Posts Tagged ‘quartet





Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 30 – February 21 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


QTC’s production of Ronald Harwood’s Quartet coincides with the passing of a great artist and industry leader, the much-loved Carol Burns. This production is dedicated to Carol, “matriarch of stage and screen”, honoured last Monday night in a moving tribute, which took place on the Playhouse stage, beneath Bruce McKinven’s beautifully realised conservatory set. The industry – our close-knit arts community – came together to celebrate her life and her craft, at which she worked tirelessly until December last year. Many friends generously shared their stories about working with Carol. You can read what Kate Wilson shared with us here.

Carol Burns – was one of the most uncompromising, truly alive human beings I have known. To have known her is to have experienced a force of blazing energy that came from deep inside her – on stage and in person. At times, she seemed almost to glow.

– Kate Wilson

Quartet brings together on stage four extraordinary artists – Kate Wilson (Soprano, Jean), Trevor Stuart (Baritone, Wilfred), Andrew McFarlane (Tenor, Reginald) & Christine Amor (Mezzo-Soprano, Cecily) – to remind us of so many things… Director, Andrea Moor notes, “The themes of Quartet are acutely in focus for the Queensland theatre community right now, resonating with the universal nature of Ronald Harwood’s writing. We expect a rich and brilliant cultural life and yet how much do we support those who give us this experience?” As a show of the utmost respect and support, Moor has enveloped this play and its players in a big, warm embrace to emanate the sort of gorgeous feelings you get when you walk into Grandma’s kitchen and smell the cookies she’s baked especially for you, just because.

There is a “peculiar fascination some opera lovers have for superannuated opera singers who still perform before the public. Their frailty and artistry combined with a reluctance to see their careers end is part of what is so touching about these rare people.”

Opera lovers will realize that Harwood and, perhaps, Hoffman took inspiration from the marvelous documentary, “Il Bacio di Tosca” (“Tosca’s Kiss”), about the life of real retired musicians at the Casa di Riposo in Milan that Giuseppe Verdi, who conceived of it, paid for its construction and is buried there, called “la mia opera più bella” (“my most beautiful work”). I have visited this home often and have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to performances by these wonderful old artists. 

A recent development at the Casa di Riposo is that young musicians from foreign countries also live there, studying with the older artists and providing company and a loving ear for recollections. This is a wonderful place for opera lovers to support. The institution counts among its past supporters Renata Tebaldi and Luciano Pavarotti, whose names are carved into a wall in the atrium.

– Fred Plotkin


Quartet celebrates the individual – our talents, our quirks – but more so, community and connection, drawing attention to the unlikely friendships we form and lose and rediscover…

Harwood’s text is tightly, neatly penned, pulling together the stories and precious memories (as well as those that are less precious and best forgotten) of four retired opera singers who have been put out to pasture – imagine the most elegantly appointed pasture if you will, romantically lit by David Walters – and in doing so, opens our eyes and awakens our senses to the simple joys and frustrations of every day, elderly lives. (You might remember the 2012 film, directed by Dustin Hoffman). We recognise the strength and fiery spirit of independent souls still very much alive inside frail, failing bodies. Balancing wistful glances into the past with bright-eyed glimpses of the future (or what’s left of it!), this show is a strange, sweet comfort, directed and delivered with full, glowing hearts. It’s easy to forget, after all, that one day, given good health and good fortune, in just no time at all, we too will be old…er.

The grace and wisdom and wit and pensiveness of old age comes across beautifully, as does the dry, mostly gentle humour of those who were once “great” in the eyes of their peers and the public, and some more comfortable now than others in their new state of grace. With each performer displaying various physical ailments, and the unique qualities of his or her character, these fascinating people become fully realised on stage (there are no simple stereotypes, nor any over sentimentality), earning our admiration and heartfelt sympathy. Hilarity comes with their wry observations and the relentless sexual references from Trevor Stuart’s character, Wilfred, which are more often than not directed at Cecily, brought to life with gusto and child-like joy by Christine Amor. She’s rather forgetful and fidgety, and I bet you know – or once knew – someone just like her. 



