Friday, 21 July 2017

Coma Land - Black Swan State Theatre Company & Performing Lines WA (20 July 2017)

There is no doubt that local playwright (and director here) Will O'Mahony is a pre-eminent talent when it comes to crafting dialogue that dazzles, is fast-paced, dense and thoroughly entertaining. He loves having his actors deliver rat-a-tat barrages of facts and figures at high speed and his style favours repetition of key phrases and lists, point/counterpoint, as well as sly word play.

It is undeniably evident that O'Mahony loves words and language. What a gift that is for both his performers and the audience (though getting the rhythms and pace right must place all sorts of demands on the former).

Accompanying the sizzle is a sizeable 'chunk of gravity' though of the dramatic not physics kind. His plays explore interesting themes in an intriguing way, usually with a bitter-sweet emotional core. He has certainly served his 10,000 hour apprenticeship in mastering his writing gift.

The cast embrace the material - an exploration of loss, letting go, chasing perfection, and the expectations of parents and their children - within the framework of characters inhabiting this fantastical space while in a coma.

Morgan Owen is excellent playing a quintessential O'Mahony character in Penguin and generally handles the machine gun dialogue well. Working out the pauses for laughs will come with further performances. O'Mahony also knows when to slow down the verbal assault which emphasises the lovely contrasts as Owen modulates her delivery in volume, tone, and speed depending on dramatic or comedic beats.

Experienced comedian Ben Sutton adds brilliant timing and off-beat delivery to his unexpected character... as a panda. Yet it is the most off the wall character that delivers telling insight as revelations and epiphanies are made.

Kirsty Marillier's matter-of-fact delivery for the lamplighter character of Boon works well and she has a couple of notable scenes with Humphrey Bower who plays Penguin's Dad with paternal concern tinged with sadness.

Amy Mathews adds exuberance as Jinny, another coma patient who acts as almost a mediator between several of the other characters.

There was only one slight miss-step for mine - a cathartic emotional moment which is beautifully conveyed by Bower is drowned in a swell of unnecessary music. It jarred as the sound design for the rest of the play was far less intrusive.

The writing and the acting is top notch in an unexpected tale which is emotionally and thematically rich. I enjoyed it very much.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

42nd Street - WAAPA (20 June 2017)

Forty specks of dust on a stage. 

Twenty graduating students; another twenty who will be in their place the exact same time next year.

Yes, when "you put all those specks of dust together... you have something alive and beautiful that can reach out to thousands of people..."

And so it proves in this spectacular mid-year production at the Regal Theatre.

There is perhaps nothing more exhilarating at the theatre than witnessing a mass tapdancing routine. I confess I'm sucker for it and here you don't get one, or two, or three, you get several tightly choreographed explosions of movement, colour and straight up, unabashed enthusiasm. It's a joy to watch. Plus this - you will rarely see that number of performers together on stage at the one time outside of this combined flexing of WAAPA's MT muscles.

"...who cares if there's a plot or not when they've got a lot of dames!"

Sure, the plot even with the 'play within a play' structure is hardly groundbreaking and follows a well trodden path. But who cares? Every set piece is exquisitely staged and performed so the skeleton on which it all hangs is, certainly for me, of secondary concern.

"...you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!"

It's perhaps not so difficult to draw parallels in this statement between the fictional character Peggy Sawyer and the performer who plays her, Mackenzie Dunn. Dunn displays true triple threat talent - singing, dancing, and acting - and like Peggy is destined to have a big future. The other standout for me was Lucy Ross as the bitchy, aging star Dorothy Brock who will be usurped by Peggy. Ross sings exquisitely and is all swagger and attitude to burn.

Others to impress - Tom New as irrepressible Billy Lawlor; Joshua White as the demanding Julian Marsh; Laura Jackson as Maggie Jones; Kelsi Boyden who brings the charisma with her Ann Reilly; the sharp dancing of Luke Haberecht as Andy; and a lanky comic performance by Ben Colley as Bert.

But then everyone is excellent and the dancing is fabulous as is the orchestra.

When I left the theatre there were a couple of teenage girls tapping on the footpath. If I wasn't already smiling that just capped the evening off.

If you don't leave the Regal grinning from ear to ear after this show seek medical attention. Immediately. I'm serious. Go to nearest medical facility NOW.

Highly recommended though I expect tickets will be extremely difficult to get.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Monday, 19 June 2017

Petits Fours - WAAPA (19 June 2017)

An eclectic quartet of bite-sized theatrical treats ranging from political satire (The Election) to an exploration of film set dynamics (Remarkable), amusing canine empowerment (The Emancipation of Alice Paws) and lastly, arthouse portrait of a hedonistic artist (Self Portrait, Masturbating).

