Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back from the Wilderness or Belated Update

I am here to announce that the Great Theatre Rebellion of 2014 has finally been put down… kind of. Yes, it’s true. I have seen a hell of a lot of theatre this year - over one hundred productions. I have also reviewed, well, ahem, over one hundred productions. While I enjoy this theatrical diversion I’ve hit the ‘rookie wall’ and can’t sustain the cracking pace. 

Plus I have to, you know, write.

So what’s been happening on that front, Richard?

Thank you for asking fictional & anonymous blog reader.

The sixth draft of the feature script Turbulence has been coming along… slowly. Too slowly but now the stage production obsession is in remission it’s something I’ll be returning to with a vengeance. In related news my director is moving back to Melbourne. I half suspect it’s in protest of my glacial writing ways but apparently it has more to do with the Carlton Football Club and the kind of Victorian lifestyle one doesn’t find in WA. Thank goodness for Skype.

The web series Boondock Alley now has a facebook page and even a website. Not bad for something ‘still in development’ which I believe is the euphemistic term for ‘ain’t nuthin’ been shot yet’. The search for a producer has been ongoing with lots of people “loving the concept”, asking for scripts then never being heard from again. This leads me to a few possible conclusions – the scripts are so fucking awful as to induce the sort of demise one might find in The Ring. You know, after reading the script, your mobile rings and a dodgy ADR track whispers, “seven days”. The prospective producer then loses all possible means of communication in some catastrophic meltdown thus rendering them helpless. Except to post pictures of cats and selfies on various social media platforms. It’s a curious phenomenon! Other conclusions have been self-censored for fear of causing offence.

However, there was a meeting Saturday past at some ungodly hour in the morning as insisted by a complete moron (namely me) where we tried something a little different. A face to face pitch then the physical handing of the Bible and Pilot script to two gentlemen who seemed switched on with strong credentials. One of my actor/producer colleagues received a call 7am Monday morning to say they loved it and were “in”. The way to avoid The Ring style curse is clearly not to email the script – there’s always a loophole in those horror stories! This could be a promising development with talk of a January shoot… let’s see how things progress.

On the very same day, a businessman I met at a producing course who subsequently pitched me a feature film idea on the rooftop of a boutique bar in the city as we celebrated the ending of said course… man, this is a loooooong sentence… *deep breath*… sent me a whole lot of material to read with a view to see if it could be turned into a script. This is after a weird conversation about ISIS, ebola and filmmaking. Only two of those things threaten to destroy the fabric of civilisation as we know it… though there are times it could be all three if someone makes me sit through movies like Godzilla again. 

Oh, hey! Did I mention? I did a producing course!!!! So frustrated with the inability to get short film scripts and the web series made I decided to pretty much splash out on an FTI course in sheer desperation. Six times three hour sessions conducted by Tenille Kennedy who I have known for a while and now have an even greater appreciation for her producing skills. I’m not sure it’s what I really want to do and Tenille has a wealth of experience and knowledge that would take me a long time to acquire. I want someone like her to produce my scripts not try and be her. But it certainly gave me some great insights from a different perspective and oh, hey, did I mention the networking/pitching over drinks thing?

That’s pretty much it other than to say it’s been a strangely film orientated few days with the other director I have developed projects with contacting me out of the blue today and we had a coffee and chat. Maybe it’s all a sign for me to pull my proverbial out and get on with the Turbulence draft… 

PS Australia Post - when someone sends you a certificate in the mail and the envelope says "Please don't bend" it actually means Please don't fucking turn it into an origami swan to get it into the letterbox!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Short Film Update or I Think I Wrote That or A Writer’s Lament

It’s been a shitty week at work. Scrap that, it’s been a shitty month. I’m not usually prone to work related stress but I’ve been feeling it of late – overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activity and the kind of long hours I promised myself I’d never return to when I went back to the corporate world. A state of affairs that I will be redressing as of next week I can assure you, good reader.

It’s fair to say then that I wasn’t my usual witty self when I wandered over to the latest PAC Script Lab reading straight from work. Not helped by the fact that, for some reason (perhaps because it was much warmer in the State Library than the morgue-like temperature my office building is set at?), I suddenly couldn’t hear very well as if my ears were stuffed with cotton wool. I was tired and cranky, a state not immediately solved by free wine. A combination of my general absence from the ‘film scene’ and an unruly winter beard also meant that I was largely incognito. I suspect my general demeanour may have been a contributing factor, another issue to address.

I did, however, have a conversation with the director of Filmbites who is easily one of the nicest people in the local film business. Amongst the general chitchat she gave me an update on the short film Darkness that I wrote in the second half of 2011 after attending two sessions with Filmbites’ advanced acting students in the middle of that year.

Yes, THREE YEARS AGO.

Apparently the footage is looking great, the special effects are now being done, and the producer and director are really happy with some local act that will be doing the music.

My reaction was interesting. I nodded politely and smiled but I had no personal or emotional response as such at all.

Three years ago I created the story from basically two disparate improvisations by those young actors. Initially I wrote, I think, three drafts. Then a director needed to be attached. I had a meeting with the person who would become the director one evening in a café to do the pitch. He came on board but requested changes to the script. This was fine as the basic idea was unaltered – it was mainly tweaking the ending which changed the tone somewhat but that wasn’t a deal breaker. As this was part of an inaugural programme for the film school the goal was to have as strong a script as possible. The director subsequently brought on board an up and coming producer and things were all set. I attended auditions, an entire afternoon of rehearsals in about April 2012, and was on location a few times when the film was finally in production. In other words I was an integral part of the process… up to that point.

Since then I haven’t seen one second of footage or had any input into or even been advised of any creative decisions. I briefly met the editor earlier this year who is an expatriate Western Australian now working in LA (with many impressive assistant editor credits on some big Hollywood films) and she was lovely but talk of possibly seeing an edit ended up being just that, talk.

I understand that as everyone is volunteering their time this was going to be a long process but from being one of the early driving forces I’m not even a bit player anymore. I haven’t had any conversations with the director or producer for ages so I really have no idea what the final film is going to be like. I’ve also lost touch with the actors who’ve gone on to varied things, one now attempting to forge a career in LA. This may be a screenwriter’s fate in the greater scheme of things though a little disappointing given the nature of the programme that was the impetus in the first place. I probably also cast an envious eye at tightknit creative teams like Seventh Continent Productions and others doing well with their short films.

So when I was hearing the update Thursday night I felt very remote from it all. Unfortunate but I guess I did my job a long time ago and once that’s complete my involvement to all intents and purposes is over.

