on now, Review

REVIEW: Roald Dahl’s The Twits

By Laura Money

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre are back in their refurbished home in Fremantle and are bringing you the razztwizzling wonderful show Roald Dahl’s The Twits. Based on the clever and hilarious book by acclaimed children’s author, Roald Dahl, The Twits tells the story of the ugly and horrible old couple – Mr and Mrs Twit – who terrorise the local bird population and each other in a series of horrendous pranks and capers that ultimately lead to a rather sticky end.

Director, Michael Barlow: “Mr and Mrs Twit are terrible people but very funny characters and it’s so satisfying seeing Muggle-Wump the Monkey and the Roly-Poly Bird outwit them. Roald Dahl has a special gift for making fun of adults who treat children unfairly and our heroes can only win by breaking the rules and playing a few tricks of their own. As laugh-out-loud entertaining as The Twits is, it is a great show for encouraging us all to think about how we treat each other.”

Performers Jessica Harlond-Kenny and Geordie Crawley are truly wonderful performers of children’s theatre. Their witty banter and over-the-top physical movements are the perfect for gaining giggles and gasps from all the children in the crowd. They put so much into the silly and frankly, ugly Twits – from farcical trumpeting to menacing laughter. Crawley’s hilarious accent is at its peak when gleefully singing the bird pie song and Harlond-Kenny has such nuanced and emotional facial expression as Muggle-Wump the monkey, that one could be forgiven for not noticing the puppet.

The puppetry is outstanding – Mr and Mrs Twit’s masks are intricate and dynamic. The design is quite urban and reminiscent of a Picasso portrait, without any of its beauty. Crawley and Harlond-Kenny manipulate the masks in a way that is playful and exaggerated – using their bodies for the close up scenes and the funny little puppet-bodies that dangle beneath the masks for when they are far away. Muggle-Wump the monkey is a classic puppet with articulated wooden tail and squeaky body, and the Roly-Poly bird is just charming in its simple design. Consisting only of two parts, Crawley really out does himself flouncing around as the haughty bird.

credit Jessica Wyld

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre have a well-deserved reputation for bringing intelligent and emotionally responsible works to children who are encouraged to engage in large political and social ideas. Roald Dahl’s The Twits is the perfect vehicle to elicit empathy and a feeling of social justice. The characters are horrible – they really represent the worst of humanity – they exploit animals, cruelly trap birds for food, are genuinely nasty to each other, and even hate children! The brave actions of Muggle-Wump and the Roly-Poly bird highlight to children that anyone can stand up for what they believe in, and might even inspire them to do so.

The Twits is a ringbeller adventure of scrottiness and goodness, rebellion and justice. The show’s gloriumptious blend of comedy and puppetry is the perfect way to have a whoopsy wiffling time this summer with the whole family.

WHEN: 8 – 27 January 2018 | Various times

WHERE: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre | Fremantle

INFO: Tickets $23 – $25 | Duration 50 mins | Perfect for ages 5+ | Q&A after each show

LINK: http://www.sppt.asn.au/events/the-twits/

 

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on now

ON NOW: Santa’s Magical Kingdom

By Laura Money

What could be more fun this Christmas than heading into a winter wonderland in the middle of Australia’s scorching summer? Grab the kids and the family and head down to Santa’s Magical Kingdom for the ultimate Christmas experience. You’ll be greeted by Mrs Clause at the base of giant Christmas tree decorations, glittering and blinking their lights in the huge tent. From there, you can play carnival games like fishing for ducks or clowns, or whiz around on the many rides – from traditional carousel to rollercoaster, to bumper cars.

Enter the many enchanted kingdoms – make your own Christmas decorations, pipe sugar and spice onto your very own ginger bread man, and delight in the snow falling in the Ice Queen’s frozen realm. You can write a letter to Santa with the help of Mrs Clause, and even have your photo taken with the great man himself. There are plenty of fun things to do, but don’t miss the circus performance full of elves, toys, and motorbikes!

Santa’s Magical Kingdom is great for children of all ages (perfect for 4-9) and just pure fun. It captures the magic of Christmas and gives kids a glimpse at the elusive figure of Santa as he prepares for the biggest holiday of the year.

WHEN: 1 – 23 December 2017 | 10am, 2pm, 6pm on selected days

WHERE: Crown Pyramid | Crown Casino | Burswood

INFO: Tickets: Adult $43.29 | Junior (2-12 yrs) $40.23 | Family passes and VIP pacages available | Suitable 2+ | Food available for purchase | Santa photo packages available for purchase | General admission

LINK: http://www.santasmagicalkingdomperth.com.au/

 

Interview, on now

INTERVIEW: Lisa McCune

By Laura Money

Lisa McCune is one of Australia’s most popular and successful screen and theatre actors, earning an impressive collection of awards celebrating her performances, including four Gold Logies for Most Popular Personality on Australian television.

