Thrill-seeking: Griffin Theatre Company’s A Rabbit for Kim Jong-Il

In the promotional blurb, Kit Brookman’s new play – A Rabbit for Kim Jong-Il – is described as “a cunning comic thriller spanning two continents,” as being “crammed with secret agents, espionage, [and] double-crossings,” and as being “a pointed parable about betrayal and forgiveness, greed and regret.” The only trouble is, it’s not quite any of those things, least of all a thriller.


To know, to know: Genesian Theatre’s Three Sisters

This review was written for artsHub.

First performed in 1901, Chekhov’s Three Sisters is a play about love, the question (and delusion) of love, and the notion of happiness and/or contentedness. Perhaps not as bleak as Ivanov, or as elegantly poignant as The Seagull, Three Sisters is still undeniably Chekhovian in its depiction of a group of people caught up in their foibles and their lives, with much philosophising and talk of fate and the future that lies ahead of them. The three Pozorov sisters – Olga, Masha, and Irina – are stuck in a provincial town hundreds of miles from Moscow, and one day dream of returning to their beloved city; fate, however, has other ideas, and life overtakes them, further anchoring them to the small town. In one sense, it is a comedy in the Chekhovian sense, but at the same time it is very much a drama. This production at the Genesian Theatre is undeniably a comedy, but not as Chekhov ever intended it.


Modern Prometheus: SUDS & Verge Festival’s Manic Pixie Dream World

Perhaps it’s an indication of our shift in socio-cultural thinking, that a lot of the narrative tropes we take for granted in popular culture are being turned on their head and examined in the theatre, on film, in books and comics and other mediums. Like All About Medea recently, SUDSManic Pixie Dream World (henceforth MPDW) draws on the manic-pixie-dream-girl trope and problematises it like it deserves, making recent filmic forays such as Ruby Sparks look rather mild and clumsy by comparison.  


Proud overdaring: Sport for Jove’s Edward II

Written in 1592, Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II is a spectacular exploration of what happens when passion and politics mix, when desires and allegiances are compromised, and what happens when you are forced to choose one over the other. While Marlowe’s Edward pursues his desires over good government and lawfulness, his play has perhaps been eclipsed by another Elizabethan play about a transgressive king faced with a similar choice. That is not to denigrate Marlowe’s play which is strong by itself but, like Edward II, Sport for Jove’s production suffers from following its passion for accessibility and contemporaneity rather than its foundations in solid dramatic traditions.


Uplifted: Black Swan’s The Red Balloon

Released in 1956, Albert Lamorisse’s film The Red Balloon is a near-wordless story of a boy and an almost-sentient balloon in post-war Paris. It’s a beautiful film, whimsical and charming to boot, but rewatching it now, there’s a curious emptiness in the film which makes it even more poignant. This production, adapted by Hilary Bell from Lamorisse’s film (not the subsequent slightly over-sentimental book he fashioned from it) and designed by India Mehta, takes note of this emptiness and creates a poignant piece of theatre which never feels forced or indulgent.

Quollity: Black Swan’s Extinction

It’s an interesting coincidence that there are two plays currently playing on national mainstages that deal quite substantially with the idea of extinction. Malthouse’s They Saw A Thylacine, and Black Swan’s Extinction talk around and about the issue, not just examining its ramifications, but also about the role we humans play in the process, the way we can prevent mass extinctions through changing the way we behave and act. Hannie Rayson’s Extinction adds another layer to the mix, in examining the idea of ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ money – money that comes from ethically-grey sources, in this case, a coal-mining company. It’s a bold move for Black Swan to produce this play, as their major sponsor is mining giant Rio Tinto, and the play’s very existence further examines this idea simply by being programmed, staged, and written about.