Critics' choice Melbourne shows
A new batch of tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are going on sale on Tuesday May 7 at 11am. The tickets are for dates from February 5 to March 22. The first rule of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is that you don’t talk about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Safeguarding spoilers is an expected responsibility for anyone who attends the Potter-verse’s first on-stage outing. There’s even a hashtag: #KeepTheSecrets. But in truth (as far as theatre critique is concerned, at least), JK Rowling needn’t have worried. This marathon, five-hour spectacle has a plot so dense and sprawling, so wonderfully, unashamedly elaborate, it would take many thousands of words more than any theatre review to even scratch the surface. While we may have been sworn to secrecy about Cursed Child’s plot, we can reveal that the hype – and rarely has a piece of theatre ever generated such fever-pitched buzz – is entirely deserved. And not just because of the quality of the production. The masterminds behind the show – led by Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany – have not merely set out to put on a play, but rather craft a rich and detailed immersive experience. To this end, Melbourne’s Princess Theatre has undergone a top to bottom $6.5 million makeover, transforming its interiors to match a Hogwartsian, Potterfied aesthetic. If this sounds like an unnecessary extravagance, it’s probably an indication this play isn’t for you. The success of Cursed Child, which has
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo was established in 1985 by Princess Caroline of Hanover (in accordance with her mother, Grace of Monaco’s wishes) and has since become one of the world’s most exciting ballet companies. “For a ballet company, they’re so different to what we do, but they’re really creating ballet of the 21st century,” the Australian Ballet's artistic director David McAllister says. The Australian Ballet has invited the company to Melbourne with this new, critically acclaimed take on Swan Lake, choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot. His production is dark, sexy and features costumes by Winter Olympics designer Philippe Guillotel. “As Jean-Christophe always does, he approaches it from a very contemporary angle,” McAllister says. “It’s the same Swan Lake story – the white swan versus the black swan – but in this production they’re played by different people.”
British dramatist Caryl Churchill has a knack for imbuing intimate scenarios with epic power, which certainly resonates with Red Stitch Actors Theatre, the small venue with a reputation for big storytelling. Written in 2016, Escaped Alone is a prime example; a simple conceit that unlocks an awesome vision exploring the existential terrors we hide beneath a veneer of everyday small talk. In a pleasant, sun-dappled garden, three women sit chatting over tea. They’re joined by a vague acquaintance, Mrs Jarrett (Julie Forsyth), welcoming her with inconsequential, middle-class conversations about favourite TV shows, the coming and going of shops on the high street, and the accomplishments of grandchildren. These pleasantries are so familiar, we’re lulled into thinking we know these people. But slowly, hints of their unique internal struggles rise to the surface. A series of soliloquies delve beneath the polite pretence, revealing emotional demons festering within. Sally (Caroline Lee) has an irrational, phobia-driven hatred of cats that provokes an obsessive need to search her home for feline invaders. Vi (Margaret Mills) is a survivor of domestic abuse, and yet is haunted by the violence she has inflicted against her attacker. Lena (Marta Kaczmarek), once a confident office worker, has been robbed of her career and personal agency by an agoraphobia she is unable to overcome. Most devastating of all, Mrs Jarrett, so outwardly mild mannered, is gripped by intense, ceaseless ange
Zahra Newman will star in this one-woman adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel, Wake in Fright. The novel was famously turned into a seminal 1971 film and was adapted into a miniseries in 2017. But Malthouse’s version will be rather different to those previous iterations, driven by a provocative soundtrack composed by art electronica band, friendships. Declan Greene will direct his own adaptation, uncovering the terrifying and toxic masculinity at the core of this story about a man who finds himself stranded in the fictional all-Aussie town of Bundanyabba. “It was always going to be a piece about words and storytelling,” Malthouse artistic director Matthew Lutton says. “Like a campfire, gothic piece of storytelling… I think the scariest way to create the Yabba is to hear it.” See what else is in Malthouse's 2019 season.
Melbourne's theatre scene might look to be totally dominated by a certain boy wizard in 2019, but there's another big show headed our way from Broadway. Come from Away is set to open at the Comedy Theatre in July. The historic theatre will get major refurbishment and new seats (anybody's who's sat through long show at the theatre knows the seating is a necessity) in time for Come From Away's Australian opening. The musical has been a bit of an unexpected hit in North America, set in a small Canadian town in the days following the September 11 attacks. Written by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein, it tells the true story of Gander, where 38 international flights carrying 7,000 passengers were forced to land, effectively doubling the population of the town with stranded passengers for several days. The vibrant score has Celtic flavours, and the show's cast recording was nominated for a Grammy Award. The musical started out with a 2013 Ontario production, and then went on to tour the US before landing on Broadway in early 2017. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards last year and picked up the award for Best Direction of a Musical for Broadway veteran Christopher Ashley, who'll be overseeing the local production. Read Time Out New York's four-star review here.
