Author: scherazade

Melbourne Shakespeare Company Presents MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Blithe, beguiling and fantastically fun

By Leeor Adar

Delivering yet another flamboyant jewel to the Shakespearean scene this summer, Melbourne Shakespeare Company (MSC) returns with Much Ado About Nothing.

Much Ado About Nothing

MSC manages to hook its audiences with its flair for performing some of the great comedies of Bill Shakespeare in a way that is totally enjoyable and easily accessible by audiences of today. So much of the work comes together due to its excellent direction from Jennifer Sarah Dean and her talented crew and ensemble cast.

The start of summer in Melbourne delivered some intense rainfall, and set in the beautiful rose garden of the St Kilda Botanic Gardens, the cast of Much Ado played on. We were thankfully housed under a marquee, but the cast’s professionalism through the occasional lashings of rain was commendable. With white frocks and florals a-plenty, the production was clearly set for warm days and balmy evenings. The use of the rose garden was artful for this production, and the creative use of space in the usual MSC style, was exceptional.

Much Ado is one of the more popular Shakespearean comedies, where the arrows and slings between leads Beatrice and Benedick, make for some enjoyable viewing. If you can get past the cruelty of Claudio’s treatment of Hero, it makes for a charmingly feather-light play.

Leading as Beatrice, Annabelle Tudor embodied the character’s classic snarky attitude and emotional range with humorous flair and passion. Tudor makes an excellent Beatrice, and her understanding of physical comedy (like much of the cast) is quality. As Beatrice’s counterpart Benedick, Fabio Motta gives a charming and delightfully warm performance, which is unusual for the Benedicks of productions past who often resort to snideness and arrogance to portray the character. The pair are supported by a fantastic cast, who perform in lively synchronicity with one another. Madeleine Mason made for a sweet Hero, the cool hippy vibe of the Friar played by Hunter Perske added another dimension to this enjoyable production, and everyone equally jumped in for solid performances and fun. May Jasper and Jonathan Peck were a satisfyingly slapstick pair as Dogberry and Verges, and Khisraw Jones-Shukoor was the definition of disco-sleaze as Don Pedro.

The musical element of this MSC performance was not the strongest, even where it definitely added to the comedy. Musical director Ben Adams, who directed an astonishingly fun and talented a cappella group in The Comedy of Errors in March this year, couldn’t quite get the performers to hit that mark this time with the evident exceptions of the delightful Nicola Bowman (Margaret) and Motta. The enthusiasm was there, but the quality of the musical talent did not match the excellent quality of the acting on this occasion.

A real highlight is Rhiannon Irving’s imaginative costume design, which once again adds a great deal to the delight of the performance. The choice of elegant white was utterly appropriate for the outdoor setting in summer, special mention must be made of the fascinating fascinators fashioned from CD’s, cassette tapes, and heat-affected records, and the consideration that went into Don Pedro’s flashing headgear was noted and greatly appreciated.

Despite the rain I really enjoyed myself, and have no doubt MSC’s future productions will continue to deliver.

You can catch MSC’s Much Ado About Nothing in the beautiful rose garden every weekend of December leading up to Christmas, 2pm and 7pm. For tickets visit: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/much-ado-about-nothing-by-melbourne-shakespeare-company-tickets-39610284427

Image by Burke Photography

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Melbourne Fringe 2017: THE WAY THE CITY ATE THE STARS

Beautiful and beguiling

By Joana Simmons

Every once in a while, the stars align and the perfect string of events plays out. This was how I found myself in Wil Greenway’s poetic storytelling show The Way the City Ate the Stars. Saying “yes” to a last-minute review can certainly pay off, as this production is a poignant, simplistic piece of theatre that warms and breaks your heart at the same time. Accompanied by live music, it’s a story about childbirth, a summer drive, a mis-sent text, a broken heart and a bird.

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The black-box theatre space is the perfect setting for the subtle simplistic story that evolves. It’s stunning how Greenway and the accompanying musicians Kathryn Langshaw and Sam Rankin transform it into this wonderful world with their poetic words and authentic performances. Greenway, with a sparkle in his eye and the type of beard you want to rub your cheek against, energetically transports us from Melbourne Fringe to Christmas eve, where it’s hot, and everything smells like pine needles. His dry roguish humour puts us at ease, and the story’s beginning is relatable to the point where I could taste it, taking place on Sydney Rd with kebab in hand on a hot summer night, or morning. There’s more poignantly familiar elements in this story, some that are wildly fantastical and philosophical, and all are so skillfully painted with Greenway’s poetic colourful choice of words and interesting energetic physicality. I loved the way he comfortably broke the fourth wall, even when the story was in the grips of breath-taking suspense. It added a real Aussie ‘we can get serious but, yeah nah, don’t take ourselves too seriously’ charm.

