Review: The Dream (The Australian Ballet)

ausballetVenue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Apr 29 – May 16, 2015
Choreographer: Frederick Ashton (reproduced by Francis Croese)
Image by Daniel Boud

Theatre review
Frederick Ashton’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream distils all the magic and fantasy of Titania and Oberon’s Fairyland, and uses the ethereal qualities of ballet to provide lyrical expression. Familiar characters are vividly brought to life in dance form, with performers from The Australian Ballet investing in their roles surprising colour and fitting charm. Particularly engaging is Chengwu Guo as Puck, whose powerful and nuanced work is an effervescent highlight of the production.

Retaining original visual design elements for the programme is perhaps unexpectedly effective, especially for Ashton’s Symphonic Variations, which is presented as a prelude to The Dream. Sophie Fedorovitch’s delightful set and costumes for the 1946 piece looks as modern today as it must have seven decades ago, with a stunning backdrop reflective of the early emergence of post modern design at the end of the second World War and in the wake of the Art Deco movement. Ashton’s work features six dancers, all of whom remain on stage for its entire duration, and although adventurous and dynamic by nature, its presentation on this occasion seems too aloof, and energy levels too consistent, to portray the multi-dimensional qualities of its choreography.

The first (of three) Ashton works in the schedule is Monotones II, created in the mid 1960’s to the music of Erik Satie. With just three dancers and a disarming starkness to its visual language, the piece is absolutely unforgiving, and requires of its performers, the utmost in precision, focus and cohesion. When moments coalesce, we obtain the kind of sublime beauty that we seek of the art form, and as inevitable imperfections reveal themselves, one is reminded of the “wabi-sabi” philosophy from Japanese aesthetic principles. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also gives greater meaning to the rest that are present. Perhaps more than any other discipline, ballet’s incessant pursuit of perfection is fundamental to its very meaning and existence. For those of us who deny the possibility of perfection (and hence probably not possess the traits required of professional dancers), it is that very act of pursuance that appeals. The spirit is always willing and pure in our best performers, so even if the body can never live up to our abstract fabrications, what we witness in good theatre is always that passionate belief in something greater, something borne of the brave hearts of our most courageous idealists.

www.australianballet.com.au

Review: Swan Lake (The Australian Ballet)


Venue: Capitol Theatre (Sydney NSW), Feb 20 – 28, 2015
Choreographer: Graeme Murphy
Images by Branco Gaica and Lisa Tomasetti

Theatre review

Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake is deeply romantic, with a narrative involving a love triangle, savage betrayals, and a descent into madness. It depicts emotions that many are familiar with, only with an intensity that few can bear to experience. Having established a framework with Tchaikovsky’s music from 1876, Murphy’s creation is a fantastical universe based on the old tale of a young maiden’s heartbreak, drawing on its supernatural elements and the woeful tragedy that befalls her. First performed in 2002, this recent incarnation of Swan Lake is faithful to classical styles, but also modern in its sensibilities. Murphy’s characteristic use of fabrics is incorporated into his choreography on several occasions, the physical expression of insanity is refreshingly unconventional, and the removal of sorcerers and curses from its story to provide a contemporised context of mental illness, all contribute to a production that is of and for our times.

The work is operatic and epic in tone, and its duration is certainly not brief. The three-act saga can feel self-indulgent in the later portions of the piece, but execution on all fronts is consistently of a high standard. Kristian Fredrikson’s sets and costumes, and Damien Cooper’s lights in the century old Capitol Theatre is a dream materialised before our eyes. As a thing of beauty, Swan Lake is intricately constructed to deliver a luxuriant feast for the senses, appealing especially to our need for traditional aesthetics that offer comfort, as well as offering a sublime sensuality that is best represented by those who know their bodies best.

Dancers of The Australian Ballet are vibrant and enthusiastic, almost rhapsodic in their connection with their assignment. Their enthusiasm is a source of infectious joy, and there are few pleasures in life sweeter than witnessing accomplished dancers caught in a moment of euphoria. Madeleine Eastoe as the forlorn Odette, proves herself to be a formidable talent with physical abilities that enthral, an impressive capacity to convey emotion, and most of all, an innate understanding of grace that brings a sense of the sublime to her performance. Eastoe has a quietly magnetic presence, but she delivers all the dynamic range required of the choreography, often surprising us by the power that radiates from her slight being.

