Posts Tagged ‘veronica neave

09
Jun
18

Wheel of Fortune

 

Wheel of Fortune

Metro Arts & Tam Presents

Metro Arts Lumen Room

June 1 – 9 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

LOCAL, NAUGHTY AND FUN.

Tim Hill, Director

 

Highly anticipated, Troy Armstrong’s Wheel of Fortune, directed by Tim Hill, promises the real and scandalous, weirdly erotic, ugly, obscene, beautiful, strange and sometimes disturbingly lustful adventures of several individuals during the heat and humidity of a Brisbane summer, and at times it delivers. It could be heralded as the new La Ronde if it had that seminal play’s wit, eroticism and intrigue. This production, and all of its potential, will have been embraced by those who support our local talent without question and by those who know little of the original text. Penned in 1897 by Arthur Schnitzler, it was immediately banned due to its controversial content, addressing the spread of venereal disease through all levels of society at a time when those in positions of privilege and power believed themselves to be above infection, responsibility and reproach. The stories are updated and localised, and despite feeling a little outdated at times, at the core is the connection between characters; think one degree of separation and the mysteries of the multiverses.

 

 

 

Wheel of Fortune’s form is beautifully supported by its cinematic component, placing the intertwining tales squarely in Brisbane. Optic Archive’s AV contribution here is integral; we see locations and characters on screen before any live action takes place below it. The transitions are well rehearsed with timing almost perfect. The show must have been a nightmare to tech! Interestingly, the preferred option to address the more delicate aspects of the script appears to be a big-screen, super-soft-porn approach, with the steamiest action taking place above the stage. A post-crossfit shower scene is actually about as steamy as it gets, but perhaps there is more in other scenes for some, and it’s likely that the actors have embraced racier moments with more gusto as the season continued. In spite of Richard Jordan’s involvement – I’ve really loved his writing in the past – it all feels a little overwritten and obvious (the other writers are Jacki Mison & Krystal Sweedman). Most scenes lack nuance, pointing to each hot topic and then pointing again in case we missed it. There’s a distinct lack of electricity in the air, and very little bare flesh, even when a scene begs for it. No, I don’t want to see gratuitous nudity for the sake of it (we’ve had to address that before, haven’t we?), but I won’t object to the beauty and sensuality of bodies on stage should the material and a sensitive director, respectful lighting, and the acting chops of the cast support its inclusion for good reason. 

 

 

So. Schnitzler’s soldier is made a marine (we can tell, because Richard Lund wears blue jeans, white shirt and dog tags, and speaks with what he claims/explains is a Tennessee accent), the prostitute becomes public servant (Meg Bowden), the parlour maid an au pair (Jacqui McClaren), and the young gentleman a schoolboy (Brendan Lorenzo). His biology teacher is the original young wife (Jacqui Story), and her husband the lawyer (Ron Kelly). His mistress, Schnitzler’s Little Miss, is referred to as the socialite: AKA Social Media Influencer/Collaborator (Ruby Clark). Clark is cute and funny as she casually climaxes at the dinner table and just as casually seduces another woman in the following scene, but like Story, the new wife, in both the gym and at home, she’s dressed in the most unflattering and ordinary sexy lingerie we’ve seen on stage in a long time. Having weaned our Sunshine Coast and Brisbane audiences off modest attire for the stage a decade ago (thank you, Honey Birdette), I wasn’t the only one on opening night wishing we could go away claiming to have been a little more voyeur than viewer, however; of course there were others who were completely happy with every aspect of the production, including the everyday briefs and bras on display. And yes, of course there are times when the most ordinary can be made extraordinary and no, this was not one of those times.

 

 

 

In the most naturalistic and welcome performances of the night, the poet is made portrait photographer (Elise Grieg) and the actress stays an actress (Veronica Neave), to be caught out by the end with the count cum politician (Stephen Hirst). Grieg and Neave demonstrate with ease exactly the style and sensibilities we wish could be so natural for every other performer on the intimate Lumen Room stage.

 

 

 

 

My experience of this production can be considered fairly biased but unfortunately for those involved, it’s not in their favour, because one of our first sold-out shows on the Sunshine Coast was an adaptation of La Ronde, re-staged in a surf shop in Mooloolaba after its Noosa season (long before Anywhere Festival arrived on the scene) and followed by original works, Erotique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival) and Diabolique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival). The beauty of all three productions was that the director didn’t shy away from the really dark, disturbing aspects of human nature, successfully balancing these moments with wry wit, black comedy and unnerving silences, and added Leah Barclay’s incredible original musical compositions to evoke mood, which was necessarily nightmarish or desperately sad at times.

