A Very Naughty Christmas – Naughty and Nice

A Very Naughty Christmas - F

Woodward Productions’ A Very Naughty Christmas does exactly what it says on the tin and does it exceedingly well. Both hilarious and heartwarming, this raunchy Christmas cabaret had me laughing non-stop for the full eighty-minute run time.

It’s sparkly, sexy, spectacular, side-splitting, and, of course, very naughty. Get ready to hear your favourite carols as you’ve never heard them before, alongside some dazzling dancing, burlesque, skits and stand-up. But be warned, as executive producer Alex Woodward said: “Melbourne audiences are going straight on Santa’s naughty list.

The show features a cast of eight exceptionally talented performers, each bringing unique and distinctive flair to the performance. Not only are they all hilarious, but they are also captivating. Each of them has incredible vocal talent, impressive dance ability, and a knack for comedy. I can’t stress enough just how remarkable they are.

This show is comedic gold, but it’s also a showcase of some of Melbourne’s finest talent. There’s something magical and hilarious about seeing your favourite Christmas tunes performed by this stellar cast, accompanied by the naughtiest lyrics and just a little bit of nudity.

Aside from being incredibly gifted performers, this cast also knows how to engage an audience. Their energy and excitement were contagious – I felt like I was a part of the show (and owing to the amount of audience involvement, at one point, I really was!).

The atmosphere was welcoming and inviting, and the set and costumes were bright and colourful. Every aspect of the show contributed to that classic and cozy Christmas feeling with a cheeky twist. Indeed, carolling has never been sexier.

Not for the easily offended, this Christmas comedy spectacular is a must-see. A Very Naughty Christmas is running at the Alex Theatre until December 23rd. Do yourself a favour and grab a ticket. You might end up on the naughty list, but trust me, it’s worth it. 

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre Reviews to see what else is on in your town.

The Visitors(The Opera) – A Reimagining

The Visitors

The Visitors, taking place on the 26th of January, 1788, is a reimagining of the arrival of the First Fleet from the often unexplored Indigenous perspective. Adapted from a play of the same name by Jane Harrison, this Opera will take you on a powerful and sometimes confronting journey, allowing you to view a key event in Australian history from a perspective you might not have considered.

The narrative follows six Aboriginal Elders and one younger initiate. They are gathered on the shore, awaiting the arrival of the First Fleet into the harbour and are trying to reach a unanimous decision on how they will react. Do these visitors mean harm? Should they be allowed safe passage?

As a complete newcomer to the world of Opera, my expectations entering this show were of curiosity. I anticipated some pleasant music, powerful vocals, and a straightforward narrative.  The Visitors was so much more than this. It is not just a performance but an invitation to listen to often unheard voices, to gain new insights and to consider different perspectives; it was a great privilege to be a part of the audience.

The Visitors

Jane Harrison, the creative force behind the play upon which this show is based, also provided her talents as the librettist for The Visitors. Harrison’s mastery of language and the extraordinary musical expertise of composer Christopher Sainsbury created a wonderful synergy. It’s challenging to find words that truly capture the sheer beauty and power of the music.

I rarely purchase merchandise at shows; however, if there were a CD recording for this performance, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. For now, however, this auditory treasure seems confined to the live performance. Yet this is for the best. To experience The Visitors in person was not just to hear the music but to be fully immersed in a transformative journey.

The music and story were brought to life by an incredible cast of seven performers: Marcus Corowa, Zoy Frangos, Lillian Fromyhr, Jess Hitchcock, Eddie Muliaumaseali’I, Elias Wilson, and Shauntai Sherree Abdul-Rahman. Each member of this ensemble is not only an exceptional vocalist but also a compelling and powerful actor.

They each artfully created a unique and distinct character, each with their own stories to tell and their own unique desires. They didn’t just sing the words; they breathed life into the narratives, crafting real, authentic characters that the audience truly cared for.

I would be remiss not to mention the others involved in bringing The Visitors to life. The set, designed by Richard Roberts, was simple yet incredibly striking, providing a backdrop that allowed the story to unfold with clarity and impact. Combined with expert lighting cues by Rachel Burke, they together created a visual landscape that perfectly suited the narrative.

And I of course, have to mention The Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra, who provided their musical expertise to bring the show together. I was lucky enough to have a view of the orchestra from the circle, and it was an absolute delight to see their talent and passion live alongside the performance. Every aspect of The Visitors was carefully crafted and expertly put together by a multitude of talented and passionate individuals.

The Visitors ran at the Playhouse for only one weekend. However, I hope this show and this exceptional cast will return for an entire season soon. CEO of Victorian Opera, Elizabeth Hill-Cooper, wrote that The Visitors is “an investment for the future of opera in this country and the telling of a tale from our young history with the insights from the oldest occupants of any land.”

