Reviewed by Frank Barnes

Romeo and Juliet

Eryn Jean Norvill and Anna Lise Phillips excel in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti

Drama Theatre

I was late for Romeo and Juliet at the Drama Theatre. It is only the second time I have been late and the world did not end but I did miss the opening scene which sets up the whole play and it meant I sat in different seats for each Act. Usually I hate changing seats as it gives you a totally different perspective on the performance but as this evening had already been disturbed I quite enjoyed the opportunity to experience the differences.

I loved this production which looked at Shakespeare’s play with an emphasis on the Capulets and with Juliet very much the central character.

I have studied the play and seen many productions and found myself totally engrossed in this fine production, directed by Kip Williams for the Sydney Theatre Company.

The production was designed by David Fleischer on a double revolve creating great large spaces and the opportunity for small scenes to occur while the scenes were changing.

Sound Design by Alan John helped overcome problems created by the conflict of the language and the 1970s setting. Eryn Jean Norvill was exceptional as Juliet, supported by Dylan Young as a fine Romeo. Colin Moody, Julie Forsyth and Anna Lise Phillips played the Capulets and nurse with their usual finesse. The only jarring note was the first scene with the Friar.

Great to see a new approach to the play.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

by Tom Stoppard
Sydney Theatre

I managed to catch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead just after the Gonski trip ended. I am so lucky I managed to get tickets, albeit in the back row of the Circle. It was easily the best production of anything I have seen in many years. Extraordinary performances from Toby Schmitz and Tim Minchin with great support from a very strong company were aided by an excellent set by Gabriela Tylesova. This is a masterpiece based on one line from Hamlet and plays out as a journey into language and life. This was as good a production as you are ever likely to see.

Miss Julie

by Simon Stone
Belvoir St Theatre

Meanwhile at Belvoir the classics were getting an Aussie makeover. There has been a lot of buzz over the net and in secret corners of theatres about the trend to rework classic plays and Aussie-fy them. There was disgruntlement over Death of a Salesman and, particularly, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. If you take The Wild Duck and almost totally rewrite it then who created the play? That is the question! And so we get to Miss Julie. The last production I saw of this had me in stitches but not for any good reason ... it was terrible.

This new reworking had me enthralled and it managed to shock me, which is no easy feat. Simon Stone has changed the age of the girl, Julie, to 16 which creates a much wider age gap between her and the driver servant Jean played superbly here by Brendan Cowell. The excellent cast is completed by Blazey Best as Christine. This story of power, passion, lust and greed is beautifully directed by Leticia Caceres and is up there with the best productions of the year and redeems Simon Stone in my eyes.

Small and Tired

by Kit Brookman
Downstairs Belvoir

The story of Orestes is the backbone for this new Australian play. Somehow, writer-director Kit Brookman manages to place this ancient story in a modern setting on the tiny playing area in Belvoir’s Downstairs theatre. The cast of Tom Conroy, Paul Gleeson, Sandy Gore, Luke Mullins and Susan Prior is magnificent. Downstairs continues to produce some of the best theatre in Sydney.

Michael Jackson...The Immortal World Tour

by Cirque Du Soliel
Allphones Arena

This Cirque Du Soliel offering is big, loud and disappointing. Reports from Las Vegas say their show The Beatles is a knockout so I thought one on Michael Jackson might have been right up there but, sadly, it isn’t. It was big, with multiple screens, a band, stage, lights and ropes. It was loud, brassy and, most certainly, colourful but it was also overstretched and devoid of subtlety or nuance. There was little circus and when there was the show soared. Those moments were great but there were too few of them.

I am looking forward to the new Belvoir Hamlet which stars Toby Schmitz in the lead.

Frank Barnes is happily retired again and watching whales from his beach in Forster.