Suzy Goes See

Excerpts from review:

Ten short monologues are interwoven on an intimate stage, with ten young actors presenting a new generation’s perspective of where we are and where we are approaching.

There is wonderful and starkly inspired writing to be found in this collection of plays. Each one individualistic, offering a wild range of styles and tones, from simple narratives that pack a punch, to poetic abstractions that affect with beguiling efficacy. Iain Sinclair’s direction provides an almost miraculous cohesion that allows us to absorb the fragments as a whole, manipulating our senses and emotions as though following a conventional theatrical plot. The format he creates attempts to bring an evenness to the disparate source material, but the more anecdotal pieces leave a greater impression. Callum Mclean’s Changing Room, Gemma Neall’s Jailbait and Morgan St. Clair’s Possession in particular, involving gender and strong sexuality, are captivating tales told intelligently

The show features a talented and vibrant cast of youngsters from diverse ethnic backgrounds; a rainbow of skin and hair colours but all sharing a singular Australian-accented voice. Darius Williams is charming, confident and effortlessly engaging in the role of David in Piri Eddy’s Teeth. The wide range of emotion he portrays so convincingly, and his infectious humour make his performance a highlight of the production. In Rachel O’Regan’s Red Bull, May Tran depicts a girl cracking under the pressure of an examination, with marvellous precision and clarity. Poppy Lynch in Bright by Ciella William is daring, energetic and charismatic, and Jonas Thompson in Kirby Medway’s The Fuzz is a keen comedian with beautifully timed punchlines that any audience would find irresistible.

Suzy Goes See

Full Review here

Suzy Goes See

Excerpts from review:

It is one thing to know about the usurpation of Australian land by the British two centuries ago, but quite another to see it happen before one’s own eyes. Brutal and tragic events register in our minds only as deeply as human sensitivity can allow.

The show is heavy and heartbreaking, but also remarkably compelling. At no point is the audience in doubt about the end that is to come, but we are nonetheless captivated by the story that unfolds. Director Neil Armfield sets a reverent tone and at a deliberate pace, embarks upon a presentation that takes its responsibilities in education and activism seriously.

Nathaniel Dean and Georgia Adamson play the Thornhills, who begin their frontier lives on the Hawkesbury River in 1813 as farmers claiming land without authorisation by its rightful owners. The actors are vibrant, charismatic and precise in their approach, with a fierce honesty that keeps us simultaneously endeared and repelled. It is tricky business creating villainous protagonists, but the duo’s very fine work shines light on their flawed humanity with a complexity that disallows us from writing them off too conveniently. A cast of Indigenous performers brilliantly depicts the local community that falls victim to the Thornhills’ rapacious enterprise. They do not speak English, but all that they feel and desire is conveyed with clarity and enthralling charm. Ningali Lawford-Wolf provides with great beauty, an important matriarchal omnipresence that represents the origins of our land, and a compassion that informs the way we respond to the events that unfold before her, and our, eyes. The role of Ngalamalum is played by Trevor Jamieson, whose humour and capacity for powerful emotion leaves an indelible impression. His work in the epilogue especially, is quite a thing to behold, and certainly one of the most moving moments to be seen on any stage.

Suzy Goes See

Full Review here

The Buzz from Sydney

Excerpts from review:

Questions of class and culture that are raised in the play are more relevant today than ever as our culture is increasingly diverse, yet that diversity is woefully under-represented in so many aspects of Australian life. Nowra conceded that only his younger self had the audacity to write this piece, and it is audacious, but at heart it is a also a love story. A love story not just between Francis and Betsheb but also love for a life that Francis pines for and aspires to, until the brutality of war makes that material life seem meaningless.

The Golden Age has not lost any of its sheen since it was written, and this production is indeed golden. The entire cast give stunning performances, with Rarriwuy Hick standing out as Betsheb. Hick is hypnotic as she sings familiar ditties with the innocence of a child after Francis coaxes her to speak. While the gothic drama of the play is potentially heartbreaking, we experience the play’s conclusion through Betsheb, who finds solace in the voices of her spirit family.

The Buzz from Sydney

Full Review here

Stage Noise

Excerpts from review:

What happens, throughout the play, is at once alien and all too familiar. It is also captivating and beautifully told in Kip Williams’ clear and sensitive production. It is played on a great mound of rich, dark earth which is surrounded by a monochromatic emptiness given shape and place through lighting states. Civilisation is signified by a fragment of Greek column, the wilderness by fragments of trees and so on. (Design by David Fleischer, lighting by Damien Cooper.)

