Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Apr 26 – Jun 7, 2014
Playwright: Simon Reade (based on the novel by Jane Austen)
Director: Owen Gimblett
Actors: Jena Napoletano, Chris James, Timothy Bennett, Shane Bates, Christopher Butel, Camilla Vernon
Simon Reade’s recent update of the Austen classic is a witty, swiftly-paced adaptation that caters to today’s impatient audiences and our short attention spans. Scenes are short, and humour is planted at every opportunity with just enough subtlety. The Bennett parents especially, are written with an upbeat playfulness that could provide enough comedy for any viewer who might be less inclined towards old fashioned romance.
Timothy Bennett plays Mr Bennett to excellent effect. He is funny, warm and charming, with a confident demeanour that establishes him as the most proficient performer on stage. Bennett’s comic timing is strongest in the cast, and his every appearance is keenly anticipated. Jena Napoletano shows good commitment as Elizabeth Bennett. She gives her role a delightful presence, and works well with other members of the cast who generally suffer from a lack of experience. It is unfortunate that more roles are not taken up by stronger actors, as the script clearly shows great promise.
Notwithstanding the amateur standard of some character portrayals, the Genesian’s Pride And Prejudice is blithesome and enjoyable. It may not live up to our own imagined versions of the much-loved novel, but it is certainly able to give more than a little enchanting reminder of our endearment for sweet Elizabeth and her Mr Darcy.
Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jan 18 – Feb 22, 2014
Playwright: Hannie Rayson
Director: Shane Bates
Actors: Sarah Purdue, Melanie Robinson, Gemma Munro, Barry Moray, Martin Bell, Oliver Beard, Lyn Turnbull Rose, Rob White
Image by Mark Banks
One of the key functions of art (if art has any function at all), is to express and represent concepts of identity. In the case of the Australian identity, the discussion is always a fascinating, and complex one. We are intrinsically invested in the issue, and the diversity of perspectives makes for effortlessly dynamic discourse. Hotel Sorrento was written in 1990 and talks a lot about who we are, who we like to think we are, what others think of us, and why we care. It presents a view of Australia as a nation trying to find its feet, almost like an awkward teenager in the later stages of puberty, unsure of itself but determined to establish something substantial and defined.
This production features a committed cast, including Oliver Beard who plays Troy, an awkward teenager just beginning to understand the mechanisms at play in his family that give meaning to his very being. Sarah Purdue is the strongest actor on this stage, creating a Hilary that is tender and moving despite her parochialism. Purdue’s knack for naturalism provides the perfect tone for the production and she successfully shows us the depths of her character even when the details are not all spelt out in the script. Lyn Turbull Rose is delightful and infectious in a scene talking about yearning and passion as Marge, and Martin Bell injects much needed humour in a show that tends to be overly serious at times.
Shane Bates’ direction focuses on storytelling, and the clarity of his plot is a pleasure. The show however, seems to be a bit oversimplified, and the characters seem a little analogous. We are left with a desire for something more colourful, with slightly more complication and inconvenience. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see a great script remembered and revived with such fitting respect and genuine affection.
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
Belvoir St Theatre
Darlinghurst Theatre Co
The Genesian Theatre
Griffin Theatre Co
King Street Theatre
The Old 505 Theatre
Reginald Seymour Centre
Rock Surfers Theatre Co
Sydney Dance Co
Sydney Theatre Co
Sydney Independent Theatre Co
Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Nov 23 – Dec 14, 2013
Book & Lyrics: Roger Gimblett (based on story by Oscar Wilde)
Music: Nicholas Edwards
Director: Roger Gimblett and Stephen Lloyd Coombs
Actors: Ben Bennett, Elizabeth MacGregor, Robert Green, Martin Searles, Amber Wilcox, Michael Jones, Dominic Scarf, Timothy Bennett
Image by Mark Banks
Based on a children’s story from Oscar Wilde, The Star Child is a new family musical about a boy acquiring the virtues of humility and generosity. It is a moral tale told through humour and fun, and would appeal to audiences across different religious backgrounds. Most of the songs are well-written, with several memorable jazz tunes standing out. Choreography is careful to accommodate the various skill levels in the cast, who all appear to be comfortable with their moves.
Ben Bennett plays the Star Child, with impressive vocal range and power. He is a confident performer and has a youthful vigour that is perfect for the role. Bennett’s keenness for the comedic elements in the story helps with keeping the show buoyant, and his chemistry with co-performers is a joy to watch. Dominic Scarf’s scene as the Rabbit is cheeky and delightful. His performance adds colour and pizzazz to the proceedings, and delivers some of the funniest moments in the show. Timothy Bennett and Daniel Hitchings play multiple roles and although they do not have solo numbers in the show, both shine with the comedy they introduce throughout the course of the production.
