Arts – Theatre

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?’

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

Stop Girl 

Belvoir St Theatre
by
26 March 2021

Picture this: it’s 7pm. The news begins. There’s the jingle, a few stories about Australian political goings-on, then a piece about a war-torn country overseas. What do you see? A foreign correspondent, flak jacket on, standing in a bombed-out street or a hospital ward full of bloodied bodies. They speak for a few minutes, describing the horror. The news moves on. We go back to our lives. But what happens next for the reporter?

... (read more)

Appropriate 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
25 March 2021

Picasso is supposed to have claimed that ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’. The young American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does something slightly different. He, as it were, appropriates, taking well-known theatrical styles and adapting them to his own use. He gets old theatrical forms – the minstrel show in Neighbors (2010) or nineteenth-century melodrama in An Octoroon (2014), which this writer was fortunate enough to catch in New York, and explodes them to blisteringly funny effect. With Appropriate (first produced in 2013), he adopts that well-worn saga, the dysfunctional southern American family.

... (read more)

Jali 

Griffin Theatre
by
17 March 2021

Jali is a West African term for a storyteller – someone who can use words, music, or dance to make sense of the world for themselves and their audience. The young stand-up comic Oliver Twist, in his first theatrical piece, is proving himself to be very much a chronicler in that tradition.

... (read more)