For anyone who is confused and sad as to why they have so many ‘friends’ but feel alone anyhow, Sherry Shares Some Smarts.
at Theatre Works until March 2
Tom Holloway has written some terrific plays (Beyond the Neck, Red Sky Morning), and although this recent one, Love Me Tender, does possess Holloway’s signature subversive playfulness with narrative logic, overlapping, punchy dialogue, and ambitious anti-theatrics, it just isn’t, finally, all that satisfying.
From the sexualisation of girl-children to a contemporary culture suspicious of a paternal love that ‘ought not speak its name’ to allusions of Euripides’ Iphigenia, to the catastrophic Victorian bushfires of 4 years ago, this play is a real tease but without the pay off.
Amidst a kind of sooty, post apocalyptic Australian bush set – all fire damaged and arid – a father/firefighter, a mother, a policeman and 2 narrators all appear to improvise multiple stories by way of prompts, interjections and multiple ellipses. The ‘final’ story is unclear but at its tragic heart is that of a father’s moral dilemma re his daughter (signal Iphigenia).
It could be terrific. It might be provocative. It should be disquieting. But apart from intermittent flashes of luminous, choric narration and a couple of strong, sure performances from Sarah Ogden and Nick Pelomis, Love Me Tender left me hanging out for a single coherent narrative and some good old fashioned catharsis of the classic Euripidean-kind.
When this production does occasionally manage to get-ahold of Holloway’s obtuse, bold, fragmentary text and run with it, the black humor and wry social commentary are lean-forward-in-your-chair- compelling. But director, Patrick McCarthy (he’s been spot on in the past), does not anchor this script’s potentially delicious anarchy in a secure over all vision.
Often it’s the autodidacts, not the academics, who make the best tertiary graduation speeches. This is a beauty from the oh-so-charming and eclectic writer, Mr Gaiman, as he offers smart and authentic advice to the arts graduate. (Never seem him wearing a tassle before!)
Yes the car actually flies and so does this show!
This an apologetically silly billy and highly entertaining musical about a beguiling, if slightly nerdy single-dad inventor (David Hobson) who, along with his two kids, (Beau Woodbridge and Lucille Le Meledo), their loving Grandpa (Peter Carol) and the perfectly ‘scrumptious’ heiress to a sweet factory (Rachel Beck), all embark on a classic Edwardian boy’s/girl’s-own adventure story. Complete with requisite chase, capture, love interest, goodies, baddies and final cathartic rescue, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an all-round bells and (candy) whistles show.
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming (of James Bond notoriety), this production features music and lyrics by the Sherman brothers, composers of Mary Poppins although not quite as witty or memorable as those timeless Poppins songs. That said the opening night audience did burst into a spontaneous clapping accompaniment when the show’s signature song started up.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the first film my dad took me to when I was around the same age as my 10-year-old son, who accompanied me to the show’s opening night. And he loved it. ‘It’s pretty awesome! I didn’t think it was going to be so good.’ He liked the spies from Vulgaria the best (George Kapinaris and Todd Goddard). Even though he reckoned their German accent was a ‘bit embarrassing’. Naturally, he also savored the full-on comic-operatic antics of the Baron and Baroness (Alan Brough and Jennifer Vuletic).
Directed with admirable restraint (contemporary reworkings of much-loved classics are often blasted with oh-so-clever-irony and camp), Chitty is for the most part very well sung (Hobson and Beck are particularly secure and impressive) and overall, performances are dexterous, amusing and mighty generous. Tyler Coppin does a suitably evil job as the lean, mean Childcatcher. Some of the kids in the audience actually booed when he slithered on stage.
Its huge cast, spirited choreography, hummable melodies, candy-colored design and uber-impressive flying car make this ‘a real crowd pleaser for the whole family’ as they say in the classics.