Posts Tagged ‘Cate Blanchett

30
Jul
15

Anything Goes

 

Anything Goes

Opera Australia & John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

July 25 – August 16 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

ANYTHING GOES has captivated millions with its delightful story of madcap antics aboard the S.S. American. When the ocean liner sets sail from New York to London, etiquette and convention get tossed out the portholes as two unlikely couples set off to find true love… proving that sometimes destiny needs a little help from a crew of singing sailors, an exotic disguise and some good old-fashioned blackmail. 

 

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With three Helpmann Awards announced the previous night, opening night of Anything Goes in Brisbane was always going to be an exciting affair. I wore sparkles, creating a major dress dilemma for the week because LA BOITE’S BIRTHDAY BASH! That’s right. Two of the shiniest occasions in Queensland’s theatrical calendar occur in one week and I’ve already been seen in my (more-twenties-than-thirties, let’s face it) sparkles. I’m not above being seen in the same frock twice but…

 

It’s times like these I have to ask myself

WHAT WOULD OUR CATE DO?

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Actress Cate Blanchett arrives at the 86th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 02: Actress Cate Blanchett arrives at the 86th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

 

Well, there’s no Armani here yet, but it’s okay, don’t panic, I have more white in the wardrobe now, thanks to a fortune fortnight spent on Hastings Street during Noosa Long Weekend Festival and the smiling, sophisticated ladies at KOOKAI. Admittedly, all they had to do was to bag a couple of cute frocks, which I’d spotted on the rack and decided to purchase without even trying on (because KOOKAI), but still; they are lovely there. Go visit them if ever you find yourself in similar strife.

 

This dazzling production of Cole Porter’s classic musical comedy is indeed almost too de-lightful, too de-licious and too, too de-lovely for words. It’s not my favourite clever, convoluted, old-fashioned, funny because it’s so unlikely excuse for a plot – misadventure and mistaken identities on the high seas with enough theatrical evangelical shenanigans to create another show entirely – but the music is timeless and the comedy is pitched at a broad audience of loyal Porter fans and musical theatre newbies. Everyone will enjoy this one.

 

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Musical theatre queen, Caroline O’Connor, is superb as Reno Sweeney, as we knew she would be. In this demanding role, O’Connor earned the Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. She barely pauses for breath – unless there’s a laugh to be had (and there are plenty, with her knack for physical comedy most obvious in Friendship with Wayne Scott Kermond) – and with her suitably Ethel Merman styled powerhouse vocals, polished dance and comedic finesse, O’Connor steals the show. But only just because this is the strongest company we’ve seen in Frosty’s trilogy with Opera Australia.

 

Reno’s girls are standouts – hot, glam goddesses who get to strut and shimmy their stuff in a red-lit and racy Blow, Gabriel, Blow (Annie Aitkin, Bridgette Hancock, Hayley Martin & Samantha Leigh Dodemaide).

 

And the ensemble are all gorgeous, great, true triple-threats, with an abundance of very young-looking sailors on board… didn’t Fleet Street happen already?! The title number, reprised for the Finale, is the highlight of the show – precision tap at its best to leave you, unlike the company of #fitspo performers, gasping for breath! Helpmann Award winning choreography by Andrew Hallsworth is simply spectacular, brilliantly executed.

 

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Todd McKenney, perfect in the role of English fop, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, reminds me of Eric Idle in The English National Opera’s The Mikado (1997), which was watched and re-watched for years in our house, thanks to the miracle of VHS. We see this sort of silliness in a role attempted so often but it’s very rarely achieved. Todd McKenney nails it. And of course, he can dance! Act Two’s The Gypsy In Me showcases McKenney’s triple-threat skill set and has us in stitches. (N.B. McKenney doesn’t do the Sunday show). Wouldn’t you just love to sign up for a Todd’s Tour with Evelyn?!

