Consumerist delusion infects every one of Willy’s values – his hollow insistence on being “well-liked” looks galling viewed from an era that literally monetises “likes”; his obsession with material success drives him to the inexorable conclusion he’s worth more dead than alive; his treatment of women poisons his sons.
- Advertisement -
Toxic masculinity is transmitted to Biff (Charlie Cousins) and Happy (Ross Dwyer) like some ancient curse – an intergenerational trauma that displays to piercing effect just how destructive patriarchal mythmaking is to men. And Margot Knight’s Linda isn’t a passive bystander – she’s complicit in a way that makes her grief-stricken final requiem more profoundly wounding.
Supporting cast changes – excepting Joe Petruzzi as the Lomans’ affable, pragmatic neighbour Charley – don’t improve upon last year’s season, and production design (especially the lighting) remains weak compared to the four central performances.
- Advertisement -
But those charge Miller’s tragedy with an intensely rendered pathos that should prove a revelation to anyone experiencing it live for the first time.
Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead
Sleaford Mods ★★★
The Forum, June 3
“It’s comedy, it’s make-do, it’s ignorant and above all, it’s shit”. That’s Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson describing England four albums ago. The neo-punk bard of Nottingham is far from ignorant. But as a Frenchman once said, you are what you eat.
- Advertisement -
Here’s how Sleaford Mods make do. Williamson barks his apoplectic vignettes of class farce, doom and squalor in side-profile to scorching lights. Andrew Fearn dances like the beardy guy at aerobics, stopping only to click-start each track on his laptop.
The minimalism is a big part of the deal. The intensity is hilarious. The rupturing electro grooves are compelling. The Forum is packed. The imagery is mostly impenetrable – even to the English bloke I chat to with the T-shirt bearing Johnny Rotten’s last words with the Sex Pistols: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
Nobody here feels cheated. Eighty bucks for a guy shouting over a laptop? We shrug and buy another $14 beer, cheer at the featured artists singing from the laptop: Florence Shaw on Force 10 From Navarone, Billy Nomates on Mork n Mindy, Perry Farrell on So Trendy. This being Melbourne and everything, Amyl & the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor actually is in the room. She stays in her seat as her disembodied voice kicks in on Nudge It. Sod it, that’ll do.
The Mods slam out 25 tunes about England’s losers, brawling in Sainsburys’ carpark, blaming foreigners for COVID, seething at the boss, hiding online purchases from the missus.
UK GRIM, Tilldipper, Giddy on the Ciggies, Jobseeker, Bang Someone Out and Smash Each Other Up sound exactly like the records because that’ll do. We austerity tourists like to keep it real.
But compare the lust for life raging from the drums and guitars of local punk-shoegaze support act Enola. Singer Ruby Marshall looks fantastic, sounds hungry, every word and move laser-focused on transcendence. Their road won’t be easy. But they sure live in the lucky country.
Reviewed by Michael Dwyer
Fever103 Theatre, fortyfivedownstairs, until June 11
Secret societies have a mysterious allure, a whiff of danger about them. Elly D’Arcy’s new play springs from a real one – the Night Climbers of Cambridge. This bold cabal scaled gothic rooftops of university colleges and town buildings in the 1930s, and prefigured what we now know as urban explorers. Books describing its activities are still popular among Cambridge students, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the playwright’s research could find not a single woman member.
Climbers writes one into the gap.
Like her Shakespearean namesake, Rosalind (Meg Taranto) is a spirited and intelligent young woman with a taste for adventure. Never one to let gender stand in the way of experiencing life to its fullest, Rosalind gatecrashes the Night Climbers and soon matches Fred (Eddie Orton), George (Charlie Veitch), and Alex (Sebastian Li) for poetry and drinking, blood oaths and intrepid daredevilry.
Will she ever truly be one of the boys? Rosalind’s romantic and sexual discoveries are experienced as liberating, but her coming-of-age story is also an awakening to the shackles of patriarchal culture. Misogyny is rampant, and she must “work twice as hard and speak half as much” to achieve the same recognition as a man.
For Rosalind’s roommate Lucy (Veronica Pena Negrette) that misogyny has terrible consequences, and the drama builds to a powerful scene which juxtaposes the joy of Rosalind’s first sexual encounter with the aftermath of Lucy’s violation.
From there, the two young women show true courage, defying institutional silence to stage a daring protest, with a counterpoint to the boys’ club – a women’s communist brigade led by the ferocious Ruth (Tyallah Bullock) – standing in solidarity.
