Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2018

Welcome to my Best of 2018. After reviewing 188 shows this year, I once again put myself through the extremely painful task of creating a list of names, trying so hard not to expand beyond the 5 winners per category. I keep telling myself that the number is arbitrary, and that I should just bloody well add all the names I want, but eventually it is invariably revealed, that I’m undeniably a sucker for rules and boundaries. So I hold my breath and click delete on amazing people, in order that this personal selection becomes a digestible summary of the year, and not a documentation of each and every wonderful memory that I have retained. I love you all… those who make the shows, those who see the shows, and those who care enough to come read what I have to say. So, here’s what I think…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creative.

 Quirky Questers
The most colourful characters.

♥ Design Doyennes
For sound, lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in musical theatre.

♥ Best Supporting Actors

♥ Best Ensembles

♥ Best Actors (Comedy)

Best Actors (Drama)

♥ Best New Writing

 Best Directors

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

 

End

Best of 2017 | Best of 2016 | Best of 2015Best of 2014Best Of 2013

Review: Ned (Plush Duck Productions)

Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Dec 18 – 22, 2018
Book: Anna Lyon, Marc McIntyre
Music & Lyrics: Adam Lyon
Director: Miranda Middleton
Cast: Erin Bogart, Denzel Bruhn, Rowan Brunt, Siobhan Clifford, Sinead Cristaudo, Lincoln Elliott, Martin Everett, Jacqui Greenfield, Jodie Harris, Rob Hartley, David Hov, Josh McElroy, Courtney Powell, Marcus Rivera, Georgia Rodgers , Carmel Rodrigues, Cypriana Singh, Guy Webster
Images by Shakira Wilson

Theatre review
For many Australians of European descent, the legend of Ned Kelly is a crucial element in the way identity is imagined. An outlaw with a heart of gold, the anti-authoritarian myth has helped create a notion of selfhood, that persists even in these days of bourgeois ubiquity. In the new musical Ned, old stories are resurrected once again, to reinforce ideals that are at once romantic and subversive, reflecting perhaps a longing for more innocent times, or simply to offer a reminder of the kind of people Australians have, for a long time, prided ourselves to be.

The work is in many ways derivative and predictable, with form and content both proving to be risk averse, for this Broadway-style biographical drama. There might be little that feels inventive, but its ambition is certainly laudable. Peter Rubie’s lighting design provides a sense of grandeur and polish, for captivating imagery that help elevate the simple tale. Conductor Hamish Stening puts passion into the music, keeping proceedings lively and entertaining.

Leading man Joshua McElroy is suitably moody as Ned Kelly, with an imposing physical presence that comfortably seizes the limelight. Jodie Harris is excellent as the hero’s mother Ellen, strong in voice and in personality, for a powerful characterisation of the early migrant woman. The cast is generally well-rehearsed, although choreography has a tendency to be unflattering and therefore distracting.

Ned Kelly keeps returning to our consciousness, because we have a fondness for thinking that he is a good representation of who we are. It is more likely however, that Kelly stands for values we wish to possess, but that we can no longer lay claim to. Over a century has past, and we are a world away from the rough and tumble of Van Diemen’s Land. In today’s highly materialistic existences, rebels are quashed, not by ideological compromises, but by the imperious might of money.

www.plushduckproductions.com.au

5 Questions with Caitlin Berry and Jonathan Hickey

Caitlin Berry

Jonathan Hickey: How are you different/similar to your character in Aspects Of Love?
Caitlin Berry: Rose is a wonderfully complicated character and I think, through playing her, I’ve seen some of her qualities rub off on me. Rose has striking confidence and tenacity, which are characteristics that don’t come as naturally to me. I’ve enjoyed inhabiting someone who acts on gut feeling, and I’d like to be as bold as Rose more often! I can relate strongly to her desires as a performer, and also her vulnerability in her professional and personal life.

What is your best/favourite love story of all time?
You can’t go past the smart and stubborn Ms Lizzy Bennet meeting her match, Mr Darcy, in Pride And Prejudice. It didn’t hurt that Colin Firth was added to the imagining of this story in the movie adaptation of the book. The meeting of great minds is very romantic.