 

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Alex Rathgeber’s Billy Crocker won him the Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical. A legit leading man, Rathgeber brings warmth, charm and natural comedy to Crocker, making the character seem more present than ever in the ludicrous plot, and giving Hope Harcourt (Claire Lyon) much to consider in her will-I-or-won’t-I-marry-him throes. In Act One, You’re The Top (with O’Connor) and Easy To Love (with Lyon) carry old-world, swoon-worthy charm. Lyon is lovely, elegant and perfectly matched.

 

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Wayne Scott Kermond and Deborah Krizak – Moonface Martin and the sexy, haughty Erma – bring hilarity to new heights; Krizak’s mercury-like moves in the constrictive cabin space and her Madonna attitude in Buddie Beware make her my new fave what-else-have-ya-got-for-us female. (She has in fact, got CABBARET, an ABBA biopic).

 

MD/Conductor, Peter Casey, leads a slick outfit – there are no disappointing horns here – and Dale Ferguson’s simple set adaptation (lit by Matt Scott) and sublime costumes (to make up for the simple set?) complete the look and feel of what is really a magnificent production, astutely directed by Dean Bryant.

 

Credited with the New Book Co-Author credit is Timothy Crouse, son of one of the original authors, Russell Crouse, but it seems there hasn’t been much of a re-write, which is a shame because contemporary audiences are looking for more than a name change for the Chinese. Aren’t we? Bryant’s production for Opera Australia and John Frost is glamorous, gorgeous and hilarious, and it won’t make a difference to box office sales to find fault with a slightly outdated book, but it’s worth noting that once this one is done there might be more to consider than star vehicles boasting terrific song and dance numbers that gloss over obvious racist undercurrents, which so many of the older, much-loved shows perpetuate within their stories. Of course, each reflects the popular themes and attitudes of its time. But does that deem them untouchable? South Pacific somehow seemed more relevant and The King and I not so much. The London Palladium Production of The Sound of Music certainly seems a stronger choice (and you can book for that now. Amy Lehpamer is going to be amazing).

 

Anything Goes is a lavish production with a stellar cast. It would be a crime to miss Caroline O’Connor in this iconic role, in a riotous show that doesn’t claim to be anything it’s not. It’s pure entertainment and it’s honestly the most fun you’ll have at the theatre before you have your mind blown at Brisbane Festival.

 

Anything Goes must finish August 16 so be quick and book tix and dress nicely, and go and have some fun on board the S.S. American!

 

 

Production pics by Jeff Busby

 

22
May
11

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

Reviewed by Sam Coward

La Boite and Sydney Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

Paul Bishop as Edward Gant. Image by Al Caeiro

“Boring the audience is the one true sin in theatre. We’ve been boring audiences for decades now…”Anthony Neilson (The Guardian 21st March 2007)

The most talked about show of the year opened last night at The Roundhouse…and was anything but boring. A colourful and enthusiastic full house enjoyed this most unique and unusual theatrical experience.

Brought to life by the collaborative geniuses of La Boite Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company, Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness lived up to the hype surrounding its Brisbane premiere. In this production, we find another example of a simple story told superbly, entertaining the ever-increasing appetite of the Brisbane theatre community.

First time main stage director, Sarah Goodes, has allowed her imagination to run wild and in her words, “everyone has been able to dive deep into their theatrical tool kit” to deliver this magical piece; the first-born for this joint venture between these two companies. Goodes has assembled an impressive team of creatives and has demanded a lot from the show’s production elements, which, without exception, surpass expectation.

Edward Gant explores the wondrous, grotesque, the beautiful and the bizarre; the scene is set as the vaudevillian freak show fills the room. Design and production elements, as you would expect from a production of this calibre, are brilliant. Renee Mulder (set design) has delivered a functional and gritty workplace, raw and open, yet magical and full of promise; the clever central rotunda serving as its main feature, with multiple traps and other hidden trickery adding to the carnival mystery. With exposed costume racks and gantry, we are informed that this is a travelling troupe; here only briefly to tell their tales, then tramp on with their small hands and cabbage cologne.