Among her many musical acting credits, McCune has starred in The King And I, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Urinetown, The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Guys And Dolls and, of course, South Pacific.

McCune will be back in her hometown of Perth to perform in From Broadway To La Scala – an evening of music from operas and musicals alongside David Hobson, Greta Bradman and Teddy Tahu Rhodes.

We caught up with her in the lead up to the show at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 9 December 2017.

This is the second time you and the crew have staged From Broadway To La Scala – how did it come about in the first place?

Well, I was doing South Pacific at the time, so I knew Teddy, I’d met David once before and I’d never met Greta – so I’m not exactly sure how it all came together but I think it was a hit!

Were you expecting it to be as well received as it was?

Oh, it was pretty overwhelming actually! I think, surprisingly not a lot of this kind of work is done – most orchestras have a program and stick to their annual program, but really I don’t know that it’s done a lot, even in commercial shows. I think they do it a lot overseas.

It’s been really enjoyable and I think the audiences have really liked it. It’s a great mix – I don’t do the opera but the other guys also do musical theatre, so it’s really nice that they have the ability to go back and forth which is great. Especially David Hobson, he crosses genres incredibly well, I think.

So, what’s it like performing in a concert format rather than a full musical? Is there an explanation about each song, how is the flow?

Yes, we talk about the songs, I think most people would have heard all of the tunes before, I mean there might be one or two that we’re doing this time that are a bit unique in the theatre songbook, but most of them, people know. And the opera ones – people love the opera ones, they’re like the greatest hits really, very well known.

I think the material is very musical in that regard, it’s so hard to choose the music you’re going to perform, so fortunately Vanessa Scammell our music director and Tyran Parke our director, got together and did it for us, to balance the show. It’s a mixed repertoire.

Yes, you’re right about the ‘greatest hits’ idea because it’s what people have come to see. It’s something that, as you mention is different in Australia, it’s like playing a CD of songs from musicals and opera.

And I tell you what, that is the hardest part, when you sit down with a pen and piece of paper and ask – what should we include in the concert? It’s so hard because there’s so much good material, there are so many different great combinations. For me, I love what I do as each of the characters, I keep coming back to the question before and I think you kind of justify it in the song and explain it a little bit first but you don’t need to overly explain it – just put it into context for the character.

You have a wonderful resume of musicals under your belt, from classics like The Sound of Music to contemporary works like Urinetown, what is it about musicals that is so compelling to you?

I once heard someone say, when talking about theatre – a character will break into song because they can’t utter the words anymore – and that always made sense. I loved the fact that these characters explode into song – and that’s to me what won me over – they just can’t utter it anymore in words.

I think Shakespeare’s language becomes very beautiful when the characters get going, when they get a rhythm going, and that’s similar to musical theatre, I think, there’s a great joy in getting lost in a character and going on a journey onstage with a couple of songs and dance routines thrown in!

Absolutley! Did you always want to sing and act? Did you study musical theatre at WAAPA or was that not one of the components?

I did do musical theatre, I think for me it was my love of – I used to play netball on a Saturday, and then race home because in the afternoon (I think it was channel 9 or 7, I can’t remember which one) they had movies on. I’d come home from doing sport and just go and watch movies – a lot of movie musicals, and then of course Grease came out and all of the Lloyd-Webber musicals, and Les Miserables.

I remember seeing Les Mis in Sydney when I was visiting my grandmother, and I remember sitting in the theatre and just feeling so overwhelmed and in awe of it. I just knew I wanted to do that – it was incredible, and I remember thinking – that’s what I want to do in life. I’m constantly searching for that for my children – that lightbulb moment for them because it really was a lightbulb moment for me.

Then I just – I mean, I’d already been doing dancing classes but I really started taking it seriously and I found a glorious singing teacher in WA, Gloria Wilson who was just so inspirational and integral in the beginning of my career. She was such a fine teacher and a fine woman, and I think that she is largely responsible for me going along with my passion – she turned it into a reality, really.

I love how you want your children to find that spark! Would it concern you if they were to follow in your theatrical footsteps?

No, but it’s interesting because I don’t encourage it at all! I think that they need to find it themselves because if they want to grow that they really have to want it for themselves. They have to find what they love about it and if they’re passionate enough, then I’ll support them in whatever they want to be.

