Mean green mother from outer space: Luckiest Productions & Hayes Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors

Filmed in two days and one night, Roger Corman’s 1960 B-movie The Little Shop of Horrors made inventive use of comedy, horror, and science-fiction elements in a pastiche which has since gained a cult following. Premiering in 1982, Little Shop of Horrors – Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s perennial musical based on Corman’s film – is a mainstay of the amateur and community musical circuit, as well as spawning the 1986 film-musical directed by Frank Oz. Now, it receives a thrilling twenty-first century revival the hands of Dean Bryant and the team that previously brought Sweet Charity to life in Sydney in 2014.


Room temperature: STC’s Arcadia

This is a revised version of a piece written for artsHub.

VALENTINE: Heat goes to cold. It’s a one-way street. Your tea will end up at room temperature. What's happening to your tea is happening to everything everywhere. The sun and the stars. It’ll take a while but we're all going to end up at room temperature.

Known for his wit and wordplay as much as his intellectual rigour (and occasional density), Tom Stoppard’s plays are a marriage of big ideas, drama, and the occasional gimmick, but they never fail to dazzle in one way or another. No matter how dense or impenetrable the science or intellectual debate behind his work is, you generally leave one of his plays “wondering whether you have just been educated or entertained, in the end allowing for the likelihood of both,” as William W. Demastes wrote. Arcadia, written in 1993, is without a doubt Stoppard’s most perfectly constructed play – on a technical level as much as a narrative one – and has led to it, not undeservingly, labelled “the greatest play of our age.” Described by Stoppard himself as “all sex and love and romance and jokes,” Arcadia is at once fiercely intellectual (in typical Stoppard fashion), but it also has a strong emotional counterweight, and manages to combine both of these – through the constant juxtaposition of two time periods, two-hundred-odd years apart – with flair, wit, lightness and, ultimately, poignancy. Presented here by Sydney Theatre Company, Richard Cottrell’s Arcadia certainly looks handsome, but like Mr Noakes’ improved Newcomen steam engine, it doesn’t quite reflect the sum of the energy and care that has gone into it, and “repays eleven pence in the shilling at most.”


Family matters: Tooth and Sinew’s Year of the Family

Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, more widely known for The Wonderful World of Dissocia and Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness, was a key component of the ‘in yer face’ theatre movement which flourished in Britain in the 1990s. While the movement was perhaps misnamed – ‘in yer face’ did not so much seek to repel or alienate audiences, but rather explore the boundaries of what could (or couldn’t) be portrayed in a theatre, and to confront and challenge audiences – Neilson’s work still carries the hallmarks of that movement; but now, twenty-odd years later, what might have been deliberately shocking at the time (1994) now seems rather odd and not-quite-as-shocking, although Tooth and Sinew’s production is an assured, handsome, and strangely moving one.

Party animals: Belvoir’s The Blind Giant is Dancing

First produced thirty-three years ago, Stephen Sewell’s The Blind Giant is Dancing is often hailed as a modern Australian classic. And while it wears its passion and vehemence on its sleeve, it requires a good amount of assumed knowledge of the political context from which it was written; and even though party politics and factional in-fighting still continues to this day (it is something that will never quite go away), even though we now have ICAC, self-inflated housing bubbles, and besieged working class, and leadership which leaves a lot to be desired (to paraphrase Belvoir’s blurb), the ins and outs of Blind Giant’s political intrigue and machinations are a little too distant for us to fully grasp with clarity, and the result is a confusing, muddied, and long three hours.