Lighting, by Damien Cooper, was a production element highlight, truly transforming locations and enhancing mood with precision and sensitive clarity. I loved the use of lead lights as footers and then as hand-helds for effect. On the same set and with light alone, we were taken to Nepal. Now, I am usually critical of these elements and often feel I am being asked a lot of, to go where the story leads, but in this instance I was swept up and away, utterly convinced.

Romance Was Born, responsible for the costuming and clearly settling into a relationship with STC that works like a charm, created a wardrobe that was, in a word, superb. Each character was clearly identifiable and the detail and degree of difficulty in some of the pieces was pure artwork. The pimple mask in particular. Special mention must also go to the stage manager (Sue Benfer) and hands involved in this production, as the many and complex effects and mechanics were seamless and most impressive.

Image by Al Caeiro

From the outset, we meet the troupe and are invited by Gant (Paul Bishop) to come along for the ride as they prepare to entertain us; we, the audience, are under no illusion that this is a troupe performing sequential stories in true vaudevillian style. As leader of the troupe, Bishop is outstanding. I was eager to see how he tackled this large contemporary character; I am happy to report it was with commitment and skill. Every subtlety and nuance clearly controlled but never contrived, his posturing and physicality embodying the snake oil merchant or travelling evangelist and portraying warmth towards his creation and his troupe. This was most noticeable when he was merely observing. There was a genuine quality about his performance that belied the show’s form, and yet like most things with this show, as head bending as that sounds, it worked.

Lindsay Farris. Image by Al Caeiro.

Lindsay Farris, playing Nicholas Ludd, brought a roguish masculinity to the stage. No sooner had this been nicely established, he proceeded to embody a more than believable gorgeous sister in the first of the two stories to be told as per the whim of the playwright, Neilson or by the director, Goodes; at this point, who can tell? Everything is spinning, up is down, left is right and pimples are full of cheese……wait, I’ll finish this later for reasons you will later learn. Farris provides the rebel factor and spars well with the experienced Bishop, we get to see the full gamut of performance in Farris; comedy, tragedy, real, absurd and even a black face Indian healer (yes, they use black face, yes it works, yes it fits the style and era that they are depicting and yes I and everyone else laughed and loved it. I thought I should make that clear before moving on). For me, some of the shows highest highs involved this exciting young actor and I will follow his career with great anticipation.

Bryan Probets, playing Jack Dearlove, provides the show’s funny bone, with a character instantly identifiable and akin to the dad in Strictly Ballroom. Probets’ physical humor, timing and pathos give a sense of the most comfortable stage professional I have seen. His loyalty to Gant and his own broken existence are displayed with pathetic perfection.

Emily Tomlins, as Madame Poulet, beguiled us as loyal player and aloof devotee of Gant. I saw Emily in last year’s Sydney Fringe Festival, in A Tiny Chorus and saw many of the traits from that character carry into her Madame Poulet. The consummate storyteller, Tomlins has the rare ability of being able to convey several emotions simultaneously; perhaps it’s the kind of multi tasking that is magnified by being the only female in this ensemble. Her characters: the ugly sister, the jam roll junkie love interest of Sgt Jack and (believe it or not) a teddy bear, Tomlins brings a truth to her work and an endearing quality that allows you to feel everything she does.

