ABR Arts Performing Arts

East by Steven Berkhoff

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April 2014, no. 360

Stephen Berkoff has always been the bad boy of British theatre. At East’s London première in 1975, the critics howled. Berkoff’s first play was filthy, with explicit references to sex and violence. Yes, the 1950s had spawned Kitchen Sink Drama, exposing the lives of the lower classes to a predominantly middle-class British stage. But Berkoff’s c ...

At a time when a convicted drug smuggler is rumoured to be about to collect a fortune for her remarkably unremarkable story and when we are heading into a new round of so-called ‘culture wars’, in which an extraordinary amount of heat will be generated with precious little light accompanying it, it is refreshing to be presented with another of Michael Gow’s fo ...

Boy out of the country

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26 November 2013

It’s a story biblical in resonance: prodigal son Hunter returns after seven years in the wilderness, to find younger brother Gordon finalising a lucrative real estate deal; the homestead’s boarded up, ageing Mum has been moved to a tiny flat, and the Utopia they knew as boys is set for redevelopment. The brothers come to blows, family secrets are uncovered, and ...

Over the past ten years, Melbourne and Sydney have experienced a revolution in the aesthetics of theatre – perhaps only the second major one since 1945. After World War II, the British helped to get us back on our cultural feet, the high point being the establishment of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1954. Along came a bunch of Poms or Pommie-mi ...

‘Nothing is not giving messages,’ reads a postcard wedged between the keys of a typewriter on a cluttered bedside table. As well as a nod to Edwin Morgan, the postcard is just one item in an abundance of ephemera lining a small makeshift bedroom in the basement of the North Melbourne Town Hall. This is the setting for American-born, Edinburgh-based poet Ryan Van Winkle’s one-on-one poetry ...

When I was a teenager, I attended a theatre workshop organised by Australian Theatre for Young People. Nick Enright, who led the workshop, told a story about seeing the opening-night production of David Williamson’s The Removalists (1971) from backstage. Twenty years on, Enright’s description of the look on the audience’s faces as they contemplated the ...

The Cherry Orchard

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28 August 2013

Writing to his brother in 1889, Anton Chekhov advised: ‘Try to be original and as clever as possible in your play, but do not be afraid of appearing stupid. Freethinking is essential, but to be a freethinker one must not be afraid to write nonsense.’

I thought a lot about nonsense during the Melbourne Theatre Company’s ne ...

‘If men are masters of their fate,’ asks the American feminist Susan Faludi, ‘what do they do about the unspoken sense that they are being mastered, in the marketplace and at home, by forces that seem to be sweeping away the soil beneath their feet?’

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Jean Genet’s Les bonnes (The Maids, 1947) is inspired by a true story. Two maids, sisters, murder their wealthy mistress and are found by authorities soon after, huddled in the same bed. Incest as well? So it is odd to be confronted with a drama that essentially addresses the audience’s intellect, spring-boarding out of a melodramatic re-enac ...

Opera Australia’s spring season in Melbourne opened with two masterpieces by Verdi in his bicentennial year. It was a decidedly rocky pairing.

La Fura dels Baus’s production of Un Ballo in Maschera was first seen in Sydney in January. La Fura is open about its intentions. Assistant director Valenti ...

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