Who/when was the first time you fell in love?
I probably felt the full, horrible, wonderful and scary force of love when I was with my high-school sweetheart of three years. We met on a musical (go figure). He was a wonderful man and I did all the stupid things you do when you are in the throes of first love. Many songs and movies suddenly made sense.

Any pre-show rituals or superstitions?
I’m embarrassed to say that I have a few pre-show rituals. They serve as a comfort, but can get in the way of being flexible. I like to arrive quite early, I have certain vocal warm-ups I make sure I do, and I have a butter menthol before I go on stage. I’ve been forced to run around the Hayes building three times because I accidentally said ‘The Scottish Play’– so, I’ve learned my lesson in terms of superstitions.

Where and who will you be spending your Christmas with this year?
My older sister is hosting Christmas for the first time. The baton has changed from my mother. I have nephews and nieces now, so Christmas has become about the little ones and just enjoying precious time together as a large bunch of Berrys. I’ve only missed one Christmas with my family, and I hope I can keep it that way.

Jonathan Hickey

Caitlin Berry: How are you different/similar to your character in Aspects Of Love?
Jonathan Hickey: I see quite a few similarities between myself and Alex – We have both experienced the joy of being in love and also the pain, betrayal and sadness of losing love. When I was younger it was easy to fall in love – now that I’ve experienced heartbreak it stays with you, very much like Rose with Alex. 
 
Who/when was the first time you fell in love?
First time I thought i was in love or said ‘I love you’ was when I was in second year uni. Unfortunately the relationship didn’t last all that long but we’re still friends and keep in touch. But yes I’ve been in love and experienced heartbreak – both of which have helped me in playing Alex. 

Where and who will you be spending your Christmas with this year?
I’m going back to Brisbane for Christmas for a couple of days – my family and I will be spending it with my cousins up in Maleny in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition to have lunch up there. 
 
Does love change everything?
Love does change everything – to love someone and be loved is beautiful, you become a part of a team – you share your life with that person, support each other. One of my friends told me you’re a “witness of that persons life” which I thought was pretty special. Although it can make you irrational at times, the happiness and well-being of that person you love is more important than your own.

Have you met a famous person, if so who?
When I was in London late last year, I bumped into David Mitchel at Primrose Hill and had a very brief chat – told him I loved his work in Peep Show and various other TV shows and got a quick snap. He was lovely.

Caitlin Berry and Jonathan Hickey can be seen in Aspects Of Love , by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Dates: 22 Nov – 6 Jan, 2018
Venue: Hayes Theatre

5 Questions with Marcus Rivera and Cypriana Singh

Marcus Rivera

Cypriana Singh: If you had to play another character in Ned who would it be and why?
Marcus Rivera: I’d be interested to play Fitzpatrick because I’m drawn to what you’d call the “villainous” character who, on the surface, won’t catch your attention, but as the story unfolds, you realise, was incredibly instrumental in the (tragic) fate of the lead. I also want to make Fitz even more sinister!

Has rehearsals and getting to know the Kelly story changed your opinion of the Kelly’s and Australian bush ranger folklore?
Absolutely. I think it’s fantastic that Hamish, Miranda and the team have taken on this momentous project because it will help more people realise the complexity of the Australian bushland stories of the past. I developed an appreciation for it for sure! Although I wonder how the story would have unfolded if Ned had a wifi and a million Instagram followers to share his story!

What is Superintendent Hares’ most endearing quality?
He’s a stickler for the rules and, unlike Fitzpatrick, has a lot of integrity. Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to say he is the equivalent of Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird in trying to get to the truth but the audience will know what I mean when they watch one of the scenes I have with Fitzpatrick. I think he’s trying to act tough because he’s got a big job to do but deep inside, he’s a softie.

You’ve played a few villains in your career. Can you rank your previous roles from evil to most evil? Where does Hare rank?
Ohhh, I’d like to use the descriptions “had terrible role models” or “misunderstood” instead of straight up “evil” but Hare is up there with The Engineer, the ‘pimp’ role I played in Miss Saigon. He is above the ‘could have been evil’ role that I played in The King And I. I was the understudy for The Kralahome in that musical. As for Sweeny Todd, Hare was very much a square and very virtuous in the role that I played there.

