Saturday, 18 May 2019

Pinocchio - Theatre Review

What: Pinocchio
When: 5 - 26 May 2019
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Written by: Carlo Collodi
Directed by: Christian Bagin
Performed by: Jasper Foley
Design by: Eloise Kent
Masks by: Newmi Newman
Lighting by: Adelaide Harney
Sound by: Felix Watson
Jasper Foley
Pinocchio is a classic morality tale and fun adventure story written by Collodi in 1880 and it is one which has stood the test of time. Exciting imagination and bringing a whole new life to this favourite Rosa Campagnaro, Bagin, and Foley bring it back to life with an authentic, energetic and exciting remediation into the finest example of Commedia dell'Arte and it is at La Mama Courthouse this week.

Pinocchio is the story of a piece of wood originally intended to be a chair leg which, it is discovered, can speak. The lonely old wood carver, Geppetto, decides to carve him into a marionette and treats him like his son, including sending him off to school. Along the way Pinocchio gets distracted and goes on a whirlwind of adventures which lead to great misfortune brought about - just like the Greeks said - by his own flaws in character.

As he travels along and loses everything he learns to be kind and brave and eventually he is reunited with Geppetto and the Blue Fairy turns him into a real flesh and blood boy - a real son for the lonely old woodcarver. This story is so popular it has world wide translations and sales greater than all other non-religious texts!

The Make A Scene team have cleverly come up with the idea of pairing this funny, sad, scary and beautiful tale with the classic theatrical form Commedia dell'Art and have hit on perfection! Watching this production of Pinocchio it looks as if this is always how the story was meant to be told.

In many respects it should not be a surprise that this piece of classic Italian literature would meld so beautifully with Commedia - after all, they are cultural ancestors - but to see it before us is a marvel. What is also a marvel is the way the team have managed to make what could be dried up, outdated content and technique come across as so modern and fresh (and unutterably hilarious!).

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. Circus is experiencing a renaissance and the clowning tradition is strong in our industry. What is Commedia but the highest form of clowning? Make A Scene have perfectly allocated the classic Commedia characters of Arlecchino, Pantalone, and Il Capitano (Pinocchio, Geppetto, and la Volpe) and there is even a cameo for an audience member to come on stage as Colombina (il Gatto).

There is lots of audience participation as sound effects and ad hoc characters (although Jiminy Cricket doesn't appear and, perhaps more surprisingly, really isn't missed in this production). At it's heart though, this production is a celebration of puppetry. The show links the technique of theatrical mask to the art of puppetry. Pinocchio takes us across the realms of mask, stringless marionettes, hand puppets, finger puppets, and shadow puppets (sans silhouette...).

The techniques slip seamlessly from one to the other within the confines of a puppet booth (a la the Puncinella tradition which became the Punch and Judy show) and out in the open stage and even, at times, into the audience. There are walls and they are constantly broken and I couldn't help wondering if this is what Brecht was exploring with his ideas on gestus and alienation...?

Bagin's direction is flawless but it would all come to nothing if Foley wasn't so incredible at what he is doing. His mask work and transitions are perfection and keep the story moving along at a good pace. Perhaps my one criticism is with a running time of 80 minutes it feels a little long for younger audiences and I did detect a bit of restlessness at around the hour mark although it quickly settled back down as Foley weaved his magic and kept us all laughing and oohing and aahing.

Kent's design is a wonder and the puppet booth is a gift which keeps on giving. It is like a Sarah Lee dessert with "layer upon layer" of secrets to be revealed. Newman's masks are also a wonder to behold. So evocative and detailed and embodying the Commedia traditions whilst also telling the story of Pinocchio.

Make A Scene have chosen to follow the story of this little wooden boy according to Collodi's original writings so it has some moments which are darker than a modern aesthetic generally allows. Some people will not like this at all, but I think when you present history you should present it faithfully so as brave as it is, I loved it. The world is not a Disney movie.

I really cannot speak too highly of this fantastic version of Pinocchio. If you don't see it you will miss one of the greatest things ever staged. It is a children's story but there is so much in it for adults! Oh, and it is bilingual but don't worry, you will be fine if you don't speak Italian and you may even come away knowing a word or two yourself.

