Tag: Athanaeum Theatre

Prince Moo Productions Presents CALENDAR GIRLS

Joyous, liberating, and fabulous fun

By Jessica Cornish

Calendar Girls, presented by Prince Moo Productions, is an empowering, uplifting tale that celebrates life and ageing, and finds humour and compassion in times of sadness and grief.

Calendar Girls.jpg

Known to most from the famous film, the transition of a well-loved story from screen to stage can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss. However, Calendar Girls makes the transition flawlessly under the direction of Peter J. Snee, and with screen-writer Tim Firth having converted his own script for the play. Warm, witty and moving – the stage show stands so strongly upon its own worth that I didn’t even find myself mentally comparing moments of the play to the film.

The story is based on true events, when eleven Yorkshire women aged between 45-65 who dared to pose nude to create an alternative Women’s Institute (WI) charity calendar in an effort to raise money for cancer research after the death of one of the WI member’s husband’s, John Baker.

This entertaining production has a strong female cast who literally bare all in their portrayal of the gutsy and cheeky characters who challenged perceptions of women over the age of 45, and of the women’s institute, permanently.  Leading ladies Jenny Seedsman and Abi Richardson played Chris the vivacious and pushy friend to the lovable and gentle soul Annie respectively, and the duo gave a wonderful performance in portraying the emotional rollercoaster ride of the characters’ friendship. Furthermore, they were well-supported by talented and impressive local actresses including Tottie Goldsmith, Lulu McClatchy, Kate Gorman and Francesca Waters forming the delightfully infamous Yorkshire WI gang.

The entire play is centred around the local village church hall, and while single-set decisions like this can sometimes make shows seem stagnant, the intimacy and familiarity fit well for this performance. The props and scenery by John Kerr were therefore minimal but appropriate, while the lighting design by Jason Bovaird adroitly indicated to the audience the changing of the days and provided valuable points of time and reference in the absence of scenery changes.

Unfortunately there were problematic audio issues the night I attended, but I have faith that these have been quickly ironed out as the season has progressed. My only other niggling point of the evening was the concluding scene featuring the sunflowers, which I found reminiscent of a high-school pantomime with a clunky set-change right at the end, and which I felt didn’t match the entertaining heights of the rest of the production.

That said, the story of Calendar Girls is metaphorically rich, emotive and inspiring, and this production is a wonderful and engaging stage adaptation that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Athenaeum Theatre

27 September to 7th of October 2017

7:30pm start and an extra 2:30 matinee on Saturday

Tickets range from $69-$100

Bookings via ticketek.com.au or the Athenaeum Theatre Box Office

Australian Premiere of THE HAUNTING

Chilling visions of Dickens

By Owen James

A haunted, secluded mansion plagued by visitations from spectres and spirits is no new story, but remains irresistible to the creative mind. In The Haunting, writer/adaptor Hugh Janes has taken five short stories from the supernatural-obsessed Charles Dickens, and refashioned them into this two-handed drama-horror. This library of Dickens’ tales is aptly set inside a library, with the young book dealer David Filde cataloguing the books of Lord Gray, as a series of strange and unexplained events haunt the unsettled pair.


As we enter the deceptively intimate Athenaeum, we are met with the beautiful set designed by John Kerr. There are dusty, cobwebbed never-ending shelves of the desolate and abandoned library, and a nightmarish tree beyond the window, eerily bare of leaves. This evocative, thematically overbearing Gothic mansion, like the play itself, conceals secrets in every nook and cranny, with intricate design and not a detail overlooked by Kerr.

With a sudden stab of sound and a dramatic dropping descent of lights, we are instantly transported to this haunted Victorian world crafted by director Jennifer Sarah Dean, where nothing and no-one can be trusted. We are hypnotically drawn slowly into the sceptical minds of our two characters, and lured into a false sense of security – the perfect victims for chills and jump-scares a plenty. While the first few of these were received with small bouts of laughter, the audience’s bemused titillation descended into audible gasps. Kyle Evans’ eerie sound design played perhaps the biggest part in this. Almost a whole other character, the sound effects and soundscape are perfectly effective and always precisely timed – but could afford to be louder. The walls of the haunted Athenaeum could shake and rattle a little more.

Duo Cameron Daddo and Gig Clarke build the tension and suspense necessary to pull off this piece, and clearly enjoy working with each other. Watching their combined terror mount with each heightened descent into the nocturnal haunted world invites us to join their trepidation and jolting surprise, being as much the victims of this haunting as they are.

