Arts – Theatre

A Midnight Visit 

Broad Encounters
by
31 August 2021

Broad Encounters’ A Midnight Visit – a touring multi-room immersive production – takes the life and works of Edgar Allen Poe as its inspiration. For Brisbane’s iteration, it transforms a soon-to-be-demolished building in Fortitude Valley into a funeral parlour and, beyond it, an uncanny, gothic dreamscape you explore at your own pace.

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Hibernation 

State Theatre Company South Australia
by
19 August 2021

About fifteen years ago, a group of British playwrights, disheartened by what they saw as a lack of ambition and scale in new plays, started a movement they dubbed ‘monsterism’. Their manifesto called for large-scale work with big casts and ideas in contrast with the two- and four-handed studio theatre plays proliferating in an atmosphere of economic and intellectual austerity. Watching Hibernation, Finegan Kruckemeyer’s new play for State Theatre Company South Australia, I was reminded of the monsterists and their still-relevant demands for a bigger, bolder theatre.

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King Lear 

Melbourne Shakespeare Company
by
02 August 2021

A solid wooden desk at centre stage is bracketed by two more placed behind it. A whiteboard is off to one side, and a pile of broken office chairs rises on a tiered platform, suggesting a throne. The rollers from five swivel chairs hang threateningly over the actors’ heads. As the audience is seated, actors in dour business suits enter and exit, checking papers with a sense of subdued activity as the ethereal strings, pads, and pizzicato melodies of Ben Keene’s sound design float through the space. Someone Blu-Tacks a pie chart split into three on the whiteboard, foreshadowing the play’s famous conceit. These pre-show touches promise an anachronistic corporate world with overtones of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and the Time Variance Authority from Marvel’s recent Loki.

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Happy Days 

Red Line Productions
by
15 June 2021

Towards the end of the first act of Happy Days, Samuel Beckett spells out clearly the question that is at the heart of his work and that of the playwrights loosely grouped under the title ‘absurdist’. His protagonist, Winnie, buried up to her waist in earth, is describing the conversation of a couple who, wandering by, have caught sight of her. The man turns to his female companion. ‘What’s she doing? he says – What’s the idea? he says – stuck up to her diddies in the bleeding ground – coarse fellow – What does it mean? he says – What’s it meant to mean? … Do you hear me? he says – I do, she says, God help me … And you, she says, what’s the idea of you, what are you meant to mean?’

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The Cherry Orchard 

Belvoir St Theatre
by
03 June 2021

What did Anton Pavlovich Chekhov ever do to Sydney theatre that Sydney theatre should treat him as it does? Since Tamas Ascher’s superb STC production of Uncle Vanya hit the stage in 2010, Sydney has been subjected to performances of The Seagull, Ivanov, The Present (aka Platonov), and Three Sisters that, in their attempts to be ‘relevant’, have ridden roughshod over the subtle, devastatingly acute dissections of humanity with which Chekhov presents us.

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Lifespan of a Fact 

Melbourne Theatre Company
by
24 May 2021

Over the past decade or so, the centrality of fact in journalism, in political discourse, and in long-form non-fiction writing itself has taken a hit. The days are long gone when readers of The Washington Post could have confidence that the journalists who broke open Watergate had not only done due diligence but had chased every fact down the rabbit hole of governmental corruption. Now readers tend to gravitate to media organisations that confirm their own bias and dismiss the others as hubs of half-truths and outright lies. But what if the facts obscured rather than revealed the heart of a story? What if the facts got in the way of the mood, the texture, and the feeling of a real-life event? Is there any justification for deliberate or poetic inaccuracy in non-fiction? Lifespan of a Fact, a new play currently being presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company, has us wondering.

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Fun Home 

Melbourne Theatre Company/Sydney Theatre Company
by
04 May 2021

Fun Home is not your average musical. Based on Alison Bechdel’s hugely influential 2006 graphic novel of the same name – which contrasts her coming out as a lesbian with her gay father’s closeted, unhappy, and ultimately self-destructive life – Hello, Dolly! it ain’t. But in the clear-eyed, compassionate, and understanding hands of playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori, it became a multi-award-winning, much-performed success.

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Fangirls 

Arts Centre Melbourne
by
03 May 2021

The Australian musical Fangirls is, in both writing and production, of a calibre rarely seen in home-grown musical theatre. With book, music, and lyrics by Yve Blake, Fangirls explores the underestimated power of teenage girls. After its première at Queensland Theatre and Sydney’s Belvoir in 2019, this stellar production makes its latest stop at Arts Centre Melbourne, following a run at the Adelaide Festival in March 2021.

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Berlin 

Melbourne Theatre Company
by
26 April 2021

Berlin, by Joanna Murray-Smith, is an intense, very wordy, imperfectly plotted, but nonetheless stylish play. ‘Stylish’ is a strange word to describe a play about young love sabotaged by tragic secrets and the legacy of the Holocaust. Shouldn’t it also be ‘heart-breaking’, ‘harrowing’, or at least ‘poignant’? Perhaps, but ‘stylish’ is the right word for a play – a thriller, in fact – that is also a swiftly argued essay on the difficulties faced by sensitive and ethical individuals who want to free themselves from the snares of history to make a new future.

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Because the Night 

Malthouse Theatre
by
14 April 2021

It’s the 1980s. Elsinore is a logging town, ruled by troubled royals. The King is dead, Hamlet is paranoid, and Ophelia is having some very strange dreams. Beyond the palace walls, a carnival approaches, the workers are rebelling, and the forest has grown hungry. This is the world of Because the Night, Malthouse’s bold return to performance after the shutdowns of 2020.

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