Charlotte is a bright pink critic, poet and not-boring lawyer working and playing on Gadigal land. They are the editor of Kaleidoscope Arts Journal. Charlotte is passionate about bringing new audiences (and voices) to the theatre and does so every week by dragging their housemates, workmates and other mates to theatres all over Sydney. Find their website and other published works at charlottesmee.com.

Charlotte Smee

Charlotte Smee

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Articles (1)

How do you solve a problem like the opera? With motorbikes and rock’n’roll, it seems

How do you solve a problem like the opera? With motorbikes and rock’n’roll, it seems

Opera Australia’s new world-first outdoor production of Carmen is thoroughly ambitious in more ways than one – it aims to give the artform of opera a modern, feminist, punk-rock makeover. The scene is set on a huge industrial stage on Cockatoo Island (a 15-minute ferry ride from the city), complete with dazzling fireworks, motorcycle stunts and pop-up bars. Director Liesel Badorrek places the action in a timeless “rock’n’roll space” that encapsulates rebellion and anti-establishment sentiment. This new production aims to rebel against its problematic past, bringing a new, strong, independent Carmen to the stage – as sung alternately by Opera Australia’s principal mezzo soprano Sian Sharp and Carmen Topciu. As self-professed theatre and opera nerds, Time Out was excited to speak to Badorrek and Sharp about how they’re looking to change the opera game, one rock’n’roll Carmen at a time. First, we had a chat about our mutual love of opera, and theatre, those wonderful, live participatory art forms... What is it that you love about opera?  Sian: When people experience operatic singing unamplified it is a very powerful experience that can really cut you to the quick. There's a connection there that is sometimes not achieved [with other art forms]... the power of the voice to reach out across an orchestra and hit the back wall of a 2,000-seat theatre is quite a feat. Liesel: That combination of the orchestral music and the vocals is so beautiful, it's incredibly powerful emotionally

Listings and reviews (44)

swim

swim

3 out of 5 stars

Our favourite places from our childhoods, just like the movies or books that we loved when we were little, often aren’t the same when we return to them. Sometimes it’s the place that has changed – but most of the time, we are what’s different. We might be more grown up, more sensitive, perhaps we are more at home in the qualities that set us apart from others – but all the while, we’re still searching for that inner little kid who just loved something wholeheartedly. For E, that thing is swimming.  Mununjali Yugambeh poet Ellen van Neerven’s debut work for the stage, swim, follows our protagonist (played by Baad Yawuru actor Dani Sib) as they return to the public pool after a long time away. The change room, the act of undressing, and the journey to the water are all obstacles that E must navigate – and as a genderfluid Blak person, the simple practice of going for a swim is a fraught, anxiety-inducing experience.  With its meditative visuals and some shining moments, it is well worth diving in... E’s story is delivered through repetitive, rhythmic phrases. It’s a slow, meditative form of speaking that is most effective when accompanied by bursts of theatrical imagery. Samuel James’ vivid video design brings an otherworldly tone to Romanie Harper’s set design – a large cross-section of a pale tiled pool, much like the council pool you’d find down the road in most small Aussie towns. The action takes place above and below the water, linked by a metal ladder. Alongside Brendon

American Signs

American Signs

3 out of 5 stars

Being young, intelligent and career-driven can get pretty weird. You work incredibly hard all of your life to ace the exams, win the competitions, gain a spot at the big university, land the internships, and get the job at the prestigious firm (law, consulting, finance – take your pick). Then all of a sudden, you might find yourself at the “top” – and then, you’ll probably find that the top is actually just as awful as the climb to get there. Australian playwright Anchuli Felicia King (The Poison of Polygamy, White Pearl) peers into the murky ethics and empty promises of the corporate world in her latest piece of writing for Sydney Theatre Company. A solo-performer show, American Signs follows an unnamed “Consultant” (Catherine Văn-Davies – Constellations) – she is a young, intelligent and precocious Vietnamese-American woman who has grinded her way to the “top”. Her version of the top is a prestigious management consulting firm – but when she gets there, she finds herself perpetually on the bench. That is, until a handsome, married consultant brings her onto a project at an industrial lighting factory in Ohio. A series of realisations ensues, as it dawns on our protagonist that consulting isn’t all as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be. While King’s writing is a scathing account of the American consulting industry, it is also somewhat forgiving of the Consultant’s choices, endlessly testing the audience’s sympathies.  Anchuli Felicia King wrote this play specifically with Ca