5 Stars

Friday, 17 May 2019

Arete: Epsilon - Performance Review

What: Arete - Epsilon
When: 17 - 18 May 2019
Where: Cube 37
Playwrights: Matt Allen, Hayley Lawson-Smith, Lenora Locatelli, Harry Patermoster, Jonathan Simpson, Emma Sproule, Mitchell Sholer, Helmut von Push and Emma Workman
Directors: Lenora Locatelli, Gabrielle Rando, Naomi Woodward, Jonathan Simpson, Emma Sproule, Mitchell Sholer, Jet Thomas
Performers: Paul Barry, Anthony Bradshaw, Sophie Daddo-Langlois, The eMs, Max Gettler, Olivia Gyulavary, Annie Laurenson, Jane Leckie, Rosa Leonardi, Lenora Locatelli, Cadi MacInnes, Leikny Middleton, Josiah Moah, The Pythia, Gillian Scott, Jonathan Simpson, Mitchell Sholer, Fabrizio Spada, and Helmut von Push
Set design by: Sally Curry
Lighting by: Brad De La Rue
Stage managed by: Steven Goranitis
Olivia Gyulavary and Paul Barry
If you think theatre is an inner city indulgence you are wrong. It is the life blood of community and it is as vibrant - if not more so - the further you go from the centre point and is the life blood from which the inner city blockbusters draw their material and talent (unless you are in Australia in which case most of the material will be drawn from Europe or the USA - just sayin'...). One thriving urban outpost is Dionysus Theatre on the Peninsula who put on an annual short play festival called Arete, of which it's Epsilon season is taking place right now.

These short play festivals are hugely popular in Melbourne - mainly because few producers are prepared to invest significant resources into long form local play writing. The result is, of course, that Australian writers are becoming masters of the short quip and have few skills to develop works of social and historical impact and significance... I will get off my soapbox now.

On the positive side, these types of festivals are great for young performers and directors to dip their fingers in the water of their potential long term craft and thus we have Arete. Arete is a great initiative by Dionysus because their raison d'etre is supposed to be innovative performance but looking at their production history their only full productions are dusty old European 'classics' which do little to sustain our cultural health. (Major companies are you listening?)

Having had my little rant, I will say I really enjoyed the shape and format of Arete. It is not just the usual array of 10 - 20 minute plays cobbled together. Artistic Director Melanie Thomas has really thought about the audience experience and between the plays winds several small vignette pieces which, to be honest, are the best parts of the show. As well, she has created foyer exhibitions by local artists who are also working to this year's Arete theme: "Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind" - a quote from Marcel Proust.

Personally, I think this ideology is folderol. It is a very 20th century idea that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger but that century had to survive 2 world wars. I can forgive them for believing whatever they needed to believe to get through it. Unfortunately it has also become a free pass for painful and hurtful actions though so I would suggest in the 21st century we ought to be looking for a new standard. One where happiness is okay.

Speaking strongly to the old concepts of last century and the question of high art is the wonderful Helmut von Bush who weaves his stories and his teachings across the evening. From his work with Brecht to his break up with the Venga Boys, Bush montages images and ideas which defined the European aesthetic and psychology and in so doing smashes all of that rhetoric into dust clouds filling the air behind us. Haughty and hilarious, von Bush dares us to criticise what we see tonight as something less than art. I agree. Love it or hate it, rough or polished, what is presented is definitely art.

The true revelation and glory in Arete: Epsilon is the amazing Leikny Middleton who is the centre piece of Sproule's 'Growing Pain' collection of  vignettes across the program. Middleton is a young preteen and over the course of the evening we see her go from discovering the Where Did I Come From book, to learning the truth about Santa, and menstruating. Middleton is going to have a stellar career I suspect.

The most impactful play of the night for me was the first one, 'Happiness Is An Illusion' by Locatelli although I would have liked to see her hand the work to an experienced director. It has a lot of potential with an important story. A husband and wife together for decades. The wife realises she is unfulfilled and needs time out. The husband feels betrayed and resentful. "You chose this!" So much to be explored in this one small phrase...

'Second Chance' (Lawson-Smith) and 'Moving On' (Allen) are also intriguing scripts although the ideas need a bit more clarity, and 'Nothing Is Forever And Nothing Is Forever' (Workman) is stunningly directed. A big shout out to Laurenson who's depiction of Nan in 'Moving On' was full of depth and authenticity.

