Green Day Presents American Idiot

Green Day’s Tony Award-winning musical, American Idiot makes for a punchy and nostalgic night out.

By Jessica Gittel Cornish

Rich in nostalgia, tartan skirts, denim vests and tight black jeans, Green Day’s American Idiot recreated my high-school years in a fast-paced and vibrant production at the Comedy Theatre. The 90-minute powerhouse musical, produced by Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Shake & Stir Theatre, features crowd favourites such as American Idiot (cough, still as relevant as ever), Wake Me Up When September Ends and Jesus of Surburbia – to name a few.

Toying with dark themes of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and the trauma associated with war, this production disguises its heavier subjects under pulsating pop music and blinding strobe lights. The storyline follows the life of Johnny (Ben Bennett), as he narrates his experiences in a series of diary entries and letters to friends and family. The audience travels with him as well as his two male besties, Connor Crawford (Tunny) and Alex Jeans (Will) throughout one year of their lives.

American Idiot

The strong male cast even includes Aussie rock legend Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) who features as the elusive St Jimmy. Accompanying these artists are standout vocal performances, belted out by female leads: Phoebe Panaretos and Ashleigh Taylor. Equally impressive is the ensemble; their high energy and stamina faultlessly rippled throughout the theatre. The vocals were spot on, solo after solo, harmony after harmony, and under the expertise of sound designer Julian Spink, the sound was crisp and well balanced.

It would have been nice to have had a bit more story and character development throughout the performances, as the musical seemed to lack a strong plot line. However overall the production was a success, no doubt thanks to Craig Ilott’s direction and Glenn Moorhouse’s musical direction. The production team have cohesively worked together and successfully transitioned the punk pop hits to the stage. Not only has it resurrected the early 2000’s pop music, it’s doing what many other productions struggle with – it’s bringing theatre to a younger demographic.

This up-beat musical full of nostalgia, punchy lighting (Matthew Marshal) and erratic choreography has done the music and lyrics of original Green Day member Billie Joe Armstrong proud. This energetic, contemporary musical has been the highlight of my 2018 as I loved every moment. It’s only running for a short time in Melbourne, so snag some tickets while they’re still available!

American Idiot plays at Comedy Theatre until 11 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 13 61 00.


Hand To God premieres in Australia

Hand To God delivers the rude and chaotic world it promises, as well as yet another dirty sock to St Kilda.

By Owen James

Fractured faith, crass discourse, puppet sex and unravelled lies. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before onstage, and riotous comedy Hand To God lives up to its advertisement tag-line: “If Book Of Mormon and Avenue Q had a baby, it would be Hand To God”.

The show plays for laughs from the beginning, with little time given to set-up before filthy lines are insulting characters and audience alike. Director Gary Abrahams ensures the exposition moves quickly and this rollercoaster “to hell and back” rarely lulls.

Gyton Grantley is a delight to watch as Jason and his demonic sock puppet Tyrone. With an incredible physical performance and genuinely jaw-dropping puppetry, Grantley handles every comedic high and emotional nuance of the two characters without a hitch.

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Photographs: Angel Leggas

The chaotic character arc of damaged mother Margery is presented by the manic and wild Alison Whyte, with insolent teenager Timothy (Jake Speer) as her unlikely partner. Both bring unbridled energy and some of the biggest laughs to the show.

Grant Piro is a hilarious highlight as Pastor Greg, worth the ticket price alone for his riotous caricature, and Morgana O’Reilly as initially innocent Jessica steals scenes and laughs – especially in the boisterous climax of the play.

Jacob Battista’s set is ingenious, packing every moment into the Alex Theatre. The colourful set is matched with equally colourful costumes from Chloe Greaves, that tell us everything we need to know about these characters before they open their mouths. Lighting by Amelia Lever-Davidson and sound by Ian Moorhead expand the atmosphere of conservative Texas, and help tiny Tyrone take over the whole theatre in his bigger moments.

Hand To God delivers the rude and chaotic world it promises, but there are surprisingly emotional and poetic moments to be found amidst the chaos. Audiences of South Park or Family Guy will be right at home with this brash and outspoken comedy.

