Posts Tagged ‘melanie zanetti


Jasper Jones


Jasper Jones

Queensland Theatre & MTC

QPAC Playhouse

August 3 – 18 2018


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward





In the sizzling summer of 1965, a bookish 14 year-old boy flees from the boredom and bullying of small-town life by burying himself in stories of epic adventure. He never thought he’d find himself living one. Charlie Bucktin lives in a tiny, insignificant bush town where nothing happens. Nothing, that is, until Jasper Jones stumbles upon a gruesome crime out by the dam. Who else would he call on for help but the sharpest kid around?


A midnight tap at Charlie’s window sparks a race to solve a murder and clear Jasper’s name.




A superb re-staging of the MTC production, adapted by Kate Mulvany and directed by Sam Strong, this Jasper Jones will satisfy. Brisbane’s opening night audience leapt to their feet, in the stalls at least, not even waiting for the final moment to sink in, in appreciation of the talent on stage and off. This tends to happen on opening night! And sometimes it’s best to see a different performance, once the season has started. With a stellar cast and creative team, Strong’s telling of Craig Silvey’s darkly disturbing small town story of intolerance, abuse, suspicion and suicide, is made surprisingly light and broadly appealing. It’s chilling in its true-crime flavour, but a distinctly Australian sense of humour prevails, both in the book and on stage, largely due to Kate Mulvany’s instinctive adaptation.



I miss the underlying moodiness of the novel at times and the eerie sense that a constructed eucalyptus forest on stage might bring to the live performance, with moonlight shining through branches rather than, as it is here, sensibly, through a fast and functional scrim, which is flown in and out to change our location in an instant, wasting no time to take us to the scene of an unspeakable crime, a place that’s so special to the titular character. The scrim has its place and yet it’s my least favourite aspect of the Helpmann Award winning design, which has come from the incredible imagination of Anna Cordingly, incorporating water and using tiny houses set around the outer edge of a revolve to bring to life the insular town of Corrigan. The revolve and the actors’ excellent timing allow for seamless transitions between scenes and brings some of the pivotal action centrestage, to the cricket pitch, the town’s common ground. Matt Scott’s inspired lighting states and Darrin Verhagen’s bushland soundscape help to transport us back in time and out of the city to a typical Australian town. This creative team’s close attention to detail, from the street lights to the gutters, to the louvres to the sandals and to the dirt beneath them, may have you convinced that this is in fact your place, your childhood neighbourhood. 


I spoke with someone recently again about the importance of memory, personal associations and adding scent to the live theatre experience to support a properly multi-sensory way into a story – remember, we’d diffused rose oil during our La RondeErotique and Diabolique, and then there was the breakfast cooking offstage during Neil Armfield’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – anyway, without it being incorporated in the design, during Jasper Jones I could nevertheless smell the eucalyptus, the wattle, the creek, and the dust of Stringybark Road. It’s always amusing to see the look on students’ faces at school when I start a story with, “Before this school was built…” or “Before this road went through…” and watch their eyes widen before one of them invariably asks, “How old ARE you, Miss?”



Nicholas Denton’s embodiment of Charlie Bucktin is one of the most searingly honest, and sensationally funny physical performances we’ve seen on this stage in a long time. It’s an endearing performance, his ability to go from awkward and gangly to grown up, wise and worldly within seconds giving us a sense of an old soul in an adolescent body. His love of literature feeds his reality and his relationships, and helps us navigate our way through the mystery as he narrates. It’s through the use of gesture and the manipulation of spatial relationships that we gain additional insight into Charlie’s world, and the people inhabiting it. That comment obviously for the students… Denton takes special care as Charlie, to establish a lovely, awkward, guarded rapport with his strikingly beautiful, strong and stubborn mother, Ruth, the sensational Rachel Gordon. In this role she is somehow a symbol of the era’s frustrations and feelings of isolation, sharing repressed rage and grief, and personifying a similar lingering discontent and sense of disempowerment to Carita Farrar Spencer’s poignant performance in Ladies in Black. I feel like she’s every woman before me, and also me. Charlie also has some weightier moments with his dull and detached, determined-to-do-better father, Wesley. A sensitive Ian Bliss, with just a dash of Doug Hastings/Barry Otto, complete with shameless combover, earns our sympathy and eventually, our admiration too. 





Shaka Cook is a real, raw, intriguing and engaging Jasper Jones. Like a hunted, haunted animal, his vulnerability lies, barely visible, beneath the surface of a tough act that’s become his habitual behaviour. Cook beautifully underplays the complexity and sustains the edgy energy of a thing about to pounce or run away. By the same token he has a languidness about him, unnerving Charlie and suggesting to us that, in possession of this juxtaposition, he might just be the coolest guy in school these days, as opposed to the scapegoat dropout. The unlikely friendship between Jasper and Charlie is handled sensitively, keeping all the nuances intact; it’s a joy to witness this relationship, and their mutual respect, develop before our eyes. 