The production has charm, notably stylish set and costume design, and a large cast of emerging performers finding their feet. Taranto is luminous, fully inhabiting the heroine; Negrette a quietly devastating force. And the young male characters sketch their types with brisk economy.
Climbers does feel like it would be better condensed into a 90-minute play, or perhaps expanded into a miniseries to give the characters and historical setting more depth.
Contemporary sexual politics also loom large over D’Arcy’s feminist fantasy, in a way that militates against dramatic complexity and sometimes whitewashes historical reality.
It was impossible to legally consent to sodomy in the 1930s, for instance, and homosexuality was generally regarded with the same disgust as, say, rape or paedophilia are today. One feelgood scene obscures this.
On the other hand, even consensual sex with a woman could get young men banished from Cambridge – as poet William Empson was in the late 1920s – a fact that makes some later dialogue and action sound anachronistic.
Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead
Across Silence: The Art of Music, Auslan and Haptics ★★★★½
Tempo Rubato, June 4
If the mere title of this show is enough to set one thinking, the technology behind it is as dazzling as it is awe-inspiring. Melbourne bassist/producer Kylie Davies wanted to present hearing and deaf artists together on stage, and find a way for them to participate as creative equals in a music and Auslan-based performance.
The solution? Wireless vibro-tactile vests (developed by US company Music: Not Impossible) that translate sound into intricate vibrations via 24 touchpoints on the skin. On Sunday, two remarkable artists – actor Marnie Kerridge and poet Walter Kadiki – performed poems in Auslan while individual frequencies from the piano, clarinet, double bass and sung vocals vibrated across their hands, feet, backs, shoulders and chests.
The exquisite music was composed by Andrea Keller, with lyrics drawn from poems written in decades or centuries past (by Yeats, Walt Whitman and others) or devised spontaneously in the moment.
As Gian Slater’s gloriously pure voice wove in and out of the chamber-like arrangements for Keller’s piano, Davies’ bass and Natasha Fearnside’s clarinet, Kerridge added gracefully expressive gestures in Auslan. Her flowing movements were poetic evocations rather than literal translations, effortlessly enhancing the emotional impact of the lyrics.
Walter Kadiki was equally mesmerising as he performed his own poetry (also set to music by Keller), with Auslan interpreter Amber Richardson translating his gestures into spoken words.
Using breath, movement and vivid facial expressions, Kadiki’s visual poetry was as potent as the words that accompanied them, evoking joy, longing, despair and hope as the music swelled and subsided around – and within – him.
During the concert, additional haptic vests were shared among deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members so that they, too, could feel the music. Watching their reactions as they experienced the vibrations was often as moving as the performance itself, and I left feeling awed and deeply privileged to have witnessed this unique creative experiment.
Reviewed by Jessica Nicholas
Garrick Ohlsson ★★★★★
Musica Viva, Melbourne Recital Centre, June 3
Last visiting on the cusp of COVID, American pianist Garrick Ohlsson has made a welcome return to Melbourne, confirming his undeniable artistic prowess in a program that radiated conviction and finesse.
Ohlsson’s extraordinary grasp of musical architecture was immediately apparent in Schubert’s popular Impromptu in C minor, where his elegant control of musical line was beautifully complemented by a subtle sense of colour in both the inner and outer parts.
A surefooted sense of musical direction also pervaded an authoritative account of Liszt’s titanic Sonata in B minor, in which Ohlsson projected a masterful sense of musical background and foreground. Unafraid to unleash the sonata’s dramatic vehemence, Ohlsson was also capable of moments of heart-stopping tenderness, not least at the work’s end. Occasionally Ohlsson’s no-nonsense approach to pacing created a longing for a little more silence between the music’s rhetorical utterances, but such a celebrated work admits many interpretations.
Ohlsson brought stylish and expressive pianism to Convocations, a new work commissioned for Musica Viva from Tasmanian composer Thomas Misson in which the development of two opposing themes occasioned some engaging, idiomatic writing for the piano.
A final bracket of works by Scriabin saw Ohlsson very much at home in this composer’s idiosyncratic sound world. Three etudes centred around C-sharp/D-flat blended poetry and precision, while the first of the Two Poems, Op. 32 in F-sharp major once again produced exquisite colouration. Ohlsson brought astonishing energy and bravura to the hyper-romantic maelstrom that is the Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, crowning the recital with a barnstorming finish.
An encore of Chopin’s Nocturne in F-sharp major Op. 15 No. 2 brought the audience gently back to earth after this dazzling display of virtuosity. Ohlsson’s musical breadth and depth makes him one the piano’s most compelling advocates. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear him.
Reviewed by Tony Way
The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it every Friday.