Hand To God plays at Alex Theatre until 18 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 8534 9300.

Essential Theatre and Three Birds Theatre Present Enter Ophelia

Enter Ophelia is a totally reworked Hamlet that plucks Ophelia from the sidelines and places her centre-stage.

By Lois Maskiell

Enter Ophelia brings Essential Theatre and Three Birds Theatre together under the direction of John Kachoyan in a totally reworked Hamlet. Ophelia is plucked from the sidelines to take centre-stage in this production that references the famed work from which it springs while completely turning it on its head.

The Ophelia who enters this stage is neither distracted nor one to accept meekly her father’s ultimatums. Nor does she serve as a plot device appearing in only five of the twenty scenes of Shakespeare’s play. In Enter Ophelia, she’s the central figure whose dominant presence interrupts this plot of foul play between kings, fathers, sons and brothers.

Co-written by Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway this production preserves Shakespeare’s heightened language, while adding many new additions; Gertrude’s stylised speech that describes Ophelia’s drowning is left intact, while inserted lude jokes and new instances of metatheatre prove the originality of these writers.

Photographs: Amanda Carr (top) Theresa Harrison (above)

This five-piece group’s wild and whirling words are delivered with vocal richness and pace that doesn’t falter from the first to final scene. They declare the greatness of Denmark unanimously, except for Ophelia, who doesn’t subscribe to the patriotic-pack mentality of these unquestioning men.

Anna Rodway as Ophelia plays the drowned innocent in a captivating performance as she lusts after nature and is fixated on feelings she can’t manage to articulate. Amanda LaBonte (Gertrude) is charismatic and commanding, covering her misgivings with booze and cigarettes. Sophie Lampel (Polonious) takes on mouthfuls of consonants with wit and control while son, Candace Miles’ (Laertes) physical theatre is bewitching and hilarious. Madelaine Nunn as Hamlet is piercing and amusing as she expresses love for Ophelia in violent bouts without ever bothering to hear her response.

This sharp production, manoeuvred by director John Kachoyan, synthesises words, images and choreographed transitions for maximum effect. In the intimate space of La Mama such transitions – Ophelia’s and Gertrude’s chess games particularly – create an enveloping presence.

It’s true depictions of Ophelia alter with changes in attitudes towards women and madness – so it’s only due that Ophelia’s character is interrogated in this modern reworking of Hamlet. Enter Ophelia wastes not a moment doing so, as it turns this notable play on its head in an entertaining and fantastical fashion.

Enter Ophelia plays at La Mama until 4 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9347 6948.

Arts Centre Melbourne Presents Bernadette Robinson: The Show Goes On

Bernadette Robinson embodies the great songstresses in an astonishing performance teamed with expert storytelling. 

By Narelle Wood

Bernadette Robinson takes the stage again in her one woman show, The Show Goes On. Set around Judy Garland, Robinson introduces an array of amazing songstresses known for their belting voices, and for some their off-stage lives. Included in the repertoire are Streisand, Andrews, Edith Piaf, Shirley Bassey and opera singer Maria Callas.

In true Robinson style, she transitions seamlessly from one songstress to the next and back again. Describing this as a show of impersonations doesn’t really do justice to Robinson’s performance, she embodies these performers from their slightest mannerisms to the smallest inflections in their voices. The song list epitomises the classic hits associated with each of these stars, from Don’t Rain on my parade, Diamonds are forever, La Vie en rose, Over the rainbow and my personal favourite, The trolley song.

Photographs: Bob King

Robinson’s astonishing performance aside and the show itself remains a masterclass in expert storytelling. This is perhaps not surprising given the creative team of Robinson and Richard Carroll. Interjected between, and sometimes during the songs are personal stories from behind the scenes of these extraordinary women. These stories explore everything from the expectation that Judy Garland would never grow up, to Streisand’s early struggles with being a singer, Patsy Cline’s car accident, and even Callaslove affair with Aristotle Onassis.

