Comic opera by Rossini. Produced by Lyric Opera of Melbourne in 2007 at Chapel off Chapel.
Singers, puppets and a gang of puppeteers populated the stage. Sometimes the puppets were used to achieve images almost impossible in a conventional staging of the opera, such as Don Magnifico’s dream of a flying donkey, or Prince Ramiro’s crash when his vehicle is struck in a lightning storm. At other times the puppeteers played tricks on the singers.
In Rossini’s Cinderella, the fairy godmother is replaced by Alidoro the philosopher. Like Diogenes, he wanders through the city as a beggar and studies human nature. Depicted as a contemporary homeless man, his presence is unsettling: it deflates the prestigious air of opera itself and mocks the expense of its tickets. In this production, the gang of puppeteers were an extension of Alidoro. Not only did they create all the stage magic, as if a gang of fairy godmothers. Their trashy mischief undermined the high art pretensions of the form.
THE GOLEM OF RUCKER’S HILL
A Platform Youth Theatre production, performed in and around the Northcote Town Hall, 2007.
Young actors starred, carrying all the main roles, while skilled theatre artists worked to realize the production. To name a few; Margie Mackay created pyrotechnics and trained the actors to use them. Flic Steel choreographed and taught fight sequences. Karen Berger trained the actors in war drumming and lead the choir. Emma Louise Pryce designed and ran the team that created the giant puppet for the climax.
The production was the final in a series for Platform Theatre of responses to the Homeland Security “stages of alert” for imminent terrorist attack. Codes Blue, Green, Yellow and Orange had each been reflected in a production. The Golem of Rucker’s Hill was Code Red.
Comic opera by Donizetti. Produced by Lyric Opera of Melbourne in 2005, with a return season for The Melbourne Comedy festival in 2006.
The brief was to make opera accessible to people who hate opera.
The production included a spoof of Les Miserables, an aria in the manner of a spaghetti-western and an attack on the audience with teddy bears. Stealing the show, however, was a character invented for our production. “The Stage Manager” was played by clown actor Anne Radvansky. One of her responsibilities was the subtitles, which were printed on giant cards and had to be held up manually. Donizetti is well-known for some very fast music for multiple parts. Subtitling these by hand led to mayhem.
Don Pasquale was nominated for three Green Room awards, including Best Director.
2005 production for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, staged at the Lithuanian club theatre.
BREMEN is a musical fantasy that re-imagines the brother’s Grimm fairytale ‘The Bremen Town Musicians’ as a refugee story. Three farm animals run away from their homes to escape the farmers’ gun. They meet on the road and decide to go to Bremen to form a band. Meanwhile, Death visits their homes to collect them and is soon hunting them down. And further down the road, the mayor of Bremen introduces tough measures to deal with uninvited arrivals.
The production involved 60 people. All music was live, and each group of characters had a distinct musical style. The animals played folk-rock tunes. Death, an 8 foot puppet, was accompanied by creepy lieder. A choir of human refugees sang world music.
Bruce Woolley received a commendation for best male actor for his role as ‘donkey’ and BREMEN won the inaugural Fringe Artplay Award.
THE NOW HOUR
The Now Hour was a song-and-dance satire populated by the most troubling characters and images from current affairs. It had two incarnations in 2004.
The first was a one-night-only performance at Crystal T’s strip club for the Arts Program of the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. Strutting the catwalk were: A personification of Ground Zero (the rubble of the twin towers); Bob the Blackshirt (Blackshirts are a local organisation of divorced men who wear black masks during protests); three versions of his estranged wife; George Bush in the manner of Frank Sinatra; Saddam as the Cowardly Lion (he had just been caught); and Osama, the Fox who can’t be outfoxed, as the host.
The night ended with a jelly-wrestling match to solve the middle-east crisis. One wrestler represented Palestine, the other Israel, in a winner-takes-all fight to the death.
The second Now Hour was produced for The Melbourne Fringe Festival in the North-Melbourne Town Hall.
The Hall was imagined as a giant flying machine which transported the audience to again meet Osama, George and Saddam. Then the venue was hijacked and crashed into hell. In hell, Hitler appeared as a Teutonic knight, singing Wagner. The viscious Afghanistan media triangle - soldiers abusing prisoners, jihadists beheading soldiers, the rest of us watching on tv - resolved itself in a rendition of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. A massive ghostly suit of armor (a puppet some six metres tall) rose to menace the audience, until god rode in on a surfboard and made everything better.
This production won the inaugural Fringe Visionary Award and Susan-Bamford Caleo won Best Female Performer.
Both Versions of The Now Hour were supported by wonderful musicians, including Marc Hannaford on piano and Ryan Ritchie and Tamil Rogeon from True Live.
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