Monday, March 18, 2019

EVERYBODY KNOWS



Penelope Cruz (Laura) and Ricardo Darin (Alejandro)


M, 2 hr 13 mins
Capitol Cinemas Manuka, Dendy Canberra Centre
3.5 Stars


Review by © Jane Freebury



In the ambience of the Spanish countryside, star couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, look so completely at home it is easy to forget that in Everybody Knows they are being directed by a filmmaker from a very different part of the world. Though he says that he felt very much at home in Spain when on a family holiday some years ago, the acclaimed writer-director Asghar Farhadi hails of course from Iran.

Now who wouldn’t feel at home in Spain? Spanish people can be so warm, expressive and direct, and what’s not to love about a country so in touch with its past and with so much zest for life in the present.

Be that as it may, it’s wonderful that this celebrated filmmaker is able to work outside Iran. He has done so before. He worked with French actors on his film The Past set partly in Paris—though it may be a while before he works in the US. Despite his green card he will not be visiting the land of Trump.

In Everybody Knows, Farhadi remains in familiar genre territory, that is, exploring the tensions within couples and within families, but on this occasion his characters are not Iranian, but Spanish, and they are free to express. To audiences in the West at least, Farhadi’s finely wrought, unsettling Iranian melodramas have a restraint and an ambiguity that resists easy interpretation and provokes questions.

Not so, Everybody Knows. The psychological and covert here take second place to the overt, the expressive, and mystery pertains to characters out-of-frame.

Events revolve around the character of Laura (Cruz), who is visiting from Argentina with her two children to attend her sister’s wedding, though not with husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) for the time being. It is joyful reunion that culminates in a big dance party, captured on a hovering drone, in the village square. Farhadi, although from a country where singing and dancing in public are banned, handles these scenes with ease and confidence.

One by one the characters reveal their foibles. Family patriarch is a rather grumpy old man. Laura’s teenage daughter, Irene (an exuberant Carla Campra), has a wild streak. Other associates of the family, like Paco (Bardem) and his wife Bea (Barbara Lennie) who run a successful vineyard, we get to know more slowly.

When Irene disappears during the wedding celebrations and her kidnappers begin to send threatening messages, the family relationships are stripped bare. It’s when Cruz comes into her own as the distraught mother.

Initially, it is outsiders who come under suspicion. There are multiple possible suspects working among the migrant grape pickers in Paco’s vineyards. For some time, the film entertains this possibility, and it makes for tense kidnap drama, though the film falls short of the appellation of thriller.

If some family were apprehensive about Laura’s return, others were delighted to see her, while there were also those who, in their way, were prepared. There is a backstory that would have made Everybody Knows that much more interesting.

With its gorgeous leads and rural backdrop, it has convincing performances with tense moments. Only this film doesn’t have that finely wrought complexity so distinctive of Farhadi, in which much is actually left unsaid. That’s what is missing. Finely wrought, high intensity drama that unwinds like a coiled spring, leaving matters unresolved and leaving us high and dry.

Jane's reviews are also published at her blog, and broadcast on ArtSound FM 92.7

Sunday, March 17, 2019

How to Rule the World

Michelle Lim Davidson, Nakkiah Lui, Anthony Taufa


How to Rule the World by Nakkiah Lui.  Sydney Theatre Company at the Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre, February 11 – March 30, 2019.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 16


2430 years ago, Aristophanes ripped into the stupidly destructive power play between ancient Sparta and his home town Athens in his satiric play Lystrata.  The women made it plain: no sex until you stop fighting.

William Shakespeare began his lifetime criticism of the rule of absolute monarchs (ie Queen Elizabeth) in the 1580s (Henry VI, Richard III) but soon realised he had to write obliquely, for his own safety, and turned to comedy (The Comedy of Errors and Taming of the Shrew)

In 1677 Aphra Behn established the place of women writers in The Rover, or The Banish'd Cavaliers, her satiric re-write of Thomas Killigrew’s Thomaso.

