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singers and dancers dressed as app band version of the the six wives of Henry VIII in Six the Musical
Photograph: James Morgan / Getty Images

The best theatre to see in Sydney this December

Sydney's stages are firing up the spotlights, and the last month of 2021 is packed with theatrical thrills

Alannah Maher
Written by
Time Out editors
&
Alannah Maher
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Two major lockdowns later, Sydney's theatres are putting on the old razzle dazzle once more, and cast and crews are back where they belong. December is brimming with blockbuster musicals and urgent dramas, and mask-wearing is a small price to pay to see what's in store. 

Alanis Morisette's rocking Jagged Little Pill makes its Australian debut at the freshly renovated Theatre Royal, and the poptastic Six the Musical will bring the house down at the Sydney Opera House. 

When Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton became the first blockbuster show to raise the curtain earlier this year, it was unimaginably joyous for theatre lovers who had been starved for almost a year. And after waiting out a second lockdown, we can assure you that it's as thrilling a theatrical experience as ever.

And there's so much more to come. Read on for our guide to what's heading your way very soon. 

Excited to see some shows? Check out our top picks of Sydney Festival this January.

Musicals

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Darling Harbour

Is Hamilton, the smash-hit American history musical that won a whopping 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize when it debuted on Broadway in 2015 and won the hearts of critics and audiences the world over, as good as everyone says?

In a word, yes. If you want to stop reading here and just book your tickets, we’ll understand. 

There is a reason it is the most hyped show on Earth, and its writer and first star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is now a household name. Some 3 million people watched the musical when it appeared on Disney Plus in July 2020, and almost 8 million more have seen it live, in cities across the US and in London’s West End. Now it’s Sydney’s turn, with the only production of the show in the world right now playing at the Lyric Theatre. 

With the soundtrack available on Spotify and the original Broadway cast version available to anyone with a Disney Plus account on demand, Hamilton is competing not so much with other musicals for your dollars and attention (there are no other shows of this type that can match the show’s tactical brilliance), but with itself. Most in the audience are at least familiar with the show by this point, and quite a few are able to mouth along to every word behind their masks. If you can see the original Broadway version any time you want and listen to the soundtrack 24 hours a day, what power does the staged version still hold? 

In a word, magic. The entire cast is extraordinary, with every dance move sharp as a tack and the constantly shifting stage a whirlwind of activity. Seeing it all click together like a precision-built Swiss watch is intoxicating. There are genuine thrills from the first notes to the final bows.

Jason Arrow is electrifying in the titular role, with a thousand-watt movie star smile and a cheeky self-confidence that makes the ‘polymath, pain in the ass, massive pain’ softer and far more charming than Miranda’s acerbic turn in the role. He’s perfect as the firebrand revolutionary full of ideals and ambition, and you can’t help but be in his corner. But Hamilton really is a two-hander, with Hamilton’s best frenemy Aaron Burr at least as large a presence as Alexander. Lyndon Watts is magnetic in the role, pulling focus in every scene he’s in. He has the perfect mixture of jealousy, desperation and reckless self-aggrandisement to put real pathos into tragedy. There’s gorgeous beauty in key song ‘Dear Theodosia’ that is genuinely moving.

Chloé Zuel is also extraordinary as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. Her powerful voice soars in ‘Burn’, her big solo number. But as gorgeous as her singing is, her silence is even more powerful. There’s a moment in that number where the music cuts out and she pauses, radiating pain and rage. You could have heard a pin drop as every single one of the 2,000 people in the Lyric held their breath while Zuel stretched the silence. There were actual goosebumps. 

