Sunday, April 28, 2019


By Bertolt Brecht and translated by Tony Kushner
Directed by Joe Woodward
Daramalan Theatre Company
McCowage Hall, Daramalan College, Dickson to 4 May

Reviewed by Len Power 27 April 2019

‘Mother Courage And Her Children’ is an ambitious undertaking for any theatre company.  With the issues it raises about war and its effects, it’s a good choice for the Daramalan Theatre Company.

Set during the Thirty Years' War in the 17th Century, it focusses on Anna Fierling, nicknamed Mother Courage, a canteen woman with the Swedish Army, who is determined to make her living from the war.  Over the course of the play, she loses all three of her children to the very war from which she tried to profit.

Written by Bertolt Brecht in 1939 at the start of World War Two, its anti-war message is as strong as ever today.  The issues that must be explored and understood to be able to perform it with clarity and conviction make it an ideal choice for a student theatre company.

Joe Woodward’s production is staged very well with minimal settings in a large performing space.  The cabaret singer, Kara Blackburn, and her songs, mostly with music by Kurt Weill, set the right atmosphere before the show commences.

There are strong performances by the large ensemble cast, most of whom play multiple roles.  The director has obtained fine in-depth characterizations from all of the performers who don’t flinch from the confronting aspects of the play.

Jo Howard’s makeup and non-specific period costume designs add strongly to the atmosphere of the show, as do the incidental music and songs.

This is a challenging play for any company to perform.  It’s demanding for audiences and performers alike and the Daramalan Theatre Company have done well to present a full-blooded Brechtian production that is very satisfying.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.

Saturday, April 27, 2019


Enter Ophelia

By Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway
Director: John Kachoyan
Cast: Amanda LaBonte, Sophie Lampel, Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway
Set/costume design: Laura Hawkins
Lighting design: Steve Hendy
Sound design: Russell Goldsmith

Presented by the National Gallery of Australia at the John Fairfax Theatre. April 27th. 2019.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

As one of its offerings to accompany its pre-Raphaelite Love and Desire Exhibition, the National Gallery of Australia’s Public Programs have presented Enter Ophelia, a compact, contemporary interpretation of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Two professional theatre ensembles from Melbourne, Essential Theatre and Three Birds Theatre   have collaborated on a work, especially created to highlight Ophelia’s character in the dangerous, dark and uncertain court of Denmark.
Written by Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway, the hour long performance bears the hallmarks of a collectively devised work, tightly written and precisely directed as a stylized representation of Shakespeare’s characters from Hamlet. The opening scene surprises with its contemporary caricature of society women at a cocktail party. It exudes artifice, clothed in privilege and preening posturing. In the midst of this Kardashianesque coterie of celebrity stands Ophelia (Amanda La Bonte) Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, more sinned against than sinning, poor victim of her male-dominated society. Spurned by her lover and controlled by her father, Polonius (Sophie Lampel standing on a chair) and her brother Laertes she struggles to assert identity.
Director John Kachoyan holds a tight rein on the various segments of the short performance, choreographing the piece from moments of frenetic dance to eerily robotic gesture to a chorus of women, sheltering under a luminescent umbrella to escape the storm that rages over Elsinore. Shakespeare’s text merges with colloquial speech and word association games that hurl Ophelia into a world of confusion and a watery grave in the most effective moment of the show where Shakespeare’s poetry and the tragedy of her death bring to mind Sir John Everett Millais’s centrepiece for the gallery’s remarkable exhibition of Love and Desire.
OPhelia by Sir John EVerett Millais
Enter Ophelia offers little insight into a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s character. An all female cast in contrast to the all male cast of Shakespeare’s time directs our attention to the injustice of Ophelia’s treatment by male dominated society. However, Ophelia remains a victim, haunted and tormented by a court dominated by men.  Love and desire in this production slice sharply at the frailty of the human heart in a production that is carefully orchestrated, tightly scripted and stylized in its staging. The danger of a show that appears more driven by concept than narrative and contemporary experimentation than presentation of the original work is that is can appear elusive, especially if an audience is unfamiliar with the original source, Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. In a production that moves so quickly and introduces snatches of dialogue from different Shakespearian plays as well as primarily from Hamlet, it is difficult to empathize with the central character, who, unlike Shakespeare’s character, has little opportunity to develop relationships and establish a distinct character. 

