Tag: Cameron Daddo

Australian Premiere of THE HAUNTING

Chilling visions of Dickens

By Owen James

A haunted, secluded mansion plagued by visitations from spectres and spirits is no new story, but remains irresistible to the creative mind. In The Haunting, writer/adaptor Hugh Janes has taken five short stories from the supernatural-obsessed Charles Dickens, and refashioned them into this two-handed drama-horror. This library of Dickens’ tales is aptly set inside a library, with the young book dealer David Filde cataloguing the books of Lord Gray, as a series of strange and unexplained events haunt the unsettled pair.

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As we enter the deceptively intimate Athenaeum, we are met with the beautiful set designed by John Kerr. There are dusty, cobwebbed never-ending shelves of the desolate and abandoned library, and a nightmarish tree beyond the window, eerily bare of leaves. This evocative, thematically overbearing Gothic mansion, like the play itself, conceals secrets in every nook and cranny, with intricate design and not a detail overlooked by Kerr.

With a sudden stab of sound and a dramatic dropping descent of lights, we are instantly transported to this haunted Victorian world crafted by director Jennifer Sarah Dean, where nothing and no-one can be trusted. We are hypnotically drawn slowly into the sceptical minds of our two characters, and lured into a false sense of security – the perfect victims for chills and jump-scares a plenty. While the first few of these were received with small bouts of laughter, the audience’s bemused titillation descended into audible gasps. Kyle Evans’ eerie sound design played perhaps the biggest part in this. Almost a whole other character, the sound effects and soundscape are perfectly effective and always precisely timed – but could afford to be louder. The walls of the haunted Athenaeum could shake and rattle a little more.

Duo Cameron Daddo and Gig Clarke build the tension and suspense necessary to pull off this piece, and clearly enjoy working with each other. Watching their combined terror mount with each heightened descent into the nocturnal haunted world invites us to join their trepidation and jolting surprise, being as much the victims of this haunting as they are.

Daddo does a commendable job presenting the cautious and austere Lord Gray as a man perturbed by compromise and change. As Gray moves from certainty to fear, building to hysterics, his counterpart takes an almost mirrored approach. Clarke as the seemingly tentative yet curious David Filde is a delight to watch, delivering the character and his stories with perfectly executed stress and anxiety – perhaps symbolising Dickens’ own obsession with the supernatural world.

Tehya Nicholas provides a chilling visual performance as Mary, hitting her marks to execute the well-timed moments of shock and intensity. Her ghastly costume by Rhiannon Irving appears always briefly, but memorably. Jason Bovaird’s chilling lighting reveals every darkened corner and cavity at just the right moment, and aptly focuses our attention when and where required. The warm sunlight and misty Gothic nighttime invoke diurnal safety and tense claustrophobia respectively, creating the ideal sinister aesthetic for the piece.

The tension built by the strong first act is unfortunately hindered by a weaker second act and anticlimactic ending. The strong performances and technical elements do their best to keep up, but ultimately we are left questioning how to feel for these characters, and where or with whom our sympathy should lie. The Haunting is a visually evocative and beautifully atmospheric piece that provides a wonderful ride, where it’s best to enjoy the journey but perhaps not the destination.

The Haunting haunts the Athenaeum Theatre until July 1st. Tickets through Ticketek: https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=HAUNTEDD17

Photography by Nicole Riseley

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The London Palladium Production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Plenty of charm and delightful performances

By Caitlin McGrane

When I was growing up, there was a dodgy VHS copy of The Sound of Music on constant rotation; my sister and I would watch it endlessly and my primary school even did a choral concert of all the songs. Suffice to say we were big fans. The London Palladium version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic currently showing at The Regent Theatre on Collins Street delighted the audience on opening night with its innovative take on the original musical. It is no small undertaking to adapt such a timeless and well-loved family favourite, but director Jeremy Sams, along with the cast, production crew and creatives behind this incarnation have certainly attempted to breathe new life into the story.

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As we all probably know, the musical tells the story of the von Trapp family singers – a young Austrian trainee nun, Maria (Amy Lehpalmer) is sent to nanny the seven Von Trapp children whose lonely widower father Captain Georg von Trapp (Cameron Daddo) runs his house like one of his navy ships. Lehpalmer and Daddo both inhabited their roles well, however, it would have been good to see some on-stage chemistry between the two prior to the surprising declaration that they were in love. When their feelings for each other were revealed I couldn’t help but feel like it was expressed in blunt, rushed exposition; it would have been nice if they could have taken a little more time to show us their blossoming romance. That said, Lehpalmer really made the role of Maria her own by drawing enough on Julie Andrews’ lovable doofus for recognition, but not so much as to become tiresome or repetitive. Daddo made an excellent and empathetic Captain von Trapp, although his voice sounded slightly weak from where I was sitting.

Without the seven von Trapp children however, Lehpalmer and Daddo would have been totally lost. Liesl (Stefanie Jones), Friedrich (Alexander Glenk), Louisa (Darcy McGrath), Kurt (Beaumont Farrell), Brigitta (Karina Thompson), Marta (Ruby Moore) and Gretl (Heidi Sprague) were an absolute delight to watch. They were all consummate professional performers who impressed with their vocal range, naturalism and command of the stage. Given that each child will be played by several actors, the ensemble that performed on opening night really did do a terrific job – they harmonised well and with such impossible smoothness that I’d happily watch them all over again performing their ‘Goodnight’ song.