The transitions between characters are supported by thoughtfully choregraphed movement accross the stage as well as by changes in lighting by designer Trent Suidgeest. While this combination has potential to take you out of the performance, under Carroll’s skilful direction it subtly marks the changes in characters, and only works to enhance rather than distract. It would be remiss not to mention the work of musical director and arranger Martine Wengrow, whose arrangements of Get happy/Happy days are here again and The show goes on/Farther on were standout moments of the show.

The Show Goes On is a combination of most of my favourite songs, exquisitely performed by Robinson. There is nothing not to love about this show, and while I would definitely see The Show Goes On again, I also can’t wait to see what Robinson produces next.

The Show Goes On plays at Arts Centre Melbourne until 11 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Malthouse Presents Good Muslim Boy

Osamah Sami takes his award-winning memoir, Good Muslim Boy to the stage with energy and heartfelt drive in Janice Muller’s adaptation.

By Caitlin McGrane

It took me several days to process Good Muslim Boy – not because I didn’t enjoy it, but rather because I needed to let it soak into my bones. I found the frenetic energy of the 85-minute play needed to be left to sink in, so I could fully absorb what it was saying.

The play opens in an airport terminal in Tehran, Iran as Osamah (Osamah Sami) is attempting to transport his father’s body home to Melbourne, Australia. Even in this early stage of the drama, his exhaustion is palpable.

Osamah was born in Iran to Iraqi parents, and grew up during the First Gulf War under the Iranian religious regime. Many years later, after they had emigrated to Australia, his father arranges an impromptu trip back to Iran in an attempt to help Osamah reconnect to himself and his family. It’s on this trip that his father suddenly dies and needs to be expatriated back to Australia.

The action flashes backwards and forwards through Osamah’s relationship with his parents, particularly his father – deftly played by Rodney Afif – and his lengthy and deeply painful experience bringing his father home. Nicole Nabout shines as the third player and moves perfectly between characters – from Osamah’s sports-mad mother to a grumpy bus driver with barely a lag.

Osamah Sami, Rodney Afif & Nicole Nabout - Good Muslim Boy - Tim Grey
Photographs: Tim Grey

Set and costume designer Romanie Harper has done amazing work smoothing the transitions between scenes and characters with visual cues, while lighting (Ben Hughes) and sound (Phil Slade) complemented Afif, Nabout and Sami as they moved quickly and precisely around the stage.

For me the overwhelming energy of the play belies its narrative potential. There was so much movement between one disapproving, dismissive Iranian bureaucrat and the next that I could barely keep up with additional details that were meant to add texture to the story.

Comments from Iranian officials about the appalling treatment of refugees in Australia didn’t quite ring true for me because they weren’t given enough time to breathe – Osamah had to move on, had another stamp to get or document signed.

In the end I found myself wishing I was reading the book, so I could absorb everything that Sami needed to say. His story is so profoundly moving that I felt it deserved a more drawn out exploration. But, I still highly recommend Good Muslim Boy for both its pathos and empathy for all its characters (even the disagreeable officials), as well as for the obvious, heartfelt drive that keeps Osamah Sami telling his family’s story.

Good Muslim Boy plays at Malthouse until 11 March.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9685 5111.

Emily Goddard’s This is Eden

Fortyfivedownstairs plays host to exceptional talent in this no-holds-barred performance of female convict behaviour.

By Lucy Dobson

If one’s under the false pretence that Goddard’s This is Eden will be some blatant display of tomfoolery and roly-polies, then let’s address that from the bat. O’ there’ll be laughs shared and shared frequently, however they’ll be accompanied by a brutal insight into the harsh realities and coping methods of the women convicts of Cascades Female Factory in Van Diemen’s Land, some 170 years ago. But we’re not really worried about the details, or are we?

If parts that seethe in sarcastic undertones hit a little close to home, then perhaps it’s time to question why? As the play laments the blameless crimes of a supposedly historic age, there’s a stirring in the gut that does the math, and it’s fresh. Furthermore, there’s blame to be placed and whilst we can only plead our ignorance for so long, there’s a mountain of eyes widening, and I suspect Goddard to be amongst them.


