Tag: John Kerr

Prince Moo Productions Presents CALENDAR GIRLS

Joyous, liberating, and fabulous fun

By Jessica Cornish

Calendar Girls, presented by Prince Moo Productions, is an empowering, uplifting tale that celebrates life and ageing, and finds humour and compassion in times of sadness and grief.

Calendar Girls.jpg

Known to most from the famous film, the transition of a well-loved story from screen to stage can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss. However, Calendar Girls makes the transition flawlessly under the direction of Peter J. Snee, and with screen-writer Tim Firth having converted his own script for the play. Warm, witty and moving – the stage show stands so strongly upon its own worth that I didn’t even find myself mentally comparing moments of the play to the film.

The story is based on true events, when eleven Yorkshire women aged between 45-65 who dared to pose nude to create an alternative Women’s Institute (WI) charity calendar in an effort to raise money for cancer research after the death of one of the WI member’s husband’s, John Baker.

This entertaining production has a strong female cast who literally bare all in their portrayal of the gutsy and cheeky characters who challenged perceptions of women over the age of 45, and of the women’s institute, permanently.  Leading ladies Jenny Seedsman and Abi Richardson played Chris the vivacious and pushy friend to the lovable and gentle soul Annie respectively, and the duo gave a wonderful performance in portraying the emotional rollercoaster ride of the characters’ friendship. Furthermore, they were well-supported by talented and impressive local actresses including Tottie Goldsmith, Lulu McClatchy, Kate Gorman and Francesca Waters forming the delightfully infamous Yorkshire WI gang.

The entire play is centred around the local village church hall, and while single-set decisions like this can sometimes make shows seem stagnant, the intimacy and familiarity fit well for this performance. The props and scenery by John Kerr were therefore minimal but appropriate, while the lighting design by Jason Bovaird adroitly indicated to the audience the changing of the days and provided valuable points of time and reference in the absence of scenery changes.

Unfortunately there were problematic audio issues the night I attended, but I have faith that these have been quickly ironed out as the season has progressed. My only other niggling point of the evening was the concluding scene featuring the sunflowers, which I found reminiscent of a high-school pantomime with a clunky set-change right at the end, and which I felt didn’t match the entertaining heights of the rest of the production.

That said, the story of Calendar Girls is metaphorically rich, emotive and inspiring, and this production is a wonderful and engaging stage adaptation that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Athenaeum Theatre

27 September to 7th of October 2017

7:30pm start and an extra 2:30 matinee on Saturday

Tickets range from $69-$100

Bookings via ticketek.com.au or the Athenaeum Theatre Box Office

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.


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

Prince Moo Productions Presents AVENUE Q

Uproariously funny and supremely entertaining

By Jessica Cornish

Growing up as a teenager obsessed with the music of Avenue Q, I was pretty ambivalent as to how the recent Australian production playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre would compare to my original cast recording memories, but as the show began, my anxiety quickly evaporated. It was one of the most engrossing and entertaining musical productions I have seen in the last few years.

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The story follows recent college grad, Princeton, who moves into a colourful apartment block in a diverse neighbourhood filled with Sesame Street-style monsters, puppets and even humans. Throughout the quirky two-hour (and adults’ only) musical journey, we see the youngster settle down, find romance, lose romance, have a fling, and even gain a life purpose along the way.

The dynamic and often dual characters were well cast with Ross Hannaford (Princeton/Rod), Vincent Hooper (Nicky/Trekkie Monster) and Andrew Hondromatidis (Brian), however exceptional performances belonged to Sophie Write (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) and Sun Park (Christmas Eve), who between them stole the show. Both women were vocal standouts: pitch perfect, perfect tone and with great resonance. The vocals for superintendent Gary Coleman (Zuleikah Khan) were less secure at times, although it’s a notoriously tricky part which can often challenge a female’s lower vocal range and demand sacrificing power for pitch. As minor characters that weave themselves in and out of the story, the Bad Behaviour Bears performed by Lulu McClatchy and Hooper were also particularly high energy, hilarious and well-worthy of note.

John Kerr‘s set design was simple but effective and the puppeteers draped in black were well-choreographed and transitioned smoothly in and out of different roles all night. Whether you watched the puppet or a puppeteer, both were equally engaging and emotive. Unfortunately the lighting operation was slightly under whelming and patchy at times on the night I attended, with shadows cast on puppet faces and a couple of sloppy follow-spot pickups: however, I’m sure this will sharpen up as the season progresses. The sound was clear and well balanced, however it would have been nice to bump up the volume for an excited opening night audience.

This was, overall, a brilliant production directed by Peter Snee and musically directed by Trevor Jones, and I honestly could not stop smiling the evening. With those witty lyrics and music written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty‘s book helping offer a raunchy insight into the lives of puppets dealing with homosexuality, racism and sex, this new production of Avenue Q is as good as theatre gets.

Season: Performances every night until August 14 (no performances Monday)

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Bookings: Ticketek

Image by Nichole Riseley