Posts Tagged ‘queensland theatre

08
Aug
18

Jasper Jones

 

Jasper Jones

Queensland Theatre & MTC

QPAC Playhouse

August 3 – 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED……………

 

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.

 

JASPER JONES IS AT MY WINDOW

 

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. 

 

 

YOU GOTTA’ GET BRAVE

 

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.

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08
Feb
18

Black Is The New White

 

Black Is The New White

Queensland Theatre presents a

Sydney Theatre Company production

QPAC Playhouse

February 3 – 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Two politically powerful families at war. A son and daughter helplessly in love, defying their parents. You’ve heard this story before – but what if Romeo was white, Juliet was black and the war mainly fought on Twitter?

 

“It’s about a successful Aboriginal family called the Gibsons who are activists and very proud to be Aboriginal and who also happen to be quite financially successful,” Lui says. “Their youngest daughter, Charlotte, is just back from being in Europe for three-and-a-half months and she’s bringing home her boyfriend for the first time – he’s white and a poor, struggling musician who also happens to be the son of her father’s arch nemesis. “It’s kind of what happens when you get together with family over Christmas – you laugh, you fight and you talk about all the things you’re not meant to talk about in a very intimate and flippant way.” – Nakkiah Lui

 

Nakkiah Lui’s script is razor-sharp in its unbridled observations of race and human nature, and Paige Rattray’s precision production is masterfully handled, fast-paced, funny and highly entertaining. There’s a dance break AND a dance off AND a food fight! I wonder what this work would look like, sound like, without Rattray’s light hand? The characters are heightened, delightful and painful, completely believable, (mis)behaving exactly as our family members (mis)behave at Christmas, and the sense of the work is at first light-handed, hilarious. But don’t think that means you won’t cringe at times, faced with your own pre-conceived notions and beliefs. Is this just a mirror of Australian contemporary society or a hammer to shape it? No stone is left unturned, with each character either delving into or narrowly avoiding addressing the misconceptions surrounding the mistreatment of our Indigenous peoples, privilege, gender roles, rich vs poor, cultural sterotypes, the courage of individuals and the common interests of communities – and sparking bold conversations around the emergence of an Aboriginal middle-class and the re-rise of a feminism that sees an older generation of women – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – claiming their sexual identities and political ideas.

 

Unless you’re at a Williamson, you might not think it possible to pack such a wealth of material into 2 hours and 20 minutes of theatre, and yet there it is, and with deep insight, the off-hand and humorous remarks hitting hard, getting under our skin and challenging everything we think is Australian. Human.

 

 

Luke Carroll (the Spirit of Christmas disguised as the Narrator) is probably the least essential element, and tells us more than we need to know, particularly in the second act. His performance though is highly entertaining, and I come to love his omnipresence and subtle interactions with the family members. However, it must be said that Carroll’s perfectly clipped consonants are either the stuff of over articulated nightmares, or that he’s the very model of a trained-within-an-inch-of-his-life stage actor (no comment on his screen performances, which have been well received, earning him Deadly Awards and a Bob Maza Fellowship). This is not to be unkind, but to make a point: Carroll is excellent and can afford to employ a more relaxed vocal style. Once the initial nerves/disparate energy of opening night disappear there’s not one amongst this stellar cast whose performance misses the mark. Comic timing is spot on, beautifully crafted by Lui and polished by Rattray, leaving us in no doubt of the fun and playfulness of the creative process.

 

Tony Briggs (Ray Gibson) and Geoff Morrell (Dennison Smith) narrowly avoid playing political enemies for laughs, and leave us in horrified hysterics from the outset of their ongoing sandbox dispute. Briggs brings particular wit and wry humour to this role, which could just as easily have turned into caricature.

 

 

Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, as wife, Joan, reaches our hearts on multiple levels. It’s she who has penned her husband’s speeches, and she finally feels she deserves some recognition for her part in his story. Vanessa Downing as Dennison’s wife also steps up at a crucial moment, demanding that her life preferences be respected.