In a time when the world is screaming for an upheaval of all that we declare is no longer satisfactory, This is Eden is a welcome offering. I left fortyfivedownstairs ready to march! But also in my stride laid the knowing feeling that to feed a starving child, many would risk thievery. Goodness, how many people have nabbed a wedge of cheese in their life and I doubt starvation but rather inflation to be the cause. It begs the question does it not?

Directed by Susie Dee, Goddard’s performance exhumed the talents of an actor well trained: from rosy cheeked tour guide to bread and tea spitting loon and her ability to alternate between characters was nothing short of remarkable. The bare bones of Romaine Harper’s simple but expertly created set, along with lighting and sound by Gina Gascoigne and Ian Moorhead respectively, enhanced the mood perfectly, making good use of all that was on offer, audience included!

At parts I felt lost in structure but I assumed this was yet another clever trick played by Goddard and Dee to echo the confusion and tragic mess of it all. If you’d rather stay at home in the comforts of ignorance, then don’t bother, the revolution doesn’t need you! However, if you appreciate top-notch acting and all the feels (laughs included), then head on down to fortyfivedownstairs, you won’t be disappointed.

This is Eden is at fortyfivedownstairs until 25 February.  Tickets can be purchased online and at the box office: 03 9662 9966.


Malthouse Presents Picnic at Hanging Rock

The disappearance of the turn-of-the-century darlings returns to Malthouse Theatre in Picnic at Hanging Rock 

By Leeor Adar

The disappearance of the turn-of-the-century darlings in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges has all the evocative appeal of a timeless classic: young school girls in their bloom disappearing into the harrowing Australian bush in a southern gothic fever dream.

As a young child, I shivered as I saw the great mass of Hanging Rock, where like many Australians I fell for the alluring tale of the disappearance of the women. When Joan Lindsay wrote the 1967 classic, Picnic at Hanging Rock, I wonder if she realised that audiences would come in droves to take a step closer to the mystery that never really was. Or was it? That is the question that rises in Lindsay’s readers and viewers of Tom Wright’s adaptation for stage.

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Photographs: Pia Johnston

Picnic at Hanging Rock is not the first tale to evoke the power of Australia’s sublime landscape, however its unfurling secrets of untamed nature in the face of impressionable young women barely buckled to their schooling is utterly sensual and unsettling.

Director Matthew Lutton has realised his best work in this timely February production of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Lutton’s cast is par excellence: Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Arielle Gray, Amber McMahon, Elizabeth Nabben and Nikki Shiels use their wiles and voices to such evocative effect that their words and physicality have the power to send the audience leaping out of their seats. This production hoists Lindsay’s language into haunting dramatic storytelling in such a way that I believe I am there with the girls, as the sun sets and the white of their dresses disappear into the rock forever.

Lutton hammers the horror to great effect, as the dark stage bares only an ominous mass of twigs and wood that is suspended above. The cast appear suddenly out of the black, and in the midst of this nothingness, the sounds of nature, women humming and discorded effects play out. A perfect storm strikes the stage by lighting design master, Paul Jackson, sound designer J. David Franzke, and composer Ash Gibson Greig.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a full-senses feast, and I am both terrified and drawn to the nightmare as it plays out before us. There are ample occasions of wit and excellent delivery from all performers, and Nabben’s turn as Mrs Appleyard is subtle and breathtaking, particularly in her last moments as a failed schoolmistress.

The tightly laced tension of teatime between Irma (Shiels) and Michael (McMahon) after the events on that Valentines Day at Hanging Rock, highlight the absurdity of the excessively civilised in the wake of traumatic events. This theme continues until there is no denying the significance of the schoolgirls’ disappearance and what that means for a society colonising an unfamiliar and dangerous landscape.

If you were fortunate enough to acquire tickets for Picnic at Hanging Rock, you will not be disappointed. The remainder of the run has sold out, and fittingly winds itself up on Valentines Day.

At Malthouse until, 14 February.

Followed by London season at the Barbican, 21 – 24 February.