The opening night crowd clearly knew the show well, with beloved characters like George Washington (Matu Ngaropo), Thomas Jefferson (Victory Ndukwe, also playing Lafayette), King George III (Brent Hill) and Hercules Mulligan (played in this version with a joyful exuberance by Shaka Cook) and Eliza and sisters Angelica (Akina Edmonds) and Peggy (Elandrah Eramiha) all drawing raucous applause. In fact, when Arrow introduced himself as Hamilton, the entire show paused to allow the audience to settle and the cheers to die down. But that doesn’t mean you have to know every word to the Marquis de Lafayette’s insanely fast ‘Guns and Ships’ rap to enjoy the show. Watching a cast as perfect as this one performing a show as brilliant as Hamilton is the apotheosis of theatregoing. Every single performance is jaw-dropping in its beauty and power. First-timers will probably miss some of the words and context, as many of the songs are fast and furious, with complex internal rhyme schemes and clever nods to musical genres from everything from Gilbert and Sullivan to contemporary R’n’B. That doesn’t mean the show is impenetrable, though, quite the opposite - masterful staging and brilliant lyrics make it easy to follow the story of the doomed Alexander from ambitious 19-year-old revolutionary to that fateful duel at age 49. That’s not a spoiler, by the way. The show was written for an American audience, every one of whom would know at least three facts about Alexander Hamilton before the curtain rises: 1. He’s on the ten-dollar bill; 2. He came up with the concept of federalism; and 3. He died in a duel with Aaron Burr. Indeed, Burr opens the show by introducing himself as “the damn fool that shot him”. Knowing Hamilton’s fate from the opening lines infuses every scene with Burr with poignant dramatic irony. 

Without the knowledge that Americans have walking into the room, does Hamilton resonate with a 2021 Australian audience? Yes and no. Americans have a mythologised notion of the country’s foundation that is completely alien to Australia. That puts Australian audiences at a slight disadvantage off the bat, but the performances are so solid, the music so catchy and the lyrics so clever that even if you know nothing about the show or its historical context, you’ll be absolutely blown away. The more familiar with it you are, though, the more you’ll get out of it. So you’re just going to have to go again.

Want more? Read our interviews with the actors who play Aaron Burr and Jefferson, and with the Schuyler sisters.

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Sydney

If you're an Alanis stan who has been singing ‘All I Really Want’ since they announced, and then postponed, the arrival of Morissette’s hit musical Jagged Little Pill in Sydney, then do we have some massive news for you. Rogue Traders and Neighbours alumna Natalie Bassingthwaighte – the beloved star of musical hits including Chicago, Chess, Grease, Rent and more – will now, in wonderful surprise news, star in a limited sneak peek of the hit show this summer.

Opening at the Theatre Royal from December 2-19, it will mark the grand reopening of the joint following a swish multimillion-dollar refurbishment. Tickets are on sale now. Bassingthwaighte, who is also soon to appear on cinema screens playing Elvis’ step-mum in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic starring Tom Hanks, is stoked to take on the lead role of under-pressure Mary Jane Healy in this musical drama that weaves in Morissette’s biggest songs from the smash hit album Jagged Little Pill.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Surry Hills

Shakespeare said that all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. But Virginia Gay decided, actually, life is a Christmas pantomime – and all the he’s, she’s and they’s are not merely players, but also chaotic directors, stressed out production managers and eager set builders just trying to work together to create magic, meaning and sweet distraction amongst the ups and downs of life. 

A pantomime within a play, that’s also a musical, The Boomkak Panto strikes the perfect balance of humility, relevance and all-singing, all-dancing ridiculous fun to see out the year that was 2021 and turn the campery of Christmas up to eleven. 

Pantomimes, or pantos as they are more affectionately known in the UK, are renowned for fielding massive stars, d-listers and even school principals in super-camp stagings of (usually) fairy tales, with lots of gender fluidity, booing at bad guys, randomly inserted references and pop songs, and general audience participation madness.

After witnessing a couple of British pantos for the first time at the tender age of 38, Gay roped in the team that helped her stage a critically-praised, modern queer-coded reimagining of the classic Wild West movie musical Calamity Jane to have a run at an Aussie answer to the riddle of panto. And they have absolutely nailed it.

This fresh take deploys one of the most Aussie stories of all: a big developer muscling in on a small bush community that is not having a bar of it. This regional outpost launches into a David and Goliath battle to save their town, which is full of happy families, refreshing diversity and the occasional rivalry. They all draw together in a battle for survival and, in a meta-textual twist, fight back by staging their own pantomime.

Strap in for memorable reimaginings of bangers like Tina Arena’s ‘Chains’ and the Angels’ ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?’ (and warm your pipes up for a certain call-and-response often relegated to the pub), as well as some original new songs composed by our Eddie Perfect (who recently picked up a Tony nomination for his work on the score of Beetlejuice the Musical on Broadway). As per panto tradition, expect a nonsensical mystery celebrity appearance too – on opening night, we were treated to a recorder rendition of a Jimmy Barnes song by none other than David Campbell. 

