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51 Shades of Maggie Muff

By Leesa Harker

Directed by Terence O’Connell

Twelfth Night Theatre

Cintra Road

Bowen Hills

Brisbane

 

PAULINE SMITH May  4, 2014

 

FIFTY One Shades of Maggie Muff is similar to Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody.

 It is a one woman show which tells the story of Maggie Muff, a street-wise woman from a UK housing estate, who is on the dole and looking for love in all the wrong places.

Maggie is a typical character that you would expect to see from a UK housing estate. She was dressed in animal print leotards, frayed denim shorts, pink ugg boots, and t-shirt, and is the epitome of the dole bludger, doing her utmost not to have to work and simply enjoy life with your mates.

That is, until her BFF persuades her to go down to the dole centre and pretend to be her for an interview. That is where she meets the handsome, mysterious man, whom she nicknames ‘Mr Big’. She seriously has the hots for him, ends up meeting him and being told he likes “kinky sex”.

I think you can guess the rest – the sex contract, the sex antics, the pain, the pleasure – all vividly described and vampishly portrayed in lewd, deliciously devilish detail by Maggie.

The character Maggie Muff is played by Nikki Britton, a seriously funny actress, whose comedic talents her bubbliness and energy on stage endear her to the audience as she tells her story.

As the play is set in Britain, Nikki does the whole play in a UK accent and changes tone of voice and accent for each of the various other characters introduced along the way. There is the high tone, nasal cockney of her BFF, the posh accent of Mr Big, the Irish accent of Sinead and many others. Her portrayal of her chain smoking mother was something else entirely with the spitting (as through something is on your tongue) in between the words of her moralistic lectures to Maggie about the men she is seeing.

Nikki Britton is an extremely talented actress. She is from Sydney, and studied clown/bouffon at Lecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris. She also graduated from Actors Centre Australia in 2007.

The clown/bouffon training definitely came into its own for this production and Nikki’s extensive dance training certainly aided some of the contortionist acrobatics displayed for most of the sex scenes. Nikki is just absolutely fabulous delivering line after line of naughtiness and f-bombs that leaves not much to the imagination.

The stage was set simply with a huge round bed, featuring Paris Hilton pillowcases and doona, which rotated and was used very effectively to ‘walk’ from one scene to another. Music would also play to enhance the ‘walk’ to each scene. Opera music, for example, would play whenever Maggie was taken into the room of pain.  

My favourite part was the bathroom scene, where although Maggie was describing vividly the sex that was taking place, it was the resulting flatulence that let rip in the Jacuzzi bath tub and the attempt to mask it, when the bubbles didn’t that had tears of laughter rolling down my face.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show. As is the case in theatre through, not everything goes according to plan sometimes and poor Nikki had to contend with the humidity of Brisbane and being under stage lighting, and with the energy she was pouring into Maggie, the tape holding the microphone on her face just wouldn’t stay put. But this didn’t faze her in the least, and she ad-libbed having to get off stage and be ‘repaired’ into the script so easily that the audience clapped her exit.

Maggie Muff is lewd, crude, and so very, very rude in your face descriptive kinky sex, but it is also energetic and rip-roaringly hilarious. I never realised that there could be so many synonyms for being ‘moist’. Knicker tsunami was just one of the wicked descriptions.

51 Shades of Maggie Muff is currently playing at The Twelfth Night Theatre, Bowen Hills from 30 April 2014 for a limited season.

Cock

By Mike Bartlett

Directed by Leticia Caceres

La Boite presentation of a Melbourne Theatre Company production

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Gro0ve]Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT April 11, 2014

 

LA BOITE’S latest play is certainly is different. A gay couple, John and M as the characters are named, are in a seven-year relationship but split up and then John has an affair with a woman.

A gay friend told me he couldn’t believe in the characters or accept the situation as a reality, so I was a bit worried thinking I was to see a show aimed at a gay audience with an unbelievable plot. But it turned out to be a fascinating play which is not aimed at any audience in particular.

I went on the last Thursday night and, not being an opening night, it was an education in itself to watch the audience members as they filtered in. I don’t think I have ever seen such a mixed lot. There were all sorts from teenagers to seniors, gays and straights, frocks and t-shirts, shorts and trousers. It just showed what a wide-ranging appeal Mike Bartlett’s play has. The theatre was pretty well filled too.