These words hint that this brief stint of The Visitors was merely a prelude to something more enduring. Everyone deserves the opportunity to witness this performance.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, or checkout more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre Reviews.

Spread the word on your favourite platform!

Aza: Stories of Grief in Diaspora

Aza: stories of grief in diaspora

Aza: stories of grief in diasporaconceptualised by Charaf Tartoussi, is a poignant exploration of grief intricately interwoven with the nuanced experience of diaspora. Currently gracing the stage at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, this deeply moving performance unfolds within the setting of a wake and is truly a show that is worth your time and attention.

I can think of no better description than that provided by Melbourne Fringe: “In 50 minutes of vulnerable and sincere storytelling, they will move through the motions of their loss and attempt to answer the question: how does grief change when it is experienced in the immigrant diaspora, and how does it stay the same?” Watching Aza, I was reminded of the true essence of theatre: unadorned and authentic storytelling. 

Aza: stories of grief in diaspora

Performing in the Old Council Chambers is a challenging task – it is a small and intimate venue, every rustle from the audience is amplified, and in the distance, you can hear music and applause from other shows. But these performers were undaunted, embracing the intimacy of the space and using it to their advantage. As they spoke and shared their stories, I felt a genuine connection, and I found myself truly immersed in their words. 

Aza isn’t a play performed by its actors; instead, it is a story lived by its writers. These storytellers, armed with their own life narratives and uniquely profound voices, extend a personal invitation to the audience. It’s an invitation to walk with them through an intimate path, to share in a journey of love and loss. Hearing these words and sharing these narratives was indeed a privilege.

Old Council Chambers

Our four storytellers (Charaf Tartoussi, Farah Beaini, Thabani Tshuma, and Parminder Kaur) exhibit remarkable writing skills and shine as brilliant and compelling performers. They held nothing back, bared themselves completely, and invited us to share their grief and healing. By sharing their truth, they opened a door for the audience, granting us permission to grieve in our own way, free from judgment. 

Time is running out to see this exceptional piece of theatre, which is showing until the 22nd of October at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Be prepared to shed a few tears; Aza; stories of grief in diaspora is an emotional journey that refuses to shy away from the true depths of grief and will undoubtedly leave a mark on those fortunate enough to be a part of the audience.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, or check more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre Reviews.

Spread the word on your favourite platform!

Monument – A Play to Remember

Red Stitch’s production of Monument, penned by Emily Sheehan and directed by Ella Caldwell, is a masterful work that intricately balances humour and poignancy.  It’s hard to find any fault in this production, especially in Sheehan’s writing; as soon as the show ended, I was lining up at the box office to purchase a copy of this hilarious yet profound script.

The story of Monument takes place in real time over ninety minutes. It focuses on the dynamic relationship between two very different women: Edith Aldridge, the youngest woman ever to be elected leader of her country, and Rosie, a twenty-year-old makeup artist who works at David Jones.  Sheehan has referred to Monument as a “Trojan horse of a play,” a fitting description for a deeply profound narrative packaged up in a seemingly uncomplicated premise. This is also an apt reflection on one of the main topics of this play: makeup and beauty.

Before the actors took the stage and the house lights dimmed, we admired the astonishing set design by Sophie Woodward. Bold, vivid, and elegant, Woodward’s circular stage design could not have been more perfect for this story.  Woodward created an intimate, glamorous, and a little bit intimidating space, a perfect reflection of the presidential hotel suite that is Monument’s setting.

The lighting and sound design, orchestrated by Amelia Lever-Davidson and Danni Esposito, respectively, enhance the production’s emotional impact. The subtle changes in lighting and well-timed sound cues seamlessly guide the audience through the shifts in tone.

Sarah Sutherland and Julia Hanna are both nothing short of captivating in their respective roles as Edith and Rosie.  As you watch Sutherland and Hanna breathe life into Sheehan’s brilliantly written characters, you can tell they are experts in their craft.  As solo artists, they both gave mesmerising performances that radiated authenticity, but their synergy and harmony are truly remarkable as a duo.  I couldn’t look away for even one second. 

It’s not an easy task for a play to evoke hilarity, introspection, and empathy all at once, but the team behind Monument has accomplished this flawlessly.  If you want an evening of guaranteed laughs as well as a heartfelt and emotional story, then this is a show you do not want to miss.

Performances of Monument are running until the 3rd of September at Red Stitch Actor’s Theatre.

This review also appears on It’s On The House.

Spread the word on your favourite platform!