As World War I approached, George Bernard Shaw used the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion in his most enduring comedy of manners, of Professor Henry Higgins and flower-girl Eliza Doolittle, nowadays in the musical form of My Fair Lady.

This is one tradition in which Nakkiah Lui has written How to Rule the World.

Fortunately she is in less physical danger from power-figures than Shakespeare, writing very directly about our current state of political shenanigans through the attempt by a threesome of millennials to create their own white non-entity independent Senator (à la Ricky Muir):

  • a substantial urban educated Aboriginal woman very like the author, and played by Lui herself (Vic),
  • a quite diminutive Asian immigrant-family woman, equally urban and educated, (Zaza, played by Michelle Lim Davidson)
  • and a Kanaka-family Pacific Islander, physically large and assumed by whites to be a bouncer – but also highly urban and educated (Chris played by Anthony Taufa).

The action focusses on their Pygmalionic choice, Lewis Lewis – a blank-slate with no family or friends nor any interests, especially in politics – who becomes 'Tommy Ryan' (I wondered if Lui knew about Thomaso), but who has one secret to be revealed in the play’s climactic point.  Hamish Michael is remarkable in this comic role (remember the slightly gormless Richard Stirling in The Crownies?), in a complete personal development transition from blankness to prime ministership.

The dramatic tension is built around the upcoming federal election in the first half, and the result in the Senate for the incumbent Prime Minister, played with elegant flair by Rhys Muldoon.

And just watch out for the amazing array of characters played by Vanessa Downing and Gareth Davies, including something vaguely akin to Barnaby J.

To tell you in more detail how this cleverly constructed absurdist satire progresses would be a spoiler.  Each scene and shift between scenes is surprising.  From the beginning we, watching, were in fits of laughter, eyes filled with tears.  At the very end, the satire bites – only the tears remain, in a play about the universal conflict between two human needs: for love and for power; for compassion and for success; for the personal and the political.

It is this depth at the core of the satire that firmly places Nakkiah Lui in this long theatrical tradition.

The directing, design (set and costumes), lighting, video, sound and terrifically comic choreography have come together in a triumph for the Sydney Theatre Company – acknowledgements below.  If there have been concerns about the tendency of the major performing arts companies to favour the ‘classics’ rather than put new Australian writing on stage, STC has broken the mould with How to Rule the World.  This is a classic.

But Nakkiah Lui fits neatly into her other tradition as well, beginning with the classic storytelling, of the shape-changing characters, going back over the tens of thousands of years of her Australian Aboriginal culture.  We saw these in Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, the recent exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, created by the Mardi and many other peoples from Western Australia, from a base in Roebourne.  It’s a long way from Sydney, but make a visit to see the local women artists at work there, as I have, and you’ll begin to see the connections.

How to Rule the World satirises not only the inequities, subterfuge and hypocrisy of our European political system which cartoonists from James Gillray in 18th Century England to our David Pope in today’s centre of government, Canberra, have pilloried and exposed; but Lui also does what a satirist must – laugh at her own culture.  And so, in her play, Lui shows her recognition of the same lack of ethics and breakdown of political unity among her three who seek to game the parliamentary system, and by implication shows that politics in any human society, including her own, is prey to the desire for achievement at any price.

The final speech of the play – given by Vic, magically appearing out of custody – seeking Treaty, to complete unfinished business, is no longer funny, not just a criticism of ‘white’ rule, but tinged with sadness for everyone’s failure…so far, at least.







Wednesday, March 13, 2019

COUNTING AND CRACKING ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2019




 

Counting and Cracking.


Written by S. Shakthidharan. Directed by Eamon Flack. Belvoir and Co-Curious Ridley Theatre. Adelaide Showgrounds. Adelaide Festival 2019. March 2-9.

