Night Alive is Brilliant

In a scintillating season at The Old Fitz this is one of my favourite plays of the year.

Conor McPherson is a well known and frequently awarded Irish playwright. His characters are often down and out, but he writes beautifully and enables his characters to be appealing. I think this is crucial because I have seen many plays where the characters were so unpleasant that it was impossible to care about them.

The acting is sublime. I had not seen Sarah Jane Kelly before and she is just exquisite as Amy, the troubled young lass brought into Tommy’s bedraggled flat. Lawrence Coy is marvelous as Tommy’s side kick Doc- a little ‘slow’  we are told, but  funny and very endearing. As Tommy, John O’ Hare is wonderful. His character is a typical loser, down on his luck and just getting by, but his portrayal is extremely charismatic and the relationship that develops with Amy is utterly convincing and poignant.

As usual the sets, costumes, music and lighting are top notch.

The Old Fitz is the only venue that I can recommend to friends even in advance of seeing the latest production. Fine plays deserve support from the Sydney community. Do not miss any of the plays performed here – but this one in particular. I bet it will scoop plenty of awards. Don’t miss it.


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!!


Little Borders is a Great Play

Little Borders has a very short season at the 505 and so you must get to Newtown before 15/7 to see this excellent play. It is written by a young Australian playwright, Phillip Kavanagh, who has won several major awards for a good reason- his work is insightful, funny, captivating and the messages are clear. This is a very dark comedy about our perception of The Other and could not be more appropriate for 2017 – amazingly written in 2010. The cast, Lucy Goleby and Brandon McClelland is up to the task, both actors handling the humour and drama equally well. The set is perfect for the piece and the lighting is particularly attractive. It is flawlessly directed by Dominic Mercer.  The producer, Dino Dimitriadis does not have a blurb in the programme but he is one of those creatives whose work is always good, whether he directs or produces. This work is a complete pleasure to watch and deserves a full house. Don’t miss it!.


No Doubt

The current production at The Old Fitz, Doubt, has already been enthusiastically reviewed by all the ‘big’ Sydney reviewers. Doubt is a play that requires superb acting in order to sustain tension, prevent melodrama and be truly convincing. Set in a parish school in the Bronx, the stage is beautifully lit to give the illusion of a church at times. But the performances of the cast are even more illuminating. Belinda Giblin is an astonishing actress, capable of restraint or slapstick comedy. Her portrayal of the school principal is faultless and she is entirely convincing. During her performance she is seen writing a letter and she told me afterwards that she actually writes a different letter every night, each relevant to the drama. We are the beneficiaries of this level of commitment. Matilda Ridgway is a very accomplished actress whom I have seen many times working for all the well known companies in Sydney. She is a very capable Shakespearean actress, and her ability to think deeply about the text informs her performance beautifully. The other two performers are equally well cast, Damian de Montemas, absolutely charismatic as the priest and Charmaine Bingwa who surprised me by not being American when I spoke to her after the play. Dino Dimitriadis has done a marvelous job as director;he has an enormously successful track record in theatre but usually producing. He has created a piece of theatre that really should run for months… but without a doubt should not be missed!


amazing

Red Line Productions undertook an amazing concept in 2017. They commissioned a new play for every main stage production, and the new play was to be a response to the main stage  play.’ Bengal Tiger’, currently showing . It is a beautiful play which had a wonderful debut on broadway ; Robin Williams was the lead actor. The response play, ‘Amongst the Ruins’ is written by a local actor/writer, Michael Mcstay. This young man is an accomplished actor, musician and writer. He wrote a very creative piece which I saw in 2016 at The Old Fitz, ‘ Bright Those Claws That Mar The Flesh’, and I was extremely impressed with this work, and hopeful that he would continue to write. His response play is truly amazing. It is a beautiful piece of theatre in its own right, but it also incorporates  many themes of the inspirational work, ‘Bengal Tiger’. The cast is absolutely excellent and makes the most of the eloquent writing . I cannot recommend this play strongly enough. See ‘Bengal Tiger and then its response. You will be amazed!