Critics' choice Melbourne shows
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 smashed box office records on Broadway and the West End, is powered by its unapologetic exclusivity. Those without any prior knowledge of Harry and co will be
Adapting a canonical Australian film into a stage musical? Who you gonna call? Simon Phillips! He pulled it off with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; surely the director could do the same for that daggiest of screen heroines, Muriel Heslop. Both films leant heavily on internationally famous pop songs from the ’70s, both virtually burst at the seams with the kind of kitsch that cries out for a musical number, and both have remained adored cultural touchstones, even for those who only recall them from their original cinema release, back in 1994. So the question sits large on this production’s shoulders: is it as good as the stage adaptation of Priscilla? The answer is no. No, this one is way better. Perhaps it is the source material. PJ Hogan’s film, despite the superficial similarities to Stephan Elliot’s more raucous and frankly crasser sibling, is a finely balanced dramedy, often profoundly sad and sharply satirical amongst all the comic mayhem. Hogan and Phillips are responsible for the adaptation, and they’ve very carefully modulated the tone and shifted the emphases so that Muriel’s journey from zero to hero fits more snugly into the traditional structure of a Broadway musical, without sacrificing the film’s nuance and edge. The first major change we notice is the look: where the film was drenched in the pastels of a past decade, the stage show pops with block colours, blindingly sunny and over-lit. Muriel (Natalie Abbott) sticks out immediately among the buff bods and p
Louis Nowra’s Così, telling the story of a young director who stages an opera starring the patients of a mental health facility, is one of the best known Australian plays of all time. But it’s somehow never had a production at a state theatre company. Melbourne Theatre Company is bringing it to the mainstage with a little help from co-producer Sydney Theatre Company and a cast featuring Esther Hannaford, Katherine Tonkin and Rahel Romahn. MTC's associate director Sarah Goodes is helming the dark comedy.
I once saw a theatrical adaptation of the Beatles song ‘I Am the Walrus’ at Melbourne University, and I remember it being very bad. I don’t mention it to shame the wonderfully ambitious students who mounted it, but to underline a point about memory and the infinite mutability of cultural forms: it doesn’t matter if the culture is high or low; it only matters what we do with it, how we imbue it with meaning. Anne Washburn’s play Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play, turns on this very idea, as a group of survivors of an apocalypse gather around a fire and attempt to recount an episode of The Simpsons. The episode is Cape Feare, which is largely a parody of Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Robert Mitchum film, Cape Fear. This is a good choice, because it’s already a cannibalistic piece of pop culture that draws in – as every episode of The Simpsons did – myriad references to other works, most notably Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore. The survivors bond over this communal recollection, or maybe just keep the fear and despair at bay. When an outsider, Gibson (Mark Yeates) arrives, they all draw their weapons, but when it turns out he can help them with some choice lines from the ep, he quickly becomes embraced by the group. Washburn has plenty on her mind in this first act, but then ups the ante in the second, which is set seven years later and sees the survivors transformed into a kind of travelling theatre troupe, taking their Simpsons episode on the road. The play becomes a ba
Gavin Quinn is one of the directors of Irish company Pan Pan and is coming to Melbourne to work with an ensemble of locals to create a new piece of theatre. The performers are all comedy experts – Aljin Abella, Ash Flanders, Mish Grigor, Nicola Gunn, Marcus McKenzie – so you can expect plenty of laughs as they play members of a cult seeking personal perfection. It’s a work being devised by the whole cast, so there should be plenty of chaos on stage.
Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet has come out on top in just about every poll of Australia’s favourite books since its release. Some of us probably even love the Pickles and the Lambs – the two families at the centre of this saga, sharing a ramshackle house in Perth for 20 years – more than we love our own families. The book has been turned into a TV series, an opera and even a radio play. But it’s been almost two decades since Nick Enright and Justin Monjo’s acclaimed stage version of the novel has been seen in Melbourne. And there’s one clear reason why – it’s a huge undertaking for any theatre company and runs to about five hours. But Malthouse Theatre’s artistic director Matthew Lutton has been on a crusade in the last few years of bringing Australia’s classic stories to the stage with fresh eyes. And you can’t do that without bringing Cloudstreet back to life. “If we take our own culture seriously then we should take our stories seriously,” Lutton says. “I think that’s what informs us in thinking about Cloudstreet rather than doing a massive cycle of the Greeks or Shakespeare.” We know what you’re thinking: five hours of theatre sounds like a tough slog. But if you can do five hours of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, you can do five hours at Malthouse. On certain nights, the company will be performing the whole thing back-to-back, with a dinner break in the middle. But if you’re going to be a wuss and skip the marathon, you can see the two separate parts on different ni
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh met? You can see that scenario play out in Damiano Michieletto's production of Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims, the centrepiece of Opera Australia's 2019 Melbourne season and the first ever production of the opera to be staged in Australia. The opera itself has a relatively simple plot about a group of VIPs travelling to the coronation of the French King Charles X, but Michieletto's production, which is headed to the Metropolitan Opera in New York after Australia, takes place in a gallery where famous artworks burst out of their frames and interact with one another. Daniel Smith will conduct a predominately Australian cast with singers including Lorina Gore, Julie Lea Goodwin, Warwick Fyfe, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and newcomer Shanul Sharma. See what else is in Opera Australia's 2019 season.
While there are few people whose lives have been documented in as much detail as Britney Jean Spears, she can still be a bit of a mystery. We know what's happened to her – from the meteoric rise, to the devastating lows and the balance she's managed to find in recent years – but we don't necessarily know a great deal about how she's personally persevered through those challenges. This cabaret by Christie Whelan Browne has been around since 2012 and has picked up rave reviews and legions of fans ever since then. And while its subject might be serious, it's delievered with plenty of laughs, all Britney's biggest hits, and live vocals that'd make Britney Jean green with envy. When the show went to London in 2017, Time Out said of Whelan Brown: "Her performance is pitch-perfect and she plays the rabbit-in-the-headlights, sadness-in-her-eyes charm of Britters to full effect. Some of the jokes are good simply because they’re so obvious, set to the tinkling of the ivories and with the occasional jazz hand." Whelan Browne has previously promised that she's putting the show to bed, but keeps John Farnhaming it back out of retirement. But on the chance that she's seriously done with it, you don't want to miss this one-night-only return performance.
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.
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 Balet 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.”