Conmen At Work – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a fun and witty musical. Put on by the Metropolitan Players at the SPCC Theatre

The show is set on the French Riviera, where Lawrence Jameson is a successful working conman. When a young rival, Freddy Benson, invades his territory. Lawrence whimsically takes Freddy under his wing to teach him the tricks of the trade. The arrival of a well-endowed American heiress starts a battle to see who can con her first.

Khalil Khay, who plays Laurence did an amazing job carrying the show through the twist and turns of the cons. However, the character that stole the show was Jolene, played by Lizzy Lindus, the comedic tone and energy she brought to the character leapt off the stage. 

The ensemble was full of talented people who kept the world alive. Standouts from the ensemble were Wade Neilson and Megan Kennedy. Their dance ability and facials were incredible. The whole ensemble did a fantastic job playing multiple different characters and doing astonishingly quick costume changes. 

Now the thing that truly makes this musical stand out and who is generally overlooked. The production team, set dressing, lighting and costumes were incredible. I believe this show should definitely be up for CONDA for Excellence in Lighting and Audio Visual Design. 

All in all it was a good show with belly laughs throughout. 

Tickets are on sale for the final week of this production (19th through 22nd July) from the SPCC Theatre website, with 7pm sessions on Wed, Fri, Sat and a 1pm matinee session on Sat 22nd.

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All My Sons

Maitland Repertory Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons dives deep into its dark themes, leaving the audience feeling for every flawed and human character. What starts as a leisurely look at a suburban family accelerates into a philosophical examination of duty, trauma and grief, and we are invited into the family backyard to watch in awe as the play’s events transpire before us.

It is a personal love of mine when actors perform pre-show or during intermission. As you walk into the playhouse for MRT’s production of All My Sons, all the characters are already on the stage. The idealised American Dream is set by actors sitting on green, green grass in front of bright blue walls, staring off into the horizon while a sepia-coloured home video plays in the background.

This production uses a bare-slanted stage, which does several clever things. First, it allows the actors to be seated on the ground in a way that is still very visible to the audience. Second, the audience feels like they are in the space with the characters, as if the backyard’s grassy knoll is extended to us. And third, it helps to create the illusion of the horizon as the actors stare over us and into the distance.

Despite the bare stage, the costumes and accents help to set the play in the right time and place. There is no confusion that we are in America in the aftermath of WWI.

Many of the characters in All My Sons give heartfelt and emotional monologues that reveal the depths of their trauma. Aimee Cavanagh, Richard Rae, and especially Carl Caulfield did a fantastic job with their pieces. Real sweat, tears, and authentic connection to the words and themes resulted in the audience feeling for and with the characters of Kate, Chris, and Joe (respectively).

Although it was hard to look away from Carl Caulfield’s powerful presence, the standout performance in this production was Richard Rae’s portrayal of Chris Keller. Rae’s connection with every cast member was clear, and he was the weaving that threaded the production together.

An absolute treat for the audience was the scene between Chris Keller and Joe Keller, where truths are revealed and philosophies grappled with. This was the only scene that mainly used music or lighting, creating a warped sense of reality. Their world was collapsing right before our eyes, and the audience could only watch with awe.

Maitland Repertory Theatre’s All My Sons remarkably brings Miller’s play and its characters to life. Although this review emphasises the darker elements of the play, it should be noted that the performance includes some light-hearted moments and witty interactions, which were an absolute joy to watch as well.

The production runs for Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances from 14th July through to the 23rd July.

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Lord of the Flies Rules Maitland

You want gore? You got it. You want action packed fight scenes? You got it. You want monologues that will move you to tears? Right here.

Reamus Theatre’s Lord of the Flies is a gripping rendition of William Golding’s classic tale. Set on a deserted island during the 1950s, a group of school children find themselves stranded after their plane goes down during an evacuation attempt. It is a cautionary tale of what mankind can become if modern democracy, rationality, and compassion are abandoned.

It was clear that a lot of consideration went into the staging of this production. There was a need to create at least six different locations within the small stage, often with all twelve cast members on stage at the same time. Thoughtful planning of levels and ramps, as well as creative stage entrances/exits, allowed multiple locations to be on stage at the one time (an aesthetically fitting bonus was that the ramp between the levels was made by creating an aeroplane wing!).

The audience was made to feel the drama quite intensely too thanks to the thrust stage, with some of the more physical fight scenes being done right in front of the first-row audience.

The success of the staging was aided greatly by thoughtful lighting choices, with spotlights helping to clearly define different locations on the stage. Red and blue lights were used symbolically throughout the performances, and lighting was also employed to shift the scene between day and night. Sound design was also used to help transition from day to night, and all sound cues in this performance were executed with perfect timing.

