Theatre is an expensive art form. It is therefore expensive to be a theatregoer but it pays off in spades when you get to see good and occasionally great theatre. From the first time I saw a show I have marvelled at the skills of the actors and other creatives in creating a different reality right before my eyes. Then they come back and do it all over again the next night.
I have attended theatre regularly for more than 55 years and as well as sitting in the audience have acted and done most backstage work as well as writing and directing, which means I sometimes see shows differently from other audience members. But most times I just let the show roll over me and become my life for those couple of hours. If a show is good I will not be distracted and if it is great I will be overwhelmed.
I had the joy of seeing Glenda Jackson in A Doll’s House at the old Elizabethan Theatre in Newtown (there was extra joy in that a storm had hailstones falling onto the stage and Ms Jackson sidestepping them without missing a beat — yes, it was an old theatre). I also saw Judi Dench in The Winter’s Tale and Donald Sinden in Twelfth Night on a Royal Shakespeare Company trip to Australia.
Because of my living circumstances I now want to restrict my theatregoing experiences to be always good or great and have stopped going to experimental or amateur theatre as I would if still living in Sydney. This means I sometimes miss some wonderful and exciting experiences.
The amateur and smaller theatre companies are the backbone of the theatre scenes in any city, and in some country towns the acting company is an interesting and important social group. But lately governments of all colours have cut funding, and so I subscribe to The Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir and The Sydney Dance Company, which generally deliver top-class shows with the occasional bomb.
All of this is a lead-up to what I have seen since last writing.
“Very good” was the Sydney Theatre Company production, Golem (from London-based company, 1927), which used a mix of actors, animation and music to tell the story, and Counter Move by the Sydney Dance Company, which is going from strength to strength under Rafavel Bonachela’s artistic leadership. Counter Move contained two performances: a recreation of the clever introspective, Cacti, by Alexander Ekman, and Lux Tenebris, a much darker but brilliantly performed piece choreographed by Bonachela that showcased the great skills of his company.
“Really good” was a new Australian play, Machu Picchu, written by Sue Smith. In the West End or Broadway plays are not presented until they have had a large number of rewrites and out-of-town tryouts but here in Australia we don’t have the money or the population for this and so new plays are basically put on cold. Of course they have been workshopped and rewritten but the limited rehearsal period is where the most revision occurs.
This funny play about a family came off well in the steady hands of director Geordie Brookman and the two leads, Lisa McCune and Darren Gilshenan.
I cannot say the same for another new Australian play about family, The Great Fire at the Belvoir. Despite terrific acting, good direction and a relatively good set (except for the final scene) I seriously disliked this overwritten piece from Kit Brookman. There was a play there but it was full of overlong speeches. As happens in theatre, some of the audience loved it while others left at the interval.
And now for the great.