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Reviews - 2005

Current - 2004 - 2003 - Pre-2003

Our reviewers are the peers of Adelaide Theatre. They are fellow audience members, directors, actors, committee members, etc, with experience in journalism.
Like other audience members, their reviews/opinions are given on overall enjoyment and value for money so that you may make a more informed choice.


CLICK HERE FOR COME OUT 2005 REVIEWS!

24 Hour Show – South Pacific
Absurd Person Singular
Adelaide Comedy Festival
Asylum
Birds On The Wing
Boo!
Drums In The Night
Encore To Murder
Give My Regards To Broadway
Hägar The Horrible – The Musical
Hansel & Gretel
Interesting Times
Into The Woods
Jekyll And Hyde - The Musical
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Key For Two
Lord Authur Savile’s Crime
Murder At Doom Manor
Murder By Misadventure
Oh! What A Lovely War
On Golden Pond
Once Upon A Mattress
Outside Edge
Shakespeare's Villians - Steven Berkoff
Strangers On A Train
Tapestry
The Breath Of Life
The Cocktail Hour
The Government Inspector
The Mikado
The Pleasure Of Their Company
Under Milk Wood

GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY
Kapunda Musical Society
Chapel Theatre, Chapel St, Kapunda
Until April 30

Review by Simon Slade

Andrew Lloyd-Webber take note. George M. Cohan was America's first show business superstar producer. Once known as “The Man Who Owned Broadway” most of his work is forgotten today - aside from a few of his songs like “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “Give My Regards to Broadway” are American classics.

Combine some of Cohan's best loved show tunes with a sparkling story by Schubert Fendrich and it adds up to an entertaining, charming, toe-tapping musical, in a similar vein to “42nd Street.”

Entrepreneur Dick Foster, played by James Kerrigan, is struggling to open a Broadway show. A cash flow problem and temperamental leading lady Mona Monroe, played to a tee by an elegant Jo Hough, present insurmountable problems.

Enter Mary Collins an aspiring actress from New Rochelle (only 45 minutes from Broadway!), played by Sarah Wildy. She is a delight. With a pure quality to her voice and acting talent to boot, she is the wideeyed hopeful, given her big break.

There are some fine performers in this cast. Kerryn Bolt is excellent as, Trixie, the girlfriend of “Legs” Ruby, a bookie on the run from the mob, played by Jamie Nietschke. Chris Starkey stands out as Betty, with her fine voice and dancing.

Michael Hoskin has a difficult role in this show. His character appears late, is not directly involved in producing the show, and takes a back seat in most of the musical numbers. Lesser actors would fade into the scenery in this role, but his combination of fine acting and comedic talent carries him through.

A seven piece orchestra does well under the guidance of Peter Murphy, and the trumpets, ever the problem for an amateur theatre company were better than most!

It is not all plain sailing. Some of the accents were very uneven, and there was a hesitation on the part of some cast members at the beginning of musical numbers. A couple tended to only be in character when delivering lines.

This is a true community theatre with its own home in the Chapel Theatre. The stage is small and has not a single lighting bar above it. The follow spot is cobbled together from a stage lamp and an overhead projector.

And that’s what makes it special!

So give your regards to Kapunda, only 45 minutes from Gawler!

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ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR
Galleon Theatre Group Inc
Marion Cultural Centre
Until April 30

Review by Stephanie Johnson

A first-class British comedy script provides the basis for a good production? Not always, but it certainly does for Galleon Theatre’s “Absurd Person Singular”.

Director Margaret Dixon has taken a great script, a cast of six excellent actors and a simple and effective set to provide a great night’s entertainment.

Alan Ayckbourn’s script from the 1970s is a little dated but very witty as the foibles of three married couples are ruthlessly exposed in three separate Christmas Eve parties.

The first act is a scene setter, the second act is a scene-stealer and the third is just plain silly – and lots of fun.

In the first act young couple Sidney and Jane Hopcroft (Andrew Clark and Kerry Cooper) decide to entertain with a Christmas Eve party for carefully selected guests. Follow-up parties result in the next two acts.

The clever twist is that this play is set in the kitchen for each party. The social façade is stripped and warts and all revealed in the intimate setting of the kitchen, while the party limps along in the neighbouring rooms. The results are hilarious, even in their darkest moments.

Joanne St Clair is delicious as the drunken, malicious Marion Brewster-Wright who slips easily from shallow small talk to malicious cracks. Jack Robins also provides a strong performance as her husband, Ronald. His “electric shock” sequence is one of the hilarious highlights of many during the night.

Some of the more poignant moments, and yet still shockingly humorous, are provided by young actors George Benders and Hannah Wooller as Geoffrey and Eve Jackson. It is a testament to these actors’ skill that the pathos and humour are both so powerfully conveyed.

Andrew Clark and Kerry Cooper are given the challenging task of playing the unpopular and shallow couple Sidney and Jane Hopcroft. They cleverly convey an awkward sweetness that adds to the joie de vivre of this production.

The set is simple, cleverly doing its job of adding to the characterization and action.

Galleon Theatre Group is sailing home with a winner with this Ayckbourne seventies classic at the Marion Culture Centre. Please note that audience members can sit in cabaret style tables at the front of the theatre or choose to sit in rows at the back.

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THE BREATH OF LIFE
Christine Harris and HIT Productions
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre

Review by Rod Lewis

It’s ironic that the title of this play is the thing it needs most.

David Hare’s mind-numbing drama lacks friction and is only spared from being complete drudge by the occasional witty line and Helen Morse.

Thank God for Morse! Her stagecraft and natural talent creates an interesting and strong character to watch, despite Kate Cherry’s stilted direction.

Kirsty Child is as stagey as the tedious script playing “the other woman” who is now in the same situation as wife number 1 – the husband has left her for someone younger.

This is the story of the two wives meeting for the first time, having shared a husband many years ago. The potential for emotion and conflict gives way to sharing memories of the man and making cups of tea - ho hum.

The unnatural dialogue is repetitive and forced, and Cherry keeps her actors seated for most of the play. The presentation would probably work well in an intimate setting, but not in the cavernous Dunstan Playhouse, where the actors are lost and Adam Gardnir’s open set doesn’t fill the stage.

“The Breath of Life” is currently touring Australia, including regional centres, so it is no surprise that it is designed to slot into a variety of venues. The theatres need to be small however, for both the script and performance to have any chance of working.

“Desperate Housewives” is a better option.

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THE COCKTAIL HOUR
Adelaide Repertory Theatre
Arts Theatre

Review by Theresa Dolman

The Cocktail Hour, directed by Kerrin White, is a study of a family. Each evening, the parents keep up the family tradition of relaxing together for an hour - the cocktail hour - while the maid prepares dinner.

This particular evening is special because son John is coming to visit. But the evening is disrupted when John, a part-time playwright, asks the family for permission to produce his latest work---a play based on the family. His parents, without even reading the play, are horrified, certain that the play will show them in a bad light, and the father offers John money to abandon the production. His sister, on the other hand, is offended because she plays only a minor role.

During the evening, it becomes apparent that John's perceptions of his family are more accurate than any of them would like to admit; but he also discovers that he has some important misconceptions that he will need to readdress.

Tony Busch gave a wonderful performance as John, bringing out the tension which has obviously been building between himself and the family for years. Michael Croome was first-class as the traditional father, not ready to compromise his life and ideals for what he considers to be a "whim" of his secondfavourite son.

Rhonda Grill also does well as John's mother, Ann, keen on the odd tipple and trying desperately to hang on to family traditions, especially that of the cocktail hour. The cast is topped off nicely with Linda Davey as John's sister Nina, who, after having spent her life pleasing other people, decides that it is now time to please herself.

The set was opulent and well dressed, with the cocktail bar taking centre stage. The grand piano was also a nice touch, and it was good to see John tinkering on it rather than having it totally ignored. The costumes were good, but John's wig was a little too obvious.