Never Closer

Never Closer

4 out of 5 stars

I first saw playwright Grace Chapple’s Never Closer in 2022, as part of the indie program in Belvoir St Theatre's’s tiny 80-seat Downstairs Theatre. That production made a huge impression on me – filled with heavy silence, ragged sobs, soaring laughter, dancing, drinking, and all the wonderful and terrible things that come with knowing and loving a group of friends for most of your life. All of this “acutely emotive” drama is made more profound by the play’s setting, with the violence and political turmoil of Northern Ireland between 1977 and 1987 unfolding in the background. The same ensemble of actors from 2022, directed by Hannah Goodwin, have graduated to the mainstage this year, making their debut in Belvoir’s 372-seat Upstairs Theatre. The result is somewhat less intense than the original production, but it is still a well-written portrait of the importance of connection and care in the face of terror. Chapple writes about a group of friends who’ve grown up together in a tiny town. Deirdre (Emma Diaz) is stubbornly rooted there, and her friends Jimmy (Raj Labade), Niamh (Mabel Li), Mary (Ariadne Sgouros) and Conor (Adam Sollis) are all struggling with living in a place filled with bombings, death and turmoil. We begin at Christmas, 1977, and Niamh is leaving for London. The opening scenes are slightly shorter than the first iteration, but they still do the important work of setting up the sometimes difficult closeness between all of the characters. Then we jump forward

The Eisteddfod

The Eisteddfod

3 out of 5 stars

The latest treat of the Old Fitz Theatre’s new Late Night program of subterranean pub theatre comes in the darkly comedic form of The Eisteddfod – a weird little world penned by Lally Katz, and brought back to life two decades after its debut by co-directors Miranda Middleton and Jessica Bell, and up-and-coming performers Ziggy Resnick (Feminazi) and Fraser Crane (Dumb Kids). Two orphaned siblings, Abalone and Gerture, live alone. To pass the time, they make up and act out stories. Some of their stories are more realistic than others, but for Abalone, the realest one is about the Eisteddfod – a competition, a goal, and a way to remember their mother through constant rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.  Like many of Katz’s works, The Eisteddfod is threaded with a twisted sense of humour which slowly unravels throughout the piece, sometimes pushing into uncomfortable places. Resnick’s Abalone and Crane’s Gerture revel in the light and shade of the writing – playing off each other’s silliness and sadness with dexterity and obvious delight. As part of the creative team’s unconventional process, the two performers experimented with both roles before they were cast. By scrapping expected gender norms, the actors are allowed the freedom to inhabit the characters they each feel more authentically aligned with, which brings a juicy extra layer to their performances.  The performance takes place on the set of Sport for Jove’s Isolde & Tristan (currently playing the Fitz's early show slot)

Isolde & Tristan

Isolde & Tristan

4 out of 5 stars

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you’re the first named character in the title of a play. Particularly when almost every other legend written about you has you named second, or not at all. This is the plight of Isolde, an Irish princess, star of many stories, but most notably Wagner’s influential opera Tristan und Isolde. Her legend is centuries old, one of the most famous involving a love potion – and now, Sport for Jove brings it to the beloved basement stage at the Old Fitz Theatre in the form of a play written (and crucially, named Isolde and Tristan) by German playwright Esther Vilar, and translated by Udo Borgert and Laura Ginters. The original legend features Tristan, a prince of Cornwall, and Isolde, the princess of Ireland, whose countries are at war. After Tristan defeats the Irish giant Morholt (the Irish King’s brother-in-law) he is tasked with traveling to Ireland to bring Isolde back to marry his uncle, the King of Cornwall. However on the journey, Tristan and Isolde fall madly into forbidden love, thanks to a love potion. Deception, punishment, and death ensue.  Vilar’s play not only switches the names, but also some of the details, and turns the legend from a sweeping and dramatic warning against being “consumed” by love into something pointier, and more complex. It’s certainly not your regular medieval romance, or even your regular opera… clever, biting, and appropriately eerie. Damien Ryan (Artistic Director of Sport for Jove) directs this production, setti

