Barracking for the Umpire – A Profound Blend of AFL and Family Drama

Barracking For The Umpire

Barracking For The Umpire Rating

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Barracking For The Umpire, presented by the Black Swan State Theatre Company, will strike a chord with every AFL fan, player, and parent. In this quintessentially Australian family drama, we’re drawn into the lives of the Williams family, posing the poignant question: what sacrifices are we prepared to make for the love of the game?

Doug Williams, celebrated as Donnybrook’s greatest footballer, is the embodiment of resilience—tough and steadfast. His loyal wife, Delveen, has stood by him through countless challenges, witnessing each impact of the game on him. As the local club prepares to present Doug with a lifetime achievement award, their children return home to celebrate. Yet, as the festivities unfold, the once reliable hands of this legendary player ominously begin to falter.

On entering the theatre, the stage transports us to Donnybrook, specifically the Williams’ family living room steeped in 1980s decor—a decade that marked the peak of Doug’s illustrious football career. The space is authentically adorned with a well-stocked bar, doorways that hint at a bustling household, and walls lined with family photos that speak volumes of shared memories. A coffee table, cozy blankets draped over a well-worn couch, and a back-wall display case cum bookshelf contribute to the room’s lived-in feel, wrapping the audience in the comforting embrace of a family home.

The production superbly uses lighting(Lucy Brikinshaw) and video effects(Michael Carmody) to facilitate smooth transitions from the family living room to the football locker room—a sacred space residing solely in Doug’s memories. As the spotlight dims on these ephemeral glimpses into the past, the stage’s ambient sounds and lighting subtly recede, reorienting the audience to the present moment where Doug, though momentarily disoriented, is prompted back into the present by a worried family member.

The cast expertly brings the characters to life, making them authentic and believable.

Ben (played by Ian Wilkes), a Noongar man, is a current-day AFL footballer dealing with all the pressures that his high profile brings and harbouring a deep secret that he never wishes to become public. Ben, away from the pressure of AFL footy, is a relaxed and laid-back character who wants to play footy and toys with the idea of revealing his secret to the family. Some family members wonder why he is single, although hints of a relationship occur. Some of his stage exits and entrances show a worried Ben trying to find out about the health of a recently concussed teammate.

Mena (played by Ebony McGuire) is a journalist who wants to make her mark in the world but chafes in the shadows of her father and brother Ben’s football careers. She is interested in telling a story to make her way up the journalistic ladder, but possibly at the expense of her brother’s wishes. One scene, in particular, highlights the dog with a bone journalist in her as she interrogates her brother about the need for a particular story to be told.

Charaine (played by Jo Morris) is the stabilising influence amongst the three siblings. However, her own life is going through a rocky patch with her recent breakup with her boyfriend. Her calm demeanour quickly changes whenever her ex-boyfriend enters the scene, as her Mother has mortifyingly invited him to visit after a family dinner. This leads to some comedic hijinks that work well to balance out the drama of the relationship.

Tom (played by Michale Abercromby) is an MC and Charaine’s recent ex-boyfriend who worships Doug and Ben, vicariously living through their football deeds, making the men somewhat uncomfortable. His devotion to the family footballers creates friction in his relationship with Charaine, which he strives to repair. Tom also brings some lighthearted comedic moments at awkward moments that relieve the tension of the family dramas at play.

Doug (played by Steve Le Marquand) skillfully plays the family patriarch, but he unfortunately experiences increasingly recurring episodes from his declining health. A famed local footballer in his day, he is highly respected by the family and community alike. When surrounded by his family, he is quick to exchange friendly barbs and banter as well as anyone else, but when left alone, he becomes lost in his surroundings.

The Coach (played by Joel Jackson) also doubles as Eckhart, an AFL football player, and Ben’s teammate. These two open the play with an energetic start, as the opening tune of Up There Cazaly fades to the background, being in the locker rooms post-game and bantering about life and their just completed match. Joel spends most of the play existing as the personification of the Coach, who only exists in the recesses of Doug’s fading memory. His entrance onto the stage signifies moments where Doug loses his grip on current-day reality and relives some of the traumatic moments of his football career.

Football fans will delight in numerous lines delivered by the inspirational coach, no doubt causing them to reflect on their football careers no matter how humble. Football afficionado’s will recognise many famous footballing quotes that have gone into folklore, including John Kennedy Senior’s immortal lines: “Do Something. Don’t think. Don’t hope. Do.”

