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Listings and reviews (2)

Chalkface

Chalkface

4 out of 5 stars

Playwright Angela Betzien describes Chalkface as a “whack love letter to teachers”. And it sure is. If you bought a ticket to this play, examined the staging and walked out, it would already be worth your while. Ailsa Paterson’s set is an incredibly detailed, astoundingly accurate recreation of every staff room, ever. Peeling wallpaper. Nescafé instant coffee. Magnetic cupboard doors in an apathetic shade of beige, opening to reveal a crowd of identical ‘Best Teacher’ mugs. The fridge that elicits a retch from everyone who dares show the optimism of opening it. There may or may not be a resident rat. And amongst all that, the devastatingly optimistic personal touches from the teachers who inhabit the space – handwritten name tags on pigeon holes, a teapot repurposed to hold flowers, a photo of a recently deceased dear friend.  Both the set and the characters are masterpieces of caricature, somehow capturing and exaggerating the ubiquitous elements shared by every public school in Australia, ever. The standout dynamic, by far, is between Pat Novitsky (Catherine McClements) and Anna Park (Stephanie Somerville). The former, battle-hardened and embittered by years of what feels like wasted effort. The latter, 22 years old, fresh out of her masters degree and joyfully spouting the promise of “neuroplasticity” any chance she gets. They circle each other adversarially, revealing an unexpected backstory and complex inner worlds. The ragtag crew of teachers is rounded out with Ms Filc

Michelle Brasier: Reform

Michelle Brasier: Reform

5 out of 5 stars

The lights dimmed. A drumkit, guitar, and mic stand inhabited the stage, waiting and ready. My gut feeling that noticed that moment as the calm before the storm proved correct, as, from the moment Michelle Brasier stepped onto the stage, the show was a whirlwind from start to finish. Brasier is a comedic force with serious musical theatre chops. You don’t have to be a fan of musicals to appreciate the way she uses a seriously impressive array of music and theatre skills to tell a totally bizarre-but-weirdly-relatable story, with just enough social commentary woven in to keep things sharp and relevant. Most solid hour-long comedy sets are a series of funny stories and vignettes which come together in one epic punchline at the end. This show is one true story that goes for the full hour – and when I say it’s bizarre, I’m talking Netflix special level bizarre. Aside from playing the trombone in a crouch (I didn’t know it was possible to breathe enough to play the trombone doubled over like that, but there you go), one of the most impressive things is how Brasier ties together the different elements, with fiercely delightful layers of meaning that’ll have you discussing the show long after you’ve wiped away your tears of laughter. I won’t spoil her story, but I will say that Reform isn’t just talking about the pilates contraption. She’s funny. She’s smart. She’ll have you cackling and clapping and wishing the show was twice as long.

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