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Monday 31 December 2012

WORST IN SHOW 2012 as dissected by me

Well, you’ve been waiting for this and I have no doubt that the’ razzies’ of the Sydney Theatre, the worst five shows I encountered this year will actually be of no surprise to you because some of them will feature heavily on your own list.
As I mentioned in the previous post, there was more to like on the theatre scene this year than last year so that’s a win in itself. There are still shows that struggle to free themselves by bad choices- whether they be in design, direction, writing, acting or all of the above, there were a few shows out there that probably ticked one of those boxes but redeemed themselves in the others and so I have let them slightly off the hook. The ones that made the list are there because they made giant mistakes that either disregarded the essential nature of the play or the audience or were so bad they were crying out for a mention. They are Bjork’s swan dress, Lady Gaga’s meat dress or they stepped out into the light naked and tried to convince us of their glory ala Emperor’s New Clothes.
I have spared some amateur shows like ‘Into the Mirror’ because there was heart in it, even if it fell over in content and Tim Winton’s ‘Signs of Life’ only barely escaped. I left half way through some shows like ‘Under Milk Wood’ because I was falling asleep through sheer boredom and whenever you light a show to be in semi-darkness, it’s asking for my circadian rhythms to go into snooze mode.  It was visually interesting initially but then felt repetitive and I don’t know that it transferred to the stage in a form to keep me engaged. But none of them made the bottom five and so here it is…
5. ‘Pygmalion’. Look, in all honesty, it only just made it onto the list because I felt there was some decent acting in there that really worked hard to keep the play afloat in extremely adverse conditions. But given that Shaw is a gift in regards of a script to perform and an STC audience are always going to be on your side because a number of subscribers were actually born when Shaw first wrote his plays (a slight exaggeration to hammer home the demographic but you know what I mean), the choices made by director Peter Evans in creating a design which was, well, non-existent in a stage crying out for it meant that the play lands in the list. The sound reverberated in this cavernous space when the lines weren’t delivered via microphones off to the side. Add to that some bizarre choices with video feeds and an ending that left the audience confused by the turn of events and bang, welcome to the number five spot. Let’s not even flag what STC charge to see their plays because it makes it a little harder to justify such poor experimentation with the classics and then try to sell it to us as 'we have made these choices so as not to distract the audience from the issues'. How stupid do you think we are?
4. King St Theatre brought us a show called ‘Deeming’ earlier this year, a show so diabolical in its script and acting that the audience sat in stunned silence during interval and only the lighting operator clapped at the end. It was so very bad and actor Anthony Hunt stuck the knife into Frank Gauntlett‘s weak writing and then turned it until Hunt’s intestines vomited onto the stage in every moment he tried to remember a line or fake an interest in showing affection, although could only muster repulsion, to the woman who was meant to be his wife. Yes, the show was amateur but to do justice to most amateur work, this play’s production standard was like watching people perform who would rather have been undergoing surgery than hop up on stage. It was pure amateur melodrama. Unfortunately it was not strictly meant to be.
3. Darlinghurst Theatre pulled out a piece for the Mardi Gras season called ‘The Paris Letter’ which failed to capture the gay experience with any form of belief whatsoever. Poor acting and Stephen Coyler’s direction of a script by Jon Robin Baitz that felt passé and pedestrian guaranteed a spot in the list. The show was lucky enough to fill the house with a troupe of very forgiving gay boys and perhaps that is because a play that deals with men trying to live in denial of their sexuality is rarely heard. But I’d like to point them in the direction of ‘Angels in America’ to see how it could be done with some level of sophistication. For the most part I was not alone in my scathing criticism of it and it did provide me with a wealth of amusing re-enactments at dinner parties so it wasn’t a complete loss, except as a piece of theatre, where it lay in a pool of its own blood on the Darlinghurst stage.
2. Belvoir’s first mention is in its second place spot. The semi-devised and semi-written piece by Raimondo Cortese and UTP called ‘Buried City’ has well and truly earned its position. Do not be talking to me about community theatre on the Belvoir stage because there was very little to engage any community with this show.  ‘Buried City’ felt like it should have been a good idea and then whether it spiralled out of control and there was a grab for ownership until stakeholders gave up on it, I don’t know. It felt like nobody wanted to really own this show and although some of the actors tried to inject some energy into it, it couldn’t replace a decent narrative, a clear through-line or an actual objective or intent to the play. This 80 minute play felt like it was twice as long. A very bad start to the Belvoir season.
1. Surely you knew it would be here, luxuriating in its number one spot. Ladies and gentleman, please congratulate ‘Every Breath’, written and directed by Benedict Andrews as supported by his mates at Belvoir. I think ‘Every Breath’ may have been the wake-up call Belvoir needed to remind them that an avant-garde director does not necessarily a writer make. Belvoir’s arrogance and closed door policy that only allows the most miniscule of entry into the creative forum of their stage and is peppered mainly by their ‘friends’ means there is a chance you are watching a lot of the same, show after show. There was a time I was calling it the Simon Stone Theatre Company as he directed almost half of their shows this year and what he left for others to pick up were snapped up by Andrews, Flack and Myers with a couple of community projects as crumbs to fight over. But whilst this three-dish-only-theatre-tapas had some redeemable moments, nothing could save ‘Every Breath’. Nothing. I think it must have been like when you were a kid and learning your dad does not know everything or for a moment Andrews must have felt like Tony Abbott in that parliamentary smack down by Julia Gillard. It didn’t matter there was no interval- people walked and were very vocal about it. My review of this show is close to one of my most popular posts because people needed to read about what it was they just saw. Even the mainstream critics struggled to say good things about this theatre corpse. This show wrote its own review and that review read like this: Kill me. Put me out of my misery and then let’s never talk of it again.
And so that’s it. The bottom five in all their glory.
Of course theatre needs to walk a line of experimentation and risk. I think these shows made the list because they slapped the audience in the face by trying to pretend that it was the audience who didn’t understand theatre instead of recognising that what they had presented was a very poor form of art.
So I look forward to what 2013 has to offer. I’ve minimised my subscriptions for next year and probably won’t be seeing as much so if you’ve got a free ticket and desire a bit of SOYP company, tweet me and I’ll be there to relish the offerings of Sydney theatre 2013.
Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday 30 December 2012