Josh Cake: Gender is a Scam and I am Winning

Josh Cake: Gender is a Scam and I am Winning

4 out of 5 stars

Josh Cake could be a couple of things: a man, a brown person, an Australian. Too bad all those labels are scams. But Big Josh (who’ll take any pronoun you give them) loves to win – and they’re definitely onto a winner with her tight 50-minute musical comedy about just how scammy the world really is. First, Cake gaslights you into believing there are magical mountains and wind, with the help of their tinkling electric piano. Then, he delightfully sets out the rules for the show: you’ve paid for her to make jokes for an hour, so it’s not your turn to talk. This clarity is a nice touch for those of us who forget the rules sometimes (whether we mean to or not). Cake makes accessibility a priority, and incorporates it into the show without drawing too much attention to it: a visual tour of the space becomes a delightful interlude between songs, and warnings are calmly, clearly given before a potentially traumatic story is told. Cake is a warm, inclusive storyteller, with a great sense of pacing that makes the 50 minutes fly by. They have a gentle, encouraging, demeanour that made a small audience interact and giggle like they were in a room full of people. It’s no mean feat to bring this much warmth into a tiny room – and Josh’s sometimes dark but always appropriate sense of humour, and ability to read people, makes it seem like a breeze. I won’t spoil the conclusion for you, but the well-drawn arc from gender, nationality, race and violence is also particularly satisfying in Gen

Darby James: Little Squirt

Darby James: Little Squirt

3 out of 5 stars

Darby James had an interesting lockdown. Like most of us, he scrolled to the ends of the internet and what he found there was an ad… for a sperm donation clinic. The ad took hold in his brain and led him down the path of giving away his baby batter, which previously hadn’t had much use – given he’s a cis gay man. So of course, he’s written a cabaret about the process of donation, and the moral quandaries that come with it, that’s now running the full duration of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. James’s writing and songs are full of puns and quaint rhyming schemes, turning the clinical process of filling out online forms, going to various appointments and meditating on the ethical dilemma presented by having children into a musical adventure – complete with sea shanties and vulnerable ballads. The music is very much steeped in the musical theatre tradition, with elements of modern pop mixed in (particularly in the donation clinic that plays nothing but ’80s hits). There are plenty of opportunities for cleverness and James attempts to squeeze as much as he can out of the source material. The highlights of the show include ‘If I Were A Dad’, a delightful song about the kind of parent a gay man might become, and the final number in which he writes a letter to his potential future child. These songs are written with a concrete tenderness that imagines what the future of the sperm might look like, and crucially how complicated the feelings about this future can

The Lewis Trilogy

The Lewis Trilogy

5 out of 5 stars

This year, I am learning to be less. It might sound counterintuitive, but I promise this is a positive thing. Instead of being responsible for everything and everyone around me, on my own, because “no one else can do it”, it helps to remember that I am made up of all the people I have ever met. With the outrageous amount of plays, books, essays, etcetera, penned by him, Louis Nowra seems like he could be one of the bigger personalities in the world. But after watching his theatrical alter-ego “Lewis”, of The Lewis Trilogy, it seems even he aspires to be less – to be part of a whole, rather than one big thing on his own. A fittingly extravagant goodbye to the SBW Stables Theatre – home of Griffin Theatre Company, in its current form – The Lewis Trilogy is a loaded triple-bill (five hours of theatre in total!) that spotlights the work of a legendary Australian playwright and his beloved adopted home city of Sydney. This nostalgic and immense production is as much a love letter to the writing of Louis Nowra as it is to the spirit of Kings Cross, to Aussie theatre, and to community, wherever we may find it.  ...the magic of The Lewis Trilogy is that there’s a way to find yourself somewhere in the expanse of it all. The Trilogy is a collaboration between Griffin’s Artistic Director Declan Greene and Louis Nowra himself, associate directed by Daley Rangi (Takatāpui). It brings together Nowra’s two hit 1992 works Summer of the Aliens and Così, and his 2017 return to writing for the

Shitty

Shitty

5 out of 5 stars

Remember those books of short stories you’d pull off a library shelf as a kid, filled with scary tales of beating hearts under floors, loves that never grew old, and murder weapons that got baked in the oven and eaten by the police? What if those scary stories happened right now – in the era of smartphones, Airbnbs and gay clubs – and splattered at your feet? Presented by essential workers, Shitty is an anthology of three tales that nail that particular gothic niche. A collection of increasingly eerie tales for those of us who are nearing 20-(plus ten)-years-old, reminding us that there are, in fact, things much more terrifying than turning 30. Directed by Zoë Hollyoak (Collapsible) and written by Chris Edwards, and staged with an expert layering of tension and a twisted sense of humour, this is theatre for the sicko in all of us. ...this is theatre for the sicko in all of us. Hailley Hunt’s set is a mostly bare, black stage with a looming metal staircase leading up to nowhere, backed by a black brick wall. Making the most of Belvoir’s small downstairs theatre, it’s something like a basement out of a horror movie, where no surface is perfectly flat and there is just enough evidence of someone or something, but not their whereabouts. Hunt also designs the litany of props hidden in this seemingly bare stage, which make their dramatic entrances to delighted and terrified squeals from the audience. Morgan Moroney lights the stage with three fluorescent strips that change colours