I hope it turns out well.

I suppose I’ll find out the same time everyone else does.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shout outs and Gratuitous Plugs, Part 3 - The Two of Us

Some time ago now I participated in the Professional Partnership Program with the Filmbites Youth Film School. My involvement was in developing what turned out to be two short film scripts based on the improvisations of the school's advanced acting students.

When the first of those scripts was being shot I visited the location one Sunday. As usual, a writer on a film set is a challenge at the best of times. However, there was a young actress there who was playing a background extra. Two things I remember from that day - she would read a book in a quiet corner when not called upon for scenes; and most respectfully asked if she could send me something to read after declaring that she liked my script.

That actress is Shannon Berry and what she sent me was a short story called The Two of Us. What struck me is what a wonderful piece of writing this was from, I think at that stage, a 13 year old. Mature and imaginative it was about a young boy and his shadow and how the two of them deal with the unexpected death of the young boy's father. Told from the shadow's point of view!

Shannon went on to adapt her own short story into a short film script that was subsequently shot for Junior Tropfest for which it was shortlisted.

That film is now up for an audience choice award as part of the ATOM Awards.

Unfortunately, the privacy settings won't let me embed the film but you can view it on Vimeo HERE.

To vote for The Two of Us it is in the "Best Middle School (7–10) Film Production" category on the Atom Awards website HERE.

I have subsequently read more of Shannon's work and she is a talented writer and passionate young actress. So if you like the film PLEASE VOTE!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Little Re-Branding

Ah, branding. Seems to be the buzz word these days.

Given the amount of theatre reviews I've been writing this year, it appears commentary on my screenwriting exploits has been choked to death like the victim of a gloved serial killer.

So I've created a separate blog for my reviews:

PERTH THEATRE REVIEWS

This blog will therefore revert to being:

Screenwriting 101 or Misadventures in WA Film.

No more theatre.

Ever.

Except if I update the wrong blog.

Which is probably highly likely.

Um.

Okay. I'm going to work on my screenplay now...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Theatre Review - The Pillowman (Endless Theatre Company)

Black. Jet black. Black as in you go on a tour of a mine shaft a mile underground and they turn all the lights off BLACK.

Torture. Murder. Not just any murder mind you. The murder of children. In gruesome ways. In horrible ways.

Funny. Sorry? Yes, you read that right. Very funny. If you like your humour JET. FUCKING. BLACK.

But most of all, surprisingly, fabulously, a play about stories, about writing and what it means to be a writer. About taking responsibility for what is written. About where stories come from, even the dark ones – especially the dark ones. About legacy. For what is a writer without their stories?

A play that toys with language, that is full of sly writer jokes, that pokes fun at yet celebrates even the bleakest of tales; but a play that doesn’t shy away from, indeed embraces, the ramifications of what can be wrought when a story enters the world. When a tale enters the imagination of those whose responses are unpredictable. Heinous. Devastating. The culpability of the writer in this and the consequences they face. Be that of their own making or that of external forces represented here as the instruments of a totalitarian state.

As a writer I was gobsmacked. It was an astonishing, dark, twisted metaphor for the creative process. I loved every fucking minute of it.

This is exceptional writing by Martin McDonagh ("one of the most important living Irish playwrights") on every level. Deliciously pointed dialogue; stories within a story told with pride, with sadness, with horror, even with glee; and moments of tenderness and insight amongst the brutality and bluster. Revelations for every character; unexpected reversals; and a beautifully crafted first act climax that would happily cap off most plays. ‘Happily’ being a relative word here. It all ends with a bittersweet moment that is about as ‘lighthearted’ as this play gets but a moment that ties up the tale of the “Pillowman” to telling effect.

The story itself is deceptively simple:

A hooded writer sits in an interrogation room. A “bulldog policeman” and a detective question him and they’re none too subtle about it. The policeman uses brute physical force while the detective belittles and badgers with words. It seems the writer has written stories that bear remarkable resemblance to the murder of three children. In the next room is the writer’s retarded brother. They are both scheduled to be executed by the state. The writer’s stories are used as accusations against him. But will he give up everything to protect them, even his own life?

The performances are uniformly excellent. Jordan Gallagher does so much of the heavy lifting as the writer, Katurian. There is hardly a moment he isn’t on stage and his character swings from fear and disbelief to moments of defiance; to pride and self-loathing, to begging, even cajoling and then soothing his brother. He is also the chief ‘storyteller’ as he recounts his morbid stories and the tale of how they came to be written. It is physically demanding role and he pulls it off well. Anyone who doubts how physical should have seen the golf ball sized egg on his left elbow after the show, the result of being battered and clattered about in the more intense moments of interrogation. 

Kiefer Moriarty-Short is the standout here as the brother, Michal – a tricky role that requires him to be childlike yet cunning and insolent as well. The work between Gallagher and Moriarty-Short in the long scene in the second half of the first act is superb as it swings and oscillates leading to a cracking conclusion. It is a master class in action changes, the scene spiralling off into new directions on the most casual of remarks.

Garreth Bradshaw’s Detective Tupolski deploys cold, smiling charm and sarcasm as he probes for the truth amongst the horror. He also has moments where barely contained rage explodes into life and has a showcase story of his own to tell, dodgy Chinese accent and all.

Bryn Coldrick’s policeman, Ariel, is all coiled anger and he is as likely to use his fists as he is the electrodes connected to a real life battery (that made the audience decidedly uneasy). Yet he also has brief moments of true compassion and understanding that reveal more complexity than we first perceive.

The staging is very simple which is appropriate as it is the writing and acting that are the stars here. There is interesting use of shadowed figures on the white backdrops during the telling of Katurian’s tales that added an unsettling effect as did the lighting and sparse music.

It was in fact quite an intimate location in one of the rehearsal rooms upstairs at the State Theatre seating about 80. A front row seat meant I was mere metres away from the action. The intensity was palpable. I must stress though that this is a darkly funny piece despite the lurid subject matter. Sure, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea as evidenced by one audience member who stood speechless afterwards as if in shock. But for me this is four actors revelling in world class writing and pulling off a stunning show with aplomb.

The aspects that resonated with me the most? As a writer what are you without your stories? What would you be prepared to do to save them? To make sure they carried on long after you are dead? There is also very much an exploration of what makes a writer write the way they do. Good and bad. Without those things could you still write?

Yes, I indeed loved every minute. 