Ok, you’ve been involved in television and movies and straight theatre as opposed to musicals, but did you ever have anything to do with opera? Did you ever watch opera and enjoy it?

Well, my singing teacher, Gloria has a daughter, Lisa who is fortunately in WA and teaches now, they taught a lot of lighter works – that I used to sing, probably very badly! I kind of got an appreciation of opera and over the years I’ve heard more and when I did South Pacific, Bartlett Sher who was the director, had worked with the Metropolitan Opera, and he’d talk about all the incredible singers – so I’d go home and Google them and listen to them sing.

Having that exposure for today’s performers, to be able to see what’s going on in the world is awesome because I sat there and listened to it and was like – wow! I mean, I knew I’d love it but funnily enough the storylines in operas aren’t too dissimilar to musical theatre. There are the same kind of themes of love and betrayal, you know they’re all still the same story but musically they’re different.

Yes, I consider opera to be the extreme end of musical theatre.

Yeah, I mean I think that the skill-set level in opera is extraordinary. I see the preparation and just what goes on with the singers I’m working with now and it’s huge. It’s kind of like being a doctor but going on to be a specialist – they really devote their lives to it and it’s huge learning opera. I said to Greta the other day – how long do you give yourself to learn a new opera? And she said: I like a year. Obviously that’s not working full time but just to work for a couple of months, let it settle to come back to it every few months. It’s a total immersion and it’s like being an elite athlete, I have the utmost respect for them.

I guess the skill-set for a musical theatre performer is a lot of hard work as well. Not just vocally but all the other things that go with it – you need to learn to dance and really understand the story because there’s a lot of dialogue. You need to have your acting chops up too! They do require very different things but that’s why it’s lovely working with these guys and the symphony orchestra – it gives me a great insight and great respect for what they do.

So how do you approach this concert, differently? Obviously you’re coming at it from a musical theatre background, but you’re learning from the operatic perspective – are they learning from you as well?

Well, I might be able to teach them a ‘step ball-change’ or a bit of a ‘jazz walk!’ But, no, they’re great and I remember David saying to me last time – try to do that bow slightly differently because it changes the quality of your voice. Things like that are invaluable and I’m the kind of person who is very collaborative so I love that constant learning. But that goes on in any room, I did a production of Follies In Concert last year and Nancye Hayes was in the room and that’s a masterclass just standing in the rehearsal room with her. And Phillip Quast, Debra Byrne – you learn from every performer, it doesn’t matter the level of experience, they all bring something unique to the room. You never stop learning.

You guys seem to have a pretty good relationship and camaraderie going into the show, what’s it like in the rehearsal room? Do you mess around and then get down to business?

Look, it starts to get very hilarious around five o’clock when everyone’s getting a bit tired. It kind of gets overly creative, if you know what I mean! We do things that could never possibly get up onto the stage! We do really have a good time, you know, it’s that thing in a room full of performers when the ego is not there and you’re all focused on producing a good show for the audience. And that’s what I think Andrew McKinnon and Phil Barthols manage to do with the show, bring really lovely people in the room and we’re putting on a bit of a show!

And how much of an impact do the producers have in the room?

Well, we haven’t got the producers in the room as such – we’ve got the director and musical director so we’re really doing the nuts and bolts work. The presentation of the piece is where their expertise comes in and trying to make sure the program is going to suit an audience that they understand it as well. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had wonderful producers to work for. Phil was actually one of the producers who went through WAAPA at the same time as me. It’s great to have a local producer on board, which is really exciting.

Obviously the show has had quite a few changes since 2015, what new material are you most looking forward to performing?

In the last year, we’ve seen the musical Beautiful come, so last time David and I did a piece called “Falling” from the musical Once and so we wanted to take people to musical theatre that is new. And Beautiful has now put Carole King into the theatre landscape, so we’re doing one of the songs from Beautiful which is really lovely, and David plays guitar for it.

So it’s a really eclectic mix, and I’m really enjoying that because I’m one of the few people in the world who didn’t really know James Taylor and Carole King that well. So, I had this kind of epiphany and I was doing all my work learning the song and I started looking into James Taylor and researching his life and his work, it’s awesome when you’ve got resources like that – you find a whole new genre of music that you’d never really heard of.

So, would you ever branch out into a music concert that doesn’t involve musicals? You know, just popular music like Carole King or others?

I think if someone went and did a concert with people doing all of Carole King’s songs and it was the right bunch of people and I felt it was the right thing to do, yeah I’d absolutely love to! It would be good fun, yeah.

When you sing each piece, obviously they’re stand alone – do you find that you act the piece as well?