Furthermore a lot can be said about the costumes in this production. As the characters stayed on the island, their clothes became more and more raggedy and discolored. The costume degradation was subtle yet severe and created a very convincing illusion of time passing. The props and fake blood were also incredibly realistic leaving the audience disgustingly impressed by the actors comfort with the gore of it all.

The cast of twelve performed this play adaptation with passion, zeal and – some more than others – with an almost crazed look in their eye. The energy of the entire cast was felt by the audience, as well as their joy from performing the play.

Although each performer stood out in their own right, I do want to make a few specific mentions of great performances. Robert Joey McKinnon presented a delightfully physical Henry, who’s actions made the audience laugh even during the darker moments of the play. Jace Pickard provided a crazed determination and strong vocal projection for this production’s Jack. Likewise, Hannah Richens’ Roger was a force to be reckoned with, and Bronte Fegan delivered Piggy’s final monologues heartbreakingly. 

But the most intense and moving scene was the final.  Lead actor and co-director Thomas Henry showcased his talent through Ralph’s final moments of the play. Although I am tempted to say more about Thomas Henry’s performance during the latter half of act two, words would not do justice and I will instead encourage – no, URGE – you to experience it yourself.

This production of Lord of the Flies was an absolute pleasure to watch. Kill the pig, spill it’s blood, catch this show! With only two more sessions remaining please get buzzing and book your tickets now.

  • Friday 16 June 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday 17 June 2023 – 8:00 PM

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Neil Simons’s Rumours – Review

Maitland Repertory Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumours” is indeed something to talk about. Directed by Robert Comber, this production – despite involving for the characters serious bodily injury and gunshot wounds – will have you laughing the entire way through, and I had the privilege of viewing the performance on its opening night.

The play opens with a scene of panic. What was meant to be a lovely dinner party to celebrate a politician’s 10-year wedding anniversary has already been turned on its head. A reluctance for the truth to come out causes lies upon lies to be told as each character is introduced into the fold. In the end, the truth can no longer be contained! Although the audience can enjoy the dramatic irony of characters being told ridiculous stories, the real story of what occurred before the play opens remains a mystery for the whole play. As summed up perfectly by the character Ken Bevans (played by Eamonn O’Reilly), “No one has heard the real story yet. No one knows the real story.”

The stage design for Comber’s performance is a quaint and realistic living room setting, which allowed the actors to interact with each other closely and comfortably. The lighting similarly worked well for the play, providing a warm atmosphere perfect for the setting of a politician’s dinner party. Costumes were also very suited for the production and tied all the visuals on stage together nicely.

The cast was made up of 10 very keen actors with a variety of acting backgrounds. Although the play is set in New York, accents were employed in this production to portray a British setting, and the majority of the actors performed these accents flawlessly. These accents gave an “upper-class” feel to the characters and made us feel like we were peering into the secret lives of the wealthy. The script of the play is also very fast-paced, and although there were times in the performance when the pace dropped, the energy provided by the actors ensured that there was never a dull moment.

Of the 10 cast members, there were plenty of standout performances. Although some of the performances were either too melodramatic or one-dimensional, the farcical nature of the play forgave a lot of this. As such, it was easy to enjoy these performances and appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that the actors were bringing to the mayhem on the stage. The most chaotic moment in the performance was the final beat from act one, where each actor could not be faulted in their portrayal of despair, stress, confusion, and hunger.

There were, however, two performers who really shone in the opening night production. Matt Robinson (who played Leonard Cummings) created much of the humour with his expressive face, physicality, and comedic timing. His words were articulate, his lines were funny, and he played his character superbly. An absolute pleasure to watch on stage. Another standout performer was Jacqui Weston (who played PC Conklin). Her powerful body language and unbreaking eye contact created a strong stage presence. Despite having very few lines and not a great deal of stage time, her performance was compelling.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, one of my favourite moments from this performance was when one of the actors had forgotten their lines. They did not for a moment lose composure nor falter from their character, and the moment was able to be worked through with help from fellow cast mates. It was a moment of the cast becoming an ensemble, right before the audience’s eyes. A truly unique thing to experience, and a credit to the cast and director for cultivating the actor’s relationship.

“Rumours” is a gun-blazing farcical play of “tongues wagging and tales flying”. Comber’s production indeed does the play justice and, even in the face of opening night challenges, I would strongly recommend anyone to go and see it. The cast do a wonderful job at portraying the chaos that is in this play and it was an absolute treat to experience their performances.

Neil Simon’s Rumours – Maitland Repertory Theatre runs for three weekends only with the following sessions to choose from:-

  • Friday 28 April 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday 29 April – 8:00 PM
  • Friday 05 May 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday 06 May 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday 07 May 2023 – 2:00 PM Matinee Performance
  • Saturday 13 May 2023 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday 14 May 2023 – 2:00PM Matinee Performance

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