If you could be any Disney Princess who would be and why?
I’d have to say Ariel. No other Disney princess can say they battled a villain who is half-woman, half-Octopus! Ariel was the ultimate outsider. She was half-fish for goodness sake! That’s some serious fairy tale ending there.

Cypriana Singh

Marcus Rivera: What is your favourite scene from Ned and why?
Cypriana Singh: Ned deals with difficult time in Australian history and there are a lot of ‘heavy’ plot points. I really enjoy the lighter moments in the show and the cast always has a lot of fun when we have the chance, but my favourite scene leans more toward the serious side. Maggie has a really fun moment with Constable Fitzpatrick, I won’t spoil anything but it involves flowers, potatoes and a knife.

How can the theatre community benefit from diversity?
The more diverse the stories, actors and creatives are on a project the more varied the perspectives are. Diversity makes theatre more accessible and inclusive of wider audiences. Art encourages empathy; diverse stories allow for relevant, interesting content while unifying the community through a shared experience.

If you could play a character in Game of Thrones, which character would you like to play?
I’d love to be Jon Snow; so handsome so likeable… but if we are being realistic in this casting process then I’d probably be one of the Sand Snakes or a White Walker.

Drama or comedy, pick one. Why.
Comedy. It’s good to laugh.

Favourite Broadway musical and why?
I can’t pick my favourite flavour of ice cream let alone my favourite musical. Today let’s go with a triple scoop cone of Bridges Of Madison County, The Light In The Piazza and Fiddler On The Roof.

Marcus Rivera and Cypriana Singh can be seen in Ned: A New Australian Musical.
Dates: 18 – 22 December, 2018
Venue: New Theatre

Review: The Jungle (Outrage Productions)

Venue: Darlo Drama (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 14 – 18, 2018
Playwright: Louis Nowra
Director: Glen Hamilton
Cast: Gabriela Castillo, Nicole Florio, Gaurav Kharbanda, Jo-Ann Pass, Benjamin Pierce, Timothy Rochford, Hugo Schlanger, Andrew Singh, Romney Stanton, Annelies Tjetjep, Mark Wilson
Images by RMF Photography

Theatre review
A jumble of scenes situated in Sydney, with people that may or may not seem familiar, constitute Louis Nowra’s The Jungle. The stories are from 1995, and sensationalist in a way that was probably trendy for the time. 23 years on, its sleaze and general naughtiness can feel slightly pretentious, but the perspective it provides of an Australian city that is not concerned with the middle class, presents an opportunity to ruminate on the changes we have undergone in just one generation. Not yet nostalgic, but certainly reflective, The Jungle reveals the banal bourgeois values that have, in a relatively short period, taken over our town.

Glen Hamilton’s direction incorporates little in terms of visual design, leaving all of the production’s theatricality to a very hyperbolic ensemble. Their energy is admirable, players such as Nicole Florio and Romney Stanton are particularly animated, and they bring a valuable verve to the stage, but there is an overall lack of nuance that prevents the show from speaking with sufficient depth. Actor Gabriela Castillo does a remarkable job of her roles, turning three hapless girls in a frequently misogynistic piece of writing, into fascinating characters with moments of palpable drama.

It is a relief to see that we are no longer who we once were, for life is change, and stagnation can be dangerous. We might be tempted to say that change does not necessarily represent improvement, but to insist that things were better in the past, is to forget the many deficiencies of yesterday. Sydney may have lost some of its romance and idealism, but for the millions who choose to live here, we choose to believe in its potentials and the bright future that we so faithfully envision. The big clean up bears a momentum that refuses to ever come to a halt, but in our hearts, the memory of a dirty, dingy town still resonates, and the spirit of that old disreputable concrete jungle keeps on pulsating.

www.thejungleplay.com

Review: Crime And Punishment (Secret House)

Venue: Limelight on Oxford (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 12 – 22, 2018
Playwright: Chris Hannan (from the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Jane Angharad, Hannah Barlow, Tim Kemp, Philippe Klaus, Beth McMullen, Madeleine Miller, James Smithers, Shan-Ree Tan, Charles Upton, Natasha Vickery
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
When deciding to proceed with his plan for murder and robbery, Raskolvikov thinks of his actions as merely an extension of attempts to participate, in an economy he considers to be entirely utilitarian. If one is to survive the world at all costs, and if cost is always a matter of subjectivity, then the concept of morality holds no currency, in a system determined to reward the self-interested. Chris Hannan explores the implications of what might be termed human conscience in his adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment. The protagonist wrestles with internal conflicts, emotional and intellectual, trying to escape punishment, from society and from himself.

