Friday, 20 July 2012

God and Pool/No Water - Everyman

The glorious triumvirate that is Everyman is back with their first-ever double bill. Both comedies, one wild and frivoulous, one black of soul and heart.

Wisely, they kick off with the frivolous fun of Woody Allen's "God" - a wild comedy about theatre, creativity, fate and the baser instincts of lust. Jarrad West in the central role of the actor "Diabetes" lets forth with all manner of clowning and foolery in a somewhat skimpy tunic, and he's backed up with solid hilarity from the rest of the cast - Duncan Ley unleashes his portentous serious-actor-tones for goofing, Euan Bowen provides a variety of different silly accents in a variety of different silly roles, and ... well, it's difficult to review everybody without spoiling who does what, but let's just say, you will giggle and guffaw and have a fun time. Duncan Driver's direction allows the piece to remain (mostly) under firm control and accelerating towards the dramatic/comedic conclusion (including a masterclass in that difficult art, Very Bad Acting). Wayne Shepherd's simple Grecian-column set nicely complements the fun.

After interval, it's the darker comedy of "Pool/No Water" by In-Yer-Face-Theatre veteran Mark Ravenhill. The only other production of Ravenhill I can think of in Canberra is Elbow's "Shopping and F**cking" back in the late 90s/early 2000s, and this is, in its way, equally confronting theatre. A tight quartet of actors (Amy Dunham, Zac Raffan, Steph Roberts and Jarrad West) provide nonstop energy, supreme physical acting, precise vocal control and attention in a one-hour tale of ambition, jealousy and conspicuous bad behaviour. The beautiful simplicity of the staging (backed by a more-than-usually fantastic lighting design) keeps the focus, as it should be, on the actors and the text. This is not going to be a show everybody takes to their heart (the doings are very very dark indeed and it's pretty confrontational stuff), but I doubt that I'll see better ensemble acting this year anywhere.

Yes, Everyman get a lot of good reviews. They richly deserve all of them. This is an A Grade company presenting A Grade Theatre. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Cats - Free Rain

"Cats", notoriously, ran forever in the West End and Broadway (although it's now closed in both - its West End home now hosts "War Horse", its Broadway home has "Mamma Mia") and launched the solo career of Andrew Lloyd-Webber as a composer (also marking his break with Tim Rice after arguments about an alternate lyric for "Memory"). With lyrics coming from the safely-dead poet T.S. Eliot, direction from Royal Shakespeare Company regular Trevor Nunn (who also got credit, and royalties, for the "Memory" lyrics), choreography from Gillian Lynne and an oversized junkyard set from John Napier, it stuck around 21 years on Broadway and 18 in London.

And now, it's on at ANU Arts in a production by the increasingly Musical-Minded Free Rain company. How is it?

Well... it's "Cats". Which means, a disjointed series of solo spots dragged together by a bare semblance of a story, some incredibly cutesy rhymes, a lot of tune repetition, and a whole heap of nothing-very-much.

No, I don't love the material, how did you guess?

So with that dismissive comment about one of the longest running shows ever, how'd this production go (why did it run so long? Well, the logo is a very good looking logo indeed, plus it's probably a show that's equally incomprehensible to english speakers and non-english-speakers alike, thus making it a popular choice for tourists. and Memory is a damn emotional little earworm of a song)

Mostly, pretty reasonable. There's some quibbles (the choreography during the Jellicle Ball is a bit samey leading to it dragging, Roy Hukari's narrator "Munkustrap" doesn't appear to have an actual character to play beyond "I own a leather jacket and like telling stories about other cats", a couple of Mr Miestoffele's magic tricks are a bit obvious,  and Dave Collin's Growltiger costume shows off his genital region alarmingly...), but the cast is in good voice, the movement is pretty nice, the orchestra appears to know what the hell they're supposed to be playing , and generally the impression is made of a theatre company who can put on a show that is what it's supposed to be. 

Do I think it's the greatest thing seen in Canberra this year? No, of course not, it's still "Cats". But it's a nicely done version of "Cats".

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Because a certain Canberra Critic has decided to be very lazy and not write particularly many posts about productions, instead wanking on with interviews most of the time, I thought.. you know what, starting a blog isn't that hard, why not give it a go yourself. I'm probably going to find out exactly why I shouldn't give it a go shortly, but never mind.

I won't see everything. I don't get comp tickets to everything, I have a limited budget, and I don't always have the time and inclination to see everything just because it's playing.

And opinions are like arseholes. Everybody has one, and you don't take one out in public unless you want it to be kicked around a little. And I think Canberra Theatre could use a little active conversation. I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinions, nor do I think my opinions are necessarily the best or right ones, and I'm possibly persuadable by a good argument here and there.

Anyway, here goes nothing.