Tag: David Walters

Tim Finn’s THE LADIES IN BLACK

Get some colour – and music – in your life

By Jessica Cornish

The other night I attended the opening night of Ladies in Black at the Regent Theatre. As I sweltered away under the hot Melbourne sun watching the celebs dash out of their cars on to the red carpet, I was unsure how the night would unfold. Directed by Simon Phillips, Ladies in Black isn’t your run-of-the-mill drama drenched production laced with consistent emotive blows to the heart. Instead it captures a point in time when shops were closed on a Sunday, girls didn’t attend university, and Australia was experiencing an influx of ‘crazy continentals’ who fled the Second World War.

We follow leading lady Lisa (Sarah Morrison) as she gains a summer job at a high end Sydney department store in the 1950’s. Here she connects with her female colleagues and we explore the every-day domesticity of their lives and their genuine love and passion for style and fashion.

Ladies in Black.jpg

Based on Madeleine St John’s novel, and composed by Aussie rock icon Tim Finn with book by Carolyn Burns, this charming new musical was certainly well received the night I attended, with cheeky songs like ‘He’s A Bastard’ and ‘I Just Kissed a Continental’ proving definite crowd-pleasers. Don’t worry – it’s not at all as bitter or racist as this sounds, and sassy protagonist Fay (Ellen Simpson) is quickly hooked on the lips and heart of her new Hungarian flame (Bobby Fox) lips and heart despite his unusual food and accent.

The cast gave strong vocal performances and executed proficiently the simple but effective choreography  of Andrew Hallsworth, appropriate for the diverse female cast of broad ages and body shapes. Plus it’s always refreshing to hear Aussie accents in song, and to have local references to towns such as good old Wagga Wagga. Sarah Morrison (Lisa) in particular was appealingly believable, and had impressive vocal skills that worked a treat for her character and the show’s style.

Set design by Gabriela Tylesova was simple but slightly underwhelming, incorporating an upstage scrim and series of perspex pillars throughout the production, which for me unfortunately seemed to lack the imagination and playfulness needed to compliment the story. Lighting design by David Walters was similarly simple but certainly got the job done. In constrast were Tylesova’s glorious costumes, capturing elaborate 1950’s cocktail gowns and society dresses that shone in glamorous contrast to the sombre blacks of the sales ladies’ attire.

Ladies in Black is  a theatrical snapshot of a group of wonderful women living in a time where Australia was (and surely still is) trying to define itself, and this musical uniquely ties up the lives of all its protagonists into a bundle of happiness. And you know what? – sometimes it’s nice to leave a show feeling content with the world and people in it.

Venue: The Regent Theatre

Season: 25 Feb- 18th of March

Tickets: $65-$111

Booking: Ticketmaster.com or call 1300 111 011

Image by Lisa Tomasetti

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REVIEW: MTC Presents LADIES IN BLACK

Sleek, stylish and utterly winning

By Caitlin McGrane

The lead-up to Ladies in Black has been, for me, quite mysterious. It is the creative brainchild of Carolyn Burns (North by Northwest) and Tim Finn, so my expectations were suitably high, particularly because the production is also directed by Simon Phillips (North by Northwest). During the interval of Ladies in Black I struggled to think whether I had ever seen an Australian musical – would Priscilla or Strictly Ballroom count? And generally speaking musicals aren’t my thing, but Ladies in Black was jolly good fun, uproariously funny, and most importantly melted my feminist heart.

Ladies in Black starring Kathryn McIntyre, Kate Cole, Christen O’Leary, Naomi Price, Lucy Maunder, Deidre Rubenstein, Carita Farrer Spencer.jpg

It is the gentle, uplifting coming-of-age story of Lisa (Sarah Morrison), a shy, bookish Sydney teenager in the 1950s and her job at Goodes’ department store. Her colleagues in cocktail frocks Fay (Naomi Price) and Patty (Lucy Maunder), along with the magnificent Magda (Christen O’Leary) and lovely Miss Jacobs (Deidre Rubenstein) softly introduce her to life in the adult world. Although excellently played by Morrison, I found Lisa was sometimes competing for stage space with other characters in ways that felt, to me, a little jarring. That is not to say that anyone or any scene was unnecessary, I think writer Carolyn Burns did an exceptional job of rounding out every character as much as she could, to me this seemed like the consequence of not wanting to leave anyone out because they were all so worth seeing. I particularly enjoyed the (wonderfully oft-repeated song) about men being bastards and the way in which it was the male characters that were sidelined and showed shame for their sexual appetites, neatly subverting historical convention and giving the play a truly modern edge.

My only reservations about the whole production are: I would have loved to see the New Year’s Eve party, and some lines from other scenes sometimes felt like unnecessary exposition. Even though O’Leary’s Magda was terrific rattling through the evening’s events at breakneck speed, I would have enjoyed seeing Lisa and Fay dancing; however, I appreciate that the focus of the play was the women, not their male beaus.
The play is beautifully staged, and the opening of the second act was a particular highlight. The band (Gerard Assi, David Hatch, Matt Hassall, Jo To and Paul Zabrowarny) playing the music (nicely visible behind the stage) were outstanding – each scene felt accompanied by the perfect jazz riff or subtle tinkling of atmospheric music.

Unsurprisingly the costumes (from designer Gabriela Tylesova) were breathtaking, and now I really want to own at least one cocktail frock. Lighting (designed by David Walters) was suitably impressive – moving seamlessly from snowy street to sunny beach to moody bar.

My usual aversion to musicals has been swiftly demolished by this beautiful performance: it was extremely difficult not to get caught up in the whimsical daydreams of all the characters, and I left feeling as though it was the first production I had seen in a long time that didn’t talk down to the audience and really relished in the shiny, glossy newness of a beautiful dress.

Ladies in Black is now playing at The Sumner Theatre at the Melbourne Theatre Company in Southbank until 27 February 2016. More information and tickets at: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/season-2016/ladies-in-black

Image by Rob Maccoll

Review: RRAMP – The Collector, The Archivist & The Electrocrat

Dark, edgy surrealism that is still evolving

By Myron My

Two people agree to join a lonely woman in her band and live in her house full of various strange objects that she stores in jars, including childhood scabs. Together they form an electronica-dance-metal-rock outfit and perform songs about childhood, loneliness and chickens with infected eyes. Welcome to RRAMP, a show devised by Christine Johnston, Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson.

The particular contrast of Johnston and O’Neill’s characters is strong and effective. With her piercing eyes, stern expressions and graceful movements, The Collector (Johnston) towers over the scattered, submissive and comedic Archivist.

There is a certain Tim Burton-esque element to The Collector with her big long eyelashes and jet-black hair with white strands along her pale face, which makes the audience that extra bit nervous to be in her presence.In fact, the moment when Johnston first breaks the fourth wall and talks to us is quite intimidating but exposes the performance control she possesses. Having walked by the audience, quietly judging our appearances, we even broke into awkward laughter upon hearing of her approval.

The musical score is one of the highlights of RRAMP but was let down by some clumsy song lyrics and a few songs that that were a bit too lightly humorous and out-of-place in the dark, macabre environment that had just been established. This emotional shift seesaw-ed throughout the show and prevented me from investing in these characters who didn’t seem to develop further and therefore began to lose my interest.

Lighting designer David Walters must be commended for his brilliant and precise design. The synchronicity between the music, the lights, the performers and the animations playing along the back of the stage was quite impressive.

It is evident a lot of work and thought has gone into creating a complex piece that incorporates so many aspects of performance theatre. However, narrowing down the gaps between music, acting, dance, comedy, and the dark and macabre aspects would give all three performers the opportunity to create stronger characters that the audience can care about and connect with.

Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall.

Season: Until 8 September| Wed to Sat 7:30pm, Sat 3:00pm matinee

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: 03 9322 3713 or artshouse.com.au