Saturday, 4 May 2013

Count Down Quotes to 'The Hollow' 2

"The worst of moles is - you never know where they are going to pop up next." - Lady Angkatell

Friday, 3 May 2013

Count Down Quotes to 'The Hollow' 1

It's two weeks until the opening night of Tempo Theatre's production of The Hollow, so I thought I would post a daily quote from the play - old Aggie could be acerbically amusing when she wanted.
"You can't help your parents, Doris." - Gudgeon (the butler)

Friday Five: How Do You LIke Them Apples?

Let's hear it for apples - yes, that's right: a round of applause (ha!) for the versatile fruit. Admittedly it isn't the best name for a child (Gwyneth always seemed a little bonkers, bless her), but it is the fruit of legend - from the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden to being the foodstuff of choice to shoot off one's chid's head with an arrow.

Never mind the computing associations, apples are meant to be given to teachers (bribes) and keep doctors at bay (blackmail?). They are bobbed at Halloween and the peel is tossed over the shoulder to form the initial of one's future spouse. As the big one is New York, I used to think that LA stood for Little Apple on the opposite American coast. My Dad once brought me back a cuddly racoon toy from a trip to California that I named thus.

Apples can be made into fabulous cider and scrumpy - we have all had 'experiences' with this stuff, that you don't realise is quite so strong until you try to stand up or walk in fresh air. When I used to go orienteering in the Adirondacks and the Appalachians in NY, there was often a stall with hot spicy apple juice at the finish - it almost made it worth it. When I recounted this to a friend, she used to make it and add a tot of rum - that definitely made it worth it!

Anyone who is lucky enough to have an apple tree in the garden knows what a delight it is to pluck the fresh fruit from the branch and bite straight into the flesh. Orchards are special places and The Cider House Rules is one of my favourite books. And there are other ways to eat apples to make them the true fruit of the gods.

Chaussons aux pommes

5 Great Ways to Eat Apples:
  1. Chausson aux pommes - when I lived in France, the man of the house would go to the boulangerie every Saturday and return with paper bags full of Parisian pastries - among the croissants aux armandes, pains au chocolat, pains aux raisins and mille-feuilles (all of which were divine), the chaussons aux pommes were my absolute favourite. The very thought of them still makes me drool. And no, they don't taste the same if you call them apple turnovers.
  2. Waldorf salad - apples, walnuts, celery (add grapes if you must) in a mayonnaise dressing served on a bed of lettuce - sheer crunchy goodness.
  3. Soups - from curried celery to blue cheese or butternut pumpkin, the addition of apple helps enhance the flavour in these delicious autumn/winter warmers.
  4. Cubed or sliced and dipped in cheese fondue - a charming and tasty social meal.
  5. Apple crumble - always a favourite dessert.
Cheese fondue with apples

Monday, 29 April 2013

Finishing School

School for Wives

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre
October 2012

I had been very impressed with Bell Shakespeare’s Macbeth, so thought it would be okay to take Him Outdoors along to their production of School for Wives, although Molière can be a tough sell. We were both tired and hungover so it would have to be a top-notch production to keep us entertained, and fortunately it was.

The language has been translated and modernised with an Australian flavour (huge plaudits to Justin Fleming), but the rhyming scheme has been kept, which adds an extra self-aware dimension. The entire production is self-aware, or post-modern if you will, using limited props, and wheeling in backdrops to create scenes in conjunction with seriously intelligent lighting (set built by Malthouse Theatre; lighting designer, Niklas Pajanti).

It begins with two characters chugging along in a motor car, providing all their own ‘special effects’. This sets the tone for the rest of the show, which is fast, funny, wry and sardonic. It’s entertainment, but it’s not light.

The story is preposterous, as you would expect from a seventeenth-century comedy featuring disguise and mistaken identity, but the audience is invited to mock the plot while caring for the characters – a difficult feat accomplished superbly by director Lee Lewis. She and the designer, Marg Horwell, have explored every detail in the 1920’s Parisian setting, from fabulous costumes (Costume supervisor, Taryn Van Kan) to mannerisms of loveable rogues and caddish fops – the mixture of references gels seamlessly to create a timeless montage.

The banter is brilliant once your ears become accustomed to the rhythm (it took about five minutes of intense concentration, more than adequately rewarded with the ability to anticipate gag placement), and the physical comedy conversely elevates the performance to a higher plane. It would be wrong to use the term slapstick, as that may suggest a base art-form. In several sequences the puppet-like movements, particularly from the taciturn servants Alan (Andrew Johnston) and Georgette (Alexandra Aldrich), are almost balletic (Movement director, Penny Baron). They have a touch of Manuel and Polly meet Peirrot and Columbine.

All the acting is faultless and, although the main characters could be one-dimensional, all are given depth. Harriet Dyer plays Agnes, the ingénue, with such candour that she is way more than the drippy but pretty simpleton this role would usually imply. Her purity and passion collide convincingly, and she offers hope for the future of love, marriage and (perhaps not in the original but certainly in this adaptation) equality.

Her love interest, Horace (Meyne Wyatt) is a loveable fool with a ready laugh and evasive wit, cleverly avoiding a patronising Aborigine stereotype with a layered performance. And although we should dislike the villain of the piece, Arnolde, who attempts to manipulate the suggestible Agnes into matrimony, John Adam imbues him with enough integrity of action, not to mention audience rapport and undeniable charm, that he is a firm favourite. Even the role of friend, Chris, who is mainly present to provide exposition and explanation, is handled with aplomb by Damien Richardson.

Mention must also be made of the music (Composer, Kelly Ryan), which underpins and highlights each action, reaching a crescendo in the show-stopping bows. I’m not entirely sure what my expectations were, but they were well and truly exceeded.