There was no programme available before the show to provide an audience with an introductory insight into the approach that Essential Theatre and Three Birds Theatre were taking with this interpretation. This work would also have benefited from a Q and A session with the actors after the performance. It is a tightly directed and confidently performed professional show with clever moments and imaginative insight into one of Shakespeare’s more enigmatic female characters. I left the Fairfax Theatre of the National Gallery, feeling as though I had enjoyed well-presented art, but without the audio guide to make my experience completely satisfying. 


Rated M, 2 hrs 28 mins
Palace Electric New Acton

3.5 Stars

Review by © Jane Freebury

It’s good to see a film like this, an all too rare event. A simmering drama from South Korea that slowly and inexorably turns the screws as a young man searches for clues about a young woman who has disappeared.

Maestro of psychological thrillers, Alfred Hitchcock built a career on stories like this, with characters who didn’t know what was going on, who were trapped and compelled to unravel the mystery, if they could. The classic Vertigo in which Kim Novak’s blonde vamp leads James Stewart’s retired detective astray is for many the acme of Hitch’s tales of disorientation and obsession.

As with Vertigo, the audience for Burning will need to be patient and settle to its unhurried rhythms while being fed information, possibly inconclusive and even contradictory, one pellet at a time. If film goers entrust themselves to Chang-dong Lee’s direction, slow paced and nuanced, the rewards will be worth the wait.

Drawn from a short story by the master Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, it is based a screenplay the director developed with co-writer Jungmi Oh.

Burning is framed by a search for a story. Aspiring writer Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) has completed his studies and really wants to find a good story to launch his career. While doing his rounds as a deliveryman, he bumps into a Shin Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun), who he knew at school but seems to have forgotten. She seems rather flaky, but it seems she has not, however, forgotten him.

There is a little time to get acquainted before she leaves for a holiday in Africa. Jong-su agrees to look drop in to her apartment to feed her cat. However, it never makes an appearance and Hae-mi returns with another man in tow, Ben (Steven Yeun), a suave and cultivated Porsche driver whom she met during delays at the airport in Nairobi.

an aching sense of interpersonal, inter-generational and social alienation readers of Murakami’s writing will recognise

Ben presents as an enigma. There is backstory to Jong-su, that includes a violent father and an isolated, dilapidated home in farmland on the outskirts of Paju, but there is little to learn about Ben. Except that for him work is ‘play’. Why is he, rich and idle, spending time with Hae-mi, a shopgirl so unlike the people he consorts with? Does he amuse himself with girls like her then move on?

Before she went to Africa in search of the meaning of life, Hae-mi had a job gyrating in skimpy clothes at a store to lure customers inside. Ben observes her isolation, but for all three young people there is an aching sense of interpersonal, inter-generational and social alienation that readers of Murakami’s writing will recognise.

Sense of place is strong, from Hae-mi’s tiny apartment, to Ben’s affluent home to the rundown farm where Jong-su lives. The backstreets of the city and the byways of the country take on a malevolence as Jong-su stalks Ben into the countryside and the old industrial areas beyond.

With Hae-mi disappeared and with Jong-su having little to lay claim to, Burning seems to be asking why the idle rich can strip ordinary working people of all they own.

Is a Jong-su’s obsession reality, fiction or dream? On more than one occasion, a teasing cut suggests the aspiring writer is waking from a fevered dream.

While the truth is elusive in this atmospheric mystery drama, there is no doubt at all about the very visceral way that it all ends.

Jane's reviews are also published at her blog, the Film Critics Circle of Australia, and broadcast by ArtSound FM 92.7 MHz

Friday, April 26, 2019

EXPOSING EDITH - Michaela Burger and Greg Wain

Michaela Burger in "Exposing Edith"

Photo: Erica J. Harris

The Fortuna Spiegletent – Civic Square, Canberra – 18th April 2019

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

The Fortuna Spiegletent provided the perfect environment for this stylishly performed homage to Edith Piaf. Vocalist, songwriter, cabaret performer and film actress, Piaf was universally regarded as France’s greatest popular singer.

 A diminutive figure, Piaf lived to sing, baring her soul to her audiences. Her songs told stories, mostly of tragic love, of a legionnaire killed in battle after a one-night stand, of young lovers who chose death rather than separation. Known as “the little sparrow”, by the time she died of liver cancer at the age of 48, Piaf had become one of the most celebrated performing artists of the 20th century.

