'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

04 October 2015

All Male 'The Importance of Being Ernest'

12 September 2015
Wild Rice for The Brisbane Festival
Last night I had such a wonderful evening. I set off to see the visiting production of 'The Importance of Being Ernest' from Singapore. It was the first play I have seen this year that I did not know anyone in the cast, but by evenings end I had met them all. As everyone says it is the perfect play, full of wit and language that excites the brain. Oscar Wilde is one of the great treasures of the English Language and one of my idols. Although I have seen it on stage before and many filmed versions it was like watching it for new although I could probably recite most of it from memory. The cast said they could hear the audience anticipating the dialogue. There was so much laughter throughout, but I tend to try and hold back because the words are not to be missed and are exquisite ornaments to be fully appreciated. 
One of the great additions was the string quartet from the Qld. Conservatorium (not them in the picture below) who played several pieces of Bach Mozart Haydn and Boccherini etc. before the play began while the cast handed out cucumber sandwiches to the audience and leading in to Act Two from the interval with a glorious Bach solo cello prelude. The all male cast was so fitting and I tended to forget that the women who continued to have female pronouns and male costumes were in fact men. A little like the device Visconti and Fellini use of placing a camera in the scene to remind you that it is cinema they played with vocal registers and dropped now and then to show a bit of testosterone to bring back awareness of the maleness of the characters and this gave particular poignancy to modern political and sexual discussions here and also in the even more conservative Singapore society. 

Ivan Heng formed this company Wild Rice back in 2000 and he also did the design after Beadsley, and played the magnificent Lady Bracknell with panach and such fabulous outfits. You can see a great video chat with Ivan below. What a charming man he was to talk to. I have so much to say, like how stunningly beautiful is Gavin Yap as Cecily and how charming his personality as the young ward, Absolutely hilarious and wonderful both on and off stage was Chua En Lai who played Lady Bracknell's daughter Gwendolen and just fantastic and truly outstanding was Hossan Leong as the prim and somewhat forgetful Miss Prism who is the cause of all this comedy. Never lose your Handbag. Mischief will be afoot and Oscar Wilde's invention is one of the great classics of the English Stage and throughout the world.

Ivan Heng

Gavin Yap and Chau En Lai

After the show we retired to the Russell St Wine Bar and it was there that we cought up with all the cast and chatted and drank with them for an hour or more before popping over to Arcadia again for more Red Wine and Gluten Free Donuts and even more friends. They loved being here and now that this relationship with Singapore has been created with the festival I and they hope to see them back and also theatre cooperation would be wouderful. I certainly mentioned people and festivals they should look at etc. Now to add all this to my blog tomorrow with even more photos.
p.s. I got some kisses.

Many years ago I saw a memorable production with the legendary Ruth Cracknell, Geoffrey Rush and Gordon Chater. This one went down in Australian theatre history.

02 October 2015

Into The Woods - Live and with Bite

1st October 2015
Harvest Rain Theatre Company
Concert Hall QPAC
 Last night I came home on such a high. I hade firstly been ensconced in the centre of the front row for Harvest Rain's production of 'Into The Woods' at the Concert Hall, brilliantly directed by Tiim O Connor. After a speech which I had possibly gate crashed, I met and hugged Tim and had a brief chat with him as he beamed with delight at the great success. He truly knows how to cast and bring a show to life. I have seen several now and the company goes from strength to strenght.

Pirates of Penzance and  Guys and Dolls on this site.
From the outset I have to say the bite, sharp observation and wit are back in this show, unlike what was missing in the filmed version which I found bland. So if you had liked the film you really must experience how much better it can be live. This is how it should be and I recommed you rush right now to buy a ticket before it closes on Sunday.
So many great roles and so many ridiculoiusly talented people. Rhonda Burchmore was simply awesome as the Witch and her transformation from crone to beauty was quite stunning. It is one of those big ovation moments. After the show I managed to fawn and kiss her hand out in the foyer. It seemed appropriate. Stars like Rachel Beck and Eddie Perfect so justified their reputations as some of Australia's best. 

For me it was a special treat to once again see some truly great, exciting and rising stars like the glowing beauty Georgina Hopson as Cinderella whose stunning voice is a very precious gem even if Cinders is far from sure footed, and Tom Oliver as the naive Jack whose wonderful voice, charm and extraordinary charisma are projecting him in an ever upward trajectory. These two outstanding newcomers were both in Pirates Of Penzance earlier this year and tonight I managed to meet them both and congratulate them on an exceptional show. It made me so glad to be able to spread the love around including a hug for the birthday girl Georgina. What a way for her to celebrate with  yet another huge success after only graduating in 2014. 