Set and Costume designer Dale Ferguson. Cultural and costume advisor. Anandavalli. Lighting designer  Damien Cooper. Composer and sound designer. Stefan Gregory. Adelaide Musical Director. Alan John. Adelaide Sound Designer David Bergman. Associate Sound Designer. Jessica Dunn. Movement and fight director. Nigel Poulton. Accent coach. Linda Nicholls-Gidley.Assistant Director. Carissa Licciardello. Associate Artist Suzanne Pereira. Stage Manager Luke McGettigan Deputy Stage Manager Jennifer Parsonage. Assistant Stage Manager. Julia Orlando. Musicians Shenzo Gregorio, Arjunan Puvendran, Vinod Prasanna.

Cast: Prakash Belawadi –Apah and others; Nicholas Brown-Hasanga and others; Jay Emmanuel – Young Thirru and others; Rarriwuy Hick –Lily and others; Antonythasan Jesuthasan- Older Thirru and others; Ahilan Karunahan-Sunil and others; Monica Kumar-Young Dhamayanthi, Swathi and others; Ghandi MacIntyre- Priest, Hoppercart Man and others; Arky Michael-Ismet, Mr Levy and others; Shiv Palekar-Siddharta and Others; Monroe Reimers-Jailor, Vinsanda and others; Nipuni Sharada-Young Nihinsa; Kalieaswari Srinivasan- Older Rhada; Vaishnavi Suryaprakash- Young Rhada; Rajan Velu-Fundraise, Bala, Maithri and others;Sukania Venugopal- Older Nihinsa, Aacha, Older Dhamayanthi and others.

Photos by Brett Boardman

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


For almost sixty years, the Adelaide Festival has showcased the very best of performing, visual and literary arts from around the world. This year it is again one of Australia’s own that is the jewel in the theatrical crown of Rachel Healey and Neil Armfield’s  third festival.  Belvoir’s  Counting and Cracking is a stunning three hour epic narrative in the finest tradition of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata. It also mirrors the intention to present distinctly Australian stories such as Secret River  and When The Rain Stops Falling.  Set against a backdrop of Sri Lanka’s bloody and bitter civil war, Counting and Cracking recounts the lives of four generations , spanning half a century from 1953 in Colombo, shortly after Independence to Pendle Hill on Sydney’s Georges River in 2004.

From the very moment that the cast sweep onto the thrust stage to the distinctive sounds of Sri Lankan music from the musicians above the stage at the Adelaide Showgrounds’ Ridley Theatre, one is swept up by the sense of the epic, of drama events and of lives caught up in overwhelming circumstances and their cultural, historical and personal consequences. Over five years, writer S. Shakthidaran has created a vast and powerful and moving work, inspired by a desire to learn more of his family’s history .Partly autobiographical, partly fictional, Counting and Cracking is an account of the family of central character, Siddharta, named by his mother, Rhada, after the Sinhalese name for Buddha. Siddharta, like Shakthidaran, yearns to learn more of his family’s history, his origins and the cultural and ethnic influences that have shaped his character and destiny.  He meets and falls in love with Lily, an aboriginal woman, who also shares his questioning concern to know more about her people, her country and herself through a greater understanding of her place and her purpose.

Siddharta’s quest for information begins with the ritual of dispersing his grandmother’s ashes into the Georges River. His curiosity is further aroused by the knowledge that his mother holds on to his grandfather’s ashes. And then a phone call comes to Rhada from Sri Lanka. The journalist, Hasanga, reveals that her husband, Thirru, thought to have been killed during the 1983 beginnings of the Sri Lankan Civil War, is still alive and seeking help to come to Australia.