 

 

What I love about Wheel of Fortune is that it’s brought so many of our newer heads and hearts together, without masses of money or the allure of a bigger venue and a broader audience, the very things that can so often see the artistic vision compromised before it’s realised. Here we see accomplished actors and relative newcomers working together in one of the most supportive spaces in the city for new work, and we see the creative team, steered by Armstrong, working collaboratively to offer something new and exciting to a younger demographic, and with a particularly local flavour. The best advice I was ever given in terms of seeing and considering work was to see everything. That way – we hope – a singular opinion has at least a little credibility to it, and the work is supported, whether or not we are all in agreement about its impact.

 

Wheel of Fortune enjoys its final performances at Metro Arts this weekend. You should see it. 

 

Production pics by Deelan Do

27
Apr
15

Brisbane

 

Brisbane

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

April 11 – May 2 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

I am absolutely sure – 100% sure – that it (the break down in the development of new Australian works) cannot be solved by just trying to pick winners. I don’t think that that is a viable strategy for horse racing let alone for playwriting. You need some deeper philosophical, political, social and artistic sense of what drama is if you’re going to encourage and develop Australian drama into its next diverse and myriad-formed existence.

Julian Meyrick

 


brisbane_dashkruck

 

 

Drama is like the minute hand of the clock.

Julian Meyrick

 

 

I’ve been thinking about who you are, reading this blog, with pieces that are sometimes so sporadically posted I wonder that you come back at all, and I wonder what you’re seeing in between visiting here. And what does it matter, and what should become of it… I’ve been thinking about not writing but I have to, even when the process of writing something about a show sometimes takes longer than the run of a show. I love the process. I love considering what might be worth mentioning and what might be better left unsaid. I love living through the productions and reliving that journey after the curtain comes down. I love the theatre, the people involved, and this place, where I can share my experience with you, whoever you are, whatever it is you’re here for. I’m not sure what else to do with it – perhaps you have some ideas – and I keep deferring developing this site, and further study and a second blog purely for writing because I’m not sure what to do with all of THAT, what shape everything needs to take, or what any of it will do for me, or for you, but I keep coming back here, as you do, to keep some sort of quiet conversation going, perhaps just so it doesn’t stop.

 

 

{What happens when you have authority speaking about what happens in the theatre?}

We must have a cultural memory.

Alison Croggon

 

 

Over a week ago I saw Matthew Ryan’s Brisbane. Since opening night, I’ve been thinking about how we teach our children about war. It was always the part of studying ancient and modern history that I couldn’t understand. I still don’t understand it. I try to convey the respect and gratitude I feel for those who went to war to protect our right to live in a country of freedom and privilege. I have mixed feelings about teaching the pride part. I’m not even sure how I feel about my grandfather’s role in the war. This week I joined the family at his funeral, which included a full soldier’s farewell, and then I joined the local community at a traditional ANZAC Day commemorative service, sans Welcome to Country and frustratingly prayer fuelled. Okay. I know. We’re still a nation commanded by God. I should get over it. But WAR. LEARNED HATRED. FORCED, RELENTLESS, USELESS KILLING. WTF?

 

Over 30 000 Australian servicemen were taken prisoner in the Second World War. Two-thirds of those taken prisoner were captured by the Japanese during their advance through south-east Asia within the first weeks of 1942. While those who became prisoners of the Germans had a strong chance of returning home at the end of the war, 36 per cent of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity.

 

mervhenrygrulke

 

My grandfather, Merv Henry Grulke, was a Sparrow Force guerilla soldier and a (POW) Changi survivor. He was three years off receiving his telegram from the queen when he died last week, just six months after my grandma left us. It’s a well-deserved rest for someone who, like so many, endured years of physical and mental anguish during and after the Second World War. During, after any war…

 

Brisbane, 1942: a big country town jumping at shadows, never knowing if that buzz in the air is a cicada or a squadron of merciless Japanese Zeroes. World War II took the city’s innocence, and that of 14-year-old Danny Fisher.


Danny’s dashing pilot brother has been killed in the Bombing of Darwin. As Danny’s devastated family unravels, the teen finds a surrogate sibling in Andy, one of the Americans stationed in Brisbane. The American pilot takes Danny under his wing, and as the tension begins to rise between the Yank and Aussie servicemen, Danny hatches a reckless revenge plan against those who took his brother.

 

Until I was four years old I lived in an old Queenslander just like fourteen-year-old Danny’s. (And then again during uni days, with actors, actually in Brisbane, but that’s another story). I don’t know if my memories of that first house in Emerald are from being there, or from the photos and stories stashed away in albums and minds since. I think I remember the smell of the dust, and spider webs and shadows and cricket balls and suitcases and appliances, and piles of things that didn’t belong anywhere else.