Although written some 30 years ago and ostensibly a period drama, the politics of the piece are painfully up to the minute and the play is as fresh and relevant as tomorrow. The company is a spectacularly fine ensemble with the doubled and trebled roles given sharp-edged difference and depth.

As well it has to be said that the remarkable Sarah Peirse is … remarkable; Ursula Yovich and Robert Menzies both dig deep to authenticity, while STC newcomer Liam Nunan is heartbreaking as the physical and mental ruin, Stef. As Betsheb, Rarriwuy Hick is exceptional, carrying the weight of her history and the transition to “civilisation” without a moment of cheap sentimentality.

Mention should also be made of Max Lyandvert’s fabulous music and sound design and Charmian Gradwell’s work with Peirse and Hick in making the dialect sound spoken and everyday and not a gimmick. If people talk Na’avi these days it’s conceivable that someone should take up this lingo for further development.

Diana Simmonds- Stage Noise

Full Review here

Aussie Theatre

Excerpts from review:

Davies and Garber have a strong onstage rapport, alternating between the roles of joker and straight man seamlessly; whatever their scene partner needs, they summon in an instant. Their timing is fast and furious, their vocal inflections similar, the cheeky spark in their eyes a constant mirror. They are so eminently watchable, so good-naturedly self-aggrandising, that it’s difficult to resist them. So why bother resisting? This is a good time, a great time, with solid narrative construction and merry peculiarity after peculiarity.

Cassie Tongue – Aussie Theatre

Full Review here

Stage Whispers

Excerpts from review:

This is Davies and Garber at their impudent, talented best – funny, fast and exceptionally clever. If you loved their Masterclass last year, you’ll probably laugh even more this time. Dramatic allusions abound in a complexity of scene and style changes that are very tightly written – and just as tightly directed. These guys know their stuff – as writers, directors and performers! There is no ‘fat’ in this production. Everything moves fast – except for the requisite pauses and silent asides! – and the sound and lighting cues are as faultless as the immaculate timing of the performers.

Carol Wimmer – Stage Whispers

Full Review here

Jason Blake – Eight Nights A Week

Excerpts from review:

Masterclass 2 is even further “out there” than its predecessor but is notably tighter in terms of its scripting and slicker in its presentation. A snappy lighting plot (Ross Graham) and Patrick Howard’s sound design help no end as Davies and Garber plumb the depths of the actor’s unconscious.

In short, a blast. Go see.

Jason Blake – Eight Nights A Week

Full Review here

Theatre Now

TN Review:

Wonderfully honest and inspiringly fearless, All The Sex I’ve Ever Had is a fabulous addition to this years’ Sydney Festival.

Without breaking the pledge of discretion we were asked to make at the beginning of the show, I shall attempt to give you an idea of what you’re in for.

The setup is this: Jennie, Judith, Liz, Paul, Peter and Ronaldo are six courageous individuals, advanced in years, who have been brought together to sit in front of us and unabashedly divulge their dirtiest, darkest, fondest and most scandalous memories.

The result is this: A powerful, funny, moving and tender exploration of humanity, and what it means to be vulnerable.
The format is simple, but hugely effective. The performers sit at a table going through memories of their lives snippet by snippet as the years roll on. Although they read from scripts, the connection they have to their stories is obvious, and their connection to each other is delightful. When they each reach the age where they had their first sexual encounter, there is applause and high-fives all round.

Throughout the evening, questions were posed to the audience about various topics, sending a ripple of nervous excitement through the space. We were encouraged to be fearless ourselves, to put our hands up with pride and share our own memories without fear of judgement. Amazing stories are just waiting to be heard, if only we’d take the time to listen.
Yes, a lot of this show is about sex, and sexual inclination, sexual desires, fantasies and debaucheries. It’s an important topic that needs the taboos surrounding it broken down. But this show is so much more than that, too. It’s about what makes us human, and the stories (and mistakes) that make us who we are.

Did I keep my pledge? I hope so. If you want to make the same pledge, and witness some wonderfully brave, inspiring humans talking about their lives, get yourself down to Sydney Opera House.

Playing at the Drama Theatre until 24th January..

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now

Theatre Now

TN Review:

Conjuring images of tropical islands, giant serpents, unicorns and monkey slaves, Philip Ridley’s play Tender Napalm makes its Sydney debut at the Old Fitz Theatre as part of their Late Night Show program.

