I met with the immensely experienced cast and director of My Name is Asher Lev, which is playing at the Eternity Playhouse 9 - 29 May. Their openness made for a really wonderful conversation. We discussed the artist's search for the "song of their soul", the conflicts faced by young artists with a desire to create but pressured by society not to, and joked about live nude painting in the play. Check it out here.
Book by Patrick Edgeworth
Music and Lyrics by Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley, David Reilly, Malvina Reynolds, Paul Simon, Tom Springfield and others.
Directed by Gary Young
Georgy Girl Productions
49 Market Street, Sydney
Season: 1 April – 27 May
An ordinary group of kids from Melbourne enjoy getting together and playing good old folk music. Judith Durham can sing opera and jazz and by chance, stumbles into auditioning for this folk group – The Seekers. What begins as a six-month gig on a cruise ship culminates in international stardom. It’s a story that seems so distant to our current grasp of ‘celebrity’ where anyone famous has to have a particular X factor to really make it big. But throughout this journey Judith and the group remain grounded, somewhat misfits in their glimmering surroundings. The classic Seekers hits are performed as their tale of ascent to fame is told, interspersed with uplifting polychromatic chorus numbers. A gorgeous blast from the past, Georgy Girl hits all the sweet spots.
My opinion likely doesn’t reflect that of the average millennial who probably doesn’t have a soft spot for the era. Nor does my opinion reflect the more ‘mature’ demographic that grew up boogying to The Seekers’ music. I have a formidable love of the sixties music, colour and style. Perhaps it’s an unusual taste for a young person of my generation, but I relish the dreamlike nostalgia that emanates from the era. To me, it feels like a brighter and more beautiful time. Prior to seeing the musical, I only knew one song by The Seekers, and so didn’t really have any personal connection to the story being told. And I had a fantastic time.
Vocally, each of the Seekers performers do a stunning job and bring warm acting performances to the stage, in spite of the bounds of simplistic character traits. Pippa Grandison as Judith stands out, truly selling the essence of the girl-next-door in the midst of rippling stardom. Adam Murphy as Ron Edgeworth, the narrator, best creates humour in the show, breaking the fourth wall and winning laughs with jokes that could otherwise fall through as a little daggy. He pulls it off. The chorus take the stage with energised choreography by Michael Ralph, and portray innumerable quirky cameo roles. The cast is strong on all fronts, engaging the audience with their attention to detail. Costume design by Isaac Lummis is ravishing, with an abundance of costume changes that pop with colour and bold patterns. This production is brimming with life.
There are inevitable difficulties with condensing full lifetimes into a 2 hour musical. While at some points the characters’ journeys are sufficiently developed, as the musical nears its close crucial life events are lumped into the mix, creating a brittle disconnect with the rest of the musical. To his credit, the writer, Patrick Edgeworth, embraced the inability to be entirely accurate in the depiction of events through amusing asides by the narrator.
Ultimately, the power of music and dance prevails in this production. A delicious dive into the past, it’s lovely to spend an evening with the homely and hearty group of musicians who starkly contrast the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle of other 60s bands like the Rolling Stones. A shimmy back through time to the beat of delightful Seekers music – what’s not to love? It’s a hoot.
I sat down to chat with multi award-winning playwright Patricia Cornelius. On an unusually hot autumn day, we found ourselves at a quaint café down the road from the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst, where Patricia’s play Savages is currently being staged by Darlinghurst Theatre Company. To a soundtrack of jazz and coffees in hand, we had a very frank conversation about the recent findings of the Australian Writers Guild (of which Patricia is on the committee) annual theatre programming analysis, dirty poetry, sexism in life and in theatre, and all sorts of other things in between.
Check out the three-part interview here!
Part 1: WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO HEAR OUR VOICES?
Part 2: SAVAGES AND SLUT
Part 3: LIFE OF A PLAYWRIGHT
By Simon Dodd
Directed by Julie Baz
The Depot Theatre
142 Addison Road, Marrickville
Season: 30 March – 16 April
Note: This review has been written on the basis of a Preview performance.
Theatre is a weird thing, in many ways – the process of going out, to sit in a room of people you don’t know, pretending that there is an invisible wall between the audience and those on the stage so that you can watch what they do in various given circumstances. Simon Dodd’s play Plaything, explores this notion with a comedic Absurdist slant. What happens when two theatregoers enter a bathroom cubicle, only to realise that they are actually stuck in a living room behind an invisible fourth wall, a barrier between them and a watching audience. They are in a dreaded play!...and they need to pee.
The occupation of ‘waiting’ is a common absurdist trope, and is one that permeates this production, directed by Julie Baz. The living room in the play embodies some sort of theatrical purgatory, where the reluctant actors are desperate to find their way out. Undoubtedly, it’s an intriguing concept and presents some notable ideas. However, there is an old adage when learning improvised theatre, that is, “Stop talking about doing something and just do it.” Translating this skill from improvised to scripted theatre, this is where I felt the play suffered. A little burdened by this passivity and waiting for action, the writing tended to slouch into talking about the difficult situation or wondering how the actors should act. When the performers are propelled out of inaction, the show is at its most engaging, and really is quite funny. Perhaps this is the point. A thousand meanings could be derived from the concept and subject’s response to the seemingly constrictive bounds of the banal living room.
We see some very quirky and enlivened performances from the whole cast, bringing amusing oddities to the table under Julie Baz’s directorial hand. These performances bring an uplifting energy to the show and trigger laughter at some of the character’s distasteful, albeit relatively logical, responses to the situation (cue some good old toilet humour). Ultimately, audiences are met with a show that asks plenty of questions and doesn’t claim to hold all the answers. Repeatedly the cast figuratively breaks down the fourth wall to speak clearly to their audience. In doing so, audiences have a chance to laugh at themselves participating in this peculiar process of theatre-going. Peculiar, and yet oh so satisfying.
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