The skills and abilities of everyone were stretched in Arete, but I think young directors need mentorship on theatre craft. It is a bit rough for both the person and the audience to ask someone who knows nothing about the technical crafts of acting and staging to take on a leadership role. I don't think it helps anyone because bad habits can be formed and critical insight is unlikely to have been developed yet.

In a similar vein, some things should never be paid for to be seen and 'A Short Beautiful Moment: The Swan Story' (Sholer and Simpson) is one of those things. This piece of drivel is high school boy shenanigans and does not deserve time and resources - and a paying audience should not have to sit through such utter nonsense (it's not the good kind of nonsense...). Simpson does redeem himself at the end though with '"A Voice From The Past"; With Jeremy Hanson'.

Arete is a great version of the one act play festival and distinguishes itself with it's interconnections and holistic production. All of the scene transitions need to be sped up and choreographed more efficiently (the actors can help) and I did get tired of Curry's magnificent set piece being moved back and forth like a tennis ball. You know there are too many set changes when the audience have to sit through one for the curtain call as well!

Arete is a great local product and a part of the essential fabric of skill building and idea interrogation needed to create the great theatre of our future. I am really glad I got to see it and leave quite excited about a few of the participants.

2 Stars

Saturday, 11 May 2019

plenty serious TALK TALK - Physical Theatre Review

What: Plenty Serious TALK TALK
When: 9 - 11 May 2019
Where: Main Hall, Arts House
Created  and performed by: Vicki van Hout
Film performers: CloĆ© Fournier and Glen Thomas
Lighting by: Karen Norris
Sound by: Phil Downing
Vicki van Hout - photo by Bryony Jackson
Another great Yirramboi Festival event, van Hout's plenty serious TALK TALK is being presented at Arts House alongside Daddy. It is an incredibly clever pairing as both are dealing with the question of how a modern Aboriginal of mixed heritage combines their artistic training in Anglo style contemporary dance with the heritage elements of their indigenous ancestors.

Van Hout's conversation asks the huge questions of what is cultural appropriation, where is the line? Van Hout is a contemporary dancer trained in the Martha Graham traditions but, as she points out, Martha Graham is not her heritage so why is it okay if she uses it? On the other hand, why doesn't her Indigenous ancestry allow her to take historical moves and incorporate them into her artistry?

In this instance, van Hout is speaking to the hard line traditionalists - Mr Humble Pie as she refers to him. It is not an easy question or answer because it is always about doors being opened. Van Hout is an amazing dancer and as she demonstrates how beautifully she is able to marry both sides of her skills and traditions, it is also easy to see how people without the ancestry would see this and marvel and want to do it themselves.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Does it have a judgement value of this nature and if so how is it protected? Those questions are rhetorical. There is no easy answer and certainly not any someone of immigrant origin such as myself can address.

Now this all sounds like heavy serious stuff, but van Hout manages to make the entire 50 minutes a real hoot! She is as funny as she is serious and from the very first film clip where she is a TV presenter forced to do her own welcome to country. She moves into her live entrance combining stomping for country with lyrical dance, and traditional chanting with nonsense English which shows us she is pulling as many legs as strings of yarn off a conversational ball of wool,

Some transitions are less successful than others, more because they take a long time to reveal rather than that they are inherently flawed. The monologue about Miss Light Tan is one example, where she is basically quoting some sort of review which insists her work is inherently confusing because as a person of mixed ancestry she sits in a space of ambiguity - not unlike cronuts, cruffins, and umbrella ties...

Van Hout messes with us a little bit. Each of her sequences starts in different places - sometimes funny moving to serious and sometimes moving from serious to funny - and she never gives a hint until she makes the shift which keeps us in a delightfully awkward state of suspense and uncertainty.

The most powerful moment for me was the flashing hazard light and person being beaten in captivity which speaks so loudly to contemporary issues around Indigenous imprisonment, but which she then flips to represent her conflict with "TIs" regarding the use of Indigenous dance in her contemporary works. Eye opening in both levels indeed.

One of the great themes which keeps resonating is 'what is the cost'? Van Hout puts dance up for auction early on asking if could she sell a pas de bourre for a foot stomp or a jete for a dirt flick? She ends by asking how much she could get for her Indigeneity? After all, it apparently comes with a lot of 'free stuff'. There are some drawbacks she warns - such as a decreased life expectancy, etc.

Again, it all sounds so serious and it is but plenty serious TALK TALK is also a barrel of laughs. Van Hout takes the reverence out of ideas which should perhaps never be revered beyond question and conversation. Plenty serious TALK TALK was first performed last year at Riverside and I hope it is a show which gets remounted many times across the country.