Stuart might be that odd and slightly creepy ageing guy who steals a look at legs and breasts when you stop at the library or the IGA if it were not for his delightful grin and rapid-fire delivery of all things a workplace or public place or shared living space should now be proudly void of. His comic timing is impeccable. For Wilfred, a cheeky pinch on the bum isn’t sexual harassment, it’s simply friendly, and persistent efforts to bed Cecily are light and funny, despite our acknowledgement from the stalls of his rather old-fashioned and increasingly tiresome behaviour. Had it been seen in real life, he might be the uncle or the father-in-law who misses out on a return invitation to the Christmas dinner table. Wilfred is THAT GUY. Stuart’s second act costume takes the cake and he clearly relishes every opportunity to draw our attention to it.


Kate Wilson’s Jean is the disregarded diva, a woman of substance and immeasurable talent but with few real friends left in life and so little self confidence that when the mask drops we see at first only a shadow of her former self. She hides a deeply realised fear and the private shame of letting a vital relationship dissolve into nothingness. Andrew McFarlane’s Reginald, a true gentleman, all class, is debonair and adorable to watch. The connection created on stage by these two is that magical thing of theatre, an intimacy that transpires as something we might seek ourselves if only we’re brave enough and true enough in our everyday lives.


Act 1 feels limited by a garden terrace design utilising the narrow space in front of a lush green curtain, which allows very little room for movement, however; it’s a text focused play, and there are four back stories that must be established early on to make this fine character piece ring true. Each story is gradually revealed through the insights (and snipes) of the other personalities on stage as much as it is by the individuals themselves. Act 2 opens up splendidly, putting us inside at last, the stunning atrium of the establishment, a living and entertaining space that also serves as the dressing room (ladies on one side, gents on the other) before our four stars step forward into their light to perform the famed Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. They lip synch it (does anyone expect them to actually sing?), and so well studied is the technique that we are quite convinced of their past success in the opera world. Sound design by Tony Brumpton is on point throughout, down to the last pretty twitter of birdsong.


Quartet is a beautiful, lingering, lovingly crafted character piece boasting great moments of quick, witty comedy and rare insight into the whimsy and reality of the elders of our tribe, perfectly suitable for all ages. Continues until February 21 at QPAC before touring.

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Production pics by Rob Maccoll



Queensland Theatre Company’s Season 2016


tales of change – 10 powerful productions – the best Australian writing – top Australian talent





Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) has revealed its highly anticipated Season 2016 featuring 10 powerful productions, including the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a groundbreaking collaboration between QTC and Dead Puppet Society. From Molière and Shakespeare, to local stories from around the corner, international masterpieces and the best Australian writing, QTC is set to celebrate ambition and achievement.


In unveiling his final season before he departs for Sydney Festival, QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 would engage and challenge on the need for bravery and moral fortitude in shifting times, providing a forum for debate, diversity and the driving of change.


Art is nothing if it doesn’t make you feel.




Season 2016 opens in January at the Playhouse with the devilishly funny comedy that journeys into old age, Quartet. Writer Ronald Harwood takes on retirement with tenderness, grace and hope – but no self-pity – in this moving and all too truthful tale of the frustrations and fears of getting old. Andrea Moor, fresh from directing the smash hits Grounded and Venus in Fur pulls the stage strings while actors Christine Amor, Andrew McFarlane, Trevor Stuart and Kate Wilson thoroughly enjoy themselves in this bawdy romp through the golden years. The show will then go on to tour regional Queensland.


He saw the smoke from the nearby ridge. He knew what it meant. Someone was coming.




Based on the award-winning novel by Kate Grenville, the acclaimed The Secret River, winner of six Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Direction and Best New Australian Work, is a powerful story of the bloody beginnings of colonial Australia, when pardoned convicts clashed with the traditional owners of the land they settled. The Sydney Theatre Company production brings together celebrated Australian director Neil Armfield and adaptor Andrew Bovell, with actors Nathaniel Dean, Trevor Jamieson, Matthew Sunderland and Ningali Lawford-Wolf to tell the deeply moving tale of two families divided by culture and land in this showstopping Queensland premiere.



Here’s an interesting read before you go Googling those Sydney reviews…and this, which I thought I’d remembered reading at the time; an excellent piece from James Waites. In this case, I recommend reading the comments as well…


Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps!




In April, QTC presents Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Jason Klarwein, with Ellen Bailey and Tama Matheson as the young starry-eyed couple, leading an all-star cast featuring Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets. This romantic sparring is the tale of two pairs of very different sweethearts starring some of the best acting talent in the country.


Love is what interests me. And love is indivisible from murder.




In May, QTC leaves the Playhouse until October, making its home in the Bille Brown Studio (BBS). From award- winning Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith comes Switzerland, a stunning new two-hander starring Andrea Moor, in an effortless move from director to on-stage lead. This is a theatrical thriller with famed author Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley) centre stage, having to pen one last devastatingly brilliant book.


