Macbeth (An Undoing)

Macbeth (An Undoing)

Macbeth (An Undoing) Rating

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It seems to be a trend of late to take well-known stories and shift the narrative to one of the other characters in that world or perhaps take fragments unexplained and fill them, usually to great success.

Take ‘Wicked’ for example- no longer about Dorothy, but told from the heartache of being different as a green witch; or ‘&Juliet’, what if she didn’t kill herself for her first love and instead had taken time to discover herself? Even to a certain extent- ‘SIX’, telling the lives of history from the viewpoints of Henry the 8ths six wives.

Here in the Malthouse Theatre’s newest production: ‘Macbeth ( An Undoing)’, playwright Zinne Harris has aimed to play with those ideals, taken the much-known and loved Scottish play, and endeavoured to get the audience to examine it through an alternate lens. Was it, as told, Lady Macbeth who had trouble sleeping and guilty, or was it really Macbeth himself? Was it perhaps the woman behind the man, hungry for power, that led to the downfall and even the one who killed Macbeth?

Reimagined versions of Shakespeare are not uncommon. There have been gender and colour-blind casting, set in modern times, simplified versions, mounted productions in the future, and more. Typically, there is something to say about taking a classic piece and making it speak to a current audience. It’s an interesting premise that “you have only heard half of the story”, although this may not work for those unfamiliar with the play. For those who know the story well, fragments of well-known moments are hinted at, then quickly removed, leaving one sometimes wondering where and what is happening.

For me, the star of the show and what holds the peace all together is the incredible set by Dann Barber. A revolving set that feels like it has endless rooms, between each rotation, by what can only be described as magic, when previously viewed sides return into view only to be completely re-imagined with unseen doors, blood-splattered walls, falling snow, and crows. Crows galore. Ever watching, looking down on the mess and greed of humankind and constantly revolving clockwise as the actors pace from scene to scene and highlighting the “undoing” by using those moments of madness to cycle the stage anticlockwise.

Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting is brilliantly moody and takes the small cramped, though imposing spaces of Barbers set, and miraculously fills them without leaking into the next rooms or spilling out onto unwanted spaces. The constant lurking sound of birds flying above and a hum of ever-present doom is faultlessly executed by Sound designer and composer Jethro Woodward.

There is a lot to appreciate. In a time when cash is tight, and streaming is the go, it takes courage and a leap of faith to try something new, and it is undoubtedly a great way to get people out to the theatre. Overall, the play didn’t quite work for me, but other people I spoke to loved it, and there were even people who felt a standing ovation was in order.

I do consider MacBeth (An Undoing) worth seeing. Great theatre should have you talking, questioning, arguing, and thinking about it days later. So I can only say, go and see it, and decide for yourself. Show your support for new ideas and works and grab your tickets to Macbeth (An Undoing), which runs through July 28th, with sessions running Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

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.

Photographer: Jeff Busby

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Children Are Stinky: Fart-tastic Circus Fun For All Ages

Children Are Stinky

Children Are Stinky Rating

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Are children really stinky? How many ‘bot bot’ jokes can you fit into a 45 minute show? And who enjoyed this jam packed, super fun extravaganza more? The adults or the kids? These are extremely important questions if you are aged 4-12 or a grown up who has surrendered to their inner child. In the spirit of ‘Children Are Stinky’, an exciting, award-winning children’s comedy by Circus Trick Tease, the answers ….. will be revealed at the end of this review. Spoiler Alert!

Jason and Kylie (not their real names) take an extra big and farty bow! You two rockstars managed to mesmerise a mob of 150 mini-humans without resorting to TikTok trickery, coolness, or screen time sorcery. Your old-school, analogue awesomeness has earned you a gold star in the annals of kid-entertainment history.

‘Children are Stinky’ dares young adventurers to be smart, imaginative and active. A joyful jamboree of giggles, grins, and triumphant high-fives in a crazy circus celebration of youthful exuberance and laughter.

