"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause."
-Theodore Roosevelt

06 November 2011

Underbelly Razor

Chelsea Preston-Cormack as Tilley Divine
I missed the earlier installments of the Underbelly series, and after seeing this season, that's something I regret. What I've seen has been impeccable drama. It is rare to encounter a historical series that marries great dialogue and characterisation with historical accuracy, but Underbelly Razor has done just that. Remarkable, too, because it comes from the WIN Network, who usually avoid broadcasting anything of substantial quality at all costs.

The clever use of music from recent decades covered as jazz numbers from the nineteen twenties is a touch of genius. It stamps the series as modern (just in case you're not watching it in HD), and draws the audience into the period with much-needed humour. The dialogue only occasionally diverted from the vocabulary of Australian English in the period, and the settings for the action of the series are impeccably depicted. Few films manage such superb historical aesthetics, but it is especially remarkable for a television series.

The series' two protagonists, Kate Leigh and Tilley Devine, are played by Danielle Cormack and Chelsie Preston-Crayford respectively, and their performances have been thoroughly engaging. While Danielle Cormack is a familiar and welcome face on our screens, I've never seen Preston-Crayford, and she is equally noteworthy. She also gained my attention because she's playing the namesake of one of Canberra's best-known cafes, and this explains a lot for those of us who live in the capital!

Danielle Cormack as Kate Leigh
Dealing with Australian history in this manner is refreshing. I have recently been working on a play set in Sydney in the 1880s and was surprised that I could not find a single novel, film or play that takes the city as its setting in this era. Our focus on the bush was not just dominant; it was absolute. The focus of Underbelly Razor on a Sydney story in the era of Dad and Dave, when we generally like to see ourselves as a quaint agrarian outpost of the British Empire, is both novel and redresses an unfortunate imbalance. I hope its a sign of a maturing national image.

Underbelly Razor is, of course, not without its historical faults, though most are negligible. The one notable problem is the way the police are depicted. The senior ranks of the New South Welsh police seem genuinely concerned with law and order, which seems to be at loggerheads with the histories I've read covering law and order in Sydney in this period. The police were as actively involved in the underworld as Tilley Devine and Kate Leigh, and to depict them as antagonists is taking a lot of dramatic licence! The inherent and utter corruption of the New South Welsh  Police Force is known to have been a key factor in the development of the Sydney underworld from the early nineteenth century until the end of the twentieth, and this series treats police corruption merely as a minor theme.

I will accept this as dramatic licence, as the research required to depict the rest of this world must have been substantial, and I can't see how the writers could have been entirely ignorant of the key role the police played in the Sydney underworld. And forgiving them this licence leaves possibly the best television series I've ever seen; and I love television! Underbelly Razor has the production qualities of our best films, with excellent performances, great dialogue and a great story, well told.

Now I want to see the earlier seasons!

04 November 2011

Lapland Odyssey

Introducing his film at the Canberra International Film Festival, director Dome Karukoski talked about the Finnish cultural cringe, and my first thought was that this would relate well in Australia, where our national identity is also commonly defined by our deficits. Lapland Odyssey is a hilarious romp through a landscape that's about as foreign to Australia as it is possible to get, but its characters and humour will be as familiar to audiences of Australian films as sunshine and barbecues.

Karukoski is suitably cynical of the saleability of a comedy that starts with five suicides, but this black opening sets the tone perfectly for the hapless Janne. In his all-night search for the digibox he needs to secure his marriage, Janne leads his two hapless friends into Finnish Lapland wilderness amongst blizzard conditions, Russian tourists, the Aurora Borealis, animatronic deer and not a few boobs.

If I have to watch a formula film, the road movie is always my favourite. The formula, at its best, lends itself to a strong and consistent plot arc, excellent characterisation and endless laughs. Lapland Odyssey has all these features and is a model of the genre.

It puts me in mind especially of what I think is one of Australia's best comedies: Lucky Miles. Also a road movie, it is set in our most extreme landscape and finds humour in the imperfections of our national character. Lapland Odyssey does much the same in a Finnish context, and is also funny as hell!

You may have missed your chance to see this as part of the 2011 Canberra International Film Festival; for a taste, the trailer is here.

30 October 2011

King of Devil's Island


The violence of power and the power of violence are both explored beautifully in King of Devil’s Island. A true story, based on events occurring in 1915 at Bast√ły Island in the Fjord of Oslo; a detention centre for ‘maladjusted boys’, as the subtitles tell us.

