Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls remains one of the greatest plays written about women’s rights, the patriarchy and the intersection of same with social class. This new Sydney Theatre Company staging, led by director Imara Savage, sets the bar high and early for the best production of 2018. Written in 1982, Top Girls opens with Marlene (the astonishingly sharp Helen Thomson) hosting a fantasy dinner party with distinguished women from history. There’s Griselda (Paula Arundell) from the English folkloric tradition – catch her in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales; Isabella Bird (Kate Box), the 19th-century explorer; Lady Nijo (Michelle Lim Davidson) a Buddhist nun from the 12th century; Pope Joan (Heather Mitchell), who may or may not have been an ancient actual female pope; and Dull Gret (Contessa Treffone); a Flemish warrior who took the fight to Hell itself. Marlene has just accepted a promotion – she’ll be Managing Director of an employment agency – and so, she figures, she might as well celebrate with her peers. The scene is remarkable in Savage’s hands and with this ensemble of actors – carefully scripted lines feel entirely off-the-cuff, balancing wit and emotion with great clarity and precision. This confident, incisive style continues as the entire play shifts, and shifts again – from the second act in Marlene’s employment agency, where we see women at work and looking for work, marked by the invisible blockades of men – and into the third, which sees Marlene venture away fr
The image of Cervantes’ mad knight, Don Quixote, is one of the most enduring in western literature, and has inspired musicians, artists and writers for several centuries, ranging from 17th century plays to countless paintings and the popular 1965 musical Man of La Mancha. But for an opera based on an episodic work so full of imaginative and imaginary adventures, there’s surprisingly little action in Massenet’s 1910 version, with a libretto by Henri Caïn based on a 1904 play. Massenet is more inspired by the image and tragi-comic character of Quixote rather than his many quests, and uses just a few ideas from Cervantes’ writing in this languid piece. At the centre of the opera is Quixote’s quest to retrieve the beautiful Dulcinea’s stolen necklace from a gang of thieves. Quixote believes that if he can complete this act of chivalry, he will win her heart and hand in marriage. It’s the least of his delusions, but proves to be a particularly costly one. Really, there are two main reasons you’d book tickets to this production: to hear a relatively rarely performed score and see Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in action. Opera Australia has brought in the sets and costumes from a 2009 San Diego Opera production, with revival director Hugh Halliday remounting the opera for local audiences. Halliday uses a group of flamenco dancers to add a bit of movement and has directed a thrilling battle with a few full-sized windmills (this is where the phrase "tilting at windmills" cam
It’s rare to see a playwriting debut that comes with a fully-defined, genuinely funny and self-assured voice, but writer Michelle Law has leapt into the world of theatre without so much as a tremble. Single Asian Female is a gem: an essential new play about the contemporary Australian experience through the eyes of restaurant-owner Pearl Wong and her daughters Zoe and Mei. Pearl (Hsiao-Ling Tang) runs the Golden Phoenix, a Chinese restaurant, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. She’s been doing it alone since her husband left and it’s clear from the beginning that the separation was far from amicable – Pearl tells us so herself, breaking the fourth wall in the middle of a triumphant karaoke rendition of ‘I Will Survive’, a signifier of her finally-settled divorce. But there’s something troubling Pearl even now in her newfound freedom, and she just wants to talk to her daughters about it – if they can all find the time to just sit and be together. It’s hard, because life, as always, gets in the way. For Zoe (Alex Lee), that means her auditions to become the professional violinist she’s always dreamed of being – not to mention playing the dating game and maybe seeing a new guy – as long her anxiety doesn’t interfere with her plans. For Mei (Courtney Stewart), it’s all the burning frustrations of being so close to the end of year 12 she can practically taste it: just a maths test and a formal to go before she’s free from a particularly tough time in the social order. Like every
Two young women leave Australia to change the world. Emily (Airlie Dodds) travels to Kenya as a volunteer to build a school for children living in poverty, whether or not it’s what the local community actually needs. Meanwhile, Luisa (Ebony Vagulans) has flown from Sydney to Oxford University on a scholarship. She wants to figure out why her favourite birds are dying, falling from the sky. But then a man falls from the sky, and everything changes for Emily and Luisa. Julian Larnach’s Flight Paths is asking big, ethical questions about global politics, foreign aid and privilege. Is there any merit in voluntourism, or does its often-sketchy ethics outweigh the work performed by unskilled labourers and teachers? Can you make a better world from one of its oldest, most conservative institutions – and will there ever be a place for you inside those walls if you’re not white and upper-class? The play is carefully crafted and thoughtful, and while it’s occasionally laboured (Larnach is careful to get his big social questions across, even though it’s sometimes at the expense of the play’s momentum), there’s a welcome firecracker element to the dialogue. The plot twists are telegraphed early and often, which lessens their impact into a gentle landing, but the final scene – when all the story threads finally come together – is still moving. Luisa is the heart of the play, and Vagulans gives the role an open-hearted accessibility; it feels as though we are on the journey ‘across th
