Tag: Sheridan Harbridge

REVIEW: Return Season of NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Seeking the adventure again

By Caitlin McGrane

The reimagined Hitchcock classic North by Northwest gets an excellent presentation at the Melbourne Arts Centre after its fantastically successful run in 2015.

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For those who don’t know, the story is that of Roger O. Thornhill (Matt Day), Madison Avenue advertising executive mistaken for the mysterious George Kaplan in The Plaza Hotel in New York; thus setting in motion a chain of events that takes Thornhill to the United Nations, Chicago, and Mount Rushmore. His partner in crime is Eve Kendall (Amber McMahon), an enigmatic femme fatale with whom Thornhill forms an instant connection on a train.

Writer Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips really have done a terrific job of bringing the classic film to the stage; Burns has successfully managed to tread the very fragile line between appreciating and replicating the original, especially given it is such a well-loved text. Hitchcock’s contemporality is appropriately heightened through clever direction from Phillips, so some of the uncomfortable and backwards politics of the 1950s can be seen through a modern lens.

The ensemble cast, comprised of Nicholas Bell, Ian Bliss, Lyall Brooks, Leon Cain, Sheridan Harbridge, Matt Hetherington, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Gina Riley, Lucas Stibbard and Lachlan Woods are all clearly having a ball. Harbridge, Llewellyn Jones and Riley all delivered standout performances, providing just the right number of nods and winks to the audience and some truly excellent accents. It would perhaps have been nice to see more chemistry between the two leads, and it sometimes felt to me like McMahon’s Eve was not as self-assured as her silver screen counterpart. But these minor critiques did not hamper my enjoyment of their respective performances.

It would be extraordinarily remiss of me not to mention the exceptional creative work from the backstage team. Nick Schlieper’s lighting and set design were joyously clever and funny, Ian McDonald’s composition and sound design catapulted me back in time to my first screening of North by Northwest, while Josh and Jess Burns’ innovative and hilarious use of video really stole the show. I shall never see Mount Rushmore the same way ever again.

To have a bad time watching North by Northwest would be an extremely difficult thing, and while this may seem like damning with faint praise I really would be surprised if anyone came out of seeing this production feeling anything but contented. Sometimes what I need is a big sugary treat from the theatre, and North by Northwest delivered deliciously comforting familiarity in spades. This is the second time I’ve seen the production, and it is the combination of joy, self-awareness and fun that makes this such a pleasure to watch.

North by Northwest is now showing at The State Theatre at the Arts Centre until 13 February 2016. More information and tickets from: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/theatre-drama/north-by-northwest-2016

REVIEW: Critical Stages and Shane Anthony Present SONGS FOR THE FALLEN

A witty and sumptuous tragedy

By Bradley Storer

Marie Duplessis, 19th-century French courtesan, socialite, literary muse and all-round party girl who died just after her 23rd birthday and whose life inspired artists from Alexandre Dumas, Giuseppe Verdi all the way to Baz Luhrmann, returns from the grave for one last party at the Fairfax Studio – and this one is going to be a killer!

Songs for the Fallen

Songs for the Fallen is a fabulous melange of tragic musical, bawdy cabaret and pumping pop opera, the writing of Sheridan Harbridge and music by Basil Hogios finding a pulsating and contemporary vitality, appropriate for this story of the original ‘material girl’! The set by Michael Hankin recalls the decaying remains of a 19th-century French apartment but easily transforms into a drug-crazed disco or demented vaudevillian circus upon demand.

Harbridge in the role of Marie Duplessis is a dynamo, a slender and fragile figure with a huge voice encased in fabulous corsets and garters who claims centre stage, shamelessly courts and molests the audience from the get-go and whose boundless charisma never lets up. She is aided by two versatile fellow performers, Simon Corfield and Ashley Hawkes, who assume the roles of various characters as we are taken on a burlesque and irreverent retelling of Marie’s rags-to-riches-and-back-again story. The three work so seamlessly and effortlessly together that they produce the energy and character of an ensemble of ten! Hogios’ score wonderfully and tunefully captures the seductively lush materialism of Marie’s existence in thumping dance beats, as well as her despair at its fragility and lack of inner purpose in gorgeous pop ballads.

It is a credit to the show that even as it pokes fun at any pretence of seriousness or accuracy to the historical context, a beating and wounded heart lurks beneath the surface. Songs for the Fallen captures, better perhaps than any other derivative depiction of Duplessis, the tragic dimension of this complex woman who clawed her way up from the gutter, living in brief splendour only to be consumed by incurable illness that left her alone, wretched and friendless before her death. Refusing to draw a moral or produce judgement, Songs for the Fallen heart-breakingly communicates the senseless and unjust cruelties of the world at the same time it embraces the joy and immaculate pleasure of simply being alive.

Time: 8pm
Date: 29th September – 3rd October
Venue: Fairfax Studio, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd.
Tickets: Adult $49, Under 30’s $30
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, at the box office.