Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Jumpy by April de Angelis

All photos by Brett Boardman

Jumpy by April de Angelis.  Melbourne Theatre Company production presented by Sydney Theatre Company.  Directed by Pamela Rabe; set design by Michael Hankin; costumes by Teresa Negroponte; lighting by Matt Scott; composer/sound by Drew Crawford; choreographer, Dana Jolly. 

Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre, March 26 – May 16, 2015.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 30
Brenna Harding as Tilly, Jane Turner as her mother Hilary
 Surreptitiously overhearing a friendship group of over-50-somethings in the foyer at interval, I heard the keywords: ‘clever set’ and ‘annoying’.  Having read Andrew Upton’s program message – ‘On a first scan, [Jumpy] could read as a comedy of manners – neatly packaged and wrapped in a bow.  But there is subterranean life to it.  Something deeply felt that courses through the play.  In an understated, never plangent way, it speaks to the morally deracinated landscape left after years of Thatcherite economic rationalism’ – I was a bit surprised to hear the comment ‘annoying’.

But by the end of the second half, I saw the connection between ‘clever set’ and ‘annoying’.  The depth of feeling (and political import) that Upton had spruiked just didn’t happen.  The script just doesn’t support his description and the clever set becomes part of the gimmickry used to create laughter to cover the weakness in the writing.

Of course, being a lot over 50 myself, I have to record that another surreptitiously overheard comment after the show from an over-20-something to her (male) friend, who had not seen the show, was that Jumpy is ‘very funny’.  So I must be careful not to be a mere grumpy old male.

David Tredinnick as husband Mark, Jane Turner as Hilary

Daughter Tilly and mother Hilary
Brenna Harding and Jane Turner

Hilary, Tilly and teenage mother Lyndsey
Jane Turner, Brenna Harding and Tariro Mavondo

I respect Pamela Rabe’s work as director particularly for her production of In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) [reviewed on this blog June 8, 2011].  Now I can respect her work again, for escaping from the static set and what looks more or less like stand-up comedy of the London Duke of York’s 2012 production [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV9_9AXaGaA]. 

Cleverly using the stage revolve, which transports items of the set, including actors, in from stage left and out on stage right, in front of a blank wall with sections which open and close to reveal glimpses of the staircase up (to an unseen but heard bedroom), Rabe has represented the ‘progress’ of Hilary’s life.  Jane Turner takes all the opportunities to extract a laugh as the movement of the floor or the closing of a gap catches her by surprise.

This literally dynamic set also works well to solve the problem of the Drama Theatre’s impossibly wide letter-box shaped stage.  Jorn Utzon surely must still be turning in his grave at this abomination.

Caroline Brazier as Bea, Tariro Mavondo as Lyndsey, Jane Turner as Hilary

Roland, technically incompetent.
John Lloyd Fillingham as Bea's husband and Josh's father Roland
with Mark's wife Hilary (Jane Turner)
after Hilary has opened and lit the barbecue

Rabe’s casting is also a great success.  Her Tilly (Hilary’s rebellious daughter) is played by Brenna Harding as the worst up-to-date 15 to 16-year-old city sophisticate pushing the envelope in every direction.  It takes a very real near death experience to bring her down.  Though the playscript in the end takes a sentimental rom-com decision to reconcile both Tilly and husband Mark (David Tredinnick) with Hilary, Brenna and Jane manage their necessary hug without the huge sense of relief which would suggest that all will be OK between them forever, now.  The script could easily have led in that direction.  The title ‘Jumpy’ was enough to make me suspicious.

But even Rabe could not make the final scene, Hilary and Mark back in bed together again, more than a device on the part of the author to end the ‘comedy of manners – neatly packaged and wrapped in a bow’.  Essentially, de Angelis’s script raises every issue from middle-class unemployment at 50, teenagers whose idea of fun brings them up against real danger, what happened to classic feminism (and nuclear disarmament), and teenagers having babies (with an excellent performance by Tariro Mavondo as Lyndsey), to male failure.  Apart from husband Mark, all the other men in Tilly’s and Hilary’s life (Josh, Roland and Cam – played by Laurence Boxhall, John Lloyd Fillingham and Dylan Watson respectively) appear, cause disaster or near disaster, can’t face the consequences of their actions, and disappear from the action.