The less subtle friendship is between Charlie and Jeffrey Lu, an animated, dynamic performance by Hoa Xuande, hilarious and at times, heartbreaking. I do wonder if the others were warned during rehearsals that he might steal the show. Melanie Zanetti is exquisitely ageless, playing both the ghost of Laura and her little sister, Eliza, who is very much alive, and coquettishly bold and cute, until her complete unravelling, which also undoes us a little bit. Hayden Spencer, as well as contributing the satisfying thwack! of the cricket ball as Jeffrey finally gets his moment in the sun/on the crease, lets loose as Mad Jack Lionel, Corrigan’s biggest mystery and apparently, most obvious murderer. His truth is revealed beautifully, compellingly, and completely believably, adding rich context to the themes of secrets, lies, love, family and forgiveness.



Silvey’s novel is a contemporary classic and Mulvany’s stage adaptation, directed by Sam Strong, could tour forever under the same banner, such is its unblinking look into human nature, connection and communication, and the prevailing attitudes of 1960s Australia, which haven’t necessarily changed very much, have they? I love the seemingly low-tech approach, the attention to detail, the unhurried moments spent in Jasper’s sheltered, secret glade, the musings and laughter and delight of the friends, and the days spent outside sans digital devices, as well as the look inside Charlie’s head, and through him, the remarkable insight we gain into the humans that surround him, and that surround us. With the astuteness of To Kill a Mockingbird, the kooky humour of The Goonies, and the casual, lasting impact of Stand by Me, Jasper Jones is easily my favourite Queensland Theatre production this year…perhaps until the final two.


Wuthering Heights


Wuthering Heights

QPAC and shake & stir

QPAC Cremorne

October 1 – 18 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward





Time stagnates here.



“…everything anyone other than an english professor knows about Wuthering Heights at all happens in the first half. Then it drags on and on, focusing mainly on how handsome AND EVIL Heathcliff is, and how twisted he is, and how he’s just going to keep on ruining the lives of basically everyone around him.”


From Krypton With Love






If it’s a gorgeous, dark, desperate, thrilling thing you’re after don’t miss this Wuthering Heights.


One of my favourite companies, shake & stir, continues to come up with some of the most challenging and engaging original live theatre in Brisbane. Their adaptations of classic literature are all superb (1984, Animal Farm, Tequila Mockingbird), and their latest production, a new version of Emily Bronte’s classic gothic masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, is no exception.


Adapted and directed by Nick Skubij, this production has a slightly different feel to shake & stir’s previous works, which have been less subtle, and somehow lighter, though no less complex, confronting or shocking in terms of their themes and the impact of each on their audience. This time – it must be the moody design inspired by the eerie moors on which the story takes place – it’s a spectacular looking production and the drama follows suit.



Terror made me cruel.



We have come to expect extraordinary beauty from this brilliant creative team: shake & stir, optical bloc and – I’m sure I’ve said it before – Brisbane’s hottest design team comprising Josh McIntosh (Set Design), Jason Glenwright (Lighting Design) and Guy Webster (Sound Design). These guys seem to split up and flit about a bit, but every time they come together with shake & stir, theatre magic happens. It’s as if they come home to play at shake & stir, and out of pure joy and surrender comes their best work. Adding to the mix this time, Leigh Buchanan’s delicate-dramatic touch (Costume Design), makes Wuthering Heights a dark and stormy (yes, you can taste it), sexy and sumptuous production.



Although the pace lags at times due to Gerry Connolly’s stilted delivery (at times the pauses are effective and at other times, not so much), his characterisation of Nelly Dean and his/her oddly measured phrases remind me of my Aunty Lorna, who has seemed eternally elderly to me, and yet has always been the most lively and strongly opinionated of the relatives I visited with as a child, with the keenest powers of observation and the longest memory. It’s as if Connolly has studied Aunty Lorna’s conversation. I always remember though, in stark contrast to Connolly’s static state, Lorna’s hands shaking to match her voice as she talked about whichever book she was devouring at the time, or the latest horror on the news, or her favourite British TV crime series. She would always insist on pouring the tea for us, in her own kitchen, in her own house, for years and years, before finally moving to a high care facility. She’s ninety-something.