The play is a slightly different eternal triangle with a gay guy and a girl fighting to win the love of the other man. It really is a story about people in love and the disasters they bring on themselves though.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had some sharp incisive comedy and some very strong dramatic episodes. There were four good actors who created very believable and fascinating characters.

The male lovers were 20-somethings John and M. John was the needy, confused young man who worked in an office, while partner M (a broker in the daytime he told us) was the cook and carer who seemed intent on keeping his lover as the teenager he was when they first met.

When the play opened the pair was arguing on a set that was nothing but a square made up of 285 white pillows. (My wife counted them: 19 by 15 in rows.) Those pillows were a very clever idea from designer Marg Horwell. They were moved to create spaces, thrown in fun and anger, and made cosy spaces for love making.

John, played Tom Conroy was trying to tell M, played by Eamon Flack that they were finished, that he did not want to stay in the relationship; that they were too different, he was smothered, all the same arguments you’d hear in a frustrated hetero relationship.

M tried charm and seduction and there were some simulated sex scenes – fact here were quite a lot between the boys and between boy and girl. But they were done with great humour, especially between John and W, played very sexily by Sophie Ross, as he made love to a woman for the first time in his life. 

They were very funny scenes; John was being very much the teenager his lover wanted him to be and thoroughly enjoying this new phase of his life.

W was a divorcee. She was a little older than John and they saw each other most days at work but had never spoken, on the day of the break-up W did talk to him and finally seduced him and from then on was convinced she had turned him straight.

But poor John still was not sure.

He enjoyed being with a woman, but his insecurities took him back to M, then back to W until he had to make a final choice. When John takes W home for dinner, the fun really begins, especially when M invites his widowed father, played by Tony Rickards, to make up a foursome.

 Dad is aggressively proud of the fact that he accepted his son’s homosexuality and starts to try to force John to dump the woman and go back to his son.

There was marvellous confrontation been Dad and W with a lot of just-under-the surface violence, which had me glued to the seat wondering what the hell was going to happen. Rickards and Sophie Ross were fabulous as they jousted in verbal combat.

Was John gay, straight, or bi? Or was he just a confused trouble maker, wanting everything “all about me”. As I said, it certainly is different, but it is also highly entertaining in many different levels. It runs until April 12. Book at www.laboite.com.au or (07) 3007 8600.

 Macbeth

By Williams Shakespeare

Directed by Michael Attenborough

Queensland Theatre Company

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

 ERIC SCOTT March 29, 2014

 

HAIL Jason, Thane of Cawdor!

Jason Klarwein created a fascinating and powerful portrait of Macbeth in this QTC production. He absolutely dominated the stage whenever he stepped on it and made very facet of the complicated and damaged anti-hero shine in turn.

He showed us the brave King’s General, the ambitious politician, the waverer, the unwilling assassin, the brutal killer, the superstitious prophet seeker, the loving husband, and the   man teetering on the edge of sanity. It was bravura performance.

But he also had a cast of immense talent to work with. It is rare to see so many top names on stage together.

The first time I saw Veronica Neave on stage was way back when she played Juliet to Paul Bishop’s Romeo, and there was a never-to-be-forgotten performances as Laura in The Glass Menagerie, in 1990. Now she has come full circle from sweet virgin to the full-blown villain, the ultimate desperate housewife, Lady Macbeth.

She matched Klarwein inch for inch on stage. They created real chemistry when working together as she cajoled him, bullied and coerced her husband until he did not what the hell was going on. I loved her performance.

 Add to them performers like Steven Rook as Lennox, Tama Matheson as Banquo, Thomas Larkin as Malcolm and Lucas Stibbard in the stand-up comedy role of the Porter and you can see the amount of talent on view. They were all top class and not only knew the text but understood every word of it.

As for the witches, there was nothing earthly about them. They were half wood sprite, half snake as they writhed and hissed their way through the “blasted heath” scenes with Macbeth and foretold (with very forked tongues) his future.

They were scary, sexy and positively evil. I loved them.

Director Michael Attenborough – from the famous British Attenborough family – did am amazing job with his casting and interpretation. The set, designed by Simone Romaniuk, was a dark and dangerous forest, one that would eventually march on Dunsinane.