Gay writes, co-directs (alongside Richard Carroll) and acts in this ridiculous romp – but the standout star is Zoe Terakes (seen on screen in Wentworth and Nine Perfect Strangers), whom Gay says she wrote it for. And it would have been awkward if Terakes hadn’t accepted the role, seeing as their character shares their name and use of they/them pronouns. Terakes brings warmth and authenticity to the stage as a misunderstood queer teenager with ambitions bigger than the one-horse town they hail from.

As the wife and manager to her kind but unaware actor husband John (played to perfection by Toby Truslove), Gay does not shy away in the background as much as her character believes she does. And if you find yourself wondering where her signature sexed-up cabaret stylings have gone, just wait for the quick costume change in the second half, you won’t be disappointed. 

With Michael Hankin on set and costume design, the staging is simple but effective, with a wrap-around mural evoking a dusty rural Aussie town, and Jasmine Rizk’s evocative lighting design shifting the mood where needed.  

From the script, it is clear that Gay immersed herself in studying and understanding the joy and japery of the classic panto, and how to translate that to Sydney’s theatregoers who are fresh from a four-month lockdown. The story addresses the more problematic undertones of the tradition, while pulling in nuance and pathos in speaking about race, gender and class. The archetype of the big bad villain is seized (with show-stealing malice from Rob Johnson) but Boomkak also leaves room for good people to be imperfect, and for dickheads to get their comeuppance.

Gay manages to weave in commentary on a myriad of social issues and current affairs. You can choose to soak those in, or just to enjoy the rollicking tomfoolery of it all. For good measure, do both. The most acute personification of both of those elements exists in the character Darren (portrayed by Kamilaroi and Kooma man Billy McPherson), who comically swaps between his responsibilities as a town councillor and an Aboriginal elder by taking a lanyard on and off.

At its best, Boomkak embraces the balls-to-the-wall glittery campery of it all. However, Aussie audiences still display some hesitation when it comes to the audience participation of the panto, and a better explainer up top and some more active coaxing to get the audience cheering and booing would not have gone astray, even on opening night.

So warm up your voice and get ready to yell at the actors, buy yourself a light-up fairy wand at intermission, and trade in the chaos of life for the hilarious chaos of panto for a couple of hours. After seeing this show, you’ll be making a case for the Carols in the Domain to hand the reins over to Virginia Gay to turn into a self-aware panto. Go on, give it to Gay. 

The Boomkak Panto plays at Belvoir St Theatre until December 23, 2021. Get your tickets here.

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Sydney

After becoming a surprise West End hit and making its sold-out Australian premiere at the Sydney Opera House in January 2020 – crowned with a four-star review from Time Out – Six the Musical is back in town just in time for summer. Much like Hamilton before it, the pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, telling the story of the six ill-fated wives of Henry VIII. The premise of the show is sort of hilarious: all six wives are members of a pop band that is trying to decide who should be the lead singer. It's basically a pop concert in which all six spouses compete to determine who had the worst time with the infamous Tudor king, and who should therefore be the Beyoncé of the sextet.

This remix runs from December 19 and stars Phoenix Jackson Mendoza (American Idiot), Kala Gare (Bright Star), Loren Hunter (American Psycho), Kiana Daniele (Company) and Vidya Makan (Merrily We Roll Along) and Chelsea Dawson (Shrek the Musical). Together, they're a little bit Spice Girls, a little bit Destiny's Child, and a little bit Little Mix, with a set of songs inspired by the pop bangers of today.Tickets go on sale October 8 and you can join the waitlist for tickets here. Get ready to have a royally good time.

 

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Haymarket

There is something perfect about Come From Away finally landing in Sydney. The musical is set on 9/11 in the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, to which 38 planes were diverted when United States airspace was closed in the wake of the terrorist attack. The almost 7,000 passengers on board, terrified, claustrophobic and desperate for news about what was happening, were taken in by the people of Gander and surrounding towns, nearly doubling the population for five days. The townsfolk gave them food, shelter and most importantly, kindness and comfort during the most horrific time in recent American history – until 2020, of course. 