BEST of 2012 as dissected by me

Here we are, hours away from the end of 2012 and it seems to me it's time to review the theatre on offer in Sydney over the year, what made us thankful to be there and what made us think we may never return to the theatre again.

The good news is that the list of good shows I saw far outweighed the bad. Sure, there were lots of shows that sat in the middle- but only a few that jumped out as real porkers that bled to death on stage in front of a live audience.

So let's start with what were the winners (in my eyes)...

Now the interesting thing is apart from Griffin and a downstairs show with Belvoir as collaborators, no professional theatre company in their own right featured on the Top 5 final list (a few commendations but no finalists). Isn't that interesting? Here's what I say to that. Stop spending huge amounts of money on going to see the big players (Belvoir and STC in particular). Search out quality independent companies like the New Theatre, Tamarama Rock Surfers, Sport for Jove, check out what's happening in places like Riverside, the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, the Old 505, even the Seymour Centre. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised that a) they seem to care about engaging their audience, b) are a far more cost effective night of entertainment and c) program shows that showcase talents of other artists apart from the same old, same old that you see in the capital T theatres and they breathe new life into devised, local or alternative works. The days when the stamp of Belvoir or Sydney Theatre Company offered quality assurance are gone. Don't let branding fool you. Take the risk of stepping outside the (subscription) box and go further afield and discover the terrific works away from the mainstream.

Rightio- special commendations: 'I'm Your Man', devised and directed by Roslyn Oades, played downstairs Belvoir at the start of the year and was a lovely blend of recorded verbatim set in a boxing gym with players who embodied those roles; Belvoir and the Hayloft Project's 'Thyestes' at Carriageworks also shook up the scene. Loved it or hated it, it was as controversial as it was powerful and played with the contemporary idea of theatre in a way we've not seen in a long time; STC & Filter Company's 'Water' was another interesting piece that used the technical devices available to complement character and narrative and was engaging to boot; 'A History of Everything' showing at STC earlier this year and in conjunction with theatre group Ontroerend Goed, was another great piece that took you through the pace of the modern world before reeling it back in time, space and rhythm to reveal the birth of the universe in a moving and thoughtful way; STC also brought us 'Sex with Strangers', a terrific realist piece that was an intimate as it was charming; Griffin's 'The Boys' also packed a punch in revealing misogyny at its most brutal and Josh McConville was outstanding; and finally O'Punkskys' 'The Seafarer' at Darlinghurst Theatre was a top interpretation of Conor McPherson's play by a company who relish in the integrity of the writer and showcase this on the stage.

