Posts Tagged ‘simon burke

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.

10
Apr
16

Hairspray

 

Hairspray
The Big Fat Arena Spectacular
Harvest Rain
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
April 8 – 10 2016

 

Newcastle July 2016 / Adelaide October 2016 / Perth January 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

hairspray1

15th – 16th JULY 2016

NEWCASTLE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE 

 14th – 15th OCTOBER 2016

ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

20th – 22nd JANUARY 2017

HBF STADIUM PERTH

If you’re a HR Supporter, you will have seen this message (below) from Producer, Tim O’Connor. If not, here it is so you can consider moving on and becoming one. Yes, Brisbane, I’m talking to you. I know you’re reading this. So many of you still have something to say about this company, and I love that that I’m starting to hear some recognition now, for a genius business model and the company’s ongoing commitment to creating opportunities for young artists. Credit where credit’s due, people, regardless of whether or not you, personally, would pay to be in a show.

 

hairspray_ensemble

 

Our arena production of HAIRSPRAY closed not long ago in Brisbane. We were so proud of the production and the fact that it was seen by over 13,000 people across 5 sold out performances, and featured a mass ensemble of 900 young local performers. Being able to create an opportunity where so many young dreamers could connect with and perform alongside some of the country’s biggest stars like Simon Burke, Christine Anu, Tim Campbell, Amanda Muggleton, Wayne Scott Kermond and of course the incredible Lauren McKenna was one of the greatest joys of my career. On closing night, I took time to hang around backstage and chat with the talented members of the mass ensemble and hear their stories about how being part of the show changed their life. So many of them told me about how they are bullied at school for their love of singing, acting and dancing, but when they came to HAIRSPRAY they were shocked because instead of being bullied they were celebrated for their passion. They found like-minded friends, and many of them felt loved and accepted by their peers for the first time in their lives. It was extraordinary to hear their stories, and realise the show was much more than just a piece of entertainment – it was a life affirming and self-esteem building experience for hundreds of teens from all across South East Queensland.

At Harvest Rain, we want to create theatre that is both meaningful and entertaining. We want to be a beacon of hope for young dreamers with a passion for the arts. We want to help these young stars on their journey by connecting them up with professionals who’ve walked their path before them. We want to make a difference.

So, after 31 years of producing high quality musical theatre productions in Queensland, Harvest Rain is spreading its wings and hitting the road, taking its special brand of theatre magic all across the country! Now young performers in capital cities across Australia will have the opportunity to follow their dreams as part of the HAIRSPRAY experience, when we take the show to arenas in Newcastle, Adelaide, Perth and more over the coming months!

At Harvest Rain, we want to create theatre that is both meaningful and entertaining. We want to be a beacon of hope for young dreamers with a passion for the arts. We want to help these young stars on their journey by connecting them up with professionals who’ve walked their path before them. We want to make a difference.

So, after 31 years of producing high quality musical theatre productions in Queensland, Harvest Rain is spreading its wings and hitting the road, taking its special brand of theatre magic all across the country! Now young performers in capital cities across Australia will have the opportunity to follow their dreams as part of the HAIRSPRAY experience, when we take the show to arenas in Newcastle, Adelaide, Perth and more over the coming months!

This is a significant moment for Harvest Rain as we move towards becoming an arts organization with a significant national presence. By the end of this year, over 4,000 young people will have taken part in the amateur mass ensemble ofHAIRSPRAY somewhere in Australia. That’s an extraordinary number of lives being changed through this unique theatre training experience. We’re excited!

A venture like this is a costly exercise, and Harvest Rain still receives no financial support from the government, so we rely on ticket sales and donations to make this incredible experience become a reality.

If you believe that encouraging the dreams of the stars of tomorrow is important…

If you believe that helping young performers follow their dreams is vital…

If you believe that creating opportunities to improve the confidence and self-esteem of young performers is worthwhile…

…then please make a donation today as part of Harvest Rain’s Annual Donations Appeal.

We’re a registered not for profit organization so any donation over $2 is tax deductible. Your gift will change the life of a young Australian who loves the arts by making it possible for them to celebrate their passion with hundreds of other like-minded people across the country.

You can make a difference by donating today. For information on how you can donate, please click here

I appreciate your ongoing support, and thank you in advance for your generosity.

Let’s make something truly amazing happen together!

 

Tim xx

TIM O’CONNOR
CEO/Artistic Director
Harvest Rain Theatre Company

hairspray2

It’s 1962, and pleasantly plump Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire – to be on television dancing on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, but she must use her newfound power to vanquish the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a television network – all without denting her ‘do!