Jordan Cowan and Tim Franklin are both lovely storytellers, and do a remarkable job in this highly energetic, physical piece. Although the plot is difficult to follow at times, both give solid performances. Cowan sizzles with vitality, with her trademark buoyancy and tomboy flair. Franklin is full of boyish charm and vigour, and they work extremely well together. They handle Matt Cornell’s choreography with ease, and the physical detail they find is wonderful.

However, the piece lacks a bit of clarity overall. Audience members were audibly complaining throughout that Franklin couldn’t be heard, and Cowan, whilst spirited, seemed to let the high-octane nature of the piece dictate her delivery, resulting in a few rushed speeches and jumbled lines. Despite this, both actors still managed to paint vivid pictures and take us on the journey with them.

It’s an interesting decision on director Alexander Butt’s part to retain the Briticisms from the original text – they speak about Wembley Stadium, Sainsbury’s, London Hospital, the “high street” and mini cab drivers – but perform it in such an Australian way. This certainly doesn’t detract from the production, but it is a little jarring.

In the final scene of the play, tender and delicately performed, we see two people on the brink of a wonderful adventure. It was a welcomed moment of truth after being taken on such a fantastical journey. You may leave not knowing much more than when you came in, but you will have seen a decent, skilfully performed piece of physical theatre.

Playing at The Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo until 30th January.

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now

Lisa Thatcher

Excerpts from review:

There are many things to love about the Helen Dallimore directed The Fantasticks currently showing at The Hayes Theatre, that oh-so-unfashionable story about two neighbouring fathers who use reverse psychology to get their children to fall in love across a large fence they constructed to keep the pair apart. The two fathers are Garry Scale and Lawrence Coy, parents respectively of Bobbie-Jean Henning and Jonathan Hickey, who play a perfectly heteronomative sweet girl and boy. Overseeing the narrative as its flows is Martin Crews as The Narrator and also El Gallo who personifies the bad boy of every little bourgeois girls dreams.

Despite such a wonderful cast, the biggest reason to see The Fantasticks is the music. The pared down electronic guitar of Glenn Moorehouse and keyboard by Hayden Barltrop give the old-fashioned play a contemporary edge and sets it in a swirling, empty romance that becomes dark and lonely with the slightest of plot twists

Unfortunately it is clear from the context of The Fantasticks, that in 1960 Tom Jones simply thought three men singing a funny song about faking the abduction of a sixteen year old girl was made saucier if they called it a “rape” rather than an “abduction.” The inclusion of a painful explanatory note in the play doesn’t help the situation, but rather draws attention to the fact that the writer knows he’s in dubious territory.

One expects that the theatre is the place where we can have all sorts of discussions and no topic is taboo, but its also reasonable to expect we have a warning. The Fantasticks does warn you that there will be smoke machines used and we’d also be told if there were strobe lights or cigarette smoke. Perhaps a warning that one of the songs contains the word “rape” thirty-eight times sung in a comic context by three men wouldn’t be out of place?

Lisa Thatcher

Full Review here

Australian Stage

Excerpts from review:

Written and performed by Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber, this entertaining existentialist two hander was an acerbic and absurd examination of celebrity and the deification of Thespians.

This year, a sequel, Masterclass 2: Flames of the Forge, kicks off the 2016 season at the Old Fitz. Happily, it’s a sequel of equal.

Existential, metaphysical fun funnelled through extreme exaggeration and the exaltation of the film, Twister, Masterclass 2: Flames of the Forge, like its predecessor, is a concise piece, done in sixty minutes, well suited to the black box aesthetic of the space.

Energetic and proficient in timing and technique, the actors give their own little master class in theatrical performance.

Richard Cotter – Australian Stage

Full Review here

Suzy Goes See

Excerpts from review:

The piece has a playful and silly façade, but there is something covertly sophisticated about their approach. Surprising nuance and obtuse concepts betray their unassuming style of delivery. There is a genuine spirit of adventure in Masterclass 2 that makes it more meaningful and elevated than what it claims to be; there is a lot of self-deprecation in how the characters articulate themselves, but seeing through that sense of modesty will reveal thoughtful and intriguing ideas.

The live experience that Davies and Garber provide is full of chemistry and dramatic tautness. Along with Ross Graham’s lights, the show is compelling and always humorous, with captivating sequences that keep our senses bemused and our minds invigorated. It may be difficult to find personal affiliations with their subject matter, but strong performances ensure that we remain interested, at least for the duration.