4.5 Stars

Friday, 10 May 2019

Daddy - Physical Theatre Review

What: Daddy
When: 8 - 12 May 2019
Where: Main Hall, Arts House
Created and performed by: Joel Bray
Directed by: Stephen Nicolazzo
Composed by: Naretha Williams
Design by: James Lew
Lighting and AV by: Katie Sfetkidis
Joel Bray - photo by Bryony Jackson
Sadly the Yirramboi Festival is drawing to a close but there is still a chance to see great shows this weekend.  You may all remember my glowing review of Bray’s show Biladurang earlier this year. Well, he is back with a new show Daddy and this one packs a punch!

The themes of the two shows echo each other; disconnection from father, gay culture, pain, and colonisation. The difference is scope and scale. 

Biladurang rang with the intimacy of hotel rooms whereas Daddy echoes with the grandeur of the history of the world – black, white, and candy floss pink. Bray sugar-coats the pain of colonisation (literally with icing sugar) but as we, the audience, get to lick away the drug of fantasy sweetness we begin to expose the raw truth as Bray sees and feels it.

Daddy is visually stunning (not a suprise as it is directed by Nicolazzo and designed by Lew) and is excitingly dynamic. It begins with Bray posed on pink fairy floss cloud replicating that famous pose of the reaching hand painted by Michealangelo in Rome. 

Bray has the body of Michaelangelo's David too so he merges seamlessly into the renaissance art which he  writhes to replicate in a moving gallery of white, European, christian, canonical art brought down through the ages and dominating the Australian culture. He invites us to help him complete the mis-en-scenes as props and other characters populate the pictures and yes, we can take a photo if we want.

As Bray’s lithe body contorts a sexuality emerges and the subtle question is raised about the Church’s stance on homosexuality. As we partake of his body, licking away the sweet layers of sugar drug from his body the complexity of Bray’s narrative becomes clearer. 

Bray is a white Aboriginal and as he sits us down for a yarn he begins to lead us down the road of identity confusion and the cost. Bray’s confusion is incredibly multi-layered as it is for so many Indigenous Australians. He leans into stereotypes to show how true they are and yet how misleading and crippling they can be.

His whiteness of skin denies his family heritage, as do we when we demand he prove it (as has happened so many times in his life). The price we demand to acknowledge his Aboriginality is archaic cliches such as spear bearing, physical poses, etc - "the indigineous experience" as the Victorian Liberals called it in the last election. 

And yet as much as we demand his authenticity he has never been able/allowed to learn his native language which has been stolen along with generations of new borns. He makes the devastating point that the number of Indigenous children removed from their homes now s a staggering 80% higher than at the time of The Apology!

The generational sexual abuse within his family means he is disconnected from his father and will spend his whole life searching for it in his sexual relationships. It is not all doom and gloom as he takes us into the gay bars and teaches us some hot pick up dance moves.

Bray takes us on a journey from the Sistine Chapel to Chapel Street as he searches for the man he is supposed to be, the man he wants to be, and the man he needs to be – not just a puppet on colonial strings… He seeks answers on YouTube and investigates his art of dance to find a way to blend the two sides of his identity. 

He gets mad. Mad at himself and mad at us. He seeks solace in the crowd and scolds us within two heart beats. Bray cries out in pain and begs for understanding but we like our truths sugar coated and the whole thing ends with a big vanilla icecream sundae.

This season is sold out, so if you don’t have a ticket, you have missed. Hopefully this is show which will come back again and again though!

4.5 stars!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

The Honouring - Physical Theatre Review

What: The Honouring
When: 7 - 11 May 2019
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Created and performed by: Jack Sheppard
Puppetry by: Tim Denton and Greg Fryer
Design by: Tim Denton
Lighting by: Rachel Rui Qian Lee
Sound by: James Henry
Stage managed by: Stephen Hawker

Jack Sheppard

Personally I feel we have way too many festivals in Melbourne but right now we are in the middle of one of our most important - Yirramboi. The word yirramboi means tomorrow in the local languages of the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung peoples and is a selection of works which are future focussed with regard to the cultural and societal lives for our First Nations peoples. The Honouring, being presented at La Mama Courthouse speaks to this with a powerful physical theatre piece about suicide and Sorry Business.