Written by Martin McDonagh, Directed by Rebecca Virginia Williams, and starring Jordan Gallagher, Kiefer Moriarty-Short, Bryn Coldrick & Garreth Bradshaw, there is only one more performance, Saturday 19th April, 8pm at the State Theatre Centre. I'd be there if you haven't seen it. Hood optional.

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Theatre Review – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Garrick Theatre)

John Taylor & Krysia Wychecki
Ah, Shakespeare - generally acknowledged as the greatest writer in the history of Western Civilisation. Intimidating! Yes, I studied him at high school – Henry IV, Part 1 and Hamlet to be precise – but, and here’s the heresy, I generally find his plays a chore. Mine modern ears doth struggle to tune in to the language and odd rhythms and when it’s delivered at breakneck speed as it is so often these days, it leaves me cold.

What a delight then to have that fog lifted with Garrick Theatre’s production of this classic Shakespeare comedy. Talking to the director Peter Clark afterwards, the cast spent the first three weeks of rehearsal concentrating solely on understanding the language. This pays off in spades as I found it much easier to comprehend (and appreciate) the delivery than another version I saw a while ago.

Sure, it still took me a little while to get my ear in (not aided by the distraction of some idiot in the audience using a mobile phone during the early going) but from the moment Helena (Gemma Sharpe) makes her entrance everything snaps into place. Whereas before I was totally lost, this version all made sense. That clarity is great credit to the director and cast who obviously worked hard to make this a priority.

The play is a set of three interweaving stories. Four young Athenian lovers, Lysander (Samuel Tye), Demetrius (Finn Alexander), Hermia (Clare Thomson) and Helena (Gemma Sharpe) journey to a wood near Athens to resolve their romantic entanglements; a troupe of six actors – The Mechanicals – prepare to perform Pyramus and Thisbe at the wedding of the Duke of Athens, Theseus (Jesse Wood) and his bride to be, Hippolyta (Jayden Payne). The actors are Peter Quince (Adrian Wood), Snug (Ben Anderson), Nick Bottom (Rodney van Groningen), Francis Flute (Alan Markham), Tom Snout (David Seman) and Robin Starveling (Melissa Scott).

In the woods, the lovers and actors fall prey to the machinations between the King of the Fairies, Oberon (John Taylor) and his Queen, Titania (Jacqui Warner). Oberon is ably assisted in this by Puck (Krysia Wychecki) who causes all kinds of mischief while Titania has a retinue of fairies (Jayden Payne, Melissa Clements, Dailin Manning and Natasha Smith). The cast is rounded out by Michael Hart as Hermia’s father, Egeus and Natasha Smith also plays Philostrate, the Master of the Revels.

It is a simple set with a lighted tree the centrepiece. Camouflage netting is used across the stage to indicate the woods which also allows for interesting lighting effects as the fairies frolic behind it for example. The costuming is a mix of modern style suits for the men, bold patterns for the women and Wychecki’s Puck is a startling punk like figure.

Jesse Wood & Jayden Payne
A feature of the play is the physical nature of the performances. These are real slaps and blows being exchanged and the cast seem to revel in the high energy levels. The exchanges between Taylor and Wychecki, in particular, are almost brutal at times as Oberon battles with his unruly emissary.

Above all, this is downright funny in parts. The play within a play is hilarious and van Groningen has a ball as Bottom, ass and all. There’s a lot of physical comedy here and the Mechanicals play off each other nicely with pratfalls galore. 

The cast are uniformly good with the work of a vibrant Wychecki and van Groningen the highlight. Tye is a boisterous Lysander and Sharpe very strong as the spurned then desired Helena. The fairies are all suitably playful and Payne reveals a lovely singing voice. Taylor has a commanding presence and Thomson is put through the ringer as Hermia’s fortunes wax and wane. As mentioned, all the Mechanicals play up to the over-the-top nature of Bottom’s antics and their own amusing parts in the sham play.

This is one of three plays being performed as part of the Shakespeare Anniversary Festival, the others being Othello and Macbeth. Three clubs have joined forces to celebrate the 450th anniversary of The Bard’s birth in this way – Garrick Theatre, Kalamunda Dramatic Society and the Darlington Theatre Players. If A Midsummer Night’s Dream is anything to go by, Shakespeare lovers are in for a real treat during the month of April.

***All three plays are being performed at the Marloo Theatre in Greenmount***

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Theatre Review – Pyramus and Thisbe (The Mechanicals)

Picture via Stage Whispers
What a joy to discover that a travelling troupe of actors had descended on the Marloo Theatre in Greenmount to perform the tragedy Pyramus and Thisbe. And what a performance it was! I laughed, I cried, I oohed and aahed, I marvelled at the talent on display. Nick Bottom gives a compelling performance as Pyramus, a simple weaver who longs to be with Francis Flute’s comely Thisbe. Bottom commands the stage with a startlingly naturalistic performance – from whispered exhortations to his beloved to saliva driven tears of grief - he is truly magnificent. It’s difficult to believe Flute is in fact a man such is the skill with which he inhabits the passionate Thisbe.

Between them is a Wall stoutly played by Tom Snout whose ‘chink’ proves more than a mouthful as the lovers communicate with cum hither intensity. What would a doomed romance be without moonlight, capably supplied by Robin Starveling? Starveling adroitly wields a candle whilst walking an uncredited toy dog. The villain of the piece is the oddly named Snug who plays a Lion armed with a fearsome roar. The troupe is rounded out by Peter Quince who delivers a prologue designed to comfort the audience such is the emotional intensity of piece.

The lovers agree to meet after some expertly executed wall talk but Thisbe is beset by the Lion and flees leaving a bloodied scarf at the scene. Pyramus arrives to discover said garment and, fearing the worse, takes his own life such is his devastation. In a heartbreaking moment, Thisbe returns to find Pyramus dead. She (eventually) prises the sword from her lover’s cold, lifeless hands and turns it on herself, the lovers reunited in morbid death.

I was on the edge of my seat. The deaths were vivid, the tragedy shocking. The physicality of the action was so authentic the audience winced at every blow, every thud, every sword thrust. The urgent messaging between Bottom and Flute through Wall’s chink was truly holesome glory. The only downside for me was the heckling of this magnificent group of actors by a bunch of royal prats on the fringe of the stage who clearly did not appreciate the skill and subtlety on display. In a word this was outstanding. No wonder Shakespeare ripped it off for his Romeo and Juliet

Strangely though, there was also a prequel of sorts about how the troupe came to perform this short masterpiece. Something called A Midsummer Night’s Dream or some such nonsense…

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Monday, March 31, 2014

But, didn’t you use to be a screenwriter?

