There are an overwhelming number of things to do in Sydney in any given week – let alone theatre. Our guide to the best theatre right now should help you narrow down all the Sydney shows to a guaranteed good-time. If you want to plan ahead, check out our guide to what's on stage this month.
This immersive theatre experience will give you goosebumps as you join the story and discover the truth about crimes that have haunted Sydney for decades. Set underneath St James Church in the historical crypt, everything becomes more chilling as you walk through the long tunnel and explore the dark caverns within. This spooky season, you’ll have the chance to be imbedded in two fascinating cases that will leave you wanting more. Each story is brought to life by ten talented actors who draw a shivering crowd of 30 spectators into Sydney’s historical world crime. A Poison Crown transports you to 19th century Sydney where Louisa Collins, who was convicted of killing her two husbands by poisoning them, was the last woman hanged in NSW. With all the doubts about her guilt, it’s up to you to decide if her fate was deserved or a deadly mistake. Simmonds & Newcombe: The Deadly Run is another mind-blowing story that will keep you on your feet and running. Find out how two convicts managed to escape and stay undercover while 500 police officers were on their tail for five weeks. If you miss out on this immersive theatre experience on All Hallow’s Eve itself, fear not (or maybe just a little) because the season runs from October 23-November 30.
If an exclusive fine dining restaurant is booked out for the night, they might use the term “fully committed” to describe the situation to deep-pocketed callers clamouring for a reservation. Now imagine you answer those calls. It’s not your dream, obviously (that’s acting), but this pays the bills. It’s a terrible job – rich idiots and creepy men yelling at you constantly – but you’re handling it. Until one day that’s already a bad day: your girlfriend just left you, you’re anxious to hear about an acting gig, you’re missing your dad. And then your co-workers haven’t shown up, and you have to manage the switchboard alone. And when the restaurant’s tables fill up three months in advance, those callers are probably not going to be happy with you. That scenario is the premise for Becky Mode’s Fully Committed, a whirlwind of a one-hander full of chirping phones and entitled customers. Everyone is terrible: the “bad boy of the kitchen” chef, the sexist maître d', the receptionist gatekeeper at her agent’s office, the movers and shakers who simply have to have a table for that evening. And Sam has to handle it all on her own. She misses the staff meal, she can’t go to the bathroom and upstairs keep asking her to clean up a terrible mess, even though that’s clearly out of her remit, because Heston Blumenthal is in the building and they’re all in a tizz. The actor who plays Sam and the 31 other characters in the show (every voice at the end of a line) is usually a man. Here, thou
Alone on a stage, a young black man grows up before our eyes. He’s a working class kid from Tottenham, and he’s here to tell us the story of his life and his neighbourhood. As a little boy, his recollections are sunny and hopeful – canny, insightful, but viewed through his eyes with a sheen of innocence: his own. If he’s good, his mother is going to give him a bike. If you’re good in life, therefore, good things will come to you. But the world doesn’t work that way, especially for black and brown kids whose families have been doing it tough. There are forces bigger than individual goodness – systemic, racist forces – that can keep a good kid down. And those forces really try to keep the boy and his world down. As the world shapes the boy, he begins to reshape his life. Goodness and compliance in the face of oppression seems less and less like a good idea. Good Dog is a mountain of a one-hander, running for more than two hours without interval. Rising star Justin Amankwah has to climb the incline alone, and it’s steep. As he goes farther, the air gets thinner and the risk of dark times gets higher. It’s tense. Amankwah stares down the task with admirable resolve; he carries the weight of this world on his shoulders, breathing life into the characters that make up his neighbourhood. There’s Gandhi, who runs the corner shop; the smoking boys and ‘what-what’ girls that terrorise the weaker residents and shoplift from the shop. There’s the boy’s bully, Desmond, and the girl he
The ballet Sylvia falls very firmly into the “neglected classic” category, and has been rarely performed since it premiered more than 150 years ago. “It’s sadly neglected, and I think it has one of the great scores written for ballet,” Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister says. And you don’t have to believe just McAllister; Tchaikovsky famously said that Léo Delibes’ score was better than anything he had written, including Swan Lake. The ballet draws its narrative from Greek mythology, following Sylvia, a chaste, ferocious huntress who swears off love but eventually falls for a human man. “The thing that’s always been difficult is that the story is fairly convoluted,” McAllister says. “Sometimes those Greek, Arcadian stories don’t really play for a modern audience. But Stanton has done a lot of work to make it a lot more resonant today, and not just looking at Sylvia and Diana, but the whole idea of Greek mythology and how it fits into our lives today.” The female dancers of the company will be getting in touch with their inner warriors (much like the male dancers did last year with Spartacus) and will learn to sword fight for the production. “The boys have been battling each other up in Spartacus, and now the girls are going to be fencing themselves into a frenzy next year.”