The characters traverse their inbuilt production landscape of the Carnival with the workman like commitment you would expect of a troupe in this era and form, the show rolls on from the first story to the next and is halted abruptly by Gant, who wishes not to pursue its telling and leaves the performance within and without at a stand still. Some poetic impro from Ludd attempts to stabilise the show but he is suddenly lost for words and Gant reappears as the Phantom of the Dry: another device of Gant’s trickery. As Ludd trudges on, we meet the teddy bear, now…stop…wait a minute…where this came from I have no idea and I am not a hundred percent sure that it worked as intended. Yes, the micro story of the life of a young boy’s bear was beautiful but what it was doing here in the play I can’t explain. Either it didn’t quite come off or it could simply be another example of Neilson’s mind intercourse at work. In any event it did lead us to the ultimate falling out between Gant and Ludd. Ludd decides he can no longer be party to such whimsical nonsense and chooses to go off in search of a greater truth, upon which all is revealed and the stories told are closer to home than you would have believed…or else missed altogether if it were not for one last, clever line.

The opening night audience was very vocal in their appreciation. In fact, the laughter came thick and fast and from my seat, often seemed unwarranted. For me this show was more beautiful than it was funny. Like any good Vaudeville, it had its share of innuendo, vomit, bum and gross jokes but the simmering undertones resonated louder for me than the giggle material. Perhaps that’s the genius of the writer: to concoct a script that can speak to several layers of each audience. The twist of form from Vaudeville to realism to clowning and beyond gives this show a sense of radical freedom and a true sense of creation.

All told, it is a very slick, sensational piece of theatre: bold, challenging, cheese-filled pimples and all. Perhaps Gant himself best sums up what was witnessed in The Roundhouse last night: “In a world where death is at our shoulder every hour, even the smallest act of creativity is a marvellous, courageous thing.”

Be sure to catch this marvellous, courageous thing before the caravan heads south to Sydney.

Emily Tomlins. Image by Al Caeiro.

P.S. Pimples aren’t filled with cheese; they’re filled with pearls. Everyone knows that.

11
May
11

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness

An Interview with actor, Lindsay Farris

Lindsay Farris. Photo by Al Caeiro

Can you tell us a bit about this amazing show and your role in it?

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness is an ‘amazing’ work in the very sense of the word. It is a play that really opens up the imagination through theatrically immersive storytelling in both naturalistic and surrealistic territories. To delve into those places of heightened narrative headfirst, as audiences and artistic collaborators, I think is something really spectacular, frequently hilarious and intensely thought provoking. I play Nicholas Ludd, the revolutionary new wave theatrical realist who acts as a counterpoint for much of the main narrative, whilst also acting as an enabler for scenes that depart into heightened theatricality.

Brisbane audiences are very excited about the Romance Was Born designed costumes, which are crucial to the show. Has the design of the costumes had an impact on the way you’ve approached character development or the telling of the tale? Did characters inform any of the costume designs? 

We were very fortunate that, pretty much since day one of rehearsals, we were given the opportunity to work with our costumes. Costuming is something that is usually left until well into the rehearsal process, or even a few days before opening, so it was a real gift to have their ideas since day dot. We had opportunities early on to engage with the design process as part of a workshop where we essentially let our imaginations run wild with the text and the worlds we might explore, and Romance Was Born and Renée Mulder have been incredible vessels for getting the play off the page and into the world. In such an imaginative piece of writing, any physical actualisation of those ideas as part of wardrobe, props or set design makes the process really exciting in seeing those ideas realised by another collaborator’s vision. I think the artists and designers inform each other, but the base work always comes from the script.

Lindsay Farris, Sarah Goodes. Photo by Al Caeiro

You’ve done so much now on screen, what is it about the theatre that keeps bringing you back to the stage?

I don’t ever really feel like I left! I’ve been working professionally on stage for about eleven years now, starting with a tour of the UK with the NSW State Drama Company. My creative engine room came from the theatre. The experiment that is a rehearsal process allows the discovery and exploration of a world of ideas that are then refined and transformed into a communion with an audience. It’s a real gift to be part of a storytelling process on screen, but even more so when you’re there in person to do it on stage.

Has the rehearsal process been particularly different or difficult in any way? Can you tell us about working with this cast and with Director, Sarah Goodes?