The underlying message of kindness and compassion in the face of unspeakable horror is one that's sorely needed right now. When the planes begin to land, the women of Gander start up a collection for donations, with a song that could have been penned last year: "Can I help? Is there something I need to do, something to keep me from thinking of all the scenes on the tube? I need something to do 'cause I can't watch the news, no I can't watch the news anymore..." The feeling of helplessness, of being unable to tear yourself away from the news and of desperately wanting to do something, anything, productive is one all of us felt during the worst days of last year.

But Come From Away is not just an Important Musical for Our Times, it's also a whole lot of rollicking good fun. The music is fantastic, heavily influenced by the Irish-inflected music that is traditional in Celt-settled Newfoundland. Traditional Irish instruments (fiddle, tin whistle, bodhran drum) mix with electric bass and guitar for a score that is both hummable and moving. During a bar scene, when the Newfoundlanders and their guests dance something indistinguishable from a traditional Irish step dance, we could feel the vibrations in the floor from the audience stomping their feet in time. 

The cast is small, just a dozen people to play every role, which they do with the unobtrusive additions and subtractions of jackets, hats and accents. It is truly an ensemble piece (appropriate for a show about communities coming together, eh?), with both everyone and no one the singular star of the show. Zoe Gertz performs the show's most soaring song in 'Me and the Sky' as Beverley Bass, the first female captain of an American Airlines plane, who happened to be one of the pilots diverted to Gander. She's spectacular, but so is everyone: Emma Powell as the big-hearted, no-nonsense Beulah, who runs the primary school converted to emergency accommodation; Kolby Kindle as Bob, who fears his Black skin will make him a target in tiny, primarily white Gander; Joseph Naim as both Kevin, whose relationship is stretching to breaking point under the strain, and Ali, an Egyptian chef singled out for racial profiling; and Sharriese Hamilton as distraught mother Hannah, whose firefighter son is a first responder in the World Trade Center. 

The set is minimal, with simple wooden chairs standing in for aeroplane seats, cliffs, cars, buses and buildings. Christopher Ashley's assured direction and Kelly Devine's dynamic and clever choreography mean that the stage is in constant motion, with chairs and sets placed with precision and the band on stage throughout. 

It's been almost 20 years since the day that changed the Western world forever. But Come From Away is perhaps more relevant now than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the attack. It's not just that the memories of being glued to the news, numb with horror but unable to look away, are now sickeningly refreshed. And it's not just a new and profound empathy with grounded plane passengers, stuck in a tiny compartment and desperate to know when they'll be released and what is going on outside ("I don't understand why they can't let us off. I mean, just to stretch our legs?! I mean, really? I need to get some air! Oh my God, I need to get off this plane!"). The musical captures the grief and terror of tragedy, but more importantly, that human kindness and compassion are essential salves in desperate times. The advertising campaign for this run of the show sums it up better than we could: "Now more than ever."

This production was reviewed during the Melbourne run. 

Mainstage and indie theatre

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Dawes Point

Sydney Theatre Company artistic director Kip Williams brings Shakespeare’s revered historical tragedy right up to the very minute with this new take on Julius Caesar. It’s not just the cell phones wielded by the cast, their video footage transmitted to the four-walled video screen backdrop that dominates center stage. It’s not just that many of the verbal jousting matches take place over Zoom, a sly comic touch that reaches its height when Brutus (Zahra Newman) is muted mid-scream. Really, it’s that the themes of Julius Caesar – the corrupting influence of power, the fragility of democracy, and the madness of the mob – are as relevant as ever.

When the conspirators are fretting that Caesar (Ewen Leslie) will make a play for absolute power following his recent military victories against the rebel Pompey, it’s hard not to join the dots all the way to the Capitol insurrection of January 6 in the United States. Indeed, as the two-hour production progresses, we’re increasingly encouraged to do so, and to consider other recent incidents of political turmoil as well.

Our scene is Rome in the first century BC, and our plot is the assassination of Julius Caesar by a conspiracy of senators and other high-ranking Romans who are rightly suspicious of populist power. Our focus is chiefly on Brutus, Caesar’s trusted friend, who joins the conspiracy because, as he puts it, while he loves Caesar, he loves Rome more, and putting a knife into his old friend is a fair price to pay to maintain the proper order of things. Nonetheless, he is tortured by his deeds.