Daddo does a commendable job presenting the cautious and austere Lord Gray as a man perturbed by compromise and change. As Gray moves from certainty to fear, building to hysterics, his counterpart takes an almost mirrored approach. Clarke as the seemingly tentative yet curious David Filde is a delight to watch, delivering the character and his stories with perfectly executed stress and anxiety – perhaps symbolising Dickens’ own obsession with the supernatural world.

Tehya Nicholas provides a chilling visual performance as Mary, hitting her marks to execute the well-timed moments of shock and intensity. Her ghastly costume by Rhiannon Irving appears always briefly, but memorably. Jason Bovaird’s chilling lighting reveals every darkened corner and cavity at just the right moment, and aptly focuses our attention when and where required. The warm sunlight and misty Gothic nighttime invoke diurnal safety and tense claustrophobia respectively, creating the ideal sinister aesthetic for the piece.

The tension built by the strong first act is unfortunately hindered by a weaker second act and anticlimactic ending. The strong performances and technical elements do their best to keep up, but ultimately we are left questioning how to feel for these characters, and where or with whom our sympathy should lie. The Haunting is a visually evocative and beautifully atmospheric piece that provides a wonderful ride, where it’s best to enjoy the journey but perhaps not the destination.

The Haunting haunts the Athenaeum Theatre until July 1st. Tickets through Ticketek: https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=HAUNTEDD17

Photography by Nicole Riseley

David M. Hawkins Presents CABARET: THE MUSICAL

Go like Elsie

By Bradley Storer

This production of Kander and Ebb’s Broadway classic Cabaret, opening in Melbourne after a sold-out Sydney season, left me with incredibly mixed feelings – a collection of fantastic elements that never quite coalesces into a satisfying whole. The set, itself a stylized stage surrounded by nightclub seating that neatly blends into the first few rows of the Athenaeum Theatre, suggests a blurring of the line between performance and reality but this is never capitalized on in the show itself. For a musical that should seem eerily relatable in our current political climate, it never becomes quite clear what message this production is trying to deliver.


Australian cabaret and theatre legend Paul Capsis easily inhabits the role of the Emcee, here depicted like a grotesque ventriloquist’s dummy, and even though he spends most of the evening onstage watching and occasionally assisting in the action he feels oddly under-utilized – darting in and out of scenes, it feels as though we are never given the chance to savor and drink in Capsis’ unique stage presence.

As the central character Cliff Bradshaw, Jason Kos does a fine job in the first act of delineating the character’s stiffness melting away into sexual awakening but his performance became oddly disjointed and robotic towards the climax of the musical which robbed the more tragic moments of any poignancy. In contrast, Chelsea Gibb as Sally Bowles gives one of the best performances of her career, finding the desperation and insecurity lurking under the flightiness and affected ‘little girl’-ishness that Sally constantly projects as a way of escaping her problems. Even as she flees from reality and responsibility, you feel incredibly sorry for her.

The supporting cast as a whole are wonderful. Kate Fitzpatrick and John O’May as the elderly Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schulz had a lovely chemistry, making their ill-fated romance all the more heart-breaking. Deborak Krizak as Fraulein Kost brings her un-erring physical comic chops, and in the final scene even manages to bring a tragic dimension to the character’s fate. The ensemble execute Kelley Abbey’s choreography with ghoulish panache and deliver strong performances in small cameos throughout the show.

Sound issues plagued the entire performance I attended, with a few missed cues and microphones randomly switching off, which would be understandable on opening night – but immediately before she could start singing the title number of the show, Gibb’s microphone completely cut out. She was forced, with the loving insistence of the onstage Capsis and an off-stage yell from director Gale Edwards, to leave the stage completely mid-performance to have her microphone replaced. Capsis sweetly vamped onstage for time before he was given the cue to re-introduce Gibbs onstage, to overwhelming and supportive applause from the audience.  When Gibbs began her number again, the sound issues continued with wash-over from other mics backstage coming through – nevertheless, Gibbs rose above circumstance and knocked the ball out of the park with a performance of the titular song ‘Cabaret’ that not only demolished the hearts of the audience but, astonishingly, even managed to banish any memory of Liza Minnelli’s iconic rendition. It was one of the most electrifying moments I’ve ever experienced in the theatre, and generated a mid-show (and well-deserved) standing ovation.

