Neighbourhood Watch

Well meaning neighbours can be wonderful- but when things are taken to the extreme, absolute power will corrupt. Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 75th play is directed by Anna Crawford and set on the right side of the tracks in the English town of Bluebell Hill, just a short distance away from the nasty housing housing estate which is the cause of much angst of the residents. New residents Martin (Brian Meegan) and his sister Hilda (Fiona Press) move into the area and after mistaking a clarinet playing schoolboy for an intruder, Martin and his sister decide its up to them to form a group to protect the neighbourhood. The coppers are not interested in the residents safety so its time to form a quasi vigilante society. Enlisting the support of retired security officer Rod (Bill Young), retired classifieds editor Dorothy (Gillian Axtell) and social misfit and shed tinkerer Gareth (Jamie Oxenbould) – who delightfully just takes things a little too far, absurd rules and regulations are laid down to protect the locals. Not everyone is pleased about the extent to which such “protection” is required- do you really need stocks in the village?! The Discipline and Protection subcommittee think so! Luther (Douglas Hansell), is the most vocal and physical about his objections to the over the top regime created by the self appointed watchers. His wife Magda (Lizzie Mitchell) is not sure which way to go but plumps for safety with the group. Gareth’s wife Amy (Olivia Pigeot), the local siren, finds humour in the whole thing and sets her cap at the seemingly upright Martin. This is a dig at people with nothing better to do than scare monger in a previously well functioning neighbourhood (reflecting the worked up fear that flooded through England after the riots in 2009) – whilst simultaneously exposing the secretive goings on between the village members. A satirical comedy but which for me doesn’t get comedic enough. There are a few laughs but at times its like watching a B grade BBC comedy from the late 70’s. Not one of Sir Alan’s best. When and where: Ensemble Theatre Kirribilli till Jan 24, 2014

Coranderrk

When I saw this play last year at the Opera House, I went home afterwards, ashamed that I knew nothing of this incredible piece of indigenous history. Belvoir and ILBIJERRI theatre have combined to present this work again in Sydney and it has an even more powerful impact with an all indigenous cast. Coranderrk was an Aboriginal Station established in 1863 near Healesville in Victoria. Under the excellent management of a lay preacher John Green, the station flourished and was self sufficient. The indigenous population thrived and were treated with respect and kindness. Because of its success, various lobby groups at the time wanted a piece of the action and the valuable Coranderrk land for white settlers and urged the Board for the Protection of Aborigines to move the indigenous population on. After the dismissal of John Green, the men and women of Coranderrk fought back and after petitions and deputations, an inquiry was held in 1881 which had 69 witnesses, 22 of them Aboriginals. This play is a partial re-enactment of the inquiry presenting the personal testimonies of the sadness suffered by the men and women of Coranderrk after John Green’s dismissal and those that tried to destroy Coranderrk for their own selfish purposes. Whilst the Inquiry ultimately allowed Coranderrk to continue, Victorian politics intervened and the passing of legislation caused it to be closed in 1924. Beautifully directed by Isaac Drandic, this story was brought to being by research from writers Giordano Nanni and Andrea James. A great cast- Jack Charles, Stewart, Kate Beckett, Kelton Pell, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra. At only 1 hour this is a powerful story particularly because of the personal accounts – you cannot help feeling that had John Green been allowed to continue his work, the lives and work of Aboriginal men and women may have been far more valued and a lasting legacy would have ensued. Belvoir.

Waiting for Godot

A stark stage with a leaf less tree – the park where Vladimir (Hugo Weaving) and Estragon (Richard Roxburgh) pass the time waiting for their so called acquaintance Godot to make an appearance.  A chat between friends about nothing much, just two unkempt vagrants meandering through life and not a lot happens until Pozzo (Philip Quast) and Lucky (Luke Mullins) arrive.  A huge presence, Pozzo entertains Vladimir and Estragon with a bizarre existentialist conversation whilst Lucky, looking very much like Lord Malfoy, is intermittently beaten, whipped and poked.

