Critics' choice Melbourne shows
It’s a scenario that seems fashioned out of the zeitgeist: a wealthy, respected man is threatened with ruin by the revelation of a single act of corruption in his youth, and a society twists itself in knots to protect and shield him from dishonour. But this is Oscar Wilde, so we can rest assured that nothing will comply precisely with societal norms, and we’re certain to have a hell of a lot of fun on the way down.An Ideal Husband is Wilde’s most serious comedy, which places it somewhere between the frivolous genius of his perfect farce The Importance of Being Earnest and the luxurious solemnity of his highly symbolic Salomé. It plays alternately as a sophisticated comedy of manners and a proto-noir thriller; blackmail, insider trading and political intrigue rub up against flirtation, marital skirmish and appropriate uses of the button-hole. Sir Robert Chiltern (Simon Gleeson) is the coming man in late Victorian society, a politician of strict and unimpeachable ideals. His wife, Lady Chiltern (Zindzi Okenyo) holds him to these ideals; she’d place him on a literal pedestal if she could explain it to her guests. These include her gloriously frivolous sister-in-law Mabel (Michelle Lim Davidson), the scandalously entertaining Lord Goring (Brent Hill) and his phlegmatic father the Earl of Caversham (William McInnes), the chief gossip Lady Markby (Gina Riley) and her mysterious, and subsequently dangerous, friend Mrs Cheveley (Christie Whelan Browne). The plot is too good to give a
It’s called A Doll’s House, Part 2 and in many ways it delivers precisely what it promises on the packet: this is a serious attempt to imagine what happens when, 15 years after the fact, Nora Helmer (Marta Dusseldorp) – she who severed a deeply-held bond with her audience back in 1879 by walking out on her marriage and her children – comes back. Playwright Lucas Hnath has the audacity to stage that return, and in so doing manages to build a superbly supple series of dramatic and intellectual links between Henrik Ibsen and the current zeitgeist. If there were any doubts that fusty old dramas can still reverberate through the collective consciousness, then this play scuttles them.Nora has, virtually from the moment she first appeared in that wintery Copenhagen night, come to represent a certain proto-feminist position that is both searingly convincing and deeply problematic. Hnath ingeniously mines the original play’s ambivalences around what constitute proper female behaviour, stretching them into a spiderweb of current concerns. Nora abandons her children but she does so to survive, and this play accepts her decision at face value, and then spears her on the spike of consequence. Any woman who’s ever felt damned if she did and damned if she didn’t, is sure to relate.Although this is equally true of Nora’s oft-maligned husband Torvald (Greg Stone). Having carried the burden of raising a family without a mother, Torvald is understandably reluctant to let her back in, especially
In April 2015, a student protest at the University of Cape Town started a revolution when it successfully sought to bring down a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes, and sparked a debate about the white, Euro-centric focus that dominated South African education. In the aftermath of the movement, seven students involved in the protest created The Fall, taking it to Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it picked up two awards before transferring to London and New York. Now it’s Australia’s turn. Performed by the students involved, it recounts their experience through story and song and explores issues around decolonisation, racism, privilege and protest.
Bruce Pascoe certainly wasn’t the first person to argue against the hunter-gatherer myth of pre-colonisation Australia, but his widely acclaimed 2014 book, Dark Emu,pulled together a wealth of evidence of sophisticated and sustainable agricultural practices completely unknown to most Australians. It's a provocative book that blows apart a lot of what we’re taught about life in this country before 1788 and many of the apparent justifications for the invasion that took place. Not only does Pascoe prove false the idea that Aboriginal people were simply nomads, lucky enough to live on a land naturally blessed with rich vegetation and wildlife, he convincingly explains why the evidence hasn’t been examined, due to both simple ignorance and a more deliberate reshaping of history by those in power. It might have been a bit more difficult for the Brits to claim terra nullius if everybody knew, for example, that Aboriginal people might have been the world’s first bakers. To turn Pascoe’s book – essentially a work of scholarship – into a dance piece is a significant challenge, and one that Bangarra has met with extraordinary skill and invention. Dark Emu is a fair bit more abstract than Bangarra’s latest show, Bennelong, and you’ll almost certainly find it difficult to understand exactly what’s happening in certain sections; you mightn’t even be sure if the dancers are embodying people or grain. But it doesn’t matter much, because across the work’s many distinct sections you get a cl
You're watching someone creep through deserted hallways in a house with a violent past. There's an ominous creak, and you think you see a flash of movement out of the corner of your eye. You tense as the music swells, knowing a scare could shock you at any moment. To calm your breathing, you tell yourself: "It's only a movie. It's only a movie." But at Arts Centre Melbourne this September, it won't be just a movie. Jakop Ahlbom's critically acclaimed (Time Out London gave it four stars) Horror is like a scary movie unfolding before your eyes, with no screens separating you from the terrifying action. Part circus, part mime, part dance, part theatre, all terrifying, Horror uses all the cinematic tropes that scary movie fans love, but by putting them on stage reifies the experience more than any movie ever could. This is the first time Horror has been seen in Australia, but it has delighted (and scared the bejeezus out of) audiences all around the world. It is not suitable for people under 15 – we are talking serious scares here, people. It will only be in Melbourne for a few days, so get in quick. The real terror would be missing out.
