Exposed

Exposed Restless Dance Theatre 2022Restless Dance Theatre. Space Theatre. 6 Apr 2022

 

Being exposed to harm unwitting, being smacked hard by physical and emotional trauma, is a universal experience too many encounter.

If you’re disabled in any way, the take is frighteningly different.

Isolation is the difference.

Who will help me? Can I find help?

 

Exposed captures the rawness of isolated fear with complexly layered depths of expression, giving life to inner feelings at a moment of terror.

 

Collectively the creative team have melded production elements in such a way that from the very sound of the ensembles first breath behind the amazing stage size heat blanket scrim to the show’s gentle ending, focus in the movement is always on emotion, moment to moment.

 

Opening with each dancer spot lit as they change into the days clothes (Renate Henschke’s simple yet effective costumes) Geoff Cobham’s lighting and set can be said to be the eighth dancer of this production. The stage-size scrim has the power to reset space parameters, increasing the sense of safety or danger depending on how low it swings or tight it clutches over and around the dancers. Paired with Emily Tulloch and Hilary Kleinig’s beautiful score of violin and cello, the sense of inner emotion is profoundly amplified.

 

This day-in-the-life production explores the minutest terrors, both physical and emotional, in which the most necessary, yet hardest, thing is asking for help out of sheer shame or fear.

 

Michelle Ryan’s choreography develops this difficult dilemma so beautifully, with a number of rich dance phrases exploring the simultaneous need to hide vulnerability in a confronting situation, as much as to open up.

This is the essential theme to Exposed.

One of the simplest phrases of the work says it beautifully. Dancer Darcy Carpenter, a tiny powerful presence, walks downstage, taking the hand of a different dancer as she does so.

In this simple phrase, the capacity for help, security and the de-escalation of the fear of being exposed is expressed as something all are, and can be, part of.

 

Alongside Carpenter, Michael Hodyi, Bhodi Hudson, Alexis Luke, Madelene Macera, Michael Noble and Charlie Wilkins round out an outstanding ensemble of incredible dancers giving extraordinary expression to one of life’s hardest experiences.

 

David O’Brien

 

When: 6 to 9 Apr

Where: Space Theatre

Bookings: Closed

Les Misérables

Les Miserables Northern Light 2022The Northern Light Theatre Company. Shedley Theatre. 1 April 2022

 

The waif Cosette has stared forlornly at us, emerging from the tricolor fog of the Les Mis poster, for over 40 years. The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel into English by Cameron Mackintosh is now the longest running musical in the West End – since 1985. Similar for Broadway. You can purchase West End tickets today for as little as £24. But you have to get to London first. A better idea is to go to Elizabeth and see Northern Light’s amazingly robust and thoroughly enjoyable production. And don’t take just my word for it – standing ovation on my mid-season Friday night show.

 

Les Mis is a lengthy, hefty narrative sweeping across early 19th Century France and has as many plots as major awards, including Tonys for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score, and Drama Desk, Laurence Olivier and Helpmann awards. Our hero, Jean Valjean, released in 1815 from 19 years of hard labour for stealing bread for his niece, is relentlessly pursued by policeman Javert for breaking bail. We see Valjean next as a successful industrialist and mayor who has risen above the miasma of miserable poverty so frequently on display on stage. He swears to Cosette’s dying mother to raise her as he would his own niece/daughter. Now a young woman, the student Marius is smitten by Cosette and leaves Éponine in his wake. Cosette was indentured labour to Éponine’s wretched taverner parents when they were kids. It’s now 1832 and Marius is swept into the June Rebellion which doesn’t end well for the naive rebels on the barricades. There is a great body count by the end of the show when the dead and the living attain resolution in a moving song cycle.

 

Director Gordon Combes has assembled a superb cast of exceptionally strong voices that breathe life into the sometimes-laboured libretto. Mark Oates – front and centre as Valjean – a highly credentialled professional musical actor, was last seen in the roles of Ian Duncan and Don Dunstan in this year’s world premiere of Neil Armfield’s Festival production of Watershed: The Death of Dr Duncan. He delivers an awesomely nuanced performance from sotto voce to full throttle. Bravo! David MacGillivray, playing Valjean’s nemesis, the copper Javert, is similarly equipped for musical theatre. He plays in body and soul the determined fanatic without question, and his Stars song is riveting. Bravo! The duets of Oates and MacGillivray are musically brilliant and charged with philosophical polarity. Liliana Carletti epitomises unrequited love in her brilliantly emotionally authentic rendition of Éponine’s On My Own. Brava! The student chorus of Do You Hear The People Sing? is famous and stirring in the hands of this excellent cast. A couple out of the box are James McCluskey-Garcia and Megan Humphries playing the decrepit and crooked low brow taverners, Thenardier. Theatrically and visually unusual in the production, they steal every scene they are in with their audacity and teamwork clowning. Bravo! I could go on and on. Everybody is great. The kids are great. Eloise Harrington provides haunting notes as the young and rejected Cosette while Harrison Thomas’s mature Gavroche is straight out of Central Casting from an American ‘40s film. Bravo!