With some spectacular and moody lighting from David Walters those trees covered a multitude of sins and deeds foul and fair. The brooding essence of fear and battle hung over everything. It was Walters at his imaginative best.

There was some excellent sword fighting too, particularly between Macduff and Macbeth at the end. It was extremely realistic thanks to fight director Nigel Poulton.

It is a long night in the theatre for these modern times – two hours and forty minutes with interval, but it was time to be savoured.

From the opening “when shall we three meet again?”and the accompanying thunder and lightning that accompanied the witches entrance, to Malcolm’s accession to the Scottish throne there was not one moment that drags. Not once did a long soliloquy stilt the atmosphere of fear and suspicion. It was a joy to watch Shakespeare so completely understood and performed.

The costuming was designed for the danger and darkness of war and the soldiers wore an odd assortment of uniform from cargo pants and modern armed forces boots to leather breastplates and golden crowns. Swords and daggers were the armaments of the day however.

I’m not a great fan of modern dress Shakespeare, but this was something else, it was Orwellian in its drabness and evoked a timeless feeling of battle-weary soldiers from any era.

All the men were blood-stained and dirty from battle and receptive to any sound that indicated danger in a hostile environment. Always there was darkness and danger surrounding them.

This could be the best Macbeth I have seen. It continues until April 13.

Pride and Prejudice  

By Helen Jerome from the novel by Jane Austen

Directed by Sandra Harman

Brisbane Arts Theatre

Petrie terrace

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT March 21, 2014

 

THE quality is high and the crowds are returning to the Arts Theatre. I went to see Pride and Prejudice on a Thursday night and sat in an audience of more than 60 people to watch the three-act, almost three-hour-long period piece that was not only entertaining, but very nicely acted and beautifully costumed by designer Danielle Stonehouse. The drama was acted out on a set that really fitted 19th century English country houses.

It has a huge cast which make the play a perfect vehicle for community theatre – not so good for the director though, having to keep 18 actor s playing 22 characters on the ball.

Sandra Harman had that job and she was an impressive director. All her actors created realistic characters, well as realistic as Jane Austen’s over-romantic characters can be in this day and age.

I thought Sandra’s casting was spot on and there was not one Aussie accent onstage at any time and hardly any exaggerated English ones either. That is an accomplishment in itself.

The book of course is a classic and the story is one many people are familiar with through the movies and TV specials.

I enjoy the TV versions of these classics, but I can never tell whether it’s Jane Austen or a Bronte sister story. They all look and sound like Downton Abbey to me and are filled with brooding men, husband hunting parents of pretty, but penniless daughters, cads, men in uniform and the gentry.

In this one we have Mr and Mrs Bennett, country gentry, who have three daughters (it’s five in the book), Elizabeth the heroine, gentle Jane, and Lydia, the youngest. Mr Bennett likes to read books and make snide remarks about Mrs Bennett – and they refer to each other as Mr and Mrs all the time.

The problem in the family is the 19th century English inheritance laws, which decree that property only passes on to a male heir, which in turn means that when he dies his girls will get nothing. This state of affairs makes it vital that they marry well, so Mrs Bennett is always on the lookout for prospective sons-in-law.

These include new rich neighbour, the affable Charles Bingley, who does quite fancy Jane and the oily preacher William Collins who slithers around Elizabeth a lot. I loved that character and he was perfectly played by Joshua Parnell. He was a beautifully dreadful man.

 Then of course there was Mr Darcy, the other new neighbour.

I must have seen an old film at sometime because I have a mental picture of Darcy as a brooding, arrogant sort of man, a rather unpleasant and rude snob in fact– he’s the “pride” in the title – but Wes van Gelderen’s interpretation was much softer. His Darcy was shy rather than arrogant, which explained his difficulty in communication. I liked the idea and enjoyed his performance.

The prejudice part is Elizabeth and her dislike of the upper classes and, because, as they script says “she is much too intelligent for a woman and is unlikely to make a good wife”, she knocks back every offer of marriage she gets, Young Lydia on the other hand is a ditzy thing who fancies every soldier she sees and wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother.

The girls are well cast with Katherine Alpert making a feisty and stubborn Elizabeth. It is a huge role and she never dropped energy or character for the whole show. It was the same for Chelsea Indiana as Jane and the bubbly Elodie Boal as Lydia.