There’s no individual who has had a bigger influence on modern theatre than ye olde William Shakespeare. So it makes sense that he’s a central character in Melbourne Theatre Company’s biggest show for 2019. They're pulling out the big guns for the show, with director Simon Phillips (Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert the Musical, Love Never Dies). It’s based on the 1998 Academy Award-winning Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes film, which imagines an affair between Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps, a woman who disguises herself as a man to audition for Shakespeare’s theatre. The film was previously adapted for the stage in 2014, when it premiered in a lavish production on London’s West End. The MTC production will use the same music and script, adapted from Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman’s screenplay, but will be otherwise entirely made by a local creative team. You can expect it to look a million bucks, with costumes and sets designed by the great Gabriela Tylesova. “It will be a brand-new vision for the work, and I’m very excited about where Simon may be taking that,” says MTC artistic director Brett Sheehy. According to Sheehy, the production came to MTC through Phillips, who was approached by its original producers, Disney Theatrical, to create a new version of the show. It’s intended that the MTC version will be able to tour around the world.
Blackie Blackie Brown was such an epic hit in its first Melbourne season, Malthouse is bringing it back for a short stint in 2019. Read our four-star review of the 2018 Malthouse season below. The revenge fantasy is alive and well, and it’s putting down roots at the Malthouse’s Beckett Theatre for the month of July. It can only be a month, because that’s how long super heroine Blackie Blackie Brown has to complete her deadly mission: to wipe out all 400 of her victims, the descendants of those who brutally murdered her great great grandmother. That’s a lot of killing in a short space of time. But let’s face it, in this country it’s hardly unprecedented; it’s almost a piece of cake.Playwright Nakkiah Lui is something of a comedic sensation – and audiences who’ve seen previous works such as Blak Cabaret or ABC’s Black Comedy will have some idea of what to expect – but Blackie Blackie Brown represents a solidification of her talent. It has an absolutely genius conceit, an in-built entertainment generator, but it’s also expertly crafted and forensic in its approach to its satirical targets. This is a playwright who knows precisely what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.Jacqueline Brown (Dalara Williams) is an Indigenous archeologist, working for a mining company who wants the all-clear to exploit the local land for profit. When she discovers a human skull that opens her to her heritage, it’s both devastating and empowering. The skull gives her uncanny powers, but it
The ballet Sylvia falls very firmly into the “neglected classic” category, and has been rarely performed since it premiered more than 150 years ago. “It’s sadly neglected, and I think it has one of the great scores written for ballet,” Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister says. And you don’t have to believe just McAllister; Tchaikovsky famously said that Léo Delibes’ score was better than anything he had written, including Swan Lake. The ballet draws its narrative from Greek mythology, following Sylvia, a chaste, ferocious huntress who swears off love but eventually falls for a human man. “The thing that’s always been difficult is that the story is fairly convoluted,” McAllister says. “Sometimes those Greek, Arcadian stories don’t really play for a modern audience. But Stanton has done a lot of work to make it a lot more resonant today, and not just looking at Sylvia and Diana, but the whole idea of Greek mythology and how it fits into our lives today.” The female dancers of the company will be getting in touch with their inner warriors (much like the male dancers did last year with Spartacus) and will learn to sword fight for the production. “The boys have been battling each other up in Spartacus, and now the girls are going to be fencing themselves into a frenzy next year.”
This musical from Kander and Ebb (the songwriting team behind Cabaret and Chicago) has never before had a professional mainstage production in Australia. Melbourne Theatre Company's artistic director Brett Sheehy says he’s reversing that “unconscionable neglect” with this new production starring Australia’s own Broadway and West End star (she played the leading role in Chicago on Broadway), Caroline O’Connor. It’s based on Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel set inside a South American prison where two men are sharing a cell. One is a Marxist revolutionary, and the other is a gay window dresser who escapes into a fantasy world of movies starring the fabulous diva Aurora. That’s where O’Connor comes in. The cast also includes Adam Jon Fiorentino, Natalie Gamsu, and Bert LaBonté (The Book of Mormon). Helpmann Award-winner and musical theatre dynamo Dean Bryant directs.
Every couple of years, globe-trotting circus company Cirque du Soleil pops up its Grand Chapiteau in Melbourne for a season of good, old-fashioned spectacle and entertainment. Its next show to come to town has got a decidedly retro vibe and has been widely praised as the company's best in years. When it was in New York back in 2016, Time Out gave it a glowing five-star review: "Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is a procession of wonders: the Canadian circus giant’s sharpest, sexiest, most stylish production in years. In a departure from the otherwordly themes for which Cirque is best known, writer-director Michel Laprise embraces a steampunk aesthetic: metal and leather, chunky robots, glowing filaments under glass, a singer with a phonograph horn on her head. The style may be retro, but the acts—and the technical ingenuity that makes them possible—are fully up-to-date. The show is a mad scientist’s lab of wild invention, in which circus artists from around the planet perform routines of breathtaking beauty and precision." Kurios is at Flemington Racecourse from March 12, 2020. Tickets go on sale March 18, 2019 at 9am.