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CALPURNIA DESCENDING

CALPURNIA DESCENDING

By Diana Simmonds

CALPURNIA DESCENDING, Sydney Theatre Company and Malthouse Melbourne at Wharf 2; 11 October-8 November 2014. (Sold out, try Suncorp $20s.) Merlyn Theatre at Malthouse, 12-30 November 2014. Photography by Brett Boardman: main – Paul Capsis; right: Ash Flanders, Sandy Gore and Peter Paltos.

After the popular and critical success in Sydney of Melbourne’s Ash Flanders and Declan Greene – aka Sisters Grimm – with Little Mercy and Summertime in the Garden of Eden it must have seemed like a lay down misere to throw money at them and anticipate another hit.

In hindsight, however, the thing about Sisters Grimm is that for these creative wizards it’s been the absence of loads of cash and the presence of a lot of inventive ingenuity that’s made their work so special…

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MEDEA V MEDEA

MEDEA V MEDEA

By Diana Simmonds

MEDEA V MEDEA - the NTLive version (in cinemas) 2014; and the Kate Mulvany/Anne-Louise Sarks version Downstairs Belvoir in 2012. Photography by Heidrun Lohr of Blazey Best and the boys in 2012.

 

The most recent National Theatre Live offering (“live” in early September then re-screened last weekend and this week, early October) was the hugely acclaimed Medea starring Helen McCrory in the title role in a new version of Euripides’ original by Ben Power. Given many four and five star reviews by the UK press, it was directed by Carrie Cracknell and co-starred the wonderful Michaela Coel as the Nurse and not so wonderful Danny Sapani as the deserting husband Jason. (Hard to imagine Medea being so distraught at being dumped by such a sack of potatoes.) 

 

Then there’s the downright wooden portrayal of Kreon by Martin Turner and a most peculiar Chorus, choreographed by Lucy Guerin and apparently in another (dance) production altogether. Add to that, the two level set of palace above and forest below with vast empty space out front (design Tom Scutt, lighting Lucy Carter) which was also peculiar, splitting as it did the two worlds but in doing so, causing maximum distraction for minimum use value.

 

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SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

By Polly Simons

SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, Squabbalogic Independent Musical Theatre at the Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, 1-18 October 2014. Photography by Michael Francis; above: Dean Vince, Debora Krizak, Blake Erickson, Rob Johnson and Phillip Lowe; (right) Phillip Lowe

 

Sondheim on Sondheim could be the ultimate treat for musical theatre lovers.

 

Chock-full of previously unheard songs, in-jokes, name-that-musical moments and a mother lode of recognizable tunes, those not familiar with the finer details of Sondheim’s life and legacy may find themselves uncomfortably out of their depth.

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IS THIS THING ON?

IS THIS THING ON?

By Diana Simmonds

IS THIS THING ON? Downstairs Belvoir, 2-26 October 2014. Photography by Brett Boardman: Fiona Press, Madeleine Benson, Susan Prior, Nat Randall and Genevieve Giuffre; right: Susan Prior.

 

Brianna is a stand up comic. When she starts out, as a teenager, she has all the confidence of youth and precious little ability to go with it. Her routine is excruciatingly bad and as written by Zoë Coombs Marr is so certain and unfunny it takes some minutes to realise the writing and characterisation are actually brilliant - that the awfulness is intentional and there is structure and purpose behind the groan-provoking “jokes”. 

 

In a recent interview in Time Out, Coombs Marr says of Brianna, “She is part projected future, part nightmare, part existential crisis. The person she resembles most is Sisyphus, pushing shit uphill forever, never getting anywhere and trying to find meaning in the nothingness.” And that’s a succinct and perfect description of the character who is played - at various points of her life and career - by five women. The tongue-tied, wide-eyed, nerve-racked baby comic is Madeleine Benson. A few years on and in a carapace of cynicism, it’s Genevieve Giuffre’s turn to challenge the audience. Her nodding dog incantation of “I love you guys” becomes the refrain that repeats with more or less sincerity depending how well the jokes are going down – or not.

 

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HOWIE THE ROOKIE

HOWIE THE ROOKIE

By Diana Simmonds

HOWIE THE ROOKIE, Red Line Productions in association with Strange Duck Productions and SITC at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, 30 September-25 October 2014. Photography by Kathy Luu: (above) Andrew Henry and Sean Hawkins; right: Sean Hawkins.

Howie the Rookie was Mark O’Rowe’s breakthrough work in 1999 and it’s still powerful 14 years on. In this independent production it’s well served by director Toby Schmitz who would appear to be something of an alchemist in his relationship with the two actors, Andrew Henryand Sean Hawkins. This on account of his currently working in South Africa and Los Angeles and flying in and out, to work with them in the flesh, while casting spells via Skype the rest of the time. The end result says a great deal about the three, and all of it good.

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THE WITCHES

THE WITCHES

By Felicity Dayhew

THE WITCHES, by Roald Dahl, adapted from the stage play by David Wood, Griffin Theatre Company at the SBW Stables Theatre, 24 September-5 October 2014. Photo of Guy Edmonds and the mouse by Brett Boardman.

 

Before they had Harry Potter they had The Witches.

The Witches is a one-man play adapted from the Roald Dahl novel about a little boy who discovers the secrets of the witches.

I found The Witches funny and dramatic. They did it well using minimal props, but made great use of them. The sound effects went really well with each different part of the story, using things like lightning and background music. Only using the clothes he was wearing as costumes, Guy Edmonds made it seem like he was wearing a thousand different costumes in seconds probably helped by the director Lucas Jervies.

 

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