I know what you’re thinking – “Richard, what’s with all the theatre reviews on your blog lately… didn’t you use to be a screenwriter?”

Richard enters stage left and peers out at the audience. Adopts an aggressive stance.

Richard: That’s absurd; of course I’m still a screenwriter.

Audience member: Prove it then!

Richard squints into the lights trying to identify the wag.

Richard: Reveal yourself, Sir/Madam/[insert correct gender salutation for a small child or possibly a verbose animal of some description].

The challenge is met with a slow handclap. Only a few people at first… then dozens of hands in unison. The sound builds in intensity until Richard is brought to his knees, hands clasped to his ears.

Richard: Alright, alright. I confess. I have been tempted by the sins of theatrical endeavour; swayed by the spontaneity of live performance; awed by the camaraderie and passion found in every independent troupe of players. Dazzled by –

Audience: Get off!

Richard is pelted with rotten fruit, robust vegetables, and random pieces of furniture. He beats a hasty retreat to –

FADE IN:

INT. CAFÉ – NIGHT

Richard sits in his favourite writing haunt and laments the fact that the inability to format blogger correctly for the difference between stage and screen directions dilutes the visual effect intended for this convoluted introduction… 

Yes! I AM still writing!!! Spasmodically. Imprecisely. Incrementally.

The fifth draft of Turbulence was delivered to the director a little while ago and I have read his summary of what needs to be addressed in the next draft. I should, at this very moment, be reading his detailed notes embedded in the pdf version of the script but, of course, I forgot to bring the flash drive with me (Richard pelts himself with rotten fruit). In short, the next pass will be a character one. Progress has indeed been made - the comments count has gone from 83 to 43… or maybe I just fixed all the typos. Anyone who was at the PAC Script Lab reading a year ago would certainly recognise the story but there have been a lot of changes, especially in the second half of the script. Now we dig further and keep evolving and improving our characters.

I also finished the fourth episode of Boondock Alley, the web series set in a doctors’ surgery for the Undead. It was the hardest episode to write to date… and the darkest but the actors have responded with unanimous praise. This is flattering but also makes me a little nervous as I know it requires work. I suspect I need a critical eye to push me like Tim (director) does with Turbulence. However, it looks like we’re positioning for a tilt at ScreenWest’s newly announced Elevate funding scheme. So there will be a renewed focus on all the elements though I’m more than happy with progress to date. Ah yes, the joys of funding applications - writer’s notes!

Working fulltime has largely cut me off from the creative zeitgeist as I no longer have time to laze about on weekdays talking scripts, films and the like. It was a great pleasure then to go to the premiere of SeventhContinent Productions’ short film Rat Tale last week. Not only was it a terrific film but I caught up with many filmmaking colleagues I had not seen in a long time.

Yes, I am going to a fair amount of theatre and have even become a Friend of the Academy (WAAPA). Sometimes this is for sheer stress relief as my corporate job has burst into glorious chaos the last month. But mostly it is to experience the wonderful talent we have in Perth. I enjoy writing reviews and I figure that’s no big ask given the quality of shows I regularly encounter at a usually inexpensive cost. This year I’ve set myself to write something about every production I attend. In the past I tended to only write reviews for the shows I enjoyed. It’s time to man up and cast a critical yet constructive (hopefully) eye over every production.

But rest assured I’m still tapping away at the keyboard working on my own creative endeavours!

The stage curtains open. Richard bows deeply to rapturous applause… spots a half-eaten apple near the footlights, mid bow. Reaches for it… begins to topple… the crowd laugh. The curtains close. Thud. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Theatre Review - The Hound of the Baskervilles (ARENAarts)

Ever popular, Sherlock Holmes seems to be everywhere lately – Guy Ritchie’s big screen adaptations, competing small screen versions on both sides of the Atlantic, and now he’s treading the boards in Belmont, played by actress Amanda Watson no less. Yes, The Hound of the Baskervilles has come to community theatre via ARENAarts and a “very silly adaptation”.

That may actually be an understatement. The script throws pretty much everything at the story of Henry Baskerville travelling to the moors of Dartmoor from Canada as the only living heir to the family fortune after the death of Sir Charles Baskerville under mysterious circumstances. There is physical comedy, skits, pranks, high farce, and constant asides to the audience; the actors breaking character to comment on events, deliberately missed cues, a marauding stage manager, groan inducing jokes, running gags, sight gags, and inspired mischief with props and sound. The comedy is of that particular English vein of pantomime meets Benny Hill meets Monty Python.

Does it all work? For me, no - the humour is very hit and miss at times but the writers of the adaptation, Steve Canny and John Nicholson, know this and pepper their version with self-aware commentary about the more suspect gags, the acting, the script, the crew and staging. So much is thrown at the wall, however, that plenty of it sticks and I was laughing throughout.  

The story stays true to the spine of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic with suitable exaggeration for comedic effect. I will admit it was all a little too scattergun for me during the first act but the second act starts with a bang and by the end I was sold on all the silliness.

This is in no small part to the work of the three actors - Amanda Watson, Bree Vreedenburg, and Rachael Maher - who were all excellent in a physically demanding production. Playing multiple characters with rapid scene and costume transitions with an array of sound cues meant that they were certainly kept on their toes.

Watson is very good as Holmes (I love the irony!), to such an extent that I missed this onstage persona in the second half of the first act as the story focusses on Doctor Watson and Henry Baskerville’s journey to Dartmoor. Here she plays an array of characters – Stapleton, Cecile, Barrymore and his wife, a weird yokel (with a very funny Godfather sight gag) and a hermit. Not to say she’s not good at these (she is) but I loved the confidence and drollness Watson exudes as Holmes. 

Bree Vreedenburg in many ways grounds the whole production as she is allowed to play Watson throughout with only one other character change (another yokel). There is an earnestness and naivety here that is endearing amongst all the lunacy. Vreedenburg’s Watson also acts as de facto narrator and the butt of many of Holmes’ jibes (face palm).

Rachael Maher also has multiple characters – initially Sir Charles Baskerville, Doctor Mortimer, the cabbie and another yokel but it is in the main role of Sir Henry Baskerville that she really shines. Maher has a gift for physical comedy and was a delight as the sometimes preening, sometimes lovelorn, sometimes pant-less Henry.

They are given great support by Jane Sherwood as the Faceless Stage Manager who not only moves props around but audibly corrects the pronunciation of names and has her own moment of craziness as she provides the sound effects and movements that accompany the reprise of the first act.