How truly wonderful to see children bouncing and dancing in their seats, unable to tear their eyes away from the charm of this immensely silly and clever show. What is it about? Well…. nothing, but how nice it is to be alive, move your body and cackle until your bum drops off. It’s like they were stuck in a vortex of pure, unadulterated joy – and honestly, who can blame them? It’s a spectacle so awesomely absurd, you’ll be jiggling along with the kids in no time. Pure bliss erupted when a small but mighty voice cut through the chaos, triumphantly declaring ‘YOU licked it!’ (don’t panic – it was a blackboard) – a hilariously perfect moment that encapsulated the show and elements of audience participation.

The air was electric with squeals of delight, shouts of ‘Higher! Higher!’ as Jason balanced on his head or a chair or over a kid, Kylie dangled from a swing and they both trashed the stage with balloons, puppets, props and nonsense – all set to a soundtrack of upbeat jams. The Parramatta light rail staff on their 100th testing loop were probably scratching their heads, wondering if they’d missed a memo about a spontaneous kindergarten rave party breaking out nearby!

Parents beware – there will soon be a buyers rush and shortage of whoopee cushions. Stock up immediately. They are now more coveted than a selfie with a unicorn. And kids across Western Sydney will be driving their parents bonkers over the holidays as they try to master handstands, drop siblings on their heads (oops!), balance chair towers, juggle (kind of), and probably swing from the clothesline.

This show was perfect stinky holiday entertainment. Get ready to revel in the nostalgia of retro-rad fun and games, and inspire the kids to put down their screens and get playful too! Your kid will love it. You will love it. And let’s be real, the farts are just the cherry on top – don’t pretend you’re not excited!

Answers:
1. Yes, children ARE stinky. But they were ok with that because everyone else is stinky too.
2. How many farts? At least 54. I lost count, but the words and actions never lost impact.
3. Who enjoyed it more? As an ex-kindergarten teacher I can honestly say that apart from writing this review, it was the most fun I’ve had since I had a crush on Greg from that other kids show.

See https://www.circustricktease.com/children-are-stinky for the stinkiest tickets in town.

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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Sunset Strip: The Bonds of Family and Forgiveness

Sunset Strip

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Award winning playwright Suzie Miller (Prima Facie, Sold, Cross Sections, Reasonable Doubt) doesn’t shy away from writing about the painful parts of life. Her previous plays have been about homelessness, racism in Australia and the traps of selling your soul for materialism. Her latest play, Sunset Strip, continues to tackle some tough themes – grief, addiction, cancer, dementia, and complicated family dynamics.

New Theatre’s opening night of Sunset Strip was an emotional rollercoaster which took the audience into the world of two very different sisters, Phoebe (played by Molly Hadden) and Caroline (played by Erica Nelson). Director Annette van Roden’s interpretation has created a multifaceted story with some harsh, tender and lighthearted moments, sometimes all at the same time.

The set design by Annette van Roden is split into two scenes. There is a living room inside a house, somewhere in a mining town near Broken Hill, and a backyard which used to face a sparkling lake complete with sand and sun, now a dried-up dusty dirt bowl. I thought this could be a subtle interpretation of perhaps the bright and simple joy of childhood yielding into a more complex adulthood, with all the complicated issues that accompany it. Nothing remains the same throughout time.

Caroline, the city lawyer (“the smart one”, as Phoebe relates) arrives home for a visit with her sister and dad. We witness the first signs that all is not what she expects, when Ray (convincingly played by Vincent Melton) does not recognise her. Ray’s dementia leaves him having intervals of clarity between periods of confusion, and when he soon recognises and welcomes her back home after a few minutes, it is clear that Caroline is confused, and realizes that Phoebe has been shouldering their father’s deterioration on her own.

Molly Haddon’s portrayal of Phoebe is outstanding. Phoebe, who is the carer of their dad, as well as mum of two kids who are currently in foster care, is clearly nervous about seeing her sister. Her high energy on stage of being the younger – (less successful, less pretty, the one with the worse hair, according to herself) – sister with some news to break is palpable. She is buzzing, full of words and action whilst Caroline is more stoic, level, and sensible. We soon discover through Erica’s intense portrayal of Caroline, that her recent health experiences have taught her a lot about herself, and that being vulnerable is not something to avoid or run away from.

