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Monday, 21 September 2015


I do like the Sydney Fringe Festival. There's a plethora of alternative shows that pop up, giving an excuse to curious punters everywhere to take a chance on something a bit alternative and raw.

'There's No-One New Around You: A Tinder Musical' is just that. Developed and performed by Keira Daley, Mark Simpson and musician Steven Kreamer, 'Tinder' is an entertaining foray into the world of online dating using cabaret and multi-media as its medium.

Staged at Gingers at the Oxford Hotel and playing every Friday in September, it's a great venue for such an intimate two-hander. With vignettes like dating a torso, geographic hook-ups, homage to Ashley Madison style dating and two of my favourite moments- the oft used 'partner-in-crime' statement and song of the Dick Pic, there's definitely plenty here to make you glad you tackled the city on a Friday night.

Sometimes it's a little clunky as they sprint into costumes from scene to scene and there is a slight lapse in rhythm towards the end,  but for the most part this was a pleasant surprise in quality and content. Daley and Simpson possess the vocals and acting chomps to entertain and satirise the proliferation of online dating as a desperate search for love (or sex). I can confidently say that you will thoroughly enjoy all that is on offer.

Might be a great place to take your online date. Just saying. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

HIATUS from SOYP 2015

Hi Everyone,

It's pretty obvious by now that I have been resting from writing SOYP for a couple of months.

This year I started a new job that is incredibly demanding and finding time to invest in my old blog has fallen by the way.

Thank you to all those people who send me invitations to review shows and I'm sorry  that I often don't reply and just can't get to your show. Sometimes I get to the show and then don't get time to review it and that comes fraught with guilt.

So in a quick recompense, here are some one line reviews of shows I have seen recently:

Belvoir's 'Mother Courage and Her Children': A 'nice' version of Brecht's gutsy play- sanitised a bit too much, missing the Kurt Weill scruffiness but gets the job done.

Belvoir's 'The Dog and The Cat'- thoroughly enjoyable and even Brendon Cowell's slight penchant for misogynist writing was tempered.

Sport for Jove's 'Of Mice and Men'- seriously one of the best productions I've seen this year and director Iain Sinclair found a beautiful juxtaposition of rustic dreams and brutal reality with an outstanding cast and design.

Griffin's 'The Bleeding Tree'- So many things to enjoy in this stylistic expression of violence and community and although I think it's still got a draft to go to clarify the message of our cultural unwillingness to get involved in the wrongs around us, it creates interesting narratives and relationships in a very contemporary and sometimes powerful way.

Belvoir's 'La Traviata'- sometimes amusing, sometimes confusing and definitely ran out of steam in exploring how art comes at a price.

STC's 'The Present'- Mostly enjoyable and engaging and highlighted the talents of the actors in roles we've all seen them do before with some characters' journeys not quite fleshed out in justifying their final act but not to detract from what was a generally good play.

Belvoir's 'Seventeen'- Another fun experience but how I wish the writer made more of the fact that these 70 year old actors are playing contemporary 17 year olds and what the significance of that is now at 70.

I might crank out the odd review now and then but mostly 2015 will be a quiet one until the rhythm of life settles.

Until then, keep discussing, keep questioning and keep going to the theatre.

I'll definitely look at the 2016 seasons and give you my thoughts in due course.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


After years of thinking I was not a lover of musicals, it appears old salty dogs can learn new tricks. Apparently I enjoy people breaking out into song as much as the general populous.

Squabbalogic always please with their quirky selection of musical fare. ‘Triassic Parq’ is probably one of their riskier choices- consider Jurassic Park told from the point of view of the dinosaurs as they deal with their transgender issues. Great concept, although Marshall Pailet’s music with his book, co-written by Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo feels undercooked. Still, director Jay James Moody’s fine eye for detail and Neil Shotter’s excellent set design of electric fences and lush greenery, all as movable as gender in this dinosaur world gives as good as this musical can get.