This is where it all clicked into place for me – the second act starts with Amanda Watson (as Watson not Holmes… stay with me here) haranguing the audience and then demanding the first act be restaged to prove a point. This compressed retelling is hilarious and really propels the story to its climax as the dastardly fiend is uncovered and the hound slain.

The set is ingeniously designed to allow for swift scene transitions with a simple backdrop for the moor and a back wall that had panels that could be moved to represent Baker Street or Baskerville Manor. There was even a subtle sight gag when the moor backdrop was only partially raised - revealing two thirds of Baskerville Manor - where the two actors crouched to the adjusted level.

The sound effects were playful, being out of synch a lot of times with the actions on stage. The music was full of appropriately silly pop culture references from Stars Wars to Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Godfather.

But the stars here are Watson, Vreedenburg and Maher who give full tilt performances and embrace the overriding absurdity of it all with great energy and charm.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is directed by Simon James and is on at the Latvian Club in Belmont with shows Thursday through Saturday, 3-5 April at 8pm.

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Theatre Review - The Standover Man (Subiaco Arts Centre)

I attended opening night of The Standover Man which is on at the Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Independent Theatre Festival and runs until Saturday.

I couldn't have been more impressed. This is a beautifully written, performed and staged play. I am going to be a little oblique about the story because the writing is excellent and the play unfolds with great skill to reveal its secrets and mysteries. That journey really needs to be experienced first hand.

Suffice to say, it is a set of stories that collide in various ways:

A standover man (Mario Piccoli) who hears the voice of Joan of Arc, takes in an angry teenager (Esther Longhurst) who wants to fight the world.

An accountant (Nick Maclaine) who is also a hitman for the mob, starts a relationship with a divorcee (Laura Hopwood) after they have a minor car accident.

Then there are the two tales narrated by Joan of Arc herself (Laura Hopwood). Theo Messenger gives added support in various roles.

I admit, at first, I was a little unsettled and confused about the narrated tales but their purpose and significance slowly become crystal clear to devastating effect. The introduction to each character and their predicament is handled with a "knock" (the standover man coming to collect money from the teenager), a "bang" (the accountant and divorcee exchanging details after a minor bingle), and a "smile" (the accountant capably dispatches a nightclub owner for his "boss"). Swirling around this are the machinations of the underworld as a merger is threatened by the rash actions of the teenager. It all barrels towards a surprising climax and a subtle yet telling punctuation point of a reprise that hints that this tale will forever be ongoing.

The performances are very good. Esther Longhurst is outstanding as the teenager who has a point to prove and will take on anyone to do so. Nick Maclaine turns on the charm as he woos the divorcee but is nothing less than businesslike carrying out his underworld duties. Mario Piccoli's eponymous character is an interesting mix of menace with a softer side (the fastidious care of his precious rose bush) with a dash of "crazy" as he responds to the Joan of Arc in his head. Laura Hopwood shines as the uncertain single mother and the imploring French historical figure.

The latter character is an unusual but inspired choice as a real curve ball that adds another dimension to the type of seedy criminal setting we've seen before. There is also a healthy dash of black humour.

The staging is inventive with interesting use of lighting - hand held torches give mood and atmosphere as characters are cast in shadow or highlighted accordingly. Lots of darkness and stillness as well. The stage itself is economical with the bed doubling as a car (again with the use of simple lighting props), a kitchen table, a picketed back section and a side wall with door. The transitions between scenes are seamless.

This really is impressive - a tight script, wonderful performances, all immaculately staged. With only three more performances remaining I highly recommend The Standover Man.

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Theatre Review - The Townspeople and the Plague (Murdoch Theatre Company)

I arrived early at Murdoch University for the 12pm matinee because, having never been to the Drama Workshop before, I wanted to make sure I had time to find it on campus. Turns out this was pretty easy. However, this meant I was the first one there and was let in by the play’s director, Kate Willoughby. I had a good chat with Kate and members of front of house as they arrived – about the background of the Murdoch Theatre Company, the selection of the play, their theatre interests and ambitions, even a discussion about the WAAPA productions I’d seen during the week. It was a relaxing and interesting preface to the performance.

There were notes about the play from Kate and the writer, Anthony KJ Smith on a pin board along with a cast list (should have paid more attention Richard) and some photos. I hastily read the playwright’s notes where he himself admits this is a “wanky piece of theatre".
 

Okay, he’s not going to get an argument from me on that score. This has been deliberately written to be obtuse and to play with and subvert audience expectations. Overlapping dialogue, self-referential ‘stage directions’, asides about storytelling devices, nonsensical monologues, an inexplicable vaudeville number, a slither of plot, plenty of slapstick and even a minute’s silence for no apparent reason. Yet it all kind of works because the actors commendably commit to the material and largely play it straight. If this had too much “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” the show would have collapsed under the pretensions of the script.
 

Indeed, there is more than a healthy dose of Monty Python here – with the dramatic entrance of ‘The Fucking Plot’ (also known as Imogen) we get a monologue introducing a tale that could be straight out of a Python-esque universe. Edgar the Fourth, however, turns out not to be the protagonist of this tale. That falls to Proxy-shit who fights the good fight for someone or another against something or another with fabulous success and/or failure… I can’t recall. But that’s of little interest to the writer who also plays with faux philosophical discourse and musings. I mean, one of the characters is even a Viking, played with scene stealing intensity by Rhianna Hall. Oh, there’s even a werewolf… and a dance number… and very large genitals. Yes, it’s that kind of play.
 

The narrator, Sylvia, dispenses actual stage directions in a suitably droll fashion and we even have a little Avenue Q style hand puppet work going on. A stagehand occasionally features, interacting with the cast and determining the fate of the moon. Yes, it’s all very self-aware and clever but there are genuinely funny moments as well as the ‘what the hell am I witnessing’ excursions.
 

As a young woman behind me remarked to her friends after it had all finished, “I really liked it… I just don’t know why.” That actually sums up my feelings as well. This is absurdist and perhaps trying far too hard to be clever but it has a committed cast giving good performances with many funny and entertaining moments. Just don’t ask me what it all means. From the gist of the writer’s notes I don’t think he even knows and I suspect that’s the point!
 


For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Theatre Review - Hair (WAAPA)

The power of any good performance art is to transport an audience to another time, another place; to immerse that audience in the world of the story and its characters; to shed light and understanding on that world and its inhabitants whether it is a vision of the future, a reflection of the past or even pure fantasy. Hair is neither science fiction nor fantasy but it does represent a specific period of time and place that may be as foreign in many ways to a modern day audience as the most outlandish of tales that grace our screens, small and large. 