All written by local playwrights, in order, Finn O'Branagain, Gita Bezard, Chris Isaacs, and Hellie Turner and directed by Julia Jarel, Nicole Stinton, Trudy Dunn, and Susie Conte respectively.

My pick was Remarkable which started off as a pisstake of the egos one might find on a film set (of a hilariously poorly written script) but turned into a most interesting commentary on the depiction of sex, nudity and violence and, critically, the ways male filmmakers pressure actresses into doing their bidding for less than altruistic motives. A fascinating angle emerged around who was portrayed as complicit in this. Unsettling and perceptive.

Performances were uniformly strong throughout all four plays but my picks from each - Lily Stewart as the kinetic emcee of The Election; William Bartolo as the writer-director in Remarkable whose character initially seemed innocuous/pompous enough until darker motivations emerged; Shannon Ryan in a fine physical performance as the mouthy pooch in The Emancipation of Alice Paws; and Thomas Jackson as the outraged and conflicted Oskar in Self Portrait, Masturbating.

Good to see so many of the 3rd year MT students in the audience on their night off from 42nd Street supporting their acting colleagues. 

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Present Laughter - WAAPA (17 June 2017)

I had a great time with this Noel Coward comedy - witty and elegant this featured a handsome set, was stylishly costumed, briskly paced, with many wonderful performances by the third years.

Foremost was Martin Quinn as Garry Essendine with the trio of Natasha Vickery, Rhianna McCourt, and Laura McDonald all excellent.

Sasha Simon and Mitchell Bourke give notable support; the latter exhibiting the physical comedy and mannerisms of a young John Cleese.

The Q&A afterwards featuring Quinn, Vickery, Set Designer Kelly Fregon, and Stage Manager Radek Rubinski gave insight into the construction of the play both from a performance and technical perspective.

A classy production all round.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sally Burton Awards (6 June 2017)

An entertaining evening of Shakespearean delights as the graduating acting class vied for the two $2000 awards courtesy of Sally Burton, widow of the legendary Richard Burton.

Stephanie Somerville (as Queen Margaret from Henry VI, Part 3) and Mitchell Bourke (as the eponymous king from Richard II) were deserving winners and the standard was high across the board including an inspired excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

If there was, implausibly, any lingering doubt about the talent pool at WAAPA the "light entertainment" provided by 2nd year actors Mia Morrissey and Adam Marks surely dispelled that with an exclamation point.

Morrissey blew the doors off The Roundhouse Theatre showcasing a superb singing voice that gave the audience collective chills in a holy ****! kind of moment.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Life is a Cabaret! - WAAPA (3 June 2017)

45 (classical voice) students accompanied by David Wickham on keys with many among their number also providing musical accompaniment from guitar to accordion, clarinet to banjo. Marshaled by director and accomplished WAAPA graduate Brendan Hanson who kept a watchful eye on proceedings at the rear of the sun-drenched Edith Spiegeltent.

The students and even Hanson himself were colourfully attired as denizens of their 'Cabaret Carnivale'. Jugglers, a gorilla, stilt walker, belly dancer, ladies of the night, men in drag, women in body hugging splendour.

Above all, glorious voices especially when the whole company was deployed to stunning effect in the intimate space.

This was playful, at times a little sexy, satirical, and, especially after the interval, raucous and jaunty.

The highlight for mine came after biting satirical commentary on the Trump-Putin bromance with a stunning version of Sting's 'Russians' with full choral accompaniment and two ballet dancers adding a touch of class. The contrast in tone was unexpected and sobering.

Hanson added a highlight of his own with a rendition of 'Port of Amsterdam' and the finale left the audience with a note of hope before we exited the magical Edith and re-entered the world where Trump serenading Putin is unfortunately all too real.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me - Irish Theatre Players (27 May 2017)

A fascinating psychological profile of three diverse characters kept hostage chained to the floor in a room in Lebanon. The grimness of the circumstances is leavened by humour (some admittedly quite dark) and creative ways to alleviate the boredom and fear they experience.

I also found the production interesting in terms of different acting styles. Paul Davey and Manuao TaAotonga, both excellent, gave naturalistic performances that drew me into the claustrophobic world in the opening sequence. Grant Malcolm, however, delivered a very theatrical turn that wrenched me out of that world and jarred with the other two for mine.

Quite long with the second half not having the same visceral impact after a change in the character dynamics.

As always, the Irish Club puts on a good spread at interval.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews