Sunday 27 August 2023

Prophet review

In Jodi Gallagher's Prophet, a man returns from war with a message that the end of the world is coming. His revelation leads to numerous interactions within the city's residents including the powerful elite and outcasts and vagrants of society. Presented as a promenade production, the audience is able to stand, walk around and follow the actors around and feel equally involved in the story (with no interaction), which has us also questioning our own ideas of faith and truth.

The ensemble work incredibly well together, with each actor bringing something unique to their character, and it is fascinating watching the dynamics of the distinct pairings or small groupings with each scene. Mia Landgren is highly memorable with her slow transformation from dutiful wife to being more challenging and confident with herself. She imbues intensity and authenticity to her character even when she is standing on the sidelines. Gabriel Partington successfully carries most of the show with his performance as he becomes a believer of what's to come displaying energy, commitment and vulnerability. His scenes with Dennis Coard as his father are particularly noteworthy and you can easily recognise the history between them. Helen Hopkins is great as the political antagonist but the role needed to have more menace and threatening undertones to it.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ... the cast became all female-identifying

How do you take one of Broadway's greatest and much loved farces while still being inventive and imaginative with it? With its many cases of mistaken identity, it's quite easy. Watch This, Australia’s first and only Sondheim repertory company is bringing one of the composer and lyricist's earliest work to the stage, with not only an all female-identifying cast but a multi-generational one too. We spoke to Sarahlouise Younger, who plays Marcus Lycus, about the new perspectives this production offers and the joy of working on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

I was champing at the bit to get into the rehearsal room! If you're a Sondheim fan like I am, and what musical theatre performer isn't?, Forum is the second time we see Sondheim standing on his own and taking the reins as both composer and lyricist," she tells me. "While the influence of his mentor Bernstein is quite evident, you can hear little musical gems of what will be iconic Sondheim in his future musical creations. The book is a fabulous example of what is great comedic writing. His co-writer Larry Gelbart would go on to write M.A.S.H, so as a musical theatre performer it is such a treat to be given a rich, wordy text to play with."

Sunday 20 August 2023

Cygnets review

Helen of Troy might be a familiar figure to people when it comes to Greek mythology but she is generally recognised as the cause of the Trojan War and little beyond that. Her sister, Clytemenstra is even lesser known, briefly acknowledged in her role of murdering her husband after he sacrificed their daughter to the Gods to aid in his quest for power. Cygnets brings these two sisters together to reclaim their voice and story as they work through the trauma and resentment they experienced at the hands of those around them.

The performances by Rebekah Carton and Delta Brooks are nothing short of magnificent. Brooks as Helen is put through the ringer with the distress and anguish she must convey, as well as reacting to the aggression she receives from her sister. Things get very messy and physically demanding but the commitment she keeps to each scene, as does Carton, is testament to the hard work the two have put in with director Harry Haynes and dramaturg Alanah Guiry in creating Cygnets. Carton finds an inspired balance of being vicious yet comedic, and fierce yet soft, as the woman who will mourn the loss of her daughter and then pay the price for exacting her revenge.

Set and costume designer Juliette Whitney has constructed an impressive set that draws you into the severely rousing moments that play out. Blood-red PVC strips confine us in the small makeshift arena that is used to great effect by Haynes where the drama is presented in a restrained yet impassioned pace. A group of four performers dressed in various red coloured outfits act as a sort of Greek Chorus entering the space for set changes and carrying in props. Their movements and interactions add to the intensity and the inevitable end for the two sisters.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Monument review

Edith Aldridge has just 90 minutes to prepare for the most important day of her life, and it's not her wedding. Makeup artist Rosie has arrived at the hotel as a last-minute call-in to ensure Edith looks gorgeous, after all, how often do you get sworn in as the youngest female leader of a country? Written by Emily Sheehan, Monument explores the power that makeup, fashion and beauty hold over women and also the power that women can have from this. It's a delicate act that is captured by an intriguing and interesting premise.

Julia Hanna is brilliant as Rosie, a perfect foil to the matter-of-fact and calmly distressed Prime Minister. Her line delivery, pronunciation and speech patterns convey much about the character's background and make her inexperienced interactions with the Prime Minister seem genuine. Sarah Sutherland as the Prime Minister presents a woman who is slowly unravelling by forces outside her control and feeling the pressure of being relentlessly monitored over the minutest of details. She exposes Edith's emotional turmoil in a very raw way, including a compelling scene of her silently releasing her anger and frustrations out into the world.

Sunday 13 August 2023

What Was That? review

It's not often a production gets to celebrate its 1000th show, but What Was That? did just that on Saturday 12 August. This immersive ghost tour through Werribee Park Mansion gives audience an overview of the home's history and the family that built it in the 1870s, the Chirnsides.

With permission granted by the production team to start the show five minutes late to watch the Matilda's win over France in the penalty shoot out in their World Cup match, the mood in the audience was in very high spirits and completely up for the thrills and delights our hosts had planned for us.

We are met at the entrance by the personable head maid Maggie (Alaine Beek) and the crabby butler Mr Duncan (Ross Daniels). As "we are all friends of the Chirnsides" we are led through the various rooms of this lush mansion.

Saturday 12 August 2023

The Fence review

We may see fences as the boundary of our property, where one house ends and another one starts. But what happens when that fence is literally and figuratively taken down? Written by Fleur Murphy, The Fence takes audiences into the home of one woman as she bears witness to the darker side of neighbourhood living.

Louisa Mignone plays a happily married woman with a three-year-old daughter. She works night shifts at a local supermarket stacking shelves as she and her husband plan on buying the house they are currently renting. When a couple move in next door and tear down the fence between them, it leads to emotions and feelings that begin to impact her life as she struggles with the implications of turning a blind eye or calling out what she suspects is taking place.

Sunday 6 August 2023

kerosene and SIRENS review

I remember the first time I watched kerosene and being completely engrossed by Izabella Yena and the ferocity and tenderness she brought to her role. Over a year later, I remember the first time I watched SIRENS and sitting in awe as Benjamin Nichol presented a story that was so rich in detail and raw in emotion. Now for the first time, audiences are seeing these critically acclaimed plays as they were intended to be seen: together. While each story is distinct, unique and stands on its own, what ties the two together is the exploration of belonging, environment and disillusionment and how the harsh realities of life can be difficult to overcome.

Nichol and Yena have collaborated extensively on these projects, with Nichol writing kerosene and Yena performing in it and sharing directing responsibilities. SIRENS has been co-created by the two with Nichol also serving as writer and performer (and direction by Olivia Satchell). They are quickly proving themselves to be a formidable duo in the performing arts scene and it is very exciting to see what they come up with next.

Saturday 5 August 2023

Miss Peony review

We have all heard of the expression "be careful what you wish for", but in Miss Peony, the more appropriate expression would be "be careful what you promise on your Poh Poh's deathbed". When Lily agrees to enter - and win - a beauty pageant competition just as her grandmother passes away, she is forced to see it through or risk being haunted by her Poh Poh for the rest of her life. Written by Michelle Law, Miss Peony takes its audience into the world of beauty pageants with plenty of humour and heart.

The relationship between Lily and her Poh Poh (in the living and the spiritual world) constantly moves from affectionate to exasperating as Stephanie Jack and Gabrielle Chan touchingly display the underlying tension, grief and regrets they feel. Chan is full of personality as Adeline, Lily's Poh Poh. Her matter-of-fact attitude and dishing of barbs is a joy to watch and while her fan dance is brief, it is one of Miss Peony’s most powerful moments due to the emotion that Chan carries in it.