Adelaide Festival. Sydney Theatre Company. 14 Mar 2022
The empty stage, bar for a couple of camera tripods, the exposed stage flies… there is no indication of what is to come, and that is for the best. The scene by scene reveal of this production is to be tasted, savoured, swallowed and digested slowly as one of the great theatrical experiences.
Director Kip Williams has adapted Oscar Wide’s enduring novel for this two hour stage production, giving dialogue to the 26 odd characters – all of them played by Eryn Jean Norvill. The sheer range of the character portrayals undertaken by Norvill is staggering. There are no hurried changes behind screens here; the few changes that she makes onstage are in full view assisted by precise and unobtrusive dressers. But here is where the millennia old theatre crashes headlong into technology, producing the most remarkable result.
Williams has been working with live stage and video integration in previous productions but he has reached his apotheosis here. Norvill appears onstage as painter Basil Hallward, in conversation with Lord Henry Wotton. She is surrounded by hand held camera operators, projecting onto a huge screen. Changes of vocal timbre and astute switches of camera angle delineate the two characters. Suddenly, with a quick wig change, she is Dorian Gray, more screens appear, and she is everywhere: she is the narrator, the lord, the duchess. She is the seven guests at table at the lunch party; the desired actress playing Juliet in a marionette show; the wizened housekeeper Mrs Leaf.
The highly skilled camera operators make for seamless transitions from stage to screen, and for the most part, simultaneous live and recorded performances. Norvill stands on stage interacting with her video characters, and perfectly emulates her counterpart’s physical movements on screen. Video designer David Bergman has his team of operators perfectly positioned for maximum efficacy as Norvill changes character, with Nick Schlieper’s lighting design playing brilliant double duty to both stage and screen.
The mobile phone selfies, enhanced with Snapchat/Instagram filters, insert themselves into Victorian England as though they ever were, and the anachronisms are further muddied with Clemence William’s at times dramatic musical score (the clangourous dramatic chords as Dorian, then Basil, stare horrified at the ruined features of his portrait) is lightened by Donna Summer’s I Feel Love during his visit to the opium den.
The technical feats are never in danger of overshadowing the stagecraft: Norvill and Williams do not allow this. The focus constantly returns to the live stage actor, and this is never more so than in the forest scene, where a tragic Gray, being chased by the vengeful James Vane, tries to understand and articulate his fate.
Eryn Jean Norvill is a force to be reckoned with. The flick of an eyebrow can be everything. The turn of a head is a new character, a slight vocal inflection the difference between he/him and she/her. One can only guess at the gruelling nature of the rehearsals for this work; creating the 26 characters, perfecting the razor sharp interactive timing, hitting the camera marks for her filmed pieces, yet still constantly communicating with the audience with her onstage characters. For light relief (and there are a few such moments) she as Narrator argues with herself as Dorian about who will continue to tell the story; such moments were a temporary reprieve for an audience who seemed to hold its collective breath throughout much of this two hours. Such silence!
By performance end we were exhausted, and superbly sated. Our senses had been filled and stilled as we understood we had been in the presence of something magnificent. A performance with which to measure others to come, to memorialise, to reflect upon. The standing ovation was the least we could give her.
When: Until 20 March
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Adelaide Fringe. Norwood Concert Hall. 13 Mar 2022
They just rocked the Norwood Concert Hall to the rafters and bopping Boomers ringed the auditorium in an ecstasy of lifted dance restrictions. As The 60 Four’s director, Ben Francis pointed out, they were the last dancing event before the covid ban and now they celebrate dance liberation to the day; in that very same place on a Fringe weekend afternoon.
While The 60 Four’s city Fringe season is now over, the hit group’s 2022 South Australian season is not. It will be on the road with a big tour to Victor Harbor, Renmark, Elizabeth, Whyalla, Kangaroo Island, Mount Gambier, and Port Pirie.
This is inspirational enterprise and a generous sharing of the rousingly uplifting act around the State.
There are Sixties music fans everywhere but rarely do they find a chance such as this to see and hear and feel the full gamut of that evergreen genre.
One might dare to argue that the skills of these young performers, Ben Francis, Kyle Charles Hall, Lachlan Williams, and Finnegan Green, are elevating them to the status of brilliantly bopping State treasures.
They deliver all the goods. All of them.
Not only do they have an impressive vocal range and endearing harmonic skills but also they are sizzlingly choreographed by Kyle Charles Hall making them as high-energy as high energy dares to go.
They seem inexhaustible. Their discipline is impeccable. They invoke nostalgia and share an era with new generations. They deliver joy. They are a class act right down to their shining polished shoes.
And, they even have merch. Not just glossy programs, but glossy t-shirts, too.
As for the two hours and twenty-five mins (including interval) of their production, sound balance is good, lighting lively and spirits high, high, exuberantly and tirelessly high.