Suzy Goes See

Full Review here

The Daily Review

Excerpts from review:

Sequels rarely stand up to the original works of art (although I often wonder how a sequel to the 1996 Helen Hunt film Twister might go) and that’s especially true on stage. But Gareth Davies and Charlie Garber’s sequel to their whimsical two-hander comedy about the art of acting, Masterclass, is an exception in which the drive to tell a bigger and heavier story pays off.

Davies and Garber turn in very funny and well-observed performances as (hopefully) far-removed versions of themselves. It’s the sincerity with which they imbue these absolutely ridiculous creations that make the show so engrossing over its 60 minutes.

Ross Graham’s lighting design is also key to the success of the production, which takes place on a mostly bare stage. Graham helps the audience’s imagination transform the space into everything from a 40,000-seat theatre to the intimacy of the lab in Gareth’s dream forge.

This really is a delightfully silly play and the perfect light (and indulgent) treat to kick off the Old Fitz’s 2016 season. It eventually spins out into something big, bold and entirely over the top.

Ben Neutze – The Daily Review

Full Review here

The Daily Review

Excerpts from review:

Kip Williams has directed a production which starts off rather static and builds to a heart-stopping crescendo over its nearly three-hour running time. The play takes place across both man-made and natural landscapes, and this is a production that uses the elements of earth, fire and water for surprisingly organic storytelling.

There’s something initially quite sterile about David Fleischer’s set — an almighty mound of soil atop a white surface, surrounded by walls painted half-white. But as the performance goes on the performers degrade the soil, dragging it around the stage, giving a full sense of the life in each of these characters. Damien Cooper’s lighting has a similar effect: between scenes, he often illuminates the space corner by corner — the theatrical equivalent of a wipe cut.

As Betsheb, the younger woman in the tribe desperate to carry on their culture, Rarriwuy Hick is full of terror, passion and curiosity. It’s a complex role and she succeeds in finding every nuance, along with the added challenge of working entirely in the language invented by Nowra.

Sarah Peirse also works in that language as Ayre, the matriarch of the tribe. Every time Peirse steps onto any stage she seems to reveal a new aspect of her dramatic talents, and this performance is no exception — her Ayre is proud, motherly and full of extraordinary dignity.

Ursula Yovich also makes an excellent impression as the aristocratic Elizabeth Archer, while Liam Nunan turns in a very strong physical performance in his STC debut. And then there’s Robert Menzies, who excels as both the wild, old tribesman Melorne and the Doctor William Archer, who becomes obsessed with this lost tribe.

This really is a stunning production, absolutely worthy of this stunning piece of writing.

Ben Neutze – The Daily Review

Full Review here

Suzy Goes See

Excerpts from review:

Williams’s show is profoundly hypnotic, coalesced with brilliant dramatic chemistry and an air of intriguing mystery so fierce that we are left still wanting more after its generous three-hour duration. The Golden Age works on all levels; entertaining, emotional, spiritual, intelligent and meaningful, it fulfils everything the theatregoer wishes to experience, and leaves an impressive political message that implicates every one of us. David Fleischer’s design brings beauty, both raw and refined, to the stage, along with surprisingly flexible spacial configurations that provide excellent variety for the many scene transitions. Sound and music by Max Lyandvert is the clandestine master manipulator of atmosphere and the author of the show’s sublime mythical dimension. He works with our imagination to take us to wondrous spaces never before encountered, but are viscerally familiar. The aesthetics of the production is dreamlike, simultaneously splendid and cruel, almost quintessentially Australian, but completely enchanting.

The cast is ethnically diverse, with several actors playing parts that are of different races to their own (an oddity for Australian theatre even though we are well into the 21st century). Ursula Yovich as Elizabeth Archer in particular, performs with great acerbity, her character’s increasingly oppressive European presence in the play. Yovich’s utterances of prejudicial statements resonate with startling potency, perhaps informed by the actor’s personal experiences as an Indigenous woman. The heart wrenching lead role Betsheb is played by Rarriwuy Hick, who provides a focused and strong centre to the piece. She balances Betsheb’s wildness with a natural warmth to deliver an endearing personality responsible for the show’s many poignant moments. Brandon McClelland is similarly likeable, creating a Francis that is agile and vibrant, with an emotional depth that makes relationships believable. He figures between both sides of the story’s cultural divide, and is convincing throughout.

Suzy Goes See

Full Review here

Sydney Morning Herald

Excerpts from review:

Powerful for its interplay of ideas, if occasionally stilted in its expression of them, The Golden Age is a true epic, telescoping elements of Greek and Shakespearian theatre into an interrogation of assumptions about cultural superiority.