 

brisbane_ladder

 

Designer, Stephen Curtis has perfectly realised the freedom, the playful sense of growing up in an old Queenslander, recreating the immense space of the high ceilinged house and its nether regions beneath. The same space becomes the famous, much loved Brisbane dance hall, Cloudland, and later across the river, the Trocadero. Lit bewitchingly by David Walters, the house itself is full of potential and/or missed opportunity, an undercurrent of the play, and underneath exists a magical space where anything is possible. No missed opportunities here, the set is in synch with every aspect of the story. There are not too many main stage productions that get it THIS right.

 

There is a good side to not being crushed by culture… there’s a tremendous freedom in Australian performance and a huge intelligence, and a kind of disrespect that’s really healthy.

 

The air is thick and wet and the sun burns your skin like it hates your guts. January’s got it in for everyone. It has a temper that builds and builds, until it’s had enough of you and dumps a mountain of water and electricity on your head to end it quick. Then it starts over again. The smell of the dirt road mixes with the pong of dead fruit that falls from the trees. Houses sit on stilts, breathing the cool air beneath them. Street after street. Streets that make up suburbs. Suburbs that make up Brisbane…

 

I’m sure the haters will say, “Oh, C’MON!” but for me this is magnificent, evocative, poetic writing. I love it. I love the feeeeel of it, the energy of it, the cheeky pointers and the gentle, quiet gaps, which Matthew Ryan is confident to leave for director, designer, actors and audiences to fill. I loved Kelly (currently enjoying a national tour), and Brisbane now puts Ryan in a unique position as a writer in this country, sharing our cultural and historical stories in a way we haven’t yet heard. We’ve read something like it – there are similar insightful voices on the page – but his is a theatrical narrative voice that’s refreshing and magically real on stage (and it’s so suited to Australian film; I hope we see something on screen soon). It’s a more personal, more poignant, more cleverly critical style, supporting our fondest memories and challenging notions of what’s already been recorded. The balance of light and dark is just about perfect, and except for the thank-god-bless-us-and-bathe-us-in-light moment at the end, it strikes all the right chords. (Oh dear, but that major chord! That golden light through what might as well be stained glass windows! An eye roll moment indeed!).

 

The text highlights the national state of mind at the time, which reflected our notions of “mateship”, machismo, fearful and unforgiving parenting, and our attitudes towards war, women and foreigners.

 

brisbane

 

A comical “cringe” moment in the play (as in, “We probs shouldn’t be laughing at this”) serves to challenge our current notions too, and it reminds me of that terrible episode of Popeye, you know, The Sailor Man, which never aired but had been included in a DVD box set, which I innocently put on for Poppy one day. In Brisbane, the kids of the neighbourhood play at shooting down the Japanese, as kids were wont to do at the time. In the black & white classic series, Popeye defeats the entire Japanese army, referring to the enemy as “slant-eyed, buck-toothed, yellow-skinned Japansies”. By making light of the ugly truth about human nature it’s even more disturbing to recognise it! Still! Art is a mirror. Or a hammer… Yes. You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

artisnotamirror_mayakovsky

 

 

There musn’t be one single discourse.

 

 

These characters are so familiar yet we are able to stay safely, emotionally, distant from them. It’s the comedy and the abstractness of the storytelling, switching between real events and what Danny sees is his world that challenges us to consider another point of view. It’s magic realism at play, and it’s not to say we don’t care about them – far from it – we feel deeply for Danny (Dash Kruck), who loses his older brother, Frank (Conrad Coleby perfectly double cast as the American ex-pilot, Andy), and for Frank’s father (Hayden Spencer at his most brutal best), who essentially loses both sons when Frank dies. As for the broken mother, Annie (Veronica Neave), we recognise her deeply personal grief and the embodiment of the women of the era; their ability to pick up the pieces, step into traditionally male roles and “get on with it” while their men either crumble around them or don’t return home. It’s not entirely surprising that it’s she who finally finishes a mini reno on Frank’s room. We see similar resilience in the “big sister”, Rose (Lucy Goleby, luminescent in this role).