Holy security, Batman! When you attend a show at BCEC be prepared to present ID at the counter to collect your tickets and then hold onto your tickets. Don’t lose those tickets! You’ll need to show them again at the door after Interval. You’ll either feel super safe, or completely paranoid.

If you’re in Newcastle or Adelaide or Perth you can feel pleased that you haven’t yet missed this fun mega-show. Harvest Rain’s Hairspray (the big fat arena spectacular) is a flurry of smiling faces and joyous voices, and with its mass ensemble of 950 kids, it’s record-breaking; the largest production of Hairspray ever staged, directed and choreographed by Callum Mansfield (he choreographed the company’s 2012 production) with musical direction by Dennett Hudson.

Question: does anyone else care when there are no live musicians in sight at a musical?

The core cast is strong, with delightful, powerful performances from Christine Anu as Motormouth (I Know Where I’ve Been is a showstopper), Simon Burke as a gruff and affecting Edna Turnblad, Wayne Scott Kermond in his best role to date, Edna’s husband Wilbur (in Act 2, their rendition of You’re Timeless to Me make Simon Burke and Wayne Scott Kermond musical theatre meets vaudeville royalty), and Lauren McKenna as Tracy is ideal. We loved McKenna in Heathers and in her dream role here (already? What next then for McKenna?!) she nails the character, and she can mix and belt with the best of them.

Lollipop-sucking, scene-stealing Emily Monsma makes a fabulous, cheeky Penny, and Barry Conrad a sexy, soulful Seaweed. Channelling Cruella de Vil, Amanda Muggleton lavishes her role as Velma Von Tussle, and channelling Buble, Tim Campbell is a smooth, crooning Corny Collins. Dan Venz brings Link Larkin to life and with more consistent work on his vocals, if it’s what he wants, Venz will no doubt land similar roles in the future.

How fortunate for the younger members of this company to have had the privilege to work alongside actual singers, who depend more upon technique, discipline, good pitch and natural vocal quality than on a reality television network for their success. Producer Tim O’Connor told ABC Radio, “The whole heart of the arena spectacular is to create a pathway, a connecting point, between the young dreamers and the doers, the people like Simon Burke and Christine Anu and Tim Campbell”.

 

hairspray_tracy

 

With a multi-level design signifying no particular time or place (unless we are to see, simply, the increasingly concreted city of Baltimore in the sixties, and by extension, every American city), Josh Macintosh has had some fun here, creating ample space for performers to play. Trudy Dalgleish has gone to town with a lighting design of suitably flashy rock concert colour.

Choreography for more than 900 kids of varying levels of ability and experience can’t be easy to create, but the Madison is nearly perfectly in synch and a few impressive Rock Challenge inspired moments delight the audience, including a Mexican Wave sequence that makes dominoes of the dancers.

 

hairspray1

 

An insipid sea of white inflatable fat suits & pink wigs must have seemed like a good idea at the time but this is a horribly misjudged reminder that money can’t buy good taste. It must have been a big fat spend in the budget and even thinking about it now – the memory of it is neither witty not funny – I don’t understand what the purpose could possibly be, other than to elicit a cheap laugh. It’s a flashback to the Harvest Rain of old, when somebody’s sense of humour or a lightbulb moment didn’t quite translate to the stage. It doesn’t fit the new picture of this company. Harvest Rain has grown (and matured) considerably, and recently extremely rapidly; they’ve created a genius production model and opened a hugely successful musical theatre training academy. They’ve been doing mostly amazing work for some time now. But this decision seems out of step with the creative concept for the show and feels like a hilarious late-night alcohol-infused inclusion. For the record, I see others in the audience who are loving it!

The sound is generally too loud for Poppy, who covers her ears at times; the levels are consistent with the rock concert approach and the scale of the production.

optikal bloc’s imposing IMAX screen stretches across the back of the performance space and shows on it animations in the style of the opening credits of Grease. But without a live feed to throw the performers’ faces across the same screen, it seems wasted.

 

hairspray_cast

 

If you want intimacy, and an up close and personal experience, there is probably no arena show on earth that will meet your expectations, but if you’re after a loud, large, fast and fun mega smash-hit show featuring a stellar core cast and hundreds of your local kids, you’ll LOVE this Hairspray.

See it in Newcastle (15 – 16 July), Adelaide (14 – 15 October) and Perth (20 – 22 January 2017)

 

16
Jan
12

On Being Mr and Mrs Banks

If you’ve seen Disney & Cam Mack’s Australian production of Mary Poppins, you’ll know there is as much in the show for grown ups as there is for children. It’s an impressive production and if you’re a parent, you’ll get so much from it on so many different levels. We asked Simon Burke and Pippa Grandison about being Mr and Mrs Banks.