What would normally be a large ensemble is whittled down to just three actors. Ewen Leslie (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) is Caesar, chief conspirator Crassus, and future Emperor Octavius. Geraldine Hakewill (The Real Thing) is Caesar loyalist Marc Antony and the conspirator Casca. A few minor supporting characters aside, Zahra Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) is largely restricted to the role of Brutus, and it’s a smart choice – we need a single character to anchor the emotional core of the play while all the sound and fury goes on, and removing the need for the audience to quickly figure out which character Newman is playing helps in that regard. In other cases, character switches are accomplished with quick, minor costume changes – a red hoodie tied across the chest is senatorial garb, a laurel wreath denotes Leslie is Caesar in one scene, a tech bro cap designates him as Octavius later.

With composition and sound design by Stefan Gregory and video design by David Bergman, Williams’ production is formally daring. This production is an exciting step in the director’s trajectory as a pioneer of using real-time cinema in theatrical storytelling. In 2020, the one-hander The Picture of Dorian Gray was a triumph of this mode, however Julius Caesar marks the first time this has been attempted in the round, the first staging of this kind at STC’s newly renovated Wharf Theatre.

In this production, the interplay between live performance, live video streams, and pre-recorded footage is deft and provocative, with only a slight audio sync issue niggling from time to time. And while at first it seems that, for all the technical spectacle, what we’re getting is a fairly faithful adaptation of the source play, after Caesar’s slaughter at the hands of the senate we quickly tip into absurdity and overt satire, with Hakewill as Marc Antony hectoring the audience with a string of recognisable political slogans from across the spectrum (“Yes we can!” and “I don’t hold a hose” both get a look in) and real-world combat footage is mixed with a video game first-person shooter sequence, bringing the battle to the stage. 

Shakespearian purists may be put out, but when you’re dealing with a 16th-century retelling of an ancient political grudge match we’re already several steps removed from the original source material, and so further elaboration seems justified.

And it works, at least up to a point. The drive to colour outside the lines occasionally leads to messiness, and a video montage coda seemingly exists to hammer the play’s obvious contemporary political allegories home in a way that seems a little mistrustful of the audience. Nevertheless, this is exciting theatre driven by excellent performances and a desire to push the formal limits of the stage to breaking point, and we can always use more of that.

Julius Caesar plays at Wharf 1 Theatre until December 23, 2021. Get your tickets here.

Want more theatre? Check out the best shows to see in Sydney this summer.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Darlinghurst

Content warning: this article mentions themes of sexual violence

At one of Australia’s oldest and most revered residential colleges, scandals never happen. At least, as far as the general public knows. But what goes on behind closed mahogany doors is a different matter, especially when abundant coffers can cover up all sorts of unsavoury goings-on. This gets complicated when resident student and aspiring journalist Nikki Falateu (Emily Havea) brings a serious allegation to Jo Mulligan (Fiona Press), the first female Master in the college’s hundred-year history and the person who writes those ‘never happened’ cheques. A heated online debate and PR crisis looms. 

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the topics of consent and sexual violence are very alive in the zeitgeist right now, especially as they relate to the education system. It’s a topic being interrogated in television and film (revenge thriller Promising Young Woman being the movie to see in 2020) and literature (Diana Reid’s acclaimed recent debut novel Love & Virtue also explores rape culture on Australian university campuses).

In a very real way, this play also mirrors the current push for holistic sexual consent education being debated in the Australian parliament currently as it probes hazing culture and the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. But while student activist and Time Out Future Shaper Chanel Contos boldly centered her own survival story in the Teach Us Consent petition, the protagonist in this story commandeers the experience of another, her new friend and naive uni fresher Paige (played with empathy-inducing innocence by Julia Robertson), to launch her call to action, throwing an entirely different conversation around intention and consent into the mix. 