 

 

Miranda Tapsell joined this cast for the Brisbane season, and she brings hilarious headstrong energy to Rose, the millennial entrepreneurial sister of Charlotte (Shari Sebbens, straight up and sensational) and wife of Sonny (Anthony Taufa, in his element here), as does Tom Stokes as Francis, the (wonderfully awkward!) struggling artist and fiancé of Charlotte.

 

Renee Mulder’s stunning design, beautifully enhanced by Ben Hughes’ lighting, is a pristine playground for these Christmas shenanigans, with Steve Toulmin’s soundtrack an easy invitation to simply enjoy the ride….for now.

 

This crafty contemporary farce – poised for a film option – has a strictly limited Brisbane run. See it, and join the conversation.

 

Production pics by Prudence Upton

22
Aug
17

Queensland Theatre Season Launch 2018

 

Queensland Theatre Season Launch 2018

Queensland Theatre

Monday August 20 1017

 

Attended by Nicole Reilly

 

Sam Strong Leading From Queensland –

Including four world premieres and six new Australian stories, eight extraordinary plays headline Queensland Theatre’s Season 2018.

Leading from the stage, last night QT Artistic Director Sam Strong unveiled the season to a capacity crowd, as the company’s current season experiences a record-breaking artistic and commercial wave of success. The selection of plays on offer next year traverse centuries of time, the breadth of our country, the expanse of the globe, and the inner workings of diverse and brilliant minds. To quote Australia’s preeminent storyteller, David Williamson, during his introduction, “I don’t think you’re going to be bored!”
Black is the New White + The 39 Steps + Twelfth Night + The Longest Minute + Good Muslim Boy + Jasper Jones + Nearer the Gods + Hedda
The most equitable and diverse season yet features a roll call of theatre greats and emerging stars, the likes of Matthew Backer, Jimi Bani, Liz Buchanan, Leon Cain, Danielle Cormack, Tim Finn, Jason Klarwein, William McInnes, Joss McWilliam, Andrea Moor, Rhys Muldoon, Veronica Neave, Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker, Bryan Probets, Osamah Sami and Jessica Tovey, as well as continued commitment to no male-only design teams and more opportunities for female directors and playwrights.
The crowd was especially excited by director Paige Rattray’s introduction to Hedda, where she expressed her intent to take ownership of the female voices in the canon and “throw them up in the air and spin them on their heads”, reimagining them for continued relevance in contemporary theatre. This adaptation of Ibsen’s classic promises to be a highlight of the 2018 season.
The year opens on February 1 with the Queensland premiere of Black is the New White, followed by The 39 Steps. In April Twelfth Night opens featuring a suite of new original songs by maestro Tim Finn. In May Queensland Theatre presents the world premiere of The Longest Minute, a story about football and family and one unforgettable NRL grand final. The award-winning story Good Muslim Boy takes on the monumental question of faith, before Strong’s multi-Helpmann-nominated and winning Jasper Jones opens in July.
On October 6 the world premiere of acclaimed playwright David Williamson’s Nearer the Gods will take place, with Matthew Backer, William McInnes and Rhys Muldoon. To close Season 2018 Logie Award-winning actor Danielle Cormack will become the Hedda audiences have all been waiting to see in Melissa Bubnic’s local version of the Henrik Ibsen classic that is as dangerous and surprising as its heroine. Cormack is joined on stage by powerhouses Jimi Bani, Jason Klarwein, Joss McWilliam and Andrea Moor.
“Like all great theatre, the 2018 season transports us to places we wouldn’t otherwise encounter – or even imagine,” said Strong who will direct three of the eight mainstage plays. “In the coming year, audiences can be at the centre of a food fight at the Christmas dinner from Hell, evade pursuers across the Scottish highlands, wrestle with a Kafkaesque bureaucracy in Iran, help solve a 1960s murder mystery in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, become entangled in a 17th Century scientific feud, or sing melancholy love songs to the exotic Duke of a mythical realm,” he said. “In May, one of the most dramatic sporting moments of all time will form the springboard for a new play about football, family and faith and in November, Ibsen’s classic heroine Hedda Gabler will splash down poolside in a new version set on the Gold Coast.”
“All of this transportation will take place via the magic of theatre. And in 2018, our home venue will itself be the subject of a dramatic reveal. When it re-opens in August, the Bille Brown Studio will have been transformed – via a new stage, new seating and a new foyer – into the Bille Brown Theatre. The best thing about theatre is that the work is never finished. In 2018 we continue our exploration of what theatre does best. If somewhere extraordinary is the destination, the magic of theatre is the route.”
Strong said in 2018 audiences were set to experience:
  More Queensland exclusives, including David Williamson’s newest play, a new version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with songs by Tim Finn, a new play about the 2015 NRL Grand Final, and a re-imagined version of Hedda Gabler set on the Gold Coast.
  More national reach through relationships with Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse and State Theatre Company of South Australia among others.
  More leadership in equality, with gender parity of writers and directors for the second consecutive year – a continuation of the 2017 commitment; no all-male design teams; and Queensland Theatre working with more than a dozen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
  More commitment to North Queensland and its stories with a play about the North Queensland Cowboys to premiere in Cairns and Townsville before coming to Brisbane.
  More local stage stars including Jimi Bani, Liz Buchanan, Leon Cain, Jason Klarwein, Joss McWilliam Andrea Moor, Veronica Neave, Christen O’Leary Hugh Parker and Bryan Probets.
  More national cast coming to Brisbane including Matthew Backer, Danielle Cormack, William McInnes, Rhys Muldoon, Osamah Sami, and Jessica Tovey.
  More of the most successful work from around the country, including sell out hits from Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company directed by Sam Strong and Paige Rattray.
  More state-wide engagement through relationships with QPAC, debase production, JUTE Theatre Company and Dancenorth.
  More new stories, with four world premieres and six new Australian stories (2/3 of the season).
30
Jul
17

