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 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