Melbourne, Australia

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS

In Review, Theatre, Whats On on November 23, 2014 at 8:46 am

An utter delight

By Caitlin McGrane

It’s not often one sees a play (or a film, or a TV show) where a straight white man is considered tokenistic: Jumpers for Goalposts gives us that and so much more. Director Tom Healey expertly presents Tom Wells’ sharp, sensitive and uproariously funny script. It tells the story of a five-a-side gay, lesbian and transgender football tournament in Hull as one team, the Barely Athletic, attempt to win/come second/come third/have a team at all.

The team consists of Beardy (Ray Chong Nee), Viv (Kate Cole), Danny (Johnathan Peck), Luke (Rory Kelly) and Joe (Paul Denny). The development and story arc of each character is equal parts witty and poignant. Each performer steps up to and meets the mark with buckets of humour, despite the heaviness of the themes.

2014 Jumpers for goalposts It’s extraordinarily rare that HIV, death and sexuality can be dealt with so clearly without anyone really uttering any of those words. In addition, the diversity on stage is a marked change from the endless parade of straight white male narratives to which we are all so accustomed; Beardy got all the best lines and Joe was almost relegated to the sidelines (puns intended).

The set and costumes designed by Jacob Battista were fantastic – the locker room in which the entire play takes place really belonged on a dodgy estate in England’s northeast. Lighting designed by Clare Springett strategically washed out the stage and gave the performers the sickly fluorescent sheen of a team worn out. Healey’s directorial vision and the efforts of stage manager Rebekah Gibbs are definitely something to write home about as the whole show (some slightly dodgy pronunciation aside) hung together flawlessly . This is a thoroughly enjoyable and truly romantic production: I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jumpers for Goalposts is now showing at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre on Chapel St in St Kilda until 20 December. Tickets available at: http://redstitch.net/gallery/jumpers-for-goalposts/.

REVIEW: The Production Company’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

In Musical Theatre, Review, Whats On on November 23, 2014 at 8:40 am

A little more mascara

By Ross Larkin

La Cage Au Folles began as a play in the 70’s by Jean Poiret until it was later remodelled into a musical by Jerry Herman. In 1996, Hollywood created the well-known film version, renaming it The Birdcage. Melbourne’s The Production Company last night opened their version of the musical at The Arts Centre, with Todd McKenney and Simon Burke as gay lovers Albin and Georges and a familiar supporting cast including Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet and Marg Downey.

La Cage Au Folles - Todd McKenney and Les Cagelles

When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino) announces his engagement to Anne (Emily Milledge), matters accelerate to hysterical at the prospect of his fiance’s highly conservative and political parents (Sweet and Downey) coming over to meet Jean-Michel’s family.

Decidedly flamboyant transvestite Albin is deemed by Jean-Michel too risky and controversial to meet Anne’s parents and is advised to make himself scarce for the evening. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother fails to show, Albin steps in in all his convincing drag glory under the pretence of being mother himself, and hilarity ensues.

As with any famous and celebrated show, there are unavoidable audience expectations. In the case of La Cage Au Folles, it is safe to assume that giant laughs, flashy songs, spectacular dancing and tremendous energy are all somewhat anticipated.

Regretfully, The Production Company only gently hit the mark, waxing and waning in pace and stamina. The occasional musical number is quite impressive while too many others are underwhelming and forgettable.

The two leads are undoubtedly well performed, with McKenney in particular delivering much of the needed laughs and glamour, and Aljin Abella as the butler a consistent source of humour and force.

However, director Dean Bryant’s decision to merge La Cage Au Folles into pantomime territory with actors speaking to and interacting with the audience for extended periods (presumably to cover costume changes) was an ill-fated one, breaking from the struggling momentum even further.

Sweet as Anne’s father might have looked the part but was typically miscast, yelling every line with farcical irritation and further contributing to the pantomime domain. Downey and Burchmore were reliably enjoyable but sadly appeared all too briefly.

Essentially, Bryant and The Production Company have found most of the ingredients necessary to make La Cage Au Folles the dazzling spectacle it deserves to be, however, its current state feels underbaked, in need of increased pace, energy, stakes and more bold choreography.

La Cage Au Folles is playing at The Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, until December 7, Wednesday-Sunday at 7.30pm and Tuesday December 2 at 7.30pm, with 2pm matinees each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings 1300 182 183 or visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

REVIEW: Tomas Ford in THE FINAL CHASE

In Cabaret, Cabaret Review, Whats On on November 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

Killer cabaret

By Myron My

In Tomás Ford’s one-man cabaret thriller The Final Chase, we follow a secret agent as he attempts to find his missing girlfriend while simultaneously trying to track down his arch-nemesis. It proves to be a case that ends up fatal for one of the three as the audience is taken along this exhilarating ride.

The Final Chase

Clearly there can be no secret-agent show that isn’t slightly inspired by James Bond, but there is also a little witty bit of Maxwell Smart and possibly a sliver of Austin Powers stirred into this mix. However, Ford still creates a strong character in his flawed and troubled yet calculating agent who is damn good at what he does – killing people.

Throughout The Final Chase, you can see in Ford’s eyes that he is committed to the belief that all this is actually happening. When he’s acting, when he’s singing (and boy can he sing) and when he’s out in the audience, he doesn’t drop the persona or the reality of his world once.

On the surface, the songs performed by Ford serve to progress the story at the right pace and to lure us into this shady world. Go a little deeper and they also allow us to get into the mind of this secret agent as he teeters on the edge of a breakdown due to the burden of his job. There’s a running theme with all of Ford’s songs of how much more can he sacrifice before he loses everything?

I did have a minor quibble with the ending however. Whilst narrative-wise it was strong and suspenseful, the closing song felt unnecessarily long and lost some of the impact of what was transpiring. The final moments could have been more effective taking place on stage rather than the back of the venue with people having to crane and turn behind them to catch a glimpse of it.

All the other elements come together seamlessly to bring the story of an unbalanced secret agent to life. The Final Chase is funny, intriguing and sexy but more importantly, a damn well thought-out cabaret.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St, Melbourne

Season: Until 23 November | 6:00pm

Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: http://www.thebutterflyclub.com

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