Theatre

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Return of Cirque

Good news for fans of Cirque du Soliel. The company, which last wowed us with Varekai, is bringing its latest spectacular, Dralion to Australia from the middle of this year. It will play Sydney from July 16, Canberra from October 23, Brisbane from November 27, Perth from January 28, 2009, and Melbourne from April 9, 2009. Details here. Sign up for the Cirque Club for the chance to book the best seats online first.

Whose gong show?

A few people are scratching their heads about the make-up of the new committee for Brisbane's Matilda Awards for Excellence in Theatre. My sources say they are no longer to be just critics' awards, but gongs awarded by a committee of "peers". Nobody seems to know, however, exactly who appoints the committee that gives out the awards, and why representatives of some media are included yet others excluded. I await enlightenment on this.

Campaign gathers speed

In less than 24 hours since I began the campaign to save Brisbane's Regent theatre, almost 100 people have already joined the Facebook group "Save the Regent", I've had offers of serious help from people who know how to run these campaigns (which is great, because I really don't) and are passionate about preserving our past, and I've spoken on the breakfast shows of 4BC, 4KQ and 612 ABC. Let's keep the ball rolling!

Help save the Regent

Save Brisbane's Regent theatre from redevelopment into a tower block. Click here.

Save the Regent!

I wrote here just a month ago that I feared for the future of Brisbane's Regent Theatre. Now comes news of plans to buld a tower block on the site while retaining some heritage features. I say the state government should buy the site and restore it as a grand theatre. Hang the expense; Brisbane can't afford to lose another historic building. The great cities of the world look after their past while looking to the future. This is a test for Premier Anna Bligh and Arts Minister Rod Welford. I believe the Regent could become a drawcard for locals and tourists alike as a live theatre hosting long runs of the big musicals that now debut in Sydney and Melbourne, and often go no further. Over Christmas, both southern capitals were hosting three big shows at once; surely Brisbane could host one. Imagine Phantom of the Opera in the beautiful old Regent, where the chandelier would look like it belonged. Or Billy Elliott (which Brisbane may never see), or The Lion King (which didn't come north) or Spamalot (which may not). Even if the venue made a small loss, the cost would be insignificant compared, say, to the cost of running Suncorp Stadium. It's time to rally the forces; set up petitions and not let this happen.
PS: Making it a venue for musicals is just one suggestion. Others are very welcome.
Update: There's now a Facebook group you can join, and soon a webpage will spring to life at www.savetheregent.com!
February 17 update: Laurel Edwards had her say about it on 4KQ, and then she, Gary Clare and Mark Hine spoke to me. You can listen here:


If you don't have the correct plug-in, the MP3 file is here.

A Wilde time with Coward

Having just finished Cole Lesley's insider's biography of Noel Coward, I've been thinking a lot about Coward's place in British theatre. Coward has been in, out, in and out of fashion. At the moment, happily, he's back in, having been rediscovered in Australia, where the Queensland Theatre Company has joined several other companies in having a fresh look at Private Lives in recent years, and in the UK, where there are revivals of Blithe Spirit and The Vortex - the latter starring Felicity Kendal, whose The Good Life costar Penelope Keith is playing Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. On the not entirley un-Coward-related subject of Wilde*, QTC will be doing Earnest later this year with a cast including Paul Bishop, Tim Dashwood, Penny Everingham, Jane Harders, Bryan Probets, Francesca Savige, Georgina Symes and Leo Wockner under the direction of Michael Gow.
* Coward wrote a musical version of Lady Windemere's Fan, titled After the Ball.
PS: QTC's first production for 2008, The Female of the Species opens in Brisbane tomorrow.

Fabulous Phantom

The Phantom of the Opera has officially opened at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane. I'm in Shanghai, and I wasn't there for the performance, so please forgive my ignorance if something unusual happened. If nothing unusual happened, and this production is still up to the standard of its opening night in Melbourne six months ago, it was a superb performance of a wonderful modern musical; Anthony Warlow exceeded expectations in a role that could have been written for him; and the show received a highly deserved, sustained standing ovation. Please tell me if I'm wrong.
PS: Here's my interview with Warlow for The Sunday Mail last year.
Anthony Warlow as Phantom from QPAC website

Rocky return

About four months ago, singer-songwriter-actor iOTA told me: "Whoever thought that Paul [Capsis] would be a good Riff Raff is an absolute genius." Well, I guess that would be director Gale Edwards, whose production of The Rocky Horror Show, starring iOTA, Capsis, Tamsin Carroll and Sharon Millerchip, is about to get off the ground in Sydney - and may, one day, come to a theatre near you. You can read about it here at smh.com.au. My original interview with iOTA, about Sydney Dance Company's Berlin but also including his thoughts on playing Dr Frank-N-Furter, is here.

Fact and fiction

A play telling a story similar to the death on a cruise ship of Dianne Brimble has outraged her ex-husband. Playwright Alexandra Edmondson says it is a work of fiction based on up to 30 similar incidents. Of course, all art imitates life, so is this such a bad thing to do?

Play's the thing

A Melbourne playwright has written a play from edited transcripts of the interrogation of Dr Mohamed Haneef. Graham Pitts says he wants to highlight what he calls the "climate of fear" in Australia after the passage of new anti-terrorism laws. Will it draw an audience, I wonder.

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