While the production itself does not always rise to meet such lofty standards, theatre-goers should rush to see this performance for the ages!

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne

Dates: 27th April – 20th May

Times: Monday – Saturday 7:30pm, Matinees Wednesday 1pm Saturday 2pm

Tickets: ticketek.com.au, Ticketek outlets or at the venue.

Image by John McCrae

David Strassman in iTedE

They’re back!

By Joana Simmons

David Strassman and his colourful collection of puppets are bringing absolute magic and comedic brilliance to the Atheneaum Theatre in his brand-new show iTedE. Renowned as the man who made ventriloquism hip again, Strassman has been cracking up audiences at the Athenaeum for 15 years and is back, pushing boundaries further with spellbinding technology and timely social commentary.  His ability to make all those characters fully come to life is unbelievable.

David Strassman.jpg

With the help of the lovable Ted. E. Bare, Strassman warms up the crowd with suitable jokes related to AFL Grand Final weekend. We learn that Strassman is worried that with our lives becoming more and more reliant on technology, our imaginations are becoming weaker, which means shows like his and live theatre will die out. He wants to rally his puppets together to sit on a panel at a TED Talk about “the suspension of disbelief.” The range of characters and the way they are developed is incredible: from Chuck Wood, the wise-cracking, quick-witted and ever uncouth, to Buttons, the sick, intoxicated clown. We see how they are different parts of Strassman’s personality; the voices in his head bought to life with absolute dexterity and intelligence.

It is delightful to see how even in our world of CGI and virtual reality (looking at you, Pokeman GO!) how the robotics and puppeteering can have a crowd swept up in every move and wetting themselves laughing in the process. The robotics are incredibly advanced, allowing each puppet to move on their own. The set, lighting and sound are high-quality and transform the theatre into a new world. The thing that still has my jaw dropping is how there were no breaks between all the voices Strassman was doing. How he managed to breathe is beyond me, and shows how he is truly a master.

Melbourne has a host of awesome art going on at the moment– Melbourne Fringe, Melbourne Festival, gigs, musicals and all the underground instillations this city is renowned for. Strassman’s iTedE is an event not to miss. It reignites your inner child’s imaginative flame and tickles your adult sense of humour. Book today, it’s worth braving the Footy crowds for!

Show Details:

Strassman: iTedE

30 Sep – 15 Oct 2016, 7pm

The Athenaeum, Collins Street


Melbourne 2016 Season of MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL

Joyous celebration of women, wit, love, and life

By Narelle Wood

Four sassy women take to the stage, set in the midst of a department store lingerie sale, to lament, laugh and learn about all things menopause. Menopause the Musical – Women on Fire sees a revitalised production of the hit show return to Melbourne with new choreography, some new songs, and plenty of new laughs.

Menopause the Musical.jpg

Caroline Gillmer, Donna Lee, Megan Shapcott and Jackie Love play these four very different characters (business woman, housewife, hippy and soap star respectively) that bond over the sisterhood experience – the midlife change. Over the course of the day in their Myer-style department store (although the set is more Victoria Secret) they shop lingerie, spa-date, lunch-date and shoop shoop their way through everything from hot flushes, sex and needing to go to the bathroom.

Shapcott and Love are great but Gillmer and Lee just seem to revel in all the awkwardness and candidness that their glorious characters demand. The depiction of Lee as a housewife doesn’t quite capture the complexity of the character she brings to life; it was captivating and joyful but in a uncomfortable and desperate kind of way – hard to describe but definitely fantastic.

The musical elements is reliant on parodies of some well-known classics from the 60’s, 70’s and the occasional 80’s. There are some standout reworkings including The Great Pretender to Sane and Normal Girls (The Beach Boys’ California Girls). One of my favourites was the poignant reimagining of Sonny and Cher’s I’ve Got You Babe, exploring the complex and close relationships between mothers and daughters. For the most part the parodies work providing witty and honest commentary that has the audience guffawing loudly. However a couple of the songs, mostly at the start, sounded like they were forcing the rhymes and rhythms to create the songs they were after.

Even though it is directed and choreographed by the acclaimed Tony Bartuccio, there were moments where it seemed as though all the elements, incredible in their own right, hadn’t quite come together. This made the performance for me a little uneven; some instances that were polished and right on point and others that were good but appeared to lack cohesiveness as though it was indeed a new production still finding its feet.