Shakthidaran’s curiosity about his own family’s heritage inspires the unravelling of three hours of gripping, compelling and thought provoking theatre. It is a saga of love, of conflict, of ethnic prejudice and violence and political turbulence and confrontation. The action moves back and forth between the peaceful events of 1953 with their accustomed rivalries and expectations, to the meeting  and evolving love of Siddharta and his girlfriend, back to the deadly events of 1983 and the story of Thirru’s escape and eventual detention in Villawood before his release. Two intervals allow audiences to absorb the scale of the drama as old traditions are torn apart, lives are destroyed by the willful acts of man’s quest for power and ideological and political supremacy. The counting of heads leads to head cracking in a nation brought to its knees by man’s inhumanity to man. Counting and Cracking  is much more than a story of one nation’s strife. It is a parable for all lands and for all displaced migrants and refugees. It is a lesson for all the sons and daughters of those who have fled persecution to find a better life and for those in power to recognize and support the rights of all to receive refuge and humane treatment. Shakthidaran’s superbly crafted epic with its ebb and flow of thrilling drama, ironic humour, moving nostalgia, and thought provoking issues is much more than an exciting night at the theatre. It is  a glorious celebration of the cultural diversity  that makes up the Australian nation and the invaluable contribution it makes to its indigenous and adopted land.

Eamon Flack’s direction is faultless. The drama sweeps us along under his sensitive and thrilling theatrical vision. Every actor performs with committed authenticity and one suspects the conviction that in some cases is born of actual experience of the horrible events of the long period of civil war.

 Producers Co Curious are committed to presenting another important Australian story. It is also the story of many migrant families who for one reason or another have been forced to flee their country and seek refuge in Australia, where they can raise a family in peace and prosperity.

Counting and Cracking is not only an outstanding theatrical event at this year’s Adelaide Festival. It is a brilliant production that speaks with resounding relevance to all Australians.

 

Monday, March 11, 2019

PICARESQUE ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2019


Robyn Archer in Picaresque.  Photo: Tony Lewis
Picaresque. Devised and Performed by Robyn Archer with George Butrumlis. Ann Wiberg. Designer Geoff Cobham. Exhibition designer. Wendy Todd. The Banquet Room. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival 2019. March 8 – 17.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
The secret is out. Robyn Archer is Australia’s favourite Singing Jilldaw. Jackdaws are renowned hoarders and a walk through the entrance to the Banquet Room of the Festival Centre to see Archer’s Picaresque is proof enough of Archer’s “carbon footprint of shame” as she calls it. Along the walls hang a plethora of travel memorabilia from luggage tabs and labels to Do Not Disturb signs, writing paraphernalia and airline blindfolds. It is proof positive of Archer’s international reputation as an artist of extraordinary talent.

Inside the Banquet Room an even more amazing sight greets us. Inspired by the Sam Smith marquettes that she encountered during her decade in London, Archer has been an avid collector of flat pack marquettes of the many places she has travelled to during her stellar career.-from Sydney to London, from Paris to Kyoto, from Lucknow to San Francisco. She has never visited Prague, so the Basilica in Budapest is close enough. Somewhere along the trail, she has lost the Taj Mahal and the Parthenon but they are hardly missed amongst the stunning array of cardboard models, surrounded by small lights and conjuring memories of places visited and highlights of her remarkable cabaret career.

Archer enters to “I Love Paris” on guitar, followed by accompanist George Butrumlis on accordion. Troubador-like they move to the small stage amongst the miniature buildings. What follows is an extraordinary repertoire of songs that Archer has interpreted in her own inimitable style over four decades. Interspersed with anecdotes of her life and travels, Archer leads us from the Great American Song Book, to the songs of Eisler and Brecht to the primary school anthem, sung in the quad to her beloved Paris and the seductive La Vie en Rose. From Dean Martin to Bertolt Brecht, from Burlington Bertie from Bow to Jacques Brel’s Port of Amsterdam, from Mozart to Haydn and Yodeller Mary Schneider to Johann Sebastian Bach Archer entrances and enchants with a repertoire of extraordinary breadth. Her picaresque selection of songs like the displays of memorabilia and marquettes are the nostalgic highlights of life’s journey. Her aria may not have the rich timbre of the past, and some notes may be more challenging to reach, but there is no doubting her control of the blues and her passion for the political songs of Brecht.