Costumes designed by Sara Chirichilli have been selected with great care and attention. The Coach’s costume channels Tom Hafey’s iconic style, complete with a snug Adidas T-shirt and classic short shorts, perfectly capturing the aura of 1980s football. In the opening scene, the footballers Eckhart and Ben sport authentic football guernseys that set the stage for the action. The rest of the cast’s wardrobe is thoughtfully chosen to reflect a casual, comfortable attire that one might find in any relaxed family setting. This naturalistic approach complements the home’s 1980s vibe, seamlessly integrating the characters with their environment.

Andrea Gibbs’ debut play is a beautifully crafted story that feels quintessentially Australian. With its rich themes and relatable characters, ‘Barracking for the Umpire’ is set to become a favourite among theatres across Australia for many years to come.

Director Clare Watson has selected a winning team throughout the cast and crew, who have all kicked winning goals here. Together, their efforts successfully showcase what is destined to be a classic Australian play for years to come. Five stars out of Five, and I highly recommend you see it while you have the chance. Don’t think—do see this show.

Barracking For The Umpire is playing at the Subiaco Arts Centre from 23rd April to 5th May. After that, the cast and crew will take this play on tour across Western Australia to the following locations and dates:-

Port Hedland – 11th May
Broome – 18th May
Karratha – 23rd & 24th May
Geraldton – 29th May
Mandurah – 1st June
Margaret River – 15th June
Albany – 6th & 7th June
Esperance – 12th June

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

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A Case For The Existence of God

A Case For The Existence of God

A Case For The Existence of God Rating

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2

“A Case for the Existence of God”, presented at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre, offers an intimate and thought-provoking theatrical experience propelled by the exciting performances of Kevin Hofbauer as Keith and Darcy Kent as Ryan. Directed by Gary Abrahams, with set and costume design by Jeremy Pryles and lighting design by Sidney Younger, this production skillfully navigates complex themes of friendship, class, and the quest for meaning in a small-town Idaho setting.

The play unfolds over 75 minutes without intermission, with Hofbauer and Kent portraying the only two characters in the play, Keith and Ryan, respectively. Their performances are nothing short of mesmerising, drawing audiences into the intricate dynamics of their relationship as they navigate conversations ranging from mundane – home loans to profound – what it means to be a good parent. The Red Stitch ensemble members deliver truthful and honest portrayals, infusing each moment with raw emotion and authenticity.

Set against a minimalist backdrop of a desk, two chairs, and a few props cleverly used to indicate different locations, the production creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy. The staging, set on a platform set in water resembling an island, serves as a poignant metaphor for the isolation and connection experienced by the characters. Despite the simplicity of the set, the actors effortlessly transport the audience to various locations, showcasing the versatility of their performances.

“A Case for the Existence of God” explores themes of hope, male friendship, and coming to terms with life when it doesn’t go according to plan. Playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s script delves into the complexities of desire, such as the desire for love, connection, and to leave a legacy for our children. In an interview, Hunter shared that his desire for the play was to leave audiences with a sense of hope. This sentiment resonates deeply throughout the production.

One unusual aspect of the production was giving Ryan, a character born and raised in Idaho, a Southern accent. While executed skillfully by Kent, this decision seemed inconsistent with the character’s background and upbringing as someone who had lived for generations in Idaho. It momentarily distracted from the overall experience and otherwise immersive storytelling, highlighting a potential inconsistency in character portrayal.

Nevertheless, the strength of the performances, direction, and thematic depth of the play outweigh it. “A Case for the Existence of God” is a testament to the power of the cast and crew to provoke thought, evoke emotion, and inspire contemplation. Hunter’s poignant exploration of faith, doubt, and male friendship is brought to life with nuance and sensitivity by the talented cast.

“A Case for the Existence of God” at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre is a must-see production. With stellar performances, imaginative staging, and resonant storytelling, this play invites audiences on a journey of discovery and existential inquiry. Under Abrahams’ direction, the ensemble delivers a captivating performance that lingers. The production shows from April 13 to May 12 in East St Kilda.

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

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360 ALLSTARS Circle Back For Another Round

360 ALLSTARS

360 ALLSTARS Rating

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The 360 ALLSTARS are celebrating the anniversary of their first performance in 2013 by taking their phenomenal show on the road across a four-continent world tour. Their tour landed at The Riverside Theatre in Parramatta just in time for the school holidays. There were plenty of kids in the audience for this permission.

As 360 ALLSTARS suggests, the theme of this urban street circus is all about the 360 degrees of rotation. World Champion and World Record-holding artists were sourced from countries all over the world for their skills in this area. Director and producer Gene Peterson envisioned creating a contemporary urban circus, where the more traditional acts were updated with an urban performance style for a street, edgy feel.