Menopause the Musical may not appear to be everybody’s cup of tea, but first glances can be deceiving. It makes for both a good night out and an educational experience, and one that is sure to leave a smile on your face.

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne

Season: Until August 6th. Tues 7pm, Wed-Sat 7.30pm, matinees Wed 1pm & Sat 2pm

Tickets: $59.90  (+ booking fees)

Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au or 132 849

MICF 2016: Dave Hughes is SWEET

Our favourite local comedy icon never fails to please

By Jessica Cornish

Southsider-dwelling St Kilda man Dave ‘Hughesy’ Hughes seems inescapable in Melbourne. Whether you’re flicking through drive-time radio, talent competitions or sport shows you can stumble across Hughesy’s particular brand of charm, and luckily for us he can also be found right now in the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival with his latest show Sweet.


His highly enjoyable stand-up show presents friendly and witty verbal clippings from his life, from exploring the never-ending body shaming and comic critiquing from his young children, to his intimate and ever-evolving relationship with his beautiful wife of 14 years. He touches on failed Footy Show antics, reflects on his time as an Australia’s Got Talent host with a contestant who had ambitious dreams of feline fame (however the cat sadly had different life goals…), and tells a myriad of tales of  everyday encounters with local folk found meandering across the city.

Sweet is currently showing at the Athenaeum, that beautiful historic Melbournian theatre, although its foyer is not exactly made for the quick hustle and bustle of MICF. So if possible, make sure you collect your tickets earlier in the evening or print them out to avoid battling your way over to the box office. And always remember this is Melbourne, therefore footy traffic will always bring the city roads to a stand-still- so leave plenty of time to get into the city.

The Collins Street theatre was otherwise a perfect venue for Hughesy and his well-entertained audience: my only niggle was the lighting had been poorly focused and as he made his way across the stage back and forth his face would often fall into pockets of darkness and shadows.

As always, the irrepressible Hughesy is down-to-earth, immensely relatable and just really funny (and all without getting too un-PC or trying to be too ‘deep and meaningful’!) Sweet will be playing at the MICF Tues- Sat: 8:15pm, Sun7:15pm until April 17 at the Athenaeum Theatre. Book early to avoid disappointment: http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/sweet-dave-hughes


Erotic, erratic and glorious entertainment

By Myron My

For those who have an immense fear of audience participation, this show could possibly be your worst nightmare. But for those after some sexy excitement and fun, then look no further because Briefs has got you covered – or uncovered as the case may be.


Formed in Brisbane, this all-male boylesque group has spent the last year travelling around Europe performing sell-out shows to rave reviews. Melbourne finally gets its turn to revel in the skill and beauty on stage in a stunning show that is not to be missed.

All the performers – Shivannah, Captain Kidd, Dallas Dellaforce, Thomas Worrell, Evil Hate Monkey, Lachy Shelley and Louis Biggs – possess a strong sexual confidence among them, which is imperative when your acts revolve around you wearing minimal clothing (and sometimes nothing at all). They also happen to be highly talented individuals and while the show is heavily structured and choreographed, there is a naturalness to their performances that allows for spontaneity and surprises for both themselves and us. There is moreover a brilliant mix of variety in the acts and they are so well paced that the ride we are on never stops being enjoyable.

Worrell’s aerial hoop and silks routines are simply breathtaking to watch. There is an erotically-charged energy to him as he ties himself in knots and contorts his body into some impressive poses while swinging from the hoop. Biggs’ circus acts and his cheeky smile are the epitome of naughty fun and the personas he takes on are executed extremely well. His mischievous high-school student act remains a highlight of the evening.

Evil Hate Monkey’s banana is a touch of comedy genius and had everyone in fits of laughter. Even with the common equation of banana as penis, there is a freshness and daringness to this act. Las Vegas King of Burlesque 2011 Captain Kidd and his famous birdbath act is a sight to behold and the less said about it the better; but it is an incredible finale to an incredible evening.

It’s been a while since Briefs has graced a Melbourne stage and you would be utterly mad if you missed the opportunity to see this seductive burlesque-cabaret-circus glitter explosion!

Venue: Athenaeun Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne.

Season: Until 5 December | Tues – Sat 7:30pm

Tickets: $52.81 Full | $47.71 Conc

Bookings: Ticketek

REVIEW: Melbourne Opera Presents MADAME BUTTERFLY

The Butterfly reborn

By Margaret Wieringa

It’s one of the greatest tragedies in opera – Madame Butterfly, a young Japanese woman who falls in love with and marries an America serviceman only to be abandoned and, ultimately, takes her own life.