Seeing Stephen Hirst yet again was a treat as he seduced Red as the Wolf and then had a go at everyone as the hilariously arrogant and disgustingly 'charming' prince. The second prince was beautifully played and sung by the very handsome Perth boy Riley Sutton who also doubled as the Steward. I was extraordinarily so pleased to see a real little horror as Red Riding Hood. Kinberley Hodgson was a hoot. She was as bloodthirsty, noisy, annoying and greedy as any great Red should be. A treat worth remembering. Musical genius and profoundly charming Jason Barry-Smith was musical director and produced a truly amazing theatrical and vibrant sound from the live orchestra on stage at the back of the set. I was lucky to chat to Jason as well. It still amazes me how Harvest Rain can transform the Concert Hall into a proscenium stage.
One final note is that this outstanding professional Musical Theatre company exists only through the generosity of donors and ticket sales. We have two great training centres for Musical Theatre here in Brisbane and some absolutely extraordinary talent emerging who are taking their place nationally, so it would be an outstanding idea for the Government to ensure it continues and flourishes with the introduction of financial support. I recall Wesley Enoch having an idea of making Brisbane a centre for the development of Australian Musical Theatre and with the proposal of an additiuonal 1500 seat theatre being built the time is now. Time to write to our wonderful Arts Minsiter and Premier and ask her to get on board.

30 September 2015

The Seagull Stuffed and Reanimated.

The Seagull
17 September 2015
Billy Brown Studio

All praise to Anton Chekov for a masterpiece and super praise to Daniel Evans for a relevant, gripping and exceptional adaptation. Last night I went to The Seagull. 
Back on the 24th August I went to a briefing about the new production and you can see my shiny bald spot in the photo below. How informative and inclusive are these evenings. So much more insight into the upcoming play and the processes behind the production and the approach given by the cast and creatives. Then we come to the play itself and once again Daniel has written a script and on this occasion also directed a work that is absorbing, affecting and awash with wonderful language, reference and eloquence immersed in modern colour and familiarity. He was so blessed as always to have the benefit of a set of truly outstanding actors who in this version are all given prominance. No one is left in the background and all shon so brightly last night. I heard people heaping praise on the actors, the emotional impact and on the relevance of this piece first performed October 17 1896. 
I was lucky enough to have so many people I know on facebook or at least met involved. Christen O'Leary as the loud and proud diva Irena with a hidden insecurity and vulnerability as a performer moving to maturity, Emily Burton as the young aspiring, but apparently failing actress Nina, Jason Klarwein as the pretentious self absorbed writer Trigorin, Nicholas Gell as the passionate,insecure new writer Konstantin with mother issues, Barbara Lowing as the sensational and frustrated Ilya, Hugh Parker as the unfaithful doctor, Lucas Stibbard as the forlorn, but ever hopeful Medvedenko, Helen Cassidy as Ilya's also unfaithful lover Polina and Amy Ingram as the very bitter Masha. Once again the night had an outstanding performance from Brian Lucas as he indulged with all his being in the at times joyful decent of Sorin into mental instability and death. A truly involved performance that members of the audience owned up to the tears they shed. The sexual intrigues were paramount as the relationships evolved with abandon and the discussion it holds on the nature and background of theatre, writing and the artists involved is totally fascinating for anyone interested in the arts.
Once again Ben Hughes did a brilliant job with real lighting, moods and focus and with the magic sound scape of Guy Webster the whole evening was enhanced, especially when we were left with the full cast singing a heart wrenching song which Guy had hinted at, throughout the play and fulfilled as the lights dimmed.
After the show I stayed for the meet the artists Q&A which was the icing on the cake as they revealed even more of the process and their feelings now that they are well into the season. Then for yet another glass of Red as I got to hug, shake hands with and congratulate a few of the artists involved. I was also luck enough to finally meet Tim Dashwood who was in the audience. Tim I have been seeing on stage for a few years now like most of the cast last night and their talents and versatility is one of the great blessings of theatre in Brisbane. You really must go and see this and you will have an amazing time.

Another Daniel Evans adaptation of Oedipus is found here:- 

This was the second production of The Seagull I saw this year.
The Seagull 
6th March 2015
Metro Arts
Three cheers for Kate Wild for forming a new theatre company 'Now Look Here' after working at places like The Gate Theatre and the Young Vic in London and now editing and directing Chekov's 'The Seagull' at the Warehouse space at Metro Arts here in Brisbane. What a fine cast and what a wonderful evening of theatre. Be prepared to overcome some physical hurdles manifest at the neglected Metro arts building. I was involved there in several ways with having movies, opera functions, exhibitions and meetings there around 35 years ago. It is certainly time for the government to invest a bit of money in repairs to maintain one of the few inner city arts spaces still in existence.
OK lets create a play with almost no set on a flat floor with a small number of chairs and a performance that draws you in, includes you in the action and makes you feel at home. Not just the physical environment but the actors and the activity made me feel like I was in a parlor as another guest. It was riveting. take a bunch of people, some writers, some actors going through the same traumas as today brought about by self absorption, emotional immaturity dreaming and passions on the loose and watch them mirror our insecurities, our frustrations and our blunders. There was such a strong cast and beautiful performances and several actors have seen previously like Thomas Hutchins (above) as Kostya (this is his 6th production I have seen). Thomas has magic eyes and a underlying musical resonance in his voice that is quite outstanding. Another great aspect of the evening was the choreographed light and set changes (minimal set) which became part of the performance of Kristian Šantić who played Jakov.

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