It demands a strong directorial hand, which Kip Williams, director of the STC’s recent productions of Love and Information and Suddenly Last Summer, is plentifully qualified to supply.

Bringing a quietly regal bearing and flinty intelligence to the role, Sara Peirse is perfectly cast as Ayre and pin-sharp in the small but memorable role of Mrs Witcombe. Robert Menzies capers creakily as Melorne and is excellent as William Archer, …Liam Nunan makes an eye-catching STC debut as the crippled Stef. McClelland demonstrates leading man potential as Francis, … Rarriwuy Hick brings her dance skills to the table and she shines as the wild beauty Betsheb….Anthony Taufa makes a brooding man-mountain out of the silent role of Mac, though is less convincing as the Hobart politician who insists on the tribe’s incarceration in a mental asylum. Ursula Yovich, usually so very good, drifts in and out of focus as Elizabeth Archer.

The Golden Age isn’t an easy play to watch – nor should it be – but this intelligent, sombre but modulated production confirms its status as one of the most complex and successful dramatic interrogations of our culture.

Jason Blake = The Sydney Morning Herald

Full Review here

Theatre Now

Excerpts from review:

From the moment the doors open, the magic beings. The multi-layered set is covered in huge leaves and vines, and is incredibly evocative. The actors, with plenty of vine swinging to keep the audience enthralled, use the space cleverly.

While the performances were varied, there were certainly some audience favourites. Mark Power as Baloo had the most audience interaction. He had the children squealing with delight as he plucked delicious goodies to eat from their hair. Like Mowgli, all the children wanted to be bears like Baloo. Kodie Amos was delightful as spirited monkey King Louie. He threw himself around the stage with vigour, and seemed to have an endless supply of bananas, much to the amusement of his young audience. Maria De Marco as Bagheera was certainly the strongest vocally, with a wonderful ability to tell stories through song. She brought a much-needed gravitas to the production, and her stillness against all the other craziness of the jungle was a nice contrast.

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now

Full Review here

Sydney Morning Herald

Excerpts from review:

In an interview recently published in this newspaper, Helen Dallimore, the director of this breezy if wheezy Off-Broadway warhorse, revealed she was looking to bring out the “darkness” in composer Harvey Schmidt and lyricist Tom Jones’s musical. You could argue that playing the show’s Rape Ballet as written in 1960 does that. Many productions go with an alternate version penned in 1990. Elsewhere though, there’s little sense that Dallimore found the darkness she was looking for. Her Fantasticks is amiable, serviceably pretty and ultimately forgettable.

Martin Crewes, rocking the black leather pants, has some winning moments as the Zorro-like narrator El Gallo, though his reading of the show’s signature song Try to Remember privileges volume over nuance. Henning and Hickey combine sweetly if unremarkably, leaving Coy and Scale to sweep up the chuckles as dads Hucklebee and Bellomy and as the elderly actors inexplicably hired to play bit parts in El Gallo’s Rape Ballet.

Unfortunately, nothing about this production convinces me that The Fantasticks needed to be revived here and now.

Jason Blake Sydney Morning Herald

Full Review here

Australian Stage

Excerpts from review:

But to someone who has not had a love of The Fantasticks imprinted into their cultural DNA, there is very little to like about this show. In particular, The Fantasticks has such a paltry script. Even Tom Jones, who wrote the book and lyrics, has commented that the story is flimsy. It feels like a cross between a panto and a theatre workshop.

The music is better than the script, but there are not enough good numbers in it to keep our attention. Young newcomers Bobbie-Jean Henning as Louisa and Jonathan Hickey as Matt both gave sweet and pure renditions of their songs. The absolute beauty of Hickey’s voice was almost enough to make the whole evening worthwhile. His gorgeous voice was definitely the highlight of the show.

A lot of the responsibility sits on the shoulders of the director to make this show work and unfortunately the direction is often clumsy and many scenes are awkward. It runs at two and a half hours, including interval, and it seriously needs a good 30 minutes cut. The dialogue in many of the scenes is repetitive and there are too many overly long scenes – one in which the fathers rebuild the wall, another in which El Gallo recruits his two henchmen and a dire dance sequence in which El Gallo abducts Louisa for a second time.

No review about this production would be complete without a comment about the Rape Ballet, which is a cheesy little song sung by El Gallo about the multitude of ways that a woman can be raped: “you can be raped on horseback, you can be raped by an Indian…”

It didn’t go down well. Does anybody find rape jokes funny? Apart from a couple of laughs coming from the back of the theatre, many in the audience were stony. I have never felt an audience turn so instantaneously.