Send a trained naturalist into the field and every new discovery will reassure him of what he already thinks he knows. Send a young man who knows nothing, and there’s no telling what he might find.


It’s just a simple thing, but it might just explain the whole world.




In July, QTC and Dead Puppet Society, in another ground-breaking collaboration, will stage the world premiere of The Wider Earth, a coming-of-age story about science and faith that recounts the tale of a younger Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle.


The Wider Earth will be a piece of visual theatre, placing strong emphasis on the staging and use of theatrical devices to paint our own vision of Darwin’s world. That means puppets – a lot of them. More than we’ve ever made before. At the moment, our plans for the production include more than 30. From tiny beetles to southern right whales, to the iconic Galapagos turtles. We’re excited that this work will bring human performers and our trademark puppet characters together in a meaningful way that isn’t often seen in mainstream theatre,” said David Morton from Dead Puppet Society, who penned The Wider Earth and will also direct and design.


Our story is one of breaking down barriers. Of inclusion, not exclusion……Because what you do is more important than what you believe.




St Mary’s in Exile opens at the Bille Brown Studio on August 27 and is a tale that would be beyond belief if it wasn’t true. Gripping and inspirational, the play strikes close to home, telling the story of beloved priest, Father Peter Kennedy, excommunicated from St Mary’s in South Brisbane for preaching acceptance and equality. Written by acclaimed Brisbane playwright David Burton, the show will shock and inspire, with a star-studded cast that includes Chenoa Deemal and Caroline Kennison, under director Jason Klarwein, also moving from actor to director seamlessly in Season 2016.


It comes from you. Islam has no monopoly on fundamentalism. It doesn’t come from a text.




Novelist and screen writer Ayad Akhtar’s dynamite theatrical debut, Disgraced, comes to the Playhouse from Melbourne Theatre Company in October. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is a stirring tale that poses challenging questions about identity, tribalism and the fragility of friendships and will be directed by Nadia Tass, and includes the wonderful Mitchell Butel.


True, it is something altogether scandalous. A stranger in the house with no idea how to handle us; He arrives with no shoes, his clothes not worth a cracker. No sooner in the door, than he starts to wag his tail.




Proving that centuries old tales still have the power to resonate with audiences, Tartuffe is a bawdy play about power, hypocrisy and gullibility, pillorying religious fanaticism and moral weakness. Adapted by Justin Fleming from French playwright Moliere’s sinfully brilliant 17th century comedy, it demonstrates that perhaps modern attitudes haven’t changed as much as we think. Ribald and riotously irreverent, Tartuffe is a co-production with Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company and features stage darlings Darren Gilshenan, Hugh Parker, Rose Reilly, Steve Turner, Alison Van Reeken and Alex Williams.


The Territory’s like a bastard child. Everyone’s got an opinion on how it should be brought up, but no one wants to stick around long enough to do it.




A little newer to Australian theatre is Bastard Territory, a confessional human drama about identity. This new Australian play from Brisbane-based writer Stephen Carleton, Bastard Territory mixes wry humour, raw insight and a killer 60s and 70s soundtrack, along with the talents of Benhur Helwend, Suellen Maunder and Peter Norton, for a powerful and affecting tale, directed by Ian Lawson.


When we left Russia, we didn’t look backwards. We held each other’s hands and we jumped, trusting we’d land safely.




The finale for the 2016 Season is an elegant and sophisticated work. Based on fact, the epic and intimate Motherland is from Brisbane-based writer Katherine Lyall-Watson, and was recognised as a Patrick White Playwright’s Award Finalist. A tapestry of displacement and identity, it explores the casualties of love, ambition and politics.



Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said 2016 season was a collection of love letters to artists and audiences.


“There are shows that represent the plethora of conversations we have been having over the past four years and the wonderful rapport that we have been developing,” he said. “Theatre is a sacred place where opposing ideas are argued out to create drama, a place where audiences continue the discussion outside the theatre and where those ideas can take root in social movements. We all have examples of drama that changed our opinions, informed our positions or frustrated us. That is the joy of theatre; one of the last places where we can openly debate, be engaged and entertained.”


Now in its 45th year, QTC has a long history of performances that have engaged, entertained and sparked debate, and Season 2016 promises to celebrate diverse ideas.


The season announced today leads a full program of touring, education, children’s shows and more.


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