The hippie culture with its celebration of freedom and love within the context of the Vietnam War and the ever present threat of conscription and overbearing authority is unique and vibrant. Around it swirled the sexual revolution, a formative era of rock and roll where icons were forged, and the celebration of drug culture. It was also a time of war and the questioning of America’s moral authority and indeed of authority figures as a whole.

I write this as a preface because I was not there. Well, barely around when the original production first opened on Broadway in 1968. I was, however, certainly there on Wednesday night. And that is a great tribute to all involved with this excellent production. I was taken to that time and place. I did experience a window into this culture and its inhabitants. I saw the joy, the love, the confusion, the anger, the tragedy. I also witnessed a group of wonderfully talented third year musical theatre students from WAAPA strut their stuff and, oh my, how they strutted and cavorted and danced and sang and entertained.

The cast was uniformly excellent from Daniel Berini’s charismatic Berger to Du Toit Bredenkamp’s conflicted and ultimately tragic Claude; Sophie Stokes was in fine voice as Sheila Franklin with the superb ‘Easy to Be Hard’ and ‘Good Morning Starshine’,while Shannen Chin-Quan gave a lovely rendition of ‘Frank Mills’. Lyndon Watts (Hud) and Stephen Madsen (Woof) were also prominent with Eloise Cassidy a convincing “earth mother” as the pregnant Jeanie. Chloe Wilson threatened to steal the show with her hilarious Margaret Mead a highlight. But there were many of those from wonderful renditions of ‘Aquarius’, ‘Hair’, ‘Where Do I Go?’ and the joyous ‘Let the Sunshine In’ that concludes the show to the drug trip sequence and the tasteful handling of the trademark nudity as the cast strip down in the face of the horrors of war projected behind them.

The main players were more than ably supported by the rest of the cast who had a wonderful sense of energy and chemistry as they genuinely enjoyed the playful choreography and playground style set. Then there was the eight piece band that was in terrific form led by musical director David King.

This really was a superb production that showcased a very strong third year class. Congratulations to director (and choreographer) Tanya Mitford and all the crew and support staff. Kudos especially to the cast comprising: Max Bimbi, Nick Eynaud, Ashleigh Rubenach, Stephen Madsen, Sophie Stokes, Daniel Berini, Chloe Wilson, Suzie Melloy, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Lyndon Watts, Patrick Whitbread, Rebecca Hetherington, William Groucutt, Ben Adams, Jack Van Staveren, Shannen Chin-Quan, Eloise Cassidy, Sophie Cheeseman, Miranda MacPherson and Jessica Voivenel. 

In closing, I bumped into a friend who saw the Australian production in 1969 that featured Marcia Hines. He remarked that some 45 years later all the songs came flooding back and that WAAPA had done a wonderful job in recreating the feeling of that time. 

Yes, for a couple of hours we were indeed transported to a different time and place…

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Theatre Review - Beach (WAAPA)

There is perhaps no more iconic an Australian image than a sun drenched beach at summertime. A place where Australians of all descriptions and backgrounds come to frolic, to play, to escape the unrelenting sun; sometimes to reflect, sometimes to dream of a better future.

Timothy Daly’s sprawling play examines the beach’s place in Australia’s national conscience from the time of the first white settlers until the present day. It is a presented as a series of vignettes - some that intertwine, most that explore an aspect of our heritage. It has a strong multi-cultural flavour and touches on political issues, notably the prejudice against those who come to our shores to share such blessings.

This version has been fortunately edited down from the original’s script of 300 pages and, I believe, 130 characters, to a more manageable running time. With a cast of 20 second year musical theatre students there is still room for some 80 characters. In other words it’s a big undertaking. The set is simple – a rostrum and a sand pit – with three separate entry points for the actors in the Enright Studio.

Talking to the director afterwards, this was the acting debut of many of the students in front of a paying audience. There is some singing – enough to be excited for future musical productions – but this is mainly a mix of comedy, drama, and skits. I’m not sure it entirely worked for me as a coherent play but it did showcase the talent of the second year musical theatre class. Everyone had an opportunity to shine and the production went without a hitch.

The first act ends on the impending doom of the 2004 tsunami which was a strong, emotional climax as multiple story strands came together in that moment. But also highlights the problematic nature of the piece which became more apparent in the much darker second act where I was unsure of the thematic relevance of several scenes. Allegations of rape, the continuation of a (deliberately) uncomfortable story strand that involved a young girl and an older ‘friendly’ man (the conclusion of which was subtly handled), a drug overdose, other revelations and reversals. There was even a moment where the drug victim is confronted by an early settler only to realise she is now a ghost. This was an interesting development but came late and was soon discarded.

Other strands were forgotten like the fate of Harold Holt – the second one that is, playing the part of the famously missing Prime Minister, who himself went missing. What these darker moments did do, however, was give the actors real drama to sink their teeth into and these scenes are well handled. If this is the acting debut of many in the cast then their efforts were all the more impressive.

A narrator is deployed but breaks the fourth wall soon after the buoyant opening sequence to directly welcome the audience to Beach but this seemed late and a technique sporadically and half-heartedly used - not by the performer I hasten to add but in the writing itself.

There is plenty of humour throughout, particularly the discovery of the joy of “picnics” by an otherwise chaste settler; and the fate of a screenwriter on location at the beach for the adaptation of his own novel was of personal amusement - “I am the creator of the piece”, he protests as he is escorted far, far away by security!

At its best Beach is a joyous celebration of a unique aspect of Australian life and is a most promising beginning to the year for this class of students. I very much look forward to seeing their future productions.

Directed by Michael McCall and featuring the WAAPA second year musical students: Alex Thompson, Baylie Carson, Callum Sandercock, Chris Wilcox, Daniel Ridolfi, Harrison Prouse, Heather Manley, Jacob Dibb, Jess Phillippi, Joe Meldrum, Joel Granger, Kate Thomas, Matilda Moran, Matthew Hyde, Megan Kozak, Morgan Palmer, Rosabelle Elliott, Tanele Storm Graham, Taryn Ryan and Tayla Jarrett.

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Theatre Review - Subscription to Love

This is a new, locally written play by Will Dunlop that had a three night run at Playlovers in Floreat. I must apologise in advance as I saw the production on its last night and they had no programs left so I am unable to name the actors. The good news, as the gentlemen behind the bar informed me, is that they had not expected such a strong audience turnout over the run, hence the lack of programs. Indeed it was a full house for the last show.