Children are impressionable. It is important they hear stories that feature worthy role models and extoll true virtues. The Star Child is a show that will hold every child’s attention, entertain them and most importantly, inspire them.
Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Oct 18 – Nov 16, 2013
Playwright: Denise Deegan
Director: Mark Langham
Actors: Anna Hitchings, Amylea Griffin, Bianca Bradey, Laura Genders, Anita Donovan, Monica Smithers
Originally staged in the 1980s, Denise Deegan’s Daisy Pulls It Off is a modern parody of adventure stories from the early twentieth century about English boarding schools. With the passage of time, Genesian’s production has the difficult task of referencing those old adventures that have all but faded from our memories. On the bright side, director Mark Langham and his cast have crafted a crisp and well-rehearsed piece of light entertainment that accommodates audiences aged 8 to 80.
Amylea Griffin’s performance as Trixie Martin is by far most memorable. Her portrayal of an adorable and playful youngster is vibrant and extraordinarily effervescent. She brings a great sense of fun to the proceedings, and keeps the show lively whenever she appears. Laura Genders is one of the funnier actors in the show, who performs the postmodern elements of the comedy most effectively. She demonstrates that realism has very little place in Deegan’s writing, and it is in the madcap and absurd, that her humour is found.
Langham is very strong with his details in the construction of the play, and even though the laughs are not always riotous, Daisy Pulls It Off is filled with wonderment and good old-fashioned cheer, which are of course the hallmarks of the great Genesian Theatre.
Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Aug 25 – Oct 5, 2013
Playwright: Agatha Christie
Director: Nanette Frew
Actors: Michael Barnacoat, Lilianna Komljenovic, Lachlan McNabb, Martin Estridge, Ros Richards
Image by Mark Banks
The power of an Agatha Christie work lies in its intrigue and suspense. The way her tales unfold is eminently captivating and beloved by audiences across generations and continents. The Genesian Theatre’s production of Murder On The Nile tells a witty and compelling story set on a cruise liner in Egypt, with colourful characters that retain their appeal 76 years after inception.
Design elements are basic but charming. The set is evocative of 1930s art deco, and effectively conveys a sense of languid luxury that is romantically nostalgic. Lighting is simple but elegant, never drawing attention upon itself, but efficient in its servitude to the play.
The director and players are mindful that clarity is key in the performance of Christie’s murder mystery. While some actors appear slightly miscast, they are all able to communicate the plot perfectly, so that the drama and tension inherent in the play are actualised on stage to great effect. Michael Barnacoat plays Canon Pennyfather with good commitment and excellent diction, giving crucial lengthy speeches in a manner that is highly engaging. Martin Estridge and Ros Richards are crowd favourites, playing eccentric characters with great aplomb, dominating the funniest moments in the show.
The Genesian has always been reliable in delivering great entertainment, and Murder On The Nile is no exception. Some things never change, and this much loved theatre company is thankfully one of them.
Venue: The Genesian Theatre (Sydney NSW), Jul 5 – Aug 10, 2013
Playwright: J.B. Priestley
Director: Peter Lavelle
Actors: Elizabeth MacGregor, Elinor Portch, Amy Fisher, Tom Massey, John Grinston, John Willis-Richards
Image credit: Craig O’Regan
Dangerous Corner was first staged in the early 30s, and this production is faithful to that era in every way possible. Every effort is made to provide a glimpse into early twentieth century England, without any distractions in gratuitous attempts at bringing the show “up to date”. The undeniable charm of the period is experienced through costume design, acting style and of course, The Genesian Theatre itself with its wondrous vintage space. Modern theatre cultures in the last thirty years, have been intently concerned with the dismantling of live performance traditions, but in director Peter Lavelle’s vision, the proscenium arch and all that it represents is revived, honoured and adored.
Hair design is beautiful and highly accomplished. Minute details and secondary elements in a production like this play a big part in winning over its audience. Set design is effective but somewhat minimal. There are no changes and movements to the stage set pieces, so one can imagine that further ornamentation could have been introduced fairly easily to enhance the sense of luxury and wealth of the characters.
Elizabeth MacGregor plays Olwen Peel with a quiet confidence. She takes command of the stage with her effortless and exquisite physicality, gesturing and gliding from one position to another with careful and genuine intent. Her lines are delivered with superb clarity, and this is true for the entire cast who are a real treat in regard to their use of voice. Elinor Portch plays the supporting role of Freda Caplan delightfully, performing with precision even when in the background, always listening and reacting appropriately, thereby heightening the effects of her co-players’ words.
The play ends spectacularly. A surprising epilogue is presented and the audience is mesmerised. Without giving too much away, it is a great few minutes of theatre that is at once fascinating and thrilling, letting one leave the theatre with a feeling that is quite thoroughly modern.