Odette’s retreat into a secure space of her imagination is symbolic of the increasingly insular ways we live our lives. With the evolution of technology, and the increase in wealth in many cities, we are more than ever before, disconnected from one another. The ballet is a social institution, an enjoyment of which cannot be replaced by any screen of any size. Life can seem too daunting and reality can sometimes be too painful, but artists do what they do, so that we can enter into their world momentarily to find an instance of contact. It is magic to see world class talent in action on a grand old stage, and it is also magic to sit in the dark with many hundreds of others who are for a few minutes, looking at and hoping for the same things.

www.australianballet.com.au

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014

sgs-best2014

2014 has been a busy year. Choosing memorable moments from the 194 shows I had reviewed in these 12 months is a mind-bending exercise, but a wonderful opportunity that shows just how amazing and vibrant, theatre people are in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who continue to support Suzy Goes See. Have a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! Now on to the Best Of 2014 list (all in random order)…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creatively experimental works in 2014.

 Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2014.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2014. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2014.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2014.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2014 in supporting roles.

♥ Ensemble Excellence
Casts in 2014 rich with chemistry and talent.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
Best comedic performances of 2014.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Best actors in dramatic roles in 2014.

♥ Wise With Words
Best new scripts of 2014.

 Directorial Dominance
Best direction in 2014.

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
A special mention for the diversity of cultures that have featured in its programming this year.

  • ATYP

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sgs-best2014a

Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014

Click here to see Best Of 2013

Review: Chroma (The Australian Ballet)

chroma
Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Apr 30 – May 17, 2014
Choreographers: Wayne McGregor (CHROMA), Stephen Baynes (ART TO SKY), Jiří Kylián (PETITE MORT and SECH TÄNZE)
Image by Jess Bialek

Theatre review
The programme begins with Wayne McGregor’s 2006 work, Chroma. Set against the powerful and aggressive music of Joby Talbot and Jack White III, this very modern ballet is instantaneously captivating. Its exquisite set is designed by John Pawson, evoking sensibilities proffered by the minimalist art movement. Covered in white and with its corners rounded off, the stage glows with a warm and quiet spirituality that finds a strange harmony with the vigorous soundscape conducted by Nicolette Fraillon. The dance creates a new grammar based on the balletic form. It is characterised by a dynamic desire for freedom, and it seeks in movement, the expression of all that is beautiful, emotive, and sublime. Inspired by a concept of nothingness, what transpires is a process of distillation with an outcome that displays honesty and necessity. The dance is fresh and new, but it is at no point hollow. There is an originality in its shapes and tempo that seems completely natural, even though it intends to break new aesthetic ground. McGregor’s earth shattering creation is a true work of art, but more than that, its deeply transcendent quality affects us as though it is by nature, sacred.

Stephen Baynes’ new piece Art To Sky is considerably more traditional. It is impressively technical, and the dancers’ athleticism is wonderfully pronounced here. The most well rehearsed and precisely performed work of the night, it showcases the company in glorious light. Chengwu Guo’s solo sequence is remarkably powerful, executed with great flair and exactness. An exceptionally tender pas de deux featuring Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian is touching in its passionate fluidity, and sensitively embellished by the talents of lighting designer Rachel Burke.

Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián is featured twice. His Petite Mort (1991) is as sensual as the title suggests, but also unpredictable. Surprising movements, coupled with unconventional combinations of the dancers’ bodies make for startling and breathtaking beauty. There is however, a lack of depth with its realisation on this stage. The performers require a more thorough engagement with the work to muster a greater range of subtleties to exalt more life. Kylián’s Sechs Tänze (1986) is a delightful and theatrical creation that is equal parts camp humour and extraordinary choreographic innovation. It is engaging, provocative and endlessly fascinating, and the dancing seems to be particularly enthusiastic for this section. This morsel of genius is undeniably the perfect choice for closing the show on a high note.