The songs, played on acoustic guitar, have that light folksy vibe that is sweet and warm but with somewhat twisted lyrics, and they make humourous yet emotional additions to the show.  The music is by Langshaw and Rankin, and the show was directed by Kellie Tori: I imagine all involved are beaming with the success they had at Edinburgh Fringe, selling out and walking off with a few awards, and I have no doubt this show is going to have the same success this festival. Accolades aside, it’s the audience members who are fortunate enough to see the show that will be the true winners. My heart is still warm: I had a lump in my throat, and was on the edge of my seat at points of the show. Come the end, there were tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face.

This Melbourne Fringe, where “Everything is Art” there are countless shows with all sorts of amazing bells and whistles. It’s overwhelming the amount of creativity all swirling around the city. But this show is so simplistically stunning, it’s one not to miss. Give yourself the emotional and intellectual hug that is The Way the City Ate the Stars, it’s uplifting, it’s weird, and it’s well worth your time.

Wil Greenway: The Way the City Ate the Stars

Venue: Fringe Hub: Arts House – Studio 2

Dates: 15-22 September (no Monday) Tue – Fri 9:15 PM, Sun 8:15 PM

Bookings: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/wil-greenway-the-way-the-city-ate-the-stars/

Melbourne Fringe 2017: EROTIC INTELLIGENCE FOR DUMMIES

Scintillating

By Joana Simmons

Balloons, belly laughs and beanie babies. These are just a few of the wonderful treats in store for you, as well as the challenging yet uplifting lessons in Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Erotic Intelligence for Dummies. This superb one-woman show by award-winning actress and clown Helen Cassidy teaches us about passion, in all senses of the word. Prudes beware, it flirtatiously tickles our boundaries and the complexities of intimate relationships whilst educating and loving us all on love for all.

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The underground bar-come-theatre at the Arts House has a buzzy Friday-night-first-week-of-Fringe feel and Cassidy is roving the crowd making us feel comfortable. The TeD Talk sound effect opens the show, and dressed as a sexy librarian Cassidy lets the ideas flow. Small in stature but large in charisma, Cassidy is a strong all-round performer and has the audience on her side minutes in. She employs a range of talents and conventions to take us on a ‘sexual safari’, seeing how our fellows in the animal kingdom do it. There’s one epically memorable moment amongst this – one not to try at home – that Cassidy pulls off with jaw-dropping skill and hilarious follow-through.

The structure and pace of the show is slick. Cassidy glides from character to character, costume to costume, cleverly using the other balloons set behind her and the pile of stuffed toys in the centre of the stage. She uses witty language to cover what could be smutty content – serving it up like a nice little note and phone number left on your pillow the morning after the night before. There’s this wonderful maturity to her performance that is classy, sexy, and daring. By the end we are clapping along, all in one giant group of the same theatrical experience. For me, this is what live theatre is about: getting to share a unique experience for one hour with a group of strangers under an old building in North Melbourne. Absolute cudos to Helen Cassidy for bringing this wonderful experience out – creating the space and the light for (erotic) expression.

Erotic Intelligence for Dummies pokes us in all the right places. It sensually whispers in our ear something which could make one blush but also could make for a wonderful world. It gets your heart racing and juices flowing. Go with your squeezes, go with your pals, go alone and come out with company.

Erotic Intelligence for Dummies

Fringe Hub @ Arts House Underground,

521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne

15 – 22 Sept (Excl. Mon) | 7:45 PM (Sun 6:45 PM)

Bookings: https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/erotic-intelligence-for-dummies/

Twelve Angry Presents BACHELORETTE

Satisfyingly dark and disturbing

By Caitlin McGrane

Bachelorette by Leslye Headland is a razor-sharp tragi-comedy that exemplifies what I have been saying for years – we need more unlikeable female characters on stage and screen. The 2012 film of the same name is a classic in my house, although its final act never quite seemed able to live up to the saltiness promised in the set up. This latest version from Twelve Angry more than fulfils those promises.

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Twelve Angry is a Melbourne-based independent theatre company with the specific aim of championing the creative voices of women. In this production, director Matilda Dixon-Smith has created something so dark and twisted, yet utterly brilliant, in its illumination of how society treats women. Bachelorette is fucked up – none of the characters are likeable and, unlike the film version, they are irredeemable in this stage show; I promise this is a good thing.