As I mentioned, it’s been really great to have a lot of the design with us since the first day of rehearsals, which has been a nice change from the usual. I think our real challenge in the rehearsal period has just been to set free the myriad ideas that are explored in the amazing feats. I think that’s all a rehearsal process ever is: to release and refine story in ways that are accessible, challenging, thought-provoking and invigorating. Sarah and the cast are incredible, and every day I really look forward to being part of such an awesome group of collaborators. I think one of the most challenging components for me so far has been to try and learn the accordion for the show. I hadn’t picked one up before rehearsals started, and we had a moment that went something like: “I reckon this bit would sound great on the accordion,” so we got one!

Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold, has said he finds this production “fantastically invigorating”. How do you think Brisbane audiences will respond?

 I think that this play asks that an audience open their hearts and minds to a world of imagination. It’s the sort of play that you experience and have an immediate relationship to. All of the people I know that have read it have felt invigorated in some way, and to see it in action with two exceptional theatre companies uniting is an opportunity to be in the theatre when it is at its least boring and most thought-provoking.

Emily Tomlins and Lindsay Farris. Photo by Al Caeiro

You created the National Youth Theatre Company (NYTC) to nurture young performing arts talent and give them a head start in the industry. Can you tell us how the company is going and what immediate and long-term plans you have for it?

NYTC is currently completing a documentary on young actors, as part of its most recent production season. It’s a pretty incredible project being filmed by Sunny Abberton (Bra Boys) that involves about 70 actors, over 150 staff and a team of incredible creatives that brought our most recent production to life. NYTC regularly offer development opportunities for regional and metropolitan people under the age of 25, most of which are designed to develop skills set for acting, creating and producing their own works. We have spent a lot of time this year developing relationships with a number of companies in Los Angeles and India for co-productions and representation and development for our artists.

We have been really fortunate in that NYTC has been incredibly well received by the theatrical, youth and education communities in seeking to develop emerging Australian artists. The next evolution of NYTC will see further expansion into QLD and the NT, as well as the development of some really exciting projects for cultural development in regional communities.

What advice do you have for Brisbane actors wanting to make it in our theatre and film industries?

I think that the sheer drive to tell accessible stories, and to tell them well, intrinsically sums up making work happen in theatre and film. The drive to tell stories means that limitations in work opportunities are always secondary to the ability to create work and learn new ways to create stories. Sustenance in this industry comes from the journey as much as the arriving.

What’s next for you?

I have a book that is finally on the verge of completion called A young actor’s guide to becoming a Wanker. My editor called me the other week and asked for the next draft, so getting that submitted is my next project. Following that I have a production and development season with the National Youth Theatre Company, with a few other projects penciled in for the end of the year, so once they’ve wrapped maybe a little bit of a rest somewhere sunny?

Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness La Boite season 14 May – 12 June Bookings laboite.com.au

27
Mar
10

World Theatre Day

Happy World Theatre Day!

How are you celebrating?

What does theatre mean to you?

Of course, you might know that it is also Earth Hour tonight! We are deferring our candlelit conversation until after the show, which is – very artfully – dimly lit anyway, so we are doing our bit to conserve energy even as we perform.

We previewed La Ronde on Wednesday and opened on Thursday. Today, on World Theatre Day, the Sunshine Coast Daily has given us not one, not two but three stories! (That’s right! That is unheard of! And on Mooloolaba Triathlon Weekend!) It also seems that word of mouth continues to spread like wildfire. Thanks to the awesome power of social media marketing, this thing went viral a few weeks ago. Bookings have been strong and if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll make sure you see La Ronde in Noosa before April 3rd or in Mooloolaba on the 9th, 10th, 16th or 17th of April.