Michaela Burger and Greg Wain 

This meticulously researched cabaret, superbly performed by Michaela Burger and guitarist, Greg Wain, provides an absorbing insight into the life and career of Piaf, but only hints as to why the memory of Piaf has endured through the years.

Burger is also diminutive. At 4’11” she is only an inch taller than Piaf. Her stage presence and story-telling skills are engaging. She effortlessly conjures up the myriad characters important to the recounting of Piaf’s life and career, singing and speaking in immaculate French and English. Her singing voice is more polished than Piaf’s, but she is able to capture the passion and that peculiar timbre and delivery immediately recognisable as Piaf’s. However, although she sometimes speaks Piaf’s words, and occasionally adopts Piaf’s signature mannerisms, her’s is not an impersonation as much as an impression to conjure up the essence of Edith Piaf. 

Michaela Burger performing "Exposing Edith" 

Photo: Mark Wojt

The musical arrangements for the show are not reproductions of those sung by Piaf, rather re-imaginings of the songs, incorporating jazz rhythms and a looping device which allows Burger to sing harmonies with herself. For “La Vie en Rose”, she sings directly into an acoustic guitar to create an eerie other-worldly sound.

All Piaf’s most popular songs,  ‘L’Accordeoniste”, “Mon Legionnaire”, “Autumn Leaves”, “Mon Dieu”  and “Padam Padam” are included, and throughout Burger is impeccably accompanied on guitar by Greg Wain.

However Piaf’s songs are principally story songs, songs of drama and passion, and the jazz arrangements, the looping and other innovations, as musically interesting and clever as they are, distract from the lyrics, and in the case of “Hymne a L’Amour” even the mood, thereby seriously diluting the essential drama of the songs, negating the very quality that made Piaf’s performances so memorable.

This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

“Baskerville – a Sherlock Holmes Mystery”

L to R, Adam Salter, Watson and Brian Kavanagh, Holmes. Photo  Janelle McMenamin

Theatre / “Baskerville – a Sherlock Holmes Mystery” by Ken Ludwig. Directed by Rob De Vries. At Gungahlin Theatre until April 27. 

IF variety is the spice of life, versatility must be the icing on the cake and in this case the Dramatic Productions current season of “Baskerville” has both in spades.

Ken Ludwig’s take on what was perhaps Conan Doyle’s most popular mystery gives audiences plenty of reasons to be pleased to have made their way to the Gungahlin Theatre to marvel at, and applaud, this production, under the direction of Rob De Fries.

The original story concerns the devices adopted by scheming baddies to wrest the estate of a recently-deceased lord-of-the-manor from the hands of the rightful and high-minded heir, accompanied by maidens in various states of romantic distress.

In this version, the cast consists of the inevitable Holmes/Watson duo, supported by three hardworking actors in a bewildering whirlpool of multiple roles. So numerous and swift are the various character changes that it would be invidious to identify any one of this trio of madcap performers (Nicholas Steain, Teresa Wojik and Michael Cooper) against any one of the many characters they portray.

Sufficient to say that each of these actors convincingly presents their roster of characters as clearly identifiable individuals – aided in their diversity by the variety of Emma Graham’s well-wrought costumes.

It could be said that Holmes (Brian Kavanagh) and Watson (Adam Salter) have an easy time of it, compared to the hectic life of their supporting players, but that does not detract from the fact that Holmes is suitably superior and Watson appropriately stuffy and loyal. The interplay between them is a joy to watch, with each giving full value to his character.

Andrew Kay has designed a deceptively simple set full of almost as many clever surprises as the cast provides.

There are lashings of fog and gloom, a splendid gale for the actors to battle against on the bleak moors, and not a dull moment in this production: not a dropped cue; hardly a longueur between exits and re-entries in new disguises; not a missed sound or lighting cue (sound designed by James  McPherson, lights by Craig Muller), nor a broken bone from any of the meticulously choreographed pratfalls and slapstick fights. Even better, every member of this cast knows how to project their lines clearly without  'benefit' of amplification.

