Critics' choice Melbourne shows
The Danger Ensemble was one of Brisbane’s most provocative and, um, dangerous theatre ensembles until they moved to Melbourne last year under director Steven Mitchell Wright. After wowing audiences with The Hamlet Apocalypse – in which they performed Shakespeare’s tragedy on the night of an apocalypse – they’re back at St Kilda's Theatre Works with a new show inspired by The Scarlet Letter. They're calling it a "liturgical slut drop dripping with song, dance, and theatrical madness."
When Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins premiered in 1990, George Bush Sr was in power and the Gulf War was underway. Audiences during war time weren’t really ready for a musical about the dark heart of the American dream, and it closed early. In 2004 it was remounted on Broadway and won four Tonys. Its time had come. Come from Away feels like the reverse: a musical that suits its time, is perhaps even flattered a little by it. It’s of course impossible to predict, but it seems unlikely that this show will play quite so well in 15 years. Something about its message, its attitude and its structure relies heavily on the audience’s willingness, even hunger, to receive it. We are living in dark times, and a show like this certainly hits the sweet spot. Does that necessarily make it a great show? Certainly, it tells a warm and reassuring tale about a community who rallies for people it doesn’t know, and in that regard it is a necessary and timely one. On the morning of September 11, 2001 a total of 38 planes carrying 6,579 passengers were diverted to the remote airspace in Newfoundland, near the town of Gander. They didn’t know why, nor even where they were, but they soon learnt just how kind and welcoming the locals could be. Gander (and neighbouring towns) took them all in, almost doubling the local population in a single day; they fed them, clothed them and housed them. They broke the news of the terrorist attacks in New York, and they gave them phones to contact loved ones. And the
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
What do you do when your baby sister is murdered by a monster? How can you possibly respond to something so horrifying, traumatising and unfair? Would you find some way of moving on, or would you do all you can to exact revenge? That's the crisis faced by Lila, the central figure and narrator of this gripping one-woman show from Canada. Performed by Cherish Violet Blood and penned by Tara Beagan, the play takes its audience on an extraordinary ride that's constantly entertaining despite its dark and difficult subject matter: the ongoing murder of Indigenous women both in Canada and across the world. When we saw the show at this year's Sydney Festival, we wrote in a four-star review: "It’s a brilliantly structured monologue, tracing Lila and Hammy’s life and the traumas they’ve suffered, slowly ramping up over the course of the play. But it’s punctuated with lightness – just when the darkness starts to suffocate – and evocative prose that brings Canada’s wilder corners to life on stage." This is a gorgeously crafted piece of theatre and our only word of advice would be to take those content warnings seriously. This isn't one for audience members who are easily made queasy.
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.”
There aren’t many dance companies in the world that can truly be described as peerless, but the territory that Bangarra Dance Theatre has occupied for the last 30 years as Australia’s leading Indigenous dance company is entirely its own. The company is one of the true wonders of Australian culture. This triple bill, celebrating that 30th birthday, is a look back at some of Bangarra’s most entrancing moments as well as a step in a new direction. It kicks off with Unaipon, choreographer Frances Rings’ 2004 tribute to David Unaipon, the Ngarrindjeri man who is credited as the first published Aboriginal author and whose face is on the $50 note. It’s classic Bangarra territory, with three distinct sections, starting with a sequence about Unaipon’s Ngarrindjeri knowledge, moving into his scientific knowledge and ending with his religious devotion. It’s full of visually inventive moments, such as a tribute to the “string games” used by Ngarrindjeri Elders to pass on knowledge, danced by the male members of the ensemble, elegantly entangling themselves in strings stretching across the breadth of the stage. There’s also a frantically danced full company piece demonstrating Newton’s three laws of motion. Tyrel Dulvarie plays Unaipon at several points in a moving performance, but the most beautiful moment of Rings’ work is four solos representing the four winds, danced by Tara Gower, Rika Hamaguchi, Lillian Banks and Dulvarie in a spectacular grass costume designed by Jennifer Irwin.
When we talk about landmark moments in Australian playwriting, it’s hard to go past Who’s Afraid of the Working Class, the blistering collaboration between four of our finest writers – Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves and Christos Tsiolkas – and composer Irine Vela. With their powers combined, they are to Australian theatre what the Avengers are to superheroes. The 1999 play premiered at the now defunct Melbourne Workers Theatre and melded together several separate storylines to create a startling and memorable portrait of Melbourne in the late ‘90s. Now they’re reuniting to mark the work’s 20th anniversary at Melbourne Festival with a brand new show that looks at Australia today and asks what draws us together and what divides us. To help them explore class and inequality, they’re throwing together a group of characters from diverse backgrounds on a train. Director Susie Dee will helm a stellar cast of local actors, including Amanda Ma, Maude Davey, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Eva Seymour, Carly Sheppard, Maria Mercedes, Reef Ireland, Thuso Lekwape, Osamah Sami, Eryn Jean Norvill, Sahil Saluja and Ruthy Kaisila.
It's the end of the festival as we know it. Starting next year, Melbourne Festival is joining with White Night to create an as-yet-unnamed mega winter festival, which will run from August 2020. But director Jonathan Holloway is ensuring this iteration of Melbourne Festival goes out with a bang, with a spectacular and eclectic program. For theatre lovers, there's a new international work starring Maxine Peake as the enigmatic Nico and Anthem, and a new collaboration between some of Australia's leading creatives. Music fans will lap up gigs from the Flaming Lips and Joan As Police Woman, while Japan's legendary TeamLab will be showing three new video works in a free exhibition. See our highlights from the 2019 line-up.
Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter makes some of the most distinctively vibrant dance anywhere in the world. In 2016 he was nominated for a Tony Award for choreographing a brilliant new Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof, but he’s best known for the shows he creates with his own company. That company is coming to Melbourne to perform Grand Finale, featuring ten dancers who’ll be dancing their way towards the end of the world in this frequently funny (well, bleakly funny) reflection on a planet threatened by disaster. This will mark Schechter’s fourth visit to the Melbourne Festival, after he made his debut in 2009 with Uprising and In Your Rooms, and returned in 2011 with Political Mother and 2013 with Sun. But critics have been raving about this particular work – his boldest and most ambitious yet – since it premiered in London in 2017. It’s a must-see for contemporary dance fans and a pretty spectacular introduction for anybody new to the art form.