To direct a musical – to create a vision for a new production – you have to be courageous. Bold ideas are the only ones that can cut through the overwhelming sensory presence of song and dance to create a clear onstage identity and shake the room with something stronger than the sum of its parts. That boldness is a massive risk – but with it, if the ideas are right, and the director’s creative team is on their wavelength, can come massive reward. Cry-Baby, a twisted take on the teen rebel genre based on the 1990 film by camp master John Waters, is an embarrassment of riches. Directed by Alexander Berlage (a lighting designer and director; this is his first musical) and designed to pop-art and retro-fabulous perfection by Isabel Hudson, this cannily cast show is gleefully ironic. It’s a vision fully realised, an embrace of archness that delights in grotesquerie, and a reminder that, while musical theatre is often classified as painfully sincere, there’s plenty of room in the genre for irreverence. The proudly unpolished cousin of Hairspray, another Waters film onstage, Cry-Baby queers the nostalgia of the past to skewer white upper-class nonsense. It’s the story of ‘square’ Alison (Ashleigh Rubenach) and Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker (Christian Charisiou), a rebellious ‘drape’ with an emcee best friend (Alfie Gledhill) and a gang of ferocious women (Manon Gunderson-Briggs, Amy Hack, and Bronte Florian) by his side. Famously, Cry-Baby hasn’t sobbed since his parents were killed by
First Nation, immigrant and settler descent dancers from Australia and New Caledonia come together in a new work by Indigenous dance company Marrugeku that explores the impact and aftermath of decolonisation across the Asia Pacific. Designed to coincide with New Caledonia’s referendum for independence from France in November, it asks what should remain and what should be discarded when countries unshackle themselves from their colonial pasts. Directed by Burkina Faso-born dancer and choreographer and Marrugeku associate artist Serge Aimè Coulibaly, it will tour to New Caledonia after its season at Carriageworks.
Whenever something is labelled “the future” of a particular art form, it’s probably best taken with a grain of salt. Anybody who thinks they can predict exactly how the winds will blow through a form – especially one as fickle and rigid as opera – is usually mistaken. It would seem Opera Australia’s artistic director Lyndon Terracini has got an idea about what the future of grand opera might involve: slick, digital sets made up of high definition LED panels. Opera Australia’s new production of Aida uses ten massive, stage-filling screens that slide in and out of place and spin, creating a captivating cinematic experience that fuses live performance and video. Debuting the company’s first digital production was a significant gamble; Opera Australia certainly isn’t the first opera company in the world to use projections, but there’s a big investment behind the technology and already two more productions commissioned that will use it. If the opening night response is anything to go by, it’s a gamble that will pay off in the coming years. Italian director Davide Livermore is clearly of the opinion that “more is more” and has created a production that undoubtedly succeeds. There are endless sparkles, gold gilding on just about every surface, huge headdresses and some of the loudest singing (and I mean literally, in decibels) I’ve ever heard in the Joan Sutherland Theatre. He absolutely leans into the melodrama of the piece with all his staging and choreography. (Although there’
The story behind Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey is truly extraordinary. Delaney grew up working class and surrounded by poverty in Salford, Manchester. When she was a 19-year-old theatre usher she decided to try her hand at playwriting. According to her daughter, Delaney had just seen Waiting for Godot and believed there were other voices that should be heard. The resulting play was an absolute smash, moving from the fringe venues to illustrious stages on the West End and Broadway, and was eventually turned into a BAFTA-winning film. It’s an extraordinary portrait of life on the fringes – of people who are simply denied the space to live in society – carving out their own lives and families, and dealing with their own pain with strength and true grit. Yet despite this, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more confused opening night audience at Belvoir, struggling to know how to take a play that’s by turns tragic and bitingly funny, and refuses to deliver the kind of dramatic shape you’d generally expect from a kitchen sink drama. That it refuses to paint its women as archetypes – instead they’re genuinely knotty, complex, capricious and tough – is still relatively unusual on our stages. That it shows women who follow their sexual desire, and casts no moral judgement upon them, is almost entirely unheard of. Despite its radical content, the play’s narrative is fairly easy to follow: a 17-year-old woman, Jo (Taylor Ferguson), and her mother, Helen (Genevieve Lemon), move into
What happens when you put three people in a room, and they commit to talking to each other for the next ten years? Find out in this celebration of friendship, nonsense and women-in-theatre, by Zoë Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose (who have been working together for more than a decade as Post). Over their decade or so of practice, Post have made fun, irreverent and occasionally confronting shows that fuse daggy dancing, ridiculous spectacle, and text based on conversations they’ve had. They don’t play characters in their works, they play themselves – or, versions of themselves. Their works often feel as though they’ve set themselves an impossible challenge, and they’re letting the audience in on their attempt to surmount it (and occasional inevitable failure). In their 2011 show Who’s The Best, for example, they invited the audience to participate in an adjudication of which of them was definitively ‘the best’; in their 2014 Belvoir show Oedipus Schmoedipus, they attempted to re-enact all the death scenes in all the classic plays. As Coombs Marr told Time Out in 2014, “What we find most interesting is playing with different contexts and genres, and the conventions or rules within those spaces.” For Ich Nibber Dibber the three have dug deep into their archives: they’ve watched countless hours of footage of their collaborative improvisations from the age of roughly 20 to 30 – and edited the transcript of those conversations into a ‘best of’ that runs for around 75 m
As with most major opera companies, Opera Australia has a handful of productions that are so popular with their audiences they're revived time and time again. Towards the top of that list is Elijah Moshinsky's 1991 production of Rigoletto, which is returning to the Sydney Opera House. The company premiered a new production of the opera by director Roger Hodgman in 2014, but OA has opted to revive Moshinsky's. It's one of the company's most visually striking productions, with La Dolce Vita-inspired revolving sets and costumes by two-time Tony Award-winner Michael Yeargan. This time around, Slovak baritone Dalibor Jenis will be playing the tragic titular court jester. Russian soprano Irina Lungu will play his daughter Gilda,a role she's performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera. This production marks her Opera Australia debut. Opera Australia favourite Gianluca Terranova plays the Duke and will sing one of Verdi's best known tunes, 'La donna è mobile', which you probably know from a pasta sauce ad.
