SHORT REVIEWS OF SOME OF THIS YEAR’S BEST LOCAL THEATRE
In recent months I’ve witnessed some exemplary local productions and, although I’ve already mentioned many of these in my monthly radio spots on the Coast Arts programme*, I wanted to say a few words here as well.
Endless Night Theatre Company’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”
Several of the Central Coast’s newest theatrical companies have become home to some extraordinarily talented young performers. Among these is Endless Night Theatre Company, a group established in 2014. My first experience of their work was their striking production of “The Crucible” staged at The Art House, Wyong last year by talented young director Scot Russell. Scott continued to impress me last weekend with a production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” that was worthy of London’s South Bank. In the tradition of the RSC, he took a minimalist approach to set and staging. Clever use of simple props helped to keep the action flowing while allowing the audience to focus on the writing and performances, which were admirable. Particular credit goes to Dylan Crawford and Matt Driver who held the title roles. They held the lion’s share of Tom Stoppard’s fiendishly difficult script, delivering it with superb comic tone and timing, and they received excellent support from Jane -Ann Scott who was also a major player. But the rest of the cast proved the maxim that there are no small roles; even those with few – or no – lines still made their presence felt on stage with excellent use of physical humour. Special mention must also be made of Declan Green who stepped up in the play’s final minutes to infuse Horatio’s closing speech with utter conviction and unexpected pathos. It’s great to see new companies taking the risk of staging challenging works, and doing it successfully. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing ENTC’s next production.
For more information about the company, visit http://www.entc.com.au/
XtrAct Drama Academy’s Mid-Year Performance
Earlier in the day I had the pleasure of watching the students of XtrAct Drama Academy presenting their mid-year performance. My late husband, Paul, always had a soft spot for XtrAct and enjoyed helping with sound production for several of their past shows. I’ve tried to continue to lend my support where I can, and I’ve always been impressed with what I’ve seen. Many of the most talented and promising young performers currently gracing the stages of our local productions began as students of XtrAct and, as I watched the show last weekend, I saw the faces of many students who I’m certain will be future Central Coast stars. Danielle-Brame-Whiting, director of the academy, has a gift for instilling confidence in young people and developing their stage presence. Her programmes and shows stretch the youngsters’ abilities and extend their talents. I’ve been impressed by the clever and imaginative plays and skits she creates, which are fun for the students to perform, and entertaining for audiences to watch, but their premises are also educational and thought provoking for young minds. Equally importantly, Danielle is always careful to reward qualities of teamwork, co-operation and kindness. I should like to applaud Danielle, and all those involved with XtrAct, for its vital contribution to Central Coast theatre and youth development.
XtrAct Drama Academy now offers regular classes at Wyong and Point Clare for students ranging from kindergarten age to 25 years old. For more information, visit https://www.xtract.com.au/
Wyong Drama Group’s “End of the Line”
Having been impressed by Wyong Drama Group’s production of “Sepia Secrets” in 2016, I was eager to see its prequel, “End of the Line”. Both plays were penned by WDG’s resident playwright, Andy Kabanoff, and are creatively based on the experience of his family during the Russian Revolution and the European wars that followed. Andy Kabanoff is a golden find for WDG – a marvelous talent as writer, director and actor. His plays are beautifully crafted, and cleverly staged to conjure an almost cinematic experience. Intelligent, imaginative, gently humorous and moving, “End of the Line” blends past and present, history and memory, and is woven throughout with lyrical threads from Russian literature. The play also utilized music and dance, creating some beautiful moments and tableaux. Andy received excellent support from his co-director, Gabrielle Brooks and the fine performances of their cast. Central Coast favourites, Ruth Jordan and Marc Calwell performed admirably in key roles, but there were also some less familiar faces that deserve credit. Special mention should be made of Samantha Winsor whose engaging and nuanced performance carried the audience through the story as she played the role of Elizabieta over several decades, from young girl to mature woman. Kudos also to the make-up, costumes, the technical effects team and stage crew who all played their part in helping the epic drama to unfold on stage. Overall, this was a real treat for genuine theatre lovers.
For a review of “Sepia Secrets”, please click on WDG’s SEPIA SECRETS – A review by Karen Ractliffe
Wyong Drama Group have another production this month at The Art House, Wyong. This time it’s a musical comedy, “Nunsense”. Friends who’ve seen this show before assure me that it’s hilarious. For more information, visit the group’s website at http://www.wyongdramagroup.com.au/
Jopuka Productions “WTF Short Cuts” show
Not just a short play festival, this was a full variety performance, with a comedy MC and musical entertainment between plays. And the plays themselves were excellent. I was thrilled by the contrast in tone, style and subject matter. All were thoroughly absorbing – funny, dramatic, thought provoking, moving – and consumately performed. The festival was crowned with a performance of Jamie Hornsby’s breathtaking “Because There Was Fire”, winner of this year’s Newcastle Fringe Best New Work Award. It was a superbly crafted and directed drama with truly exceptional performances from the two actors. The gripping emotional rollercoaster held the audience spellbound throughout and was rewarded with a standing ovation at the end. It’s great to see young people producing such exciting, high quality theatre. Kudos to director Danielle Brame-Whiting, to all performers and crew, to founder Josh Maxwell and his team, and to everyone involved with the festival. I can hardly wait for WTF 2019! But, in the meantime, Jopuka have another production at the Youth Arts Warehouse this month: the topical drama, “Gaybies” by Dean Bryant. Details are on the company website at http://www.jopukaproductions.com.au/
Gosford Musical Society’s “We Will Rock You”.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket and the performance I saw was great fun, with lively direction, sharp choreography, striking costumes and star quality performances from the leads. Special kudos go to the musicians. It takes outstanding talent to reproduce the music of Queen and this band really delivered. The standing ovation they received at the end was testament to their success. Congratulations to everyone involved!
GMS have two shows at Laycock Street Community Theatre this month. First their juniors production, “The Wiz”, then the ever popular “My Fair Lady.” More information and tickets are available from http://s.centralcoast.nsw.gov.au/theatres/what’s-on
*The Coast Arts programme airs Sunday evenings, 6-8pm on Coast FM 96.3