Being Mrs Banks

Pippa Grandison

This is the second time you’ve stepped in to take over a role on an Australian stage. In comparison to going green for 6 months of Wicked, what has it been like to become Mrs Banks?

Well, it’s certainly been easier than being painted green! They really are such different roles, so comparison is trcky. I will say that being Mrs Banks has been a very enjoyable journey. Now being a mother on stage as well as in real life has made the transition a natural one.

What is it about being Mrs Banks that you relate to or try to connect with?

Winifred is really the heart of the piece and has so much love for her family. Particularly her husband, throughout his struggle to connect and I love the challenge of maintaining that unconditional caring nature she possesses.

Do you think you will bring a percentage of the Underbelly crowd to the theatre? There’s a demographic who know you now as a nightclub singer! How much of Mary Poppins – a children’s classic – is for the grown ups? 

Well I’m not sure about that! They’ll get a very contrasting lady in Mrs Banks…There is, however, a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment for all ages in Mary Poppins. Most people can relate to a dysfunctional family in need of help.

You have a new Mr Banks in Simon Burke. How has it been to work with Simon after becoming accustomed to Philip Quast’s take on the role?

There is always an adjustment period, particularly when the relationship is such an important one, but it’s been great to find new things together.

How do you connect with the children in the show?

It’s wonderful working with them. All so talented and lovely people. I really feel that being a mum has helped me with that connection too.

How has the experience of having your own child and becoming a mother to Charlie impacted on your approach to your work? As a performer, what is easier, more challenging and more important to you now than it was before? Is there anything that has paled into insignificance?

I’m more confident now for some reason. I still get nervous but my approach no longer has that judgment factor (of myself I mean) so I go to places I may not have before. Life experience is a wonderful thing. Nothing is more important to me than my family and this takes the pressure off.

Ironically, in order to be involved in this production, you required a nanny for Charlie. Did you have any special requirements, as Jane and Michael do?

Indeed. practically perfect is a must. At the moment, her dad is working in Melbourne and her aunty is nannying for us. Janet was there when Charlie was born, so obviously I trust her completely.

What does opening night in a new city mean for you?

It’s very exciting. Brisbane has been particularly enjoyable as it’s really my first opening ad Mrs Banks.

What’s coming up next for you?

I can’t say as yet but I’ll stay with Mary Poppins for a little while yet.

What do you want to see happen in theatre and musical theatre in this country over the next twelve months?

That’s a very specific time frame! Continued support for our local talent, in all departments, and more people interested in coming to the theatre as well as watching the tele!

 

 

Being Mr Banks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Burke

Mary Poppins is the first Disney production to come to Brisbane. Is it your first Disney gig? And is this a significant leg of the tour, to return to the city so near the author’s birthplace in Maryborough? 



It’s great to be back in Brisbane after such a long time (my last big show here was CHICAGO first time around back in 2000!) and especially to be part of this wonderful Cameron Mackintosh/Disney hybrid production. I’m sure the spirit of PJ Travers is blowing its way to QPAC when the wind is right…

You’re playing Mr Banks, an arrogant British banker who is a little out of touch with his wife and children until Mary Poppins comes to stay. What was it about this character that appealed to you? What does his journey look like?



George has a fantastically interesting journey and it’s that journey that most appeals to me in the role. From a man who begins the show describing his childhood as “there was no time for hugs and kisses and all that soppy nonsense”, a man who has no time for his wife or kids, a man for whom position and advancement is all that matters, to a man who embraces family life and realises that the precious years he has with his kids before they grow up are the most important thing in his life.

Did you see Philip Quast in the role before you stepped into it? How did you work on developing a character that is your own? 



I worked very closely with the British creatives on my interpretation of George – a very enjoyable and rewarding experience

How has it been to work with Pippa Grandison as Mrs Banks? What have you brought to the show and to each other, in terms of playing the married couple in what must still be perceived as a rather traditional nuclear family?




Pippa and I have a mutual best friend so we’ve known each other for a long time but never worked this closely together before. She brings a real warmth to Winifred and you can certainly believe that she used to be an actress!

What can we learn from this family and their collective journey?



Love is all.

Where does your own journey take you next, with such an expansive career and now a debut solo album and a solo show of the same name (Something About Always), under your belt?



Well – immediately it takes me to Perth with MARY POPPINS after Brisbane – and after that possibly back to London for a while. Having been there for the past 4 years and had such a great time it really seems that living and working in both cities (Sydney and London) would be the ideal.

What would you like to see happen in Australian musical theatre this year?



Musical Theatre seems to be having a boom in Australia at the moment so of course I’d love to see that continue – we have so many fantastically talented performers in this country and I’d love to see them all in work!