I sit enthralled by Archer’s relaxed and friendly charm. Songs of my generation conjure affection for the past, its journeys and its music. Audiences who have followed Archer’s illustrious career or have lived Life’s journey through her time will revel in the performance with virtuoso accompanist, Butrumlis on accordion and bouzouki. Travellers will delight in the cardboard world laid out before them. But most of all, they will be willing travelers through Archer’s own songbook of memories. Picaresque is snatches of songs from Archer’s vast repertoire. This is armchair entertainment. No glitz or glamour sparkles with false pretension. Her songbook is the chapter and verse of love. Her voice glides along a stream of memory with humour, affection and passion.

Picaresque is a journey of delightful stopovers in the company of a travel guide extraordinaire.

SENIOR MOMENTS

 

John Wood -Max Gillies - Benita Collings - Geoff Harvey
 
Written by Angus FitzSimons and Kevin Brumpton
Directed by Angus FitzSimons - Musical Direction by Geoff Harvey

Performed by Max Gillies, John Wood, Benita Collings, Kim Lewis, Russell Newman, Emily Taylor and Christian Barratt-Hill.
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. 8th and 9th March 2019

Performance on 9th March reviewed by Bill Stephens

The producers of Senior Moments have hit a jackpot with this delightful production which attracted capacity houses for each of its four Canberra performances.  Describing itself as “a comedy revue about ‘old’ people and the young people they have to deal with”, with a  running time of  90 minutes without interval, the show delivers exactly what it promises, a series of old-fashioned comedy sketches and point songs around the subject of ageing.

Though the writing is not as sharp as might be expected, the parody lyrics don’t always scan, and the targets for the good natured sketches are patently obvious, it’s refreshing to harken back to the revue format, rather than aging celebrities reprising their party pieces. The brilliance of this concept however is in the casting.

Max Gillies, John Wood, Benita Collings and Geoff Harvey are familiar favourites.  Gillies and Wood, in particular, are old hands at this kind of material and in their hands even the most mundane script produces belly-laughs. It’s more about what they don’t say, as both are masters of the feigned surprised look, the sustained pause, and subtle physical comedy.

In another time, Gillies might have been a baggy pants comedian up there with George Wallace Snr, or Bobby LeBrun. It’s a shame that imaginative television writers don’t look beyond his fame as a political satirist, to explore ways to harness his excellent character-acting skills in a dramatic context.

Perhaps labouring a point about reading a phone book, his delightful delivery of some instructions to a senior audience, which opens the show, proves he could do this, and towards the end of the show, his sketch with Wood concerning two elderly friends who each admit to each other that they are gay, are among the evening’s highlights.

Geoff Harvey - Benita Collings - John Wood - Max Gillies 
 
Benita Collings delights with her warmth and charm, although the send-up of “Play School” is a bit laboured and not as funny as it could be, ultimately outliving its welcome. At this particular performance Geoff Harvey was indisposed and Canberra pianist Colin Forbes very capably filled in for him at short notice.

Though not as immediately recognisable as the headliners, Russell Newman, Kim Lewis, Emily Taylor and Christian Barratt-Hill all brought a wealth of experience to the show, which was given an enthusiastic reception by the audience.

Don’t be put off by the title, Senior Moments is a delightfully refreshing entertainment guaranteed to delight its target audience, and perhaps surprise a few reluctant companions.

PS. Make sure you collect one of the excellent free programs. It will keep you chuckling for the rest of the week.

 
This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au
 

 

The Full Monty - Supa Productions

Review by John Lombard

In director Chris Baldock’s production of The Full Monty, the cast bare it all.

I don’t mean that they take their clothes off, although some of them do that too.

The cast give raw, alive performances that embody life in a working class New York town gutted by unemployment.

This musical adaptation of the popular 1997 British comedy about an amateur striptease has grit, dealing with unemployment, suicide, homosexuality, child custody and debt.

