Category: Uncategorized

REVIEW: Emilio Ela Rose in CIAO!

Bravo!

By Rachel Holkner

This engaging dance theatre show was written by and stars Emilio Ela Rose and is based on his own family’s experience as assisted immigrants moving from war-torn Italy to Melbourne, Australia.

Ciao

Told throughout in both English and Italian, the show moves between affecting and absolutely hilarious. Always keeping the audience hooked, we follow Emilio’s father from his first steps off the boat to making friends, missing home, experiencing new things and trying to make sense of all these cuckoos.

Ela Rose’s strength lies in his ability to relate to the audience, getting them immersed in the story, playing off odd comments and playing up to their interests (“Calabrese! Sausage!”). I would have liked to see even more of this, even perhaps at the expense of one of the dance routines.

The staging utilised the framing device of a movie theatre to showcase found footage and vintage photographs. The images were effectively used to introduce the setting and punctuate throughout the show. However the ‘cinema’ experience was jarring. I can’t help thinking arranging it as a home movie would have suited the story better.

A variety of music was used, mostly traditional Italian pieces, many of which were beautifully sung by Marina Spitteri. They were touching and really emphasised the emotional aspects of the story. The whole ensemble worked really well together, the men in particular revelling in their various roles. I would however have liked the women to have been more proactive in driving the story as they are largely used as props, foils and backdrop.

The dancers were on the whole fine, but I found their expression flat at times where they needed to be more attuned to the storytelling they were responsible for. The choreography was not a particular strength for the most part, and some dances seemed superfluous as they rehashed themes already explored through previous numbers. However it really picked up in the second act, with a fabulous fight/dance scene in a bar and some hysterical descriptions of Australian versus Italian foods.

Ciao! was absolutely written for and performed to the largely Italian audience. I loved that there were jokes that flew over my head, but I never felt excluded from the experience. That is a very fine balance and it was masterfully done.

Presented by EPR productions at the Karralyka Theatre on September 6, Ciao! will next be performed at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre on October 11. Time and tickets TBA. http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=101434

Look out for more Ciao! launching in 2015.

[Editor’s note:The reviewer took her ten-year old daughter Abbey with her, who loved the performance and has offered her own review – “It was very funny and I liked how they included the audience. I also liked the dance at the end which was extremely fun. He got everybody to stand up and do a nonsense dance about making sauce, pasta and sausages.”]

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REVIEW: Left Bauer Productions Presents MASTER CLASS

Intimate and involving theatre

By Bradley Storer

Terrence McNally’s Master Class, a play about the life of Greek opera singer Maria Callas whose artistry and career revolutionised the landscape of 20th century opera, comes to fortyfivedownstairs with the brilliant Maria Mercedes as the tragic diva.

Master Class

The intimate theatre space at fortyfivedownstairs is perfect for the play set as a masterclass in the twilight of Callas’s career, the era signalled effectively by the 70’s fashion worn by the cast. Mercedes enters the room with an air of quiet authority, an iron fist wrapped in silk, taking charge of the stage and the accompanist (Cameron Thomas) in short order. Mercedes is the embodiment of the word ‘diva’ – narcissistic, commanding and uncompromising but with such charisma and a depth of artistic integrity that it is easier to see how this figure still fascinates today. Mercedes manages to find the undercurrents of charm, self-deprecation and kindness in the character which also make her surprisingly likeable.

The three students who Callas teaches over the course of the play are all equally as brilliant – Robert Barbaro as the sole male participant Tony brings a potent masculine swagger and a heart-meltingly beautiful tenor to the role. Anna-Louise Cole as Sharon, the only student with the guts to stand up to the opera superstar, radiates a subdued determination which rises to the surface as she faces off against Callas – her dramatic soprano is showcased to jaw-dropping effect in an tremendously difficult aria from Verdi’s Macbeth. The best of the lot is Georgia Wilkinson as Sophie, a bubbly coloratura soprano, and Wilkinson plays her so winningly that it is hard to take your eyes off her, even when she is simply standing side stage observing Callas.

As she watches her students singing roles she herself made famous, Callas is drawn into internal monologues of operatic proportions, brutally delving into the depths of her poverty-stricken childhood, her ill-fated love affair with Aristotle Onassis, the demons of self-doubt, bitterness and adolescent insecurity which swirl into implosive arias of painful triumph and gut-wrenching loss.

At the end of the master class, Callas stands alone, reflecting to the audience on the simultaneous joy and loneliness of a life devoted to art, saying that she will be satisfied if she has had an effect on even a single person – it’s hard to imagine how anyone could leave this masterfully directed play without feeling affected by the soul of this great artist.

Venue: 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: 19 – 28th August
Times: Tuesday to Friday 8pm, Saturday 4:30pm and 8pm, Sunday 4:30
Tickets: Full $38, Concession $30, Under 30’s $30, Groups (10+) $30, Preview $30
Bookings: Phone – 03 9662 9966, Online at www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

REVIEW: VCA Presents A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY

Impressive handling of a difficult play

By Myron My

A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner, directed by Tom Healey, begins in 1932 with a group of friends celebrating New Years’ Eve. Over the course of the next few years, we see how their lives and relationships with each other are affected with the slow rise of the Nazi party in Germany.

The first half of the performance was quite long and I felt like I was waiting a long time for something definitive to happen. It wasn’t until the second act where things really start moving; the relationships between the characters were explored on a deeper level and you saw the complexities of the choices these people were making and the effects they had on everyone else.

I was however puzzled by the plot’s inclusion of the scenes about a 1990s New Yorker living in Berlin. I felt this sideways storyline detracted from the strength of the 1930s and whilst I appreciated the tie-in towards the end, I did feel like it might have allowed for a tighter story with its exclusion.

The play had a strong cast including Aaron Walton and Edwina Samuels as the one-eyed Hungarian film electrician Husz and glamorous movie star Paulinka respectively. They played their scenes with strong conviction and authenticity and special mention would have to go to Walton for his Hungarian accent.

Another notable performance was Jean Goodwin as “Die Alte” (the Old Woman); the ghost who resides in the apartment. Her dynamic scenes amplified the fear and uncertainty that was rising in Berlin and allowed for a different form of energy to be created which, given the heavy nature of the subject being explored, was a welcomed change.

Set designer Jacob Battista has used the space incredibly well and created a single set– where the whole play takes place – as if it were a real apartment where real people lived, thus magnifying the effect of the supernatural elements. The scene with the devil’s arrival is the first time in a while that any set design has made me go ‘wow’. Similarly, the costumes used were indicative of the effort that costume designer Nicholas MacKinnon has gone to in creating a strong sense of individuality between the characters but to also represent the ideology of the time back then.

A Bright Room Called Day has given these graduating students from The Victorian College of the Arts an opportunity to delve into the psyche of some wonderful characters so it is a shame the play’s plot could not have been as strong as the performances.

Venue: Studio 45, with Box Office at 28 Dodds Street, Southbank.

Season: Until 2 November | 7:00pm, Sat 2:00pm Tickets: $22 Full | $16 Concession

Bookings: http://www.vca.unimelb.edu.au/events?id=448

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