Well done. Just a great night of nonsense and fun for all. 
This review first appeared at on April 21, 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

DJUKI MALA - The Spiegeltent

Directed by Joshua Bond

The Spiegeltent. Civic Square, Canberra. 13th April 2019.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

When the Chooky Dancers first performed in the Canberra Multicultural Festival more than 10 years ago, they were six wide-eyed Yolngu boys from northern Arnhem Land who had found themselves a worldwide phenomenon as the result of a video-clip that had been uploaded on the internet. In this clip they performed a hilarious version of “Zorba The Greek” in which they combined traditional indigenous dance steps with modern dance moves. Their clip attracted not only millions of viewers worldwide, but also invitations to perform their dance around the world.

The Chooky Dancers have now morphed into Djuki Mala, surprisingly, not six dancers as indicated in the publicity, but a highly accomplished trio, Baykali Ganambarr, Wakara Gondarra, and Marko Garmu,  who perform with disarming joie de vie,  an entertaining mish-mash   of tightly  choreographed dance routines, some traditional cultural dances, others tongue-in-cheek interpretations of familiar pop-songs, interspersed with documentary film sequences of female elders explaining Yolngu traditions, and the history of the Chooky Dancers.  

"Singin" in the Rain" 

Photo: Cam Campbell

The zany “Zorba” dance is still there, danced much more professionally these days, and there’s a delightful mash-up of Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” incorporating brightly coloured umbrellas. There’s a Motown medley, a Bollywood dance with dancers wrapped incongruously in gold satin, and a dazzling Michael Jackson moment when one of the dancers was rewarded with excited spontaneous applause for his expert execution of Jackson’s signature moonwalk.

A slickly conceived high energy presentation, Djuki Mala is sometimes silly, sometimes puzzling, occasionally moving, always entertaining, definitely irresistible. It drew a standing ovation from the large appreciative audience attracted to its first Spiegeltent show in Canberra.

This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.

Monday, April 22, 2019

At The National Folk Festival, Easter 2019

Spooky Men's Chorale in rehearsal
Spooky Men’s Chorale – Workshop at The Majestic. National Folk Festival, Canberra, Saturday April 20, 10.30 am.  With a mention of Phil Bates at the Flute ‘n’ Fiddle.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

Spooky Men’s workshop was a great example of classroom management, but raised questions in this one-time teacher’s consciousness about political bias in education and society.

The great thing about the National Folk Festival is that’s where you meet old friends on common grounds.  Penny, a teaching colleague on occasions and a public servant retired from the federal Department of Education, is a person whose observations I know I can trust.  Though it’s not possible to review the whole four-day NFF from the one day and five main performances I attended, she thought there was much less overt political material on show this year.  Why would this be so with a May 18 election in the offing?  Shouldn’t we expect more, not less?

Disturbing my self-indulgent equilibrium – just enjoying the wonder of singing, dancing and musicianship of my annual Easter escape into the world of folk – Penny’s thoughts struck home.

Of course, as you would expect, there were social issues behind the songs of Stu Tyrrell – but more of a personal nature than strictly political.  His was literally a family show – his family – with his very young but wonderfully enthusiastic daughter up on stage with her favourite Dad.  Ricardo Tesi & the Banditaliana were terrific performers, filling the Budawang with, for me, a new kind of concert Italian Folk.  And just the fact that Yolngu man Gawurru Gaykamangu, from North East Arnhem Land, was performing his own work in language and had a crowd dancing along, was a political statement in itself.

Phil Bates, a quietly spoken and singing presenter of what I think of as traditional Australian folk songs, entirely un-commercial in origin, explicitly spoke and sang politically.  His Andy’s Gone with Cattle Now by Henry Lawson made the life of the ever-waiting worker’s family a sad reflection on the demands required to earn a living.  But only in his last item did he raise the politics of modern times.  He said that in an interview, Arlo Guthrie had said we don’t need to write new songs about the dire straits of democracy, because we already have them from 1968.

So Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin' made the point without need for further discussion.  For me, though it was oddly ironic that Phil lost his words and couldn’t even get them again on a second try – for the very verse that I had to hear:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

So the political guernsey falls on the shoulders of the Spooky Men’s Chorale, described (by them) – accurately – as a “vast, rumbling, steam powered and black clad behemoth, seemingly accidentally capable of rendering audiences moist eyed with mute appreciation or haplessly gurgling with merriment.”  I know this is true because I saw them at a previous NFF, in between their overseas tours (they’re Blue Mountains men, from the fog-bound ranges west of Sydney).

