Thursday, May 24, 2018

TULLY



Review by © Jane Freebury

Somehow or other, the South African-American actress Charlize Theron is able to switch between the most intimate of stories, like this one, Tully, and action adventure and make it work. As the one-armed road warrior in Mad Max: Fury Road, she nailed Imperator Furiosa with a steely performance while here she seems just like a woman feels after a new baby and a string of sleepless nights.

In a daring career move in her twenties, Theron took up the role of a serial killer in the film Monster (2003). It was a memorable performance as she negotiated the character, a former prostitute convicted of killing six men and executed for her crimes. She didn't look good either, even though you might think it impossible of Theron.

This actress is clearly someone who loves a challenge and is able to live in the skin of her character—quite an asset. In Jason Reitman’s new film she is Marlo, a mother in her early forties who has just had her third child. To get into character she had put on weight again, as she did in Monster.
 New baby Mia is adorable but demanding. Marlo is also coping with a son with behavioural problems and an unintentionally inattentive husband, Drew (Ron Livingstone). She is on leave from work in human resources—where she says, ruefully, her English literature degree got her—and there’s not much to go back to work for either.

Her wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass) and his wife seem to be on top of it all. So well organised are they, they have no difficulty in combining stylish dinner parties with family life. As a baby shower gift, he offers to pay for a night nanny, and it isn’t long before Marlo caves in and makes the call.

Night-time nanny Tully (Mackenzie Davis) also seems supremely in control of her life. She is everything Marlo is not. Single, slim, carefree, responsible only to herself.

Annoyingly upbeat, as played by Davis. Then again she underlines how new mothers, left wondering what happened to their bodies and when they will ever again sleep through the night, can perceive  themselves in a constant round of menial tasks.

This is another film from a director who has specialised in stories that dissect contemporary life choices and responsibilities, and it is very welcome.

Memorable characters Reitman has offered us are corporate downsizer (George Clooney) who comes face-to-face with his solitary existence in Up in the Air and pregnant teenager (Ellen Page) in Juno, who will go to term but won’t keep the baby. While Clooney’s character finds himself marooned as the result of life choices, young Juno manages to get through it all, and move on.

Although Tully explores the dilemma that many women have to confront as mothers, the narrative in the film falls short. It is frustrating, because the exposition is so authentic and promising, and is the work of screenwriter Diablo Cody, Reitman's frequent collaborator.
The sequence where the two women go out together to experience Marlo’s old haunts in Bushwick when she was single, opens up a new dimension, but the narrative stalls. Both Juno and Up in the Air have a similarly modest running time, but they offer more complexity with more satisfying results.

The film's imaginative fugue ends up being rather internalist. This is also its charm, but Tully would have benefited from more heft and with one or two other characters who were more layered too.

Rated M, 96 minutes
3.5 Stars

Also published at Jane's blog

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

BOSOM BUDDIES

With Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney. Devised by Peter J Adams. Directed by Jason Langley. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. May 21-22. 

A bit of a whirlwind visit, this, but those lucky enough to catch Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney in full anecdotal flight were clearly delighted by these two rare performers.  

Quite a few years ago they teamed up for a lovely two hander called Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, about a rich older woman who takes dance lessons from a younger instructor. Now, off the leash of a scripted play (but in a piece with its own disciplines), they spend a deeply rich couple of hours mining their own careers and memories, even stopping to field some audience questions.

McKenney is long legged and funny and still a dancing whirlwind when he wants to be.  The Boy From Oz, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and, most chillingly, the MC from Cabaret are all revisited as is his long stint as a ruthless judge on channel 7’s Dancing with the Stars.

Hayes, with a far longer resume, ranges from her first starring show, Sweet Charity along an award winning time line that includes My Fair Lady, Annie, Guys and Dolls, Sweeney Todd…and having the Hayes Theatre named after her. A short snatch of Sally Bowles is a revelatory reminder that the both Sally and the Elsie whose life and death she sings about are English. The language and the characters of the two women are immediately vivid and poignant.

A screen upstage enables snippets from the past and a generous selection of seats allows the occasional sit down segment. But mostly there’s no rest for these wicked performers and the audience loves that.

As do I, growing up with a father who was steering a follow spot in Sydney for J. C Williamson (and the Tivoli and the Royal) at the time Hayes was in her first professional shows. Appropriate, too, that the smooth lighting is by designer Trudy Dalgleish who was one of our first students out of Drama at Canberra’s Phillip College in the 1970s. Bosom Buddies is part of the passing on of a theatrical inheritance.

Hayes and McKenney put on a splendid show, steeped in the love and language of dance and song and musicals.  More, please!

Alanna Maclean



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

BOSOM BUDDIES - NANCYE HAYES and TODD MCKENNEY


Bosom Buddies with Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney.