Walking into Sydney Dance Company’s new Ultimo studios can be an intimidating experience for a first timer. Posters on the wall show off the Company’s professional dancers in striking performances like Interplay; dancers flex pink ballet pumps like they’re warming up for the Bolshoi; and students waiting for the Contemporary Dance Beginners’ class seem to be running through remembered dance steps. We tap our name into the schmick iPad register and wait nervously for teacher Vi Lam to open the doors. It’s a 90-minute class and Lam, a professional dancer, spends at least a third of the time warming us up; we’re doing stomach crunches, bicycle legs and big arm motions in unison, facing the mirrored wall. It’s a comfortable routine to follow, and a good reminder that the dance style is athletic and pretty sweaty. Lam moves the class onto ‘progression work’ in the centre of the room. Everyone stands to one end of the large dance studio and groups of four dancers begin bending their legs and sashaying across the room to ‘Gimme More’ by Britney Spears. It feels a bit like a conveyor belt with the more confident dancers leading the way, and those of us with stage fright near the back. It doesn’t matter where you end up because we repeat, refine and return for a few rounds of pliés and ‘spreading the butter’ (sliding across the floor). There’s a lot of information to take in, which is why Lam opts for more accessible, descriptive terms for the moves we’re doing. He’s funny, loud
So you’re a newlywed in 1900s Germany, and you’ve gone to a parade to see the king. It’s a big deal. Everyone from town is there. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, like an act of God, your tightly drawstringed, old-timey underpants fall down from underneath your skirt. You scoop them up quick as a flash and carry on with your day. And it happened so fast, and was rectified so quickly, and a whole parade was happening, so why would anyone notice or care? But in The Underpants, Steve Martin’s very-Steve-Martin-y remix of 1910 German play Die Hose, Louise (Gabrielle Scawthorn) and her knickers are the talk of the town. It’s not even a few hours later when two separate men come to her home and enquire about the room she and her husband Theo (Duncan Fellowes) have available for rent. They couldn’t be more different – one is a sickly barber named Benjamin Cohen (Robin Goldsworthy) – Cohen with a ‘K’, he insists to the clearly anti-Semitic Theo – and the other, an aggressively tanned unpublished poet, Frank Versati (Ben Gerrard). The room is secondary to their intense fascination with, and lust for, Louise. There are several doors on the set (playfully rendered in bold colours and fussy details by Anna Gardiner) which means you can sense what’s going to happen next: farce. Men chasing women, people hiding, unexpected guests and, of course, comic exits. The men sniff around at Louise, who, quite frankly, never asked for any of this attention and isn’t sure that she wants it. Alth
Zindzi Okenyo will finally be front and centre where she belongs when she stars as the whip-smart Beatrice in Bell Shakespeare’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing. In case you missed reading it at school, Much Ado is pretty much the original romantic comedy, and features one of Shakespeare’s most-loved couples, Beatrice and Benedick, who banter and swap barbs until their friends decide to bring them together. Don’t expect it to be all hearts and flowers though – Bell Shakespeare associate director James Evans promises to bring out the play’s darker conflicts as well, in particular the female characters’ struggle for identity and self-knowledge in a male-dominated world. "The story flips from uproarious comedy to utter heartbreak in an instant, and then back again. That is the genius of Shakespeare, and why this play is one of my favourites,” he says. Sparring with Okenyo as Benedick will be Duncan Ragg (The Dance of Death), alongside Mandy Bishop, Will McDonald, Vivienne Awosoga, Danny Ball, Marissa Bennet, Suzanne Pereira, Paul Reichstein and David Whitney.