Jack Sheppard is an emerging dancer and actor who has experienced a lot of loss in his short life through death - some suicide and some a less self-actualised form. This is not unusual for our Aboriginal community sadly. 65% of this community die before the age of 65 (Briggs recently released a song about this...) and 95% of the community have been affected by suicide in some form across their lives. What this means, if you think it through, is that there is almost no-one in the community who is not brought face to face with mortality many times across their lives, and at an age much younger than those of us of immigrant origins would even dare to contemplate.

On top of this we must face the outrageous truth that many have lost ssential cultural tradition and practice due to colonisation, including how to process death and allow their lost ones souls to return to The Dreaming. This leaves those still living lost in a limbo of despair not only for their personal loss, but also for the bereft souls not able to ascend - and also for The Dreaming which is losing their stories in the richness of its fabric. It is also believed that suicide did not exist in their community before colonisation which means it becomes even harder to make sense of. The question for us all, but most especially this community, is how to do we celebrate the lives of those who end their own and help them journey to whatever afterlife they/we dare to dream of.

Sheppard's pain began with the suicide of two very close friends in 2013 and this is where The Honouring begins. The work is temporally linear and follows the artists journey through depression, pain, grief, love, and loss.

As we enter the theatre we encounter the first body dangling from the grid and the shock of recognition is surprisingly authentic. If I didn't already know what the show was about I could have easily assumed this was a comment on deaths in custody and other mortality issues facing our Aboriginal communities...

One of the incredible strengths of The Honouring are the visuals (Denton). How Sheppard interacts with the puppets (Denton and Fryer) is a thing of great beauty and love. He dances with his lost love ones. He comforts them. He nurtures them. He mourns them. He carries them... but how does he help them move on and how does he move on himself? He has no Sorry Business rituals to engage with and The Honouring is about his journey towards creating ritual for himself.

Dramatically speaking, The Honouring is still a bit raw and unformed. It swings between intensely literal and obscurely abstracted. The show integrates all of the hybrid elements of dance, puppetry, text, music (Henry), and lighting (Lee) in a really sophisticated model but because so much of the work is so good the elements which are still underdeveloped do stand out starkly. Sheppard consulted with a range of dramaturgs (Maza), consultants (Ginsberg) and provocateurs (Jasmin Sheppard) but perhaps just one theatre maker with a clear vision and strong story-telling skills would have been a wiser choice.

In particular the text is weak although there are some refrains which echo strongly such as "the S in the chest" and "There is no going back." I also would have liked to have seen a stronger presence of the meta-narrative. Perhaps building the ritual alongside building the story and experiences...?

Having said that, Sheppard's personal story is raw and powerful. The visceral effect of the birds clawing at his stomach was unavoidable, and his love for those lost emanated powerfully through his body and the room.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of The Honouring though, is the reminder of the depth of scarring for our First Nations people as a result of colonisation and how important it is for us to find a way to give them space, time, and agency to rebuild or build anew what has been lost to them which is so much deeper and more essential than just our 'white people' concept of land and life. Are you brave enough to confront this pain and longing in person?

3 stars





Thursday, 2 May 2019

Barnum - Musical Review

What: Barnum The Circus Musical
When: 1 May - 2 June 2019
Where: Comedy Theatre
Book by: Mark Bramble
Music by: Cy Coleman
Lyrics by: Michael Stewart
Directed by: Tyran Parke
Musical direction by: Stephen Gray
Circus direction by: Zebastian Hunter
Performed by: Rachael Beck, John Barrett,  Embla Bishop, Kirby Burgess, John Clark, Greg Clarkson, Dean Cooper, Robbie Curtis, Akina Edmonds, Sarah Gray, Stephen Gray, Matthew Hamilton, Suzie Mathers, Stephen McDowell, Vanessa McGregor, Todd McKenney, William Meager, Karlee Misipeka, Gary Norman, Joshua Reckless, Roger Schmidli, Matthew Tubman, Ian Wilmot, and Tim Wilson
Choreography: Kelly Aykers
Design by: Dann Barber
Lighting by: Rachel Burke
Sound by: Michael Waters
Photo by Jeff Busby
Circus and musical theatre - the twin arts of stage spectacle - have come together in Barnum The Circus Musical playing at the Comedy Theatre this month. Storeyboard Entertainment has partnered with the National Institute of Circus Arts and Australian legendary performer Todd McKenney to bring to Melbourne a completely new production of the 1980's musical and is, from what I have read of past performances, one of the most successful stagings so far.