Devised by Peter J. Adams. Directed by Jason Langley. Musical director. Michael Tyack. A Christine Dunstan Production. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. May 21 and 22 2018. Bookings: www.canberatheatrecentre.com.au or 62752700.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


“Thirty years” says Todd McKenney. “How about you?” “55” replies Nancye Hayes.  Together, these legends of the Australian musical theatre stage have sung, danced, tapped and acted their way into the hearts of a nation. Together these shining stars of the stage have notched up ninety years of dazzling performances, thrilling the crowds, and bringing that incandescent touch of Broadway into our lives. And through it all they have remained bosom buddies.

For two hours they hold their audience enthralled, wrapped in a heart-warming aura of sheer nostalgia as Hayes and McKenney comment on clips from their hit musical, reminisce over cute childhood images, recount their experiences on This is Your Life and Dancing With The Stars and through it all offer unforgettable snatches of song and dance. They are your consummate hoofers and old hoofers never die. They just keep on tapping and singing their way into the history of the Australian musical stage.

And for any naysayers who might dare to suggest “they’re past it” or “over the hill” Bosom Buddies is proof positive that these two glorious entertainers can still hit the notes or trip the light fantastique. In an evening of armchair theatre, combined with snippets of two brilliant careers, Hayes and McKenney trace their lives and careers from Hayes’ spectacular success in Sweet Charity and McKenney’s starring role in 42nd Street. The inspiration came much earlier, when Hayes was taken to “Annie Get Your Gun” and McKenney danced for his dancing teacher Mum. Their paths were set and along the way stories of laughter, tears and show after show became the recipe for a wonderful evening of anecdote, reminiscence and showbiz pizzazz. Hayes still commands that centre stage with Charity arms held high. McKenney can still do the terpsichorean twirl and touch the heart with his favourite Tenterfield Saddler. Above on the screen Peter Allen in concert shows why the Boy From Oz reached out to change Todd McKenney’s life.

For all those in the audience who can still remember, this show is a joyous trip down memory lane.  The Allen Brothers on Brian Henderson’s Bandstand, Pauline Hanson’s dubious dancing the cha cha contrasted with Sonia Kruger’s exquisite partnership with the elegant McKenny. This is their lives, but it is also the lives of many of the audience who were there and may still recall Hayses’s Fastrada in Pippin or Sally Bowles in Cabaret or McKenney’s decadently mischievous MC.  Bosom Buddies is the gift of two very dear friends to the audiences they love.

During the interval, the audience is asked to write questions on one hundred dollar bills which are then collected by the Kit Kat Club’s MC. As the makeup is removed, Hayes reads out the tit bits of private information that the questions elicit. Stories of costume mishaps, favourite moments, a husband’s ashes that came to McKenney’s show, a heart attack victim resuscitated by a Priscilla cast member in an Emu drag outfit. The stories of a career full to the brim of success and delight tumble forth from the hundred dollar bills as we revel in a night with these two remarkable and generous performers.
And why do they do it? Let Hayes have the last word. “We love it” And your audiences love you too. Bosom Buddies will be performed in an abridged version at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival next month. Don’t miss it. And Todd and Nancye, thanks for the memories.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival Season
Sunday June 10 at 3 p.m. and 6.30 p.m.
Monday June 11 at 5 p.m.
Bookings: BASS 131246

BOSOM BUDDIES


Devised by Peter J Adams
Directed by Jason Langley
Musical Director: Michael Tyack
A Christine Dunstan Production
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 22 May

Reviewed by Len Power 21 May 2018

The show, ‘Bosom Buddies’, is subtitled ‘Two theatrical legends, one remarkable story’.  This show itself is destined to become legendary.

The recipient of three Lifetime Achievement Awards, three Helpmann Awards and many others, Nancye Hayes is an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer and director who began her career in My Fair Lady in 1961 and established her name in the title role in Sweet Charity in 1967.  Since then she has appeared in countless shows and even has a theatre named after her – the Hayes Theatre in Sydney.

Critically acclaimed and award-winning singer, dancer, actor and all-round entertainer Todd McKenney stopped the show ‘42nd Street’ in 1989 with his singing and dancing of ‘We’re In the Money’.  He was the controversial judge on the Channel 7 hit series ‘Dancing with the Stars’ for many years and was a superb Peter Allen in the original Australian production of ‘The Boy From Oz’ for nearly 1000 performances over two years.  He has been centre stage in Australia for more than 35 years.

‘Bosom Buddies’ isn’t a collection of star reminiscences that we’ve all heard before.  The two stars delve deep into their past and give us the lows as well as the highs.  Even if you’ve followed their careers closely over the years, most of what you’ll hear in this show is new.