The play has heaps of fascinating characters. It’s amazing how Helene Jerome’s adaptation of the book, which was first staged in 1935, managed to get such variety in even the smallest roles and they were all intriguing to watch with every actor adding something to the play.

My favourite character was Mrs Bennett. Pauline Davies was just brilliant and funny as she fawned over the rich, had her hysterics, bullied her daughters, and generally tried to understand her husband, who couldn’t stand the people who courted his daughters. He loved his girls to bits in his quiet bookish way. He was well played by Barry Haworth. It is also one of those plays that remain in the mind visually.

 Kiel Gailer’s set was bright and airy, with minimal furniture that was right in period and a simple trick with folding flats created a smooth transition to a new location. Add to this great lighting from Lauren Sallaway, and the atmosphere was perfect for the action. Its show that I reckon has something for everyone.

It runs until April 12. Bookings: (07) 3369 2344.

Tuesdays with Morrie

By Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom

Directed by Gary O’Neil

Centenary Theatre Group

Corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets,

Chelmer

ERIC SCOTT March 12, 2014

 

THIS is a powerful play and an amazing challenge for a community theatre. It runs for one hour 45 minutes without interval and is played by just two actors. Luckily Centenary had Brian Cannon and Jason Nash in the roles. They were just superb and created a pair of memorable and very real characters. It was an engrossing and entertaining evening.

And I have to say that I enjoyed the performance more than I did the professional production of The Moutaintop.

Jason Nash plays Mitch Albom, a journalist and author in real life (the play is based on his memoir). While he was at college he revered his professor, Morrie Schwartz, played by Brian Cannon, who took a Tuesday class that so enthralled Mitch that he never missed one.

 When he graduated he promised to keep in touch the mentor he called “coach”. But of course he didn’t, until many years later when he was a highly successful journalist he saw Morrie on a TV talk show.

Morrie was suffering from Motor Neurone Diseases, better known in the US as Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the famous baseball player who suffered from the condition. A sudden attack of conscience gave Mitch a motive to go and visit his old mentor. The visit turned out to be on a Tuesday the same day as his old college classes.

Morrie instantly recognised the man who had planned to be a jazz pianist and ended up a famous sports writer in print, radio, and TV.

The visit was a turning point in the workaholic journalist’s life. We watched the first uncomfortable visit when Mitch was so highly strung he could hardly sit still and forever checking his watch. Then we saw the man unwind in future visits as he learned new - or old – lessons from the old man who knew he was dying and had accepted the fact.

The play of course in American which demanded the correct accent, particularly from Nash and he did a magnificent job. He accent was authentic, consistent, and always well articulated. Not one word of dialogue was missed.

His acting skills are finely honed too and, under Gary O’Neil’s tight direction, he created something very rare in stage - an authentic sounding journalist.

Brian Cannon did not delved deep into accent but somehow it did not matter, because he sounded like an academic. He matched Nash well in their many exchanges and once again, he was a beautifully believable character. He gently changed from stubborn and strong to a weaker, more passive person. It is rare to see such a perfect partnership on stage.

The audience was so involved in the relationship between the two men that there were more than a few damp handkerchiefs at the end of the show. 

It was a fascinating journey as we watched the two men connect in friendship and make adjustments in their lives. The “coach” still coached and the student still asked questions. Slowly Mitch unwound, became less tense and work oriented and Morrie was happy as he watched the real man emerges from the hard shell.

The fact that it is brilliantly written helps a lot of course and it is a great play with almost two hours of none stop talk between two characters that is never pompous, never sermonising and always entertaining.

Tristan Holland’s lighting plot was atmospheric and the many scene changes were neatly and efficiently done.

I doubt you will see a better community show than this one.

It continues at the Chelmer Community Hall, corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets, Chelmer until March 28. Bookings can be made on-line at www.centenarytheatre.com.au All inquiries to 0435 591 720.

Strassman - Careful What You Wish For

Twelfth Night Theatre

Cintra Road

Bowen Hills

Brisbane

 

PAULINE SMITH  March 7 2014

 

CAREFUL What You Wish For is the title of Dave Strassman’s latest tour with his faithful puppets Chuck Wood, Ted E. Bare, and others.