In his Director’s Notes, Skubij reminds us that guilt doesn’t only lie with he who sinks the knife in. “Heathcliff has copped a lot of flack over the years and has been hailed as the personification of evil in this tale but what if the real devil wears a housemaid’s outfit?” It’s an excellent point and I feel like this aspect of evil, left to fester and subliminally feed the minds and hearts of others, although hinted at in this adaptation, remains largely unexplored. By Chapter 7 of Bronte’s novel Heathcliff is being advised by Nelly Dean. Sam thinks she is the mastermind and Heathcliff her pawn, though to what end he can’t say. (“Some people are just twisted!”).




I love Connolly on the ivories, the accompaniment lends such a disturbing, penetrating, haunting air to proceedings, and his presence overall as Nelly Dean, particularly as her figure looms overhead, projected across fluttering silk curtains, is eerily omnipresent. (And to throw each character’s image, cleverly consumed by mist and fog early, and then later by curling flames against the flimsy fabric to demonstrate their downfall and their ultimate demise, is an inspired dramatic choice). Without the expertise and creative flair of Projection Designers, optikal bloc (and also, of Photographer, Dylan Evans), this version of Wuthering Heights would not be nearly as powerful.


Not quite as inspired, it has to be said, are the wigs selected for use in this production, but now that we’ve mentioned it we’ll just leave that one alone.



We cannot escape each other.





I love Nelle saintly-blonde-bombshell Lee’s Isabella Linton, whose self destruction, in its naivety, is always so much sadder than mad, stubborn Catherine’s, isn’t it? And as Catherine AND Cathy, allow me to rave for a moment about Melanie Zanetti. I’m sure you don’t mind because, having seen her before, you know she is absolute perfection. If this is your first time with Zanetti, enjoy (and make sure it’s not just a one night stand!). She’s a wild, free heart (but not free at all, of course she’s not), like Charlotte Riley in Goky Giedroyc’s 2009 version for PBS. Zanetti transfixes her tall, dark, brooding, vicious vagabond Heathcliff (Ross Balbuziente) and also, every single member of the audience on opening night. What? Am I wrong? She’s absolutely captivating; in both roles emitting the essence of beautiful, alluring girl-child-grown-woman, like a heady fragrance worn lightly, of which we get a sense before the show even starts; I could be wrong but I feel it’s Marc Jacobs’ Oh Lola! (If so, thank you cosmetics training). If indeed it were deliberate, this subtle addition to the theatrical experience is absolute genius. On the other hand, perhaps it’s pure coincidence (if so, thank you unsuspecting audience member), but regardless, we get a sense of it at the beginning of the show, as the scent is carried on the cold wind in the created storm. And what a storm! The opening moments of Wuthering Heights are up there with The Lion King and Les Miserables for unforgettable entry points into the story. The final moments too are breathtaking, stunning, all the superlatives… Anyway, Zanetti’s ability to balance wide-eyed innocence with mad, obsessive passion makes me fear – and relish – having a daughter.


She burned too bright for this world.



In their debuts for shake & stir (though they are no strangers to the stage and screen), Anthony Standish and Julian Curtis are also impressive. This is most interesting and engaging work from Standish (Hindley/Hareton), and it’s the second time I’ve seen Curtis (Edgar). The first was in The Glass Menagerie and I hope there will be many more opportunities to see what he can do. Let’s keep him here a little longer, shall we?




Ross Balbuziente – he of the poster, which has had high school girls and boys stopping in halls and swooning all year – presents a sultry, stormy Heathcliff straight from the pages of the book. I think it’s fair to say it’s likely we’ve never seen the full extent of this performer’s range, or perhaps it’s a lack of total surrender to each role, though what he’s doing always seems to be enough. Even so, there’s an electric undercurrent here that makes me want to slap him and say, “GO THERE” …er, see more from Balbuziente.




Oh, Heathcliff. Are you really as evil as all that? I’ve never believed it! (Save me right now). Let’s call you misunderstood, a product of your environment, and without the consciousness or awareness to meditate on your destructive hatred and your desperate revenge-seeking in order to realise an alternative path.



QTC’s Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

26th April – 13th May


I wonder… Does a favourable review earn the best seats in the house, commonly known as The Stalls? I only wonder because I fear the next seats allocated to me by QTC may be in what is commonly known as The Foyer.

Romeo and Juliet is probably one of the few shows staged in the Playhouse that I can honestly say looks just fine from the balcony. I can say that because that’s where I was sitting on opening night. The guy next to me enjoyed the show, and adored my fragrance. It was Lancome’s Poeme. Before the show started and as we were leaving, he told me how divine it was. I told him that divine is better than offensive and that sometimes it brings on a migraine, though certainly not consistently enough to have to get rid of the stuff. I used to wear vanilla oil to the theatre but that only made people hungry! (Try it! It smells delicious!).