Overall, a good drama with some lighter moments.

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HÄGAR THE HORRIBLE – THE MUSICAL
Noarlunga Theatre Company
Arts Centre, Port Noarlunga
Until April 30

Review by Simon Slade

Take one of the world’s best loved comic strips, add music, put it on stage, and it should be a recipe for a great night out.

Take an experienced director, and some fine performers, and the final result should be an evening of seamless hilarity.

Noarlunga Theatre Company’s production of “Hagar the Horrible” is both of these things some of the time.

The very experienced Ron Hughes is a good choice as Hägar, using his comic abilities well. He is teamed nicely with Sue Oldknow, who is a likeable and funny Helga. Director John Fitzpatrick has cast well, utilising the physical comedy of the multi-talented Cherylene O’Brien as Hamlet, Lars, and an hilarious French waiter.

The energy and considerable talent of Rob Ellinger, as Bjorn, keeps the Viking marauders together through some of the more difficult song and dance sections. He is a real highlight in the male cast.

Wade Shiell is very funny as the luckless Lucky Eddie, Hägar’s right-hand-man who makes up for his lack of brains with unswerving loyalty.

Maggie Smith gets a lot of laughs in her great cameo as Mrs Begonia, and is responsible for the costumes too, which are very good. Hamlet’s outfit and wig get laughs of their own!

The music is sequenced and the performers do well with their cues in the absence of a musical director.

The cabaret seating works well in the excellent Arts Centre, and creates a very friendly environment.

The script is funny, the actors carry it off well, but from a staging and technical point of view, the show needs to move at a faster pace. Some of the problems begin with the writing, because the script includes no less than fourteen scenes in Act I alone. Add a house curtain that takes fifteen seconds to close and another fifteen to open, and you have a recipe for some long scene changes. This was particularly noticeable where no set change was needed, and the scene change could have been achieved with a simple blackout. Better use of the upstage curtain to cover scene changes would have helped too.

This was a pity, because the pace of the show was otherwise good.

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MURDER AT DOOM MANOR
Daw Park Players
SPF Hall, Repatriation General Hospital
Until April 23

Review by Simon Slade

The Carruthers family gathers at Doom Manor, the family home, to receive some momentous news. Which of Celia's three sons will inherit the estate and the Doom Stone? But the arrival of an uninvited body and a pair of eccentric detectives interrupt the proceedings.

And so the scene is set for a jolly old murder mystery. This play contains some extremely funny lines. The best of them are worthy of George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde. However the play does need a plot, some clues and a few red herrings to make it a murder mystery.

That is no reflection on the cast, though, as there are some fine actors here, and the direction brings out some good work from most of them.

Glen Christie, as Charles, plays the role of the jaded eldest son to a tee. Mollie Birch, as Celia, is in fine form as the widowed matriarch. Keith Manson, as Chester, the gormless lovable buffoon of the family, achieves the tricky balance of creating a character that grates on everyone, but is loved by the audience.

Philip Lyneton is physically and vocally perfect in the role of Ambrose Diligent, the senior partner in the detective agency of Diligent, Diligent, Diligent, and Careful. The comic highlight of the night is Damien White as Mrs Dubrovnik, the maid, whose culinary adventures strike fear into the family, and any passing animals as well!

In keeping with the setting, director Maris Caune, has chosen to use English accents. Nearly all the cast hold the accent well and it contributes nicely to the style of the show. The set is rich in detail, particularly where no designer is credited. Anyone who has built sets for a theatre company would welcome the credit for “Set Construction Catering!”

Daw Park Players continue to provide a valuable service raising funds for the Repatriation General Hospital. Between 1991 and 2003, they raised over $28,000 – and they still manage to include free tea and coffee at interval!

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JEKYLL AND HYDE – THE MUSICAL
Hills Musical Company
Stirling Community Theatre
Until April 30

Review by Stephanie Johnson

“Jekyll and Hyde, the Musical” is a strange concoction – a portion of philosophy, a dash of dancing and a good dose of darkness mixed with emotive music.

Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the original strange and sinister story, on which the musical is based. The story has been adapted for stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn.

“Jekyll and Hyde” encompasses huge concepts – the duality of the human condition, good versus evil and the need to see beyond social façade.

This story has touched such a deep note in the human psyche that “Jekyll and Hyde” has become a common expression to describe the duality of a person’s nature. Capturing this deep and moving message is a challenge well met by the Hills Musical Company.

The company has pulled together to create a cohesive and professional production that showcases the original story and the music by Frank Wildhorn.

The set is designed well for the many scene changes, the lighting is top-notch and the costumes appropriately colourful and dowdy when required.

However, the linchpin for this story and the production is the main character – Dr Henry Jekyll and his shadow Edward Hyde. Chris Buhagiar is exceptional in the central role. He portrays the driving forces of both the ethical Dr Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde, as well as the tension of the duality and the agony of the ultimate conclusion.

Director Michael Pole and choreographer Sue Pole have done a commendable job of ensuring that each member of this ensemble supports and enhances the main tenet of the story.

Michelle Nightingale, as the love-interest Emma Carew and Mark Oates as lawyer John Utterson give standout performances.

Gerard Ryan as the Bishop of Basingstroke, Simon Holdback as Simon Stride and John Pfitzner as Sir Danvers Carew also ably hold their own in both singing and acting.

Megan Humphries is a delight as Lady Beaconsfield creating some much welcome comic relief.

Annie Slade looks fabulous, but somehow struggles to reveal the raunchiness of the luckless Lucy. The story is dark with touches of light, but the music is truly beautiful. Musical Directors Ross Curtis and Leith Pederick have shown how music has the power to affect the emotions.

This is a production that stimulates rather than titillates – a potent potion.

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BIRDS ON THE WING
St Jude’s Players Inc
St Jude’s Hall, Brighton
Until April 23

Review by Nikki Gaertner

St Jude’s have once again hit the nail on the head with their latest entertaining and humorous offering, “Birds on the Wing”.

Featuring a small, talented and dynamic cast, the show portrays the lives of two female high-flying partners in crime, who con rich and gullible men for their source of income. Elizabeth (Bernadette Bycroft) and Samantha (Kay Saunders) have mastered their fraudulent moves and love every minute of life, until one of their victims, Charlie (Andrew Horwood) decides to join in on their game.

Both Bycroft and Saunders are superb in their roles, and complement each other nicely as their characters move through their many alter egos throughout the show.

Horwood too, excels and has plenty of fun with his mischievous character and has the audience eating out of his palm within moments.

Every one of the supporting cast also deserves a mention, from Rachel Brunsden as the cheeky maid, Barry Hill as a variety of waiter personalities, Dave Simms as the swindled Sir George Smith, Greg Janzow in dual roles of both a Frenchman and a Japanese detective, and Ken McGill as Mr Chotomate.

The set was a simple hotel room for each scene, which worked well and kept scene changes limited to a few props and the change of some beautiful painted scenic backdrops to illustrate location. The scene changes took some time, but luckily there weren’t many required, and the quality of the show meant this was easily forgiven.

Director Jude Menz should be commended for her efforts with this show (her second time directing it for St Jude’s).

“Birds on the Wing” is comic theatre at its best and a sure crowd pleaser for anyone wanting a feel good night out.

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OUTSIDE EDGE
Tea Tree Players
Tea Tree Players Theatre
Until April 16

Review by Simon Slade

A collection of men are living out their dreams of heroism on the local cricket field as their partners look helplessly (often irritably) on. Richard Harris wrote “Outside Edge” over thirty years ago, but it could just as well have been last weekend on a cricket ground near you.

It is not, as Harris himself says, a play about cricket, but a play about certain types of people. We don't really relate to them; they are not true individuals or true characters, thus we are free to laugh at them without getting too close to home - until the dreadful thought dawns that we might be looking into a mirror.