www.australianballet.com.au

Review: Manon (The Australian Ballet)

ausballetVenue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Apr 3 – 23, 2014
Choreographer: Sir Kenneth MacMillan
Dancers: Madeleine Eastoe, Wim Vanlessen, Matthew Donnelly, Brett, Chynoweth, Dana Stephensen

Theatre review
With its extravagant production of Manon, The Australian Ballet once again brings ethereal beauty to life. Originally a novel from the 18th century, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s work from 1974 is revived for contemporary audiences with generous measures of drama and humour that ensure broad appeal. The story interweaves romance with deception, murder and debauchery, resulting in a show that is full of entertainment, while providing extraordinary aesthetic pleasure.

Madeleine Eastoe is a delicate Manon. She anchors the show with a charming confidence, and her energetic execution of choreography delivers a characterisation that is endearing and precise. Eastoe’s captivating depiction of Manon’s journey is crystal clear, and her final moments are moving in their palpability.

Dana Stephensen is memorable as Lescaut’s mistress, with a striking vivacity that connects well with the audience. She plays up the comical elements of her role with subtlety, and attacks her dance with an alluring dynamism that is often breathtaking. Brett Chynoweth as Lescaut impresses and steals the show in Act 2 with sequences portraying his drunkenness. Chynoweth’s performance of the stunning choreography is highly amusing, but also technically powerful.

Manon‘s design elements are magnificent. Peter Farmer’s costume and set design are lavish and imaginative. It is an immense treat to have a fantasy world materialise before one’s eyes. Farmer’s six different sets are not just heavenly backdrops, and his costumes are not merely pretty adornment. We marvel at his genius, and lose ourselves in the sublime world he has created.

On display in Manon are artists of supreme talent and ability, almost not of this world. Their work lifts us out of our mundane realities, and takes us to a place far, far away.

www.australianballet.com.au

Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2013

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

Images from a few 2013 stand-outs: A Sign Of The Times, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, All My Sons, Hamlet, Empire: Terror On The High Seas, Hay Fever, Bodytorque.Technique, Waiting For Godot.

This is a wrap up of special moments since the commencement of Suzy Goes See in April 2013. A personal selection from over 100 productions seen in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who have supported Suzy Goes See in 2013. I cannot wait for more shenanigans with you in the new year!

Update: Click here for the Best Of 2014 list.

Suzy x

♥ Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creative experimental works in 2013.

♥ Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2013.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2013. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2013.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2013.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2013 in supporting roles.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
The cleverest, sharpest, and funniest performances of 2013.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Bold and excellent acting in dramatic roles in 2013.

♥ Wise With Words
The most interesting and intelligent scripts of 2013.

♥ Directorial Dominance
The most impressive work in direction for 2013.

♥ Shows Of The Year
Nice coincidence to have different genres represented: drama, musical, dance, comedy and cabaret.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
For an exceptional work I saw in Melbourne.

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2014 Season Programs In Sydney

What to go see? Here’s a handy guide to who’s doing what in 2014.

If you’re reading this in 2013 or early 2014, now is a good time to book your generously discounted season tickets and subscriptions! If you’re accessing this page overseas, here’s a good list for planning your theatre experiences in Sydney in 2014.

The Australian Ballet

The Australian Ballet

Bell Shakespeare

Bell Shakespeare

Belvoir St Theatre

Belvoir St Theatre

Carriageworks

Carriageworks

Darlinghurst Theatre Co

Darlinghurst Theatre Co

Ensemble Theatre

Ensemble Theatre

The Genesian Theatre

The Genesian Theatre

Griffin Theatre Co

Griffin Theatre Co

King Street Theatre

King Street Theatre

New Theatre

New Theatre

The Old 505 Theatre

The Old 505 Theatre

Opera Australia

Opera Australia

Reginald Seymour Centre

Reginald Seymour Centre

Riverside Theatres

Riverside Theatres

2014-rocksurfers

Rock Surfers Theatre Co

Sydney Dance Co

Sydney Dance Co

Sydney Theatre Co

Sydney Theatre Co

Sydney Independent Theatre Co

Sydney Independent Theatre Co