No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Geoff Revell

Review: Pinocchio

With guest reviewer Aria Noori, aged 12.

Jane’s review:

Pinocchio – the little wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies – isn’t quite so little in this production from Windmill and the State Theatre Company. Nathan O’Keefe in the title role towers over many of his cast mates, but carries it with such childlike joy – and young manipulative ignorance – that the almost awkward height of the boy is endearing.

In 2009, Windmill’s last big-scale family musical production was The Wizard of Oz, building off the established stage show (in turn based on the film) with new musical arrangements and  a bizarrely twisted lens. While the production toured to Sydney, a much larger scale tour was planned before the rights were stripped by virtue of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production opening on the West End.

Partially to avoid a similar loss, this Pinocchio doesn’t derive from Disney’s 1940 animation, but is a new version built off Carlo Collodi’s original stories. Created by director Rosemary Myers with writer Julianne O’Brien, Windmill have shifted the emphasis of the work off the nature of lies which we all associate the story with, onto lessons of greed and love.

Myers and her creative team mix both flashy stage technology with obvious and delightful theatre trickery. Geoff Cobham puts on just as much as a light show we’ve come to expect, with his trademark balance of creating lighting which is at once obvious but manages to fit perfectly within the action and the rest of the design. Jonathon Oxlade’s stage includes several revolves, where much of the scenic design and transitions are created by projected imagery (video designer Chris Moore) onto an otherwise blank wooden structure representing a tree stump.

It’s the moments when the play fully invests in the unadorned theatrics of the affair and the environment, though, where it truly comes alive.  As Geppetto (Alirio Zavarce) “carves” Pinocchio out of a tree trunk, we simply have O’Keefe hidden in a wooded tube, which drops down in layers before the boy is reveled.  As Geppetto searches for Pinocchio out at sea, we see Zavarce’s legs sticking out from under the row-boat, as pieces of blue material spin around the base of a revolve. Cricket (a puppet operated and characterised by Sam Routledge) frequently breaks the fourth wall and makes jokes often more about the audience and the act of watching a play than the play itself. These moments are also embellished as the band, rabbit ears sticking up over the pit, are joined by cast members, costumes and all, to build up the sound.

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Review: Holding The Man

Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo met in the mid-1970s at their all-boys school in Melbourne.  He was an aspiring actor; he was the star football player.  He went on to study at NIDA and work as an actor, theatre maker and writer; he went on to be a chiropractor.  Together since high-school, Holding The Man was Conigrave’s memoir of their relationship of fifteen-years, ending with the death of Caleo from an AIDS related illness in 1991.   Conigrave passed away with the same disease a few months before his book was published in 1995.

The memoir was adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy, and is being presented in a new production directed by Rosabla Clemente for the State Theatre Company of South Australia in their final production for 2011.

Covering twenty-two years in just over two hours, at times Murphy’s script can do little but cover the most basic surface level of the relationship.  The most satisfying aspects of the script is how Murphy not only plays with a balance of comedy and drama, a comically heightened act one giving way to dramatically heavy act two; but also balances naturalism with theatricality.

Rather than shying away from existing in a live theatrical medium, Murphy’s script fully embraces the theatre.  The action takes place over twenty years in countless locations and with dozens of characters, and this is all presented in the one space with a cast of six.

Joining Luke Clayson as Tim, and Nic English as John, are Catherine Fitzgerald, Nick Pelomis, Geoff Revell and Ellen Steele, taking the men on their journey through high school, university, theatres, and hospitals.

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Review: Three Sisters

Peter O'Brien and Ksenja Logos. Photo: Matt Nettheim

This review originally appeared on ArtsHub.com

Today, a team of archeologists are exploring an old house; they dust off glassware, take photos to document the past. In turn-of-the-century Russia, one year on from the death of their father, at the birthday of Irina (Kate Cheel), she and her sisters Olga (Carmel Johnson), Marsha (Ksenja Logos) lament their small town lives. Over several years in nearly three and a half hours, we watch the lives of the three sisters, their brother Andrey (Patrick Graham), and the people who move in and out of their house, as they continually ask the questions: what does it mean to live there? What legacy will they leave?

Adam Cook’s traditional reading of Three Sisters for the State Theatre Company is fine, but it does little to show the relevance or importance of the text to a modern Adelaide audience; which is interesting considering the position Adelaide – and art in Adelaide – is often finding itself in relationship to Sydney and Melbourne.

Cook’s set, co-designed with Gavan Swift, places the Prozorovs’ dilapidated house at the bottom of an archeological excavation. While the dilapidation of peeling green paint exposing red stone walls is beautiful, and in itself an interesting frame for the unhappy lives of all who pass through, in the end, this only serves to detract from the text. Framing the work in a context that highlights the museum qualities of the piece does precisely that: it highlights the staid approach, the old Russian ideals, and the clipped language of much of the script.

While visually stunning, within the context of this classical reading the set is logically confusing – draped with red dirt of arid deserts, rather than the black soil of cold Russia – and thematically distracting. I expected something to happen or to be said in the ‘modern’ world of the dig, but the archeologists remain silent through their scenes, which are little more than taking to the stage at the top of each act, helping to change sets. These characters further are infused with a fuzzy logic: while at the start of the play they are oblivious to their Russian counterparts, by the end of act four they seem to be standing and filming their existence.

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