Maladjusted is somewhat ironic in the context of this story. The boys in the film are remarkably well-adjusted, and have as keen a sense of right and wrong as their ‘protectors’. Each of the film’s protagonists fail at some point to act according to their convictions, as do their protectors, who subtly develop into the story’s antagonists.

What I like most about this film is that although it casts certain historical figures clearly in the role of antagonists, all of them are fully developed, and all but one are depicted with a degree of empathy. Just like the protagonists, they’re pawns in a bloody game of chess being played by rulers as remote and inviolate as kings. Violence, in this context, is the inevitable response.

I can hardly put into words how much I like this film. Beautifully shot in the fjords, with precise timing matching the mood of the film to the development of the winter and remarkable performances from a very talented cast. This film is perfect.

You may have missed your chance to see this as part of the 2011 Canberra International Film Festival; for a taste, the trailer is here.

29 October 2011

Toomelah

Toomelah is a particularly interesting film, if not especially engaging. Writer and Director Ivan Sen went into the New South Welsh township of Toomelah, which began life as an Aboriginal mission, and filmed this story with the local community performing the roles. As characters and performers, they offer a lot. They are, in a sense, playing themselves, and although the story is fictitious, the setting and the circumstances of life in Toomelah is very real.

After the screening at Arc, Sen described the experience of making the film in this community. He went alone, with no film crew, in order to get unhindered access to the community, and to allow the performers more scope to ignore the camera. The effect is remarkable; these characters come to life, despite having just about the thinnest plot I've ever seen. There was one point while watching the film when I wondered whether the story was actually just Sen following Daniel Connors around and filming his real life.

The reality, though, is that this is a fictitious story about a real community, played by the people of the community. The slowness of life in this community is, presumably, captured faithfully, but unfortunately I don't think this verisimilitude does the film any favours. It asks a lot of the audience to keep watching, and while I think this is often acceptable, it is more effective when the story is more engaging.

I think it is particularly important that we tell the story of diverse Aboriginal communities, but I still think these stories need to be told in the dominant storytelling form of our society. While Toomelah is a film worthy of our attention, I doubt it will get much. With a plot arc this slow, it takes pre-established empathy with the characters for an audient to sit through it.

So I find it sad that I don't think Toomelah will get much attention. It is worthy of every Australian's attention, but its interest lies in the way it was made and what it offers as a picture of life in this community, rather than being intrinsic to the film.

28 October 2011

The Dark Side of Midnight

Political turmoil is an incubator of dramatic writing, and historical plays about moments of political change are relatively common. Less common are plays set in moments of political turmoil that are about the lives of people who lived through these moments, rather than about the political agitators who created them. This is a shame, as Tessa Bremner's play The Dark Side of Midnight demonstrates with its very heartfelt story about British colonists living through the Partition of India...

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

25 October 2011

Four Flat Whites in Italy


I suspect this may be the first time I've seen a New Zealand play on an Australian stage. It's a novel irony to hear actors we know to be Australian making disparaging remarks about Australia in a New Zealand accent!

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

17 October 2011

The Hunter


Odd that I should pass the small band of faithful in Martin Place for 'Occupy Sydney' on my way to see The Hunter. Odd, because this film is an interesting take on the idea of a big faceless corporation hiring a hit-man to take care of some business. Only the victim in this case is not to be just one person but an entire species, and they don't just want it dead, they want its DNA. Creepy, yes; and a great premise for a film. What a shame the script wasn't better developed.

The Hunter doesn't disappoint entirely. A strong storyline and some very interesting relationships develop. Despite some unfortunate stereotypes there is some genuine complexity in the fabric of the film, but The Hunter lacks any real character development. Now, I'm all in favour of plot-driven stories, but the plot in this film doesn't move fast enough to carry well without stronger characters. The hunter himself, played by Willem Defoe, is two-dimensional and lacks any back story to justify his quiet demeanour. By the time he reaches the climax, we still don't really know him. The vaguely heroine-like Lucy Armstrong doesn't quite make it to romantic lead, but despite the lack of script development, Frances O'Connor does a great job of bringing her to life. Apart from the very engaging children, played by Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock, the rest of the cast are just plot devices.

