The Wharf Revue, or, how Australian Theatre is failing herself (New Party)

‘In its 17 years the Revue has poked fun at local politicians and political scandals, with varying – and consistently decreasing – levels of incisiveness, but its 2016 outing was a particularly low point, too light a touch in a negative banner year for politics. In 2016, the Revue could have tackled voter apathy, institutionalised racism, and threatened international relations stemming from thoughtless gaffes. Instead, the 2016 Revue was soft and petty; it barely acknowledged current policy, let alone critique it. Its targets were small and its name – Back to Bite You – indicated a sharpness and anger that never appeared onstage.’ … READ MORE

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On Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette and ‘too many onions’ (Overland)

In Nanette, a brilliant meta-comic retrospective meets arts-as-activism performance, Gadsby revisits punchlines she’s been delivering onstage for years, as a gut-punch farewell. I remember these jokes from shows past: her slow, deliberate phrasing deployed to get our biggest laughs. She reminds us of her mother’s response to Gadsby’s coming out (‘I don’t want to know. I don’t. I mean, what if I told you I was a murderer?’). That time she narrowly avoided assault for flirting with a girl (the girl’s boyfriend mistook her for a man, and apologised for his mistake).

But this time, she makes her audience pause to consider these stories. Are they jokes? Are they funny? Aren’t they horrific? READ MORE

American Idiot presents, and does not condemn, suburban malaise (The Guardian)

‘As a rock opera, American Idiot is more like Hair than Jesus Christ Superstar or Rent; it’s built on situational concepts and song scenes rather than a thorough narrative, and like Hair it uses rock music to tap into a struggling and stifled generation haunted by war and aimlessness, with lyrics that serve more as statements and ideas than plot drivers.

This is both American Idiot’s greatest asset and its biggest downfall. It can’t flesh out most of its characters, especially its women, beyond broad strokes, and its ending can seem abrupt or underexplored without extremely precise direction. But it’s open enough to interpretation that it engages any audience, allowing them the space to project their own dissatisfaction on to the characters. And its music is strong enough to hold you in its thrall: you want to descend with these characters, even when they’re barely formed.’ … READ MORE

I Love You Now is a stilted love puzzle (Time Out Sydney)

Photo by Robert Catto“It’s hard to buy into the story when we don’t have a clear sense of who June and Leo really are as people, beyond contentious spouses. We know that vague past and present wrongdoings on either side are fuelling their guilt and stiff distance, but we don’t know what drives these people; why they chose each other; why they might choose to leave each other. Without truly knowing or caring about them from the outset, it’s difficult to care about their journey – and to perceive their evolution through the journey of the play” … READ MORE

Belvoir/STCSA’s Mr Burns: dizzyingly clever (The Guardian)

‘[Didion] calls the mercurial act of memory and rearranging “more electrical than ethical” – and at the opening night of Belvoir and State Theatre Company South Australia’s brilliant Mr Burns, no reference seemed more appropriate.

Mr Burns is fittingly subtitled – A Post-Electric Play – but the comparison is closer than that; it’s a three-act play reckoning with the shape of the stories that make us human, give us faith, and create gods and monsters that we can comprehend and thus perhaps fight.’ … READ MORE

Chimerica’s scope and ambition is pretty remarkable (Time Out Sydney)

And my one paragraph about a poorly conceived scene led to angry phone calls!

“Pivoting between American and Chinese perspectives – and interjecting a British perspective, in the form of Tessa, a consumer research guru investigating the Chinese market on behalf of a credit card company – the play invites us to contemplate basic questions: what is the right side of history? What exactly is the good fight for human rights and human life? Who do we harm when we try to make a difference with our lives and work, and who is harmed by our inaction?” READ MORE

Bell’s Richard III, with a woman in the lead, is not automatically feminist (The Guardian)

‘It’s no surprise that director Peter Evans, who is also Bell Shakespeare’s artistic director, has sensed parallels between Richard’s rise to power and the current global climate, and invited onstage an actor who can relate to the impact of disability on Richard’s life.

But in a Q&A located in the show’s program, he describes his new take as “completely about Trump”. This never rings true onstage. It’s a cohesive and confident production, nicely paced and well-performed. But Mulvany’s Richard is so singular and subtle (per Shakespeare’s frequent description of the man) that it doesn’t align with Trump’s highly public profile and bombast at all.’ … READ MORE

Cabaret at the Hayes is not “so important right now” (Time Out Sydney)

image-3“This Cabaret was programmed well before most Australians were taking Trump’s bid for presidency seriously; producer David M. Hawkins explains in the program that the idea for the show was born in 2014. It seems the general template for this production has been set in stone since that time, because this Cabaret, directed by Nicholas Christo in his professional musical theatre directorial debut, is a stunning example of how a good show can only take a production so far: it’s too confused to be considered a political or activist work of theatre or even a humanist cry in pain for present dark times.

Instead, it’s a confused bumble through a near-excellent book and score, never quite able to commit to making a statement” … READ MORE

A Strategic Plan is all your NFP nightmares (Time Out Sydney)

image-4“Ross Mueller’s A Strategic Plan is every work nightmare you’ve ever had: part Ask a Manager, part Save the Community Centre/Hey Let’s Put on a Show section of TV Tropes, it’s particularly “triggering” for anyone who has worked in the not-for-profit sector.

Andrew (Justin Smith) is an ex-musician who once played bass for Powderfinger, but that was a long time ago. He’s the new Music Director and co-CEO of STACCATO, a non-profit music venue that offers workshops, capacity building and a place to play for young artists. At first, it’s a kind of hilarious culture clash as business jargon collides with Andrew’s real-world solutions and common sense. We grimace and laugh as STACCATO’s out of touch board chair (Matt Day) puts the kibosh on all Andrew’s innovations and suggestions, displaying his own lack of interest in music – the heart and soul of the business – in the process” … READ MORE