Archive for the 'Noosa Alive!' Category

06
Sep
18

Disenchanted!

 

Disenchanted!

Mad About Theatre

Noosa Arts Theatre

July 27 – 28 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

…just one more ‘Once Upon a Time’ and I swear I’ll go insane!

 

Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs ’em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that is anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know. When these royal renegades toss off their tiaras, this hilariously subversive, not-for-the-kiddies musical cleverly reveals what really happened ‘ever after’!

 

Disenchanted!, the smash hit Off-Broadway fractured musical fairytale for feminists and dissatisfied Disney Princesses, previewed at NOOSA alive! in July before transferring for a limited run to Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre.

 

Director, Madison Thew-Keyworth (Artistic Director of Mad About Theatre), has assembled the brightest, brassiest, sweetest-on-the-surface-at-least ensemble of five multi-talented performers to bring to vivid life the royal suite of princesses: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Mulan, Badroulbadour and The Princess Who Kissed The Frog. Her spare direction, letting the gags speak for themselves, allows the artists to go a little and a lot OTT in terms of vocalisation and characterisations. I feel like a fly on the wall at a private princess party and overhearing what everyone really thinks of Prince Charming.

 

 

Off-Broadway style big belt voices, beautiful close harmonies, cute and silly contemporary choreography, sexy costumes and loads of sass make this politically correct call to arms a delightful surprise at Australia’s premier performing arts and cultural festival, now in its 17th year in Noosa.

 

History teacher, Dennis T. Giacino (book, music and lyrics) rewrote the inner monologues of the princesses we know so well, giving the gals good reason to revolt. Even in this enlightened age it seems that it still takes both guts and grace to stand up and proclaim that we don’t need a guy, or that we actually need to eat. And all of this, taken up and written down by a guy. Praise be.

 

Disney purists will laugh along with these talented girls right from the opening number, One More Happ’ly Ever After, dripping with sarcasm and brimming with righteous anger, to A Happy Tune, which clarifies the issue of domestic duties and the mental load with the hilarious and well timed help of triangle, kazoo and the sweetest smiles, to the sad-but-true and very funny All I Wanna Do Is Eat. A significantly poignant moment though, comes with Honestly, a more considered and compassionate, pondering look at the story Pocahontas had thrust upon her. There are other opportunities for this sort of moment elsewhere in the show – they’re few and far between but they’re there behind a raised eyebrow or a sad, knowing smile – but the preference in this production is obviously to get the laughs, and the NOOSA alive! audiences eat it up.

 

Can someone tell me why I’m forced to row around that riverbend – just around the riverbend – am I the only one who knows this is pretend? And honestly, I was only ten but now I’m Double D. Can anyone explain why leaves keep following me and why my story can’t be told honestly?

Pocahontas, Disenchanted!

 

You’ll recognise a number of famous riffs and beloved musical theatre moments throughout (MD and Piano Man, Bradley McCaw is right at home here, and his extreme energy on stage is another highlight of the show). You’ll surely feel compelled to cheer and shout for the rights of princesses everywhere, and if you can overlook and laugh at the kitsch, cheap props and a distinct lack of any sort of set (“It’s Vaudeville!”), you’ll see Mad About Theatre’s Disenchanted! for what it is: a superbly sassy, witty, fast-paced and unapologetic political and social statement about everything that’s better than being a storybook princess, simply staged and boldly sung. You’ll love it! Let’s hope we see a return season on the Sunshine Coast.

 

24
Mar
17

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out

Noosa Long Weekend

In Association With Ensemble Theatre

The J Theatre, Noosa

March 23 – 25 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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David Williamson’s Odd Man Out sold out in Sydney over an eight-week season. Secure in the knowledge that it would be another smash hit for Williamson and Ensemble Theatre, Noosa Long Weekend invited the company to bring the production to The J for an exclusive pre-festival fundraising weekend (4 performances only), launching the rebrand of the festival only weeks prior.

Noosa Long Weekend Festival is now Noosa Alive! presenting an exciting program of world class events over 10 days in July.

Williamson’s success is unparalleled in this country. His work not only reflects the many aspects of our individual lives and the broader societal values to which we subscribe but also, it brings to light the little details of our relationships, our connections with other humans. Always funny, always touching, always extremely intelligent, examining all the things we think we should be getting right and all the things we know are not right with the world, Williamson is a master of making misfortune a gift. We see his characters expand and grow in the advent of disaster rather than be defeated by life’s difficulties.