As Peter Kentish's Roger organises everyone into submission, we begin to get the message. Now as then, people are concerned only for themselves. Adrenne Gorringe as Roger's long-suffering wife Miriam manages to portray both the pride in doing something well, and her frustration at the secondary role Miriam plays, not only at the Pavillion, but also in Roger's life. Her attempts to confront Roger about "Dorking" will strike a chord with many women with sport-obsessed partners.

Some of the cast certainly got the runs on the board and Gorringe in particular, was excellent. The usually good David Kenna had some trouble creating a strong impression as the recently divorced and re-married Bob, in one of the more varied roles. The volatile yet loving relationship between Maggie (Gabbie Brown) and Kevin (Eric Smith) was beautifully conveyed and brought many of the evening’s laughs.

Michael Terwell did well creating a thoroughly dislikable Alex, and Stephanie Goodwin was hilarious in the scene-stealing role of Sharon.

There were times when the on-stage action (which needs to be fast and furious) almost ground to a halt failing to capture the plot’s rising tensions and much of the humour was lost. Some of this may be attributable to opening night nerves, but the problems with lines and pace seemed to go a little deeper.

Even Robert Andrews' set did not seem quite up to the usually very high Tea Tree Players standard, which Andrews fine work in the past is largely responsible for. The overall effect is somewhat uneven.

In Act II, the cast do manage to create the sense that a game is actually being played in the middle of the auditorium, but by this time the required run rate is just that bit too high!

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ASYLUM
ARTS 3rd Year Acting Students
Parks Community Centre
Until April 9

Review by Simon Slade

Combining the two tales of Daniel Payl Schreber, President of the Court of Appeals in 1890s Dresden and K., an asylum seeker in present-day Australia are excellent subjects for a new piece of theatre.

To draw parallels between Schreber’s journey into madness, committal to an institution and his eventual release and K’s journey across borders, committal to Woomera and his eventual release is an interesting idea, yet not without its pitfalls.

However, to really muddy the waters, there are two additional subplots woven in. These two stories are less relevant to the themes of the other two works, almost to the extent that they could have formed the basis for a different work altogether.

The eventual effect of this is to confuse and detract from a more thorough examination of each of the primary stories.

Daniel Paul Schreber's "Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken" seems to be the basis for much of the material about his life, but it does not deal with any of the reasons for his condition, for example the way some of Schreber's delusions are at times strikingly similar to the devices of restraint devised by his father. Nor does it adequately introduce us to the character, as opposed to the individual.

These negatives are a great pity because there is some excellent writing here. Some of the problems arise out of the fact that, as a work for students, there has to be something for them all to do!

Some of the performances are very strong. Luke Clayson, as Daniel Paul Schreber, gives a touching, insightful performance. Lynda Ferguson, as Trish, is convincing. Mario Spate, as Aaron, seemed to have little to do until his final scene with his girlfriend’s sister (Fran, played by Angela Annese) where he gave one of the best performances of the evening.

Not all of the cast are of this standard, and there were a couple of very misguided moments in the direction. At one point, Christopher Roberts, as Geoff, plays a scene that seems designed to redeem his character, but because he is telling this to his daughter upstage, the whole scene is played to the back wall.

However, this show is all about students and learning, so in ten years time, we will look at some of these people on stage, in film and on television, and say "I remember this student show years ago..."

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OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR
Burnside Players
Burnside Ballroom
Until April 16

Review by Andy Ahrens

Oh! What a lovely war - or was it? Burnside Players tackle the question in this honest retelling of World War One in a comic, insightful and often moving production.

The show is essentially a musical-revue of memorable tunes and war-songs, woven together by a patchwork of scenes. Music, song, drama and dance combine to depict various aspects of The Great War, from politics and miscommunication through to gas and the trenches.

Director Thorin Cupit has stamped passionate authority on the sensitive subject matter and makes this production both a tribute and a reminder. He expertly balances light-hearted comradeship with the devastating loss of human life.

He is supported by a stellar cast who show equal enthusiasm as they march their way through the timeline of World War One.

Brendan Clare, Lochy Cupit, Rhodri Henry-Edwards, Bonnie-Fay Madigan, Ben Po’ona, Peter Smith and Rachel Spargo provide many of the highlights. But all seventeen accent-wielding cast members deserve equal credit for this mass-ensemble production.

Scenes include a well executed discussion by the profit-makers of war, a comic look at bayonet mounting, an entertaining war-time church service and the highlight of the evening, Christmas in the trenches. In this historic account, a band of Germans initiate the singing of Silent Night which leads to the swapping of gifts from one enemy line to another.

It’s not all slick and precision. Some parts of the show lose a degree of intensity. The facilities in the Burnside Ballroom are partially responsible for this. The venue has limited lighting and awful acoustics, making it difficult to hear some lines. The slide projection, displaying wartime photographs and statistics, suffers from the spread of too much light, diminishing its visual impact.

Director, Cupit, deliberately uses the staging conditions to present this show in Brecht style. Costumes and props are appropriately representative, leaving the audience to imagine the reality of it all. It is when the scenes win the imagination of reality that they hit home with the realities of war.

Under much of the action is a well controlled band. Musical Direction by Kate Pope and choreography by Tracey Nunn both aid in this innovative production.

‘Oh! What a Lovely War’ is a timeless piece of work. Be sure to bring the Tim-Tams and port for the cabaret style seating.

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DRUMS IN THE NIGHT
Brink Productions and State Theatre Company
Space Theatre
Until April 16

Review by Simon Slade

This is a production where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that is saying something given the parts added into the equation. The performers are the Brink ensemble, along with Michael Habib and Jacqy Phillips. The lighting designer is the brilliant Geoff Cobham. The director is the inspiring Chris Drummond. This is a new and modern translation by Finegan Kruckemeyer. Gaelle Mellis has designed a set that astounds with each dramatic revelation. Quentin Grant, composer and musician, provides songs and underscoring that suit the production perfectly.

Together they create a masterpiece with one of Brecht's earliest works. "Drums in the Night" which opened in Munich in 1922, and Brecht received the prestigious Kleist prize for young dramatists as a result.

The play shows a society ravaged and plundered by war, contrasted with individuals made rich by the same conflict. The Balickes have done very well for themselves financially, but their daughter has lost the love of her life in the war. She is now pregnant and engaged to another man, also made rich by the war, and that is cause for a family celebration. The dinner scene brings a whole new meaning to the expression "snouts in the trough" and had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Michael Habib, as Karl Balicke, is vocally and physically perfect for the role. Ksenja Logos, as his daughter Anna is also superb, both passionate and yet distracted. Jacqy Phillips, as Amalie Balicke, wife and mother, is a tremendous asset to the cast as a whole, as her character has some of the most varied reactions to other characters.

Cameron Goodall's Waiter and Michaela Cantwell's Maid are both hilarious. David Mealor, as Baboush, is particularly funny in the opening sequence of the play, which sounded almost as though it could have been written by Shaun Micallef.

William Allert, as Friedrich Murk, is the perfect German version of a Hooray Henry, and Rory Walker, as Andreas Kragler, delivers a performance that is as measured as it is gut-wrenching.

The staging is inspired. The table made people hold their breath, the bar stools made them gasp and the final surprise had them reaching for their medication! The lighting design proved that less is more, and that a lighting designer's best tool can be darkness!

This is South Australian theatre at its best.

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UNDER MILK WOOD
REDChilli Theatre Company
Bakehouse Theatre
Until April 16

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Described as “a play for voices”, Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” was written as a radio play that takes listeners into the lives, dreams and interactions of the inhabitants of a Welsh seaside village throughout the course of one day. A total of 53 characters are presented and explored throughout the duration of the show.

Setting this show in a theatre presents a significant challenge, as the audience can now both see and hear the actors as they move between scenes and characters. Unfortunately this challenge was not met well by REDChilli and director Geoff Brittain.