But this was a workshop, and we were going to learn how to sing like them.  So my praise begins with their musicianship – which certainly has my mute appreciation; and goes on to their leadership, teaching us a new song in four parts, rising in pitch and rhythmic complexity, our merriment gurgling all the way until a final point of chaotic haplessness.

Penny’s thoughts were stirred by the content of the song, which went basically like this (except for the bits I forgot while laughing):

Vote them; vote them; vote them; vote them out;
Vote them; vote them; vote the bastards out.

Then there was the maudling bit about wondering why some people vote them in, and wanting to leave the country.

Then a reprise of the original lines, designed to reach a crescendo of chaotic waving and yelling “out!”.

I thought GetUp! should take the Spooky Men to the electorate of Warringah to take over the campaign management, especially since our audience in The Majestic looked to me exactly like the middle class nice people who have set up Vote Tony Out at .

But Penny pointed out the undercurrent of lack of enthusiasm for this election.  She said what the corporates want is for people to not believe in anything to vote for.  The ploy is to undermine representative democracy, to get government out of the way, not pay taxes, encourage individual libertarianism, and have people go along with “We’ll give a fair go to those who have a go”, and hard luck to the rest.

And suddenly (half a day after the Spooky workshop experience) I had the most horrifying thought.

The spooky part of their song it’s only against.  Is the Spooky Men’s Chorale, by so cleverly getting us into a state of gurgling merriment over voting the bastards out, actually working as an arm of the corporates who want the ‘freedom’ from people being voted in because they are for something – like regulating the market.

Oh horror!  Where goes the Folk Tradition now?  Are The Times A-Changin’?

How Spooky is the Men’s Chorale!

The Tragedy of King Richard the Second

Rear: Leo Bill, as Bolingbroke
Foreground: Simon Russell Beale, as King Richard the Second
 The Tragedy of King Richard the Second by William Shakespeare

National Theatre Live, UK, shown at Dendy Cinema, Canberra: April 20, 21, 22, 2019.  Original season on stage at Almeida Theatre, London, UK: Previews 10 Dec – 17 Dec; Season: December 19, 2018 – February 2, 2019.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 21, 2019

This modern pared-down but full of symbolism interpretation of Shakespeare’s Richard II is absolutely fabulous theatre by London’s Almeida.  I mean this literally, for it shows Shakespeare’s genius for fable-making – turning (for him) a century old history into an everlasting story of universal significance.

Director Hill-Gibbins’ genius is to have turned (for us) a 400-year-old work of theatrical art into a gripping emotional and intellectual experience – a study of the nature of political power – of crucial importance to us, now, as it was for Shakespeare and his audience, then.

How is it done?  What does it mean?  Why should Almeida Theatre be so highly praised?

Here’s how a different recent production was done:

Hermione Gulliford as Bolingbroke; Tim Delap as King Richard II

[In 2016] Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud’s Richard II is the first Shakespeare play to have been performed at the House of Commons. The opening performance at the prestigious site sought to emphasise the relocation of the play into modern Westminster by literally taking the action there. 
[ ]
[Then back] at Arcola Theatre the set consists of little more than a desk and regal chairs hinting at the political-meets-royal dimension of the reinterpretation. The modernisation of Richard II is intended to point out that the essence of political conflict is timeless, and that the dynamics of power can be easily transferred and applied to a modern setting.

"Wrath-kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me;
Let's purge this choler without letting blood"

Unity of purpose behind Bolingbroke

Mud and blood, but where is Bolingbroke now?
 In 2018, at Almeida the set is a single room made of iron walls, high, with no doors or windows – the prison in which Richard, king by divine right, is held without hope by his usurper, Bolingbroke.  But note that all the cast of nobles and the commoners who serve them, are all equally trapped – yet cannot learn to live together.  As Bolingbroke finally ‘wins’, his power is already being challenged by the next generation as illegitimate.

I call this production a modern interpretation because of a simple device: the end is a repeat of the beginning, which has to remind one of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot – who never comes.  Richard speaks directly to us, saying “I have been studying how I may compare this prison where I live unto the world…Thus play I in one person many people, and none contented: sometimes am I king; then treasons make me wish myself a beggar, and so I am: then crushing penury persuades me I was better when a king: then I am king’d again; and by and by think that I am unking’d by Bolingbroke, and straight am nothing: but whate’er I be, nor I nor any man that but man is with nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased with being nothing.”