At its heart Subscription to Love, as the title suggests, is a story about the romantic entanglements of two pairs of friends – Claire and Anna, Jamie and Elliott – who meet at a Sunday session. The girls flirt with the boys with Claire attracted to newly single Jamie while Anna talks with a struggling Elliott who is gay but determined to be the “wingman” for his friend who he is in love with.

Billed as a “modern day tragi-comedy” it’s curious then that it was written in iambic pentameter or, as one lady during intermission described to her friends, “they all talk like Yoda”. This, at times, sat uncomfortably with the actors, especially early where lines were often stumbled over. A few of the actors delivered the dialogue at breakneck speed so it also made it difficult to follow the flow. I had a sense that lines were being recited rather than a character being inhabited. That may have more to do with the wildly ambitious nature of the writing than the actors themselves. A lot of the play was also constructed as soliloquies which fits the language but not the modern day setting as much.

There were moments though where the choice of language worked nicely – Jamie’s jilted ex-lover Jessica imploring Claire to mention his name which she finally does after playfully avoiding the fact in rhyme. And the waiter at Claire and Jamie’s first ‘sober date’ intervening to ensure things go smoothly. There was some sly humour using the form though overt distortions of Shakespeare, particularly something as iconic as “To be or not to be” flirted with dilution by comparison.

A Shakespearean style narrator of sorts was also deployed – Harold the Hobo – who kicks the play off but then becomes a major player and is a catalyst for the tragedy that unfolds late. This was performed with theatrical flourish which tended to grate late in the play and also was at odds with more understated performances such as Jamie. I’m not entirely sure what a lot of his commentary contributed and this is a major issue I had with the play. Added to the story of the two friends was a raft of unrelated scenes where characters gave stand and deliver style dissertations on political issues - everything from the mining boom to asylum seekers to indigenous reconciliation to gay rights and even shark culling.

This was jarring to say the least regardless of what your politics may be (Abbott and Barnett come in for typical condemnation). One character, the barfly, was purely a device to facilitate these diatribes. The indigenous barmaid was her ‘wingman’ in this regard though she does have some involvement in the late second act complications. I had the distinct feeling that this was the writer talking directly at the audience. The problem with this is threefold – I don’t go to the theatre to be lectured at; it took up valuable time - this play ran about 2 hours 10 minutes on a slim premise as it was; it was very specific and localised (additions must have been made to the script within the last week or so to incorporate current hot topic issues) which will date the play. 

There was even an early soliloquy by (the fit looking Jamie) about obesity which was reprised but left me confused as there was no hint of this in his opening scene where he seemed the more confident of the two friends.

His friend Elliot has the most interesting arc and is generally well played by the actor. He befriends Harold (though why we need a lecture on early Australian explorers was a mystery) who responds to his “benevolence”. Of all the intrusive political commentary, at least the question of gay rights has some relevance as Elliott struggles with his feelings for Jamie and the quest to find love. 

SPOILERS

Strange then for a play that bluntly trumpets a certain political viewpoint, that it is the gay man, Elliott, who is king hit coming to Harold’s aid (in response to a late, random act of thuggery) and subsequently dies. He was on his way to a date with Michael(?) the waiter having finally found the possibility of love. Claire and Jamie are seemingly reunited by this tragedy by the end of the play. This is after Jamie’s ex, Jessica, had accosted both Jamie and Claire declaring herself to be pregnant thus causing Claire to withdraw. Jessica later commits suicide by throwing herself under the train Jamie was on. We never see Jamie’s reaction to this, indeed all he appears to know is that the train has been annoyingly delayed.  

In summary there is great ambition here but it is unfocussed. The play seems to begin as a possible Closer style relationship drama but then is diffused by unrelated political commentary. The running time is far too long and characters such as Anna disappear for an eternity only to be brought back as the late tragedy unfolds. I should have twigged early when Anna declared she was an emergency nurse. Harold has his moments but tends to overstay his welcome. Ultimately I don’t know what the play is saying about love – Elliott is ‘punished’ for finding love whereas Jamie seems ‘rewarded’ by ending up with Claire with no discernible effort. The plan that was hatched by Elliott and the barmaid to bring Jamie and Claire together comes to nought as the tragedy takes precedence.

It is here where I would concentrate – the spine of the story between the friends and their entanglements – and downplay the political discourse which, while passionate, distances and distracts. 

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fringe World 2014

I finally woke from my Fringe World slumber - a programme of 450 shows had me in mental and credit card gridlock every time I looked at it - to see some shows in our fair but warm city of Perth. With extra venues such as The Pleasure Gardens in Russell Square and a converted Piccadilly Cinemas off the Hay Street Mall the city was certainly buzzing with the Cultural Centre and the ever popular Urban Orchard the focal point. The festival is a welcome month long binge of colour and life with productions as varied as cabaret, burlesque, circus, stand-up and all kinds of theatre.

I have created a facebook page for my theatre reviews at Perth Theatre Reviews but here are excerpts from my thoughts on (full review via the link for each one):

Point & Shoot

"At 75 minutes this moves so briskly and the audience I was with lapped it up. The talent on display is impressive - all four actors play everything from piano to saxophone to flute to cello while changing into several characters as the screenwriter and his muse battle the independents, greed, ambition and surprise antagonists at every turn."

The Fifteen Minute Hamlet

"A curious beast with Stoppard more interested in being mischievous with The Bard's tragedy than anything more substantial."


"A front row seat meant I was only 2-3 metres away from (Gillian) Cosgriff who proved to be a vivacious, witty, and very charismatic presence as she combined original songs with insights into her life and that of her generation, those of the already nostalgic mid-twenties."


"It’s an uncomfortable tale, deliberately so, and certainly shocked the audience I was with. It makes its point in no uncertain terms but I was left with a sense that there is far more to explore in this dark, twisted world Jeffrey Jay Fowler has created."

What were some of the shows you saw and your favourites?

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Theatre Review - Closer (Koorliny Arts Centre)

Take a razor sharp script, four talented and committed actors, a fresh approach from a first time director then add an original score played live and you end up with this excellent production of Patrick Marber's Closer.

Marber's script is first class, delighting in pointed and brutal verbal exchanges, wry observations of modern relationships and deliberately shocking language such as the infamous chat room scene. It plays with time as these four people become entwined in each others lives for good and bad over several years. Love, sex, truth, sexual politics, intimacy and betrayal are all fair game here. This isn't a delicate examination, however. This is warts and all with real anger and hurt amongst the declarations of love and moments of tenderness. All is underlined by an almost cruel and biting wit.