I still think there's a lot to love about The Hunter. Tasmania's wilderness is a landscape that was made to be a film set, much like Utah's Monument Valley was, except the Tasmanian bush has mood swings. Really, what the characters lack is almost made up for by the bush, which certainly changes its mood more often than Willem Defoe does. I'm not just being flippant; the bush genuinely works for this film, and the cinematography is exceptional, which makes the poor script all that much more disappointing.

This one's not worthy of a cinema screen, but it's worth seeing when it comes to TV. And I really did like it.

05 October 2011

Love Song

The warmth of John Kolvenbach's play Love Song is brought to the fore in Centrepiece's production, which opened at The Q in Queanbeyan tonight. This play brings a vibrancy to themes that can be cold and stark, drawing humour and humanity into some otherwise dark places.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

01 October 2011

MP

As a playwright who calls Canberra home, the thought of writing a play about politicians or politics has crossed my mind a few times. I've even started once, before giving up in disgust at the depressing result of that folly. I'm glad, though, that Alana Valentine gave it a better shot when she sat down to write MP.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

28 September 2011

Avenue Q

I think it was family loyalty that took me along to Avenue Q. That, and some pretty high recommendations on Facebook and She Who Must Be Obeyed telling me to go see it while I still had the chance. Honestly, the idea of yet another bit of children's pop culture being appropriated for the adult market just wasn't appealing.

But in true Canberra musical theatre style, our 'amateurs' have redeemed a rather dry book and presented something truly spectacular. Technically, it was almost faultless. Apart from a few occasions when I couldn't hear the words over the band, I was blown away by how great these guys sounded. And it was a tiny band too; all I could see were two keys, two strings and a hitter who had plenty of space to rattle about in the pit.

The kudos, though, goes to a great cast, most of whom had to learn to control two bodies rather than the usual one. And it was fun just to observe as an audient that at first I had to keep reminding myself to look at the puppet rather than the actor! In time they blended, which just made the whole puppet/puppeteer thing work so well. At least in individual scenes it did.

As a whole show, though, Avenue Q just doesn't hold together very well. Whose story is this? What is it about? And why couldn't they just pick a story and stick with it? There are some interesting characters here that really deserve better treatment! But that's musical writers for you; most couldn't see a story if it played itself out on a stage in front of them!

I think, really, Avenue Q is a musical trying to be cutting edge and funny at the same time. It only succeeds in the latter, and occasionally fails at that because it's trying to be cutting edge. Does that make sense? Probably not, but I know what I mean. And whatever it's failings, Supa's cast and crew have outdone themselves. I had a ball.

15 September 2011

22 Short Plays

Opening with a convivial vibe at The Street Theatre tonight, 22 Short Plays by David Finnigan is a series of shorts carefully drawn together from longer works and staged by Melbourne's MKA.

It should not be taken as a bad thing that I really don't want to see the more complete scripts these shorts came from. As they stand in this context, they're often funny and always clever. While most of the characters tend towards either caricature or the absurd, there is the odd moment when something jumps out as rather more insightful, and the absurdity of the real world dwarfs the absurdity on stage. But it's not often this kind of concept drama plays out well in long form, and perhaps Finnigan is a master of the short form.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

10 September 2011

Broadway Bard

I have just had one of the most enjoyable experiences of Shakespeare's work I can remember. Broadway Bard, part of the Sydney Fringe, is a show in which a bunch of random soliloquies or scenes (and even a couple of sonnets) and match it with a Broadway song. Simple enough. But the vivacity with which this concept has been realised is refreshing and very real.

Setting the tone by reminding us that Shakespeare didn't write for academics, but for the brutal criticism of the paying customer, Julian Kuo, the voice of the show, proceeds at an almost frantic pace through a selection of bits of the plays and sonnets of the Bard. His recitations of Shakespeare's words are just brilliant, and his performances of the musical numbers are inspired. He holds a great rapport with the audience throughout, and is most engaging as an almost-solo performer.

Kuo is supported by Isaac Hayward on piano, who must find it tiring at such a long sitting. His entrance, however, was awkward, and I'm not sure the director achieved what he was aiming for. Pianists, unless they are also actors, are probably best left at the piano. Especially the really good ones. Kuo could have used some better direction, too. Despite excellent presence, the stage at times felt like a large open paddock, and the plethora of props was really unnecessary. I suspect that it could be successfully staged with none, but at least half of the props really should have gone.