The cast are a funky conglomerate of talent. Blake Erickson’s Morgan Freeman and Velociraptor of Faith are as diverse as they are delicious and Erickson is outstanding in both roles. Rob Johnson, Adele Parkinson, Monique Salle, Keira Daley and Crystal Hegedis also shine. There is joy on stage in this cheeky show and it is contagious. As mentioned before- the story can be a little clunky and it feels like it is waiting for an ending but the cast deliver with passion.

Kudos to Squabbalogic for tackling every project with the tiniest budget and turning it into something spectacular.

And whilst I’m on small things that deliver great rewards, Keira Daley’s ‘Slapdash Song Night’ that plays at Gingers (upstairs at the Oxford Hotel) on the first Friday of every month is well worth the effort. It’s a live show and podcast that combines musical comedy, cabaret, musical theatre, guest artists and possibly my favourite segments- Slapdash Song Battle, where two artists write an original song on the same theme and battle it out and Cover Me Bro- a song chosen by the audience to be brought back to life again on the Slapdash stage.

On the night we were there, Jim Fishwick, ukulele in hand, and Courtney Powell with accompanying band battled it out for the tie and Keira Daley and Blake Erickson performed the heartwarming country duet, ‘You’re the reason our children and ugly’. Enough said. 

What I most liked about the night was that it offered variety, comedy, sometimes poignancy and the most comfortable interaction you could hope for should you be an audience member petrified of group participation.

So get out this July and see either or both of these shows to bring some much needed comedy warmth to your winter.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

BELVOIR’S ‘THE WIZARD OF OZ’ dissected by me

There was a woman in the front row of the performance I saw of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that spent the entire show with her jumper over her head and it felt completely in keeping with what’s been happening at Belvoir over the last few years. Can you imagine the poor punter who thought they were coming to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ who walks into a Belvoir production and instead sees an asylum-like set, semi-nude cast, water-bombing witches and a glass-boxed version of Dorothy being finger-raped by the Tin Man? I think the woman in the front row may have felt the same thing was happening to her. If you’ve been to Belvoir under the reign of Ralphie or have witnessed the works of director Adena Jacobs, of course you can.

It’s got more substance than her production of 'Hedda Gabler' because at least this wasn’t reliant on badly crafted dialogue or tried to follow a narrative and then butcher it by removing any messages from the play. It had less cock than her production of 'Oedipus'- just a wealth of exposed breasts.  Dare I say it, there’s something intriguing about her ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which meant I didn’t hate it at all. Didn’t love it, just to be clear, but it allowed me to mull over what the dramatic meaning of Jacobs’ production might be. I don’t think I have any answers but it was engaging to watch at times and I got flickerings of feminism, of the outcast, of the lost and lonely, of self-loathing, pent up anger and a comfortable jumper that you can escape in when the production becomes too much.

Like a one trick pony, Jacobs can be relied upon to start the play with elongated silence and continue with disjointed dialogue, nudity and simulated sex. But like 'Persona', there’s something there in this expressionistic concoction that will have you intrigued by parts, laughing (perhaps inappropriately) in parts or perhaps walking out early or grabbing for the nearest sweater to seek solace until the whole thing is done.

It’s actually not the show itself that annoys me. It’s Belvoir’s attitude that if you didn’t like it or other shows of this ilk that somehow you, as audience, are the ignorant ones; that your opinion is as worthless and boring as a playwright’s work, which is why reinventing classics has been a favourite at Belvoir for so long. Ditch the words, swing the message, insert an animal into the mix, play with transgender, throw in a game, a smattering of violence, body parts, a glass box or scrim and leave the doors ajar so the audience can sneak out mid-show.  

I’m not going to dwell anymore on this review. This play is meant to be divisive. You’re probably going to hate it or find it stimulating so it surprised me that I wasn’t more polarised and sat firmly on the yellow brick road of whatever. However, I’m bored by the predictability when it doesn’t have a consistency of ideas to back it up. When the experimental feels mainstream, I think I need to rest from theatre for a while and take up French lessons.

