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Theatre

Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam 

Belvoir St Theatre
by
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 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
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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The Feather in the Web 

Red Stitch Actors' Theatre
by
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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'Home, I'm Darling' (MTC) 

Melbourne Theatre Company
by
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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Krapp's Last Tape 

Red Line Productions/Old Fitz Theatre
by
02 December 2019

‘Be again. (Pause) All that old misery. (Pause) Once wasn’t enough for you.’ Reminiscing is rarely a happy experience for Samuel Beckett’s characters, least of all for that most autobiographical of his creations, Krapp. In reply to a friend who had sent him a letter mentioning their good old days in pre-war Paris, Beckett brusquely wrote that there were neither good old days nor good new days. There were no good days at all. As his biographer Deirdre Bair puts it: ‘to yearn for anything in life, past or future, was unrealistic and a waste of time’.

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
25 November 2019

In a cramped, dismal cottage on the Galway–Mayo border, the theatre’s most poisonous mother–daughter relationship since Electra battled Clytemnestra is being played out on the stage of the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

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Kiss of the Spider Woman 

Melbourne Theatre Company
by
25 November 2019

Argentine writer Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel Kiss of the Spider Woman seems to have shed most of its cultural specificity with each new iteration. Most people know it from the 1985 film that transposed the action to a Brazilian prison, for no conceivable reason other than the fact that the director was Brazilian (Héctor Babenco). The 1992 musical, with a book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, goes a step further, and sets it in an undisclosed South American country – as if all political hells were the same, as long as they were subcontinental.

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Packer & Sons 

Belvoir St Theatre
by
21 November 2019

You would have to be living under a rock the size of Uluru not to be aware of the reassessment of the masculine sense of dominance and entitlement that is sweeping the Western world at the moment. From an American president who has openly boasted of assaulting women to a member of the royal family who, in an interview about his relationship with a notorious paedophile, blithely ignores the damage that this man and his cohorts inflicted on young women, we have seen a stunning lack of empathy towards the less powerful and well connected. In the business world, some consider this to be a requisite for success. It has become something of a truism to claim, as does Jon Ronson in his controversial book The Psychopath Test, that a high percentage of CEOs have psychopathic tendencies.

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Oil 

Red Stitch Actors Theatre
by
18 November 2019

It is scary to contemplate a world without oil. Whether we acknowledge it or not, oil is at the heart of our everyday lives. The Western world has depended on it for over a century. It has given us heat, light, comfort, and control. But our modernity is built on a finite resource, and we are hurtling towards a time when we will be no more oil left to tap. What will happen then?

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Light and The Dark Master

OzAsia Festival
by
06 November 2019

At a time of increasingly bellicose nationalism and ever-proliferating flashpoints of contested history, it’s no surprise to find multiple works at this year’s OzAsia Festival exploring, and in some cases provoking, these global fault-lines. Light (★★☆), a collaboration between writer Thomas Henning of Melbourne’s Black Lung Theatre and Malaysian producer–designer collective TerryandTheCuz, takes as its point of departure the lives of Francis Light and his son William, the first surveyor-general of South Australia. The history books tell us that in 1786 Francis laid claim to the island of Penang on the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and that, fifty years later, William set out his plan for the city of Adelaide: a grid of wide streets and large public squares ringed by parklands. Less than three years later, William was dead from tuberculosis, the bulk of his papers and possessions having been destroyed in a fire at his North Terrace office.  

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