Adelaide Festival. Stone/Castro. Adelaide College of the Arts. 4 Mar 2014
Jo Stone and Paulo Castro, of Europe, have chosen the 2014 Adelaide Festival for the world premiere of Blackout. Interestingly, a favourable review by dB Magazine was already published in the Festival Program and on Stone/Castro's website, so go figure.
Imagine you are attending the world's worst wedding on a private cruise. And then things go bad. All the embarrassing miscues, doubts and uneasy couplings. The guests - self-absorbed and narcissistic - tediously rant, all terribly wounded by the past and inflicting their angst on the others. Even the waitress gets in on the act with a psychotic tale.
While part of the dance program, Blackout has an equal or even dominant narrative contribution in counterpart with the modern dance elements. The dance reflects very much the unresolved unhappiness amply evident in the text. The audience member is frequently treated to the humour inherent in a satire of the bad wedding, but is then pulled back into the black dog of longing, regret and uncertainty, usually manifested by all too realistic renditions of boring self-important wedding speeches.
Although marveling at the physical and intellectual virtuosity of the piece, I very much felt like I do at a bad wedding, so thanks a lot.
When: 3 to 9 Mar
Where: Adelaide College of the Arts
Adelaide Fringe. Star Theatres. Davine Interventionz. 6 Mar 2014
To say that this is the best show I have seen in a long time, would be understating the quality of this production. Producer and Director, David Gauci, Choreographer, Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti, and Musical Director, Emma Knights have assembled a stellar cast, created a show that will define this company for years to come, and that will likely be remembered as one of the best shows of 2014. I know it’s only early March… but I was so overwhelmed by both the quality of the cast and the look of the show as a whole, that I honestly believe it will be almost impossible to top.
Gauci has cast Kate Dempsey as Clio (or Kira) and there is nothing this girl cannot do! To quote a friend in the audience on the night, “it looked like she was born in roller skates…” and that’s just the start of it. Dempsey has star quality. Her voice is pure perfection; her comic timing spot on; her accents delightful and she is stunning to watch. She is a consummate professional and hits every emotional level with impeccable skill.
But this show is not carried by one. There is not a weak link in the whole ensemble and as such, scene after scene progresses flawlessly. Sure there are glitches and hiccups, but nothing that detracts. Every player is worthy of a mention.
Lindsay Prodea plays Sonny Malone with joy. His characterisation is honest and humorous and his voice, particularly when in duet with Dempsey, is beautiful. Megan Humphries and Jenny Scarce Tolley as Melpomene and Calliope are hilarious. Individually they give powerful performances, but together are unstoppable. Brendan Cooney as Danny McGuire brings a real balance to the other characters – and has particular fun as the ‘beardy’ Zeus.
In the featured ensemble Chris Daniels and James Reed steal the show with their many varied characters (and caricatures!), both are leads in their own right, and sing their solo and chorus parts excellently. Their siblings, Holly Hodges and Roxanne Giovannucci, also have some great opportunities for solo songs and sultry characters which they deliver beautifully. All ably support the leads and are supremely talented (and often quite funny) dancers too!
Steven Lewis, Nadine Wood, Katharine Chase, Emma Russell, Brody Thomas Green, Ellen Graham, Haydee Fergusson, Lexie Dryden and Fiona Aitken round out the ensemble and really make this show complete.
Shendayde Wilkinson-Sarti has really hit the nail on the head with her choreography. The energy of each number was perfect, and the incorporation of roller skates never detracted from the dancing. The routines in the final number, ‘Xanadu’ were particularly spectacular - working with so many rolling performers in such a tight space. Bravo!
Emma Knights lead a great band comprising Aaron Nash, Susan Miceli and Reid Sampson. The sound of the whole show was one of the highlights for me, and the team at Alpro need to be recognised for their great work balancing both voice and music to give the show a very professional touch.
The costumes and sets are the icing on the cake and, whilst it would be impossible to name all the contributors, everyone involved should be mightily proud of this show. Sadly it is completely sold out. I for one will be hoping for a return season, as I would return to see it again if the chance arises.
When: 5 to 8 Mar
Where: Star Theatres
Bookings: Sell Out Season.
Adelaide Festival. A Homerʼs Coat project. Dunstan Playhouse. 4 Mar 2014
Earlier in the day, reefing through a copy of Homerʼs ‘The Iliad’, I wondered how one actor would bring to life this classic tale of war, treachery and machismo... 550 pages of detailed story line and rich characterisation.
An empty stage - right to the back wall; masses of stacked theatre lamps; a wooden table and chair and a dimly lit auditorium - no one was home.
Then a single spot lit a scruffy man in an old coat and hat. He carried a suitcase. But when Denis OʼHare opened his mouth, strolled towards the front of the stage, and made the comment that the story was better told in a pub, the audience understood his words immediately. This was not going to be a dry rendition. ‘An Iliad’ was a total theatrical experience and a truly contemporary re-telling of Homerʼs ‘The Iiliad’, the penultimate war story.