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While Anna Gardiner’s design (lit by Christopher Page) is contemporary and suitably symbolic, at times it feels almost too sterile, which is perhaps the point: it suits every scene and our focus remains on the performers. Alistair Wallace’s soundscape adds an interesting dimension, most effectively incorporated into the second act to up the pace and underpin the absurd comedy act required of Ryan in each new social situation. 

When a production is mediocre we don’t take much away from it (except perhaps a thought that we’ll not see that company again for a while, just while they work themselves out!). But when the actors excel in bringing a terrific, insightful script to life, we experience a degree of what the characters on stage are going through. This shared empathy is part of what makes live theatre so special, so vital, and how it’s possible to invest so much emotionally in what’s essentially a cute little love story. In the case of Odd Man Out, the story is much larger, and we feel more deeply than we expected to for Ryan, a high-functioning autistic physicist, and for Alice, a physiotherapist with a ticking biological clock; we quickly became complicit in her attempts to change Ryan, in a frustrating journey through life and love.

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In creating Alice, Lisa Gormley has discovered something beautifully gentle and natural, and building on it gradually, layer by layer, she develops incredible strength and purpose so that we understand completely by the end of the play, her unfailing love for Ryan and her determination to support him, in spite of the challenges he continuously throws at her. We see her undergoing the kind of transformation that can only come from a place of whole-hearted love and unwavering kindness. This role might be wasted on anyone else but Gormley gives Alice the necessary warmth and depth, and good natured sense of humour to enable us to believe in her crazy pursuit of happily ever after with a guy who seems incapable of understanding her needs, or communicating his own.

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Williamson has said to me that Justin Stewart Cotta (Dream Homes’s memorable “Lion of Lebanon”) is one of our finest stage actors – high praise indeed; I’d seen the proof of it during our brief rehearsal period and limited run of that production, directed by the playwright, for Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2015 – and in Odd Man Out we see once again, Cotta’s knack for nailing a challenging character, bringing to this complex role a heartbreaking vulnerability that might remind you of Noah Taylor and/or Geoffrey Rush in Shine, and well-studied idiosyncrasies, which are likened in the play to Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond in Rainman. And in this moment, Williamson very succinctly makes a point about our lack of references in the mainstream, since the release of Rainman, to Autism Spectrum Disorder. In recent years we’ve seen a bit of a run on bipolar and depression and dementia in the movies, however; unlike sitting in a cinema and feeling somewhat removed from the situation, when we’re just metres away from the humans having to find a way to live with a mental illness or developmental condition in a world that doesn’t offer much assistance, we can’t help but feel for them, and wonder how, given the same set of circumstances, we might behave.

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Ryan is hyper-intelligent but emotionally stunted and socially anxious, and innocently offends everyone with whom he comes into contact, including Alice, his sharp wit and honest observations providing the play’s funniest and most uncomfortable moments. An awkward and highly entertaining scene involving good friends and wine (or is that friends and good wine?) puts the approach to the test with hilarious results. But without support from her parents or friends (that gorgeous Rachel Gordon as best friend Carla, let’s face it, is far more bitch than BFF), Alice has had to find a way to teach Ryan a new way to present himself to the world. The consequences are disastrous, giving us a mother of a monologue from Cotta, just in case we weren’t already convinced of his utter conviction in the role. These two bare their souls and connect with such genuine honesty and intimacy that we can’t help but be moved. A friend told me after the show that for him, in Ryan and Alice he saw his parents’ relationship, Autism included. And he could see he was the child, whom Ryan and Alice can’t quite agree to have…until we find ourselves at the neat, optimistic ending (there’s no spoiler there if you’re familiar with Williamson’s unashamedly, cleverly crowd-pleasing style). Look, there may have been a few tears shed.

Gordon, Gael Ballantyne, Bill Young, and Matt Minto beautifully flesh out the secondary characters, but this show rightly belongs to the effervescent Gormley, and to Cotta, in his most honest, detailed and nuanced work to date.

A Williamson play is always such a gift to actors and audiences, and this one, his best yet, so sensitively directed by Ensemble’s Artistic Director, Mark Kilmurry, offers greater insight than ever into the way humans behave and successfully – or not at all – relate to one another.