Zombie! The Musical

Zombie! The Musical

4 out of 5 stars

Zombies are everywhere in our collective bra(aaa)ins. There are the original mindless brain-eaters of Dawn of the Dead, dancing Michael Jackson zombies in ‘Thriller’, speedy zombies in 28 Days Later, silly zombies in Shaun of the Dead, rom-com zombies in Warm Bodies, family sitcom zombies in Santa Clarita Diet, and for the employment law nerds, there are even zombie agreements reaching from beyond their pre-2010 grave.  Known for their pulpy gruesomeness and strange social satire, zombie films also have a reputation for being made on shoestring budgets and garnering devoted cult followings – just like a lot of live theatre. So it only makes sense that the next musical from writer/composer Laura Murphy (The Lovers, and “Australia’s Hamilton” The Dismissal) features singing, dancing, and manipulative zombies. Zombie! isn’t all silliness. Murphy brings the leading ladies together in their pursuit of something more – meatier parts for women in musicals... Much like its predecessors, this musical is veritably stuffed with meta-musical-theatre references, camp (gory) goodness, and genre-bending tunes that crawl right into your heart. Murphy’s triple-threat zombies also have something to say about “girl power” in musicals, and the never-ending fight to see three dimensional women on Broadway stages. While we would like to see these arguments for dealing with sexism more fully fleshed out, Zombie! The Musical is host to an exciting premise (healing viruses through the magic of music

The Lonesome West

The Lonesome West

4 out of 5 stars

Before Martin McDonagh penned and directed the award-winning films In Bruges or The Banshees of Inisherin, he wrote for the stage. He also once said that he prefers writing films to plays because he has a “respect for the whole history of films and a slight disrespect for theatre”. Perhaps this is what makes his plays so exciting and form-challenging – after all, who else would write a scene in which an electric stove gets blown up by a shotgun? In brilliant news for dark comedy lovers in Sydney, Empress Theatre brings McDonagh’s The Lonesome West to the Old Fitz Theatre (in the basement of the Old Fitz Hotel), the first in a whole season of exciting indie theatre programmed by their new artistic director Lucy Clements (founder of New Ghosts Theatre Company) and executive producer Emma Wright. The play follows two constantly bickering brothers in the tiny village of Leenane, on the west coast of Ireland, and the constantly peace-making and crisis-having Father Welsh who cannot reconcile his faith with the deaths that keep happening in his parish. Girleen the hooch-seller pops in every now and then, and pines after Father Welsh. Anna Houston directs a fantastic cast of Ruby Henaway as Girleen, Abe Mitchell as Father Welsh, Lee Beckhurst as Coleman, and Andre de Vanny as Valene. De Vanny’s tiny, snivelling, miserly Valene is a hilarious foil to Beckhurst’s boofhead Coleman, always stealing Tayto crisps and starting quibbles that quickly turn physical. Mitchell’s Father is misty

Are we not drawn onward to new erA

Are we not drawn onward to new erA

4 out of 5 stars

There actually aren’t a lot of palindromes in the English language. The only one I can ever think of, when pressed, is “race car”. Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed has thought of a few more than this one, and created an entirely palindromic piece of theatre (the same backwards as it is forwards), which lands at the 2024 Sydney Festival backed by critical acclaim and multiple awards. It’s a real puzzle, much like the problem of the global destruction and crisis that is its subject matter. At first, there is only a tree bearing a single apple (the Garden of Eden?), and a woman (Eve?) curled up in the corner of the large black Roslyn Packer Theatre stage. At the end, they’ll come back here – but how? The rest of the production slowly unfurls, propelled by a hope that the awkward nonsense that the actors are speaking and doing will reveal itself when we start to go forwards (or backwards?) again. It’s a quaint metaphor for the impossible “way forward” after the damage we’ve done to our world (climate change, colonisation and capitalism, to name a few), and gives a very simple answer about what we do next: something, and one step at a time. This production’s dense layering of scenography, light, video, sound, and lighting design (by Philip Aguirre, Jeroen Wuyts, Seppe Brouckaert, and Babette Poncelet) comes together to create a garden bed of rainbow plastic bags, a huge effigy of a young man in a t-shirt, only to then hide it in smoke and run it magically backwards (I won’t