The extraordinary thing in this play is the humour – Vladimir and Estragon are clowns, old friends mucking around.  Their invisibility and meagre importance is highlighted causing them some despair.  Andrew Upton directs the superb acting in this piece after an early departure of Hungarian director Tamas Ascher.  For a bleak play it is quite astonishing how light hearted and uplifting it can be – even though bugger all really happens!.  3 hours with a 20 minute interval.

When and where: Sydney Theatre Company. Hickson Road Walsh Bay. On now.

Summertime in the Garden of Eden

The first thing that hits you about this play is the incredible set designed by Marg Horwell.  A lush and fragrant looking parlour, flowers adorning walls and ceilings and a snowy white carpet of… cotton balls!.  You have arrived at Fairweather, a huge plantation homestead owned by Big Daddy (Bessie Holland).  Larger than life, Big Daddy hosts a party for the return of his prodigal daughter, Honey Sue (Olympia Bukkakis) who ran away on her 16th birthday.  Her younger sister Daisy May (Agent Cleave) is engaged to be married to Clive (Peter Paltos) and is looking forward to her sister’s return.  Yes you think, this is all lovely and romantic …  except this is a high camp spoof where the roles of Honey Sue and Daisy May are played by men wearing fabulous Southern Belle dresses and you get the distinct feeling that you’re in a story that is a cross between a Brazilian soap opera, Gone with the Wind and Little Britain! (Or a very good advertisement for Movember).

This is a production by the Sisters Grimm with words by Ash Flanders and Declan Greene.  At just over an hour it is enough to keep you laughing and slightly gob-struck.

When and where:  On now at Griffin Theatre, Nimrod Street, Kings Cross.

 

 

All my Sons

A superbly acted and incredibly fascinating story, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was written in post WWII America, in a community buoyed by the money making of war. This is a meaty drama about a family whose patriarch has not paid for a crime that he committed but instead has lived a life of deceit which has infected all family relations, the neighbours and other townsfolk who suspect what really occurred.

Joe Keller (Marshall Napier), a successful American businessman made his fortune on the back of the war efforts and is now able to run a more sanitised business.  His wife Kate (Toni Scanlan), has known the truth about her husband’s activities and has kept up appearances all these years.  During the war, due to the pressures of needing to keep up the arms supply, Joe Keller required his former business partner and colleague to patch over defective armaments which were then used in service and which caused the death of 21 American soldiers. Joe never took the blame but he let his former business partner be found guilty and sent to prison.  Son Chris (Andrew) has survived the war (unlike his older brother Larry, for whom his mother grieves but refuses to believe has died in the war). Chris is the idealistic son, who believes that his father has been exonerated.  He is in love with Larry’s girlfriend Anne (Meredith Penman), the dutiful daughter of the wronged business partner of Joe Keller. The lies and deceit unravel and the truth is finally revealed, at a huge cost.

Directed by Iain Sinclair (who also takes the role of Jim Bayliss, the hard working doctor next door) this is a fantastic and exciting debut play for the Eternity Playhouse. Really worth seeing.

On now till 1 December, Eternity Playhouse, Burton Street, Darlinghurst.

Rapture, Blister, Burn

Directed by Sandra Bates, this 2013 Pulitzer Prize winning drama is both a summary of the feminist movement and a tri-generational story about the choices women make and the consequences of those choices.

Kathryn (Georgie Parker) and Don (Glenn Hazeldine) were university sweethearts until Kathryn’s room mate, Gwen (Anne Tenney), stole him and married him.  Many years later Kathryn is a successful academic, single, childless and travelling the world giving talks about her latest feminist publications.  Don and Gwen meanwhile live in suburbia with their two children with Don reaching only the mediocre local heights in his academic profession.  After Kathryn’s mother Alice (Diane Craig) suffers a heart attack in the same town that Don and Gwen live in, Kathryn returns to look after her mother and finds herself teaching a mini summer school class to Don and Gwen’s 21 year old babysitter Avery (Chloe Bayliss). Kathryn and Don’s passion is rekindled and Gwen decides there may be another life for her – or is there?

US playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s writing looks at the perpetually difficult issues of simultaneous career and family for women and places these issues right in the lounge room of discussion.! There is no judgment-just recognisable stories told in a very funny way.

On now at the Ensemble Theatre Kirribilli