Dark Beauty

The latest play at Kings Cross theatre ( KXT) is ‘American Beauty Shop.’ I saw the final preview and it is wonderful theatre. This is a dark play, which explores the theme of generational poverty in America post GFC.

Theatre is all about great acting, and this cast is fabulous. Amanda Stephens Lee is a veteran of independent theatre and is always flawless. Her portrayal of Sue, a hairdresser with well laid plans to make a success of her life is utterly convincing.  Charmaine Bingwa, as her hairdressing salon employee is exquisite. I last saw her  this year in ‘Doubt’ for which she received brilliant reviews. Janine Watson is a multi award winning actress who is also a stalwart of independent theatre. She imbues her characters with incredible charisma, and her talent is well utilised as Sue’s wayward sister Doll. An actress whom I have not seen previously ,Caitlin Burley, is excellent as Sue’s daughter and Jill Mackay is ever charismatic as Sue’s faithful client.

American Beauty Shop is a very strong piece, entertaining from the opening scene, and offers a  commentary on the difficulty faced in emerging from welfare and poverty in the U.S. It reminds us that we do not want to become a less egalitarian society than we are.

This play has a two week season- do not miss it.

A Bouquet of Riches

The latest opera from Sydney Chamber opera is Benjamin Britten’s Rape of Lucretia. It was groundbreaking in its day, creating a new concept of Chamber Opera in the place of traditional orchestral works requiring large cast and chorus.

Opera is all about the music, and under artistic director Jack Symond’s direction it is truly sublime. So exquisite is the music and the singing that it could have been performed in the dark and it would have been completely entertaining.

But this opera has been directed by an amazingly accomplished director, Kip Williams who introduces an incredibly interesting new perspective on the traditional tale of ‘the rape which brought down a monarchy.’ This staging requiring exceptional acting and movement skill from the cast and they deliver faultlessly. If it were presented just as a play it would be riveting!

Some singers have performed with SCO many times- Baritone simon Lobelson always sings beautifully and revels in any acting/vocal challenge. Jane Sheldon’s soprano voice is like crystal, as ever, and she sustains intensity of emotion with every glance or movement. We are lucky to be able to see her regularly in Sydney with SCO- most of her work is overseas.

Tenor Andrew Goodwin, who has trained/performed largely in Russia is exceptional as the male chorus. Again, we are so lucky to have world class singers performing intimate works in Sydney. I saw him earlier this year in  Biographica, the outstanding event at the Sydney Festival.

The other singers, Anna Dowsley, Celeste Lazareko,Nathan Lay, Jeremy Kleeman and Jessica O’Donoghue are all marvelous.

Do not miss this piece- SCO has a very short season. But more importantly, get onto the mailing list so that you never miss aSCO event. Opera lover or not, this company is so interesting and entertaining you will become a devotee.

A New Golden Age

One of the most successful, feted and in my opinion beautiful plays ever written is ‘The Golden Age’  a 1985 masterpiece by playwright Louis Nowra.  By way of a minor miracle, Louis Nowra has written a new play specifically for The Old Fitzroy hotel, ‘This Much Is True’ and it is truly magical.

This play is all about the real folk who drink at Woolloomooloo’s favourite local pub. It is based on true stories and is quite confronting and gritty in its subject matter. But this play is crafted like a fine violin- the dialogue and narrative is exquisite and balances the harshness of the story to perfection. I am in awe of the talent that this writer possesses.

The  large ensemble cast is excellent and the direction by Toby Schmitz( assisted by Andrew Henry)  is flawless. There are  many different scenes and yet there is a seamless transition so that the pace never flags.Productions at The Old Fitz generally seem to harness unparalleled energy from the performers and this is certainly the case with ‘This Much Is True’.

Sound, lighting and sets are all terrific and enhance the production. The costumes worn by Venus are particularly evocative. Every facet of this piece of theatre rings true.

This production is sold out now- but my advice is to e-mail Red Line and beg for an extension or a return season. Failing that.. when this play does pop up at another theatre buy tickets immediately!!