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ROLLING THUNDER VIETNAM

ROLLING THUNDER VIETNAM

By Diana Simmonds

ROLLING THUNDER VIETNAM, Blake Entertainment in association with QPAC at the State Theatre Sydney, now touring. Photography by Dylan Lewis.

 

This is such an obvious and excellent idea there are only two questions to be asked: how come no one thought of doing it before? And: has the idea been fully realised. The answers are: who knows? And: yes, it has. In essence Rolling Thunder Vietnam is a theatrical-concert account of Australia’s participation in that hideous, immoral, stupid war set to the popular music of its time.

 

Complementing the music is a spare and effective book by Bryce Hallett fashioned from much listening and questioning of real-life Vietnam vets. From them he’s devised a quartet of archetypal characters whose life stories and anecdotes are the framework. Performed and sung by Tom Oliver, Kimberly Hodgson, Wes Carr, Matthew Pearce, Vanessa Krummenacher and Will Ewing, they are painfully young men (and two young women) who lived and died and or were changed forever more by the actual lottery that took them to war and the lottery of fate - that decided what would or would not happen to each of them…

 

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THE GOD OF HELL

THE GOD OF HELL

By Diana Simmonds

THE GOD OF HELL, Mophead Productions with SITC at the Old Fitzroy, 26 August-13 September 2014. Photography by Gareth Davies: above - Vanessa Downing, Tony Poli, Ben McIvor and Jake Lyall. Right: Vanessa Downing and Ben McIvor.

 

Sam Shephard was never enamoured of the cliches of the American Dream and in this play it has become the Great American Nightmare. Emma (Vanessa Downing) and Frank (Tony Poli) are a couple of mid-west cattle ranchers as classic as apple pie and even more innocent. They live in deepest rural Wisconsin where it seems to be freezing most of the time and where their neighbours are being paid by the government to not farm their land (this is true even though it might appear to be far-fetched)…

 

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OEDIPUS REX

OEDIPUS REX

By Polly Simons

OEDIPUS REX, Downstairs at Belvoir St Theatre, 21 August – 14 September 2014. Photography by Pia Johnson, pictured above and left: Peter Carroll.

 

There seems to be a single question echoing around the raw-bricked chambers of Belvoir at the moment: what happens next? Upstairs, it’s being asked in Nora, Anne-Louise Sarks' follow-up to A Doll's House.  

 

Downstairs, director Adena Jacobs is taking it as the basis of her new work, Oedipus Rex, a production she describes as a “mediation on the myth” and a “code of symbols”.

 

Unfortunately for Jacobs however, if Oedipus Rex is a code, it’s one that is yet to be cracked.

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LOVE AND DEATH AND AN AMERICAN GUITAR

LOVE AND DEATH AND AN AMERICAN GUITAR

By Polly Simons

LOVE AND DEATH AND AN AMERICAN GUITAR, Highway Run Productions at the Hayes Theatre, August 24 and 31, and September 7, 2014. Pictured: Toby Francis

 

Jim Steinman may well be the most famous songwriter you’ve never heard of.

 

But if you’ve ever belted out Total Eclipse of the Heart in the shower, or surreptitiously turned up Bat Out of Hell on the car radio, you’ll know him. Likewise, It’s All Coming Back to Me NowYou Took the Words Right Out of My MouthI’d Do Anything For Love and dozens of other classics.

 

In short, Steinman is rock royalty, but - as is so often the story – one who was sidelined for the more marketable theatrics of a motorbike-riding Meat Loaf and big-haired Bonnie Tyler.

 

In his tribute to Steinman then, Love and Death and an American Guitar, it’s fair to say that cabaret star Toby Francis has got the musical side of things sorted. From the first few instantly recognisable chords of Bat Out of Hell, it’s clear we’re in for one hell of a ride.

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NORA

NORA

By Diana Simmonds

NORA, Upstairs Belvoir at Belvoir, 9 August-14 September 2014. Photography by Brett Boardman: above - Blazey Best and Damien Ryan; right Blazey Best and Linda Cropper.

 

Anne-Louise Sarks is Belvoir’s newest Resident Director and this production goes in the “much anticipated” basket after 2012’s Medea, her award-winning and wonderful collaboration with Kate Mulvany. Unfortunately, this latest “re-thought classic” is not in the same league and probably belongs in the “be careful what you wish for” basket.

 

Sarks and playwright Kit Brookman have updated, extended and generally beaten up Henrik Ibsen’s great play of 1879 until it is barely recognisable. This is not necessarily a bad thing, indeed the main idea is intriguing: what happened to Nora after she walked out on her marriage and slammed the front door. That slam reverberated across the world and continues to do so, so it’s natural that many would wonder - what did she do next? What became of her?

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CONSTELLATIONS

CONSTELLATIONS

By Diana Simmonds

CONSTELLATIONS, Darlinghurst Theatre Co at the Eternity Theatre, 8 August-7September 2014. Photography by Gez Xavier Mansfield: Emma Palmer and Sam O’Sullivan.

 

Nick Payne won the Evening Standard award for Best New Play in 2012 after the premiere run of Constellations at the Royal Court (it later transferred to the West End). And in Anthony Skuse’s exquisitely wrought production for Darlinghurst, it’s easy to see why. First of all, it really is a remarkable play and would be even if the author were not, at the time of writing, a 29-year-old wunderkind

 

Constellations runs for under 90 minutes yet is packed with ideas, ambition, laughter, tears and intelligence. It’s about quantum physics and bee-keeping and how these two apparently irreconcilable occupations can coincide and collide, or continue to orbit and never meet; or meet only in passing and occasionally…

 

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