theatARGH

thoughts and frustrations on Melbourne theatre through bright young eyes

Archive for Reviews

Edinburgh Festival Bites: Part 1

The Edinburgh Festival is amazing and it is intense. The first thing that struck me was its enormity; serving as an umbrella term for a smattering of smaller festivals, the Edinburgh Festival devours both towns, old and new, giving them a glow and vibrancy unlike anywhere else in the world. For just four weeks. I’ve been seeing as many shows as possible given my time and budget constraints, but am averaging around two a day. And while many of these shows deserve longer reviews (and a fair few shorter reviews, too), these bites will hopefully cover as much ground as my tatty Converse sneakers.

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Review of The Country, Tabard Theatre

I was absolutely devastated to have missed Katie Mitchell directing Martin Crimp’s latest, The City, at the Royal Court Theatre. While I consoled myself with a copy of the script, subsequently drenching it in tears thereby making it almost entirely unreadable, I decided that having traveled halfway round the world I would have my Crimp from London yet. Luckily enough, the internet led me to Tabard Theatre, perched over a small bar and cobbled courtyard in Turnham Green, a thirty-minute tube ride away from the city centre. As one of only six in a theatre for about fifty (London too has suffered from a decline in numbers at their theatres, although the scale is hardly comparable to Australia) I was able to experience the companion play to The City, The Country.

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Review of The Ugly One, Royal Court Theatre

Debuted alongside the launch of the Royal Court’s 2007 international writer’s season, The Ugly One, by Marius von Mayenburg (and not directed by Benedict Andrews – would you believe?) received a two week remount in June this year in the Jerwood Downstairs Theatre, London. A world away from his darker and more dramatically experimental works, The Ugly One is a fifty-five minute farce and in the hands of Ramin Gray, it represents von Mayenburg at his most straightforward and simplistic. Unfortunately, it’s also his least exciting work, adding little to very well-trodden thematic terrain.

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Review of Cellblock Booty, Sisters Grimm

The factory of Sisters Grimm (although I’ve always imagined it more like a dank, sweaty, suburban cinema glistening with faux-gold trimmings, condoms hanging from the chandeliers and globs of lube in the hairy velvet carpet) never stops churning. Fresh from last year’s trash extravaganza musical Bum Town and a season of Mommie and the Minister at the Adelaide Fringe, Ash Flanders and Declan Greene have regrouped with a new cast, as well as some familiar faces, in the Collingwood Underground Arts Space for Cellblock Booty. It’s a furiously energetic, high-camp homage to the women in prison sexploitation films of the seventies and easily represents some of the most painfully, painfully, devastatingly funny work of the company to date.

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Review of The Winterling, Red Stitch Actors Theatre

Red Stitch are carving a niche for themselves in the theatre scene south of the river. Juggling their blue-rinse subscribers and St. Kilda yuppies, the company is developing something of a predisposition, a sadly predictable penchant, for choosing plays which appear edgy and confrontational on the surface, but are really stylistically, thematically and dramatically conventional. They’re also all written by American and British men. The latest of these is Jez Butterworth’s The Winterling – a very wordy, very old-fashioned drama sheathed in a cool, British mobster aesthetic, directed by Andrew Gray. But unlike the Guy Ritchie films, the McDonagh plays and Butterworth’s first work Mojo, which all helped inspire the resurgence of the gritty, blackly comic crim in the 90s, The Winterling, first performed in London in 2006, never warms.

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Review of Moving Target, Malthouse Theatre

The last time that I saw Benedict Andrews and Marius von Mayenburg collaborate on a piece of theatre was El Dorado in 2006 at the Malthouse in the Merlyn Theatre. Aside from the slow-burning, epic narrative and the immediately striking aesthetic of the glass enclosure, what had a lasting impact on me, and what seared a still vivid imprint onto my mind, was the opening prologue: Robert Menzies, pressed against the glass, sweating, spitting and delivering a breathy monologue before disappearing into smoke. Few theatre beginnings, outside of a couple of MIAF shows, have commanded my attention in such a way since. Which leads me to ask: what, oh what, were von Mayenburg and Andrews thinking with the opening of Moving Target?

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Review of Tenderness, Platform Youth Theatre

While, as Alison Croggon rightly pointed out, there are significant stigmas surrounding the creation and production of youth theatre in Melbourne, there are also constant reminders of what a captivating scene that it can be when given the chance. Platform Youth Theatre’s Tenderness is a fantastic example; a bold and unashamedly dark exploration of youth issues, it effectively challenges the assumption that young people are not emotionally mature enough to take part in, or respond to, a theatrical and highly stylised representation of gritty material. Furthermore, Tenderness is not just theatre for “youths”; it is theatre showing adults how theatre can be done.

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