The distinct advantage of the balcony seats has to be the frequent glimpses of interesting reflections on the surface of a pool of shallow water, reflections that may be missed by those sitting in the stalls. Under utilised, this body of water is perhaps intended to be more symbolic than practical. The first impression it makes upon us is a powerful one. A single drip drops into the pool, breaking its surface and sending out ripples, which continue across the surface of the stage, reminding us that every little cause has its multiple effects.

I was waiting for somebody to fall dramatically into the water and die with a splash but of course neither Tybalt (Ross Balbuziente) nor Paris (Tim Dashwood) do… this sacred space is reserved for the very attractive corpses of our young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, played by Thomas Larkin and Melanie Zanetti, who, for the record, are aged 25 and 27 respectively.

You might have noticed some excitement about the marketing surrounding this production? Some controversy? Yes. It was about the same level of controversy that surrounded the release of an image of Paul Bishop and Veronica Neave in 1996. For the full story this time around – and for his always-excellent notes – read Baz McAlister’s piece in the program. This time, we see Neave as Mercutio and she is a delight to watch– elfin and acutely aware of herself in the space, as one would expect from a seasoned professional. Her movement is at once both agile and fluid. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Neave’s performance, I can’t help feeling she was not the Mercutio needed in this production; I’d like to have seen another dazzling, dynamite male actor complete the Montague gang! Many of his quips and those directed towards him would make more sense. I’ve seen this level of gender-blind casting done before and it wasn’t entirely successful then either. Enough of the PC casting, okay? It’s not surprising anymore and it’s not offending any of us to put a man in a male role! I know! Full circle! Woah!

I had to laugh when a friend revealed that he had told QTC’s Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, that this show should be called Romeo ABS Juliet. I came away with exactly the same impression. You see the young men in this production are extraordinarily… ripped. Let me say that again so that it’s clear to those who, like me, come away disappointed by the lack of nudity elsewhere in the production (false advertising?).

The young men in this production are extraordinarily RIPPED.

Have they spent more time working out than rehearsing?! I remember the boys in high school, for a Rock Eisteddfod (as it was then known), in which they were (shirtless) cowboys, having to paint on abs like these guys have! The physiques are to be admired and with shirts unbuttoned and left wide open they are certainly supposed to be on display. If it were not so bloody impressive, it would be comical, like scenes from Baywatch.

n.b. a scene not unlike the one captured by Rob Maccoll in the image below was actually seen in an episode (during Season 9) of Baywatch.

Nikki J-Price and Lisa Wilson have choreographed fight sequences that are more balletic than athletic, which are perfectly underscored and pretty but at times lacking in the authentic passion and aggression demanded by a plot that is driven as much by long-held hatred as it is driven by love. The shrill vocals that open and close the show resonate briefly with me, with such a jarring, scarring quality that they remind me of the crucifixion in Jesus Christ Superstar or those terrifying moments in the Stampede in The Lion King (Composition and Sound Design by Phil Slade).

So. Okay. We know the story. SPOILER ALERT! We know it’s not a happy ending. It’s like watching Titanic, isn’t it? Big ship hits bigger iceberg and sinks, right? Romeo and Juliet is about a couple of kids from opposite ends of town who fall in love and through a terrible misunderstanding, somebody else’s mistake; die.

Larkin and Zanetti make a gorgeous couple but Larkin need not stoop! Stand up straight, sir! Zanetti is, after all, accustomed to being the height she is and feels fine, I suspect, having to look up at you! The awkward posturing continues away from Zanetti and we get used to it, along with a few other odd staging decisions. That aside, these two are pretty perfectly matched and mirror each other’s innocent joy and some sense of deep passion, however; this is no Spring Awakening! Perhaps, given more time, we would have seen – and felt – more of the highly anticipated “sizzle” between these two. Zanetti has achieved admirably, the whirly, heady (and headstrong), heedless, impressionable, delightful state of a fourteen year old and the production benefits enormously from her energy.

It feels like the action could be happening anywhere because the set looks like nowhere on Earth. Bill Haycock’s design certainly doesn’t lend itself to old Verona but more to giant, old, rancid cheese blocks (and I’m aware that some people like their cheese like this), which are supposed to inspire visions or vague memories, for those who know it, of The Globe, where Shakespeare originally staged his works. Instead, I can’t help query sight lines and the wisdom of building baby poo coloured walls on any stage for the good of any production. The costumes (and I like the costumes, also by Bill Haycock) clash or become lost against it. Somehow the lighting  (by David Walters) doesn’t help when I expect it to. Although the gentle water effects are simply beautiful by the time we come to join Romeo and Juliet in their tomb, before then it’s like the ugly lights have come on and everybody has carried on dancing, regardless. Did no one learn anything from Summer of the Seventeenth Doll?