 

brisbane_harrietdyeranddashkruck

 

Kruck has been gifted the role of a lifetime in this production. Because Ryan has made the most of his knowledge of Kruck’s physicality and natural vocal cadence during the rehearsal process, the character, as it’s written, is a perfect fit. Under Iain Sinclair’s bold direction, Kruck clearly relishes the opportunity to stretch his wings. He is perfectly matched by the fierce and very funny Harriet Dyer as the best friend, the “cripple”, Patty. I adore Patty, in a way that I would never dare to in real life because I’d be terrified of her! Of course there have always been women learning on their own to be THAT strong (and THAT feared! Ha!). Kruck and Dyer and Goleby develop close connections that are highly entertaining and deeply moving. The moments of sexual awakening are hilarious and the unrequited love, treated so sensitively and tenderly, is actually heartbreaking.

 

brisbane_bullies

 

Our history has such dark moments but there is good, gorgeous, wicked humour here too; the comedy is intelligently written and unashamedly playfully delivered. So much of it comes from the familiar colloquialisms and the childish behaviour of the school bullies and the country’s politicians. We enjoy razor sharp parodies of the leaders at the time, like grotesque tongue-in-cheek comic strips brought to life. This comical theatrical style, thrown casually in amongst the rest, won’t please everybody but it’s a deliberate device; it highlights the propaganda of war and lightens the heavy mood. Matthew Backer, Daniel Murphy and Hugh Parker play these multiple roles (to the hilt!), alerting us to the similarities between the bullies in government and in the street.

 

cloudland_thesundaymail

 

Nothing is lost on the opening night audience. The first reference to Cloudland is a sentence completed in an anticipatory whisper by the audience before the actor can do so and there is an awesome moment of collective pride, the nodding and smiling of people in The Playhouse as they remember… It’s a magical moment – the magic of live theatre – and it’s not lost on those who weren’t there to see the real thing. We get it.

 

The mere presence of new Australian work is no guarantee of cultural health; it has to be Australian work that matters.

 

Dramaturg, Louise Gough, has obviously had a hand in making this work one that matters. It’s one thing to be making and staging new Australian work; it’s another thing entirely to be contributing to the canon of work that informs our history. These stories have come from the truth told by so many. We must keep hearing these stories, seeing them, sharing them. We must try to learn from them. History repeats itself because we don’t learn from it! I hope this is a version of our history you’ll get to experience before it finishes here. I’ll experience it again this week with our students, and I look forward to hearing (reading, marking…) their take on it.

 

What is not being said, what is not being written down, what is not recorded, what is not even noticed?

 

Slouch hats off to QTC’s World Premiere production of Matthew Ryan’s Brisbane; it’s set to become a true blue Australian classic. You must see it.

 

 

Additional quotes taken from AUDIO | STAGE Episode 2 Alison Croggon / Writing History

20
Feb
15

Opening Night Style at Brisbane Powerhouse: Sex With Strangers

 

sexwithstrangers_imagebyjoeldevereux

 

Opening Night Style at Brisbane Powerhouse: Sex With Strangers

 

Loved this show so hard! Here’s my review. With any luck, we’ll see it return yet again…

 

Sex With Strangers

 

Dress Code: Smart & sexy

 

Pre-show drinks: Bar Alto

 

Wearing

 

Top: Mesop

 

Leggings: Black Milk Clothing

 

Shoes: Guess

 

 

openingnightstyle_sexwithstrangers_feb2015

 

 

20
Feb
15

Sex With Strangers

 

Sex With Strangers

Brisbane Powerhouse, Thomas Larkin & Troy Armstrong Management

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 11 – 21 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

sexwithstrangers

 

Thomas Larkin is Ethan, a sex blogger turned book author who falls in lust with Veronica Neave’s Olivia, a gifted and complicated novelist. When they meet at a writer’s retreat, romance and the digital age collide, as the pair confronts the dark side of ambition and the near-impossibility of reinventing oneself when the past is just a click away.

 

NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Independent Production

 

NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

 

NOMINATED Silver Matilda Award – Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

 

The Matilda Awards Night will be held on March 09 2015. See you there!

 

Laura Eason’s Sex With Strangers was one of last year’s hottest shows and it’s back! Well, only for another couple of performances, but I’m sure you heard about it already and went right ahead and booked! DIDN’T YOU? If you missed it last time, as I did due to Noosa Long Weekend Festival commitments, and you’ve missed it a second time, you’re a fool.

 

This is an incredibly neat and deep (as in thought provoking… THOUGHT PROVOKING. WHO ARE YOU?) little show that absolutely deserves the attention it’s attracted thus far. And if recent funding round success stories are anything to go by, it deserves not only this return season but a solid national tour. It’s been the most talked about show of 2014! If you do manage to catch it before it closes on Sunday,  you’ll need to stop by the bar for plenty of that lovely Rymill Dark Horse. If you’re not drinking, too bad; it will be like re-watching the first season of Sex and the City without cigarettes and coffee on hand. You may come away shaking. Just saying.