From opening number Scrap, the anger and desperation of these characters pulls you into a world that is grimy and ugly but emotionally real.

Dave Smith plays Jerry, a charismatic no-hoper mired in debt who hits on male striptease as one-off windfall that will help him reclaim his life.  His first ally in this quixotic plan is his long-suffering friend Dave (Max Gambale), who joins the escapade to save his failing marriage.

Smith and Gambale are spectacular, digging deep to find the characters within themselves, and revealing so much vulnerability that nudity becomes an afterthought.

The other actors in the dance troupe give accomplished performances.  Garrett Kelly gives a hilarious and brilliantly physical performance as Horse, Michael Jordan is classy but feckless as Harold, and Bailey Lutton and Jake Fraser are funny and tender as oddballs that find companionship.

Cole Hilder has an amusing cameo appearance as male stripper Keno, kicking off the show with a thrill for the audience.

Lauren Nihill is extremely entertaining as Jeannette, grizzled veteran of the arts.  From the moment she first pops up from behind a piano, her surreal and unpredictable asides are a welcome diversion.

The hidden star of the show is choreographer Jordan Kelly, who is adroitly aware of the skill level of each performer and gives the cast creative moves that reveal character and tell the story.  In particular, we see the transition as the characters learn to dance.

The Full Monty grabs you, builds to a thrilling climax, and leaves you feeling energised.  But the values of the characters are often bunk.  The performing is so vital that we accept most of the racism and sexism as authentic to the world the characters live in, but the characters have a sense of entitlement that deflates our sympathy for them.

Early on, it is clearly established that Jerry could stop being unemployed and start working at any moment.  But Jerry finds more dignity in feeling sorry for himself and not paying child support than humbling himself to a clerical paying job.  When one character takes a security guard job, Jerry sees this as a failure of nerve rather than adult responsibility.  No, much better to take your young child’s college fund and bet it on a strip show.  Good going Jerry.

I expected Jerry to grow and change (or if not, fail), but the musical never gives us this resolution.  The stage show at the end only defers Jerry actually dealing with his problems.  Maybe next year when this one cash windfall amazingly didn’t somehow fix his life he rustles up the gang and they take it to Vegas for The Full Monty 2?

But that’s not to take away from what is in the end a tremendously entertaining night of theatre.  This expertly crafted piece of theatre is a genuine accomplishment, a deeply involving show with some great acting and a spectacular finale where the cast Let It Go.

Captain Marvel



Review by John Lombard


After the dour and disappointing Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel superhero movies have taken a step back from grandiose melodrama.

Ant Man and the Wasp rediscovered the fun of the genre, with a portable wheeled office building and a Hot Wheels case concealing a garage of shrunken cars.

Now Captain Marvel returns to the intergalactic setting of Guardians of the Galaxy to tell a buddy adventure story of discovery with a light touch and welcome humour.

Vers (Bree Larson) is an elite soldier of the Kree Empire, an orderly and technologically advanced collectivist society organised by an Artificial Intelligence.  The Kree are in stalemate with the Skrulls, a nebulous and shape-changing alien race fighting a guerilla war against the Empire.

Vers sees herself as a heroic soldier keeping the galaxy safe by fighting terrorism, but inevitably learns that the Empire may not be the good guys.  A chaotic melee with the Skrulls separates her from her unit and strands her on primitive backwater planet Earth, where she joins tyro secret agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) on a quest to untangle her past and end the Kree-Skrull war.

Where Guardians of the Galaxy drew on the 70s for style and soundtrack, Captain Marvel takes aim at millennials with 90s nostalgia. Captain Marvel crash-lands on earth in a VHS-laden Blockbuster Video, where she picks up and scrutinises a tape of The Right Stuff.  The soundtrack features No Doubt, Nirvana, Garbage and other bands that scream “90s!”.  There are also many digs at the slow computers and primitive internet of the mid-90s, with an alien Skrull mortified at how long it takes a file to load on Earth technology.  Talos, we remember the pain.