To state the obvious, there’s a great deal of talent in this cast and I did enjoy insightful, measured performances from Norman Doyle as Montague and Steven Tandy as Friar Lawrence. I enjoyed Andrea Moor as the-mother-that-could (but won’t) Lady Capulet and Steven Grives as Capulet, though I abhor him for his treatment of his daughter, Juliet…a sure measure of his hitting the mark! I’d like to see the younger members of this ensemble play a little more together too…clearly it’s time to get to see some shake & stir!

IMHO this Romeo and Juliet is Caroline Kennison’s show. As Nurse, Kennison reveals the true wit, pace, pathos and humour of the Bard’s words and sounds more Australian than Shakespearean but when staging a “contemporary” production, that’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it? Don’t we want Shakespeare to stay accessible and relevant? Jennifer Flowers and QTC give Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet such a sexy, contemporary, fun, fast treatment (at 2 hours without interval, it will be too fast for some, without time to stop and smell the roses. I suspect somebody remembered that we all have TV and Internet attention spans now and directed accordingly) that you will just have to see for yourself, whether or not it is to your taste, rancid cheese walls and all.


Brisbane’s Real Romeo proposes on stage

The world’s greatest love story has inspired Brisbane’s real Romeo to reveal himself…on stage on Saturday night after Queensland Theatre Company’s first preview of Romeo & Juliet at QPAC!

Tristan Botha, 24, from Forest Lakes, went down on bended knee in front of a full house and asked his very surprised girlfriend, Cynthia Osment, 27, from Oxley to marry him. Luckily for Tristan, the answer was a resounding yes! The audience – and the happy couple – left having experienced a happy ending after all.

Working with QTC in secret, Tristan had conspired to propose to Cynthia with the help of QTC Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch. Wesley announced a “lucky door” prize was the be announced after the production. Other than the co-conspirators, who knew that the prize would be an engagement ring?!

While Romeo & Juliet was more than timely for Tristan’s ‘proposal project’, he says he always knew that he would ask her hand in marriage at a QTC production. “Cynthia has been coming to QTC shows since she was 8 years old. Every Christmas she and her brother would get a 12 month QTC subscription as a present, and they would come to the shows together. Her brother has moved away so this was the perfect way of continuing the tradition, now it is with me,” he said.

Thomas Larkin (As you Like It, Hamlet) and Melanie Zanetti who won the Matilda Award for her performance as Eliza Doolittle in QTC’s Pygmalion last year are QTC’s Romeo and Juliet. They are said to have sizzled on stage in the early previews and look set to bring a whole new audience through our state theatre company’s doors.

Two households. A raging feud. Five days. One forbidden romance.

Directed by the celebrated Jennifer Flowers, Romeo & Juliet will bring the heat of Verona’s streets to Brisbane with a bespoke set, classical integrity and timeless currency.

“We have two exciting young actors, at the perfect stage in their careers to play the coveted title roles; what an opportune time to bring back this tale of love and tragedy,” says Artistic Director Wesley Enoch. 

“Our version of the ever popular classic, Romeo & Juliet, promises to hold true to the original script yet we instil modernity to make it relevant to today’s audience,” he said. “It’s a fiery production of the world’s greatest love story. It is a volatile collision of youth, mortality, sex, light, intensity, fate and time.”

Welcoming back Company favourites and with an all-Queensland ensemble the cast includes Ross Balbuziente, Simon Burvill-Holmes, Tim Dashwood, Norman Doyle, Steven Grives, Caroline Kennison, Andrea Moor, Veronica Neave, Nick Skubij and Steven Tandy, who was last seen in Noosa to direct the sell-out season of David Williamson’s Travelling North.

“It’s been almost 20 years since the Company has presented the tragic romance. “It surprises me how many young people have never seen or even know the story of Romeo & Juliet,” said Wesley. “It is one of the most beautiful and provocative stories for the next generation to see. I love that it is in my first season as Artistic Director at QTC.”

Thomas and Melanie have received notoriety recently over the images used to promote QTC’s forthcoming season. Interestingly, Veronica Neave faced similar furore over the production images when she performed the title role of Juliet for QTC in 1993 (for which she received a Matilda Award commendation). In both cases the images were designed to capture the “essence” of Romeo & Juliet’s story: young, breathless, forbidden love.

Romeo & Juliet 

21 April to 13 May

Playhouse, QPAC

Directod by Jennifer Flowers

Featuring: Ross Balbuziente, Simon Burvill, Tim Dashwood, Norman Doyle, Steven Grives, Caroline Kennison, Thomas Larkin

Andrea Moor, Veronica Neave, Nick Skubij, Steven Tandy, Melanie Zanetti


la boite’s shakespeare: as you like it

As You Like It 

La Boite Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

18.02.12 – 24.03.12

La Boite’s theatre is perfect for Shakespeare: it’s open and alive and allows actors and audiences to come together to share the joy.”

