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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Five High-Impact Plays to See in Sydney This Month

Get your pre-Christmas culture fix, from Chekhov classics to Muriel's Wedding: The Musical.
By Matt Abotomey
November 21, 2017
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Five High-Impact Plays to See in Sydney This Month

Get your pre-Christmas culture fix, from Chekhov classics to Muriel's Wedding: The Musical.
By Matt Abotomey
November 21, 2017
  shares

FIVE HIGH-IMPACT PLAYS TO SEE IN SYDNEY THIS MONTH

Get your pre-Christmas culture fix, from Chekhov classics to Muriel's Wedding: The Musical.

Right. It's November, 30 days hath it and it's pretty grand, on the whole. Nevertheless, everybody seems to be in a great hurry to leapfrog it and get straight to the insanity of Christmas. If you're currently enjoying the mild comforts of spring and think it should be illegal for more than 75 percent of your family to gather in one location to consume large amounts of food, try putting the festivity brakes on in one of Sydney's mainstage theatres before the halls (and one of your tipsy uncles) get well and truly decked.

  • 5

    Perhaps it was timed to coincide with the centenary of the Russian Revolution, but Griffin Independent and Little Ones Theatre appear to have pulled off a serious coup here. Merciless Gods is short story collection by Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap and a man renowned for not being afraid to jab at the darkest and most shameful aspects of Australia’s national character. Upon publication, the anthology was widely praised, but also described as “out there” and “shocking”, with reviewers teasing fictional worlds governed by brutal sex, murder and random violence. Difficult subject matter on the page and not an obvious candidate for a theatrical reworking. Nevertheless, Dan Giovannoni, of Melbourne queer theatre collective Little Ones Theatre, has managed to prise Tsiolkas’ savage stories off the page and craft them into a fierce script. By all accounts, the performance adds another, very visceral layer to the already charged stories, without overlooking the vein of human tenderness running beneath.

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  • 4

    Walking the delicate line between memory and dream, Lally Katz returns to Belvoir with a play about rediscovering her childhood…before it turns into Atlantis. Lally Katz always thought she’d wait till she was older to return to her childhood home in Miami. Having migrated to Canberra when she was still quite young, her memories of the place were precious and she wanted to protect them from the sagging disappointment that dogs us into adulthood. But with rising seas threatening to swallow the city in coming years and a meeting with a taxi driver who believed the lost city of Atlantis was coming to reclaim humanity, Katz thought it was now or never. What follows is a joyful and surreal account of the return to Miami. Five actors juggle a massive cast of characters from several different periods in Katz’s life. As is typical of Katz’s work, fantasy and autobiography have a quick chat before joining forces to create something altogether better. Atlantis is a wide-eyed, chaotic jaunt through a city that is no less vibrant for the creeping tide.

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  • 3

    STC’s musical adaptation of Muriel’s Wedding is like a perfect high school reunion – maximum 80s nostalgia without having to tell any of your old friends you’re in HR now. When Muriel Heslop realises that the small town of Porpoise Spit has nothing in store but grim futures, she decides to take off, with only her parents’ chequebook, a couple of ABBA albums memorised note for note and a vague sense that the wider world has something that she is hungry for. PJ Hogan, who wrote and directed Muriel’s cinematic adventure, has adapted and updated the script for the stage, while Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall have built the music around ABBA’s towering back catalogue. There’s a real buzz around Muriel. Sure, it’s a chance to re-immerse yourself in the unadulterated joy of Muriel’s hijinks, but it’s also because Muriel hasn’t stopped holding the mirror up to our desperate, fame-hungry society since she first hit the screen. As director Simon Phillips points out – “Muriel’s governing delusion is becoming a celebrity and becoming famously married. The world has caught up with Muriel.”

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  • 2

    Andrew Upton’s been at the Russians again and this time it’s Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters which has fallen prey to his adaptation laser. Not known for his trick titles, Chekhov’s work revolves around three sisters getting to grips with life in 1850s Russia – Olga (Alison Bell), a schoolteacher, Masha (Eryn Jean Norvill) an artist of sorts, and Irina (Miranda Daughtry) an idealist who is being flattened by reality. Oh, and their brother, Andrei (but he made the title much less snappy). Opening on the first anniversary of their father’s death, Three Sisters documents the efforts of this foursome to experience joy and fulfilment as the bland reality of adult responsibility slips a noose round their necks. This may sound like a broad synopsis, but it’s a pretty broad play. Even with Upton’s modifications, this thing runs at three hours. It’s said that tragedy plus time equals comedy. Not always. It also equals the Russian classics.

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  • 1

    Bell Shakespeare is rounding out the year with a play about the varied benefits of displaying personal responsibility i.e. one which will undoubtedly cause both boomers and millennials to ensure the other group that it was written with them in mind (before they both Google it and discover it predates them by 400 odd years). Bassanio is desperate to have a crack at wooing Portia, but to do so he needs 3,000 ducats. He’s broke, but his friend Antonio, a merchant, has always come up with the goods before. He does so again, but this time the money comes from Shylock, a moneylender happy to take anatomical reparations. Somehow we end up in a courtroom arguing semantics with Portia who is dressed up as a man. With Mitch Butel as Shylock and Jess Tovey as Portia, The Merchant of Venice is the rollicking birth of the courtroom drama and definitely worth a squiz.

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