Their video presentation of photos from their past, as well as archival film from some of the shows they’re starred in, is quite enlightening and their comments about themselves and each other is at times very funny.  Both performers have the skill of making it all sound casual and off-the-cuff – something that is not easy to do successfully.

The highlights of the show are moments from past iconic performances.  Nancye Hayes gives us a stirring ‘Broadway Baby’ and ‘Cabaret’ and Todd McKenney is very moving in his performance of ‘Tenterfield Saddler’ from ‘The Boy From Oz’.  Watching these two friends and colleagues dancing so skilfully together is a delight.

The attractive and well-thought out production has been nicely directed by Jason Langley and there is fine musical direction by Michael Tyack and excellent lighting by Trudy Dalgleish.

This is a night in the theatre as memorable as any of the shows that these two Australian icons have appeared in over the years.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.

ARMS AND THE MAN


Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Ed Wightman
Canberra REP at Theatre 3 to 2 June

Reviewed by Len Power 18 May 2018

George Bernard Shaw’s first commercial success, ‘Arms and the Man’, first produced in 1894, has been given a fine new production by director, Ed Wightman and his Canberra REP group of actors.

When a Swiss mercenary from the Serbian army, Captain Bluntschli, breaks into her room, an idealistic young Bulgarian woman, Raina, is shocked at his pragmatic and cynical attitude towards war.  Nevertheless, she allows him to hide from the soldiers searching for him.  Although she is engaged to war hero, Sergius, her interest in the Captain is obvious to the audience if not immediately to her.

On the surface a romantic comedy, Shaw’s play satirises preoccupations with appearance and the opinions of others, the injustices of class discrimination, the dangers of glorifying warfare and the oppression of women.  It’s not a dusty old classic to be merely admired – it’s a vibrant, entertaining play full of ideas that seem as fresh today as when it was written.

Lexi Sekuless gives a memorable performance as Raina.  She is impressive to watch as the insecurities break through the surface of her character’s previously ordered world.  Her verbal and physical comic timing as she becomes more and more desperate to maintain control is especially enjoyable.

Joel Hutchings is a dashing and believable Captain Bluntschli and handles the irony in Shaw’s dialogue very well.  Riley Bell is amusing as the blustering Major Sergius and there are uniformly fine performances from the rest of the cast.

Ed Wightman has given the play a sumptuous production with a finely detailed, attractive set by Quentin Mitchell and beautifully detailed period costumes by Anna Senior.  He has obtained very strong, in depth performances from his cast.

Music for the production has been well-chosen to create the atmosphere for the play’s location in time and place.  Aided by the energetic choreography of Annette Sharp, the unexpectedly rousing finale and curtain call was perfectly judged.

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 19 May.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.

NEVER TRUST A CREATIVE CITY


Too Rude Co-creators and performers: Emma McManus, Maria White
Ralph Indie Program, Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres
Ralph Wilson Theatre to 20 May

Reviewed by Len Power 17 May 2018

‘Never Trust a Creative City’, part of the Ralph Indie program, is described by its creators as ‘a response to the neoliberal forces (re)shaping our cities in the present’.  Asking themselves how artists fit into this landscape, they became interested in cultures of gentrification.  It didn’t take long for them to observe that artists who move in and make a city more vibrant - which benefits developers and property owners - are soon priced out of the area they helped to improve.

It all sounds a bit heavy but the co-creators, Two Rude, have fashioned a wild and wacky ride through an artistic and gentrification minefield which is very entertaining as well as thought-provoking.

The show commences with a ‘History Of All Time’, a 15 minute slideshow summation of the arts from the beginning of the world, which is perceptive and very funny.  We realize what a major role jellyfish have played in history, not to mention DJ Khaled, American DJ and author.

Quickly moving on, the two performers make the observation that ‘artists are the canary in the coalmine of gentrification’.  In a hilarious sequence, they day-dream their way through the issues that are concerning them, posing worrying questions and suggesting radical solutions but then pointing out the flaws in each other’s arguments.  Important questions are covered like, ‘How will we navigate through the world if it all looks the same – Google Maps?’ and profound statements are made, such as ‘There’s only one difference this year and that difference is drones’.

This is followed by a well-edited video sequence about the issues raised and, having decided that ‘there’s nothing more marketable than a dead artist’, they sell out and ‘Take the Money’.  At that point, science fiction takes over and they, of course, become jellyfish.

Co-creators and performers, Emma McManus and Maria White, display great chemistry together onstage.  They are natural comedians with excellent timing and their show has been carefully constructed to make a point but in a very entertaining fashion.

The show’s lighting has been well designed by Emma Lockhart-Wilson.  Tom Hogan’s sound design adds nicely to the atmosphere and costume designer, Verity Mackey, has produced the best jellyfish costumes I’ve ever seen.

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 18 May.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.