They sing tributes to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, The Monkees, Motown, The Beatles, Elvis, Johnny O’Keefe; almost 40 upbeat songs from an era of legends.
These days, The 60 Four have collected some pretty big backing - a nine-piece band, no less. There is not just a fabulous drummer in the form of Bailey Hall and a top pianist in Marco Callisto, but all the trimmings of accomplished guitarists Jake Dawson and Jayden Dawson, trumpeters Triniti Jazz Canini and Emma Simpson-Smith, trombonist Jasmine Ferguson, saxophonist Benjamin Uhrig, and tuba-player Emily Legg.
Don’t miss them.
This is a full-scale, big-time professional show from Australia’s princes of feel-good.
When: 13 Mar to 9 Apr
Where: On tour around SA
Adelaide Fringe. Josh Glanc, Oliver Coleman and Blake Everett. Arthur Artbar @ West Village. 10 Mar 2022
If you stamped and clapped at the late-night weekend show Stamptown Comedy Night in fringes past, you will want to see its love child.
Alas pizzazzy MC Zuck Zacher is replaced by Stamptown regular Spanish Fuk-Boi (aka Melbourne’s favourite comic Josh Glanc). Hairy-crazy Fuk-Boi shows off his Spanish midriff with a fringed too-short T-shirt decorated with a cactus and a caravan, and chugs occasionally from a 2-litre jug of milk. Josh is an expert at extracting laughter from his ironic/innocent interpretation of the everyday. The show title and format remind one of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the 1962-92 Californian late night talk/variety show which all subsequent others try to be as good as. Carson’s couch potato colour commentator Ed McMahon is replaced by unseen comedian Oliver Coleman’s Mr Coo Coo Pigeon. Mr Coo Coo is a taxidermist’s delight and later gets a free lap dance because he’s lap-free. Dr Pancakes the Clown (aka Blake Everett) stands in for Carson’s band leader Doc Severinsen and turns the screws on the laughter (machine) and sound effects whilst in deadpan silence. These are the three amigos, and the guest stream will differ night on night, but this is what I saw.
Poor Dane Simpson left his didge on the set of his show, Didgeridoozy, and floundered a bit without it. His disarming smile and good nature were just enough to enchant the rambunctious audience. You might expect MC Boomer (aka Fringe regular Eric Tinker aka Derek Tickner) to be a ridgy-didge rapper but there is a play on words here. A careful listen would make any Millennial’s skin crawl. They laugh along until the penny drops that the joke is on them. Dazza and Keif are the purple cowboy angels physical comedy duo with androgenous ambiguity. Besides Mr Coo Coo, a lucky male audience member got the same treatment any man would get in a Texas roadhouse bar. To see more of them - and who wouldn’t want that - book Dazza and Keif Reenact the Titanic Movie Playing All The Roles. The title says it all. The show was finished off with Kevin Quantum’s mind-blowing beyond-belief card tricks. You can see this joker in Kevin Quantum: Dark Matter. A big finish to a very chaotic first night of laughs and spontaneity.
Also still on are Brett Blake & Lewis Garnham – Wreak Havoc and Oliver Coleman – Sublime, or see them together in Blake Everett and Oliver Coleman: Dig Their Own Graves.
When: 10 to 13 March
Where: Arthur Artbar @ West Village
Patrick Livesey. Holden Street Theatres. 11 Mar 2022
Patrick Livesey returns to Holden Street with another world premiere season having previously written and performed in The Boy, George and Gone Girls, and appearing in last year’s DIRT with his partner Wil King (who’s busy with Venus in Fur also at Holden Street this Fringe). These were all fantastic hit productions.
Nobody saw it coming yet it was there for all to see. The husband, friend, sister, stepdaughter, and others recall the life and last days of Naomi. They are in a row downstage, and each is lit by a single footlight (set design – Xandra Roberts & lighting design – Matt Ralph). Taking turns, they contribute pieces to the puzzle of Naomi. They are each stuck in one place like a statue, and they don’t interact with one another because they can’t - they are all Patrick Livesey. In his one-person show, Livesey delivers the verbatim testimony of family and friends with distinguished individuation yet frequent overemphasis. Some of the women characters have the affectations of a man playing a woman rather than a genuine woman. The husband is an exceptionally powerful rendering that takes one aback. There is a panoply of opinions and observations. The fragmented vignettes come together as the puzzle pieces begin to fit – some sad or angry, others wistful and grateful. In between some monologues, paraphernalia of Naomi’s life are hung for display like in Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence which pathetically evokes the deceased.
The creative team under the direction of Bronwen Coleman have chosen a very straightforward presentation of the remembrances that depends entirely on Livesey’s characterisations. It is a poignant tribute by a son to his Mum, a Mum who felt the only way out was to end her life. R U Ok? is the question we are asked to ask. Of course, there are missing pieces that will never be found but always searched for.
When: 1 to 20 Mar
Where: Holden Street Theatres