My Name Is Jimi

 

My Name Is Jimi

Queensland Theatre

Queensland Theatre Bille Brown Studio

July 22 – August 13 2017

 

Reviewed by Ann McLean

 

 

 

The family story that expands on history and contemporary cultural knowledge brings a powerfully close connection and imbues greater respect, warmth and love. Jimi himself and two of his family take the stage, backed by support cast members that come from the top end.

 

My Name Is Jimi in part, tells of the legacy of an honoured Chief, Jimi’s father, and his efforts to repatriate the remains of his tribesmen and women. It is much more than a history lesson or a cultural demonstration. It isn’t a manufactured product either, for example, one that might be shown to any audience in any context. This is bespoke, funny and very specially crafted to be authentic, touching and strongly memorable. 

A simple theatre is transformed through visual effect and carefully crafted miniature sets, to transpose the whole theatre audience to Mabulay in the Torres Strait. We are in the tropical atmosphere of the islanders, visiting them. It is an honour. Through the bold presence of Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits, Redfern Now), the connection is genuine from beginning to end. 

This work communicates the way life plays out, how young folks challenge the authority of their parents and the demands of their cultural mentors to keep learning the dances, songs and stories. It is more that familiar though. This work is revolutionary. It allows in narrative and performance for the audience to immerse themselves in lore and the languages of the family, with the familiarity of matriarchal guidance (tea towel of authority in hand), while also letting us understand the fragility of the languages spoken by our elders and the sadness that brings. It lets us in, to see and feel the respect for this tribe. And it has its big bold moments. 

Strikingly familiar disco music delivered via hilarious portable speaker setup, dance moves straight out of 1982, ubiquitous footy shorts and island-associated shirts all bring the audience closer. We lean in, wanting to know more. And we aren’t disappointed. With amazing care, a terrifying fable for keeping children safe is played out for us, delivering the same vibrant shock that impacts the imaginations of children. And then we are sharing a camp fire lesson between father and teenaged son. 

These moments and plenty of lore through story, as well as music and dance with accessible explanations all comes together in a generous, honest performance. The fine art of My Name Is Jimi is very strong. It is pure joy to see to the work of the actors and crafts people who shaped My Name Is Jimi. It gently and warmly reminds us that in the time before archaeology, a long proud history took shape and there are strong families not far from our familiar theatre. Loving families that are bringing up their next generations of Chiefs, and keeping their culture close; people who deserve our respect.  

