Tag: Christina Logan-Bell



By Joanna Simmons

Lyric Opera presents the first in its’ trio for the 2017 season, and Camille Saint Saens’ The Japanese Princess is a wonderful choice of work. Having never been performed in Australia; this one-act comic opera is accessible and excellent. The story is simple so the main feature is the music; played beautifully by the Lyric Chamber orchestra and sung by the experienced cast of three. It’s a treat for the ears, and with dialogue in English and subtitles for all the French Songs it defies any old notions that opera is dusty fat ladies warbling in foreign tongues for hours.

The Japanese Princess.jpg

We follow the story of Kornelis, an art student who becomes infatuated with all things Japanese, and much to his fiancée (and cousin in the libretto) Lena’s dismay, becomes obsessed with the portrait of a mysterious Japanese Princess, Ming (not a Japanese name.) Ming makes Lena question herself, her relationship and Kornelis’ sanity. The voluptuous orchestra ornately guides the story with a nod to the orient with songs with colourful language and robust emotions.

Lena, played by Kimberly Coleman (and alternated with Kate Macfarlane) was naturalistic and strong.  She plays up the comedy where needed and connects with the other players and the music. Robert Macfarlane as Cornelius’s (alternated with Hew Wagner) dulcet tenor tones were right on the money. I wish his acting was as strong, as there were a lot of comedic moments that could have been more detailed with facial expression and timing, and other moments that felt forced. Arisa Yura as Ming, is subtlely woven into the story and is captivating to watch. She dances skillfully with a fan, her delicate hands well placed; yet then does some turns and steps that break character and genre, which feels disjointed alongside the music and set.

The intricate set designed by Christina Logan Bell that feels like the inside of a Japanese fan or tea house, complete with tatami mats, is beautiful and memorable. It, combined with the well-plotted lighting by Lucy Birkinshaw, transports us to this wonderous other world. Lucy Wilkins’ costume design fits well with the set and the era, adding colour and beauty with Ming’s kimono, and a neutral- everyday feel to Cornelius and Lena. Director Miki Oikawa has tastefully bought this production out to be one that is accessible in our modern day, in partnership with artistic director and conductor Pat Miller, whose passion and knowledge is evident, and should be highly commended.

The part I loved the most about this show was the beginning, where Miller turned around from facing the orchestra and invited us to ensure that our phones weren’t going to disturb the performance, but encouraged us to use them, to share with people what we are doing, and push opera to become something that is spoken about, shared, liked, snapchatted, hashtagged and all. In our world of watching videos for 30 seconds before getting distracted, it can be difficult to produce theatre to challenge our palates whilst tickling them too. This show is engaging and enchanting, simple and satisfying for the ears and eyes.

Lyric Opera’s The Japanese Princess played at Chapel Off Chapel, 11-18 March, 2017

Image by Sarah Walker

REVIEW: True Love Travels on a Gravel Road

Exciting new theatre is right on track

By Christine Moffat

True Love Travels On A Gravel Road is billed as a comedy-drama, but this interesting new work leans more towards a modernised tragic-farce romance.  This is by no means a bad thing.The play was entertaining, funny and surprisingly moving.

True Love Travels - Photos by Sophie Dewhirst and Glenn van Oosterom

The key to this work succeeding (and it does) is the skilful collaboration of writer Jane Miller and director Beng Oh.  With the assistance of a very capable cast, they have created a world where the characters can exist and be real.  These characters rely heavily on classical theatre archetypes and as a result are all slightly larger than life, leading to many comic moments.  Interestingly though, they are also well-drawn human beings, especially demonstrated through the use of everyday dialogue which on the whole made them very relatable. The set (by Christina Logan-Bell) is a stylised, neutral-coloured corrugated iron shed, allowing the location to be anywhere at any time.  This clever device results in some great plot reveals that could have been pre-empted if the set had given too much away.

The stand-out performances on opening night were by Elizabeth McColl (Glenda), David Kambouris (Richard) and Glenn van Oosterom (Jake).  All of these actors pushed the scope of their performances to the outer edge of realism, but their risk paid off with three of the most affecting characters in both the comic and dramatic moments.  That being said, all performances were strong.  The entire ensemble filled the piece with energy and emotion, and the audience responded positively to every character.

Unfortunately this reviewer feels that by inserting an interval at a critical point in the action the sense of tension was lost, and it took time to regain that atmosphere once the show recommenced.  The play is roughly standard length (90 minutes), and modern audiences are well accustomed to sitting through an entire performance without interval.  The production is compelling enough to risk removing the interval to keep its pace, for overall, True Love Travels on a Gravel Road is inventive and fresh, and a great blend of comedy and pathos.

Venue: fortyfive downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season dates: 17 May to 2 June 2013

Show times: Tues – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $37 Full, $30 Conc, $33 Group 6+

Bookings:      03 9662 9966