 

Sex_With_Strangers_wine_2015

 

Coming away (without shaking, more like melting) from this one, I realised just how much I’d enjoyed seeing a “real” play, and not a musical or a comedy or a cabaret or any variation thereof, but a straight-up play, boasting a succinctly written, completely compelling and challenging story delivered by two terrific, totally honest actors bathed in beautiful light (Jason Glenwright & Tim Gawne) and sound (Dane Alexander) in a sharply designed space that actually serves the purpose and structure of the play (Troy Armstrong). Yep. I’m actually that easy to please. Get all the elements right and you got me. All the elements here are exquisitely balanced in simple, beautiful assembly, making this show a special little sexy treat, not unlike the goodie bag Sam brought home after the Fifty Shades of Grey preview event at Event Cinemas last week. (Edmo & Ash; I KNOW YOU ALSO HAVE GOODIE BAGS! BUT YOUR SECRET IS SAFE WITH ME!). Um. Thanks ever so, Totally Adult. Delightful. You can never be sure what will come out of the bag next! Experience it yourself!

 

It’s no secret that I love Thom Larkin. Like, I LOVE Thom Larkin. Is there actually anybody who doesn’t? (If there is they’re JEALOUSSSSS).

 

I ‘reckon we can safely say that Larkin is Australia’s answer to Alexander Skarsgard, with more than a passing resemblance given the right pool of luscious light, and, clearly, the same level of dedication when it comes to maintenance. He’s finally settled into his sun shy skin in Sex With Strangers (Is he goddamn GLISTENING? Like the OTHER OTHER VAMPIRE?). Larkin perfectly embodies the irresistibly brash blogger turned book writer, Ethan, who has made the title of show his, er, business…and pleasure for a year.

 

Paired with the slightly shy, sweet and suddenly sassy properly writerly character created by Veronica Neave, these two radiate the pure unadulterated joy and LUST you wish you’d discovered in Fifty Shades (don’t worry, you didn’t miss it; in Fifty Shades this brand of magnetic attraction doesn’t exist!).

 

sexwithstrangers_kiss

 

Eason’s script has Neave’s complicated character stay quite cold towards Ethan Strange for some time, and Jennifer Flowers’ slick, unencumbered direction keeps Neave at some distance from him until we get to the inevitable romp and removal of shirts and pants and all of those boring inhibitions and what ifs and oh no; I can’t…but I could…oh wait I want to…okay I will! (She’s not silly, and she’s certainly not naive – well, perhaps a little – but she’s certainly conflicted. There is the age difference, there are Internet and IP issues…well, whatever. The thirty-somethings know what I’m talking about!). The frequent sexual interludes (in which Lisa Wilson has had a hand, no pun intended, obvs, but really, seriously; how does he flip Neave like that?!), are just glimpses of what you might imagine happens next, very tastefully, very artfully done. Each teaser is just enough to curl up the corners of your lips (and maybe your toes. WHO ARE YOU?) and inhale the quick, quiet breath you think you’ll have to hold…and then the lights fade and the deceptively simple plot continues with a beat change worthy of senior theatre syllabus inclusion. No, really! Is there a better, clearer example? (You’re right. There’s going to be a more appropriate one…). But wait for the twist! Not altogether surprising, it nevertheless comes as a shock, and we have to reconsider (or not!) our – a-hem – feelings for the sexy rock star blogger boy. Poor Olivia.

 

 

WHAT WOULD SOOKIE DO?

 

 

 

 

YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

Warning: some viewers may experience several degrees of frustration by this stage of the play… Sex With Strangers is quite simply The. Hottest. Show. To. Hit. The. Visy.

 

There might be a few bewildering mixed messages for our younger viewers, but let’s not examine too closely the free love/tap that/blog this/steal that/Tweet this/Facebook that/publish this/claim that/consensual v non-consensual content. Let’s just dive on in and enjoy the STORY and the CHARACTERS and the PASSION, shall we? (And there is well-matched passion on many levels). It’s much more fun that way, like enjoying while it lasts, an illicit affair with a gorgeous someone who has a thing for very public places. What?

 

If you think there’s a more electrifying connection between two actors on stage during the love month of February you must be at the Lyric Theatre. Larkin and Neave need to fly with this one, and take it everywhere. It’s too hot to keep here. Share the love! Don’t we all desire theatre as thrilling as sex with strangers Sex With Strangers?!

 

Final Performances:

 

Today (Friday) at 7pm

 

Tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm & 7pm

 

Sunday at 4pm

 

sexwithstrangers_imagebyjoeldevereux

01
May
12

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.