Look, some people obviously don’t but for me, I need to find something in it that links to the words. I mean, the Carole King that we’re doing is kind of a love song, so yeah you do – you use elements of yourself, obviously your own though processes. I’m doing “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys And Dolls and I use Lisa McCune’s thinking to put the character of Adelaide on stage to tell her story, so yes I do find it really handy. I mean, it’s much easier to do that with some of the songs, but I think that to me it’s really important.

Do you have a song that you could just perform over and over if you had to, like your ‘desert island song’?

Oh, I love that, a desert island song! Um, I’ve done so many. I love Stephen Sondheim musicals, and I don’t know. I love music too much to even answer that question, it’s too hard! If I was allowed to take one CD, I’d probably take Into The Woods. It’s wonderful!

Do you sing anything from Into The Woods in this concert?

No, I don’t in this one. I’ve done “Steps of the Palace” before, I actually played Cinderella many years ago – gorgeous show, gorgeous role and just so much fun.

From Broadway to La Scala is a national tour, so what’s it like playing back in Perth at the Perth Concert Hall and being home?

Oh, it’s awesome! I used to work as an usher at Perth Concert Hall and so that’s really cool in itself, just to stand on the concert hall stage – it’s a really beautiful theatre. When the seats are full, I love it, I think it’s a great theatre. I’m looking forward to coming home, unfortunately I’m not going to be there for very long, I’ll probably fit breakfast in with my Dad or something.

But my daughter is finishing primary school on the Friday before the Saturday show, so the producers have been very kind and are letting me pick her up from school before I jump on a plane. It’s a life moment that you kind of can’t miss and then I’ll fly back early Sunday morning, so I literally finish the show and have to jump on a plane to get back to Melbourne for a dance concert for my daughter. Mummy duty calls and I need to come home and spend more time with them – but I love coming back to Perth and hopefully there’ll be a few more jobs that bring me back to Perth soon.

FROM BROADWAY TO LA SCALA plays at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 9th December, 7:30pm at PERTH CONCERT HALL.

Tickets: http://frombroadwaytolascala.com.au/

 

In Brief, on now, Review

IN BREIF: Masterclass | Valentine | Twelfth Night

By Laura Money

MASTERCLASS | SUBIACO ARTS CENTRE | ENDS 2nd DECEMBER | 7:30pm

https://www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/subiaco-arts-centre/whats-on/terrence-mcnally-s-masterclass/

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I cannot overstate how sublime a show Masterclass is. Amanda Muggleton is flawless  in her portrayal of the tough yet vulnerable Maria Callas. Her performance is a true tour de force and is in itself a masterclass in acting. Muggleton flawlessly embodies the fiery, forthright and fabulous diva known as ‘la divina’ at her most tempestuous when barking orders at stage hands and her pupils, and at her most intimate – stripping back the years to a time when Callas was not on top of the world.

Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher creates a wonderfully inclusive work with the actors performing later integrated into the audience, placing the audience at the mercy of Muggleton’s Callas – and she gives a no holds barred criticism of everyone. Kala Gare, Jessica Boyd, and Rocco Speranza are wonderful new talents as the students of Callas, and are all ones to watch. Spreadbury-Maher uses real recordings of Callas, old photographs, and the spotlight to great effect – really placing one in the most poignant of intimate memories juxtaposed with moments of extreme publicity. To put it simply – Masterclass is exquisite.

VALENTINE | THE BLUE ROOM THEATRE | ENDS 2nd DECEMBER | 7:00pm

http://blueroom.org.au/events/valentine/

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In Valentine, Kynan Hughes attempts to break the cycle of cliches that the commedia dell’arte characters have been playing out for centuries – the bully, the innocent, the manipulator, and the object of desire. Each actor takes a mask and a persona and seeks to challenge those very stories that have influenced drama since time immemorial. Hughes has each actor (save one) continually change masks in order to blur the division between character and actor.

The dancing is phenomenal, it’s physical and earthy, yet at times elegant and mysterious. The masks are true works of art, and the playful elements of the puppetry highlights the attitude of the piece. Unfortunately, the message falls a little short and could do with more subtlety in its rendering. The feminist message comes across as tokenistic and abrupt, its highlighting of inequality should have been a part of the dance, not the dialogue, as the dancing really is the strength of the company.

Full of whishing capes and fabric, whimsical masks, and dark expressions of love and desire, Valentine is a wonderfully unique piece that shouldn’t be missed.

