they've lost none of the drive, guts and beliefs that formed this company, and they continue to prove that you don't have to stop having fun as you grow up. In fact, some of the founders are still working alongside brand new members who weren't around in the late 70s.

A Circus Oz show begins in the welcome tent where there's circus food (there is nothing better than a bag of doughnuts), drinks and souvenirs offered by some of the loveliest and enthusiastic people you'll ever meet behind a counter. And it's heated. In the main tent the performers are there to help you settle in and remind you that an audience is as much a part of a show as anyone on stage.

Some chats with Circus Oz performers.

Bell Shakespeare
8 June 2012
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 23 June

I have a confession to make: I've never read the Scottish play and, somehow, I've never seen a production. Shame on me, but it left me in an unusual position of being able to see if the Bell Shakespeare production really tells the story. All I knew was it's the one about the power mad couple and witches, and, being a Shakespeare tragedy, most people die.

9 June
MKA Pop Up Theatre, North Melbourne
to 23 June

I saw a lot of theatre last week, but there was only one show that left me excited about theatre. And there's still time to see it!

What haven't I said about MKA? They consistently show new writing that makes me fall in love with plays all over again and they make it with creators I've rarely heard of, but will make sure that I see again.

Tuesday is an experience. This season's pop-up space is in North Melbourne. There was the Salvo's office in Windsor and the old Steiner School in Abbotsfod, and now it's an old North Melbourne warehouse; if you get lost, look for the people with LED lights. I hope they never find a permanent home because it's so much more fun creating theatre in places where thearte was never meant to be.

I think this is the most exciting piece of theatre I've seen this year. This company create with the kind of passion that doesn't listen to naysayers and cynics.  They believe that theatre is art and that art should wake up our brains and our hearts.  Or it could just be because I really like going to the supermarket.

The motherfucker with the hat
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
10 June
Red Stitch
to 7 July

The motherfucker with the hat opened on Broadway last year and scored a pile of Tony Award nominations. And, as always, Red Stitch continue to let us experience such exciting new writing.

Welcome to a residential hotel in Times Square, New York, where no one cares that they can walk to Broadway to see a play.  Here Jackie (Demitrios Sirilas) is out of jail, is in AA, has a new job and is waiting on the bed for his long-term love Veronica (Michelle Vergara Moore). Then he sees a hat that isn't his. So begins a frantic tale about addiction, loyalty and morality with Jackie and Veronica; Jackie's yoga-going, health-drink peddling AA sponsor Ralph (Adam McConvell); Ralph's attention-lacking wife Victoria (Christina O'Neill, Avenue Q, Tell Me On A Sunday) and Jackie's cousin Julio (Mark Casamento), who's impressive in the kitchen, happy to hide a gun and always prepared to go Van Damme for his blood.

Lucy and The Lost Boy
13 June
NICA National Circus Centre
to 23 June

From The Age. Director Sally Richardson talking about Lucy and the Lost Boy

The National Institute if Circus Arts (NICA) has been training and developing circus artists for over ten years and is the only place in Australia to get a Bachelor of Circus Arts. If you've seen any large or tiny circus show in recent years, the chances are you've seen a NICA graduate – and that you've been mighty impressed. Lucy and The Lost Boy is the showcase performance for this year's final year students.

Robots Vs. Art
La Mama
3 June 2012
La Mama Courthouse
to 10 June

There's a very funny and unexpectedly touching short play hiding in Robots Vs. Art.

Welcome to the future. Robots got super smart and killed off most of the naughty humans who were destroying the world; the rest now work in underground mines and get beaten with chains. One robot (Simon Maiden) is researching "art" and wrote a play, so it's lucky that there's a once-playwright/director (Daniel Frederiksen) is in the mines who wants to convince the bots about the importance of art and feeling.


Ruby Moon
Steam Productions
31 May 2012
The Owl and the Pussycat
to 17 June

Ruby Moon put on her favourite red dress and went to visit her grandma at the end of her cul de sac. She never made it and hasn't been seen since. Her parents are still in the same house and spend every day lost in the unbearable grief of trying to find their little girl.

Sydney-formed Steam Productions chose Matt Cameron's 2003 play for their first Melbourne show.
Cameron's script starts with a fairy tale and enjoys the macabre horror of these traditional stories. It's been on state company stages and schools programs and,  like Poor Boy, which opened the MTC's Sumner Theatre, it's a story that keeps its audience uneasy by never really answering its own questions and its final act reveal leaves us re-interpreting everything that's gone before and wanting a rewind button to see it all again.


As is AnnieRuby Moon is about a little girl in a red dress, but it's the dark and sobering antithesis to the life-is-fair musical. (Or maybe it's the real story of Annie's lost parents.) Without safety nets, its raw pain draws us into unimaginable grief as its mystery leaves us re-thinking what we believed and our hearts hope for the impossible. 

Just book, because there's no room for extra seats. It's engagement isn't easy, but there's beauty in the pain and it'll remind you why watching passive theatre can be so dull.


John Frost, Power Arts, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Two Left Feet
1 June 2012
Regent Theatre
to 12 August

Annie was the first big show I saw. It was the original Australian production (yes, the summer of 78/79) at the Festival Centre in Adelaide and it was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen. It was better than The Aristocats film and even better than Disney on Ice!  And it had kids in it. It was aspirational and my cousins and I sang every bit we could remember from it. (Thanks Gran for taking us.) I so wanted to be an orphan, but I really wanted to be Annie*. It's Annie's fault that I'm here today.

Annie was THE show of 1978 in Australia. The songs were played on the radio, there were stories in every newspaper about the casting and finding the dogs at the pound. We knew the names of the local Annies and orphans. It was bigger than The Voice

Being a teenager, I didn't see the film (naff), missed the 2000 revival (naff!) and so nearly didn't see the 2012 production because I was scared that my inner-10-year-old would have her memories of such a perfect experience shattered.


We've seen some seriously dull musical revivals in recent years. These shows have ruined memories of great shows and made first timers wonder what the fuss was about. Revivals have to be as great as this Annie. They have to be better than what came before. Cutting cost corners on development and rehearsal or talent and spectacle only leads to empty seats and reviewers writing things that make you upset.

Annie is as perfect as a production of Annie can be. Filled with heart and talent, it reminded me why I fell in love with musical theatre all those years ago.

I never got to be THAT Annie, despite my Grandpa never calling me anything else, but I showed off on many stages in my teens, have adopted pets from the street and had red curly hair for many years. But I haven't sat on a billionaire's lap and called him Daddy...yet.

* until I wanted to be Sandy (from Grease, not the dog), then Janet from Rocky Horror.


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