Bree Larson is an unusual choice to play Captain Marvel, normally depicted in the comics as a serious and highly trained soldier.  Larson is instead playful and feisty, a likeable but impulsive hothead.  She has a wonderful mischievous chemistry with Samuel L Jackson.  Their rapport is instant, and their friendly banter does for superheroes what The Thin Man did for murder mystery movies.

Jude Law is competent but forgettable as Vers’ Kree commander Yon-Rogg.  Ben Mendelsohn is more compelling as alien Skrull cell leader Talos, although his best scenes are in ‘human’ disguise: the make-up and slurry accent of his true form cripple the performance.

Last year’s Ant Man and the Wasp gave a female hero second billing (and most of the heavy lifting in the plot), but after 20 Marvel movies none have been helmed by a female superhero.  This is especially baffling because Scarlett Johansson’s popular Black Widow has been knocking around since 2010 but somehow never got a solo vehicle.

Captain Marvel realises the female superhero brilliantly.  Her costume is functional rather than a lustful fantasy, the character is role model of courage and resilience, and the movie even passes the Bechdel Test.  This is where the movie shines brightest, taking the formula established by Iron Man and opening it up to a young female audience, who will see that being a hero is about standing up when you take a fall.

For all that, the Marvel mix of humour and adventure was already tired in Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel struggles against the same fatigue, compounded by this being a prequel intended to fill in some blanks before next month’s Avengers: Endgame.  No more origin stories, please.

Captain Marvel is light, well-constructed fun, diverting but not a genre masterpiece like Thor Ragnarok or Captain America: Winter Soldier.

3 stars, but if you are a millennial add an extra star for 90s nostalgia.

THE FULL MONTY


Bailey Lutton (Malcolm)- Garrett Kelly (Horse) - Dave Smith - (Jerry) 
Jake Fraser (Ethan) - Max Gambale (Dave) - Michael Jordan (Harold)
 
Directed by Chris Baldock - Musical Direction by Katrina Tang
Choreographed by Jordan Kelly - Set Designed by Thompson Quan-Wing
Costumes designed by Suzan Cooper
Presented by Supa Productions
The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre 8th to 23rd March 2019.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

“The Full Monty” tells the story of a group of unemployed steelworkers, who inspired by a visit to their town by the all-male Chippendales strip show, decide to stage their own version to make some fast money. When Jerry (Dave Smith) the leader of the group, tells them that their show will be better than The Chippendales because they’ll go “the full Monty” and strip all the way, their fears, self-consciousness and insecurities surface.

Terrence McNally’s strong book divertingly explores notions of masculinity, friendship, even suicide, supported by serviceable music and lyrics by David Yazbek, which allow the characters to express opinions and anxieties strongly, and which is given a kick-ass performance by Katrina Tang’s superb band.

Director, Chris Baldock has set his gritty interpretation in an abstract industrial setting of scaffolding and metal. It’s not pretty but it’s certainly appropriate and provides the production with additional gravitas by focussing the attention firmly on the characters.

Baldock has also assembled an impressive cast, led by Dave Smith as family man, Jerry, desperately trying to retain the love and respect of his young son. Smith centres the production with his strong presence, excellent singing and dancing, and his scenes with Callum Doherty as his son, Nathan, are beautifully handled.

Smith receives excellent support from Max Gambale as Dave, his best friend, who’s grappling with his own body-image issues. Together they make a charismatic duo. Jake Fraser as the indefatigable Ethan, determined to run up a wall, and Garrett Kelly with an eye-catching turn as Horse, also stand out in a strong cast.

Kirrily Cornwell as Vicki
Kirrily Cornwell as Vicki provides one of the vocal highlights with her song “Life With Harold”, while Lauren Nihill turns in a delightful comedic performance as the wry and dry pianist, Jeanette.

Lauren Nihill as Jeanette
 
Jordan Kelly’s excellent choreography is performed with gusto by the cast. It suits the tone of the production perfectly, and cleverly displays the development of the characters as they work towards their big night.