The acting across the board is very good - Brodie Masini as Dan, the failed novelist who writes obituaries whilst also masquerading as something altogether different online; Natasha Stiven as the mysterious and vulnerable stripper Alice; Jason Dohle as Larry, the doctor who becomes embroiled in proceedings after Dan's online practical joke; and Diana Oliver as the photographer, Anna, who falls for Dan's advances at a photo shoot and later Larry at their "chance" meeting.

In fact they are very good indeed. Masini's Dan is the more idealistic and earnest of the two men compared to Dohle's passionate and temperamental portrayal of Larry. Oliver's Anna is down to earth and grounded while Stiven's Alice is playful yet fragile. The characters are so well drawn that each actor can really throw themselves at the material and what a volatile mix it is.

Relationships wax and wane as revelations of deceit and betrayal cause major shifts in the power dynamic between each of them. There was never a moment I didn't believe the truth of what was being portrayed in what is a complex emotional journey for all of these characters. There are also scenes that require total commitment, notably the strip club scene at the start of the second act. Kudos then to all four actors for their fine performances.

The set is minimal with draped sheets forming the entire backdrop with cutaways for entrances/exits. This was used ingeniously to project images onto to give a sense of place like moving fish at the Aquarium or stills at the Art Museum... and of course the explicit online chat between Larry and Dan (posing as Anna). It also allowed "opening credits" (like a movie) to be shown and my only regret is when I discovered later there was no programme and therefore should have been playing more attention to these!

Scene changes are made swiftly and economically and there are occasions when pairings of actors are playing scenes side by side. This works seamlessly especially the sequence when both women leave their respective lover.

A key decision was not only to utilise an original score - written by Kohan van Sambeeck - but to have himself (piano) and Stephanie-Jane Lewendon-Lowe (violin) perform on stage behind the sheeted backdrop. This added enormously to the tone and immediacy of the action without ever being intrusive. Great to see then both musicians come on stage to take a bow as they are an integral part of what is an, at times, in your face and nothing less than compelling production.

Directed by Jack McKenzie and Produced by Craig Griffen with an original score written by Kohan van Sambeeck, Closer is a treat. I would tell you to go and see it but, alas, the run is already over. It does, however, show that the Koorliny Arts Centre is off to a cracking 2014 with this and Young Frankenstein already having been staged. I look forward to my next trip down the freeway to Kwinana!

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"It’s pronounced Fronkensteen!" (Young Frankenstein the Musical Review)

Lured by the sound of a lone French horn I embarked on a hay ride to Castle Frankenstein located in deepest, darkest Kwinana for a little transference, a lot of mania and some deep love. Yes, Young Frankenstein the Musical was on the loose at the Koorliny Arts Centre and what a rampage it is.

I was greeted by the flickering of lightning, the crack of thunder and a suitably ominous stage. It’s 1933 Transylvania and the villagers are celebrating the death of the infamous Doctor Frankenstein (The Happiest Town). But their happiness is disturbed when it’s announced that a Frankenstein yet lives in New York City of all places. Here we find the good doctor’s grandson Frederick Frankenstein or as he insists, “Fronkensteen”. A scientist, he is fascinated by the brain (The Brain) but ashamed of the family name.

On hearing the news of his grandfather’s death he reluctantly leaves New York and the hands-off charms of his fiancée, Elizabeth (Please Don’t Touch Me) and heads to the family castle where he meets the hunchback Igor (pronounced eye-gore), his lab assistant Inga and the wonderfully strange Frau Blucher (obligatory neigh). Entreated to continue the family business by the ghost of his grandfather (Join the Family Business) young Frederick begins his descent into mad scientist territory and a Monster is duly created with unexpected and hilarious results.

Based on the Mel Brooks’ movie of the same name, it exhibits the typical Brooks sense of humour as it parodies the horror genre. The gags can be a little hit and miss but I generally found this very funny. It is also performed and directed with great verve and there are many wonderful set pieces.

But first, the performances.

Jesse Angus is superb as Frederick Frankenstein, a character that is cocky, arrogant, even smarmy when we first meet him in New York but becomes the brilliant mad scientist as he recreates and then exceeds his grandfather’s greatest triumph. Angus attacks the role with impressive energy and the appropriate level of mania as “Fronkensteen” indeed embraces the family business. He has excellent chemistry with Igor played with relish by Laurence Williams; and Brooks’ archetypal Scandinavian blonde, Inga, played by a sparkling Sarah Elizabeth Hubber. Williams’ comic sidekick, hump and all, adds plenty of sly humour while Hubber gets to be both ditzy and sexy to great effect.

Natalie Burbage’s Frau Blucher (neigh) is suitably over-exaggerated as the mysterious housekeeper; Jon Lambert an imposing Monster whose howls of frustration and despair become something far more articulate in the latter stages; and Allen Blachford’s Dr. Frankenstein looms over proceedings with a couple of pivotal scenes.

The unexpected visit to Transylvania by Georgia McGivern’s Elizabeth (Surprise) in the second act is the catalyst for all sorts of shenanigans, one of which leads to her revelatory number Deep Love. Daniel Burton’s Inspector Kemp rallies the villagers to storm the castle but it’s his blind Hermit that provides one of the highlights as he unknowingly entertains the Monster (Please Send Me Someone).

Other highlights:

The beautifully staged Roll in the Hay as Frederick and Inga make their way to the castle in the back of a hay wagon… with yodelling;

Victor Frankenstein (and ancestors) exhorting his grandson to continue his work in Join the Family Business;

Natalie Burbage’s crazy, frantic, bodice ripping He Vas My Boyfriend;

The Monster becoming animated in Life, Life;

And the show-stopping numbers Transylvania Mania that closes out the first act, and, of course, the delightful Puttin’ on the Ritz where Frederick shows off his Monster in all his tap stomping, coat and tails glory.

The ensemble gives great support as variously villagers, students, ancestors and the band were very good. The transition between scenes was handled effectively with a screen also used to indicate the setting (laboratory etc) and project images such as the late Doctor Frankenstein.

This is crazy and high camp at times but it works due to a talented cast committed to the absurdity of it all. I certainly found myself laughing along merrily and tapping my feet to several of the numbers.

Directed by Brad Tudor, Musical Directors Kate McIntosh & Taui Pinker, with Choreography by Hillary Readings, Young Frankenstein has three more shows at the Koorliny Arts Centre on Friday 31st January at 8pm and 1st February at 2pm and 8pm. 

In a word, this show is Alive! 

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.