 

Director Gordon Coombes, with his assistant director Charissa McCluskey-Garcia and choreographer Sue Pole, keep the actions swift and scene changes smooth. The colourful lighting highlights enhance both set and performers within a darker framework mostly symbolising dank slum conditions (lighting design – Gordon Combes and Ian Barge). You will marvel at the multitudinous, well-fitting and exotic costumes designed by Gordon

 

Combes and Ann Humphries, not to mention the attention to grooming, especially the men with period beards. Bravo! The make-up department, usually self-assigned in theatre, is also wonderful, especially for the Thenardier buffoons, less so for some of the squalid characters whose grime looked more like they had a fight with a coal mine. Musical director Matthew Rumley led a 13-piece orchestra to perfection.

 

Northern Light’s Les Mis is a fantastic accomplishment not to be missed. Double Bravo!

 

David Grybowski

 

When: 25 March – 9 April

Where: Shedley Theatre

Bookings: northernlight.org.au

Girl from the North Country

Girl from the north country state theatre SA 2022GWB Entertainment with Sydney Festival, Damian Hewitt & Trafalgar Entertainment Group, Runaway Entertainment, and State Theatre Company South Australia. 1 Apr 2022

 

Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate for Literature; folk poet muso of the 60s and civil rights supporter; the Great Depression; brutal racism of 1930s America. From this pot of history original Writer/Director Conor McPherson has created a brutally beautiful, poetic piece of performance defying accepted parameters of ‘musical theatre’, most particularly the idea such works need to be razzle dazzle sugar hits of feel good high gloss extravaganza.

 

For the Adelaide season Resident Director Corey McMahon, with assistance from associate director Kate Budgen and creative team have achieved something extraordinary for a large scale production and performance space. Intimacy. The kind of emotional intimacy between audience and performers favoured by little, human spaces such as the famed Belvoir Street Theatre of Sydney, Melbourne’s Butterfly Club or Adelaide’s Bakehouse Theatre and Holden Street Theatres.

 

McPherson’s profoundly human play offers a disparate gathering of lost, lonely, poor and hopeless humans of the 1930s in a room for rent hostel barely holding its head above water financially.

 

Into the stories of this ragged group McPherson weaves Dylan’s songs in a manner uniquely appropriate to the history of the Depression era, with arrangements by Simon Hale extraordinary for infusions of Gospel alongside pop and the familiar folk inflections so particular to Bob Dylan’s opus. The band, strategically settled upstage-left by McMahon, are a ghostly presence who waft in and out of the performance space, holding musical court with quiet, authoritative dignity.

 

The marriage of a song writer whose works epitomise struggle, protest, hope and sustained suffering in an almost supernatural timelessness is easily matched by McMahon’s ensemble and his smooth, ever so gentle direction.

 

A gentleness subtly supported and developed by Mark Henderson’s lighting, Rae Smith’s intelligently flexible set design and Movement Director Lucy Hind’s soft, fluid choreography focused totally on heart felt action and response overlaid with a light dusting of grief.

 

What a magnificent cast. In performance and song this ensemble is so powerful in their ability to bring the raw, wounded spirt of the hostel’s inhabitants to life, delineating with care individual stories, motivations and struggle under the sheer weight of the vicious world they face.

In performance and song, Peter Kowitz as hostel owner Nick Laine, Lisa McCune as his wife Elizabeth, James Smith as son Gene and Chemon Theys as Marianne serve as a magnificent central core to the production’s wide ranging exploration of hard brutal life choices and savage dark secrets.

Swirling around this core, Terence Crawford as narrator/Dr Walker, Christina O’Neill as boarder Mrs Neilson, Peter Carroll as hard hearted wealthy neighbour Mr Perry, Grant Piro as self-styled shyster Reverend Marlowe, Tony Cogin and Helen Dallimore as Mr and Mrs Burke with Blake Erickson as their disabled son Elias, along with Elijah Williams as black boxer Joe Scott, and Elizabeth Hay as Gene’s lost love round out McMahon's rich, critically compassionate evocation of a slice of American history dripping in unforgiving tragedy

 

David O’Brien

 

When: 25 Mar to 10 Apr

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Bookings: ticketek.com.au

Constellations

Constellations STARC 2022 BakehouseTheatreBakehouse Theatre. STARC Productions. 31 Mar 2022

 

Layer upon layer of paradoxes shape and infuse playwright Nick Payne’s Constellations.