The Melbourne Festival is a world-renowned celebration of the finest art from across the country and the globe. Melburnians have come to expect some serious talent headlining their festival, and this year is no exception. There's work from choreographic master William Forsythe, a performance from post-punk royalty The The, a visit from Yo-Yo Ma's Silkroad Ensemble, and a collaboration between Peter Sellars and Los Angeles Master Chorale. If you're after something spectacular, the Royal Botanic Gardens are being taken over by some epic fire sculptures. On the complete opposite end of the scale is a magical miniature theatre work experienced in a private booth. See our highlights from the 2018 line-up.
My Name is Jimi is coming to Melbourne Festival in October after successful seasons in Brisbane and Sydney. Here's our four-star review of this year's Sydney season: Jimi Bani might be celebrated on the Australian mainland as a TV, film and stage actor (he’s perhaps best known for his starring role in the telemovie Mabo) but his family is a rather important clan on Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait: Jimi’s grandfather Ephraim was the Chief of Wagadagam, and moved to Canada with his wife Petharie to study linguistics at university. This was part of his own quest to ensure that the language and culture of his people and ancestors could continue. Later on, he attempted to have significant cultural items repatriated from European institutions to the Torres Strait. Although he’d built a cultural centre to house the items, his requests to have them returned were denied. Jimi’s late father Dimple, the next Chief, continued this work, and now it’s Jimi’s chance to do the same. At the start of his autobiographical show, Jimi gives the audience a quick rundown of his family tree as well as the words for each family member in language from Mabuiag Island. He asks the audience to play close attention and warns that there’ll be a test at the end. Of course, most theatre-makers want an audience to listen carefully to the stories they tell, but for Jimi that’s even more important: this piece of theatre is part of his mission to “keep the fire burning” and ensure his culture contin
Flight tells the story of two orphaned refugee brothers searching for a place to call home across Europe. It's an adaptation of Australian author Caroline Brother's novel, Hinterland, but what makes this show extraordinary is its technical storytelling. Each audience member enters a private booth with a window in front of them. Tiny figurines and tableaus appear atop a massive diorama, which rotates and reveals parts of the story piece-by-piece. You don't move anywhere, but the diorama takes you across continents, onto treacherous sea journeys and bustling railway stations. The production is by Vox Motus and its artistic director Jamie Harrison, who was also the magic and illusion designer for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It also showed in New York at the McKittrick Hotel, home of Punchdrunk's Sleep No More. So you're know you're in safe hands. Melbourne Festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway said: "This is a story that is complex and dark and beautiful, told in a way using a massive diorama. It’s an immersive work involving the audience in the soundtrack, the scenery, the story. It’s a tiny show leaving a huge impact."
Prize Fighter has played successful seasons in Brisbane and Sydney and is now coming to Melbourne Festival. Here's our four-star review of the Sydney season: At an age when most Australian teens are contemplating nothing more stressful than the HSC, Future D. Fidel escaped war-torn Congo into Tanzania and spent eight years in a refugee camp searching for his sister, before finally being accepted as a refugee in Australia. His story is nothing if not incredible, and riveting. But what is truly impressive about Prize Fighter, Fidel’s mostly autobiographical first play, is what a good piece of theatre it is in its own right. Set in a boxing ring, where every punch is a portal to a blood-soaked memory of civil war, the conceit of the play might be simple, but it is perfectly formed in every way. At its centre is 16-year-old Isa Alaki (Pachero Mzembe), a recently arrived Congolese refugee training at a Brisbane gym for a shot at the title. Taken under the wing of gym owner Luke (Margi Brown-Ash), Isa has the raw talent needed to succeed. But while he can demolish his enemies in the ring without too much trouble, he is less successful at ignoring the memories that ambush him at every turn – of seeing his father and sister killed in front of him; of being coerced on fear of death to join the band of child soldiers that shot them. From the first few moments of the piece, when Isa’s violent instincts spill over disastrously during a match, the punches – both physical and emotiona
Frogman comes from UK company Curious Directive and has been praised for its technical achievement and its use of virtual reality to transport its audiences to unexpected places. On stage, the audience sees a young woman called Meera being interviewed about the disappearance of a girl back in 1995. At the time, Meera was just 11 and attending her first sleepover. At certain points in the show, the audience dons VR headsets – which actually don't look all that different to diving masks – to explore her recollections, going everywhere from a Queensland schoolgirl's bedroom to the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. Melbourne Festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway told Time Out that the show blew apart his expectations of how VR could be used. "I’ve seen a lot of really bad VR in theatre," he says. "Everybody tells me that this is the way forward and so far it’s really not, because no one’s yet invented the technology or platform that can turn shit art into great art. I went in with a massive amount of cynicism and it was superb."
What's showing this week?
Wondering what to see in Melbourne this week? Check out our guide to the theatre, opera, musicals and dance shows on Melbourne's stages for the next seven days.