Month: April 2016

The New Theatre presents; THE CHERRY ORCHARD

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Based on the play by Anton Chekov, “The Cherry Orchard” is brought to life at the New Theatre.  Under direction from Clemence Williams, the production uses David Mamet’s rhythmic stage play to explore the complexities of the human condition. We are presented with a cast of characters who have such strong needs and desires, and yet, their unquenchable thirst remains unfulfilled.

Chekov can be very difficult material to work with, and yet the New Theatre made this tale accessible.  The stage, being three levels into the living room of a country house, was expertly designed to draw us into their domestic sphere. The audience is invited to be a part of their menial existence, and in doing so, we identify with the characters; their loves and losses. The set managed to put everything in context, so Chekov became a story of human emotion and tension. The complexities of life’s mysteries and frustrations then became our own, as I for one forgot I was watching a play, and began immersing in the trivialities before me.

The production added an interesting element to the tale;  the live music created by ambient guitar and atonal vocals seemed like an experiment in synergy and pacing. I found the music was an effective addition to the immersive experience, as the tale took on a dreamlike surreal quality. My partner, however found the vocals to be distracting at times. I think there was a good effort made to achieve a balance between the tension of the story and the creation of atmosphere. The music was able to remove me from the story in order to immerse in the production.

As well as through music, the play creates a certain energy through the physicality of the actors. At times, the characters were reminiscent of Russian clowns, and at other times, the characters were realistic and natural images of ourselves. Both types of characters challenged the audience to an introspective reflection about their relationships with each other. The ensemble is stellar in their command of the stage, particularly Cecilia Morrow’s portrayal of Dunyasha, and Nicholas Papdemetriou’s portrayal of Firs. Traditionally clown parts, these characters added added extra dimension and whimsical flavour to an already complex tale.

I really enjoyed this production from the New Theatre. It was thought provoking and beautiful, with an abruptly absurd ending. Go to get lost in a Russian winter.

Image credits: http://newtheatre.org.au/season-2016/the-cherry-orchard/

Haiku #137 (Obscuring Stendhal Syndrome)

Paintings are windows
To other worlds. You can see
Horses, lovers, cats,

The rise and fall of
Empires, or howling seas.
But- you can only

Witness these paintings
whEN PEOPLE STOP STANDING IN
FRONT OF YOU AND BLOCK

YOUR VIEW WITH THEIR BIG
HEADS AND THEIR HIGH-PITCHED QUASI-

INTELLECTUAL
CONVERSATION, RIGHT THERE IN
YOUR PERSONAL SPACE.

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Georgy Girl, The Musical

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I grew up to the sound of The Seekers. Although not from the swingin’ sixties, my parents played The Seekers and their glorious harmonies would echo through the house. ‘Georgy Girl, The Musical’ showcases the hits of The Seekers, while weaving a potted biography of their rise to stardom. The musical is more of a tribute to the music and the band, rather than traditional musical theater. 

We get closer to Judith Durham (Pippa Grandison) as she navigates the breezy heights of fame and glory at such a young age, and the sacrifices she had to make along the way. The show gives her more focus, so we come to understand how she chose to break from the group and pursue her own interests. What’s more, the show helps us understand how she managed to maintain her girl-next-door approach during a time when then London was a buzz with Beatles-mania. The Melbourne folk quartet managed to keep their own aesthetic and their own sound while climbing to the top of the charts. The Seekers were a genuine and authentic Australian band who made it, on talent and perseverance. 

The production really gives them justice. It would be hard to boil down a fifty year career into a two hour stage production, but it was a real hit. With comical commentary from Ron Edgeworth (Adam Murphy) we’re taken on a wild ride, through the technicoloured sixties and the horn rimmed BBC studios. The costuming was so fun- prompting comments under breath that “I remember having those boots, I had a pair of those!” The ensemble gave such physical performances, it was difficult not to be swept up in the hype of the time.

The cast brought life to the production.  The energy of the ensemble really lifted the biographical tale and gave it a bounce. The real stars, however, were The Seekers. Phillip Lowe, Mike McLeish and Glaston Toft (as Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy) were a phenomenal combination. Together, their harmonies were sublime, and their renditions of hit favourites were show stopping.  Pippa Grandison’s performance of Judith Durham was exceptional. Her voice carried the harmonies in The Seekers,  and really shone when she performed solo tracks. The opening number of act two was a real ‘wow’ moment- her vocals are precise, controlled and so powerful.

The cast really made this musical something special. They brought back the sixties and gave The Seekers a voice to private aspects of their public career. While the musical is a trip down memory lane for some, it was was a great moment of discovery for others like myself, who are unfamiliar with the story behind the band. It’s also a chance to stir up feelings of Australian pride for a group of talented musicians who we can call our own.

The State Theatre are dropping prices for the final performances of ‘Georgy Girl, The Musical’ and I think it’s definitely worth going to for a genuinely fun night out.