Ho hum. Ho hum. I’m sick of beating this drum… 

Thursday, 28 May 2015


It’s not always easy to sit through the anti-Semitism of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Sport for Jove don’t shy away from it but what director Richard Cottrell does really well in this version is find the humour in the play to release its tension when we most sorely need it to.

Set in the 1920’s/30’s we are witness to the events of the play in a new context- dabble in the stock market and see prosperity crumble when your ‘ships’ crash. Antonio (James Lugton), rich and generous to his own, falls victim to his creditors in the form of Jewish money-lender Shylock (John Turnbull) and Shylock, angry and spurned by betrayal and religious persecution certainly wants his pound of flesh.

There are a number of things to commend this production to an audience. Firstly, the fine performances of its cast- especially Lizzie Schebesta as Portia, whose comic timing is impeccable and contrasted to her ability to portray status and gravitas. Turnbull and Lugton were also highlights and Damien Strouthos’ whiney and childish Gratiano captured the petulant traits of entitlement perfectly and Aaron Tsindos as the Prince of Morocco was a genuine crowd pleaser.

The play also created lasting images that pack quite the punch. There was an audible gasp from the audience when Antonio gives Shylock’s daughter Jessica (Lucy Heffernan) a look in the closing moments that suggested that her conversion and marriage to a Christian made her no less despicable in his eyes. The hate was palpable and disturbing and made each and every one of us uncomfortable. This juxtaposes with the humour of the marriage proposals to Portia and the colourful characters that attempt to win her fortune and heart.

Anna Gardiner’s set suffers a little from the need to be portable and lacks the lustre of other Sport for Jove productions but its versatility also gave it a few surprising conversions that allowed us to be transported to interior and exterior spaces easily; its art deco fa├žade also serving the play’s setting effectively.

This play has not always sat well with me but this is the first production of it that I have seen that has captured both sides of the play and allowed us to feel the gamut of emotions that are inherent in its content. This is a faithful and colourful rendition of Shakespeare’s problem play and well worth the effort to see it. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

HURRAH HURRAH’S ‘TRADE’ at the OLD 505 dissected by me

New company Hurrah Hurrah have taken the story of Jerome Kerviel, French rogue trader who lost €5 billion in illegal future tradings and have devised around the notion of greed, guilt, blame and redemption in a physical manifestation of the themes inherent in this story, more than a retelling of the narrative.

It’s a nice ensemble piece and although it lacks coherence in its form- how we get from one idea to the next is tenuous- it does produce some lovely images: the cocaine snorting, the violence, the use of the door frames to create new spaces and games, standing on the ledge. What Hurrah Hurrah do well is take the essence of the idea and play with its physical form to create committed, interesting characters with intensity and dimensions.

What is lacking from the performance is the critical eye of a director who can see the big picture and how it sits as a whole. The gorilla theatre style of the actors’ cooperative certainly allows for the group to input ideas as a collective experience but it has not yet mastered the art of finding the cohesion it is searching for. This means that the rhythm is disjointed; the engagement of audience is as inconsistent as the connection between images and we find ourselves working hard to stay with the ideas and message. But there is something animalistic about what is being expressed on stage that outweighs its inconsistency and  allows us to sometimes simply sit back and enjoy the message of man as primitive beast whose survival in a contemporary world thrives on lust for money and power, regardless of its effect on the community.

Trade is a piece that allows the company to showcase their skills and experiment with ideas in an interesting way. Once they refine its expression and cohesion, their work will hopefully become a sophisticated physical manifestation of current world issues that will appeal to a broader audience that moves it beyond the small community space and into the mainstream. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


'Antigone', directed by Anna Jahjah for Theatre Excentrique at PACT in Erskineville, is the first show I’ve reviewed where I’ve felt a little unsure of how to approach it. I’ll start by saying that I saw the opening night, which felt like a preview, and perhaps, like many productions, a substantial amount will be reworked and changed over the following nights. I certainly hope that this is the case.