The cast of twelve changed costume props in full light as they assumed new characters, and were mostly seated very close to one another, distracting from those that should hold the focus of the scene. In addition, the sound effects technician (Sally Fox) was deliberately placed in a highly visible area, and while she was very talented with providing the appropriate sounds and never missed a cue, watching her became another distraction from the actors playing out a given scene.

Each cast member was in clear possession of their script throughout the duration of the show, and though the play was set for radio, this is really inexcusable in a theatre setting. Watching the cast read along instead of holding character is not entertainment, and after a lengthy rehearsal period it is expected that at least small paragraphs and songs should be memorised.

There were some standout performances from the cast however; including Bill Ramsay, who remained in character throughout the show and never distracted from scenes he wasn’t involved in. Lindy LeCornu also provided some nice personalities, Kim Clark easily and enthusiastically interchanged between characters, and Deborah Walsh presented some pleasant moments with her sweet singing voice.

Sadly, Peter Davies, in his important role of the narrator, started in full character, but tended to revert to simply reading out his statements with his eyes becoming his script by the close of the show. Multiple actors, including Davies, also need to watch their accents, as sometimes they made their words difficult to understand.

All in all, Under Milk Wood certainly has the potential to be a memorable, impressive and haunting show, but major changes would need to be made for this to be "a different theatre in both content and standard from the usual amateur fare in South Australia" - REDchilli's aim, as stated in the program.

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KEY FOR TWO
Actad Theatre Group
Promethean Theatre
Until April 30

Review by Stephanie Johnson

“Key For Two” is classic British comedy at its best or worst – depending on whether or not British farce is your cup of tea.

It is typical British comedy in a slapstick style with a story focused on a mistress who manipulates her schedule to cater for two lovers, both married men. When her girlfriend drops in out of the blue with marriage problems things get out of hand and the inevitable “schedule clash” occurs resulting in mayhem.

“Key For Two” had a long run in London’s West End at the Vaudeville Theatre in the 1980s. In true Vaudeville style John Chapman and Dave Freeman’s writing lacks subtlety. The men are buffoons led by their sexual desires, blatantly cheating on dowdy or dowager wives and their mistresses are manipulative sirens with mercenary motives.

Neither the male nor female sexes fare well in this style of comedy and marriage is a much-maligned institution.

All of this is, of course, communicated in good fun mixed with much door slamming, tale telling and hilarity.

Director Grant Lucas and his selection of actors have supplied a good dose of laughs in true British style in this production.

Bronwyn Ruciak’s Harriett is suitably sexy as she seduces her men while also fleecing their wallets. Glenn Vallen and John Matsen are duly believable as the cheating husbands who fall prey to her wily ways. The comic timing was a little out in the first half of this play on opening night, but they all warmed to their parts in the second half.

Rose Vallen is a lot of fun as Harriett’s childhood friend Anne, particularly once she dons her “Carry On” style nurse’s outfit.

Margaretha Mooney as forceful Magda and Pat Vice as the very dowdy Mildred provide good support as the wives.

However, the star of this show is Brian Godfrey as the inebriated Richard. His delightfully disturbing drunken antics enliven the second half of this show.

If you like British humour of the bedroom farce variety then you will enjoy this production in the intimate setting of the Promethean theatre.

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STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
Independent Theatre Company
The Odeon, Norwood

Review by Theresa Dolman

Independent Theatre took on a huge challenge with the Australian premiere production of ‘Strangers on a Train’, but with Rob Croser at the helm it was a challenge well met.

The play is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (who also wrote ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’) and was adapted for the stage by Craig Warner. It is the story of two strangers who meet on a train. After drinking far too much alcohol, each agrees to commit a murder for the other. Charles Bruno (Luke Jacka) is consumed with hate for his father, who will not allow him access to money he believes he is entitled to. Charles thinks he has convinced Guy Haines (Dai Davison) to kill his father in return for ridding Guy of his adulteress wife, who, although pregnant to another man, will not allow Guy to divorce her and get on with his life. The malice starts when Charles carries out his half of the bargain, then torments Guy until he finally cracks and fulfills his part of the deal.

Luke Jacka is well cast as the psychopathic, alcoholic Charles, making Guy's life miserable until the end. Dai Davison is brilliant as the tormented Guy---you could feel the audience wanting to help him out of his dilemma as he is gradually destroyed by guilt. Tom Carney added to the intrigue with his wonderful portrayal of Arthur Gerard, the know–all family detective.

The casting was perfect, from Charles’ dippy and substance-dependant mother Elsie (Lyn Wilson) and Guy's confused and distraught girlfriend Anne (Peta Long), to his work mates Frank (Josh Markey) and Bob (Blair Breeding), who also doubled as investigating police.

Set against a backdrop indicating a train, with a couple of well designed wooden chairs and other smaller sets wheeled on as needed, the design worked well and allowed smooth changes from each scene to the next. The lighting by Rob Croser and Laraine Wheeler helped immensely, defining areas and creating the atmosphere essential to the 1950’s era.

The only criticism is that in the opening scene Jacka was so intent on convincing Davison of his idea that he seems to have forgotten that the audience needed to hear it too; a lot of his dialogue got lost in the wings.

Overall a wonderful piece of theatre, not to be missed.

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HANSEL & GRETEL
Young Artist Opera Studio
The Opera Studio, Netley

Review by Hayley Horton

After a successful run at the Bundaleer Weekend, Patrick Lim has brought the fairy tale “Hansel & Gretel” with operatic score by Engelbert Humperdinck to the Opera Studio in a sugary-sweet English version of the original German.

Lim’s passion for opera and his ongoing efforts are once again evident, this time adding value by allowing even younger performers to experience opera, which is admirable.

With a very familiar story, the production itself is adequate, but lacks a freshness and cheekiness that the original story begged for. Fiona Linn as Hansel and Eleanor Blythman as Gretel capture the childishness of the characters and are adept vocalists. Linn particularly does well with the sometimes awkwardness of playing a boy.

Vocally, the highlights of this show however are Tom Millhouse and Jessica Dean, both of whom play small roles. Millhouse as the children’s father has a stunning voice that fills the studio with a resonance that inspires.

Dean as the Dew Fairy is equally splendid vocally and not only wakes Hansel and Gretel from their slumber, but also the audience at what is a slower moment of the production. Both of the fairies (Dean and Rachel McCall as the Sleep Fairy) provided a coquettish charm, making even a simple scene change amusing.

Although the production is aimed at a younger audience, the grimness of this Brothers Grimm tale is missing, which leaves the audience wanting more than sweet singing, particularly with Deborah Caddy’s portrayal of the Step-Mother/Witch who is more clown-like than scary (unless clowns frighten you of course).

The children ranging from very young to mature teenagers not only sing as a chorus, but dance a ballet which fills the stage. Each child evidently will gain experience like no other with the process, however some further direction and polishing is required to tighten their performance.

Musically, this opera is once again mastered by one of the best repetiteurs in Adelaide, Anthony Hunt who holds his own throughout the night. Hunt’s skills would be further enhanced by a live ensemble (even a small one) and would allow the composition to compliment the vocalists.

Overall, Lim has assembled a light-hearted lark, which will introduce younger audiences to the world of opera and with a bit of polishing and pizzazz to the sets and costumes, could enthrall the more experienced audiences also.

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INTERESTING TIMES
Unseen Theatre Company
Bakehouse Theatre
Until April 2

Review by Simon Slade

For those left who do not know, Terry Pratchett is the multimillion-selling author of the Discworld series of books that, if it weren't for J.K. Rowling would be the world's biggest-selling fantasy books.

His books have been translated into more than 30 languages. Terry Pratchett has fans throughout the world, and a number of his books have been adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs

This popularity creates a dilemma for those adapting and performing Pratchett’s works, as there will be a proportion of the audience who know the book almost word for word, and others who do not. This adaptation is better than some, as it manages to make the plot and characters reasonably clear, without bogging down in explanations.