 

Caveat: As witness, and for perspective, reviewer, Ann McLean is a third generation great grand daughter of white (Scottish and Irish mostly) settlers, a person educated in Queensland in the 70s and 80s. Her enthusiasm for the respect of First Nation people is born of knowing and sharing time with individual friends and colleagues and their people whose family histories go back millenia. 

18
Jul
17

Giveaway – win double passes to My Name Is Jimi

On Saturday night (July 22 at 7:30pm) be among the FIRST to witness Australia’s newest original story

My Name Is Jimi

 

  Sewngapa                  Ina Ngoelmun Gidha

(*Welcome)              (*This is our story)

 

 

 

 

Directed by Jason Klarwein and featuring Dmitri Ahwang-Bani, Agnes Bani, Conwell Bani, Jimi Bani, Petharie Bani and Richard BaniMy Name is Jimi opened in Cairns this week, celebrating its page-to-stage finale and World Premiere close to its heartland.

 

Based on the true stories of four generations by Dimple Bani, Jimi Bani, and co-created with Jason Klarwein.

 

 

 

For your chance to see My Name Is Jimi on Saturday July 22 at 7:30pm

 

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In My Name is Jimi, charismatic actor and storyteller Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits, Redfern Now) finally tells his story, and that of his family and his place of home – Mabuiag Island, a remote speck in the sparkling blue of the Torres Strait and the keeper of thousands of years of rich history and culture. Now, with just a few hundred people fanning its flame, the story, colour, characters, challenges and history of the Wagadagam culture come to the stage in what is a truly memorable live theatre experience.

It unfolds through music, dance, stand-up and fireside storytelling, with four remarkable generations of one family on the stage – Jimi’s grandmother, mother, son and brothers come together to share incredible yarns of totems, traditions and childhood memories. On stage it is a true celebration – Jimi performs alongside his son Dmitri, mother Agnes, and grandmother Petharie with his brothers Conwell and Richard Bani.

Drawing directly on the lived experiences of the Bani family and their role as leaders of the Wagadagam tribe of Mabuiag Island, the stories span the generations – Jimi jokes in three languages with his grandmother, and then tortures his son with spontaneous break-dancing.  It’s an Australian story, and a world story of family and preserving the culture and language of Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait.

 

 

Co-creator Jason Klarwein sets the scene best: “The story actually began with Ahdi Dimple Bani, Jimi’s father the 8th Chief of Wagadagam in European recorded history. He passed away during the creating of this play, with Jimi now the bastion of the story, the new keeper of the chord of Wagadagam culture and soon, the 9th Chief.”

“I cannot really recall a play like My Name is Jimi. Sure there are works it can be related to, but what audiences will see, experience, feel and celebrate on stage is only a sliver of what is happening culturally within this extraordinary family. It is truly a unique theatrical experience.”

He said the ability for this family to bridge generational and cultural timelines was constantly surprising.

“Sometimes, when rehearsal pauses, out of the corner of my eye I see 15 year old Dmitri Ahwang-Bani (Jimi’s son) put his iPhone down and learn dance or language from his uncles, his grandmother or great-grandmother. I watch the tangible passing of language and culture from several generations to another. I watch this boy, who will soon be a man, grapple with Instagram and cultural lore simultaneously. Like the two things were made to be together.”

 

 

My Name is Jimi is dedicated to the memory of Adhi Dimple Bani and those that came before.

*Koeyma Esso (many thanks).

 

*This is the Kala Lagaw Ya language of Mabuiag Island

 

 

21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

07
May
17

Once In Royal David’s City

Once In Royal David’s City

Queensland Theatre & Black Swan State Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

April 22 – May 14 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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THE THEATRE IS THE THEATRE. THE CHARACTER IS THE CHARACTER. THE ACTOR IS AN ACTOR. THE STORY IS A STORY.

 

Great art is as multifaceted as life: sometimes perplexing, sometimes heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking. Sometimes, it is all of these things at once.