Under the musical direction of Luke Hunter, the songs were well performed and, despite my love for the film version, having a live orchestra really brought all the songs to life for me, because it made for a truly immersive experience. The magnificent Marina Prior was great as Baroness Schraeder, although she was slightly more sympathetic than her cinematic counterpart. Uncle Max (David James) was great fun but almost seemed to be in different play, which was bizarre but not unwelcome. Mother Abbess (Jacqueline Dark) was absolutely astonishing and her sweeping operatic voice ensured that each time she appeared we were guaranteed an aural treat. Rolf was inhabited perfectly by Du Toit Brendenkamp who conjured fantastic pathos. In the stage version, the von Trapp house help Frau Schmidt (Lorraine Bayly) and Franz (John Hannan) have far too much to do and keep appearing to explain the plot to the audience, which was unbelievably tiresome. On the whole though, the rest of the cast did well supporting the nine main members of the von Trapp family.

Lighting (Mark Henderson), set and costumes (Robert Jones) were all terrifically well executed, and I think in a production of this scale it would probably be a bad sign if I had noticed them too much. Choreography by Arlene Phillips was tremendous – there was a balletic quality to the movement that more or less kept the pace up throughout the show.

The only area where I felt the production fell down was some of the script’s outdated attempts at comedy. Now I’m not necessarily representative of all adults, but when I’m attending The Sound of Music I don’t require ‘adult’ jokes to keep me entertained. Despite this production being based upon the 2006 London revival, there were a couple of one-liners about the Nazis that didn’t quite land because they now feel pretty unnecessary and just not funny. In addition, and I’m becoming quite tired of saying this, but it is not acceptable in my opinion to use sex work as a punchline. Particularly in what is being advertised as a ‘family friendly’ show because it perpetuates the idea that sex workers are worthy of derision. When Franz says that Frau Schmidt ‘could have made a lot of money’ in the Navy the whole Regent Theatre audience audibly gasped and barely anyone laughed. It is deeply dehumanising, as well as profoundly unfunny, and I feel these kinds of outdated lines needed to be removed.

In the end though, despite all my reservations I came away with a huge smile on my face. The wonderful naffness of the script, in conjunction with really energetic and committed performances from the main cast combined to give the audience some really great light entertainment. By no means groundbreaking or profound – but not all theatre need be – this was a perfectly satisfactory way to spend an evening with my mum.

The Sound of Music is now showing at the Regent Theatre. Melbourne show details are below, or head to the tour website for more information about other cities.

MELBOURNE

Venue: Regent Theatre, Melbourne

Season: From 13 May 2016

Performance Times: Tues–Sat 7.30pm, Wed 1.00pm, Sat 2.00pm, Sun 12noon and 5.30pm

Price: Tickets from $79.90*

Bookings: soundofmusictour.com.au or phone 1300 111 011

REVIEW: Legally Blonde – The Musical

Omigod, you guys – Lucy Durack is the new pink!

By Kim Edwards

Appropriately playing at The Princess Theatre (that has enjoyed a facelift in pink lighting for the occasion), Legally Blonde – The Musical has opened in Melbourne. Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy, Elle Woods, a beautiful blonde sorority girl from Malibu, is dumped by her boyfriend and decides following him into Harvard law is the only solution for winning him back. It’s fluffy, frivolous, decidedly fuchsia – and wonderfully good fun.

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Lucy Durack as Elle is simply effervescent: that beautiful lucid voice and irrepressible vivaciousness on stage is coupled with astute comic timing and delicate character nuances. The effect? Irresistible! Rob Mills does a sound job as Elle’s smarmy ex, Warner, and his song ‘Serious’ is a musical highlight. Cameron Daddo is svelte and smooth as predatory Professor Callahan, while Helen Dallimore comes into her own by the second act when she lets loose as Elle’s new best friend Paulette, and Mike Snell is uproariously funny in his cameo as sexy delivery man Kyle. However, it is David Harris who wins the most hearts as scruffy love interest Emmett Forrest: his disarming naturalism forms an appealing contrast to the high theatricality of the rest of the cast.

For this is definite musical comedy, from the cheer-leading dance moves and cute Barbie doll sets to the scene-stealing antics of Bruiser the purse puppy and Rufus the bulldog. Most of the changes made to get the movie onto the stage are admirable, with new topical jokes and witty lyrics: the opening number ‘Omigod You Guys’ and the cheeky ‘Is He Gay or European?’ are both hilarious and endearing. Less successful is the rather awful title song, the problematic implications of the infamous ‘bend and snap’ technique, and the rather silly plot developments in Act Two, whereby we are left wondering what Elle has actually accomplished for her career and her gender if the legal system and ‘real world’ outside of Delta Nu proves to be as ridiculous and sexist as sorority life.

However, these minor quibbles ultimately do not detract from the merits of this particular Australian production. Legally Blonde – The Musical is pretty in pink, joyously energising, and sparklingly funny. The costumes aren’t always as visually exciting as one might hope, but there is plenty of colour and spectacle, elegant and fluid scene changes, excellent character work from the rest of the cast – and Lucy Durack. Come prepared to fall a little bit in love with this show – and a lot in love with its leading lady.

Legally Blonde is now playing at The Princess Theatre in Melbourne. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster or ph: 1300 111 011.