Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review: Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise

Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise by Harry Kondoleon. Directed by Ben Pfeiffer. Set, sound and lighting design also by Ben Pfeiffer. The Artisan Collective. At the Guildford Lane Gallery, Melbourne, until March 13.

Playwright Harry Kondoleon had a very special contempt for long “family argument” plays where the on-stage brawling was less interesting than the fights you have in your own home. So, this play is both short (about an hour) and ‘heightened’.

Kristina Brew, sleight of hand and acting magic as Bethany

Unless you are dating a Berkoff-trained actor -- or some other kind of very highly strung artist -- the theatrics in Kondoleon’s play Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise should eclipse your own domestics... by about a million watts.

That said, the play might only make complete sense to highly-strung arty types. (Or those they have scorched.) Kondoleon’s idea of heightened involves putting his characters on the rack and stretching them until limbs come out of sockets. Or nailing them to a lover’s cross.

Here, a writer runs off with the partner of a close friend after a dinner party. The writer’s own ex has recently tried to kill herself. It’s like a David Lynch version of Patrick Marber’s Closer.

This early and rarely-staged play -- an Australian premiere according to the company producing it -- is an absolute treat for aficionados of non-soapy theatre and for practicing thesps. It calls for real bravura, exuberance and top physical and vocal skills from its cast of four.

Josh Price, jaw-droppingly good as the jilted Alvin

This company of young VCA acting graduates absolutely nails it. The acting is spectacular and really quite delicious without crossing over into indulgence... a fine line! Every detail of Ben Pfeiffer’s production is thought-out, exact and cleanly delivered, from the table setting on the ceiling to the choreography to the high-key paint job and lighting.

Marissa Bennett as Adel, slashed wrists healing

Josh Price’s hunched, distracted, vulture-like performance as the jilted Alvin is jaw-droppingly good. He makes a gullible and utterly wacky character seem entirely authentic. "I seem to have misplaced God," he announces. Likewise Kristina Brew (as Alvin’s partner Bethany) does an extraordinary conjuring job, all sleight of hand and acting magic.

Not for everyone, perhaps... but we're a very lucky few.

A shortened version of this review was published in the Herald Sun yesterday.

La Croggon's review is here.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Diana Krall's setlist in Melbourne

Good thing I'm a girly swot who'd rather be sixty minutes early than sixty seconds late... The Melbourne Park web site said that Melody Gardot would start at 7:30 and the concert would wind-up around 11. (It was all over by ten! Diana Krall played for just 75 minutes.) Had I arrived at 7:30, I would have missed all of Gardot's (stunning) half hour set. Harrumph.

This is what Krall played with her band (and Orchestra Victoria) on Friday.

01. I Love Being Here With You [from Live In Paris]
02. Do It Again [When I Look Into Your Eyes]
03. Let’s Fall In Love [The Very Best of Diana Krall & Live In Paris]
04. I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face [Quiet Nights]
05. So Nice [Quiet Nights]
06. I Was Doing Alright [From This Moment On]
07. Quiet Nights [Quiet Nights]
08. I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes) [The Look of Love]
09. The Boy From Ipanema [Quiet Nights]
10. Cheek To Cheek [not recorded]


11. Love Letters [The Look of Love]

Diana Krall/Madeleine Peyroux/Melody Gardot 2010 Australian Tour Dates:

Perth: King’s Park (A Day on the Green): 23 & 24 February

Melbourne: Rod Laver Arena: 26 February

SA: Barossa Valley - Peter Lehmann (A Day on the Green): 27 February

Brisbane: Entertainment Centre: 3 March

Sydney: Entertainment Centre: 4 March

NSW: Hunter Valley – Bimbadgen Estate (A Day on the Green): 6 March

NSW: Bowral - Centennial Vineyards (A Day on the Green): 7 March

VIC: Yarra Valley - Rochford Estate (A Day on the Green): 8 March

My review's comin' up in the Herald Sun. Probably Tuesday. Will post it here at the end of the week.

As promised, the review:

You’ve heard of irresistible forces and immovable objects? Well Diana Krall is an irresistible object. She’s matter and anti-matter. She commands complete attention, but she’s personable and relaxed on stage. She seems to telescope space, making a huge barn of a venue seem intimate.

Krall is a performer of enormous range and variety, from Trad trios to Bee Gees covers, Nat King Cole to Antônio Jobim. The one constant is that ashes-and-embers voice of hers.

Given the soporific lushness of Diana Krall’s most recent release Quiet Nights -- I’m not a fan of it -- one might’ve reasonably assumed her “day on the green” tour would see Krall the soulful balladeer rather than Krall the jazz huckster. Especially here with a forty-plus member orchestra behind her. But, no. Krall was in dazzling. compelling, vibrant form.

Even songs that die a death on Quiet Nights came to shimmering life, performed live. None more so than ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face’ in which the “breathing out and breathing in” of the lyrics was echoed by the string section of the orchestra.

Orchestra Victoria (under Alan Broadbent) was marvellous in the two songs from Krall’s album The Look of Love: ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)’ and ‘Love Letters’. Their sound was chromatic and mystical. They teamed superbly with Krall’s own band, especially bass-man Robert Hurst, in ‘Do It Again’.

Four of the eleven songs played in the 75-minute set were from 2009’s Quiet Nights, including the title song and ‘Boy From Ipanema’.

Krall was supported by Madeleine Peyroux who sang to her bowler hat much of the time... and (as she did last time she toured) sang in the shade of every single note. The other support act was 25 year-old singer songwriter Melody Gardot. Remember the name. I doubt I’ll ever forget the clarity and authenticity of her voice.

The Rochford Estate concert on Monday (without Orchestra Victoria) has an additional support act: Katie Noonan & the Captains.

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