ABR Arts

Crunch Time 

Seán Maroney
Friday, 21 February 2020

David Williamson is a giant of Australian theatre. Crunch Time – his final play before retiring – comes after fifty years of cutting critiques of Australian culture with much focus on Australian masculinity, heterosexual relationships, and family drama across unique and surprising milieux.

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Torch the Place 

Tim Byrne
Monday, 17 February 2020

When attempting to cajole a compulsive hoarder into cleaning up, it’s advisable to start with the things are worth worth keeping, but it shouldn’t distract us from taking out the trash. Ubiquitous television and print personality Benjamin Law’s first foray into playwriting, Torch the Place, is one of four new works appearing in NEXT STAGE Originals, Melbourne Theatre Company’s new commissioning endeavour, the only one that doesn’t come from an established playwright. While there are several things to like in this début, there are a number that should be consigned to the skip.

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The Professor and the Madman 

Barnaby Smith
Monday, 17 February 2020

When the British author Simon Winchester published the book The Surgeon of Crowthorne in 1998, the idea was, according to his editor, to ‘make lexicography cool’. The non-fiction work told the bizarre and oddly uplifting Victorian-era tale of the autodidactic linguist and scholar Sir James Murray and his relationship with William Chester Minor, a retired American army surgeon incarcerated at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Despite serious mental illness, Minor was a vital contributor to Murray’s gargantuan task of creating the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), an endeavour that began in 1879.

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Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam 

Susan Lever
Tuesday, 11 February 2020

I made the mistake of rereading Peter Goldsworthy’s 1993 novella before seeing Steve Rodgers’ adaptation of Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam at Belvoir St Theatre, so I knew the play’s advertised surprise ending and may have been resistant to its emotional charge. At its première production for National Theatre of Parramatta at the Riverside Theatre in 2018, it was said to reduce audiences to tears. Some audience members could be seen wiping their eyes after the opening night performance at Belvoir.

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The Deep Blue Sea 

Ian Dickson
Monday, 10 February 2020

The seismic shift which occurred in the British theatre with the success of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger in 1956 left Terrence Rattigan high and dry. Writing for the ideal audience member he dubbed ‘Aunt Edna’ – a very different creature from her flamboyant Australian namesake – he supposedly fashioned plays that were designed to entertain the middle classes without disturbing them unduly. But a close reading of his more serious plays proves him to be every bit as trenchant a critic of British society as the ‘angry young men’ – Osborne, Wesker, and Arden – who took over the theatre in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Fidelio 

Elizabeth Kertesz
Friday, 07 February 2020

Beethoven struggled with his only opera, Fidelio, for more than a decade, composing, rearranging, and composing anew until, in 1814, he declared that the opera would earn him a ‘martyr’s crown’. This tale of Leonore, who infiltrated a Spanish prison disguised as a man to liberate her husband, Florestan, allowed the composer to express his deepest thoughts on justice and freedom.

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The Lighthouse 

Andrew Nette
Thursday, 06 February 2020

It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of Robert Pattinson since the role that brought him to public attention, that of the reluctant vampire Edward Cullen, in the first instalment of the syrupy teen romance franchise Twilight (2008). In a little over a decade, he has transmogrified, via a series of eclectic, often challenging roles, into a major Hollywood talent, able to hold his own with screen veteran Willem Dafoe in Robert Eggers’s psychological horror, The Lighthouse.

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The Feather in the Web 

Laura Hartnell
Tuesday, 04 February 2020

If alien life landed on Earth and we had to explain to them the habits of the white middleclass, it would be understandable if they thought we were insane. CrossFit looks like creative torture, leadership webinars are bizarre rituals in self-congratulation, and engagement parties lead to nothing but familial misery. Framed by the unrequited love story of a woman who can’t (or won’t) fit into polite society, Nick Coyle’s black comedy The Feather in the Web skewers the bourgeois obsession with career, status, and wellness.

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Uncut Gems 

Jack Callil
Monday, 03 February 2020

There is something fundamentally irritating about Adam Sandler. Whether it’s his two-dimensional characters, mousey face, or nasally voice, he reminds you of that obnoxious guy whose loud voice dominates a party. He is the poster boy of puerile comedy, the SNL-alum visionary of some of the most blasphemously bad films of all time. The sheer offensiveness of his work is unignorable: the homophobia of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007), the racism of Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), the sexism of … pretty much all of it. Each film generally comprises a character arc of Sandler urinating freely, shouting petulantly, fucking wildly, and then maybe punching someone: The end.

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A Hidden Life 

Jordan Prosser
Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Terrence Malick’s mid-career output has been as divisive as his early films were revered. After The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or in 2011, To the Wonder (2012), Knight of Cups (2015), and Song to Song (2017) arrived in uncharacteristically quick succession, testing audiences’ willingness to indulge Malick’s stubborn stylistic sensibilities. His knack for laying bare characters’ inner lives simply didn’t have the same impact when applied to a smattering of good-looking celebrities milling about South by Southwest festival, or Ben Affleck’s middle-aged ennui.

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