The bleakness of Raskolvikov’s destitute existence is depicted persuasively under Anthony Skuse’s direction, whose own production design accomplishes an elegant evocation of Russia at a time we associate with the end of the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of urbanisation as we know it. Skuse’s sound design too, is an affecting element, if slightly repetitive in its rendering. Lights by Martin Kinnane bring visual interest, helpful in creating a sense of dynamism for the production. Actor James Smithers is convincing in the leading role, able to prevent us from feeling alienated, so that we stay engaged with the murderer’s narrative. Chemistry between performers can be improved for a more focused sense of storytelling, but individual characters are portrayed with good conviction.

The work posits the loss of religion as a possible equivalence to the loss of morality, thereby giving religion a great deal of credit where it may not be due. In the decades that have past since Dostoyevsky’s 1866 publication of Crime And Punishment, atheism has become a movement undeniable in its ubiquity, and secular societies have demonstrated that our capacity for upholding that which is truly righteous, has surpassed dogmatic and draconian structures that had come before.

There is no doubt that many lives have been improved by religion, but it is important that we recognise the evils that it routinely inspires and sanctions. At the end of 2018, Australian politics is abuzz with the prospect of introducing additional protections for religious practices, thereby safeguarding bigoted portions of those beliefs, and in effect, placing human rights beneath archaic doctrines. Raskolvikov killed people, not because of a loss of faith; the fact remains that the murders had taken place, in spite of all the religion being imposed upon him.

www.secrethouse.com.au

Review: Don’s Party (Chippen Street Theatre)

Venue: Chippen Street Theatre (Chippendale NSW), Dec 6 – 15, 2018
Playwright: David Williamson
Director: Travis McMahon
Cast: Dominic Di Paolo, Lachlan Donnelly, Amber Dyball, Ben Hunter, Ramy Moussa. Andrew Murdoch, Katerina Papasoulis, Evan Piefke, Helen Shoobert, Rachel Slee, Kristen Zinghini
Images by Ethan Hatton-Warham

Theatre review
The setting is a house party in 1969 suburbia, where men are arse holes, and women are bewilderingly whiny. David Williamson’s Don’s Party, now approaching half a century old, offers a bleak look at how a modern Australia might have been imagined. The play wrestles with ideas of a progressive future, as characterised by a new social permissiveness; Don asks all his guests to bring along a pornographic object, as icebreaker or more truthfully, to disrupt the banality of his home life with Kath and their children.

The sexual revolution had begun, and down under, it appears we were deeply confused. All the women had apparently become bitches, and they are referred to in the play as such, on more than ten occasions. Wives and girlfriends were starting to have minds of their own, no doubt as a result of advancements in birth control, and according to Williamson, all of civilisation were basically going to hell in a handbasket.

As the old world disappears, what happens in Don’s Party reveals a paralysing fear of what is to come. There is little question that this attitude still prevails. It was feminism’s second wave then, and we are now in the throes of its fourth. The disquiet that accompanies the promise of equality is palpable, and Williamson’s pessimistic vision, borne out of the anxiety of a patriarchy under threat, can now be seen as pitifully limp.

Travis McMahon’s direction presents a straightforward rendition, allowing us to detect that sense of panic inherent in mid-century masculinity. The ensemble consists of actors with varying abilities, and although not particularly inventive with what they bring, each manages to locate moments of theatricality in the writing, that insist on our attention. The production lacks intellectual rigour, but it is clear that much effort has been put into manufacturing a satisfactory naturalism for their performance.

When women grow strong, our relationships have to be put through a process of reshape. Friends and family, love and sex, all face interrogation, as we learn to shift away from traditions that plainly no longer work. In Don’s Party, men are fearful and women are frustrated. They cling on to the past, unable to come to terms with the tides that push for a brighter future, a mighty force that will not tolerate the status quo.

www.chippenstreet.com