Interestingly, there is a lot of talk amongst the local artists at the moment about reciprocal networking and about supporting each other in this crazy industry. If networking is NOT reciprocal, how is it WORKING? Ah ha! I hear you! I know! It’s really hard to get to everything. There is so much good stuff happening and we are all busy doing our own thing. It’s incredibly frustrating. I hate missing anything. I am guilt-ridden. However, I am frequently impressed by the Facebook messages, status updates, comments, links, blogs and tweets, referring to ticket sales and the friends who are able to move heaven and Earth to make it to a show before closing night in order to show their support for their peers (and enjoy a great show)! So much for the poor, sleepy little country cousin Brisvegas and it’s even poorer, sleepier, half-cousin-twice-removed Sunshine Coast. It seems everybody I know is getting busy making theatre! KEEP MAKING IT, KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT, KEEP SUPPORTING IT AND PROMOTING IT. We will all get to as much as we possibly can. Promise.

Dame Judi Dench says, in her message for World Theatre Day 2010, that “theatre comes about through team work.” And so does the continuation of the growth and support of the industry, at any level. Well, we knew that. It’s just hard (because we may be time poor, energy poor and quite simply POOR) to commit to booking tix and just doing it. I know that “Break a leg” posted on your Facebook wall sometimes means disappointment because you realise THAT friend/fan/influential industry type is unable to attend your show…but it IS a show of support and it’s the least we can do in lieu of attendance sometimes.

The response from La Ronde attendees has, thus far, been overwhelmingly positive (*collective sigh of relief is heard across South-East Queensland*) Already, audiences have told us that they didn’t really know what to expect so in a way there were no surprises. And yet they were surprised and challenged to not only feel comfortable joining us for the journey, no matter what we threw at them but to consider the context and the truth in which each story was told. Actually, most audience members, at least for the film makers, have been unsure about how they really feel at the end of the show. It seems that some can’t just sum it up. Although we can safely assume that not everybody is ready for their close up upon leaving the theatre, we have seen many audience members stumble out of the theatre, completely lost for words and not even sure whether or not they are ready for a drink! Now, there’s no interval, remember; how can they NOT be ready for a drink?! The most common comment, along with those below, has been, “Oh. Um. I have to think about it. I have to see it again…”

Audience comments for camera and from the conversations with the cast have included:

That was fantastic!

I loved it but I hated that scene (everybody describes a different scene)…

I shuddered and I loved it.

The girls gave me shivers. So beautiful. So sad. Something made me remember…

This is the best show I’ve seen on this stage.

This is the best show I’ve seen on the Sunshine Coast.

That is how they do theatre in Europe.

Very European.

Delightful.

Original.

Intriguing.

Frightening, challenging, stunning theatre. I’ll be back to see it again.

I’ve booked again for next week. I want my friend to see this show.

Beautiful.

Sexy.

Brave.

So. I’m thrilled to be a part of this very clever production and I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing on World Theatre Day than performing and then live-tweeting the backstage antics and dressing room fun (last night it was stealing Easter eggs from under the stage manager’s nose).

What does theatre mean to me then? All of this and more! It may not be as eloquent as I intend it to be but you’re reading it in every post. That we can stage something that makes people uncertain about how they feel, especially about very specific controversial subjects, that we can explore the vastly different approaches to the way in which we present these taboo topics, that we can challenge our audiences to question and consider their own social mores and private habits and they enjoy it and that the process by which we have reached this point continues, allowing us to keep growing and nurturing each other as artists and showing other artists that anything is possible, is something to be realised every day. I’m proud to celebrate today (and tonight, in candlelight at a dear friend’s place, after the worker lights have come up, the white pancake has come off and the audience has left after the empties have been collected by our dedicated and beautifully presented Front of House staff) but I do believe we get more joy from a thing that is celebrated and shared every day. Luckily for me, just like these entertainment industry power couples who are leading the way, I get to share it all long after we leave the theatre…

Of course, there are different challenges associated with that but we’ll save it for another post, shall we?

Theatre means there are some challenges, some discoveries and some joy every day. How lucky are we?!

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

Lisa and David Campbell

Sam and Xanthe Coward