It’s been four decades since the first part of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy (called International Stud) premiered Off-Off Broadway, introducing the world to Arnold, a gay Jewish drag queen living in New York who dreams of finding love and family. He was a character written with the complexities usually not given to queer characters in 1978 and one whose aspirations – for children and a long-lasting love – were pretty unusual at that point. A lot has changed across the world in the 40 years since Torch Song was born – although the fear and backlash triggered by HIV/AIDS in the years following was a significant hurdle. And a lot has changed locally in the five years since Darlinghurst Theatre Company first staged the play; not only has the company moved from its former home on Greenknowe Avenue (now the Hayes Theatre) to the gorgeous Eternity Playhouse, but long-term, committed same-sex relationships are now given the same legal recognition as heterosexual partnerships. Arnold would be thrilled, and not just because he might be finally be able to convince his prickly mother that his life is worthy of her respect. Fierstein’s trilogy of plays – presented across nearly four hours with two intermissions – were brought together in 1981 and finally made it to Broadway in 1982. Fierstein became a star playing Arnold, who falls in love with a bisexual school teacher called Ed. At the end of the first play, Ed has walked out, but he comes back into Arnold’s life in the secon
Simon Phillips’ pastel-hued production of Rossini’s lesser-known comic opera was a hit when it premiered in 2014, and now it’s back to bring a blast of sunshine to the impossibly cold days. With a distinctly Australian libretto (yes, the term “root rat” appears) and a deliciously retro set and costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, the story centres on the capricious young woman Fiorilla, who is dazzled by the arrival of a mysterious foreign visitor to her sleepy seaside town - much to the dismay of her husband and her lover. Rising soprano Stacey Alleaume, recently seen in OA’s The Merry Widow, plays Fiorilla, with Italian bass-baritone Paolo Bordogna as the Turk.
Note: This review discusses domestic violence and sexual assault. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In 2018 alone, 39 women have died by violence in Australia. One in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence. The numbers – and the behaviours behind the numbers – are disturbing. And in King of Pigs, by actor/writer Steve Rodgers and directed by actor turned director Blazey Best, those behaviours are everywhere. There’s the partner (Mick Bani) who controls and minimises his wife’s interactions with the outside world. The co-worker (Christian Byers) who teams up with his mates to take advantage of a drunk date. The film buff (Ashley Hawkes) who seems like a nice guy, but owns way too many guns. These men are #notallmen, but Ella Scott-Lynch is every woman in this play: the only one onstage, the victim of the full lineup. By stepping into every different scenario, we’re able to see how, just by being a woman, she’s consistently at a disadvantage. Dating and love isn’t safe for women, and King of Pigs doesn’t shy away from this critical, but often avoided, reality. There are two men onstage that aren’t violent – there’s one who works with victims and perpetrators of family violence (Kire Tosevski), and there’s his son Ari (Thom Blake and Wylie Best share the part). Ari is young and not yet lost in the hallmarks of toxic masculinity like bravado and entitlement, but as we
Ruth Park's Surry Hills trilogy of The Harp in the South, Poor Man's Orange and Missus has been adapted for the screen multiple times before, but now Sydney Theatre Company is bringing the story of the Darcy family to life on stage. There's a lot of story to get through across three novels, so adaptor Kate Mulvany has split her adaptation into two parts that you can watch in consecutive nights or across one day (with a dinner break in the middle). Altogether, it makes up over five hours of theatre, and is the company's big ticket show for 2018. STC has pulled together a huge and stellar cast, including Luke Carroll, Heather Mitchell (Top Girls, Cloud Nine), Tara Morice (Strictly Ballroom), Bruce Spence and Helen Thomson. STC's artistic director, Kip Williams, will be creating the onstage world of Sydney as it once was, with designers Renée Mulder and David Fleischer.
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