While the synopsis reads very ‘of the moment’, Wherever She Wanders has had an unusually long gestation period. Rescheduled three times by the unpredictability of Covid before finally making it onto the stage at Griffin Theatre’s home off Kings Cross, award-winning playwright Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) actually first started pitching a play about university students navigating sexual consent around 2012/2013. In a bittersweet twist, Griffin did not have to worry about this show losing its currency despite more than one postponement. Working collaboratively with director Tessa Leong (associate artistic director of Griffin Theatre Company), Feaver drew on generations of fight, hope, and also despondency to tell this tale. 

Video on stage is having a moment in Sydney’s theatre scene – in STC’s trippy and televisual reimagining of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Hayes Theatre’s recent production of Merrily We Roll Along, and Belvoir Theatre’s Fangirls, to name just a few relevant examples –  and that is not lost in this production. With design by Ella Butler, the sometimes awkward wedge of stage at SBW Stables Theatre is turned into a minimalistic blank canvas, a void to be filled with suggestion. The real world intersects with the virtual, as statements and debates fire off on social media, and Nikki and Paige escape (and face) their realities in an open world video game. These interludes help to act out the nebulous yet immutable presence of the virtual world in our personal lives and in public debate, as well as lifting the load placed on the actors (and the audience) in telling a story so steeped in real-world trauma. 

Video designer Susie Henderson (Fangirls, Chop Chef) transforms the stage into a neon-laced glowing mythical world where the young women have difficult conversations through a bizarre medium. Elsewhere, the lighting design by Govin Ruben and composition and sound design by James Brown further work to transport the small theatre into college parties, a religious hall and a spectrum of moods.

Perhaps the loudest thread in this story explores the frictions between younger and older generations of feminists and activists. Nikki, a determined young woman of colour with microaggressions beyond those based on gender to navigate, goes head to head with Jo, a tired second-wave feminist and career woman whose days of marching for women’s rights are resigned to her lost youth. Jo is selective about when and where she chooses to rock the boat, playing along with the boys to preserve her position of power, but she won’t show that the leering sexist chanting songs that have been passed down through generations of male students still haunt her. Actor Fiona Press brings nearly four decades of acting experience to the role of Jo, and she makes the character feel very real in her unvarnished truth. Steeped in a personal tug-of-war of world weary wisdom and ignorance, this performance is a reassuring anchor to a story wrapped in catastrophe.

After having seen Emily Havea (Kill Climate Deniers, Griffin) light up stages in supporting roles on the Sydney theatre scene for years, notably as Joan in the STC and MTC co-production of Fun Home, witnessing her step into a leading role was a welcome sight. She handles the roundabout of swings and misses, anger, determination, self-doubt and regret of Nikki with grace and clarity.

Through moments of light and dark, Wherever She Wanders exposes more questions than it answers. It does not leave its audience with any convenient catharsis, but rather with a stark reality to face and a reminder that experiences of sexual assault and how to deal with them are rarely clear cut. But the victims deserve to be heard, and perpetrators held accountable. While people in positions of power continue to pass around the blame, the culture needs to be changed, and it needs to start somewhere. 

Wherever She Wanders plays at SBW Stables Theatre until December 11, Monday-Saturday at 7pm with a matinee on Saturdays at 1pm. Book your tickets here.

Ready to get back to theatre? Check out the best shows to see in Sydney this summer

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Darlington

Content warning: this article mentions themes of sexual violence

Award-winning playwright Suzie Miller drew on her experiences as a lawyer for Prima Facie, the hugely succesful, hard-hitting one-woman play that takes a searing hot, clear-eyed look at the Australian legal system, sexual consent laws and their effects on victims. Sheridan Harbridge stars as Tessa, a criminal lawyer at the top of her game who knows the law permits no room for emotion, with this production speaking directly to an all-too-familiar reality where one in three women experience some form of sexual assault, and the law’s delivery of ‘justice’ fails to account for the deep imbalances of power and gender. Former Griffin artistic director Lee Lewis retruns to helm the show.

Our reviewer said. "Prima Facie gives a platform for a woman to speak her truth, asking us to look beyond first impressions and to dig deeper into the very structures and procedures that embed underlying injustices. This is an urgent and compelling work."