Homerʼs original contains all the great elements of a dramatic yarn... a nine years war between strong competing armies (The Trojans and the Achaeans); strong warriors (Agamemnon, Achilles, Paris, Menelaus and Hector); the gods (Zeus, Apollo, Hermes and others); human passion, wholesale destruction, and much more.
OʼHare condensed all of this into a witty, fast paced, lucid yarn that involved the audience, firstly as strangers who had dropped into his space, then as willing participants in his dreadful tale of pride, collateral damage, and in the end, total futility.
The width and depth of the Dunstan Playhouse stage was navigated with consummate ease by OʼHare. There were many visual actor/ audience connections enabled by the spill of light from the stage and even the odd audience interjection was absorbed into the, at times, improvised line delivery.
OʼHare was supported by the double bassist / percussionist, Brian Elliingsen, through nearly the entire production. In his own right Ellingsen brought great depth and poignancy to this lyric production and many times his ʻvoiceʼ shone out as strongly as OʼHareʼs.
The lighting was both subtle and dramatically strong but always in context. What seemed like a small one man show in a large space became a very large show in what sometimes seemed like a very small space. We are talking big Greek war here, all done with a table, chair, suitcase, voice, live music, technical effects, but never over the top and always in context.
Co-authored and performed by OʼHare and co-authored and directed by Lisa Peterson, this production does more than transcribe theatrically, Homerʼs The Iliad, but develops the theme that all wars are deadly from recorded time to the present. When is enough, enough?
This is a captivating production that captivated its capacity audience from the first word Oʼ Hare spoke to the final standing ovation.
When: 4 to 8 Mar
Where: The Dunstan Playhouse
Adelaide Fringe. The Bakehouse Theatre. 4 Mar 2014
In 1998 Dawson Nichols performed his own one-hander ‘I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe’ at the Fringe and it won the Advertiser’s inaugural Fringe Award. Sixteen years on, Nichols is back with ‘Poe’ again and it is just as riveting and relevant, and deserves to play again to big houses and earn admiration and deep appreciation.
Make no mistake, ‘Poe’ is a tour de force and Nichols is an extraordinary actor. This is courageous theatre and the audience becomes its play thing. When it’s over you are spent and in awe, and somewhat troubled.
‘I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe’ is a psychological drama with welcome tracts of black comedy; the very blackest of comedy. Its central character is Joseph, an inmate of a psychiatric institution, who gradually lets us into his world - but on his terms. He explains that he thinks he could be Edgar Allan Poe because he has such a strong affinity with his writing. Joseph tells us who he is, why he is institutionalised, why he thinks the way he does, and how this stands in contrast to what others would call ‘normal’. Through Joseph, Nichols’ text explores the premise that one can never really know anyone else, and to try and do so is as much an examination of one’s self as it is of the person being ‘examined’. Maybe psychiatrists are just as ‘troubled’ as their patients?
Nichols plays a range of characters, including a resentful teenager and a highly amusing college lecturer (which was almost a lesson in how a stand-up comedian should expertly engage and ‘deal with’ his audience). Nichols moves backwards and forwards between them and Joseph, and inevitably towards Joseph’s final confession that is so achingly poignant that it evokes the strongest of emotional responses from the audience, which is by this time on the edge of its seat.
This is exceptional theatre. It is demanding, and it should not be missed.
When: 4 to 15 Mar
Where: The Bakehouse Theatre
Adelaide Fringe. Mixed Doubles Sketch Comedy Quartet. Holden Street Theatres. 3 Mar 2014
Direct from GB, Mixed Doubles brings good old fashioned sketch comedy to the Fringe at Holden Street. The quartet of Will Close, Megan Smith, Paul Aitchison and Rose Robinson met at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts near London a few years ago and thought bringing a hearty laugh to people was the ticket to see the world. Without any blather, the crew launched into the material - humourous vignettes of life mostly from the experiences of people around their own ages of late 20s and early 30s.
What makes the English laugh about themselves also is very funny here in Adelaide, augmented with a few hilarious local references. The social scientists in attendance might agree that instead of mixed doubles, the guys and girls are playing against each other. The boys frequently serve out-of-bounds and have a less mature forearm, they get backhanded by the gals, and prove somewhat inept around the age-old question: What do women want? But this isn't a show for the Freudians. The audience laughed heartily at the zinger double-entendres, endearing facial expressions and even a bit of magic. Breakups and first encounters were a frequent feature, and these big moments have their bathos.
Quite simply, an entertaining hour of surprises and laughs in a fast-paced and well executed show.
When: 5 to 16 Mar
Where: Holden Street Theatres - The Arch