“A Full Monty” is a show with a tough exterior, but winningly soft centre, which turns a spotlight on significant issues of relationships. Supa Productions have come up with a production guaranteed to delight and entertain anyone willing to have their buttons pushed and their mind engaged.


                        Photos by Ben Appleton/Photox - Canberra Photo Service


         This review first published in the digital edition of  CITY NEWS on 9.3.2019

TWO JEWS WALK into a THEATRE ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2019



Brian Lipson and Gideon Orbazank. Photo: Sarah Walker 


 

Two Jews Walk into  a Theatre….   

Devised and performed by Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek. Directed and choreographed by Lucy Guerin. Producer Michaela Coventry-Sage Arts. Lighting design. Bosco Shaw. Music. Oren Ambarchi. Odeon Theatre. Adlide Festival 2019. March 8 – 10.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek  Photo Sarah Walker
Two Jews walk into a theatre. They sit in the foyer waiting for a show to start and for the next hour they converse about Time zone differences between Adelaide and the East Coast, public transport, their sons who are performing, the Israeli/Palestine conflict and Life. They converse on chairs for almost an hour. Is it theatre? Acclaimed theatre director once said and I paraphrase: “ A man enters and crosses the stage and theatre has taken place.”

What makes Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre…” an intriguing theatrical conversation, ingeniously devised and performed by Brian Lipson and Gideon Obarzanek is that it is much more than a mere duologue in front of a red curtain. Shades of Ionesco emerge as we discover that the sons have the names of the two actors, and the two actors describe their real life experiences as though they are describing the lives of their sons, Brian Lipson, the experimental theatre actor and Gideon Obarzanek, the dancer. It is a clever and tantalizing device to reveal the real lives of the two actors as if they belong to their sons. They then play out their own fathers and what emerges is a generational change in experiences and attitudes.

The play becomes a rite of reminiscence, an opening of old wounds, and the irreconcilable differences that shape the character and experience of each generation..  We also learn of the lives of Lipson and Obarzanek’s fathers, one whose family escaped the Russian pogroms  and the other whose father fled Poland to escape extermination in a concentration camp. And yet, in spite of similar backgrounds the two irascible fathers, played by actors Lipson and Oberzanek hold very different views on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The lives, lived by the older Laurence Lipson and Senek Obarzanek, expose the continuing debates on refugees and what it is to be a Jew.

Director Lucy Guerin cleverly paces the conversation between the two men. A casual conversation can quickly turn tense until a long pause releases the tension and convivial conversation begins again. Then, as if out of nowhere, a careless word or a misinterpreted comment brings the cantankerous fathers of the fathers and the grandfathers of the performing sons into  yet another disagreement.
It is time for the performance to begin. Lives have been revealed. Attitudes have been exposed. Fathers and sons have been reconciled by old age or a daughter in law’s cooking And yet scars remain for another generation to heal. Laurence Lipson leaves to exit behind the curtain where his son’s experimental work is about to begin.. Senek follows to see his son dance upon the stage. The curtain opens to reveal two men in tableau. The performance begins, an hilariously funny parody of experimental theatre and contemporary dance.

Almost two hundred stories exist in the lives of the audience who sit in the Odeon Theatre to watch four stories unfold.  Two Jews Walk Into A Theatre    is no theatrical spectacle. There’s no grandiose set, no exquisite costumes or dazzling lighting and visual effects. Oren Ambarchi’s music subtly comes only at the end as Lipson and Obarzanek perform their Dadaesque piece. Two men sit and talk and their stories come to life. In our imaginations it becomes as funny as any hilarious comedy, as sad as any drama, as captivating as any story told upon a larger stage. Theatre is two excellent actors walking into a theatre, sitting in front of a curtain and revealing to a fascinated audience the stories of their lives. After all, all that it takes to create theatre is two actors, a plank and a passion, and sometimes you can do without the plank.