Marina Prior as Frances demonstrating her burlesque act
to Tilly (Brenna Harding) and Mark (David Tredinnick)

Is this meant to be merely amusing, a damning indictment of men, or a statement that this is just how life is – a series of unpredictable comings and goings?  Any of these could be a reasonable theme, but the play doesn’t deal with the issues it raises.  Despite what Andrew Upton wrote, Thatcher doesn’t get a direct mention (though David Cameron gets a throw-away one-liner), Hilary’s university-days brief fling at Greenham Common gets a little bit of development in talk with her long-time girlfriend Frances (played wildly – very funnily – by Marina Prior), social one-up-womanship gets a run with Josh’s mother, Bea (played magnificently bitchily by Caroline Brazier) – but the issue gets lost when Tilley’s late period and the need for an abortion (which Bea insists upon to protect her son) turns out to be a false alarm.  Isn’t Tilley lucky, eh?

So I can’t disagree with the young woman who found the play ‘very funny’, more so in the second half, and I certainly can’t complain about the quality of the acting and the ‘clever set’, but I have ended up feeling that the play was annoying because the writing opens up issues, most of which are not properly developed, while the conclusion seems to say that a sensible woman of 50 with a daughter on the cusp of adulthood should settle back into a conventional way of life basically for safety and rather boring security (with a husband who has managed to keep his job, apparently).

Not only Andrew Upton’s introduction led me to expect more, but so did the lengthy essays in the program (‘Common Cause’ detailing the 1981 Greenham Common protests against the cruise missile deployment; ‘Midlife’ about the ‘middle years, years of accelerating decline'; ‘Motherly Instincts’ (by Wendy Zukerman – the only piece with an acknowledged author) which discusses Freud, Darwin and a number of other developmental psychology authors; and ‘Nostalgia’ which concludes Meanwhile, our present days move out of our control into a future that’s always in doubt.  Nostalgia, according to all the research, is an anchor we throw out on this uncertain tide.

Nostalgia doesn’t seem all that funny; nor does the conclusion to Zukerman’s piece: It looks like we will not truly unravel whether there is a special bond between mothers and daughters until scientists conduct large studies using stay-at-home fathers, who spend more time with their girls than the mothers.  Only then will we know if humans are just like emus and titi monkeys.  Until then, we can thank our lucky stars that Freud is no longer interpreting the dreams of young women and their jewel-boxes.

But at least there’s some guts there, that unfortunately is not manifest in de Angelis’s playscript.  Maybe emus and titi monkeys may have introduced some satire to sustain the comedy.
Tilly and Hilary: reconciliation
Brenna Harding and Jane Turner
Jane Turner as Hilary

Monday, March 30, 2015


Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production of "Aida"
Photo: Hamilton Lund
Conductor: Brian Castles-Onion

Director: Gale Edwards

Set and Costume Designer: Mark Thompson

Choreographer: Lucas Jervies

Lighting Designer: Matt  Scott

Sound Designer: Tony David Cray

Media Preview reviewed by Bill Stephens

Gale Edwards certainly knows a thing or two about staging spectacle. Following her masterful staging of “Carmen” for a previous Handa Opera on the Harbour season, expectations were high for this production of the opera which is synonymous with spectacle, and this magnificent production of “Aida” she has exceeded even her previous personal best.

Arriving early at the site for the media preview, on a balmy Sydney autumn night, dancers were still rehearsing on the stage.  Latonia Moore (Aida) was busily engaged in perfecting a stage- fall on one side of the stage, while tenor, Walter Fraccaro (Radames) was being walked through some of the staging in the centre. Fraccaro, we learned, had flown in at short notice to play Radames, re-placing Roberto   Aronica, who had had to withdraw from the production due to the serious illness of his father.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour production of "Aida"
Photo: Hamilton Lund
Dominated by a huge, decaying statue of Nefertiti’s head, the stage itself gave little hint of the splendour which was to follow. Orange petrol drums were arranged around the back of the stage, and in various corners piles of broken gold stage props appeared to have been discarded.