Through their sister relationship lens, the complexity and pain of life through trauma is highlighted. Though Phoebe seeks an outward desperation for her sister’s approval, it is Caroline who ends up being the one that is counselled by her father and Teddy (played by Shane Davidson). These moments were touching.

Teddy, Phoebe’s fiancé, brings another dimension to Sunset Strip. He has a history with Caroline and the two must work through their past, for the sake of Phoebe, her kids and their future.

This is a play where the audience will be left to ponder what will happen to these characters long after the curtain falls. Multiple themes are conversation starters, and this is one of the highlights of Suzie Miller’s script, and New Theatre’s production.

The beauty of Sunset Strip may not lay in the land and surroundings of this family, but in the rawness of human frailty, the need for connection and the ability for forgiveness.

Sunset Strip is playing at New Theatre, 542 King St Newtown.
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes (including interval)
10 July – 3 August 2024
Tickets: Thrify Thursdays / New Theatre members $25
Concessions / Groups of 6+ $32
Full $37

Photographer: © Chris Lundie

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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Once Upon a Grimm Night: Interactive Theatre

Once Upon a Grimm Night

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1

An interactive theatre experience is not a seated and static theatre show. Nor is it one where you are pulled onto stage to become a part of the show, like in a stage hypnotist’s performance.

The ‘theatre’ setting for Once Upon a Grimm Night was a beautiful heritage house, Lindesay House, with lush green landscaped gardens that overlooked Sydney Harbour. Odyssey Theatre has chosen the perfect setting in Lindesay House for their Otherworld meets Ourworld theatre experience.

When we arrived for our 5:30 p.m. session, we were greeted by the impressively large house, with warm lights emanating from the windows, giving it a welcoming glow. Dusky twilight oranges and pinks painted the background of the house and the huge tree in front of it, where we waited for the show to begin.

Our group was soon welcomed by The Narrator (Jared Gerschwitz) with his infectious enthusiasm. It is a credit to Jared, who outlined the storyline, clarified our quest for the night, and made our adventure into the house enjoyable while maintaining a wicked sense of humour. Other characters we met initially as we were swept into the story included Cly (Phoebe Lumley Tow), the earnest maiden, and Grimm Volkov (Harlee Timms).

Along with the heritage house, the details put into the costume design and hair styling stood out for me. The Maiden Cly’s hair was fairytale perfect, complete with the flowers in her half-up/down wavy hair. I noted the jewellery worn by The Narrator, Grimm and the Witch, who we soon met, all added to the idea of what a fairytale character would feel comfortable wearing. Look closely, to peek at some cleverly hidden clues in their costume and jewellery design!

The fourth character, the Witch (Emily McKendry), had her own back storyline, as did all the characters. One fun part of this interactive theatre involved the audience helping her brew a magic potion to help further their quest. The way that Emily guided this particular scene down in the basement of the house in the deep, cold, stone kitchen was highly entertaining.

Throughout the play, the audience was given several puzzles to solve that immersed them deeper into the storyline. Everyone had to work together to come up with the answer. The group I went through with were all good sports, and we had an opportunity to discuss what certain clues meant to try and figure out the answers. If you were someone who would rather observe than participate, I am sure that the cast wouldn’t have made you do anything.

All four characters appeared to be able to read the room, with their mannerisms tailored to the audience. Odyssey Theatre’s director and writer, Emily McKendry, creatively handmade the clue props, which stood out as original and made for interesting puzzles to solve.

The storyline would suit all ages, as a fairytale does not need to be just for children. I recommend Once Upon A Grimm Night for anyone who would like an hour of doing something different.

It was an interactive theatrical experience that was quite original and uncommon. We became part of the story, and there was something satisfying about it. I could see this experience fitting into a family night out, a unique first date, and everything in between.

All characters presented the story with humour, and their quick-witted quips felt spontaneous and fresh. Once Upon a Grimm Night plays three sessions every Thursday and Friday night throughout July.

Tickets: $49
Venue: Lindesay House
1 Carthona Ave, Darling Point NSW 2027
Season run: Thursday 4 July – Friday 26 July 2024

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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