 

Payne takes a relationship between two people, Roland, a beekeeper (Marc Clement) and Marianne, a Physicist (Stefanie Rossi) and cuts up its linear chronology like a piece of cinematic film. It is a boy meets girl story, restructured and chopped up into bits of life creating a profoundly illuminating, comic, heartbreaking and troubling discourse that asks ‘what if I did/said’ something else instead?

 

The universe of infinite possibilities is the heart of Payne’s work, mediated through Marianne’s pivotal, drunk in love explication of the grand theories, Quantum Physics and String theory. Anything is possible. Is it? Change a pose. Change a vocal tone. Change of body language. All these shifts, all these possibilities – what do they add up to?

In this relationship, many things. Or none.

 

So we get to see and ponder, as myriad versions of pivotal relationship moments play out in all their joy and profound grief.

 

Tony Knight’s direction is taut, witty and extraordinary in its stripped back focus, exploring multiple shades of emotion, motivation, response and action in the relationship of Roland and Marianne. He is aided by the bright yet subtly suggestive backdrop of string lights and the strictly delineated floor space which keeps the pair to one side of the space each. Equally strict are the sound cues.

 

Knight’s management of Payne’s text is extraordinary as demonstrated in Rossi and Clement’s performances, staggering in ultra disciplined bright, brittle and emotively profound brilliance. Here is control with exquisite comic timing. Snap to the darkest depths, and back to light hearted banter. Passionate human frailty in thrall to a misconceived sense of omnipotence.

 

Rossi and Clement own the audiences’ very souls through their own soul baring spirited approach to performance. They are heartbreaking and life affirming at once in the vitality of their offering to an audience.

 

David O’Brien

 

When: 30 Mar to 9 Apr

Where: The Bakehouse Theatre

Bookings: bakehousetheatre.com

Hans - A Night at the SYMPH-honey!

Hans A Night at the SYMPH honey fringe 2022

Adelaide Fringe. Thebarton Theatre. 18 Mar 2022

 

Perchance there is no entertainer in this country who can bring a house down with such effusions of boundless love.

Hans thought that moving out of a tent and into a gorgeous big traditional theatre complete with a symphony orchestra might bring his audience upmarket. Hah!  It just delivered an even bigger and richer audience, a massive tribe of followers of all ages, happy to pay more for tickets and merch just for the privilege of adoring him.

 

In return, Hans gives them their money’s worth and then some. He turns on all the bells and whistles of showbiz with an extravagantly super high-tech production which sends his crowds into raucous rapture.

 

Backed by a full orchestra, he shines singing against a lyrical backdrop of lusciously verdant Tyrolean mountain-scape images. 

"Hans meets Andre Rieu!” exclaims my delighted companion.

 

The light show is nothing less than razzle-bedazzle with full-screen illuminations ranging from floods of falling musical notes and stars to vast planetary spectacles, whizzing abstractions and cascading curtains of gold and ruby and, just to bring the show back to a proper German character, a quasi Von Trapp house facade flanked by flowing vases of red roses.

 

Hans prances from world to world and song to song in a series of mum-made bling outfits, each more witty, whimsical and outlandish than the last.

Mistress of feathers and sequins, diamantes and lurex, that Mrs. Gilbertson deserves an Oscar for her costume work. 

 

Meanwhile, as evidence of the way in which our Hans has honed his act through the years, he now has all the classic entertainer tropes down pat. He blends self-deprecatory hometown boy parody with not-so-mythical super stardom. He fixes on audience targets and gives them the wicked what-for, throws some provocative topical content in with his stand-up patter, runs risqué here and there, and simply thrills his hordes of whooping camp followers. 

 

Interestingly, this highly finessed act can be seen gravitating into the spirit of his great pinup, Liberace.  With classical piano as one of his accomplishments and his bespoke symphony orchestra beside him, Hans does rare justice when it comes to a Liberace tribute. Not only the shimmering spangled cloak and train but the musicianship.  Rimsky-Korsakov’s boogie woogied BumbleBee was just “wowsa!” as we say in the realms of serious musical criticism.

 

What with piano pieces, piano accordion bits, tap numbers, show tunes and pop,  acrobatic Lucky Bastard dancers, a sensational ostrich feather fan dance, orchestra features (yes, the crowd went wild for a bit of Mozart), Hans and his slick cohort of professional production turned on the Ritz at Thebby.

 

The passion of the audience’s foot-stomping ovation is actually a bit scary. That glorious old Thebby theatre has seem some of the biggest, hottest, and most famous acts in the world, but for our Hans, the crowd's thunder truly was enough to shake the rafters. “Just one more song” was what they wanted. 

 

Hans has tapped a golden vein with his blend of camp, glamour, and cheek. An accomplished treasure of showmanship, he is Adelaide’s happiness machine. 

 

Samela Harris

 

When: 18 to 19 Mar

Where: Thebarton Theatre

Bookings: adelaidefringe.com.au

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