I forgot all that, however, during Kuo's rendition of Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' speech, which, while a little difficult to relate to at first, given that Kuo had his back to the audience for far too long, really sprang to life when it segued so seamlessly with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The juxtaposition of these two pieces lent both an air of melancholy such as I have never seen more successfully brought about.

This, like many other moments, left me with goosebumps, and I don't goosebump very easily. I almost found this journey through the familiar and not-so-familiar highlights of Shakespeare's work to be more fun than seeing an entire play. Watch for it in Canberra!

20 August 2011

Playing Gertrude's Horatio

Although I grew up in that period when Shakespeare was well and truly out of favour in New South Welsh schools, I have loved his work ever since I first gave Hamlet the time of day at the age of 21. This was the year when Kenneth Branagh put the whole damn thing on screen, and even that self-indulgent marathon wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm. Shakespeare’s plays, layered as they are with so many diverse readings, are always ready to yield another insight or provoke another idea. Among my favourite of Shakespeare’s provocations is Tom Stoppard’s magnificent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. This play, derived from Hamlet, features I think the best description of theatre ever devised. Offering a performance to a pair of potential customers, the leader of a performance troupe explains their creative oeuvre:
“We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory.”
The importance of blood, or more precisely, violence, can’t be underestimated in Shakespeare’s work...

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

08 July 2011

Blood Brothers

There is an awful lot of speculation out there about the bonds between twins. Whether it's about finishing each others' sentences or remotely sensing trouble in each other's lives, twins arouse a lot of speculation about whether certain behaviours are innate or acquired. Such speculations, I suspect, were part of the inspiration for Blood Brothers, now playing at The Q in Queanbeyan...

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

07 July 2011

I'm back!

After a long period without seeing any theatre, I felt like I made something of a comeback tonight! Between holidays, a family crisis and a minor battle with pneumonia, it's been something of an epic struggle. I'm glad to be back, though. I've started rehearsing to play Horatio and Voltemand in Gertrude's Hamlet which takes to the stage at Tuggeranong Arts Centre in August.

Tonight, I was blown away by The Q's production of Blood Brothers. My review will appear on Australian Stage soon, and I'll post a link, but in the meantime, book your tickets!

09 April 2011

The Phantom of the Opera

I'm just home from Las Vegas where I had the opportunity to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. What I have found fascinating since first hearing about the production is the idea that a theatre could be constructed specifically for one show; it seems at once wasteful and devout. The ancient Greeks invented the notion of an architectural entity devoted to theatre, and three thousand years seems rather a long time to wait for a theatre devoted to one show. Las Vegas, apparently, boasts two, but I only managed to see the Venetian’s Phantom Theatre. It is a spectacular representation of Paris’s Opera Populaire, complete with wax vestiges of Parisian high society in the nineteenth century in the balconies.

The custom build has allowed for some spectacular use of the fly tower to quickly present a myriad of different scenes and aid some very clever blocking. Effects including fireworks and flame throwers as well as a dancing chandelier and a rather clever gondola, not to mention the thickest smoke I’ve ever seen, cover a multitude of sins as the performers omit all pathos to avoid making a technical error. Not that it would matter if their performances were better; the audience simply wouldn’t notice with all the smoke and mirrors around (and, I might add, not all of the smoke is intentional special effect; Nevada’s lax smoking laws mean that cigarette smoke from the neighbouring casino fills the auditorium constantly).

I’ve said in the past that I like museum pieces; and apart from some impressive special effects, there’s little more of value in this show. Any student of theatre should see it, purely to flesh out their understanding of nineteenth century theatrical culture and gain a sense of the theatre’s layout. Of course, if you’re going to Paris you could go see the real thing, and probably get a better show into the bargain. The Venetian’s production, though, is also a fine example of theatrical precision, and execution, but little more. Dead flat characterisation and mechanical and unfeeling theatrical precision from the performers sucks what little life Andrew Lloyd Webber deigned to sprinkle into his book, and leaves you with nothing more than special effects to keep you entertained.

The big theatrical surprise of my trip to the United States is that the express version of Aladdin being performed twice daily (and often more) at Disney’s California Adventure Park shows the same technical precision and impressive technical effects while also portraying the story and characters with reasonable passion. It really puts the Venetian’s production of Phantom to shame. Still, that’s Las Vegas; the bright and shiny things are a very thin veil designed to distract the observer from the soulless decrepitude of the human condition. Andrew Lloyd Webber fits in perfectly.