Rebecca Whitton – Australian Stage

Full Review here

The Au Review

Excerpts from review:

The trouble comes because there are many moments of “play within a play” and 4th wall breaking and one becomes a little bit entangled in what is meant to be real- real in the play and real in the story. But really this becomes the charm of it, and if you can manage to loose yourself in the narration and characters then the story becomes less important.

For there is some fantastic character work here, created by some truly fantastic talent. Martin Crewes is an dashing El Gallo, our narrator who seduces us with promises of what’s to come- warnings that “life never ends in the moonlit night”. The young’uns Jonathan Hickey and Bobbie-Jean Henning are wonderfully energetic, Henning’s voice particularly resonating clear and beautiful.

Yet it is really the older’uns that take the spotlight here- Garry Scale and Lawrence Coy who are nothing short of absolutely wonderfully hilarious in both their roles. They steal the crowd’s affection with their perfect chemistry, merry bickering and spirited abduction staging.

Kat Czornij – The Au Review

Full Review here

The Daily Review

Excerpts from review:

..it beggars belief that she’s opted to use the original lyrics of the song It Depends on What You Pay. The song uses the word “rape” over and over again as the mysterious El Gallo explains to two parents all the different kinds of “rape” that they can purchase for their plot — the Venetian rape, the Gothic rape, the Drunken rape — all to give them a “rape you’ll never, ever forget”. He explains that he means rape in the traditional literary sense — meaning an abduction, not necessarily a sexual assault. But the song is still essentially a four-minute rape joke….There’s really no reason to be using those original lyrics in 2016 and no artistic justification.

The production is otherwise a mixed bag (although it’s all overshadowed by that one choice). Dallimore’s direction is relatively ambitious, but inconsistent in its execution. Her work with production designer Hugh O’Connor is perhaps the production’s strongest element — the almost surreal set is made up of a big grassy knoll surrounded by stark white curtains (although the illuminated “EXIT” sign at the back of the stage really serves no purpose and Christopher Page’s lighting does the set no favours).

The performances are also mixed.

Ben Neutze – The Daily Review

Full Review here

Aussie Theatre

Excerpts from review:

The two young leading players – Bobbie-Jean Henning as Luisa and Jonathan Hickey as Matt – are charming, interesting finds. Henning’s clear top notes lend the production an authenticity and sweetness it would not have had without her; Hickey’s guileless performance is endearing.

At first glance The Fantsasticks seems like an easy choice for the Hayes. It’s small, which means it can be easily translated to the tiny Hayes stage. Its running costs are relatively low, with only a handful of actors and two musicians. Dallimore seemed to be creating something a little new with the show back when it was announced, replacing its traditional piano and harp with guitars and electric keyboard. The result is something like a gentler Tommy.

This production, with its constant use of rape as a double entendre, flanked by slapstick, vaudevillian staging and Cameron Mitchell’s retrograde choreography (there’s a ridiculously lazy Native American stereotype in the steps, for example) seems to keep saying: lighten up with your political correctness.

Cassie Tongue – Aussie Theatre

Full Review here

Limelight Magazine

Excerpts from review:

Looking at it now, it’s a dated affair. Lacking the sour ironies of a Sondheim or the bitter wit of Kander and Ebb, The Fantasticks comes over as slight of story and short of memorable numbers – save of course Try To Remember which starts the show, ensuring it peaks musically in the first five minutes

Musically there are problems as well. Acoustic and electric guitars are substituted for the pastoral harp of the original scoring, presumably to give it a more modern, grungy feel. The electric additions frequently pull at the harmonic stability of the accompaniment, and with the balance favouring the voices and the instruments played behind a curtain, you are sometimes left straining to catch the orchestrations and uncertain of keys. The decision to sing unamplified is admirable – and no actor is ever inaudible – but if anything the mix of Jeremy Silver’s sound design needs to put more focus on music director Hayden Barltrop’s piano.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Tom Jones’ book has its charm and is put across with commitment by a cast who clearly believe in it all. The comic timing of the five actors is frequently engaging, and voices are generally clear and natural rather than over-trained, avoiding the musical theatre cliché. As the narrator-cum-bandit El Gallo, Martin Crewes is suitably saturnine and sexy. His casual switches from violence to sexual danger are handled well and if the voice isn’t beautiful, it has character. As the kids, Bobbie-Jean Henning as Louisa and Jonathan Hickey as Matt are well matched. Both have light, pleasing voices, though Henning needs to watch her intonation at times. They play the innocence well enough, but both might find more depth amongst the comedy. Lawrence Coy and Garry Scale as the two curmudgeonly fathers are left to steal the show.