La Boite Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, David Berthold.

Have you ever been a part of Woodford Folk Festival’s shared joy? For the first show of La Boite’s 2012 season, David Berthold has brought a little bit of Woodford to The Roundhouse Theatre and it’s truly wonderful. The Forest of Arden IS Woodfordia and Berthold’s As You Like It is full to overflowing with the same joy, love and good karma. Bill Hauritz will be pleased.

Boasting exceptional performances and containing the best bit of fight choreography we’ve seen at La Boite, indeed; the best we’ve seen in Brisbane in a good while, by (Lead Fight Director this time) Justin Palazzo-Orr, this is a show for everybody. It’s funny and witty and heaps of fun. We are reminded by this play, that Shakespeare’s writing is so good, not only does it stand the test of time but also, it continues to appeal to all sorts.

Probably the most convoluted of the comedies, with a massive cast – in terms of programming, it often loses out to the more popular Twelfth Night – the plot of As You Like It may be unfamiliar. In simplest terms, the love story is central: girl meets boy, they fall instantly in love, girl disguises herself as boy, boy meets girl disguised as boy and they hang out in the forest together, become mates and wed, the girl’s true identity revealed on their nuptial day. Duke Senior and his merry men also inhabit the forest – their commitment is more permanent, their lifestyle a good deal greener and they provide much of the perspective of the play.

Director, David Berthold and Designer, Renee Mulder, have created, with suits and city skirts and jeans and flannel shirts, the look and feel of last year’s Woodford. Woodford has changed since its humble beginnings in the Maleny show grounds and the new mood has been perfectly captured. Rosalind (the remarkable Helen Howard) and Celia (Helen Cassidy) wear black, Cue-style suits and the latest season’s chunky suede shoes, which is just as well, because in narrower heels it’s a challenge to tread the shredded playground rubber that covers the floor of the theatre. As the god, Hymen, in his glittering, high-heeled disco diva boots, Alec Snow is a standout amongst student interns and puts to shame with his confident strut, many of the women in the audience (no offence, no-less-confident women in the audience. It’s just that Snow got to rehearse and as such, he looks to be a contender for the next run of Priscilla)!

Centre stage is a circular dais, which suddenly rises, in a simple, beautiful and breathtaking reveal, earning surprised applause from the opening night audience. Colourful lanterns, indie folk music (props to vocalist Lucy-Ann Langkilde, ready for a Chai Tent chalkboard gig), Tony O’Connor style forest sounds by Composer and Sound Designer Guy Webster and pretty, dreamy lighting, all amber and blue and pink, thanks to David Walters’ trek-out-to-the-Amphitheatre-after-the-Lantern-Parade-passes-by inspired lighting design, all combine to bring the magic of Arden Forest to our midst.

It’s not just the design that is stunning. The performances are superb. We can see the company at work on the next generation of actors, with a stronger focus on training and mentorship this year (there are eight interns in this production), doing their bit to close the gap between accomplished performers and the new, eager actors. Holding their own, in that middle ground where the graduates dwell, are Luke Cadden and Dominic Nimo, in their La Boite debuts.

Bryan Probets, as the jester Touchstone, manages to steal the show early on and later, whips up the audience in a riotous chorus; an old-fashioned, call and answer, effortlessly interactive theatre moment. His comedy is cleverly marked and he appears completely relaxed – delighted in fact – to be entertaining us. How lucky are we? The other exquisite moment in this piece belongs to Trevor Stuart, as Jaques. His delivery of the famed “All the world’s a stage” seven ages of man monologue is magnificent. If it has never stayed with you before, it will linger with you now.

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Kate Wilson and Hayden Spencer, play their parts beautifully; the first, kind and wise and generous as Duke Senior, as comfortable in the forest digs here as if it were home, high on the Range, and the second, the mincing miss shepherdess, Audrey, in his hippie mountain chic attire, posing and pouting to make us laugh ‘til we cry. Kathryn Marquet brings Phoebe to life.

Helen Cassidy is a lovely Celia and she is well paired with Helen Howard as Rosalind. These two are a celebration of the sisterhood! Howard is a striking woman and it’s easy to watch her every move. That being said, it’s just as easy to be completely distracted by the Adonis good looks of the Bard Boy of Brisbane, Thomas Larkin, in the role of Orlando. We’ve seen his naked torso for some time now, in an image for his upcoming role (Romeo) in QTC’s Romeo and Juliet. But you know this. You’ve seen the poster and you’ve had your say on Twitter too, I’ll warrant. For those who have been living under a tree at Woodford, Larkin’s co-star, Melanie Zanetti, looking extremely young (just as Shakespeare intended… half her luck) has been the subject of some controversy, stirred by a single complaint from a woman on the Gold Coast. While I look forward to seeing him in Romeo and Juliet, as Orlando, we see Larkin in his best role to date.