10 March 2011

42nd Street

Erindale was alive tonight with Philo's opening of 42nd Street. The froth and bubble of Broadway is generous if not really enlightening, and the cast delivered a fine performance of a quaint old musical.

The story is that of a talented girl who dreams of singing on Broadway. Her talent noticed, she lands a role in the chorus line and when she accidentally trips the leading lady, fracturing her ankle, she manages to take her place. Woops, did I give away the ending? No, I think that was the writer...

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

17 February 2011

Look Back in Anger

Ten pound Poms let out of the nursing home may enjoy a trip down memory lane with Paris Hat's production of Look Back in Anger, but there is much more to this play for those of us who didn't live through post-war England. This is an opportunity to experience a first-rate performance of a play that was pivotal in the development of modern theatre...

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

14 February 2011

127 Hours

SPOILER ALERT: this post contains references to the ending of the film.

A true story about a chap who literally gets stuck between a rock and a hard place for 127 hours sounds like a pretty boring premise for a film, doesn't it? But, perhaps because the film was directed by one of the UK's best directors, and perhaps because the survivor of this ordeal was far more practical and down-to-earth than your average American, this is a brilliant story.

Its protagonist, Aron Ralston, could well have been turned into a sickly sweet caricature, but Boyle's deft use of his hallucinations, memory, premonitions, or whatever you want to call them, are handled in a way that firmly grounds him in the reality of his circumstance. The film doesn't try to pretend that Aron never gave up hope, and it is his constant prevarications between hopelessness and persistence at the only option available to him that makes him both real and truly inspirational.

There have been some ridiculous stories about people finding the blood and gore too much. My suspicion is that these folk must have been completely shielded from any exposure to blood in their entire existence to be so extremely squeamish. There is nothing particularly extreme about the depiction of the removal of Aron's forearm, you might just need a strong armrest to grab hold of at a few critical moments. Limelight Cinemas' hardware held up fine!

11 February 2011

Oklahoma!

Free Rain really are gracing the stage of The Q at the moment with their production of Oklahoma! The classic musical has certainly been in good hands under the direction of Anne Somes and musical direction of Leisa Keen, and the energy on opening night was simply infectious.

Despite being a musical, and a light one at that, there is some genuine depth to these characters. Jenna Roberts' portrayal of the heroine is particularly noteworthy, but they all sit in the shadow of Tony Falla, Amy Dunham and Mathew Chardon O'Dea who shine in the love triangle. Despite being given very little to work with by the writers, they have developed an engaging story that really moves along.

I was particularly impressed with the cast's American accents. Perhaps for the first time in Canberra, a local cast has successfully emulated a single American accent, rather than the more common practice of each cast member using an accent from a different part of the United States. It may not have been a perfect Oklahoma accent, but even the cast of the 1955 film didn't manage that!

There is something unfortunate in the fact that, when they wrote Oklahoma, Rodgers and Hammerstein didn't see the value in the pioneering story that underlies the central love story. It leaves the love story a little hollow, and turns references to Oklahoma's journey to statehood into quaint oddities. I think that with more focus on this aspect, the story would resonate much more deeply, and the central love story would be enhanced by a heightened sense of purpose and destiny.

In all, this production of Oklahoma! is certainly one of the better musical productions of recent years.

07 February 2011

True Grit

I may again have to eat my words. I've often lamented that the advent of remade films in the last decade signifies the death of creativity. Doing something 'again' is for the theatre; films can simply be played again, so there's no point, and you should put your energy into making new ones. Well, now Joel and Ethan Coen have done it, and it is yet another remake of a film that I think is entirely worthy of the treatment. What's worse is that having enjoyed this film so much, I may now have to watch a few Westerns to find out whether this really is one.

True Grit was first made in 1969. It is the story of a fourteen year old girl who seeks to revenge for her father's murder and goes looking for a man of 'true grit' to undertake the fearsome task. She finds the same in Sheriff 'Rooster' Cogburn, a disreputable man with a drinking problem and a dislike for the one other person who cares about seeing the murderer hang. And so begins a journey into the Arkansas wilderness, and the wilderness of human emotions.