Promptly at 7.30pm, Lyndon Terracini took to the stage, welcomed the preview audience, and reminded us that this was in reality the first dress rehearsal. Because rain had forced the curtailment of some of the earlier rehearsals, if necessary, this performance would be interrupted to sort out any problems. He also warned that some of the singers might choose to save their voices by ‘marking’ (singing below the octave).

As it turned out, there was not a hint of rain tonight. All the singers sang full voice all evening, no doubt taking full opportunity to explore Tony David Cray’s excellent sound design,   and there were no interruptions to the performance. 

Apart from a few dancers having difficulty in keeping up with Brian Castles-Onion’s brisk tempi for a couple of the routines, and a couple of the standard bearers becoming so engrossed in the spectacle unfolding around them that they forgot to collect their banners, the rehearsal appeared to go spectacularly well, and we were soon engrossed in the drama and spectacle of Verdi’s great masterpiece.

Milijana Nikolic (Amneris) - Latonia Moore (Aida)
Photo: Prudence Upton
Gale Edwards’ concept for “Aida” is big, bold and brilliant. Don’t expect historical accuracy from this production, as ambiguities and fantasy abound in Mark Thompson’s stunning set and brilliant costumes.  Aida, and the female chorus, wear huge crinolines, Amneris parades a series of extravagant fantasy gowns, some of the men wear smart business suits, others are dressed as contemporary army officers, and others wear lavish priests robes.  But under Edwards’ confident direction, all these disparate elements come together to create an extraordinary timeless world where the heightened operatic emotions of the inhabitants seem perfectly at home.

However, all of this spectacle would have counted for little, without a cast of exceptional singers who could involve the audience in the story, and this production is blessed with such a cast, who not only hold their own against the spectacle, but even manage to enhance it.

Walter Fraccaro (Radames) - David Parkin (Ramfis)
Photo: Prudence Upton
From the moment he takes the stage to sing his first solo, “Celeste Aida”, it is obvious that Walter Fraccaro was a fine Radames. His  commanding presence,  glorious tenor voice, and magnificent cloaks, make him to be totally convincing as the hero chosen by the High Priest to go to battle for Egypt.

Latonia Moore - Aida
Photo: Pat Stephens
Resplendent in a huge multi-coloured crinoline and tall headdress, there’s no mistaking Latonia Moore for anyone other than the Ethiopian princess, Aida, enslaved by the Egyptians, and not so secretly in love with Radames.  Moore sings magnificently throughout, and brings real passion and conviction to her scenes with the Egyptian princess, Amneris, and later, with Radames, as they choose to die together rather than be separated.

Milijana Nikolic - Amneris
Photo: Prudence Upton
Milijana Nikolic is also a stunning Amneris. Wearing her extravagant costumes with the flair of a super-model, and equally as glamorous, she uses her lustrous, warm contralto to great effect, even managing to elicit sympathy for her character in her final scene situated high above the audience.

David Parkin is imposing in both voice and appearance as the High Priest, Ramfis.  Gennadi Dubinsky is suitably regal as The King, and Michael Honeyman offers a fine characterisation as Amonasro, Aida’s father.

Working under difficult conditions, Brian Castles- Onion keeps tight control over the musical proceedings. His adroit conducting highlights the full drama of the score, while generously allowing the soloists the latitude to linger over notes when the drama requires it, without allowing the music to lose energy or flag.     
Latonia Moore (Aida) - Michael Honeyman (Amonasro)
Photo: Prudence Upton

Walter Faccaro - Radames
Photo: Prudence Upton

As expected, the Grand March, with its live animals, and wagonloads of plunder, is impressively staged, particularly the section in which dozens of shiny black coffins are laid out in the city square. Lucas Jervies has devised some eye-catching dance moves for this sequence which will no doubt be sharpened by opening night.

