GIASONE, Pinchgut Opera at City Recital Hall, Angel Place, 5-9 December 2013. Photography by Keith Saunders: above: Celeste Lazarenko; right: David Hansen.
Seventeenth century audiences liked things to be straightforward - tragedy was supposed to be tragic and comedy had to be funny and they didn't approve of the two being mixed up. Shakespeare got into trouble for doing that and so apparently did Cavalli with this, his tenth opera. And in this production of Giasone, directed and designed by Chas Rader-Shieber, it's possible to understand why. The tragic aspects of the plot(s) are downplayed in favour of rollicking and almost farcical comedy. That works well most of the time and probably helps a modern audience cope with a paper-thin and mostly ridiculous story, but brings the production close to disaster at one crucial moment.
Meanwhile, however, the good things. First of all, two exceptional performers, first, in David Hansen as Giasone (Jason). Hansen's countertenor voice is sublime: powerful, true and honey-sweet and he is physically heroic too - it's the perfect combination for this role whether in sassy naval whites or bare-chested hunkery! No wonder he is making his name internationally.
MACHINAL, Sydney Theatre Company in Wharf 2, November 21-7 December 7, 2013. Photography by Brett Boardman; above: Ivan Donato, Harriet Dyer, Katie McDonald and Terry Serio; right: Harriet Dyer and Brandon Burke.
It's hard to believe that Machinal was written and first staged in 1928, but director Imara Savage has trimmed the sprawling original to 21st century time tastes and one mesmerising act and it's as fresh and irrelevant as this morning. While seen to be part of American Expressionist theatre, Machinal, by Sophie Treadwell, is unique in telling its story from the female perspective. In so doing it foreshadows many of the concerns of 1960s-70s feminism and also, in its depiction of a dehumanised society, George Orwell's 1984. And also, in this stark, monochromatic setting, Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
Treadwell - a journalist as well as prolific playwright - loosely based Machinal on the true story of Ruth Snyder, an American housewife whose various bungled attempts to murder her husband finally succeeded with the connivance of her married lover, corset salesman Judd Gray. Neither was any good at murder or keeping their stories straight, however, and the police soon arrested both. At the age of 33 she was executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in January 1928, an event that was secretly photographed and notoriously published next day in the New York Daily News.
SUMMERTIME IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, Sisters Grimm and Griffin Independent at the SBW Stables Theatre, 20 November-14 December 2013. Photography by Marg Horwell: above - Agent Cleave and Bessie Holland; right - Agent Cleave.
Being based in Melbourne is surely not the reason why Declan Greene and Ash Flanders have an apparently natural affinity with Southern Gothic, particularly its brooding melodrama, innate theatricality and camp irony. Whatever, after entertaining Sydney with Little Mercy, they - the Sisters Grimm - have now brought their latest hit show north. Summertime in the Garden of Eden is a heady celebration of the Deep South's dark history, elongated vowels and extravagantly enhanced syllables; at once tragic and comic, earnest and absurd, beautiful and grotesque, magnolia-scented and shudderingly rotten. In essence: it's irresistible. So, welcome to their world and the thought that maybe, somehow you've been here before...
WAITING FOR GODOT, Sydney Theatre Company at the Sydney Theatre, 12 November-21 December 2013. Photography by Lisa Tomasetti: Hugo Weaving, Luke Mullins, Richard Roxburgh and Philip Quast; right: Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving.
It was a thrilling moment when it was announced last year that Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving would be reunited on the Sydney Theatre stage in Waiting For Godot. These two are not only major screen stars, but they're also wonderful stage actors - not a common combination. But I had misgivings, because the director was to be the man whose idea it had been to cast the two: Tamas Ascher.
Ascher's 2012 production for STC of Uncle Vanya was extremely successful, both popularly and critically, at home and overseas, but going back to my review at the time, my main criticism was that we were treated to: "glittering jewels of individual performances, the focus and energy ebbed and flowed. The principals stepped up to deliver their party pieces - almost solo master classes - that dazzled but did not altogether lend themselves to the common purpose...Perhaps it has something to do with a director and cast having to communicate entirely through a third party. It seems logical that this arduous process is likely to produce a disjointed outcome: some things must surely be lost in translation." So to 2013 and Waiting For Godot.
COMEDY OF ERRORS, Bell Shakespeare Company at the Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 12 November-7 December 2013. Photography by Matt Nettheim: Renato Musolino, Nathan O'Keefe, Demetrios Sirilas, Septimus Caton and Hazem Shammas; right: Nathan O'Keefe and Jude Henshall.
On opening night in Sydney after a long tour that began in June in Adelaide, the production's director Imara Savage rejoined her cast, telling the post-show crowd of her adventures in the interim (big name drops at this point) and also, rather more significantly, revealing a couple of things that may have been better left unsaid. She said, wryly and ruefully with a wrinkled nose, that of all the Shakespeare plays, John Bell had "given her" this one. And she also noted that since Adelaide there had been "some changes made" - and her tone suggested she didn't approve and there would be notes given.
ALL MY SONS, Darlinghurst Theatre Company at the Eternity Playhouse, 1 November-1 December 2013. Photography by Brett Boardman: Toni Scanlan and Andrew Henry; Marshall Napier, right.
When it was first announced that the "new" Eternity Playhouse would be opening with Arthur Miller's 1946 play All My Sons, I have to admit to wondering at the choice. It wasn't that simple, of course. The inevitable delays in bringing the building to completion meant the Australian play which had been intended as the premiere production was no longer in the running. It turns out to be fortuitous. Not only is the premiere production a fine one, it's also a reminder that although we're more familiar with Miller's later plays, this one deserves to be revived and savoured just as often.
Superb musicians and superb voices
When does laughter turn to tears and rage?
Gloriously silly and amazingly smart.
Definitely worth waiting for.
The less said, the better
BAD NEWS FROM THE RIALTO
Today's forecast: not good and will get worse.
DARK DESCENDS ON THEATRE ROYAL
Sydney theatre supply hits the wall
STAGENOISE ON THE HIGH SEAS
Blessed silence for two weeks.
THE RISE AND RISE OF KING KONG
Broadway beckons. Spiderman watch out!
NEXT TO NORMAL: GONE
Why can't the producers get it right?
The Coogee Carols
Dec 15 (NSW)
The Coogee Carols
December 15 (NSW)
The Coogee Carols- Guest Artists Announcement
15th December 2013 (NSW)
Voices of Angels featuring Sydney Children's Choir, Gondwana Voices & special guests Goldner String Quartet
December 16 - 17, 2013 (NSW)
Maria Venuti- Mama Claus is coming to town!
December 17 (NSW)
24 December (NSW)
The Wind in the Willows
27th December to the 25th of January (VIC)
New Years Eve
December 31 (NSW)
EMPIRE by Spiegelworld
From January 7 2014 (NSW)