Clive Paget – Limelight Magazine

Full Review here

Theatre Now

The first show in Griffin Theatre Company’s independent season, Reg Cribb’s sprawling epic is as vast as its setting. Thomas Murray and the Upside Down River tells the story of Thomas Murray, the farmer who can dance. He owns 30,000 acres of land, passed down to him through four generations of Murray men. The lifeblood of the property and the town is the ever-flowing Murray River. But it’s drying up, and decisions need to be made.

When Lucy (Francesca Savige) returns home after years in Africa, Tom’s feelings for his childhood sweetheart come flooding back. Billy (Bjorn Stewart), a local Aboriginal boy and final member of the trio, has also come back. But things are not the same.

Grant Cartwright in the title role is completely compelling. He gives a subtle but incredibly moving performance. His relentless energy carries us right through to the bitter end. As Lucy, Savige’s portrayal of an outback sheila felt a little forced at times, but despite this she is very watchable. Stewart as both younger and older Billy gives a sophisticated, nuanced performance, but does seem a little stilted at times. All three actors excel at playing the younger versions of their characters, sometimes struggling to find the integrity in more emotional scenes. This will develop and settle as the run continues.

Nicholas Papademetriou and Vanessa Downing handle the rest, from pitiable ghosts to painfully awkward British tourists. Papademetriou particularly shines as Lucy’s lovably volatile father, whose only solace is pixellated internet porn. He’s given some of the funniest lines in the play, and delivers them with superb comic timing. Downing has a very lovely scene as Tom’s mother, conveyed with enviable emotional integrity. She is also particularly memorable as an expletive-bleating sheep coming to the end of its life.

Director Chris Bendall has conceptualised a piece of theatre that obviously means a great deal to him. Paired with Dann Barber’s gorgeous and surprising set and Kingsley Reeve’s beautiful sound design, we’re shown a wonderfully evocative piece of storytelling.

This isn’t a shy play. It deals with big, important issues like identity, betrayal, “whitefella’s” place in “blackfella’s” land, and the need to face the past. It is great to see Australian theatre of this scale being performed. Although it could lend itself to a cinematic vision, the fact that it was performed in the intimacy of the SBW Stables space is exciting, and hopefully a sign of things to come. It’s a wonderful start to the year at Griffin.

Alana Kaye – Theatre Now

Photography by: Robert Catto

 

Broadway World

Excerpts from review:

Reg Cribb’s rich, layered play, THOMAS MURRAY AND THE UPSIDE DOWN RIVER comes to life with heart and sensitivity. Director Chris Bendall captures the farmer’s world with creativity and symbolism to unearth family secrets and social history in this wonderful season opener for Griffin Independent in conjunction with Stone Soup.

Set and costume designer Dann Barber has transformed the small corner stage of SBW Stables into timber clad sloping hillside that hides a multitude of secrets. With a beige tea stained calico backdrop, the set offers up a few clues as to the location from the hanging tyre swing, rustic ladder and chairs, and the dark river running down the centre of the stage. Lighting designer Alexander Berlage has enhances the mood as it moves between reality, memory and hallucinations. Sound Designer Kingsley Reeve has created a wonderful soundscape that includes Brenden Dodd’s original guitar compositions along with other recognizable songs and rural sounds.

Cartwright creates a likable Thomas and expresses his emotions and despair with an honesty and truth.

As the more world wizened Lucy, returned from living overseas, Savige presents a cynicism that even though she has returned to the town she grew up in, she always seems to be looking for something better. There is a cunning and cowardice to the grown up Lucy as she seeks to hide truths from Thomas. As the younger, innocent Lucy from their childhood, Savige presents as a tomboy that gradually becomes aware of the boys as more than just playmates.

Stewart gives Aboriginal background Billy a freedom in youth but also an underlying hurt as his friendships are causing him grief at home. Of the three, he captures the carefree innocence of their childhood the best.

THOMAS MURRAY AND THE UPSIDE DOWN RIVER is an important and interesting work that explores the secrets and lies retained for generations along with society’s mistreatment and prejudice of the original landowners. It is well executed, retaining a good pace and honesty with a blend of humour and hurt.

