Tag: Dale Ferguson

Malthouse Theatre Presents AWAY

An Australian fever-dream

By Leeor Adar

The Sydney Theatre Company/Malthouse collaboration of Michael Gow’s modern classic Away opens with Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to stir the summer heat from the stage to warm this Melbourne audience in winter.

Away

Matthew Lutton’s blaze through the Malthouse Theatre (and now as Artistic Director) has brought Melbourne audiences some extraordinary and outlandish theatre to feast upon in recent seasons. The announcement that Away would be on the banquet table for procuring no doubt left many theatregoers with a morbid curiosity. The matrimony between the rugged Australian summer depicted in Gow’s writing and director Lutton’s horror dream of dancing animal skulls somehow takes this classic to new contemporary heights. Yes, Dale Ferguson’s costume design keeps us well within the bounds of the 60s, but his set complies with the post-modern theatrics we’ve come to expect from the Malthouse under the gaze of Lutton. Lutton injects into Gow’s world a kind of dystopian synchronicity that plays out as the actors dance in formations together like glamourous zombies trying to forget their realities to Stephanie Lake’s choreography.

What we have depicted in Away is an Australia of then which is not that much different from the Australia of today. Everyone has high hopes for the Aussie dream, but even in the most comfortable homes the world outside will always rudely awaken us. What unites the families of Tom (Liam Nunan) and Meg (Naomi Rukavina), our high school would-be, could-be, not-be lovers, is the quiet sadness and acceptance of a life that was hard-won. The fear that something could steal the dream away lurks beneath the happy exteriors of (most) of Gow’s characters, and becomes a focal point of the play. That dream is already stolen from Roy (Glenn Hazeldine) and Coral (Natasha Herbert) through the loss of their son in the Vietnam War. Herbert’s Kim-Novak look-alike Coral continuously treads the line between reality and the past, slipping further and further away from the desperate grasp of her husband. Coral is not mad because Roy cannot control her; she is in such a deep state of grieving that the Aussie dream is well and truly lost for her. Herbert gives Coral a fluid naivety damaged by tragedy; her performance is one of the heart-breaking standout’s alongside Liam Nunan’s Tom.

Amongst the great pretenders are Vic (Julia Davis) and Harry (Wadih Dona) who manage to live in the moment as they watch their son Tom slip away from them due to his illness. We know the inevitability of grief will befall them, and they too may just stop smiling through their sadness and join Coral on her faraway shore.

In contrast we have the couple whose great tragedy is staying together, existing in a chronic state of unhappiness in which no holiday can salvage. Heather Mitchell’s Gwen is marvellously funny and annoying as her shrill voice drains her family of any moments of joy; a complacent husband Jim (Marco Chiappi) continues to accept his lot with a resigned shruggery. Their family is one blessed with health, but they are not untouched by the life of having lived as battlers-come-good. Gwen’s chronic state of stress is indicative of another kind of grief, one where a lifelong sacrifice for a future yet lived leaves traces of bitterness.

This is still a sensitive and poignant production by Lutton amidst the jarring devices of non-naturalism that threatens to break down the walls of their world. Audiences will be surprised from the outset of this play; if they are expecting a classic re-telling of Away they will be in for an awakening – but it really is a very good one.

Away will grace Melbourne audiences at the Malthouse Theatre until May 28th. Collect your tickets here: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/away?gclid=Cj0KEQjwoqvIBRD6ls6og8qB77YBEiQAcqqHe6-xVP730ooUfRIBdx6VZ67CrJxYFl3Ytuu3-bHvzQcaAulB8P8HAQ

REVIEW: Opera Australia and John Frost Present ANYTHING GOES

This production is oh so easy to love…

By Amy Planner

This Cole Porter theatre classic has smashed audience expectations with its all-singing, all-tap-dancing stage spectacular. Bursting with maritime hilarity and whimsical choreography is the latest production of the stupendous Anything Goes.

Anything Goes

When the ocean liner SS America sets off from New York to London with a few lovers, a night club evangelist and a couple of criminals on board, anything goes! This group of unlikely travellers set off in search of the ultimate destiny, true love; but who can find true love without a little help from a bunch of singing sailors and a little criminal activity?