The two stars of the show without doubt were Steve Parker playing Cohen the Barbarian, and Chris Irving as the hapless wizard, Rincewind. For both actors, their comic timing, and use of comic facial expressions, were highlights. They also both demonstrate the importance of good casting, as they fit their roles so well physically.

This attention to casting and direction carries over to the ensemble. Ronald Densley and Mark Drury, as the two guards, have been cast and directed with their physical differences in mind. As a result, some of their scenes are hilarious.

Director, Pamela Munt, also appears on stage, and her portrayal of Commissioner Kee is very funny. Not all cast members are as strong, and the Red Army needs a little work. That said, Unseen is giving opportunities for younger actors, and they are all working hard. They will improve with every production. Multiple levels are used to good effect on the small Bakehouse stage, and Munt’s blocking has taken into account the difficult entrances involving not only numerous cast members, but also a wheelchair and a cannon!

The sets were simple and effective, with the exception of a noisy curtain with a tendency to snag. The lighting effects were well done, although the focus was not as tight as it needs to be on a set that is creating distinct areas. The choice of music suited the show well.

Pratchett's “Interesting Times” is very funny and appeals to those who are Pratchett fans, but also those who are unfamiliar with his work.

Unseen's production is fun and enjoyable.

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THE PLEASURE OF THEIR COMPANY
GNG
The Arts Theatre
Until March 26

Review by Simon Slade

Shaun Micallef and Glynn Nicholas come to Adelaide in a new show. Although new, it does include an array of characters from their past shows.

The ever-smiling and yet somehow scary children’s show host, Pate Biscuit returns to continue frightening children of all ages. The even scarier Sergeant Smith is taken to task over his policing methods that have seen complaints against Police on the rise. The almost unintelligible Milo Kerrigan being interviewed!

Shaun Micallef indulges in what he does best – intelligent narrative humour that often creeps up on the audience. One example of this is the English actor Sir Nigel String and his recollections as he prepares in his dressing room. Glynn Nicholas has several mime routines involving unsuspecting members of the audience.

Individually, their distinctive styles shine. Nicholas’ mastery of physical humour and Micallef’s fascinating facial contortions compliment the sometimes biting writing.

Quite a lot of the show revolves around simple concepts and quite short sketches. An exception is a brilliant, very black comic sketch in which a selfish tax lawyer, played by Shaun, visits his old father, played by Glynn, in a nursing home. The writing here is amongst the finest anyone could wish for. It is a masterful example of sketch writing that showcases Micallef’s ability to toy with the emotions of his audience, even in a comic sketch.

The comedy is not only accompanied, but also contributed to, by talented pianist Carrie Barr. She excels in makes her own mark on the evening with a song and dance routine.

Even the sponsors of the show come in for the Micallef treatment. Sponsor messages appear during the show, as a convenient device to mask costume changes and the like. At first they seem innocuous, but listen carefully and they contain some of the most disturbing suggestions about some of Adelaide’s favourite businesses!

Micallef and Nicholas both have old links to Adelaide and to each other. Micallef has written for Nicholas before. It is great to see them work together on stage.

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ON GOLDEN POND
The Stirling Players Inc
Stirling Community Theatre
Until March 19

Review by Stephanie Johnson

“On Golden Pond” is a sweet and memorable trip into the private lives of a family on holidays in a sultry New England summer.

Ernest Thompson wrote both the stage play and the screenplay for the 1981 film version starring Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda. The story will be familiar to many and comparisons are unavoidable.

Director Tony Rogers has produced a touching and pleasant comedy with this version.

An aging couple spends a long, lazy summer in their holiday home on the shores of a golden lake. Sunsets, swimming, fishing and other well-worn holiday activities amuse family members as they interact.

One of the strengths of the film is its beautiful scenery filmed on the pristine and undeveloped shores of New England’s Squam Lake. Set Designer Roger Landstrom has cleverly placed windows at the back of a holiday home lounge room. Changing colours can be seen through these to depict different times of the day. The windows inspire the imagination of nature and golden sunsets.

However, it is the ins and outs of the old and new familial relationships that lie at the crux of Ernest Thompson’s tenderhearted play.

The daily interactions of couple Norman and Ethel Thayer are the backbone of this play – the habits, the affectionate name calling, the familiarity that becomes second nature in long marriages are humorously, and sometimes emotionally, portrayed.

Graham Nerlich dominates the stage as the irascible old rogue Norman Thayer Jr.

Nerlich’s Norman is at once recognizable and irritating, endearing and infuriating, and very, very funny.

Josh Sanders is delightful as the young Billy Ray, whose child-like honesty manages to disarm Norman.

Opening night nerves seemed to get the better of Vee Noble in her role as Ethel Thayer. She dropped lines and fumbled somewhat in the earlier scenes. As the night progressed, she relaxed and warmed to the role.

Edhouse was superbly strident as the daughter, Chelsea, still trying to gain her father’s approval at the age of 42. She deftly handles the awakening realisation that she needs to let go of the past and communicate as an adult to both parents.

Dave Greig and Malcolm Walton were also strong in their supporting roles, although perhaps Walton could work a little more on his laugh.

All in all this play provides a chance to sit back and relax and enjoy a quiet evening’s entertainment in the Adelaide hills.

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ENCORE TO MURDER
Blackwood Players
Mayfair Theatre
Until March 19

Review by Andy Ahrens

A late start and an apology in advance for any technical mishaps was an unfortunate entrée to Blackwood Player’s change of venue into the Mayfair Theatre.

Sadly, when the curtain was raised the pace of the night didn’t rise with it. The biggest mystery about this murder was why director Allen Puttock didn’t inject some pace and intention into it. ‘Encore to Murder’ was largely unexciting and uninspired.

The play was saved by good casting and most actors at least seemed comfortable in their respective roles. David Lockwood as ‘Chief Inspector McEvoy’ provided a matured calmness in his role. Justin Kelly provided appropriate flair and flamboyance in the over-the-top role of ‘Roger St Ives’. His costume was suitably colourful.

Colleen McCormish as ‘Jennifer Rooney’ failed to show enough contrast and emotion in her role. This was particularly obvious in the scene where she received news about the death of her best friend. Toby Dobson as ‘Constable Larry Parker’ managed on a few occasions to provide the comedy the role was written to provide. Matthew Braid in the role of ‘David Loring’ missed some opportunities in what was otherwise a well balanced performance. Stuart Gowdy as ‘Jack Dunbar’ delivered his lines too slowly and appeared stuck on the couch for much of the performance.

The set was appropriate and paid good attention to detail despite the lighting casting a shadow across it. In a show of many sound effects, credit must go to the sound and props personnel who got them all working, on time, on opening night.

‘Encore to Murder’ was not ready for opening night. This was probably due to technical difficulties the Company had in moving to a new venue. It will certainly quicken its pace as the season progresses. It was just unfortunate that on opening night the most memorable aspect of the production was the pleasantness of the Front of House Staff.

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ONCE UPON A MATTRESS
Northern Light Theatre Company
Shedley Theatre
Until March 19

Review by Simon Slade

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale “The Princess and the Pea”, “Once Upon a Mattress” is far from challenging theatre. Rather, its success relies on being a vehicle for a cast of top stage personalities. Carol Burnett, in her Broadway debut, created the part of Princess Winnifred through her timing and sharp performance.

Sadly, Ms Burnett is not appearing in this production. Those cast members who do have comic timing and acting ability are dragged down by the rest. This show is just not snappy or tight, and as such, so much of the comedy is lost. Entrances and cues need to be pacier.