Someone has died. That’s the first thing we learn in DNA, Dennis Kelly’s adolescent thriller, and it’s the first in a series of twists and complications that don’t let up until, 80 minutes later, the play has shuddered to an end. How are a group of teenagers – varying from ‘rough as guts’ to ‘really wants to get into dental college’ – supposed to handle a death for which they might, in some way, be culpable? They have all been guilty of bullying the deceased; they were all present when he died. It’s not clear who killed him, but it could have been any of them — like Richard (Liam Nunan), who is too cool for the others, or Jill (Jessica-Belle Keogh, an immediate standout), the alpha-bully who keeps questioning the allegiance of her hangers-on. Or was it the boy in the corner (James Fraser), who can’t stop crying? But then, it doesn’t really matter: in the eyes of the teens, they’re in it together. In this production, under Claudia Barrie’s direction, the situation feels near-apocalyptic: on a bed of dry, dying grass and wooden pallets (designed by Ella Butler), the students commiserate, threaten, make frantic plans and set up elaborate protection alliances. Everyone is traumatised; almost no one will admit it. But there’s another unexpected element to this tragedy – in the act of the students creating a cover-up, they’ve had to work together. Suddenly, there’s a new harmony in the school. The previous vicious, violent-leaning, bully-rich social hierarchy has settled into s
We challenge you to find a bigger tearjerker than this in the opera canon; it's not just the story (based on Alexandre Dumas' popular 1848 novel La Dame aux Camélias) about a courtesan who falls for a young admirer, but sacrifices her chance at happiness for the greater good; it's also Verdi's romantic score. These are why we keep going back to Verdi's opera. This 'old faithful' production by director Elijah Moshinsky, with opulent 19th century design, is also something that audiences keep returning to; it's never long out of circulation for Opera Australia. In 2018 Australian soprano Nicole Car returns home to make her role debut as Violetta. Read our interview with Nicole Car.
British performer and theatremaker Bryony Kimmings has brought a handful of her shows to Australia in recent years – Fake It 'Til You Make It, Sex Idiot, Credible, Likeable, Superstar, Role Model – but this production is the biggest of her projects to make it to Sydney thus far. Working with UK company Complicité, which wowed local audiences last year with five-star hit The Encounter, Kimmings has created an original pop-rock musical about a subject we try not to think too much about: cancer. Read Time Out London's review of A Pacifist's Guide to the War on Cancer.
This one-man play recalls the life of Taha Muhammad Ali: a Palestinian who grew up in Saffuriya in Galilee, lived through the turbulent creation of Israel and ran a souvenir shop in Nazareth (‘a Muslim selling Christian memorabilia to Jews’) at the same time as he emerged as an internationally recognised poet in his forties. The show’s writer, Amer Hlehel, also plays Ali. The first show at the Riverside (March 27) will be performed in English. The second (March 28) will be performed in Arabic. Read Time Out London’s review of the show.
When David Finnigan won a grant to produce a play about climate science, he probably wasn’t expecting to be blasted by right-wing commentators from Andrew Bolt to Alex ‘InfoWars’ Jones before the play had even made it to the stage. But that’s exactly what happened. Four years on, after a cancelled run in the ACT – and after winning the Griffin Award in 2017 –Kill Climate Deniers is finally making its debut at Griffin Theatre Co. Under the directorship of Lee Lewis, this black comedy is a meta-theatrical commentary on climate denial – and Finnigan’s own experience butting heads with deniers in the process of researching, and trying to stage, the play. The main plot: extremists take over Parliament House, and demand the country fix climate change or else everyone in the room dies. It’s action-movie silly with a high-octane soundtrack to match. The activists, led by activist Catch (Lucia Mastrantone), face off against Environment Minister Gwen Malkin (Rebecca Massey) and her press advisor Bekken (Sheridan Harbridge). There are 3D-printed weapons and bloody standoffs. The plot is intercut with commentary from Finig (Eden Falk), a representative of the playwright. He counters the frequently-silly plot through fourth-wall-breaking speeches, asides and meta-theatrics (his thoughts flash up on video screens in comic sans). Those screens provide statistics, quotes from alt-right climate deniers, and visual gags to enhance the charmingly messy, lo-fi production style onstage. With
The Australian Museum is launching its first festival of Aboriginal and Pacific cultures. Weave will include a program of participatory events from meditation with Wiradjuri cultural practitioners Milan Dhiiyaan (Laurance and Fleur Magick Dennis) through to watching master weavers Phyllis Stewart and Steve Russell create a four-metre canoe honouring the Indigenous fisherwomen of Sydney Harbour. Laura McBride, who co-curated the new Garrigarrang: Sea Country – the Museum's first Indigenous Australian exhibition since 1997 – is the force behind this new festival. “We want to represent ourselves,” she says. ‘Weave’ is a metaphor for the way McBride wants people to engage with the history shared in the festival. “If we sit together and weave our knowledges and experiences we can build a better, shared future. Also, this is a festival of 256 distinct cultures (at least) within Australia, plus the Pacific cultures, but one custom crosses all of those cultures: weaving.” Running throughout March, Weave includes a new exhibition, Gadi, that McBride hopes will introduce the people of the grasstree – the Gadigal people – and their rich and significant history. “Archaeological material has shown we were the first astronomers, the first axe makers, the first bread makers. Australia should be shouting that from the rooftops.” The festival features events that McBride hopes challenges misconceptions of Aboriginal Australians, through connecting one-on-one with people. Guided meditatio