As You Like It is a show of superlatives. Whether or not ideas are borrowed, this is a brilliant interpretation; it doesn’t miss a beat. If you’re feeling like a bit of a lift, this is the best show you can see in Brisbane this month. It’s gorgeous, guaranteed to please. It’s what the world needs now; love, sweet love, and pure, unadulterated Woodford-all-year-round shared joy. Do yourself a favour and see this one. It’s guaranteed to reinvigorate your soul and warm the cockles of your heart.


Rocket Boy Ensemble: Romeo & Juliet opens tonight

Rocket Boy Theatre Ensemble will be making its theatrical debut on the Sunshine Coast tonight at the Buderim Uniting Church Hall.

In an attempt to engage younger audiences with classic theatre delivered in a contemporary setting, the new Coast ensemble will perform Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. “We feel that the main exposure to Shakespeare is in schools and is often used as reading material rather than performance”, said Rocket Boy Director Ms. Carney. “Shakespeare was written to be performed and we wanted to provide an opportunity for young people to see the play performed in a way that they can engage with. The ensemble will be offering a unique experience for Coast theatre goers as the performance has been produced entirely by young performers, many being graduates of The Buderim Youth Theatre of Excellence (BYTE).

Rocket Boy will attempt to challenge the traditionally classic approach to theatre on the Coast by bringing a more experimental style to the stage. “I want Sunshine Coast theatre to take more risks,” Ms. Carney said. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for younger performers to stage a production. We have an opinion and a vision and are excited to share it”. The Cast ranges in age from 17-23 and all are passionate about their involvement in the industry.

Rocket Boy believes that the themes of the play are universal, which is why audiences continue to engage in the classic tale of love. “I love theatre that takes traditional techniques and puts a new spin on them”. “The young lovers think love can conquer all and they can overcome what is happening. It’s beautiful, naive but beautiful”, Ms. Carney said.

Opening tonight, the play will run for three nights, through to Sunday February 12.

Watch Rocket Boy Ensemble’s Romeo and Juliet trailer here. Book tix by emailing

Read about the removal from print media, of Queensland Theatre Company’s controversial image to promote their production of Romeo and Juliet.

Listen to Fiona Jolley and Melanie Zanetti’s comments, in conversation with ABC Radio National


Queensland Theatre Company 2012


Queensland Theatre Company launched their 2012 season yesterday. Yes, on a Sunday and on a Sunday that I had already booked…with the first of our final rehearsals for Dancing With the Local Stars. I was devastated to miss QTC’s official 2012 season launch and I even stomped my feet on the lovely new studio floor when the tweets and Facebook check-ins started taking over my Hootsuite feeds…but, boy oh boy, you should see my dancers now! What a fantastic little group of talented, dedicated and absolutely passionate people they are! They are doing it all for nothing – all proceeds raised go to our Sunshine Coast Hear & Say Centre – and they have been working really hard, not only at the fundraising but at polishing the dances so the audience is thoroughly entertained. Yesterday, of course, we had to step it up another notch! With just five more sleeps, we had to raise the stakes! Todd McKenney will be there for god’s sake! They responded well and I’m very proud of them! Also, I’m in awe of their dance partners (a number of Sunshine Coast and Brisbane dance teachers), who have choreographed the numbers, taught their celebrity dance partners the steps and put them through their paces for the last few weeks. Check out the Facebook page for pics and more details about the event. Working with such professional artists makes my job easy!

Anyway, I digress. But I don’t apologise for doing so because this is exactly what happens every single day of my life. We are so busy that there is no single focus. So much is happening here (the blog is looking a little neglected, I know; you only know about half of what we’re up to) that I’ve even had to get Sam multi-tasking. I know! On any given day, we are each working our day job as well as reading, conceptualising, negotiating, directing, casting, managing or producing something new for somebody. Not to mention keeping up with their social media because, as some smarter businesses are finally starting to realise, somebody needs to be doing it! But no wonder we never get a funding application in for ourselves! A friend, who really knows her astrology, says I will never focus on doing just one thing. I’m not supposed to…I’m a Sagittarius. Another friend, who really knows palms, says I’m here this time just for fun. On. This. Earth. For. Fun. I must have worked bloody hard in a previous life! I thank you.