TWELFTH NIGHT |  MURDOCH UNIVERSITY AMPHITHEATRE  | ENDS 2 DEC | 7:30pm

https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=319614

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What could be more summery than sitting outside with the smell of aeroguard in the air for a twilight performance of a Shakespeare play? Well, perhaps not everyone thinks Shakespeare is synonymous with summer, but it should be. Modicum Theatre Perth understand how atmosphere is everything, and to give them their credit, they create the perfect space for Twelfth Night. With a stripped back stage and simple costume elements not entirely covering their black Modicum t-shirts and leggings, a la Bell Shakespeare, the young company focus on the words and the farce rather than all the trappings of medieval theatre. (It’s also cunningly budget friendly!)

Modicum have good intentions here – director Leigh Fitzpatrick asks the audience to forgive the changes to the original, changes that are largely positive. Being outdoors, projection is a problem, and some of the clever ideas that make a show stand out, such as entering through the audience for some scenes get a little lost in the vastness. For me, Shakespeare (well, all theatre really) is about knowing what you’re saying – knowing your character and their motivations, and if I’m being honest, I don’t feel that every performer achieves that level of intimacy with their character. Special commendation must go to Abbey McCaughan and Mike Cass who portray their characters with intimacy and don’t fall into the comfort of Shakespeare’s cadence. Their performances stand out as they sometimes break up the rhythm of their speech with the emotion of the characters.

Of course, Twelfth Night is the perfect choice for an outdoor show – it’s farcical and fun, the perfect accompaniment for a night on the green!

 

 

on now, Review

REVIEW: The Hostage

By Laura Money

Mentor and theatre-maker, Tim Brain has created a rollercoaster of a play complete with all of the thriller tropes – women held against their will, medical experimentation, abusive captors, and every twist and turn imaginable. He works with four incredibly talented students – some of them only first years – who created and devised The Hostage as a project together. This collaborative process shines through in the final product – a comprehensive piece of theatre that tells its story in a concise and economic manner.

Borrowing heavily from the thriller genre on screen, the audience is taken on a journey they should be familiar with. The set is simple – three bare-bulbed industrial looking lights, only one spotlight lit, a young girl tied to a basic metal chair, and a rocking track blasting from a transistor radio in the corner. Straight out of a Tarrantino movie, the girl (Melissa Escobar) screams a blood curdling scream, and bucks wildly against the chair – eventually breaking free and managing to turn off the music. This whole scene sets the tone for the entire work. It’s such a raw reaction – Escobar’s performance would not be out of place in a Hitchcock or Tarrantino movie. She gives everything to her reaction, and it’s not forced or over the top.

After discovering that she is not alone, Escobar is confronted by another girl in identical shift-like clothing (Ella Ewart.) Their clash is violent and explosive – neither performer holds back – they scream and shout and argue in an indistinguishable high-pitched wail – their voices intertwining in animalistic shrieks. After the two victims calm down, they enter a cycle of confusion and guarded dialogue – they try to remember who they are and how they got there. Repetition of dialogue is key. The same refrain and questions are repeated in an endless loop of frustration. At times the delivery is reflective, others angry – but each time we garner a little more information.

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The audience is kept in the dark as much as the girls. Each time the door opens, we glimpse two large male figures – Jason Tolje and Jacob Murphy – who eventually menace the girls in different fashions. Particular praise goes to Murphy who walks the delicate line of torturer and carer in his tender facial expressions. Tolje is an imposing figure, yet resists leaning on his physicality to drive his character development. There are two power dynamics occurring here – one between the women and one between the men, and oftentimes ne’er the twain shall meet. With so many twists and turns, and repetition as a motif, it is difficult to see too much character development, however, the sharp and gritty script allows for more details of the characters to be revealed.

Brain said that he wanted to create a theatrical piece that spoke to the thriller genre. The Hostage is a fond homage to it, complete with all the elements that could only be found in the movies. Where The Hostage is successful is in building suspense through good pacing, long stares that don’t collapse into the absurd, and a set and lighting design that has taken its cue direct from the aesthetics of the greatest thrillers. It’s a visceral experience that captures the spirit of the genre and renders it more immediate – you can see the sweat dripping, the veins pulsing – you can feel the vibrations of the blood-curdling screams, and your heart hammering wildly against your chest. Not since The Sixth Sense has there been such a subtle and intelligent re-imagining of the thriller genre – twist notwithstanding.

WHEN: 23 – 25 November 2017 | 7:30pm

WHERE: Studio 411, Murdoch University (Carpark 4, 90 South Street, Murdoch)

INFO: Tickets $15 | Duration 40 minutes | Horror themes | Adult language | Suitable 15+

LINK: https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=326472