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Millers Point

Sydney Theatre Company (STC) breathes new life into one of Great American Plays this summer as Polish-born, Australia-based actor Jacek Koman steps into Willy Loman’s worn out shoes in Death of a Salesman, bringing with him abundant gravitas to this tale of a man searching for meaning on the road. As directed by Paige Rattray, the beloved ballad of broken dreams runs December 3 -23 and features a powerhouse cast including Josh McConville as Willy’s oldest son Biff, Callan Colley as younger son Happy, Helen Thomson as loving wife Linda, Philip Quast as ghostly Uncle Ben, and Bruce Spence and Thuso Lekwape as neighbours Charley and Bernard. Willy and his family must tear through the illusions they’ve been fed by modern America and work out the things that really matter.Tickets go live on October 11.

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Newtown

It’s been a long time since the curtain went up at the New Theatre, the pandemic lockdown having shuttered the venue, like so many others, for a long time. Indeed, their return season was almost scuppered by the challenges of casting, rehearsing, and staging under pandemic strictures. Nonetheless, the company persevered, and this production of British dramatist Bryony Lavery’s The Lovely Bones is the result.

Adapted from Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel of the same name, itself filmed in 2009 by New Zealand director Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones gives us the life and death of 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Sarah Maguire), as narrated by Susie herself from the afterlife. Susie’s ordinary, suburban-idyllic life in smalltown Pennsylvania, circa 1973, comes to an abrupt end when she is assaulted and murdered by a prolific local serial killer.

From her vantage point in heaven, Susie observes her family and friends as they grieve, desperately search for her killer, come to terms with her death, and begin to move on: father Jack (Ted Crosby), mother Abigail (Cassady Maddox Booth), siblings Lindsay (Naomi Belet) and Buckley (Parker Texilake), classmates Ruth (Kirsty Saville) and Ray (Shiva Chandra). Of course, Susie cannot move on, or grow – her life is over. What unfolds is a kind of supernatural coming of age story by proxy, as Susie vicariously lives through the community of people connected by her death.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t unfold smoothly, or in a particularly engaging manner. Bryony Lavery’s script is an extremely faithful, at times almost exact, translation of Sebel’s novel, but what works on the page (or the screen) does not necessarily work on the stage. The drive to include so much of the source material gives the whole thing a rapid, almost staccato clip as we jump from scene to scene and conversation to conversation, barely pausing for breath. The film adaption of Sebold’s story, which features big-ticket stars like Stanley Tucci (his role of Mr Harvey depicted here by Sean Taylor) and Mark Wahlberg, faced mixed reviews, with some enjoying its whimsy, and many steadfast book fans feeling frustrated with how it translated to the silver screen.This script seems to run into many of the same issues.

In New Theatre’s production, Robyn Arthur’s impressionistic set design, all constricting vertical lines, actually accommodates the shifts rather well, but cannot help the damage done to the piece’s pacing and tone. This production is also strangely beholden to Jackson’s screen adaptation, with Maguire’s accent a close match for Saoirse Ronan’s onscreen Susie. The use of American accents is actually quite jarring, and some cast members struggle, to the point where one wonders why this element wasn’t jettisoned altogether; there’s nothing in the story on a thematic or emotional level that necessitates anchoring it to the novel’s stated time and place, and the artificiality of the voice work is a barrier between the audience and the emotional heart of the work.

Some good performances help somewhat, including Maguire as the precocious Susie, Ted Crosby’s turn as her anguished father, and Natasha McDonald as Franny, Susie’s advisor in the afterlife, while Lisa Hanssens provides some comic relief as Susie’s perpetually soused grandmother. Sadly, that can only elevate the proceedings rather than save them. On stage, Where The Lovely Bones can be a chore, but it must be noted that it’s not the company – it’s the material.

The Lovely Bones plays at New Theatre in Newtown until December 18. You can find tickets here.

  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Kirribilli

We may be emerging from long, dark, cold nights and blinking into the oncoming summer of unlock, but it is also almost Halloween. The perfect time, then, for revisiting terrifying British horror story The Woman in Black. It's re-opening in the unnervingly intimate surrounds of Ensemble Theatre on October 30, just in time for the spooky season.