Anyway, lucky for me, Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch and his team, saw the value of inviting the punters (and the actors) in for an open forum the following evening, in order to discuss the season. Not much discussion was had during the presentation itself (and although questions were asked and answered, I had to wonder at the “forum” part; a slightly more structured Q & A session would have really gotten people talking). The bulk of the conversation was in fact being had before and after the event, over drinks. Of course, across social media, the conversation never ends!

I’d already decided to live-tweet the launch. Having read Insider Marketing’s interesting piece (and the comments accompanying it on Facebook) and having been in talks recently with a lot of people about audiences (on the Sunshine Coast, in Sydney and in Brisbane), I was already very interested in how this new season of plays would be sold to subscribers and “new” audiences. Also, because I think that live-tweeting is something that’s not quite happening enough when the obvious realm in which to explore this groovy marketing tool is the theatre. I spoke briefly with Kathryn Fray (Subscriptions) about live-tweeting the shows and events and it’s a really controversial issue! Not that Kath has any concerns about it but, for example, at the launch, a friend who is a journalist was asked repeatedly to stop tweeting because the glow of the iPhone was giving some woman a migraine! WTF? MOVE! And, with Pygmalion upcoming, which is the play that inspired My Fair Lady, it might be more appropriate, though entirely, unashamedly re-contextualised, to shout at such an ignoramus, “MOVE YOUR BLOOMIN’ ARSE!” Look, it’s so gorgeous and Melanie Zanetti looks SO elegant and Audrey in the poster for Pygmalion, we are going to stop and enjoy the entire My Fair Lady race scene again, right here, right now. Go on. You’ll love it and then you’ll want to book your tix for Pygmalion online immediately after!



I’m also excited about David Williamson’s Managing Carmen, Dario Fo’s Elizabeth, Matt Ryan’s Kelly and a brand new take on Romeo and Juliet. I’m keen to see what comes of Wesley’s positive, affirmative, action-packed leadership and I’m intrigued with the shape the Greenhouse might take (it’s replacing the Studio season and making the Bille Brown Studio the place where the “artists can get their hands dirty”. It will offer workshops, master classes and creative development for new works, not to mention a youth theatre, eventually, in some shape or form, focusing on training and mentorships, in the tradition of the Associate Artists program). 2012 at QTC seems to be all about the relationships and – not to throw all my uni words on you at once but – all about welcoming, enticing, seducing audiences, engaging them and making connections with them so they feel not only a part of that theatre community in the stalls (or the gallery or the cheap seats or wherever) for the duration of the piece but also, as they leave, they feel a part of something that is the wider community and that community is one that has theatre – art (living, breathing, able to move us and revive us art) – at its heart.



Isn’t she stunning?!

As far as selling the season goes (and I asked specifically about the Greenhouse season, made up of largely unknown works presented within a largely unidentifiable structure), Wesley implored us to engage our networks, to get the word of mouth happening and unashamedly use our own circles and contacts to promote the good work that’s being done. I think Brisbane creatives are more supportive of each other than they care to admit. But I don’t want to give up my sources either so we’ll hope that the mutual admiration society (and communication rather than that uneasy sense of competition we were beginning to feel there for a while) continues to foster relationships amongst the artists.

The other thing I’m interested in watching is how QTC get on with utilising their social media for optimum results. The trick will be, now that the company has established a strong presence online, to connect with people in a way that elicits heartfelt responses.

How have  you responded to the season? What do you think? What are you talking about? What will you be seeing? Is there anything there that doesn’t interest you? Why is that?

To view the entire season and to book tix go to the website. Actually, this links to Wesley’s blog on the website and I thought you should read it. Not every AD is able to connect with his audiences so genuinely and I think that will be a big part of QTC’s resurgence/revival/rebirth in 2012.


To read the tweets from Sunday’s launch and from Monday’s forum search #qtc2012 


To read my feed from the forum follow me on Twitter


To see the comments that peeps don’t put up on this blog (or on … anymore!) connect with XS Entertainment on Facebook


At some stage, I’ll have to fill you in on the rest of Dancing With the Local Stars, our show at the Sydney Children’s Festival, The Book of Everything, 10 000 Beers, The Book Into The Fire, Dance Edge Studios and the rest of it, including long overdue #ATF links and the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival forum topics and reviews!

Did you know that my Skype student, Elisabeth, is one of our new Jane Banks in Mary Poppins?

Did you know that our work experience student, Libby, was the last Queenslander in the final Sydney auditions for the new Young Talent Time?

Did you know my sister has really gone and run away with the circus this time? She and the husband and the three children are currently in Russia with Saltimbanco!

Did you know that Wolfe Bowart will be at The Events Centre in the morning, with his show, The Man the Sea Saw? I missed it in Sydney and I haven’t been asked to review it up here so Poppy and I are going just for FUN! WHEEEEEEEEEE!