Book in for the best Melbourne shows with our guide to new and upcoming theatre in Melbourne. Our theatre critics recommend the best shows to see right now, as well as the most exciting upcoming shows in Melbourne. For more Melbourne theatre information, check out our latest reviews and our guide to scoring cheap theatre tickets.
Critics' choice Melbourne shows
There’s been some controversy lately about women playing Shakespeare’s leading men, which – given men originally played the female parts – is as laughable as it is predictable. Bell Shakespeare’s latest production of Richard III casts the formidable Kate Mulvany in the role, and the only shock is how comfortably the play accommodates this gender swap.Not that it really is a gender swap. Mulvany’s Richard is clearly a man; oily, duplicitous and vehemently misogynistic, he cajoles and seduces where he can, but is never far away from outright violence and hostility. It is a curious quirk of psychology that casting a woman in the role serves to reinforce and underline the character’s inherently masculine perversions: namely, his need to control and destroy both friend and foe in the pursuit of absolute power; his toxic refusal to engage emotionally other than as a mask to his will; his inability to accept any vulnerability, even to the point of inviting his own destruction. Richard is superb at wheedling his way to the crown, but utterly ill-equipped to lead or serve under it.The contemporary resonances are obvious, but thankfully Peter Evans’ production doesn’t labour the point. In fact, it doesn’t even overtly make it. Outward political displays are eschewed in favour of inner psychological grievances, and the horror and sensuality of the character is given the interpretive space to terrorise and beguile on his own terms. Sure, this Richard conjures images of Trump, but also of
Read about The Book of Mormon $40 ticket lottery. It can be difficult for Australian audiences to receive any international musical without certain preconceptions: the rumours of greatness tend to wash onto our shores long before the tour has even been announced. When one of the biggest Broadway hits of the millennium rolls into town, the sense of expectation can be dangerously high. The Book of Mormon comes with the kind of ecstatic hype usually found accompanying a messiah. Instead, Elders Price and Cunningham turn up – which is possibly less shattering, but ultimately way more fun. The unlikely genesis of this mega-hit is well documented; suffice to say that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the brains behind South Park and Team America, made an unholy alliance with Robert Lopez, the creator of dirty puppet porn Avenue Q, to create this monstrous satire of everything. The result is a show as perverse as it is heartfelt, as clever as it is moving. It really is as good as they say. The opening number, ‘Hello’, sets the tone as deftly and memorably as ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’defines the parameters of Oklahoma! The scene is familiar to us all: a bunch of trainee missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints are ringing on doorbells, keen to share the news “of this amazing book”. Their squeaky grins and infectious positivity are so aligned with the traditional image of the Broadway musical that the sparkly vests and tap routines that soon follow feel like a
Humans have long looked to art to tell us who we are, and theatre can be a particularly potent medium for this kind of soul-searching. Watching a live performance that you can almost reach out and touch gets you up close and personal with a range of emotions, experiences, and opportunities for catharsis: through tears, laughter or even simple self-identification. In Australia, many people have looked to Michael Gow’s Away for these kinds of insights. It’s one of the most popular local plays ever written, a constant on the Australian school syllabus and stages across the country. For its 30 year anniversary, Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre have teamed up to present a new production, helmed by Malthouse artistic director Matthew Lutton. Gow’s play shows us an Australia that’s ill at ease with itself. Written in the 1980s and set in the late 1960s, it takes us on a sunny Christmas holiday that’s dark around the edges. Death, war and its ramifications, and xenophobia are always lurking, making their mark on three ordinary families. Harry (Wadih Dona) and Vic (Julia Davis) fled England’s post-war rubble to start a new life in paradise, but their son Tom (Liam Nunan) is terminally ill, and will not have the future they had hoped to provide. Gwen (Heather Mitchell) had her own reaction to the financial hardship World War II: she is thrifty to a fault, following a rigid ‘no treats or surprises’ plan to keep her family – husband Jim (Marco Chiappi) and da
The greatest Polish composer of his generation, Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), avoided using the word ‘opera’ to describe his labour of six years, Król Roger. It does lack plot: its conflicts are largely political, religious and personal questions in the mind of the title character King Roger. Its appeal and emotional force come from Szymanowski’s lush, rhapsodic, highly idiosyncratic music, which fuses late 19th century styles like an early Hollywood soundtrack, but with dark orchestral colour that is laser-cut by piercing voices. It is rarely performed; the Australian premiere this month is a landmark 2015 production from the Royal Opera House by their current director Kasper Holten. Opera or not, it is a startlingly unusual artwork. The historical Norman King Roger II was crowned King of Sicily in 1130 and made Palermo an important nexus of the Christian, Hellenic and Arab worlds, but Szymanowski’s labile hero has less to do with medieval history than with the composer’s philosophical zeitgeist, such as Freud’s tensions between the greedy id and the censorious superego, or Nietzsche’s dualities of irrationality versus reason. Designer Steffen Aarfing conveys this in simple 1920s costumes and a set reminiscent of the abstract but vaguely threatening metaphysical painting of Szymanowski's contemporary Giorgio de Chirico. The plot is thin and odd: Queen meets pagan evangelist, King investigates evangelist, King transforms. Its structure is a Hegelian clash of cultures: each