The play opens as Gena (Rebekah Robertson) and Katie (Lucie Gavanon) enter a hotel room heavily stockpiled with booze and cocaine. They mope about, complain about their lives and discuss the upcoming nuptials of their “friend” Becky (Sara Tabitha Catchpole). The repeated references to Becky’s weight (she is almost exclusively referred to as ‘Pigface’) demonstrates how women are often valued only in relation to their fuckability – none of her high school friends can believe she is the first one to get married. Gena and Katie are kind of fine as characters, but I felt the show only really got interesting when Regan (Holly Brindley) showed up. Regan amps up the chaos and brings back the repugnant Jeff (Joshua Monaghan) and the pitiful Joe (Conor Misson).

Carnage reigns supreme in Headland’s script, and set designer Gabby Lewis (supported in the construction by Nick Sanders, Eva Stacey and Hanna O’Keeffe) has cleverly mirrored the depravity in the play in the set as the place actually starts to fall apart.  Costume designer Hannah Crone and wardrobe assistant Bec Hill’s carefully chosen outfits fit the characters well. Lighting design (Siobhain Geaney) and sound design (Jess Keeffe) was fine, but could probably do with some more subtlety to help enhance the performance. There was a notable and awkward lack of sound in the opening scene, which might easily be rectified.

It’s always a delight to see productions that support women in creative fields (in fact it’s ways good to see women supported in any field), but Bachelorette does something unusual in showing how nastiness and aggression aren’t the exclusive preserve of men, and unlikeable female characters reinforce the idea that women don’t need to be likeable – we’re not here to help you deal with your feelings and/or guilt. Katie, Regan, Gena and Becky are unashamed of their shortcomings, drug and alcohol abuse and disordered eating, but rather than glorify these traits, the play shows how truly tragic it is that we expect women to shut up and deal with this stuff – our problems aren’t any easier just because they’re unseen. In fact that might be the most tragic thing of all.

Twelve Angry presents BACHELORETTE

6-11 December 8.00 PM \ The Stables, Meat Market, North Melbourne

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Bookings: chook.as/twelve-angry/bachelorette

Metanoia Theatre Presents MILK BARS

Engaging and evocative nostalgia

By Narelle Wood

Just as the title suggests, Milk Bars explores that iconic Australian fixture of the milk bar, its place in Australia’s past and its potentially questionable future.

Milk Bars

This is not your average theatre show though; it’s performance art. Over the course of an hour and a half, the audience are guided from room to room to witness different performances and art installations that all, in some way, explore the idea of the milk bar.

The performances range from Elnaz Sheshgelani’s exploration of pre-Islamic Persian storytelling to Janette Hoe’s movement and mime pieces to a heart-felt talk presented by Domenic Greco, the executive Director of CAMBA. Each performance adds another perspective to the milk bar experience. Hoe transforms herself into a milk-bar owner, contrasting the talkative and perky behind-the-counter persona with the personal struggles that occur behind the scenes. Shane Grant’s monologue, beginning with advertising catchphrases that he and Zayn Ulfan shout at each other from across the room, documents the sacrifice and hard work of milk bar owners especially in a time of modernisation.

The theme across all performances is definitely this hard work and sacrifice in the face of an unknown future, thanks to globalisation and giant supermarket chains. But amidst this are stories of new immigrants finding their place in new communities and the sense of community and belonging that a milkbar can provide.

Each of the performances in themselves were fantastic, and as an ensemble, left me profoundly nostalgic for the local corner store where you could buy a massive bag of mixed lollies for 20 cents and buy your mum a packet of ciggies because the shop lady knew you. This is in no small way due to the setting of Milkbars, which under the artistic direction of Gorkem Acaroglu, transports you back to what appears to an authentic  1970’s milk bar. There are Big M calendar ads on the wall, an obligatory Chico Roll ad, Tarax pineapple soda in the fridge, and you can also purchase your very own bag of mixed lollies.

This isn’t the sort of show I’d normally gravitate towards, but the mixture of art installations, performances and movement between spaces was a really fascinating way of reflecting upon what the milk bar means to you personally, as well as to the performances and Australia culture.

 Milk Bars was performed at The Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, from July 27 – August 6, 2016

SOL III Presents DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS

Intense and intriguing family drama

By Myron My

Written in 1924 by Eugene O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms is a story that explores profound human connections and the depths that people will go to have what they desire. Inspired by the myth of Phaedra, Hippolytus and Theseus, O’Neill’s story is set in New England where patriarch Ephraim (Darren Mort) returns to his home with new wife, Abbie (Diana Brumen). This does not bode well for the relationships with his three sons (Garikai Jani, Timothy Smith and Sam Lavery) as the tension builds to a devastating end.