How is this, then, in a world where we are all made to believe that we can all achieve our ‘dream’: we will all have a fair go, if we give it a go.  But the reality is what our caretaker prime minister actually said – to encourage us to vote for his party again next month: “We’ll give a fair go to those who have a go”.  As Charles Body of Canberra suburb, Kaleen, wrote in a Letter to the Editor in The Canberra Times, today [who] “will decide who is having a go.  Bad luck to those individuals who through disability or for some other reason are deemed not to be having a go.  How sad for our nation that care and compassion are now available only on a user-pays basis.”

Or, as Shakespeare wrote, in effect, those deemed not to be having a go must be “eased with being nothing”.  When this line repeats, near the end, Richard seems to have lost himself in a dream, hearing mysterious music, “and now time doth waste me; For now hath time made me his numbering clock.”  Yet still he lashes out and kills two before Sir Pierce of Exton ‘strikes him down’.  Is this what ‘having a go’ means, rather than being ‘eased with being nothing’?

So this design, of actors in rehearsal clothes, in a set in which they, the walls and the floor become mired in mud and blood, becomes far more than a mere study of political conflict – monarchy or people power – but takes us to where time ticks us all in his numbering clock.  In Shakespeare’s day, of course, people died young; yet today with all our technical advances so we have longer to live fulfilling lives of care and compassion, we still cannot learn to be eased with being nothing.  Still we, like Richard, can be “irresponsible, foolish and vain” sending our “kingdoms into disarray and our courts into uproar”, as the program notes.  And still like Bolingbroke we see “no other option but to seize power”, be “ambitious” and “challenge the throne” and the “divine right to rule”.

Shakespeare was just 31, like a modern Millennial or Generation Z, when he wrote the character of King Richard the Second from the inside.  I am never less than amazed at the maturity of his understanding; and too I am stunned by the skills of clear expression of Shakespeare’s meaning – of what each character is feeling and thinking – on the part of all the Almeida cast, with an extra plaudit for Simon Russell Beale.  He achieved as he had hoped in his preview interview, shown in this film, to help us find empathy with and even some sympathy for a king who, according to history’s lights, failed his country. 

This is what great art can do for all of us, whatever the state of our country.

Simon Russell Beale and Leo Bill
as King Richard II and Bolingbroke
in the Almeida Theatre production of
The Tragedy of King Richard the Second by William Shakespeare

Sunday, April 21, 2019


Written by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Rob De Fries
Dramatic Productions
Gungahlin College Theatre to 27 April

Reviewed by Len Power 19 April 2019

The author of ‘Baskerville’, Ken Ludwig, is probably best known for his farce ‘Lend Me A Tenor’ and the long running Broadway musical, ‘Crazy For You’.  As well as original works, he has written numerous new stage adaptations of classic novels and plays such as ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Twentieth Century’ and ‘Murder On The Orient Express’.  His work has been performed in over 25 countries throughout the world.

‘Baskerville’, an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery novel, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ was first performed in Washington, D.C. in 2015.  Similar in structure and style to the international hit play, ‘The 39 Steps’, the show pokes fun at a melodramatic genre by having three actors frantically play a multitude of characters around the two actors who play it straight as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Plays like this walk a fine line.  Go too far with the crazy stuff at the expense of the story and the whole confection can collapse.  It needs skilful playing and strong direction.

Brian Kavanagh is fine as a classic Sherlock Holmes.  Adam Salter has more to do in the story as Dr. Watson and gives a creditable performance.  The other three performers, Nicholas Steain, Michael Cooper and Teresa Wojcik do all the really hard work of playing the rest of the characters with numerous costume changes.  Some it works but a lot of it doesn’t.

The play itself has far too much exposition and extraneous characters that don’t add anything to the plot.  The actors playing the multiple roles needed firmer direction.  There was too much over-playing and trying to be funny rather than finding the humour within real characters.  Cast members were not quick enough with their cues and the pace of the production was too slow overall.  There were several moments when the stage was left empty for no apparent reason and some costume changes had not been timed well.

The set, designed by Andrew Kay, looked good but certain aspects like the doors and steps inhibited the pace of the show and needed better solutions by the director.  Lighting design by Craig Muller was often too dark, giving a dull look to the production rather than a period atmosphere.

The overall impression of the production was that it was under-rehearsed.  The type of absurdity that the director was aiming for was fine but it wasn’t achieved by opening night.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.