The Ringmaster is now a live looping rap artist (Vida Sunshyne) whose original and fast-paced words accompany the artists on stage, musically narrating whilst they are performing their speciality act. Set alongside Vida Sunshyne was Jordan, the drummer, behind an impressively large drum kit set up, which he clearly knew how to make sing during the show and during his remarkable drum solo.

Instead of a unicyclist for their circus, the 360 ALLSTARS featured an extraordinary BMX Flatlander Pereira, who wows the audiences with his balance and absolute control of a spinning BMX bike. I could almost hear the kids in the audience thinking, “Tomorrow—I’m going to try that!”

The cast worked together to present a ‘video game’ to showcase the Breakdancing Freestyling duo, BBoy Jack and BBoy Alejandro, the show’s version of acrobats. This was done in such an original way, with the screen showing their strengths/ health in a bar format, much like in a video game, while they battled it out on stage, breakdancing. Both dancers had so much style and coolness in their breakdancing, which included spinning atop their heads, hands-free!

A juggler usually entertains the crowd at the circus, but in 360 ALLSTARS, they had Fume executing the most difficult tricks with his basketballs. He spun and moved them around his body with absolute ease. He involved the audience in a ‘game show’ where the audience chanted “Press it! Press it”, referring to a big red button with the words “Do Not Press” on the wall. As each red button was pressed, another basketball appeared for Fume to spin and balance. He made juggling four basketballs and balancing two spinning basketballs on top of each other look easy.

For me, Curtis’s Cyr Wheel was a firm favourite. He spun it rapidly and then hopped inside. This showcased a continuously spinning human who used his body to do many tricks while travelling around the stage. The audience was left wondering how, when he hopped off the Cyr Wheel, Curtis was able to walk in a straight line.

It may not be a traditional circus under the big top, but the energetic 360 ALLSTARS assure us that it’s time for a new tradition – it is time to flip the big top upside down and spin it around.

360 ALLSTARS is an hour-long play suitable for people of all ages. It will perform at The Riverside Theatre on April 20th and 22nd, 2024, before moving on to other theatres in Australia, New Zealand, and North America.

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

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Tempo Tumbles into The Riverside!

Tempo

Tempo Rating

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1

Tempo opens with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus ensemble spilling out of the body of a grand piano and executing a precise and impressive flurry of floor acrobatic athleticism. Each tumble, jump, air, somersault and roll (to name a few) were set to music, and, thanks to Musical Director Ania Reynolds and Director Jake Silvestro, it was an impressive beginning to the show.

This story begins with a conductor ready to start a performance but quickly realising that the orchestra hasn’t turned up, so acrobats arrive to fill their place. The white grand piano is central to the show, and it encompasses not only the entertainers inside its belly but also acts as a stage where performers lift off from the closed lid to do acts such as aerial silk, aerial hoop, and hanging strap acrobatics.

These young Australians, aged twelve to eighteen, attend Australia’s National Youth Circus in Albury, NSW. Tempo showcased their skills in multiple areas – each person played instruments as well as performing in their act.

The ensemble sustained their energy and smiles onstage throughout. As well as acrobatics, the Flying Fruit Fly Circus rounded out their show with a touch of traditional stage magic of the most famous audience tricks, such as the shrinking and growing magic wand and the three overturned cups with disappearing balls. The children in the audience would have loved these magical illusions.

Other acts called for strength and balance, such as the upside-down handstand on pedestals and the tower of three people standing on each other’s shoulders. Juggling was one highlight for me, with as many as four from the ensemble tossing their juggling pins between them as they moved – a well-choreographed act.

In another scene, the performers used everyday home objects to create sound percussion, such as metal spoons clanking, an upside-down cooking pot as a drum, a filing tub lid and even a broom to hit the floor with. This type of percussion was a nod to the good ole days when toddlers used whatever they could to create sound. It was a clever trip down memory lane for me.

The performers always smoothly transitioned into the next act. They conveyed humour to the audience not verbally but through body language, such as raising eyebrows and miming at the right time. They were all multiskilled and cheeky performers with great showmanship.

As there was a lot of floor acrobatics, everyone’s movement around the stage was very well coordinated as they worked together to create a ‘chaotic’ dance with physical feats such as helping their performers launch off their hands to do several air somersaults, bouncing off the seesaw platform to fly through the air and other flowing movements.

True to its name, Tempo, this show was all about combining music and movement together, so they complemented each other. Whether it be using shaker eggs in time to an electric guitar or showcasing diabolo skills in time to the music or unicycling, the acrobatic athleticism of these kids showed why they study under the masterful tutelage of lead trainers Bec Neill and Ben Lewis.

Tempo is currently touring Australia. Performance time: 60 minutes. Tickets: $38- $44.50

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

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