Jade Kops – Broadway World

Full Review here

Australian Stage

Excerpts from review:

I watched a piece of text so secure in its maturity and form that it could play its actors like strings on a cello. Granted I didn’t find all the strings quite in tune, but the work had the strength to still weave a melody that engaged my sense of ‘Australian-ness’ without any of the cultural cringe that so often accompanies this undertaking. Here were finely observed details of life and the heart, uniquely Australian in origin but universally relevant and recognizable. I found myself quite literally on the edge of my seat on several occasions – pulled forward by a concept so simply and clearly stated as to cut through to the soul. Time and time again, I was transfixed by the beauty of a single idea eloquently expressed.

Grant Cartwright as Thomas Murray is wonderful. Understated, focused and riveting to watch, he brought much genuine love to the farmer who can dance. I believed every word. Bjorn Stewart had a touching honesty and I found him particularly convincing, and occasionally dangerous in his older characters. And Nicholas Papademetriou and Vanessa Downing turned in an extraordinary series of delicious and believable cameos. Anyone who can own the stage as a sheep requires special accolade!

The production was well conceptualized and lovingly created, under the direction of Chris Bendall, weaving clever design, soundscape, choreography and lighting into the storytelling to create scale in a scaled down space. It was obvious that this work had lived with him for some time, and the detail with which it was realized was heartwarming to see.

So I add my voice to the string of observers hailing Reg Cribbs as one of the foremost of Australia’s writing talents

Dennis Clements – Australian Stage

Full Review here

Sydney Morning Herald

Excerpts from review:

It demands an attractive and muscular production and gets one. Chris Bendall’s direction is imaginative, fluent in its handling of the play’s temporal shifts and notably physical. Designer Dann Barber’s wooden ramp of a stage has all kinds of surprises built into it. Kingsley Reeve’s sound design twangs and shimmers.

Bendall draws fine performances from his cast. Cartwright moves from country boy reticence to raw agony as Cribb rips the scales from Thomas’ eyes and sends him downriver to confront the past.

Savige shines as a dry-humoured outback bombshell. Stewart finds good contrast in the youthful and adult Billy and flares as Billy’s hostile dad. Nicholas Papademetriou and Vanessa Downing take good care of the rest – everyone from the tragic-comic ghost of Thomas’ grandfather, to a pair of English grey nomads, to a dead sheep.

There’s some bagginess in all this bigness but for the most part this strongly crafted production, the first in Griffin’s independent season, bears you along quite effortlessly.

Jason Blake – Sydney Morning Herald

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Australian Stage

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Kate Mulvany’s tightly written adaptation weaves the work’s narrative threads together, expertly shifting between comedy, adventure, romance and social commentary. Mulvany has a very strong sense of theatricality and makes sure that every scene stages extremely well.

The multi-talented Mulvany also plays two roles in the production, Charlie’s bitter mother, Mrs Bucktin and the town’s teenage tough guy/cricket captain, Warwick. Both performances, though cameos, are richly detailed and beautifully performed. Steve Rodgers also does some terrific work in a number of roles, including two lonely men: Charlie’s decent, silent father and Mad Jack Lionel, the mysterious crazy old man who lives out of town.

Despite the dark elements of the plot, Director Ann-Louise Sarks maintains the warmth and energy of the play front and centre. She ensures there is an overriding lightness of touch to the production.

Michael Hankin’s simple clever set comprises a towering gum tree and two sections of a weatherboard house that glide together in numerous configurations to create different locations in and around the town.

The lighting, designed by Matt Scott and Daniel Anderson, and soundscape, created by Composer & Sound Designer Steve Toulmin, are also simple and evocative. They remain sympathetic to the story and characters throughout and never threaten to upstage proceedings.

Rebecca Whitton – Australian Stage

Full Review here

Australian Stage

Excerpts from review:

Meow Meow is a wonderfully creative individual with a sharp eye and superb vocal talent. Her patter is often witty and amusing and for the most part well conceptualized. However it is the voice that is the gold mine here. Why sift the river for dust when there is a rich vein waiting to be mined. In short – I wanted her to sing more. Much more.

When she does let fly with her vocals it is interesting and moving, echoing powerhouses like Bassey and Piaf with a mischievous touch of Cilla thrown in. When she floats in Flippers it is a great theatrical moment. And the dialogue – while it could use an edit – is on the whole clever enough and occasionally quite poignant. I was touched by some moving ideas and amused by some acerbic barbs. There is some lovely staging and even the rocks have their moment! Sure it does get a little bogged down in its introversion about ¾ the way through, but still I left reasonably happy with the sticky residue drying on my skin – see the show, it’s not as dirty as it sounds!

Dennis Clements – Australian Stage

Full Review here