This production by Melbourne Opera is a restaging of director Caroline Stacey‘s production that was nominated for seven Green Room Awards a decade ago. Of the two casts being used for this performance, I had the pleasure of seeing Antoinette Halloran as Madame Butterfly.

Madame Butterfly

The turmoil of the title role poured out lusciously not only in her singing, but through every part of her presence. While she was the emotional centre of the performance, her grief was reflected in other characters, most notably  her maid Suzuki (played with beautiful large physical gestures by Caroline Vercoe) and Sharpless, the US consul (in a contrastingly still but equally grief-stricken performance by Roger Howell),

As I came through the foyer, I was surprised at the variety of people in the audience. There were young and old, some families; some seemed very familiar to the theatre experience and others, like one gentleman I overheard “could not believe they would ever go to the opera!” To get such a wide variety of audience members to embrace the performance is a large challenge. Luckily, a slight hitch with part of the set could not have been better timed, as it was followed shortly by a line from Pinkerton (Jason Wasley) wondering if the Japanese style of house would fall apart. The audience laughed together, brought into a shared joke and brought into the house.

The Athenaeum is a venue built for such an intimate performance, as the sounds of the orchestra seem to fill the entire auditorium. Occasionally, the music overpowered the singing, however with such magnificent sounds, it was hard to be disappointed. The simple use of the large, white paper doors as the main set allowed the mood of each scene to be set using delicate colour washes and other lighting effects, and contrasted beautifully with the bright colours of the costumes and umbrellas of the female chorus as they celebrated the wedding day.

By the end of the performance, I felt emotionally wrung out and was happy to leave Madame Butterfly’s house, though I was glad I’d dropped by. And especially glad that I’d brought my tissues.

Athenaeum Theatre

188 Collins St, Melbourne

Friday March 21, 7:30pm; Saturday March 22, 2pm/7:30pm, Monday March 24, 6:30pm

Book on 9650 1500 or through Ticketek on 13 28 49

Tickets from $25-$98

Alexander Theatre – Monash University

Wellington Road, Clayton

Saturday May 3, 8pm

Book on 9905 1111 or artsonline.monash.edu.au

Tickets from $30-$75


Smooth Response to Prickly Comedy

By Darcy Whitsed

“When I first heard it, I thought it was about how hedgehogs had sex”, was how the audience was greeted by the extremely enthusiastic and hilarious Felicity Ward in her one-night-only Melbourne International Comedy Festival show The Hedgehog Dilemma.

In a show that went against almost all expectations of a live stand-up comedy performance, Ward had the audience engrossed in her outrageous personal anecdotes centered on the Freudian theory of hedgehog-related human intimacy.

Felicity Ward

After appearing as her own pre-show entertainment in a pair of bright pink high heels, tight black singlet and bike shorts and introducing the special DVD filming of the show, the audience was treated Ward’s story that ranged from her watching television alone in sadly unused wedding attire to discovering her potential as a comedian.

This journey was charismatically told with the help of surprisingly ocker sexual innuendos, a cute photo montage (with the shocking punchline of male genitalia), incredible physicality and moments of characterisation. Ward utilized every aspect of her gangly comic arsenal to have the responsive audience in stitches at each twist and turn.

The real charm of the show came from Ward’s unashamed connection to the material. Born from her personal experiences and despite being sad, embarrassing or hilarious, it was all put on display for the audience’s entertainment. The great story-telling within the show gave it an excellent sense of progression and drew the audience into Felicity’s wacky and wonderful world.

The show briefly lulled as the material fell into the clichéd realm of self-deprecating, alcoholic comedian whose life was so dysfunctional it couldn’t possibly be used for anything besides comedy. But this was not enough to taint the performance overall and when the hope-filled and unexpectedly serious conclusion arrived, it actually helped create a great sense of contrast and again surprised the audience by going against their expectations.

The Hedgehog Dilemma came to a teary close for both Ward and audience alike as it was performed for the last time in Australia, which in my opinion is a huge shame. I highly recommend picking up the DVD of this show when it arrives on shelves to anyone that loves comedy, drama, amazing story-telling, hedgehogs or penis-jokes.

The Hedgehog Dilemma was performed at Athenaum Theatre, Monday 15th April 2013.