The original novel by Susan Hill, published in 1983, relays the eerie tale of a young lawyer haunted by the memory of his supernatural experience while dealing with the estate of the late Mrs. Drablow, who died alone in the desolate surrounds of Eel Marsh House. The stage play, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt, went on to terrify audiences on London’s West End, where it soon became the second-longest show to ever run there. Now Sydneysiders have another chance to test if they have the mettle to make it through without screaming. Mark Kilmurry directs this staging with Rachel Chant as assistant director. Jamie Oxenbould (Baby Doll) is the lawyer Mr Kipps, and Garth Holcombe (Tribes) is the actor he hires to tell his tale and hopefully exorcise his demons.

Dance

  • Dance
  • Eveleigh

After the year or two that was, supporting emerging talent is arguably more important than ever. That’s why Sydney Dance Company’s New Breed program is such a creative lifeline for the city, and for a fresh wave of choreographic talent to rise up under the supportive wing of one of the world’s most exciting companies, in collaboration with Carriageworks and the Balnaves Foundation.

This year New Breed showcases work from four exciting up-and-coming choreographers: Jasmin Sheppard, a Tagalaka Aboriginal woman with Irish, Chinese and Hungarian ancestry, Lilian Steiner who is Narrm/Melbourne-based, Rhiannon Newton who grew up on Dunghutti Land on the Mid-North Coast of NSW, and Sydney Dance Company dancer, Italian born and trained, Jacopo Grabar. Find out more about each choreographer here.

The showcase at Carriageworks is always one of the most exciting dates on the cultural calendar, burgeoning as it is with raw talent and fresh ideas from some of the country’s most promising voices. In 2020, New Breed brought four thrilling works from Joel Bray, Chloe Leong, Jesse Scales and Raghav Handa, each lending their unique voices to the bright future of the Australian dance scene.

“This year’s New Breed is very special for Sydney Dance Company, as after a long six months of disruption, we are returning to live performance," Sydney Dance Company’s artistic director Rafael Bonachela said.

"New Breed is such an important program supporting the development of new work and emerging artists, and I’m thrilled that after such a difficult year for the arts in Australia, we will be able to share the work of four talented artists, who represent the next generation of Australian choreographers, with audiences this year.”

New Breed runs from November 25 to December 11, from Tuesday to Saturday evenings with Saturday afternoon matinees. Tickets are just $35-$45 and you can get yours here.

  • Dance
  • Ballet
  • Sydney

Get ready for Christmas with a gorgeous all-ages show from the Australian Ballet in Harlequinade.

It sprung from the mind of 19th-century choreographer Marius Petipa and shares more in common with his celebrated take on The Sleeping Beauty than it does the darker drama of his Swan Lake. A harlequin awakes from a 100-year snooze to find himself knee-deep in romantic drama. He wants to marry his lover, Columbine, but her father has other plans. A bit of a horror, he locks her up until he can hand her over to a richer man. Of course love conquers all, with a little help from a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust.

Riccardo Drigo, conductor and composer at St Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet for two decades, created the magical score. Drawing on tradition, this production’s set and costume designer Robert Perdziola studied the originals, held in a St Petersburg museum.

“At American Ballet Theatre in New York, Alexei Ratmansky and I brought the sad, languid clown Pierrot to life through the notations of Petipa’s ballet,” Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg says. “To resurrect from the archives a ballet by one of dance’s greatest creators was something I cherished, and I look forward to passing the experience on to the artists who will perform the role here in Australia.”

Family-friendly shows

  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Sydney

Thanks to the Sydney Opera House, kids won’t miss out on all the fun of the Grand Unlock. Little rascal Grug will take to the stage just in time for Christmas – peak excitement overload for tiny tots. Starting life as the tip of a Burrawang tree that fell over and set him on his merry way, he’s had all sorts of magical adventures ever since, as lovingly brought to life in the whimsical picture books of children’s author Ted Prior. Fascinated by the world, Grug makes his way solving everyday problems without any fuss, which is the perfect lesson for kids who have spent way too much time indoors of late and may benefit from some gentle reassurance that things are going to be alright. That includes creating his own dance move ‘The Grug’ when instructions are a bit too complicated. And when cheeky snails gobble all his cabbages, he’s such a good egg he just plants more for everyone.

Presented in conjunction with Windmill Theatre Company productions, they have been touring Grug shows for over a decade now. So trust us, it’s the perfect summer fun for families looking to encourage a new generation of theatre lovers.

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