ABR Arts

The Doctor 

Michael Morley
Tuesday, 03 March 2020

No one would maintain that Schnitzler’s original text does not need cutting and shaping for an updated presentation of the issues he was concerned with back in 1912. (One of the drollest observations about Schnitzler’s style comes from Franz Kafka, who noted that ‘it is replete with the quavering hollowness of literary pretensions’, though he was speaking specifically of Schnitzler’s late works.) But a play like Professor Bernhardi is no more nor less overwritten than some of Shaw. Here, at every turn, Icke’s ‘re-imagining’ (and his direction) opts for crude juxtaposition, where Schnitzler’s outlining of the issues can accommodate both subtlety and directness, ambiguity and clarity. And Icke’s simplification is reflected in the performances of most of the actors

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The Curtain 

Fiona Gruber
Monday, 02 March 2020

A boarding house, late evening. Two elderly men pace fretfully, unable to settle. They are, we learn, waiting for their landlady to return home. She goes out rarely and tonight is later than usual. Should they play cards? No, says one of the men, I always lose. I’ll let you win, says the other. Then there’d be no point in playing, rejoinders the first.

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Fidelio 

Will Yeoman
Monday, 02 March 2020

‘For a moment let’s imagine a world entirely unlike ours,’ asks narrator Eryn Jean Norvill as she sets the scene for this thrilling concert performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio. And yet, 250 years after the composer’s birth, political prisoners are still detained, and worse, for daring to tell truth to power. And lovers? ‘Everyone is imprisoned within their own misdirected desires. Just like real life,’ continues Alison Croggon’s text, written as part of this WASO and Perth Festival commission presented in association with WA Opera, conducted by principal conductor Asher Fisch and directed by Black Swan State Theatre Company’s Clare Watson.

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Salome 

Michael Shmith
Wednesday, 26 February 2020

For all its intense brevity, Salome is notoriously difficult to stage and perform. Richard Strauss might have adroitly described his opera (first performed in 1905) as ‘a scherzo with a fatal conclusion’, but his great admirer Gustav Mahler was closer to the mark when he said ‘deeply at work in it … is a live volcano, a subterranean fire’. Both points of view were more than justified by this generally fine performance of Salome.

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The Great Australian Play 

Sarah Walker
Wednesday, 26 February 2020

A play begins its conversation with an audience well before the house lights go down. Marketing images, PR blurbs, interviews – they all launch the process of introducing the work, of situating it in the world. By opening night, the audience is primed. A good production slips seamlessly from the abstract to the real, maintaining a coherent identity from marketing copy to stage. The Great Australian Play, now playing at Theatre Works, promises a scathing indictment of the emptiness at the heart of our national mythology. Instead, it delivers a meandering portrait of a writer who is embarrassed by his own source material.

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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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