The times where this show does work, it works very well. Theresa Dolman, as Queen Aggravaine, is brilliant. Her comic incantation scene in Act II was a fine example of comic acting. Steve Rudd, as Sir Harry, plays the melodrama as though he was born to it. Hayley Horton plays his true love Lady Larken, and her realistic style seems mismatched with Rudd. With some characters being played for melodrama and others for realism, the direction seems to lack focus. As a result, many of the minor principals are working hard but the effect is not cohesive. Kira-Marie Laverty as Princess Winnifred, Kurtys Ramond as the Minstrel and Rohan Watts as the Jester are all worthy of mention.

The dance numbers look a little like an end of year concert and in a few numbers it seemed that better dancers had been placed towards the rear of the stage rather than in front. Once again, there is the feeling that it is just not tight enough. An exception to that was the ballet scene, where four of the younger performers get to showcase their considerable talent in a piece that was nicely executed.

The set design is good, and the costumes show a lot of work. Overall the sound was quite good, although there was a tendency for levels to be run too high. The lighting design was uninspiring but generally executed well.

Overall this production is not of the high standard that Northern Light has set with its recent productions.

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THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR
State Theatre Companyy
The Dunstan Playhouse
Until March 19

Review by Stephanie Johnson

“The Government Inspector” is a masterpiece of rich and vibrant colours with music, costumes and sets stylishly depicting opulent Russia in the 1800s.

Babushkas and gourd-like lanterns line the front of the stage and the set is designed with richly coloured folk art – a feast for the eyes.

The acting ensemble includes a colourful array of quirky characters in larger than life costumes.

The State Theatre Company’s production is a fun-filled farcical evening of impressive proportions and moments of sheer brilliance.

This is also a Russian comedy with a broad Australian influence. The combination is sometimes strangely discordant.

Small town Russian corrupt and incompetent officials hear that a government inspector is coming. They panic and jump to the wrong conclusion that a grandiose visitor is the inspector when in fact he is a hopeless gambler. Nevertheless the “inspector” is showered with praise and money until the truth is eventually revealed.

The scene is set with a strong Russian overtone and yet when the ensemble speaks the façade of Russia crumbles and modern-day Australia barges in. The use of Australian vernacular and topical Adelaide political references is a deliberate ploy. The result is sometimes clever, often humorous and yet sometimes jarring.

The musical ensemble provides some of the brilliant moments as members cleverly mask scene changes with parodies of modern songs such as “I Was Made for Loving You Baby” performed in true traditional Russian folk-song style. Salute music director Philip Griffin!

Director Adam Cook has brought together a strong ensemble of actors who all support each other well, never upstaging but rather providing an artistic frieze effect when not speaking. This adds to the artistry of the production, which is considerable.

Paul Blackwell yet again shines in this style of comedy with his buffoonish inspector Khlestakov while Don Barker pontificates splendidly as the mendacious Mayor.

Jacqy Phillips provides many a humorous moment as the Mayor’s wife as she struts the stage in a costume that is pure confectionary and an accent somewhat akin to Kath or Kim. Geoff Revel’s Osip the servant is suitably subservient and sly, a strong foil to his upper class counterparts.

Artistic Director Adam Cook has provided a sumptuous comedic feast as the first serving in the State Theatre Company’s 2005 subscription season. It is no wonder that, as he claims, this year’s subscriptions are soaring.

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LORD AUTHUR SAVILE’S CRIME
Therry Dramatic Society
Arts Theatre, 54 Angas Street
Until March 5

Review by Andy Ahrens

There is something adorable about farce, with its twists and turns, unexpected mishaps and witty dialogue. “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”, based on an Oscar Wilde story, has all this to offer but in the new century struggles to capture the modern theatre audience.

Therry’s performance lacked a degree of pace on opening night but as with most comedies should only take a performance or two in front of an audience to quicken up. It was noticeable that the cast began to bounce off the audience and ‘nail’ the comic moments as the play progressed.

The script was catchy enough to ensure that there were times of compelling action. It didn’t disappoint with its satire and comment on English politics and marriage.

Lord Arthur (Nicholas Ely) carried a huge weight on his young shoulders to carry the show. Ely was ably supported by his loyal butler Baines (Kerry Hailstone). The pair showed great dynamics between them as they concocted and plotted their way to produce the perfect murder.

Despite some wasted opportunities with their dialogue, their performances were mostly consistent and added much needed life to the show. Ely in particular grew in confidence and showed he had the potential to combine expression and voice in well executed comic timing.

All the cast did well to maintain their accents. Of the supporting cast, Lady Beauchamp (Penelope Hamilton-Smith) and the small role of Nellie (Kimberly Williams) were highlights. Sybil’s (Allison Scharber) performance was also a highlight but why look so grumpy in the curtain call? Smile – it’s theatre!

The set was beautiful and along with the lovely Victorian costumes captured the period well. Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime just managed to convince us that the best comedy still belongs on the stage.

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ADELAIDE COMEDY FESTIVAL
Rhino Room
www.adelaidecomedyfestival.com
Until 5 March

Reviews by Theresa Dolman & Nikki Gaertner

The Adelaide Comedy Festival features 15 different comedians playing two rooms at the Rhino Room until March 5.

The shows downstairs were introduced by ‘Adelaide’s Own Big Al’ (presumably not the same Big Al that we have borrowed from elsewhere for previous events). His material and timing was good, but if you go to more than one show you may hear the same banter several times.

JODIE J HILL

First ‘cab off the rank’ was the effervescent, and heavily pregnant, Jodie J Hill. She started with stories of her childhood antics and memories of the Royal Show, and kept the laughs coming with tales of her visits to New Zealand and Queensland, and a honey-moon that didn’t turn out quite as sweet as she envisaged. She also made good use of her bulging belly to encourage the well-deserved laughter, though the experiences of some of the mothers in the audience may have her wondering whether that delivery will be so amusing!

CHARLIE PICKERING

Charlie Pickering’s opening laughs came while he paced around the small stage, as if looking for the funniest spot---not that he needed to. His recollections of his travels to the eccentric fishing town of Pt Lincoln and the even more bizarre mining town of Kalgoorlie were hilarious. And he had everyone enthralled as he recounted his attempts to fill a Hotmail inbox. This very funny man also gave us his thoughts on his alternative career prospects, and on God’s financial arrangements. Pickering is on every day of the festival, and well worth seeing.

LAWRENCE LEUNG AND ANDREW MCCLELLAND

The last of the shows for the night was a PowerPoint presentation that explored Secret Societies Through The Ages. Though appearing for the first time as a duet, Leung and McClelland had an easy rapport, and bounced off each other like veterans. The style of their show was refreshingly different to the usual stand-up comedy. The presentation at times was reminiscent of Terry Gilliam (Monty Python) animations, and worked well to keep the laughs coming. I would tell you more, but I am sworn to secrecy. Tickets to this show will be selling fast.

These three shows were a wonderful start to the Adelaide Comedy Festival. The festival is only on until 5 March, and the venue is not huge, so book early for a good night of laughs. And dress with layers. This is not a fashion tip---the Rhino Room seems to have no control over their air-conditioning.

Shows upstairs were introduced by some local newcomers to stand up comedy who warmed up the crowd in anticipation of the main acts. On the Festival's opening night the upstairs sequence consisted of Dave Callan, Justin Hamilton and Adam Richard.

DAVE CALLAN

It’s unfortunate more people weren’t present at Dave Callan’s opening act at the Adelaide Comedy Festival. But performing to a less than capacity crowd didn’t appear to faze the well-known Irish Australian comedian as he delivered his take on Aussies, the Irish and numerous other topics that he chose to deliver his comic spin on.

Callan didn’t disappoint with many of his humour filled stories and kept the crowd laughing for the duration of his hour-long show. The only punch lines not receiving as much of a reaction were those that had already been worked into his stand-up act on Rove a few nights previous, so it seemed the majority of the crowd had tuned into this performance as well.

However, Callan certainly entertained, a particular highlight being the “Yoda-Karaoke” that finished the night, so try to make it along to the Rhino Room for the 7pm show upstairs this week to join in the fun.

