ABR Arts

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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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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'Home, I'm Darling' (MTC) 

Diane Stubbings
Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Judy and Johnny live a blissful 1950s life. While he readies himself for a day at the office, she twirls around the kitchen preparing his breakfast. They are, they declare, ‘sickeningly happy … utterly content’. The twist that comes at the end of the first scene of Home, I’m Darling has been heavily signposted in pre-publicity, so it’s not giving anything away to say that we are not in the 1950s at all.

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True History of the Kelly Gang 

Jordan Prosser
Monday, 13 January 2020

The suggestion that any single retelling of the story of the Kelly Gang might come close to ‘true’ is laughable, but by drawing attention to this fact at the outset, Carey gives himself unfettered creative licence to embellish the tale however he pleases. And while the aural-visual medium of filmmaking could never hope to recreate the unique interiority of Carey’s Kelly or the breathtaking poetry of his loquacious, first-person prose, Kurzel’s film nevertheless succeeds, positioning itself less as a direct adaptation and more of an invocation. It summons the same restless spirit as the novel, and permits itself those same grand liberties with the so-called ‘truth’.

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La Bohème 

Peter Rose
Tuesday, 07 January 2020

Gale Edwards’s production of La Bohème is back for an extended summer season – sixteen performances no less. This production has been filling theatres since its creation in 2011. It may not run for as long as Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 extravaganza, still an annual fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, but it probably has another good decade to go. Revived here by Liesel Badorrek, it works considerably better in the tiny Joan Sutherland Theatre than it did in the State Theatre in 2018; the latter is too palatial for bohemian confinement and privations.

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