If you haven’t seen Strassman on stage, you are in for a treat; if you have, well you know what to expect - a fast paced, witty, side-splitting comedy show that pokes fun at all and sundry.

This was my first time at a Strassman live show. I have seen him many times with Chuck and Ted E. on TV, but to see him perform live is a treat. He is an amazing talent. Strassman has also ‘Aussie-fied’ his show, poking fun at local events and pollies.

Strassman’s “partners in crime” are Chuck Wood, Ted E. Bare, and Grandpa Ted, Sid the beaver, A.N.G.E.L., and Kevin the Tabbit alien from Rigel 3. Each puppet has its own personality and quirkiness. Chuck is the sarcastic and rather potty-mouthed 12 year-old who thinks he is the star of the show. He is, however, let away with this naughtiness because the audience has come to expect that sort of behaviour and revel in it, thereby encouraging him to be even cheekier and naughtier, if that is at all possible.

In this tour, the plot line is based around the fact that Dave has been thinking about retirement. Chuck is not at all happy about this, as this will mean that “he will die” without Dave, so he stages a coup to take over the show.

Ted E. Bare is a cute and cuddly bear, and along with Chuck are the two most known puppets of the entourage. I just wanted to wrap him up and take him home (which is what most audience members did when they purchased one of his many replicas on sale in the foyer).

That sort of sentiment, however, is exactly what Chuck doesn’t like and he constantly puts Ted down calling him a “stupid bear”. Chuck, however, is not above bribery and has lured Ted to his side with some chocolate. Ted, it appears, will do anything for chocolate, even lying about it to Dave when he knows he shouldn’t. But everyone forgives him because of his sweetness. The humour while Dave is talking with Ted is filled with innuendo, playing on the fact of Ted’s innocence and mispronunciation of words.

Dave takes us to visit Grandpa Ted “Fred” who is Ted E. Bare’s grandfather to find out if Chuck has been speaking to him about the takeover. Grandpa Ted lives in a retirement home for elderly toys and is a grumpy, cantankerous old codger. The humour lifts up a notch, with more sexual inferences being made.

The audience is introduced to A.N.G.E.L. which stands for Autonomous Neuron Generating Experimental Life form. She is a metallic, half-bodied puppet who sits on a small table to the side of the set. She speaks in a “computer-generated” style voice and is very much prim, proper, and a lady. She also grants wishes but warns Dave to be “careful what you wish for” as there can be unforeseen consequences.

We then get to meet Sid the beaver, who is desperate to get into show biz. Always working the crowd, telling jokes, some of which don’t quite go over to which he gets up the audience with “I’m working here” in a very New Jersey accent.

All of Dave’s investigations eventually lead him to make a very silly wish. Which took us into the second half - an alternative reality with the personalities and some of the genders even changed in the puppets. Sid, however, changed from a beaver into a koala and we were introduced to Kevin the alien who gives Dave the clues to how to get back to his own reality.

The set was kept simple with two sofas, a coffee table, a couple of book shelves either side of the stage and the obligatory puppet perch. The use of technology really enhances the show. There is a large three panelled back drop on which video/PowerPoint displays move us from Chuck’s room to Ted’s room, to the retirement home, space, or a forest growing. Chuck is now able to sit by himself and work remotely, lifting his arms, so that Dave can sit on a separate couch and still have a conversation without the need to have Chuck perched on the stand. It is surreally life like.

I haven’t laughed so much since I was at a Billy Connolly concert. I think the funniest bit for me is when Chuck is getting fixed by Dave because his mouth is sticking and Dave has to flip his head open to do it, of course with Chuck’s flippant remarks as he is being fixed. The whole show is uproariously funny and a great night out.

Careful What You Wish For is on at the Twelfth Night Theatre from March 4-15.

The Mountain Top

By Katori Hall

Directed by Todd MacDonald

Queensland Theatre Company

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT March 1, 2014

 

DID Martin Luther King Jnr. have a premonition of his death before his speech at Mason Temple in Memphis in March, 1968? He said: “I’ve been to the mountaintop ... and I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that tonight, we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”

Karori Hall’s play seems to suggest that he did. It is set in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, on April 4, 1968, the night before he was assassinated.

