Sophocles’ Theban plays are among the all-time greatest stories in literature, and along with Aeschylus and Euripides, was one of the great dramatists of the Athenian Golden Age. Mythic, epic and created on a grand scale, Sophocles’ plays changed theatrical form as it was then known and became classics of their time and for all time. Presented here by independent company Furies at Darlinghurst’s Tap Gallery’s intimate downstairs theatre, Antigone is, alongside Oedipus the King (or Oedipus Rex as it is more commonly known), perhaps his most well known play. The story of Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, it tells the struggle of how she strove to give her brother Polyneices the burial he deserved. Defying the order of the king, she faces the consequences of her actions, setting in motion a tragic (albeit preventable) train of events.
I first discovered Ross Mueller’s Construction of the Human Heart in 2008 or 2009, in the university library, and became fascinated by its conceit, its design and its delicious ambiguity, but until now have not had a chance to see it performed. Enter then, Apocalypse Theatre Company with their current production currently playing at the intimate Tap Gallery theatre in Darlinghurst. Written in one act, Mueller’s play unfolds with a directness and a beguiling fragility, and exposes the very constructedness of theatre.
Perhaps better called ‘Deconstructing theatre’, the story revolves around a Couple, two unnamed characters, simply referred to as ‘Him’ and ‘Her’. They are both playwrights, we discover, and as the play unfolds over its lean sixty-five minutes, they build around themselves as much as us a fortress of words. But, like the best defences, it begins to crack, until their words crack open, meaning bleeding onto the stage, and they desperately cling to their disappearing words, to themselves, to each other, trying to remember how to go on, how to Be.
There’s an old quote of uncertain origin, which you are no doubt familiar with: ‘Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, well, it’s too dark to read.’ That’s kind of been me recently – the book as man’s best friend, I mean, not the inside a dog part – and it’s funny in a way how much more enjoyable reading is when you’re reading for pleasure – reading for no other reason than to read, reading because you want to – and not because you have to read.
You know the film, Strictly Ballroom. Scott, a young dancer, bored by the convention and rigourous boundaries of competitive dancing, longs to break free and dance his own steps at the championships. When he dances with beginner Fran, he finds a kindred spirit, and together (with the help of her Spanish family) they take on the dance federation and win their way into the hearts of everyone. You loved the film, you and countless millions the world over. You’re familiar, too, with Baz Luhrmann’s ‘red curtain’ aesthetic that pervades his first three films and which, for better or worse, continues to define his career. Now, thirty years after beginning life as a half-hour student production at NIDA, Strictly Ballroom the Musical explodes onto Sydney’s Lyric Theatre stage with as much colour, light, glitter and glamour as anything else Luhrmann has devised.
Produced here in partnership with Global Creatures – the Melbourne-based company responsible for the King Kong musical, the How To Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular, and the Australian tour of War Horse – Baz Luhrmann and his usual collaborators have brought us a musical which wears its price-tag on its ruffled sleeve, figure-hugging sequined costumes and elaborate sets. Yet, while the film had heart by the bucketload, something is lost in translation here, as the story completes its circular journey from theatre to film and back again.
Described as a shape-shifting theatrical puzzle, Marius von Mayenburg’s Perplex is, well, a perplexing series of scenes, each interconnected with those immediately either side of it, but otherwise a standalone vignette of exquisite absurdism. Directed by Sarah Giles, Perplex is playing in
Company’s Wharf 1
theatre, and it’s quite a giddy night of theatre. Sydney
Wearing his inspiration on his sleeve, von Mayenburg takes a leaf out of Pirandello’s legendary Six Characters in Search of an Author and spins a chameleonic rhapsody of a reality-fuck out of the endless possibilities afforded by two doors and four actors. Like a giant game of Thank God You’re Here or musical chairs, whenever someone decisively exits or enters through a door, the scene changes, and the scene starts anew, an endless series of possibilities and multiple universes just waiting to be explored.
Music, produced by Stories Like These and playing at Griffin Theatre, is a “sharp critique of the way mental illness is perceived today,” and digs deeper to fathom the “consequences of raiding people’s personal lives in the name of art.” Written by Jane Bodie, it is the story of two actors (Sarah and Gavin) who befriend a seemingly innocuous young man (Adam) in the name of research for an upcoming play, unaware of the minefield and eggshells they are walking on with every step. Like Stories Like These’s last production seen at
– 2013’s Rust
and Bone, also directed by Corey McMahon – there is a robust sense of
craft to both the writing and the production, and it is an intense and riveting
uninterrupted one-hundred mintues. Griffin
Back in 2010, Bell Shakespeare’s national tour of Twelfth Night was a revelation for me. Set in the aftermath of the (then) recent Victorian bushfires, the characters emerged out of the blackness, exhausted and covered in soot, and proceeded to tell each other (and us) a story, assuming the identities and roles of the characters in Shakespeare’s play. Set around a giant pile of clothes and cardboard boxes – a refuge centre, we assumed – director Lee Lewis delighted in the playful theatricality of disguise, the simple ingenuity of switching identities at the drop of a hat, and the joy and aliveness that is never far away from the very tangible sorrow and heartbreak that sits at the core of all Shakespearean tragedy. Ending with a beautifully effervescent dance to ‘Walking on Sunshine,’ it was hard not to be moved by the panache, verve and relish in theatrical delight with which the production revelled. But then I saw Sport for Jove’s Twelfth Night and, well, I think the two are in their own ways masterpieces of their craft.
Written in 1601, Twelfth Night draws from the deep well-spring of many of Shakespeare’s comedies – twins (or siblings) separated by a disaster and then brought together by a twist of fate – and spins it into a heady tale of reflections and refractions, mirrors and echoes, love given and unsought, lost and found. The very idea of doubles or mirrors ripples through the fabric of Shakespeare’s plot and language and characters, and it’s a curiously contemporary examination into the old adage (from the very quotable Hamlet, no less) that “the clothes maketh the man.”
If you've followed my blog over the past few years, you’ll know that I take issue with a lot of Simon Stone’s work. As much as I disagree with some of the ideas in his productions, the broader socio-cultural implications of his themes and the depiction of women, as well as his predilection for using the same cast members time and again, I find it hard to fault his stagecraft, the theatricality of each and every one of his pieces. The Government Inspector is no exception. A late and much-publicised replacement for The Philadelphia Story, it is in many ways a showcase of Stone’s work at Belvoir (and, indeed, in
in the three years since his The Wild
Duck. Playing at Belvoir, this co-production
with Malthouse Theatre takes
Gogol’s 1836 play and raises it one, turning it into a behind-the-scenes romp
which only Stone could envisage. Sydney
A metatheatrical self-parody, it tells the story of a group of actors who were going to perform The Philadelphia Story, directed by Simon Stone. When it appears the rights are not going to be granted, the director quits. An actor dies. Another walks. Contemplating what they’re going to do, they remember an Uzbekistani director who did a production of The Government Inspector and contact him to direct theirs. A case of mistaken identity completes the story and Stone’s play unfolds in a kind of madcap glory which only Gogol could have devised (well, sort of).