So, that being done, here's the TOP FIVE shows of 2012 as I see it.

5. Griffin's 'Between Two Waves' makes it into the fifth spot on the leader board. Although a little rocky in preview, what was there was Ian Meadow's writing, great performances and direction. Meadows can write and his play, with another draft, is going to develop into something even better than what it is already. The intrigue, style and structure of 'Between Two Waves' allows Meadows to develop gentle layers that draw us into the tragedy of the character who does not know how to express love or receive it but who so desperate needs to reconcile what is preventing him from doing this. It was a great play and Meadows smartly played the role he wrote for himself with vulnerability and belief, thanks to some solid direction from Sam Strong.

4. New Theatre's 'The Venetian Twins' slips into the number four spot for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the incredible design employed in their shows is better than anything I've seen in Sydney for some time. The set is a character in the New Theatre's shows. Unlike some design which can compete with the action or dull it, the designers employed by the New bring a sophisticated edge to the work and reminds us as audience that design matters as evidenced in Sean Minahan's set for 'The Venetian Twins'. The New also tracks down outstanding leads and ensemble players to bring quirky, fresh work to the stage or take contemporary works that ask the audience to play with the ideas or the notion of the actor/audience relationship so that we become a character as well. The New cleverly reinvented itself when on the brink of closure to allow the community to be part of their season, as artist or audience and there is a feeling that whatever you see there will guarantee you will not be disappointed. I didn't see 'Here Lies Henry' but am genuinely sorry I missed it but if it was anything like 'The Venetian Twins' in its integrity, it would have been a winner.

3. Old 505's 'Sidekicks' jumps into the number three spot. Stephen Vagg's play was not only a witty spitfire examination of the support players in romantic comedies, it was brave enough to cast two actors, Dan Ilic and Emily Rose Brennan, who could clearly identify and express those roles in the most endearing and comedic way possible. This play took me by surprise (as did the crack house of the Old 505) but it was one of the highlights of the independent season and made me fervantly wish that more local works and writers were given the opportunity to stage their work with artists as good as those involved in this show. Kudos to director Louise Alston for bringing out the best in actors and writing.

2. I drove out to the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre at Penrith to see Lachlan Philpott's play 'Truck Stop' and I am so pleased I made the effort. Philpott is one of those local writers who can tap into the youth culture of today and give it a theatrical voice that makes you realise the pressures and influences that shape the identity and future of our young people in a powerful and provocative way. He has the ability to weave research into his work but not rely on verbatim to execute it. Instead Philpott encapsulates voices into honest, real and shocking narrative and characters whilst creating tension and it makes him a playwright with a big future.This was a very good play and the cast and director, Katrina Douglas, were outstanding in connecting with Philpott's words and characters.

And finally...

1. 'Medea'. Playing in downstairs Belvoir and in collaboration with ATYP, this rewritten version of Euripides' work by Anne-Louise Sarks and Kate Mulvany was an outright winner. Perhaps it was because it gave us a new perspective of an old play we had never seen before. Perhaps it was the writing combined with thoroughly honest direction of Sarks in treating the play with respect. But I think it was because writers and director worked so well in giving the young actors Joseph Kelly and Rory Potter ownership of their characters and situation that this play was the most profoundly moving theatrical piece of the year. 'Medea' packed a punch in every way and I can say that if you didn't see this, you have missed something very special indeed.

In summary I guess the other interesting thing I note about the top 5, quite subconciously initially, was that they were all written by Australians. Of course, of the bottom 5, which will follow in tomorrow's post, three of those were also written by Australians so it's not all roses. But here's the thing. We have an incredible amount of local talent and if we don't allow funding and expression of our local voice, the reality is that we lose out on the cultural, social, political and aesthetic history of our own writing as embodied in the theatrical space. We yearn for pieces that underpin what was happening in the now and want to see them staged to understand ourselves, who we are and where we came from. You only need to read some the writers of the 60's and 70's to see the changing world of the time. If writing resonate works of the now don't happen with more frequency and funding, what will represent the theatrical the voices of today? Action is transient. Words last for generations.

So kudos to all who made the list. You are the champions of 2012 and thank you for bringing these works to the stage and for all of those responsible for being a part of it.