Firmly ensconced within the Coens' aesthetic oeuvre, this film is something really special. Despite being weighed down by overly loquacious and rather pretentious dialogue (which I think may be the norm for Westerns), the story hums along with engaging characters and a beautiful vision of Winter in the old west. Rather than soaking in a puddle of sentimentality, though, it explores the complexity of human emotions in the wake of life-changing events. In this, it diverges from what I had thought Westerns were all about. I understood them to be simplified and over-emotional excuses for a bit of gun-slinging; True Grit is nothing of the sort. I may just have to watch a few to see if I need to rethink my assumptions!

An ageing Matt Damon is an excellent foil for an old Jeff Bridges, but neither hold a candle to Hailee Steinfeld who gives a commanding performance as the ineffable Mattie Ross seeking vengeance for her father's death. The casting and execution of this role was surely critical to the success of this film, and Steinfeld really carries both the plot and the substance of the story.

Now, I've hardly seen any Westerns in my time, and have never been a fan of the genre (not that I'm a fan of any genre per se), so I can't comment on whether this is a reinvigoration of a tired genre of film-making, but it certainly is a fine piece of cinematography. It is, perhaps, the best film I've seen from the Coen Brothers, and that is really something.

28 January 2011

Manly Mates

Sir Robert Askin was the longest-serving premier of New South Wales in the twentieth century... as long as you don't count little Bobby Carr, who served eight months longer, but whose term unfortunately stretched into the twenty-first century. It will not be news to many that such petty distinctions actually matter to the ruling class. It certainly wasn't to me; which is why, when Frank Hatherley's play Manly Mates landed on my desk, I was keen to see it produced in Canberra.

A fictitious story based on posthumous accusations levelled at Askin, Hatherley's play plonks the jovial premier into a hotbed of gambling, womanising and crime (sometimes consecutive, other times concurrent). Joined by stoners, journalists, cops and shonky American poker machine salesmen, the scene in the private Octopus Room at the Manly Hotel is all too reminiscent of more recent rumblings of the political machinery behind closed doors in both New South Welsh and federal politics.

For this production, which later came to be declared the last of Canberra Dramatics' productions, I handed the reins to James Stevens, who has done a great job with an unwieldy script and a large cast on Tuggeranong's small stage. The show rolls along from one laugh to the next, and on opening night, despite a slow start, they developed a full head of steam for the hilarious finale.

It is great to see Michael Miller, who has performed in many of Canberra Dramatics' shows, reprise the role of Askin in the company's final production; he has a swagger befitting any crooked premier, and is ably supported by Rebecca Nicholson, another veteran of Canberra Dramatics' productions, as the enthusiastic Pat. Don Wilkinson also returned for this production, as did Robbie Matthews, and these friends were joined by a number of performers who had not performed with Canberra Dramatics before, most notably among them Margie Sainsbury who landed the enviable role of Lady Molly Askin, and lends her an air of forced grace.

Although I haven't had a lot to do with this last production, it has been a pleasure to see some of the journey this cast and crew have taken. They struck me from the beginning as a very cohesive group, and I am especially glad that James Stevens took on the task of directing them. Cerri Davis, who has worked in a number of different capacities with Canberra Dramatics over the years, also did a fine job in her first role as Production Manager.

In all, it was a great pleasure to see this hilarious play staged in Canberra, and it is a great finale to five years of productions.

15 January 2011

The King's Speech

Don't ask me why, but I'm a sucker for a title with a double meaning! Usually, though, they represent a pretty ordinary film, play or novel. In the case of The King's Speech, the film is far more clever than its title.

Set in 1930s England, with the world on the brink of war, this is the story of an unfortunate chap with a speech impediment. Not a particularly big deal, perhaps, unless the unfortunate chap happens to be the king of a constitutional monarchy in which the only useful thing a king does is to speak to his subjects. In such circumstances, there is only one thing for it; run through the gamut of speech pathologists until you find one who has a bit of common sense. Such a personage, of course, would have to be an Australian. You just can't make stuff like this up!

It's true. The film, I mean; it's a true story. And it's not in any way dry or sombre or mundane as biographical films are prone to being; it's a thoroughly engaging story, made all the more real by its heart-warming depiction of our queen in her childhood, her mother in her prime, and the relationships of this extraordinary family.

If you've not seen it, do so. If you don't like it, you're probably not human.