Irish writer Martin McDonagh is on a bit of a roll in the film world at the moment – his 2017 film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture – but he came to the attention of the world with his plays. The Beauty Queen of Leenane is a pitch-black comedy set in the Irish village of Leenane. The play follows Maureen, a 40-year-old woman who gets her first chance at love, but whose cruel and manipulative mother sets about destroying it. Rebel Wilson was initially set to play Maureen but pulled out of the production due to scheduling conflicts, but will be replaced by Orange is the New Black star Yael Stone. Noni Hazlehurst, Toby Schmitz and Shiv Palekar will also appear in the Paige Rattray-directed production The play will be performed in STC’s biggest venue, the 896-seat Roslyn Packer Theatre.
This is a review of the March 2019 season of The Choir of Man. The show is returning to the Opera House for an encore season in November. We all know that Sydney has lost plenty of bars, clubs and late-night venues in recent years, but we’re not totally alone in that struggle. If you look to the UK, the neighbourhood pub is under threat; across England, Scotland and Wales, pubs are folding at a rate of one every 12 hours. The number of small pubs – the ones with fewer than ten employees, and the kind that tends to prop up a community – has almost halved between 2001 and 2018. The Choir of Man, a breakthrough hit of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe that falls somewhere between pub gig, cabaret, choral performance and scrappy musical, is an ode to pub culture and the communities that exist within them. There’s not much going on in terms of narrative, but there are nine men from England and Ireland onstage leading the audience through a night at their local. George Bray is the narrator; Sean Keany is the angel-voiced tenor known as the “Casanova”; Christopher Norton is the deceptively gentle “beast”; Richard Lock is the “pub bore”, who dresses like a character from an Agatha Christie novel. Each has their moment to shine and all are superb singers – Lock delivers an impressive rendition of ‘The Impossible Dream’ while attempting to make a house out of coasters, Keany belts the bejesus out of Adele’s ‘Hello’, and Bray performs a touching version of Luther Vandross’s ‘Dance with My Fa
A forbidden teen romance is given a playful and furry rom-com spin in Griffin Theatre Company's First Love is a Revolution, a sparky take on what is typically a one-species genre. Both loopy and brilliant in equal measure, this is a inter-creature love story between a fox and a human (yes, you read that correctly). Somehow, in Rita Kalnejais’ propulsively original script, it doesn’t come off nearly as absurd as it sounds. In fact, its anthropomorphic characters give the play a breath of fresh air – zippy with kinetic energy, endlessly amusing and very endearing. The show opens on young fox Rdeca’s (Sarah Meacham) first attempt at a kill (of a softly protesting mole), and her moral conflict is instant and clear. “Trust the destiny in the kill,” her mother advises her when she hesitates – a phrase that’s repeated over the course of the play like a mantra. It seems that Rdeca’s destiny is to also meet Basti (Bardiya McKinnon), a 14-year-old human boy who puts out a fox trap in the hope of making a fur stole for his sick mum. But as soon as Rdeca’s mouth opens, and Basti miraculously understands her words, his butter knife is thrown to the side. And they’re soon infatuated with one another: he leaves her chicken (her favourite food), she teaches him how to hone his hunting instincts. It’s an unlikely pairing, but also one that makes strange, perfect sense. Both feel misunderstood by their families, and in each other’s company, they begin to discover stirring new emotions, surrou