Barnum has always been criticised for it's poor book but a very clever Adrian Storey  and Parke went to Bramble and asked for some updates including a more modern post-#metoo sensibility. Whilst the structure is still very much like flicking through a moving images photo book, the story does hold together for the most part.

One significant change is the Ringmaster (Burgess) is cast as a woman but plays all the ad hoc male parts. An interesting decision but Burgess is more than up to the task and almost steals the show with her wonderful ability to play with voice and accent and physicality. She also starts the awe and spectacle with a graceful swan dive off the band mezzanine so we know from the beginning she is one to watch!

As a musical Barnum is really all about the songs rather than the story. These moving image snapshots track the life of P.T. Barnum (McKenney) from creation of the American Museum through to his decision to join James Bailey to create The Greatest Show On Earth (and invent the 3 ring circus). Just like any photo album there are intimate moments captured with his wife Charity (Beck) and his mythical affair with Jenny Lind (Mathers).  As well, there are the public moments such as the Museum opening, the launch of the Swedish Nightingale amongst his other most popular acts, and his run for Mayor of Bridgeport.

Swirling around all these great moments of Barnum's life is a circus troupe extraordinaire. As you can see in the photo the characters are so well drawn it is almost impossible to see the actors beneath but I will do my best to credit the right people. I should also say Barber's designs are impressively strong and I have never seen a show so perfectly suited to the heritage architecture of the Comedy Theatre (or so cleverly used by Parke) as in this show. It is pretty awesome how it all melds so seamlessly to bring us inside the 1880s.

Set in a little big top very reminiscent of our Speigeltents (although it may be truer to say Speigeltents mirror circus big tops...), acrobats fly and float and fling each other willy nilly, creating a storm of spectacle with Barnum standing - and singing - in stillness like the eye of the storm the man really was. His visions swirl around him and his story and he tries to fill his life with colour.

I was probably most impressed by the aerialists Gray and McGregor. Tiny little Gray was tossed and flung and flipped in ways which made her seem like a human pinball. McGregor demonstrated strength and grace in her aerial ring act and both were beautiful in their silks routine. What I really liked was, whilst none of the circus tricks were highest risk, what they did was technically perfect and matched the tone of the musical rather than standing out as something other.

In the end, the real strength of Barnum is the songs and the genius of this casting was an understanding of this. I have always tended (perhaps unfairly) to think of McKenney as a dancer who could sing but Barnum blows this belief out of the water. A big surprise is McKenney does no dancing at all (although he does walk the tight rope). Instead he gets to blow our mind with his incredible vocal talents which not only include pitch, power and range, but also lyrical dexterity. Do you remember the incredible lyrical gymnastics of Danny Kaye? Well McKenney is that good - which is lucky because Stewart does not give any leeway to whoever is brave enough to sing this part.

Beck demonstrates her unquestionable singing pedigree in 'Colours of My Life' across several reprises, and Mathers takes the audience to heavenly places with her classical arias which prove the one moment of truth to most of Barnum's humbugs. All of the singers are perfect and it is fair to say this production of Barnum does not put a foot wrong as a production.

It is not fair to criticise the production too harshly for flaws in the book and the latter part of the show, when Barnum takes on politics, has scary insight into politics in our time - especially whilst we are right in the middle of an election campaign and have suffered 10 years of very strange governance very full of it's own humbug.  I might suggest that Parke's direction and Burke's lighting are a bit pedestrian though.

The load very much seems to be carried by Barber and the acrobats to keep up the energy and pace but they are more than up to the task. I was also very impressed with Water's sound design. This show needs absolute clarity and that is what he gives us. The band are magnificent and I loved that when I looked up they all seemed to be having a good time.

Other moments of note include the transitions into Act 1 and Act 2. It is always a dreadful task trying to get audiences to settle. Parke uses a sound montage at the start of the show and a clever and funny clowning routine after interval and both work beautifully. They are like a theatrical prolonged "Shhhh!"

I guess what all these words of mine are saying is Barnum The Circus Musical is a great night out so get on down to the Comedy Theatre. It is fun, fanciful and fabulous with just enough contemporary commentary to have a reason to exist. And remember, noone else in the world has ever staged this particular version of the show yet!

4.5 Stars