JUSTIN HAMILTON

The crowd poured in to see Justin Hamilton perform his act on Friday night, illustrating that the JJJ announcer is certainly a favourite amongst the younger generation in Adelaide. Despite some technical difficulties resulting in the show beginning significantly later than advertised, Justin’s momentum appeared undisturbed as he travelled through his act at hundreds of miles per hour.

Hamilton’s energy filtered through the crowd and they were soon eating out of his hand as he recounted stories of his past performances, family members, friends, childhood and ex-girlfriends. Justin’s is one of those acts that takes every day experiences and shows them in a new and humorous light – because we’ve all been there too.

If opening night is any indication, this act is sure to be popular throughout the festival, so go and check out Justin any night aside from Wednesday 23/2 at the Rhino Room.

ADAM RICHARD

As he says himself, Adam will tear strips off anyone. And does he ever! With his extensive knowledge of the majority of Hollywood stars and other well known personalities (acquired through conducting personal interviews, being very “up” with the tabloids, and having seen practically any film and television series you could name – including the very, very bad ones), Adam picks everyone and everything to pieces to the great delight of the audience.

No-one is out of the firing line, not even himself, as he closely analyses the shapes and sizes, clothes, personalities and acting abilities of some well-known favourites.

This laugh-a-minute show was the definite winner of the night and a major crowd pleaser – so much so, that the crowd tried their best to keep him as long as possible as the act came to a close.

And watch out Hollywood, for Adam is going to the Oscars (as he casually dropped into a number of his stories), so he’ll be out to collect more dirt for his next show!

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INTO THE WOODS
Multiple Sclerosis Society of SA & NT Inc
Odeon Theatre, Norwood
Until 26 February

Review by Simon Slade

Fairy tales normally have broad-brush plots and one-dimensional characters. That’s not where you would normally expect to find composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The Age newspaper once said that the works of Sondheim would still be performed when Andrew Lloyd-Webber was just a footnote in the history of musicals.

In “Into the Woods” Sondheim combines the tales of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White to create a complex story based on simple elements.

Directors David Lampard and Joshua Penley have succeeded in bringing out a number of the multiple dimensions in both the text and the characters. They have not lost the sense of fun present in Act I, and foreboding in Act II.

This is an ensemble piece, with no real chorus, and the performers work well together. Joshua Penley, as Jack, stands out. His acting and his singing were both good, and his comedy was fresh and funny. The scene where he farewells the cow was hilarious.

Trish Spence as the Witch gives a real sense of menacing, as opposed to just being a caricature. She is in fine voice and even manages the transformation scene well. David Lampard as both the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince has some of the funniest moments in the whole show. He plays the comedy expertly and clearly loves it. Unfortunately, he ran into a couple of timing problems with songs, and was struggling at the extremes of his range.

On opening night a number of cast members struggled with lines. There were also problems with timing in a few musical numbers. The orchestra is not visible – the Odeon has no pit – and the cast is able to see the musical director on a video screen. The orchestra is quite tight under the musical direction of Ian Boath.

David Lampard and Paul Talbot’s set is a masterpiece of storybooks. Other pieces like the cow and the horse are created in the style of a pop-up book. Tim Ides scenic art is spot on. If only the lighting had done it justice! The focus was sloppy and cues were a problem on opening night.

Those sorts of problems took the edge off what could be a stunning production.

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MURDER BY MISADVENTURE
Tea Tree Players
Tea Tree Players' Theatre, Surrey Downs
Until February 26

Review by Rod Lewis

Edward Taylor's comedy thriller is reminiscent of Ira Levin's much funnier, clever play Deathtrap, but it has enough twists to satisfy any whodunit aficionado.

The story centres around television thriller writers Harold and Paul who face the end of their 10 year working relationship when the former decides to dissolve the partnership. Suddenly their plots are made real when blackmail and backstabbing transform into murderous intent.

Director John Sharpe has cast well and offers his fair share of scares, intrigue and wit well above what is scripted, with audience screams being the ultimate nod of success!

Mike Phillips making a good stab at Harold after assuming the role late in rehearsal, while Paul Zechner puts in a killer performance as drunken ideas man Paul Riggs. MMerri O'Neal Contino maintains a nicely controlled level of hysteria throughout the play as Harold's wife who is drawn into the conflict against her will.

Don Stuart's arresting performance as Inspector Egan adds an additional injection of humour late in the story, although each appearance of the character stalls the plot a little too long.

It is often better to have no accent than bad accents and the personal dialects of the actors do nothing to detract from the English script.

It is almost a given that a Tea Tree Players' set will be outstanding and their staging of a modern, highrise apartment for this season once again makes the tiny acting space look large. Attention to detail, including modern artwork, statuettes, barely seen balcony furniture, and some clever effects add up to an impressive visual feast.

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SHAKESPEARE'S VILLAINS
Andrew McKinnon Presentations in association with the State Theatre Company SA
Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until February 15

Review by Fran Edwards

Dressed all in black on a bare stage Steven Berkoff wove theatrical magic in his one-man production "Shakespeare's Villains". Exploring the Bard's villains he categorises them from the psychotic to the mediocre. He describes Iago as mediocre. His Iago is anything but mediocre. With no props and only his voice and body he recreates snippets from many works, always avoiding the obvious, making the audience rethink the definition of villain.

Berkoff's face is familiar from his film work, "A Clockwork Orange", "Octopussy" ,"Beverley Hills Cop" to mention a few and he is very familiar with the workings of villainy, not just those of Elizabethan times. Apart from performing Shakespeare, Berkoff has many directorial credits with the Bard's work and all this experience enhances his understanding and interpretation of the many characters he brings to visit. Both a consummate mime and mimic, Berkoff is sure of himself and his talent.

A strange mixture of performance and lecture, this production is fascinating. The highlights include some of the most well known pieces, in particular the interchange between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (Berkoff delivers both characters) demonstrating vocally and physically the breadth of his talent. His Iago is nasty, his Shylock pitiless and his Richard III intelligent. He switches to Richard III with his back to the audience and the change is remarkable. He likens Coriolanus to President Clinton, they both faced the Senate but one kept his honour the other his life! He uses irony like a rapier to expose aspects of characters that we had not previously considered.

He failed to convince me of Hamlet as a villain and he himself questions the one villainous act (killing Polonius) as out of character. However Oberon gains new depth when looked at as a drug lord with pushers (Puck). The complex and difficult nature of the characters are belied by the ease with which he dons their persona.

In this production Berkoff , the enigma, shares with the audience. He shares his love and understanding of Shakespeare. He shares his dislike of critics and his insecurities. He shares his humour in wry and ironic asides. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing an evening with Steven Berkoff.

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24 HOUR SHOW – SOUTH PACIFIC
Northern Light Theatre Company
Shedley Theatre, Elizabeth

Summarised by Rod Lewis

Stage magic has never created an illusion so sweet as the surprising success of Northern Light Theatre Company's 24-hour show.

Over 100 people turned up at the Shedley Theatre in Elizabeth on February 4th to hear the 8pm announcement of what full-length musical the company had only 24-hours to produce.

The challenge was set late last year after a conversation with company members who had come across the idea at the Edinburgh Festival. The dare was made and the challenge accepted: The company would have to cast, direct and choreograph a full production in a day, with sets and costumes. They would have no forward knowledge of what play they were doing, and would work on a zero budget.

At 8pm the following night, the doors opened to let in the capacity audience. The quality of show was so great that it surpassed many an opening night.

The 61-strong cast knew most of their lines and ad-libbed beautifully when things went wrong. Those that had to use scripts disguised them nicely as props. Under the Musical Direction of Mark Horner, with Peter Johns, Katie Packer and Tammy McInnes assisting, the songs were all sung beautifully, accompanied by a highly professional band.