The firebrand preacher checked into the motel, one he had often used before, after a wearying march for civil rights. He ordered a coffee from room service which had apparently closed and it was brought to his room by Camae, a hotel maid on her first night on the job.

Like King, she is an African American. She is cheeky, flirty, and brassy and knows a few four-letter words. She even puts a slug of whiskey into his coffee and feeds him cigarettes (about four in the first ten minutes). Not your ordinary run-of-the-mill motel maid.

 I found her character a bit odd as she talked the talk and knew things she shouldn’t and even weirder was the fact that the upright preacher King let her keep him company while awaiting the arrival of a friend who had gone out to buy cigarettes. She was definitely not the sort of girl a married preacher should be entertaining in a motel room.

But, and I don’t feel I am spoiling anything by giving away her secret, she turns out to be an angel come to help him shuffle off his mortal coil. I say that because this play is an American play and there is little subtleness about it. There is no slow realisation that Camae is not who she pretends to be. It comes out in a bald statement.

From then on the play came to life as King battled to delay his demise so he can finish his work. He even had a chat to God, who happens to be coal black woman with deep brown eyes, but to no avail.

There were some funny moments, poignant moment and some powerful words that led to an amazing visual presentation from video artists Optikal Bloc as Busty Beatz sang pure soul in the background.

When King asked: “Who will take my place when I am gone?” Camae steps back and the video display shows him the future. It was a brilliant, vivid and powerful as the great moments in black emancipation that followed his death right up until the election of a black president.

It was as impressive finale as I’ve seen on stage and it was followed by some more great lighting effects as, the next day in the middle of a speech King is gently led away by Camae.

But the show had its problems.

Producing a play in Australia in which both cast members are African American, is not an easy task. There are few American actors working over here, so director Todd McDonald cast a Zimbabwean Pacharo Mzenbe and Victorian born Candy Bowers.

They had some heavy voice coaching in the southern US accents from Melissa Agnew, which were extremely authentic, maybe a little too authentic because it took a while to become accustomed to the delivery and cadences. Like many others, I missed quite a lot of dialogue early on. In fact Mzenbe’s opening speech, delivered to back stage was totally lost. Much dialogue was also lost in some irritating upstage conversations, which failed to reach me at the front of the theatre in row I.

Funny thing was, I had no problem in understanding Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, who grew up in Mississippi, last year in Driving Miss Daisy.

It continues until 6 March 16. Bookings: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au or 1800 355 528.

Cosi

By Louis Nowra

Directed by David Berthold

La Boite Theatre Company

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Grove

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT February 15, 2014

 

LOUIS Cowra’s Cosi, along with his Summer of the Aliens, is popular community theatre fare, so much so that we haven’t seen a professional production of Cosi since 2003. So many people have seen many productions over the years that the script and characters are as familiar as the residents of Summer Bay.

The play was written in 1992 and is set in 1971 when Lewis, the budding theatre director, gets the job of bringing some occupational therapy to the inmates of a mental hospital. The idea is to produce a play in a half burned down theatre. He gets a cast of sorts, headed by the over-enthusiastic manic depressive Roy, who enters clutching the score of Mozart’s opera Cosi fan tutte.

Despite the fact that none of the cast members can sing or speak Italian, he cons Lewis into producing the opera. The answer, Lewis decides, is to translate the libretto into English and have his actors speak the lines rather than sing them.

Meanwhile his mate Nick and his girlfriend Lucy are out organising anti Vietnam War protests and declaring free love for all.

The last production I saw of the play was in 2011 and at that time I wrote: “There are some plays that are done to death and I think this one of them and it is starting to fray around the edges a bit for one thing.”

So why create a professional revival? The answer is in the production values.

David Berthold picked up the 22-year-old script, along with its weird and whacky characters and reminded us what a great and funny play it is. His casting is impeccable and rather than make the asylum inmates caricatures, it’s the sane people who got the honour and made the patients look normal.

Nick and Lucy, played by Anthony Standish and Jessica Marais were wildly weird and so vacuously pompous they really looked as if they had a Napoleon complex and belonged inside. Standish however got to show his versatility when he switched costumes and roles to play the over-enthusiastic Social Worker Justin and Zac the zonked out musician who played Wagner on the piano accordion. This was an amazing transformation.