Sam Strong, Artistic Director, Queensland Theatre

 

Sam Strong’s directorial debut for Queensland Theatre is powerful, affecting, and lingering, leaving us with the essence of Michael Gow’s most recent work long after we leave the theatre, wondering, just as Professor Julius Sumner Miller did, “why is it so?” This great play hasn’t been touched since its Belvoir Street premiere (2014)…

Once In Royal David’s City is cleverly Brecht at its contemporary best. This seems an odd thing to say, because Brecht done properly is contemporary, challenging us to recognise the message in the story, and question what we see on stage, and go away and affect social change in our current contemporary context.

Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.

Berthold Brecht

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In case you don’t know anything about Brechtian theatre though, the protagonist, a slightly disillusioned middle-aged director of theatre, Will Drummond (Jason Klarwein in his most compelling performance to date), will explain everything. You’ll also find Michael Beh’s notes in the program. It’s a style created by German director, Bertolt Brecht, so often misconstrued, and messed up in the process, making whatever tale is being told lifeless and meaningless on stage, when its purpose is to be anything but. BUT Strong’s stark and sincere production puts political theatre back on the agenda and reveals the machinations behind the boldest sort of theatrical storytelling. It’s very Brecht.

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Beautifully and simply lit by Matt Scott (the exposed lights rigged in plain sight are a work of art in themselves), an expansive stark white set by Stephen Curtis uses every inch of the stage, its depth a particular point of interest since the initial hospital scenes are staged there, as if to allow a slightly more comfortable distance between the audience and the awkward events and unbearable emotions of staying, while a loved one is lying there, quietly, patiently dying…

We will all lose – or will have already lost – a parent, and it’s something we don’t necessarily talk about. It’s one of those things we go through and we know others go through, and we send love and light and hugs and emojis in a comment thread on Facebook, and yet it remains a very personal, often very lonely experience. Once In Royal David’s City reminds us that no matter how compassionate we think we are, we can never know quite what another person feels or thinks at this time. At any time… Will is, understandably, in complete denial at first, witness to the excuses his father makes when he can no longer recognise or correctly form the words he needs, and when his mother makes excuses for him (he’s had a cold for so long!), and when she falls ill shortly after his father’s death (she’s always so tired! And her aching back!), and is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (spoiler alert!), which leads to her rapid demise during the Christmas holiday. Will is determined to make a difference in the world, and eventually, he resigns himself to teaching. His faltering confidence, after failing an actor in his company during a doomed production of The Importance of Being Earnest, a delightfully funny scene and a masterclass in posture and articulation, leads him home for a Christmas unlike any other.

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There is such beautiful attention to detail, in the nuanced performances and also, in the way Strong has pieced together the bits of story, the bits of these untidy lives and neat-as-a-pin seamless transitions, using curtains to separate the spaces on stage.

It’s a uniformly excellent cast, a terrific combination of some of our established and emerging talent; a meeting of minds and hearts and skill sets from across the companies. Joining Klarwein on stage are Penny Everingham (a beautifully transparent Jeannie), Steve Turner (Bill/Wally/Ensemble), Toni Scanlan (Gail/Ensemble), Adam Sollis (Boy/Ensemble), Kaye Stevenson (Molly/Ensemble), Adam Booth (Andrei/Doctor) and Emma Jackson (Jess/Ensemble). Each has an opportunity to shine, bringing beautifully developed fully alive characters to the story. Sollis is memorable as the boy, in a moment imbued with hope, human kindness and acceptance, and Jackson gives a very funny, very accurate depiction of a reality television star turned manufactured superstar in the Christmas Eve Carols By Candlelight lineup. Will’s disparaging remarks about the programming and the talent involved (or the lack thereof), delivered from the comfort of a green beanbag on the floor as he flicks from one channel to the next as he gradually gleans some understanding of the cancer his mum has developed, elicit sniggers, and groans of recognition and sympathy because GOW IS SO RIGHT ABOUT THAT. And so many other things. 

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The magical thing is this: it’s almost so familiar that it’s actually incredibly un-theatrical. And at the same time, it’s the most masterfully constructed and manipulated meta-theatrical work we’ve seen in several years. A must-see, Once In Royal David’s City is warm and funny, and real and alarming, and richly rewarding. It closes, appropriately, on Mother’s Day.




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