There were many elements of the performance I think which worked. Conceptually the piece is kind of interesting; responsibilities, rebellion, family, youth, ritual. All these ideas are apparent in the production and to a large degree seem to be something Anna Jahjah has sought to explore and find something within. However I think the performance struggled to fully engage with anything meaningful due to a mixture of poor dramaturgical decisions, lazy acting and some quite dangerous set components.

The play features a chorus and Jahjah decided to keep it. I’ll be honest, a chorus interests me, though it’s not for everyone. I want to see an ancient form, such as the chorus, revitalised with something new. So often it’s a drab, boring affair full of monotonous droning and expressionless faces. Jahjah’s chorus was composed of students from Blacktown Girls High who spoke their lines in French. At first I didn’t know what to make of this, but eventually I just grew disinterested. I could not understand a word they said. I have no idea what their purpose is, if not to comment as a collective on the dramatic action, and hopefully provide some form of dramatic entertainment. I guess I just watched a bunch of young teenagers speak French in front of their parents while dressed in white togas? I was so confused. It was so confused. What were they trying to tell me? And given that no one else in the play, save the Chorus Leader, wore ancient Greek clothing, I didn’t even know where they sat in relation to the world of the play which seemed a mixture of contemporary society and some kind of pseudo-1940’s military. I don’t even know. I thought maybe they were going for boy scouts or something, particularly with the use of so many children, but none of that made sense. It was a mess of signifiers and meanings.

The acting was mixed. I was happy with Ellen Williams (Antigone) though at times it felt a little ‘samey’ and Philippe Klaus (Haemon) was also pleasant to watch though I had the feeling he wasn’t quite comfortable in what he was doing. In particular the first scene with the two of them, performed as a quasi-love scene was sort of odd and alienating. It felt forced. Apart from these two performers however, I believe every single actor struggled to remember their lines, aside from those with close to none. It was a plague upon the performance. The show would begin to gain momentum, perhaps engage me, and then suddenly an actor would stand ‘umming’ and clicking his fingers frustratedly. Neil Modra (King Creon) was chronic. I lost all trust in him as a performer and spent the whole time worriedly hoping he wouldn’t stuff up.

Gerry Sont (Guard) was also a victim of the lineless-plague, though his performance featured some of the strangest acting I think I’ve seen in some time. He was kind of mesmerising in an odd way. At one point I actually felt like he completely and utterly believed he was speaking to King Creon concerning Antigone, however all the other emotions that would accompany such a revelation were likewise present; confusion at having transcended time and space, horror at now existing within an Ancient Greek myth, despair at perhaps never seeing his loved ones again. It was a frantic and enjoyable Guard, though I felt perhaps for the wrong reasons.

All issues with the acting aside, I think it is an incredibly tall ask to get actors to perform using dangerous and unwieldy set pieces. Core to the set design were two portable revolves that were taken on and off stage during transitions and often manually turned throughout scenes. The revolves comprised of circular pieces of ply with wheels attached to the underside. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, save that none of the wheels had locks on them. As a result, actors would end up struggling to balance as they stood unsupported on what was effectively an oversized skateboard on PACT’s sloped stage space. It was appalling and dangerous. Not only that, at the end of the performance, both revolves were brought out and an attempt was made to turn them simultaneously as the majority of the cast stood on them. As a result they ended up slowly colliding with the seating bank and groaning against each other unhealthily. After the bows, the revolves were left at the base of each seating bank which resulted in two audience members stacking it unceremoniously as the revolves skittered out beneath people who attempted to walk over them.

In closing, the performance requires more work and the set urgently needs to be re-evaluated. The acting laboured under the performers not knowing their lines, and scenes became tedious (as evidenced by the lady in the front row who fell asleep for twenty minutes). The show has potential, but it needs cuts, tighter transitions (so much up/down with the lights and lengthy pauses) and it desperately requires the actors to get on top of their lines.

'Antigone' runs at PACT Erskineville from the 23rd of April till the 2nd of May.