Latonia Moore (Aida) Walter Faccaro (Radames)
Photo: Pat Stephens
However it is in the second act, when most of the action centres on the three central characters that Edwards staging and direction really shines. With the aid of Matt Scott’s brilliant lighting design, and clever use of mist -shrouded processions to maintain the visual spectacle, Edwards keeps the attention firmly focussed on the protagonists, allowing the opera to sweep the audience along to its stunning conclusion.

Latonia Moore as Aida
Photo: Pat Stephens
This magnificent production of “Aida” can truly be described as unforgettable.  With the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and city skyline glittering in the background, it sits beautifully in its stunning setting on Sydney Harbour. It is hard to imagine anywhere else in the world that could match this opera experience. Definitely none  could offer the sight of the departing Queen Mary sailing by, as she did on this night, as a prelude.



Sunday, March 29, 2015


Written and directed by Ian Robinson
A La Mama co-production with Cicero’s Circle Theatre Company
The Street Theatre 25-28 March 2015

Review by Len Power 25 March 2015

The plight of boat people doesn’t seem like an ideal subject for a comedy but Ian Robinson’s play uses satire and irony to show what it could be like to be caught up in a situation where politics have become more important than people.

Set mostly in an immigration facility in or near Australia, ‘The Process’ focusses on a Tamil refugee who has been assessed as a genuine refugee but also a possible security risk, leaving him in a nightmarish limbo.  As a refugee, he can’t be returned to his country of origin and as a security risk he can’t be allowed to enter Australia.

As the refugee, Ezekiel Day gives a believable and moving performance of a happy, intelligent and well-educated man reduced bit by bit to the point of insanity and despair by Government policy.  Sean Scully plays an Immigration Department official as well as two Ministers – one from the former Labour Government and one from the current Liberal Government.  His performances in all three roles are funny, infuriating and nicely controlled.  Jessica Muschamp artfully plays both an Immigration lawyer and a psychiatrist, both of them well-meaning but constrained by the system in which they work.  Her very different approach to both roles and the change in her appearance made it feel like two different actresses were at work here.

Ian Robinson’s direction of the show is simple but effective.  Utilizing only a few props and furniture, he creates a good sense of reality for the locations in which the action is set.  The show moves at the right pace, allowing us time to comprehend the maze of government policies presented.  Lighting designed by Gillian Schwab heightens the atmosphere of the show.

As theatre, the play works very well on the surface but injecting humour into this subject lessens the impact somewhat.  The Government red tape as presented here sounds persuasive but as it’s presented in a funny way, we feel that we shouldn’t take it too seriously.  That old cliché of cold and unfeeling public servants quoting rules and regulations is also a bit tired.  On the plus side, it would have been easy to just concentrate on the current Government’s immigration policies, so it was an excellent idea to show that the former Government’s policies were also flawed.

Overall, the play was entertaining and got you thinking about your own attitude to our immigration policies.  If that was the intention of the play, then it works.  I expect audience members will have widely differing reactions to the comic aspects, though.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 29 March 2015 from 5pm.

Black Diggers - Canberra Theatre Centre


Director: Wesley Enoch
Writer: Tom Wright

Review by John Lombard

Black Diggers is a tribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who served in Australia's military from World War 1 on. Although not citizens of Australia they were still considered subjects of the British Empire, and with a little persistence could squeeze into the ranks. In the army they enjoyed a freedom from racism they did not have at home - when someone is shooting at you, race doesn't matter that much.

Boldly, the ensemble of Black Diggers has actors of every skin colour playing indigenous roles - and Aboriginal actors playing whites. The effect recreates the colour-blindness of Australian military life, and forces us to see the performers as their characters rather than relying on skin colour as a shortcut for understanding relationships.