The varied dance routines displayed the talents of the unlisted choreographers (NB Choreographer was Kerrianne Sarti), while the costumes were worthy of any show. Damon Hill and Kristen Webb's set design was simple but complete. Directors Sue Pole and Andy Ahrens, along with all involved, are to be congratulated on meeting such an extreme challenge and coming up trumps. What was expected to be a comedic fiasco proved to be a quality night of musical theatre.

The overall coordination of the event was precise and effective with Ceri Hutton-Horner deserving the biggest accolades for her well thought out process that allowed for most eventualities.

Sweet dreams to all!

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TAPESTRY
Matt Byrne Media
Tapestry Winery & Holden Street Theatres
Until February 12

Review by Wendy Mildren

Devotees of Carole King will be delighted with Matt Byrne’s musical review “Tapestry”.

The “off-Broadway” presentation of the show was staged outdoors at Tapestry Winery at McLaren Vale to a most appreciative audience. The use of this venue was an inspired choice given the name of the production, however after the “try-out” the production will be moving to the Holden Street Theatres at Hindmarsh.

Matt Byrne has put together a talented group of three female and three male singers, who performed well and looked stylish with matching coloured handheld microphones to match their costumes. They were ably backed up by an equally talented group of musicians, under the direction of Mike Pitman.

The production is a review of the music written by Carole King presented in concert form. The selection of songs presented included well known favourites such as “You make me feel like a natural woman”, “You’ve got a friend”, “Up on the roof”, “Will you still love me tomorrow” and “Locomotion”, to name just a few.

Charissa Pitman had a strong voice and really belted out her solos. Christine Isemonger had a sweet voice but needed a little more volume. Robyn Woolvett had the ideal voice for Carole King’s music. Nick Brinkworth was great with a very good tuneful voice. Michael Williams had great stage personality but needed a bit more volume, and the last of the sextet, Matt, was a little flat in his solos but his voice blended well with the other singers in the ensemble work.

Obviously, in an outdoors situation there can be problems with volume and sightlines, however when this production moves to the Holden Street Theatres these problems should be eliminated.

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THE MIKADO
The Adelaide Festival Centre and Opera Australia
Festival Theatre
Until 29 January

Review by Simon Slade

When Gilbert and Sullivan wrote this piece, everything Japanese was fashionable in London, and therefore what better way to parody the more pompous and pretentious aspects of English society, than to do so in a Japanese setting.

The original production was therefore at great pains to be very "Japanese" in its attention to costumes, sets and movement.

All too often, productions tent to slavishly follow the D'Oyly Carte style, but happily that is not the case here.

This production goes further in that it parodies the combination of English ideas and Japanese style. The set features Union Jacks and Queen Victoria along with Japanese tea sets and vases. Equally the costumes at times combine aspects of both cultures. The "Gentlemen of Japan" are hilarious in the costumes that borrow from both cultures.

The local performers in this production are exceptional. Jessica Dean's Yum Yum is a delight supported beautifully by Johanna Allen as Pitti Sing and Eleanor Blythman as Peep Bo.

Timothy Sexton's Adelaide Art Orchestra was excellent, and the pace was never allowed to flag. Th orchestra was nicely balanced with the singers, but sometimes that was being achieved with a strained sound mix, particulary at the start of the show.

The show has been sold on the strength of its big name stars, and they did not disappoint. Anthony Warlow shows off not just his voice but his comic abilities as Ko Ko. Judi Connelli as Katisha is frightening in her romantic pursuit of the young Nanky Poo, played to a tee by David Hobson. Douglas McNicol's Poo Bah is a real highlight, conveying all the silly pomp and circumstance of the English aristocracy

It is a tradition, since the works of Gilbert and Sullivan went out of copyright, to play with the lyrics of Ko Ko's "List Song" and the lyrics here are wonderfully local. From Nick Xenophon to "The Ring Cycle", nothing is safe!

And the cast were enjoying themselves as much as the audience.

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JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
MS Society of SA & NT Inc
Her Majesty's Theatre
Until January 22

Review by Hayley Horton

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's first successful collaboration has been performed with a number of interpretations and visions.

While the MS Society have by no means created an original interpretation of this show (heavily borrowing from the video version), this production contains plenty of colour, pizzazz and star quality.

The biblical tale of Joseph brings a vast array of characters and well-known songs to the stage. Top-billed Tim Ferguson provides a show-stealing performance as the Elvis-esque Pharaoh and a welcomed original interpretation of the bad-tempered Potiphar. Ferguson has the ability to interact with the audience at just the right level to have them eating out of his palm.

Katie Underwood as the Narrator brings her pop-star qualities to the role although sometimes struggles with the demanding vocal range and often (whether as directed or her own interpretation) wanders from the storytelling nature of the role to a concert-like performance. Fortunately this does not detract too much from Underwood's overall appeal.

Yet again in an Adelaide show, the performers (in particular Underwood) are let down by abysmal sound operation making it difficult to hear the wordy lyrics telling the story. Late audio cues are inexcusable and the blend of sound levels desperately needs alteration with the band and booth singers often drowning out the performers on stage.

Thern Reynolds as Joseph is an asset to this production with an amazing voice that sends tingles down your spine. Reynolds' rendition of "Close Every Door" is a definite highlight of the show and coupled with classic looks and a faultless performance, he bears the weight of his demanding role with strength.

Equally impressive are the supporting amateur cast, who hopefully have benefited from performing with their celebrity counterparts. Joseph's 11 brothers ably provide comic slapstick and melodrama as well as entertaining renditions of the stand-out "One More Angel in Heaven" and "Those Canaan Days".

The children (en-mass and colorfully clad) give wonderfully angelic support, enhancing many of the more touching numbers with crisp and simplistic integration. Coupled with the ensemble cast who provide dynamic and visually pleasing performances, their dedication to this production is most evident.

It would be remiss not to mention the amazing costumes coordinated by Kate Anolack and Rosie Ferguson. Their attention to detail, colour coordination and style is of an immense standard, completing an appealing and entertaining show to be enjoyed by all the family.

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BOO!
Windmill Performing Arts & Mainstreet Theatre
Carrick Hill
Until January 21

Review by Stephanie Johnson

"Boo" is a disparate play - a spooky slapstick comedy for all the family.

It is fun and energetic, a moveable feast in the setting of the rambling Carrick Hill gardens.

The action starts as a father Gerard Rumble (Rory Walker) and his daughter Grace (Sarah John) join the picnicking throngs of the "Boo" family audience. An argument is sparked by the daughter's reluctance to attend a cultural event. This quickly escalates as Grace spots someone she knows from school, Laura Jacobson (Amber McMahon). Grace ducks for cover embarrassed at being seen outside of school at a kid's play. The fun begins.

Next enters a zany storyteller Frederick Von Castle (Hew Parham). Von Castle leads the audience, Pied Piper style, through the gardens stopping to tell his ghostly stories.

What ensues is a crazy concoction of different characters and scenarios and much uneven mayhem.

Catherine Fitzgerald's "Boo" isn't really scary, although it is rather ghoulish occasionally bordering on cartoon-like carnage and what some might consider rough language for youngsters.

It is a strange brew of slapstick comedy and ghostly stories that manages to mesmerize its young audience and elicit laughs from older ones.

All of the actors do well to capture a young audience's attention in an outdoor setting - right after a picnic dinner!

Amber McMahon stands-out as the nasty bully Laura while Sarah John hits just the right note as timid and belligerent Grace.

Rory Walker successfully juggles his alternating roles as father and various poltergeists. Hew Parham is delightfully ghoulish as Frederik von Castle.

The venue of the leafy lawns of Carrick Hill offering a picnic and play make this an ideal outing for a family. The child audience on opening night ranged from tiny tots to 12 year olds. All seemed to enjoy the action. "Spook-tastic" was the comment heard from one 10-year-old.

It is just a pity that the stately Carrick Hill home could not also be utilized as part of the eerie setting.

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