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Lavery perfectly encapsulates youngest son Eben’s resentment towards his father and the rage that burns inside him, yet at the same time brings to the surface the tenderness and love that he can also feel. His scenes with Brumen are gripping and you’re never quite sure which way their story is going to go, even if it is based on a Greek tragedy. Brumen’s manipulative and scheming Abbie is convincing, but it is during her horrific and tragic final scenes that she is able to channel fully everything Abbie has been experiencing until that moment.

Director and founder of The Sol III Company, Andrei Schiller-Chan, does a brilliant job in portraying these characters’ emotions and thoughts beyond the words of the play, in particular the scene where Ephraim reminiscences about his past loneliness to Abbie. Having Ephraim off to the side, we are drawn into Abbie and Eben’s private, silent conversation from Abbie’s bedroom to Eben standing downstairs in the kitchen. The fight scene between the father and son is also powerfully executed and choreographed.

While at times the story does seem to slow down significantly in pace, with a sense of repetition in the scenes being played out, the cohesiveness of the technical and design elements continue to keep us intrigued. Production designer Hahna Read‘s set, despite the limitations of the physical space on the stage, has a firm feeling of authenticity and the waft of bread baking throughout the space further added to that.

Travis MacFarlene‘s elegant lighting design is used effectively to convey the emotions and thoughts of the characters while subtly supporting the mood of the play. Similarly, Paul Raine‘s sound design is evocative and adds adroitly to the environment of the farmhouse in which the story is situated.

Desire Under the Elms is a tale about ancient and basic human emotions; love and jealousy. It’s about growing up, letting go – and also, revenge. Similar to their production last year of The Exonerated, The Sol III Company excel in exploring these universal but complex themes and have created another thoughtful and captivating performance in Desire Under the Elms.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran 
Season: 24 July | 8pm Tues- Sun, 2pm Sat 16 & 23 July, 5pm Sun 17, 3pm Sun 24
Tickets: $38 Full | $33 Conc | $28.50 under 25
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel

Image by Timothy Smith

REVIEW: Daniele Finzi Pasca’s LA VERITA

Circus spectacle celebrates surrealism

By Jessica Cornish

La Verità – directed, choreographed and written by internationally renowned creator Daniele Finzi Pasca, and inspired by Salvador Dali’s surrealist depiction of the fraught love story between Tristan and Isolde – was a visually stunning production, with breath-taking acts executed by well-seasoned performers.

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Travelling with an incredibly strong cast of 13 acrobats, musicians, clowns and dancers, La Verità morphed the State Theatre into a beautiful melancholic circus, with sumptuously rich scenery often silhouetted by the beaming golden cyc cloth hanging upstage. The performance work also incorporated trance-like shadow theatre, stark imagery, contrasting bold lighting states, shapes and the morphing of colours powerfully and continuously throughout the two acts.

La Verità’s aerial acts were particularly stunning, featuring double-helix ladders spiralling through the air, ultraviolet-lit hula hoops dancing across the stage, and the incredible acrobats illustrating human form at its peak of perfection. The performance also included one of the best choreographed and most intricate and quirky juggling scenes I have ever seen, and a wonderfully cringe-worthy contortionist, to name only a few memorable moments. My only criticism of the performances was that Act One heavily relied on comedic relief to transition between items: I didn’t really find the shiny silvery characters very funny, and felt the slapstick humour a little lame and unnecessary at times; however, my companion clearly enjoyed the glittery clowns, so maybe I just need to adopt a better sense of humour!

Meanwhile, the comedic narrators provided some background information on Salvador Dali through a mix of English, French and Spanish ramblings, retelling remarkable snippets of his life such as the time he tried to present a lecture in a diving suit and nearly suffocated in the process. To further accentuate Dali’s work and influence, some of his other famous iconic images were also smattered throughout the items, such as the melting away of time and the recurring rhinoceros, (he believed the latter’s patterned horn possessed the same logarithm as both cauliflowers and sunflowers…!)

A captivating and stunning night of entertainment, overall – if you are a lover of all things circus and beautiful, go see this show!

VENUE
State Theatre
DATES
Friday 22 January, 7:30pm
Saturday 23 January, 2pm
Saturday 23 January, 7:30pm
PRICE RANGE*
Premium: $85
A Reserve: $65
B Reserve: $45
Under 30: $30 (strictly limited)
Concession and family tickets available
BOOKINGS
Phone: 1300 182 183

https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/circus-physical-theatre/la-verita