Since I published this post, I have been contacted by Elly Clough at Belvoir who wishes to convey the following in regards to the production of 'Medea':

"I just wanted to clarify the credit for Medea on your Best of the Year post. Your comment ‘Now the interesting thing is apart from Griffin and a downstairs show with Belvoir as collaborators’ is a little misleading. The Downstairs productions are Belvoir productions, as of 2011 all the productions were brought in-house and are considered no less Belvoir productions than the Upstairs shows.

Belvoir commissioned and produced Medea. It was presented in association with ATYP as they assisted with casting and provided an assistant director.

We would be grateful if you could clarify the credit in the post."

And so consider it communicated to you all. Whilst I saw the show as a joint project between Belvoir and ATYP, clearly Belvoir want you to know it was a Belvoir show in association with ATYP. I'm not sure I completely get the distinction but in the interests of fairplay, I have published Belvoir's 'clarification'.

End scene.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Little Spoon Theatre’s ‘Where’s My Money?’ dissected by me

Currently playing at the Old 505 Theatre in Surry Hills, John Patrick Shanley’s play ‘Where’s My Money?’ is the offering by independent group Little Spoon Theatre Company and directed by Jodin Meyer.
First and foremost, Shanley’s play is intriguing. The blur between fiction, fantasy and fact is cleverly treated in the series of duologues between its characters as it explores what we expect from our relationships and what we're prepared to do to maintain it and ourselves.  This is good dialogue that engages you from the start and then takes you into dark corners that create an electricity of suspense, drama and humour. Straight away, Little Spoon has done something very smart. They chose a solid piece of writing, a layered canvas to showcase their company and then treated it with integrity and faithfulness in their rendition. The play does tread on some touchy issues in regards to its statements about women and the power of men but the style keeps it light and the elements of shock are handled well.
There are some good performances in ‘Where’s My Money?’, although not all the cast have mastered the belief of character and material or the timing of delivery. The highlights were Matt Stewart as Sidney and Karli Evans as Marcia-Marie in their fractured relationship as husband and wife in the sacred space of Marcia-Marie’s kitchen. Tara Newtown-Wordsworth as Celeste had some of the energy required but struggled to sustain the dimensions and belief of a woman who bounces between the security of the mundane, the paranoia of her relationships, the desires of the flesh and the excitement of her sado-masochistic affair. Whilst Lara Lightfoot as Natalie played the part of hard-nosed cold honesty with skill, her ability to convince us of her fear of Tommy was not so strong.
I enjoyed the characters’ use of the live musician, Ed Gain, and the set contained a few surprises that the audience will enjoy.
Even though there are a few wobbles on the acting front, this was a solid play and engaging structurally and narratively. The acting doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the play as each performer has moments of success in their delivery and playfulness and the tension is manifested in Meyer’s direction.
It's a good sign when the audience stay in their seats post show as they process the play and perhaps hope there's more to come.
It’s certainly worth a squiz so catch it before it finishes on the 16th of December.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

BELVOIR DOUBLE DISSECTION: ‘Beautiful One Day’ and ‘Don’t Take Your Love to Town’