This show buzzed from the (fifteen minutes late) opening through fast-moving comic action that was so good that when the drama came its intensity was amplified and brought the laughing audience to total and absorbed silence. There were no slow spots and scene changes, managed mainly by cast, were unobtrusive enough to look like part of the action.

The fight scenes, directed by Nigel Poulton were scarily realistic and Hugh O’Connor’s proscenium arch set, aided by Ben Hughes’ lighting and Samuel Boyd’s sound design pulled the audience into the action from the minute the lights went up.

And the actors were superb as a team, with perfect ensemble work that brought the disparate and alienated patients beautifully out of their shells to work towards a fabulous finale when the opera makes it to the stage.

Lewis’s cast is manic depressive Roy, pyromaniac Doug, obsessive compulsive Ruth, psychopath Cherry, Zac, rich girl junkie Julie and Henry who is half paralysed and almost catatonic.

Benjamin Schostakowsky, in his La Boite acting debut, was an excellent Lewis as he overcame his initials fear of his cast and their unpredictable behaviour and Trevor Stuart was a magnificent Roy, who cajoled, bullied and switched from exuberance to devastation so naturally as he buried himself totally in character. I thoroughly enjoyed Aaron Davidson’s interpretation of Doug. He created such an “ordinary” person; happy, chatty, and inquisitive. He was everybody’s mate who made arson seem like a harmless hobby.

 Jessica Marais’ second role was Julie, the little rich girl junkie who had been committed by her parents. She was so delicately tragic that, despite her flirtation with Lewis, it was obvious that she was on a determined path of self destruction.

Her Packed to the Rafters boyfriend and real-life fiancé James Stewart had a great time with Henry, the tortured man who refused to speak – and what an astounding effect he had on the audience when he finally did break his silence in anger

Amy Ingram, one the best of the new crop of comedy actors, was great as the sex-obsessed, knife wielding psycho. Not the person to meet in a dark alley! 

Finally there was Ruth, the obsessive, forever counting patient played by Jennifer Flowers. Again here was a performance that was close to perfect.

This is a show not to be missed – even by the cynics.

It continues until March 8. Bookings: 3007 8600.

Australia Day

By Jonathan Biggins

Directed by Andrea Moore

Queensland Theatre Company

Playhouse Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT January 31, 2014

 

 

YOU’VE probably heard a show described as a laugh a minute; well this one is a laugh a second just about. It beats me how the cast managed to get through the show on time because of the laugh breaks. The guffaws were loud, sustained, and absolutely deserved.

Jonathan Biggins’ script is brilliant and drips satire as he pokes fun at just about everybody from local councillors to the pollies in Canberra. The characters, played by six of Brisbane’s best actors, start off as blatant stereotypes, but slowly morph into very real people as the plot unfolds

The play is set in the fictional NSW country town of Coriole where four local community leaders, plus a couple of ring-ins, form the planning committee for the next Australia Day celebrations. There’s Brian the urbane Mayor, who is more interested in his run for a federal Liberal seat nomination than the show, his fellow councillors, stick-in-the-mud Robert and the surly, foul-mouthed ocker Wally, CWA president Maria along with Aussie born Vietnamese Chester and the local Greens candidate Helen.

Helen is a late replacement and of course is under suspicion from the moment she opens her mouth to spout her politically correct views on multiculturism, conservation, Aboriginal rights and the need to take the tiny town into the 21st century.

It is not a happy committee when Helen starts suggesting changes to the well worn celebration format. The discussions over the sausage sizzle have to be seen to be fully appreciated!

Wally, who always – and often - calls a spade an effing spade, tells her in his own special way where to go and Robert – never Bob – quietly hate all her ideas. Marie huffs and puffs while Chester, the ever-smiling Asian, jokes his way through the situations and in the Chair, Brian, sits happily on the middle of the fence pleases no one as he chooses the age old political gambit  of abstaining when his vote matters.

Brian also has another problem. He runs the town hardware store and giant conglomerate Bunnings has applied for permission to build a super store in town. He is trying to get the application turned down.

Add to this, mobile phone recordings, blackmail, subversion and a touch of mild corruption and the fun runs riot. It starts on a cold, cold winter night and stretches to THE day with all sorts of shenanigans that Biggins is so good at writing. Among the fun and games there are a few darker more serious spots. But there is always the Pythonesque Chester who always looks on the bright side of life, to cut to the laughter chase again.