Caroline O’Connor should be marvelled at for her audacious performance as Reno Sweeney, the club performer moonlighting as an all-hailing all-saving evangelist. O’Connor brought the house down with her slapstick humour, formidable voice and step-perfect dance routines.

Todd McKenney was almost unrecognisable as the seemingly pompous but all-round fun loving, Lord Evelyn Oakley. His outrageous wig and goofy demeanour made for a truly amusing performance, and when McKenney’s dancing there’s nowhere else you can look.

Other more than notable performances included the criminally hilarious Wayne Scott Kermond as Moonface Martin, the suave and charming Alex Rathgeber as Billy Crocker, the seductive yet comical Debora Krizak as Erma and of course Gerry Connolly and Josh Gates as The Captain and Purser.

The large ensemble cast was brilliantly talented and each performer just as entertaining as the next; any one of them could have danced alone on the stage under a single spotlight for two hours and the audience would never complain.

From the glorious gowns of the pre-show on-stage bar mingling to the effortless poolside swing shorts, the costumes were impeccable. Dale Ferguson had such a theatrical and applaudable vision for this Broadway classic despite countless productions before it. Visually this cast would stand out from any revival; the team deserves huge amounts of praise for their nautical flair.

Unique choreography by Andrew Hallsworth paired with this impressive cast has resulted in good honest entertainment that leaves you clapping after every toe tap. Musical Director Peter Casey delighted with a truly refreshing and soulful interpretation of Cole Porter’s most wonderful songs.

Opening night had a couple of lengthy scene crosses and a lost line or two but it took nothing away from this production, receiving a standing ovation that demanded several bows. Be amazed by the spectacular nautical explosion that is Anything Goes. You’ll get a kick out of this one.

Venue: Princess Theatre, Spring Street, Melbourne
Season: Until 119 July, Tues/Wed 1pm, Wed-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm.
Tickets: From $50.54
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com or www.anythinggoesmusical.com.au

Image By Jeff Busby

REVIEW: The Daniel Schlusser Ensemble’s MENAGERIE

A daring exploration of the essence of a life

By Christine Moffat

Menagerie is a composite of many ideas, combining the real and imagined life and companions of playwright Tennessee Williams. This is experimental theatre, bordering on performance art, something that the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble has become known for. A circus of characters in and around a small, seedy shack create a cacophony of noise and movement. It’s a risky combination: when it worked, it created sublime theatrical experiences. When it didn’t, the result was prettily arranged tableaux better suited to photography.

Menagerie

There is no arc or emotional journey within this show. This type of experimental work is aiming for more than a good story: it is seeking the essence of an event, or in this case, a life. Through a controlled mayhem, director Daniel Schlusser weaves six incredibly capable actors into a tragically beautiful tapestry. Throughout the piece, the cast became a dysfunctional family. Each performance seemed to exploit the personal strengths of each actor. Josh Price (Williams) and Zahra Newman (Ozzie) both delivered powerful, potentially dominating performances. Price was particularly interesting as the many dishevelled versions of Williams. These larger roles were tempered and complimented by the subtle work of Kevin Hofbauer (Frank) and Edwina Wren (Rose). Jane Badler (Edwina) and Karen Sibbing were erratic, tragic and hilarious, and owned the audience more than once.

The set, designed by Dale Ferguson, was almost a character in itself. It consisted of the claustrophobic hut, surrounded by an assortment of rough amenities that suggested both squalor, and the enmeshed, suffocating family that plagued the real Williams. Although not emotionally affecting in the way a traditional theatre piece would be, Menagerie achieves a sense of truth about Williams’ internal world that you instinctively believe. The ensemble appear to have taken what is known about Williams the artist and worked backwards to present a valid hypothesis of how that complex man was created. This achievement indicates the method in their mayhem.

Menagerie (part of NEON Festival of Independent Theatre)
Venue: MTC Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Dates: 18 to 26 May 2013
Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm (duration 90mins + interval)
Tickets: $25
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 or www.mtc.com/neon