Monday, 13 December 2004

Kate's Theatre Wrap up for 2004, Melbourne, Dec 13, 2004

Theatre Wrap up 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

2004 was not a feast of fine theatre but there were some treats on the table.

One hit was John Bell's Servant of Two Masters, with the consummate clown, Darren Gilshennan as Arlequino. Virtuoso, Justus Neumann, performed The Last Days of Mankind, peopling the tiny La Mama with dozens of characters.

Brian Friel's compelling Afterplay was a perfect vehicle for the exceptional Lewis Fiander and Lyndel Rowe and The Cherry Orchard was a charming surprise at fortyfivedownstairs.

Twelve Angry Men featured a skilful cast in a marvellous play while Mel Brooks' The Producers was definitely the most fun.

Although there were few good female mainstage lead roles, we enjoyed feisty Caroline O'Connor (Bombshells), a pert Christen O'Leary (Urinetown) and Nicki Wendt. (Memory of Water)

On the Fringe, Lyndel Rowe was deliciously underplayed as the ageing Chekhovian Sonya, in Afterplay, and Jenny Lovell was rivetting in Iron. (Red Stitch) The women in A Moment on the Lips deserve a mention.

Commendable male actors include Richard Piper (Daylight Atheist), Ben Mendelson  (Glass Menagerie) and Lewis Fiander. (Afterplay

From overseas, Talking Heads boasted superlative acting (Maggie Smith, Margaret Tyzack) and an impeccable script. (Alan Bennett) Ronnie Burkett's Provenance was magical puppetry and Ideas Men (Ridiculusmus) was sheer comic madness.

The year's biggest howler was David Williamson's Amigos with Anthony Crowley's The Frail Man a close second. Bell Shakespeare's Twelfth Night reduced the dark comedy to Benny Hill.  Some fringe shows felt like North Korean torture. (All's Well That Ends Well, Re-Stumping Suburbia, Goodnight Desdemona)

The most over-rated overseas show was XXX (La Fura Dels Baus) while The Buskers' Opera (Robert Le Page) and Vanishing Point (Philip Genty) were disappointing.

Kate's three top shows for 2004
Servant of Two Masters by Bell Shakespeare (Playhouse)
Afterplay by Stable Productions  (fortyfivedownstairs)
The Last Days of Mankind by Justus Newmann (La Mama)

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