I have always loved the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Review’s irreverent look at life  and this one is just the same. Biggins is a brilliant satirist and it was great to see this full-scale work on stage.  He has a Dame Edna approach. People look at the characters and say “I know someone just like that” when really they are looking at themselves.

I just loved the play and enjoyed every minute of the two hours duration.

Andrea Moore is really hitting her stride as a director (she was great last year with Venus in Fur), although I’m, not sure how well the scene changes, done by the actors breaking character and dancing around the stage, went down. Several people remarked how it jarred.

But she had a great bunch of actors. Right out on top was Chris Betts as Wally. Never has the F-word been so widely and funnily used. No offence was taken, it was just the way he is – and funny! He was a scream.

Bryan Probets with yet another great performance was Robert, the subservient little man who finally gets to show some mettle. Paul Bishop played Coriole’s Mayor and it was good to see him back onstage and taking time off from his real job as a Redcliffe City Councillor to play. He obviously had a bit of insight into the role.

Lap Phan was a brilliant Eric Idle-like Chester and Barbara Lowing hit her straps too as the not so soft Marie. Finally there was Louise Brehmer doing her usual top job as the over-zealous but cunning little greenie Helen.

I also have to mention the set.  Simone Romaniuk’s second act Australia Day marquee was simple but so reminiscent of those hot out-door tents and with David Walters’ lighting plot created a cleverly claustrophobic and sweaty atmosphere. Good stuff. It continues until February 16. Bookings on QTIX 136 246.

Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts

Adapted by shake & stir from Roald Dahl’s stories

Directed by Ross Balbuziente

shake & stir Theatre Company and La Boite co-production

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Grove

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT January 10, 2014.

 

WHATEVER you do, make your kids take you along to see this 65 minute express-train of a show - and if you can’t - go on your own. It is billed as a show for kids of all ages, but on opening night there were more adults than tots and they laughed just as hard as the youngsters. In fact it was one long laugh session. I had a ball.

It’s a clever adaptation of Dahl’s stories performed by four actors, Leon Cain, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee, and Nick Skubij all of whom have worked together many times before. They have a close rapport, which is a huge benefit in a show where the scenes and costumes change at lightning speed.

One minute they could be an Ugly Sister - or a bear - and the next a wolf, a pig or even a crocodile, toad or snail. Nothing fazed them. Director Ross Balbuziente did a brilliant job in keeping his actors right on the frenetic pace.

And, as for the stories, nothing was sacred. The tales were twisted and changed, and hilariously so. Did Cinderella really marry a prince and what was the true fate of the Ugly Sisters? How did Goldilocks end up when she broke into the house of the Three Bears and stole the porridge?

And how truly cool and a little bit murderous was Miss Red Riding Hood? You wouldn’t want to wander in the same woods as that little lady.

As usual with modern children’s entertainment there was plenty of fart, bum and burp jokes, bloodthirsty animals who like to eat people and people who like to eat bits of people as well as animals. So there was heaps of comic violence, tastefully done of course.

We saw a whacky Cinderella story with a happy ending – for some; there was the story if the pig who believed in doing unto others as they would unto you – only getting in first and a Snow White story – including the seven dwarves and the rest of the story’s characters. I won’t even a hint as to how the quartet got round that one! Needless to say it was clever and hilarious – and there was a great magic mirror that shone a new image over the tale.

Then we watched Jack and his mother climb the beanstalk in search of gold.

And who would believe Red Riding Hood would step into the story of the Three Little Pigs? But she did and with some dire consequences.

All the action took place on a revolving rotunda, designed by Josh McIntosh that had trapdoors, side doors and all manner of clever little gimmicks that helped to speed the show along.

The actors switched characters, costumes – and even accents - in the blink of an eye. They never slipped on some, pretty tongue twisting at time lines and obviously were enjoying themselves as much as as the audience did.

There were songs and dances, fights and fracas, madness and mayhem, all played before some dazzling lights and laser effects from Jason Glenwright’s great lighting plot. Oh and in the program is a personal cut-out Little Pig mask!  It all added to the fun.

It runs until 18 January. Bookings: laboite.com.au or on (07) 3007 8600.