The story is told in vignettes that convey the collective experience of indiginous soldiers, rather than one particular soldier's story. At times, this can be confusing - with actors playing multiple roles of different races, ages, and genders (with the added complication that some characters age as the story goes on), it can sometimes be hard to tell who is who. However the actors do an excellent job with their characterisations, in particular the strong bond between soldiers who have fought together.

The tone of the play is surprisingly rollicking - an attempt to re-create the blind enthusiasm of soldiers who didn't know what they were getting in for. While the play does become darker (post-traumatic stress disorder, death and neglect of soldiers are all addressed), the focus is on the vibrant community of soldiers: this is a celebration of mateship rather than an attack on the waste of war. Some soldiers are destroyed by their participation in the army, but others are made by it and have no regrets.

The real enemy isn't war, it's racism: when indigenous soldiers return home they find that their participation in war has not changed racist attitudes. Cruelly, idigenous soldiers are denied land settlements that are being carved from indigenous communities: what they have is being taken away and what they have earned is denied them. But the bond of mateship sets the stage for reconciliation: indigenous soldiers with the help of their non-indigenous comrades are able to stand up for their right to have a drink in a segregated bar.

The message of the play is that the seeds of reconciliation were planted in the trenches of Gallipoli. As such, there is a strong emphasis on how indigenous Australians prospered in the military, with their true suffering beginning when they came home to a country that would not acknowledge their accomplishments. Fortunately, the play explores the darker side of military service as well. Black Diggers is a vibrant and important play, an attempt to bring these repressed stories into the light and help heal the rift between race in Australia.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Black Diggers by Tom Wright

Black Diggers by Tom Wright.  Queensland Theatre Company and Sydney Festival.  Directed by Wesley Enoch; Set Design by Stephen Curtis; Costumes by Ruby Langton-Batty; Lighting by Ben Hughes; Composer/Sound designer – Tony Brumpton.  Dramaturg – Louise Gough.  Cultural Consultant – George Bostock.  Canberra Theatre Centre, The Playhouse, March 25-28, 2015.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 25

Previously reviewed by Frank McKone, January 19, 2014 (Sydney Festival), Canberra Critics’ Circle.

Seeing Black Diggers for the second time, a year apart, has brought home to me the power and the importance of this play.  In the Canberra Playhouse the impact was even greater than in the Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre – so much so that I could not write about this presentation immediately afterwards.  Tears and anger meant I needed time (and luckily a day at the beach) to recover my composure.

It is time now to reconsider the status of this work.  Rather than thinking of it as a play, we should recognise it as ceremony – not just ‘a ceremony’, but as a ritual required of us all to observe.

Every year, as an essential element of the ANZAC commemoration, Black Diggers should be performed – by Indigenous people – to mark their sacrifice, made in the name of Australian equality.  Drama has been created and performed from ancient times in the traditions of all of the hundreds of cultures in the backgrounds of our Australian people, not to glorify the past but to seek truth and honesty. 

Think of the great work by Sophocles, Antigone, where the King Creon says to the Prophet Teiresias, I say all prophets seek their own advantage.  Teiresias replies, All kings, say I, seek gain unrighteously.  Why, you may ask, should the Athenians, having established democratic decision-making by the time Sophocles was born in 496 BCE, select this work for performance in, probably, the annual festival of 442 or 441?  Because we must not forget the past, and must maintain an honest understanding of what has happened.  As Antigone shows, Creon’s biassed judgement of ‘all prophets’ seeking their own advantage was not true of Teiresias, but Teiresias’ judgement of ‘all kings’ seeking gain unrighteously was also not true of Creon.  Tragedy resulted because Teiresias’ prophecy was true, while Creon’s decision which caused disaster was, in his mind, righteous.

Black Diggers raises such questions for us to need to face up to, on an annual basis and in the context of what happened to those men in World War I and after they – not all of them – came home.  The truth is tragic.  The drama reminds us that those of us who became the decision-makers allowed equality to rule in the trenches on Flanders Field, but failed to understand the importance of that experience and the absolute need for equality to rule at home in peace-time. 