There’s no doubt Belvoir are aware of their responsibility to recognise and stage marginal voices, especially the Indigenous community voice, and probably no other mainstream theatre in Sydney has done this more.  This is one of Belvoir’s strengths and it is certainly applauded and appreciated. We, as audience, are all culturally sensitive to the issues being presented, especially those historical in nature, and we tread carefully in our criticism of the authentic voices, even though theatrically they may be flawed.
‘Beautiful One Day’, a joint project between Belvoir, Ilbijerri Theatre Company and Version 1.0, is currently playing upstairs at Belvoir in the capital 'T' theatre, if you know what I mean.  It incorporates actors, Palm Island community members and academics and the show fluxuates between facts, re-enactments, video testimonies, casual conversations, narration, soundscapes, photo and video recordings and storytelling. The show can be summarised quite simply- it is a research piece about the origins and hardships of the people of Palm Island.  
There are some very engaging moments in this show and it rests in the re-enactments, especially that of the death in custody of the uncle of performer Kylie Doomadgee, Mulrunji. This is where the play comes to life. Paul Dwyer and Jane Phegan draw the audience in as they recreate the scene in the police station through the court evidence of the events in question and then later as the community fight back and we ‘see’ and hear the recordings as the police station is burnt down. The use of the chalk outline, the police re-creations, the becoming of real characters suddenly catapults the play into the audience's attention. The weakness of the show is that it tries to do too much the rest of the time and is in desperate need of editing. ‘Beautiful One Day’ is two hours long but someone should have taken to it with a pair of secateurs, slashed it to an hour and it would have been a much better show.
I think this is the peril of three distinct groups with an investment in the piece. The academic origins and agenda of Version 1.0 means that documentary and fact telling rate high in the expression of the piece. The issues become clouded when the first 50 minutes feels like we are so overburdened with information such as family trees, timelines and connections and the detailed reading of correspondence  about a tyre destroyed in the forced removal of Indigenous people. Whilst there is a point to every story and every minute detail, as a theatrical piece, it starts to choke itself with fact.
Rachael Maza with Ilbijerri and Belvoir further complicate the play by using ‘real’ people on stage from the Palm Island community and there are times the play feels like I’m sitting around listening to my old relatives talk about the old days for hours on end as life slowly ebbs away. Now I know that sounds harsh and that statement alone will bring out the haters (haters gotta hate) but what I’m saying is that documentary and verbatim drama can sometimes kill itself with good intentions. We want the authenticity of the voices to be represented but how do we balance that with the reality that this is also a piece of theatre? The last 30 minutes as we sit around the table listening to what we want in the future or what problems are we still encountering was frankly repetitive and pointless in that it went for as long as it did.
The video testimonies were another aspect that had nice moments but went for way too long. Way, way too long. But kudos to sound composer and designer Paul Prestipino and audio visual designer Sean Bacon who really did create the environment for us and I did like the use of the moving platform and stage door to enter and exit with some humour, as designed by Ruby Langton-Batty.
The biggest issue ‘Beautiful One Day’ suffered from goes back to the capital ‘T’ theatre syndrome. If this were playing in a small ‘t’ theatre, intimate and community in style, it would have been received much better. Without editing, this feels like an amateur piece out of place in the big league. There were too many people with their fingers in the pie and the pie could not accommodate all the stakeholders. Not enough meat to go around and the pastry was stretched so thin that no-one was completely fed by this offering.
Let’s contrast this to the show playing downstairs, ‘Don’t Take Your Love to Town’, based on the Ruby Langford Ginibi’s book and adapted by Eamon Flack and Leah Purcell. This show is a one woman performance with Leah Purcell, who also directed this show. Although it’s a mono performance, it doesn’t feel like that way because she creates this world so thoroughly for us in her descriptions, emotional connection to the material, her believability and skill. Add to that the lovely use of visuals, paintings by Lorna Munro and lighting by Luiz Pampolha and the musical accompaniment of Nardi Simpson with sound design of Steve Francis, it is a show that is both full and moving.
It took me the first 10 minutes to adjust to the idea that we were going to narrate and chronicle Langford Ginibi’s book via the first person through Purcell and after seeing ‘Beautiful One Day’ the day before, I wasn’t sure I could take another couple of hours of timelines and facts. But Purcell’s delivery is through the heart. She owns this material and we experience these events as she takes us through each moment. There is tension in the anticipation of each life event, humour interspersed in adversity. Purcell is one of the best performers you will ever see tackle any one woman show because she includes the audience in every aspect, engaging us to empathise with each heartbreaking tragedy and laugh at the ridiculousness of life too. Purcell has presence and in this small ‘t’ theatre it fills the intimate space so that audience and actor seem connected as one family.
Even though this show uses the theatrical elements available to it to tell Langford Ginibi’s book, whether they be technical or through the art of storytelling, it never feels contrived and it certainly didn’t feel as long as it was- over two hours. And when Purcell stopped after each section to take a drink as we took in the visuals of the painting she’d just hung or when she got momentarily lost in the script when the noise from the audience leaving the upstairs show interrupted her train of thought (by the way, someone had left the theatre door open), she joked with us and got on with it. The reality is that Purcell wins us over, whether as actor or character or all shades between, we accept all versions of her as person or persona and love her for it.
The art of ‘Don’t Take Your Love to Town’ is based on the personal aspect of the text. This is Ruby Langford Ginibi’s story and although it is cultural, political, social, historical and often all at once, it is her story and told with honesty and simplicity, which doesn’t make it an easy story but it is filled with an earnest sense of facts, emotion and heart. There is integrity to the stories about her relationships with men, with her children and with her friends, her battle with alcohol, grief, urbanisation, writing, etc. And at the end there is hope that through sharing this story with us, she has come to know herself better, as have we.
If Australia has a culturally binding story that we can all relate to- it is one of hardship. The convicts, the Irish, European post war refugees, Asian immigrants- Australia was ‘settled’ with an air of desperation, a whip on one hand and a willingness to dig to find a place to live in the other. Almost every family has a story of great struggle and impediment. No stories have them in abundance like the Indigenous community, who had to fight for their very existence against all others, and still find such strength and hope in each layer of adversity and tragedy. And that is what this story gives you in the end through Purcell’s telling of it as she looks you in the eye and offers us redemption.
‘Don’t Take Your Love to Town’ is an intricate script (I can’t imagine how she learnt it all) that is seemingly simple in its telling but is due to the sophistication of its teller, Purcell.  Its moving intimacy is perfectly showcased in the downstairs theatre.
‘Beautiful One Day’ suffers from too much material and too many people trying to force their own agenda and vision into the piece and it gets lost in a prison of its own making. Whilst it had much potential and some great moments, the demands of a capital ‘T’ theatre means the venue hurt it more than helped it. It’s ‘crammed full of clever’ but misses the mark as a cohesive piece of theatre.