A century later we are still not through with this sorry business.  We require Black Diggers to get back on track, and we need to see the signpost each year as we remember and value all those who fought for Australia.   I hope that the Australian War Memorial can bring to centre stage the ‘small, hand-built memorial that commemorated the First World War Aboriginal servicemen’ which the designer Stephen Curtis was taken to see by the Memorial’s Indigenous guides ‘up on the hill behind the museum.’

I suggest that Black Diggers become the central work performed leading up to the Last Post ceremony, which is the key to the powerful effect of the play.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Written by Elise McCann and Richard Carroll
Directed by Helen Dallimore
Performed by Francine Cain and Anthony Harkin
Musical Direction by Anthony Harkin
Luckiest Productions
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan
25 May 2015

Review by Len Power

Like most people of my generation, I have fond memories of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and their TV show, ‘I Love Lucy’, from the early days of television in Australia.  That does make it a little difficult to accept a modern actress playing Lucille Ball and the character, Lucy, on stage but Francine Cain does it rather well in ‘Everybody Loves Lucy’.

It’s a curious show that, while entertaining, doesn’t dig deep enough into the background of the show or the performers’ lives.  Mention is made of their marriage breakup but we’re only told that Ball left her husband because Arnaz couldn’t take being a success.  We don’t get his side of the story and he disappears early in the show which then concentrates on Lucille Ball only.

The story is interspersed with songs sung very well by Francine Cain.  Lucille Ball was not known for her singing so I assume the songs were added to give this show some variety.  The song, ‘Make Someone Happy’ from the 1960 musical, ‘Do Re Mi’, becomes a repeated theme for this show but was never associated with Lucille Ball in real life.  It is at least chosen from a relevant time period.  Only at the end of the show is a song associated with Lucille Ball used – ‘Hey Look Me Over’ from the musical ‘Wildcat’ which Ball appeared in on Broadway in 1960, the year of her divorce from Arnaz.

It was fun, however, to see a few of the famous comedy sequences from ‘I Love Lucy’ recreated and Francine Cain does them very well.  Anthony Harkin is a very good Desi Arnaz, too, and his piano accompaniment for the songs throughout the show is excellent.  Helen Dallimore’s direction is tight and moves the show along at a good pace but the sound amplification on the show was uncomfortably loud.

I liked the additional character of a TV-watching housewife of the period giving her opinions on the show and the actors, assuming the stars must be happy together in real life because they were portrayed as so loving in the TV show.

The show as played at the Q Theatre was exactly an hour long and the minimal detail left me a bit unsatisfied.  I wondered if there is a longer version of the show.  On the Q’s website, the detail about the show says, ‘We are introduced to a woman, who could make the work laugh while the actress was crying inside, a woman who was not just a clown but a voice for independence’.  The show didn’t go into all that in any detail and might have been more satisfying if it did.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Everybody Loves Lucy by Elise McCann and Richard Carroll

Everybody Loves Lucy by Elise McCann and Richard Carroll.  Produced by Luckiest Productions.  Performed by Francine Cain and Anthony Harkin; directed by Helen Dallimore.  At The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, March 25, 2015.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

Actor Francine Cain performs as Lucille Ball in Everybody Loves Lucy in the role originally played by Elise McCann.

Looking remarkably like Lucille Ball (and Elise McCann) on stage, Francine Cain is a Helpmann Award-nominated musical theatre star, who has just concluded an 18-month national tour as Frenchy in the musical Grease. She was the winner of the 2010 Rob Guest Endowment Scholarship, and her credits include Regina in Rock of Ages (Helpmann and Green Room Award nominations), and understudying Truly Scrumptious in the Australian tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

This recognition is not surprising, as you hear Francine reproduce the voices of Lucille Ball – from the piercingly high-pitched American television comedy voice to the mature voice of her final interview following her divorce from Desi Arnaz and the end of the original series of I Love Lucy.  Perhaps even more engaging is her movement, from the Ball skit on her childhood ballet class and the many and varied little dance illustrations of the Lucy character through to expressive facial and bodily contortions that indicate excellent mime training.

Though Lucille (and an anonymous supposedly representative American housewife who watches and empathises with her as she appears on television) is the star of this production, Anthony Harkin’s Desi Arnaz is very well acted (in addition to his terrific piano-playing).  In fact it is his Desi that brings out the theme of the show.  Was he, in real life, playing a role which did or did not justify Lucille’s characterisation of him as a ‘loser’ who needed to destroy his own achievements; who needed to see himself as a failure?  The script, deliberately, makes it difficult to be sure when Desi is acting or not acting – meaning that Anthony’s acting was well done.

Because, by the end of this short hour-long overview of her life, we only get to know Lucille’s viewpoint, we are left wondering.  Everybody Loves Lucy is not of the dramatic quality of, say, Robyn Archer’s A Star is Torn (1979) – it’s light entertainment rather than excoriating life experience – but perhaps that’s because, as Ron Cerabona records (in the Canberra Times) Although both Ball and Arnaz were behind the success of the show and of [their company] Desilu, Ball tended to get most of the credit and Cain says Arnaz was "torn".

[Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/everybody-loves-lucy-is-a-tribute-to-a-comedy-legend-20150320-1m22ys.html#ixzz3VMvQbyXy ]

But a theme of social responsibility, something about Jerome Kern’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes you might say (just to keep to the musical ambience), makes a clever point.  The show begins with Lucille’s (or Lucy’s)  and Desi’s (or Ricky’s) advertisement for cigarettes which, if the woman buys them for her man to show she loves him, then he will love her, too.  The same song is reprised, and sung in a quite different mood, towards the end of their marriage – and the two points are made in one, since on our stage in modern non-smoking times, the cigarettes are not lit, as, one might say, the fire of their relationship had gone out.

So the entertainment was not perhaps as ‘light’ as it seemed.  It was certainly very funny and enjoyable, and very appropriate for The Q’s Morning Melodies program.

[If for some unknown reason you want to follow up Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (lyrics by Otto Harbach), have an interesting read at http://www.steynonline.com/1663/smoke-gets-in-your-eyes ]

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Written and performed by Laura Jackson
Aspiring Musical Theatre Company production
The Street Theatre, March 13-15, 2015

Review by Len Power 13 March 2015

For many of us we’ve now had about twenty years of internet experience.  The changes it has made to our daily lives have been extraordinary through the wealth of information instantly available when we want it, on-line purchasing and the ease of communication with friends and family through email, Skype and social networking programs like Facebook.  But there’s a darker side to social networking which is chillingly explored in Laura Jackson’s one woman play, ‘Handle It’.

The play details the experience of a young woman at university when compromising pictures of her appear on Facebook.  We also see the impact on other people as judgements are made and actions are taken.  It’s confronting and thought-provoking and it’s also good theatre.

Writer and performer, Laura Jackson, has produced a strong script with some good characters and excellent links between scenes with computer projections that progress the story.  She also performs all seven characters in the show, six of whom are women and one is male.  It was confusing and a bit of a stretch to accept her at the start of the play as a rather loathsome young man and the character of the Pro Internet Sexologist, while amusing, had minimal relevance to the plot.  All other characters were finely written and played extremely well.

Director, Janys Hayes, has staged the show simply on a bare stage with minimal props and furniture.  Each character has their own acting space which gives good visual variation as the play progresses.  The computer images have been well-designed to clearly demonstrate how easily you can lose control of a situation when using programs like Facebook.  Good lighting and sound complements the setting and action.

Anyone assuming they’ll just see a biased, strongly feminist view in this work will be surprised to find that some of the female characters are unsympathetic and unhelpful, making judgments that are hurtful and ignorant as well as just plain dangerous.  What appears to be a straight forward case of abuse using Facebook turns into an ever-deepening mystery that is quite absorbing.  It raises some pretty uncomfortable issues about human nature as well as about a technology moving too fast for most of us to keep up with.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 22 March 2015 from 5pm.