Sunday 2 December 2012


A big fat thumbs up is in order for the New Theatre’s production of Nick Enright’s & Terence Clarke’s ‘The Venetian Twins’. This musical comedy, using Carlo Goldoni’s play as a basis and re-written to capture an Australian feel, has been given probably the best outing it could hope for what it is- a romping good frolic using the style and characters of Commedia dell’Arte.
The New Theatre, located in King St Newtown, is not afraid to take young fresh talent and new graduates and give them the chance to realise their vision on the New’s stage and from what I can see, the experiment is working very well.
‘The Venetian Twins’, directed by Mackenzie Steele, has great production values. This is as slick as any professional or mainstream production on at the moment and a much cheaper and enjoyable alternative.  My top five big ticket items I liked about this show are as follows:
Jay James-Moody as the twins Tonino and Zanetto displays terrific comic timing whilst capturing instantly two distinct characters, accents and personalities. His ability to find the joy in each moment and letting the audience in on the joke every time was a pleasure to watch. We can’t help but love him. Why else would someone in the audience hand over their cash-laden wallet and laugh as he uses it on stage? Trust me- we would have given him whatever he asked for. A less confident actor would have crashed and burned in this demanding comic role but James-Moody gives it as good as it gets. I can only imagine in the touring Commedia dell’Arte shows of old that this is what it felt to be in the audience and react with glee at the shenanigans and lazzi of the characters.
The camp and cheeky villainy of the male cast was also a highlight. Dean Vince as Pancrazio, Stephan Anderson as Florindo, Andy Johnston as Lelio and Zac Jardine as Arlecchino were a fine support cast for Jay James-Moody. They matched his energy and presence and added to the thorough entertainment on offer. Their physicality, from subtle mannerisms, choreography and reactions to each other were clear evidence of a tight ensemble, well-directed and confident in execution.
Sean Minahan’s set design and Alice Morgan’s costumes were the perfect complement to this show. I sat next to a professional designer watching this show and even she had praise for the overall design. I loved the use of hessian and the chequered scrim, hiding the band and paying homage to the traditions of the comedy. Then the addition of frames and mirrors, rolling in and out and used to capture the vanity, frivolity and pace of the show was a lovely idea. Morgan’s costumes were also layered and colourful, especially for that of Beatrice (Marisa Berzins). And when the fans emerged, I went straight into an 80's music video clip and enjoyed it as much as everyone else in the audience.
The musicians knew how to play with the material and banter and even from their hiding spot, I felt like they were a character in ‘The Venetian Twins’. They found the way to respect the cheesy musical score and add to the comedy by allowing the characters to use the music to hit comic moments.
Final call out has to be for the director Mackenzie Steele by pulling all the pieces together and making great choices with them. This production felt as fresh as the team and it surprised me how much I enjoyed this relatively superficial comic play.
The production has a just a few minor bumps. Berzins sometimes had to force the comedy in her operatic interpretation and the relationship between Arlecchino and Columbina (Debra Bryan) lacked chemistry but you’ll hardly notice and you probably won’t care because the rest of the show is strong.
Thank goodness Sydney has so many great independent options for theatre scattered across the city. Get to them and this one won’t disappoint.