The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The first play in the 2018 MTC season was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The production is an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel, of the same title, which I understand was published  in 2003.   Before we headed off to see it, I looked at some of the reviews (such as the Guardian’s and the Conversation’s).   Perhaps it’s just me, but I got the impression that the reviewers weren’t quite sure how to handle this production.  Note, however, that Fairfax was wowed by it.

Well, I can relate to their uncertainty.   The issue revolves around Chris, who is referred to in the programme as “different”.   The Conversation’s review says that Chris was originally referred to as having Asperger’s syndrome, but for whatever reason, this is not now stated in the play or elsewhere   Be that as it may, we are vividly shown the world through his eyes, including communication issues and a lack of emotion, obsession with being “truthful”, an inability to discern the overall picture (the station building is a perceived as a mass of components) and extra-ordinarily high-level mathematical skills.  Understandably, this places enormous stresses on his parents and the others around him.   There are a lot of impressive moments – the high-tech lights, projection, sound, and some good choreography, but there’s also a story and, I think I can say, a hopeful ending.

Just the same, I thought it dragged a little at times.  It can’t be that there’s too much hi-tech, because it would be heresy to suggest that – there can never been too much tech, can there?  But, overall, an impressive production, and we’ll certainly remember it for a long time.  I can understand why the season is sold-out.

Footnote – interview with the actor that plays Chris is here.


Vivid White

The Fairfax review was unflattering, to say the least.   The Australian’s review wasn’t quite so harsh nor was the Herald-Sun’s,  but they still had reservations.   MTC’s Vivid White is supposed to be a satire on housing affordability.

Well, let’s understand what it is:   think “student review”.   Perhaps consistently with this, the ensemble includes students from the VCA Music Theatre class (seemingly on a rotational basis).    The language at times and some of the jokes are also in line with what you’d expect at a review.  There’s a lot of music and yes, the basic theme is a satirical commentary on housing affordability in Melbourne and home renovations.   But there’s a lot of idiocy and absurdity and jabs at other things too, such as the adoption of lost dogs, putting wheelie bins out  and even at the nature and role of satire itself.

My initial reaction was “weird”, but on reflection, there are some very good parts and excellent performances (in particular, the auction scene and the Dulux lady scene are memorable).   But it’s inconsistent and seems to wander around, and frankly I’m still bewildered by the last scenes involving the tentacles of a mind-controlling creature.   I must have missed the point somewhere along the way.

However, the full house seemed to enjoy the performance.

The Father

I was little apprehensive after reading the advance publicity for MTC’s production of The Father.   It included the following:   “Loss, losing things, feeling lost – these are everywhere in Florian Zeller’s play. But what can we hang onto, what do we know for certain in this story?”

Well, this certainly is not an easy play.   We’re plunged into André’s world, seeing things through his eyes as he grips the familiar and tries to make sense of the unfamiliar – as he slides into dementia.    He’s confused, and the play is designed to play with the audience’s mind:    delusions, time warps, things disoriented, names and faces detached and more.  Even the advance publicity  has a role in pre-positioning our mind.   What’s “real” and what isn’t?

So, challenging?  Yes, very.  Food for thought?   I guess so, so depressing in many ways, given that the outcome is inevitable.    But the acting, especially by John Bell, was great (see the Fairfax review and also here).   I think that’s why the season is said to be nearly sold out.

Hay Fever

Marina Prior as Judith Bliss in MTC’s production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever raises expectations of a good performance, and so it was.   In this review, it’s described as “frisky”.  Well, we enjoyed it, but it’s wacky and light-hearted.    Any issues I have with the performance are with the script, as all the acting is fine, with Marina Prior’s character being the wackiest of them all.  But perhaps, as this review states, who needs a plot, when this production invites you just to sit back, relax and enjoy (as we did)?

Booking for MTC

Bookings for the next MTC season open soon, and the booklet has arrived.   We don’t go to all the plays, so the decision as to which we’ll attend can be tricky.  Usually there are some obvious choices, and sometimes one or two that we obviously wouldn’t attend, but to decide on the ones in between requires a careful consideration of the descriptions, cast and so on.

But then the decision has to be made about the dates we’ll book for.   But what are we going to be doing next year?  Sure, we’ve got some vague travel plans, but the reality is that we have no idea if  these will come to pass, or when.  It ends up being a “stab in the dark”, with a need to change dates if needs be closer to the time.  MTC have a facility that enables us to do this, but it does depend on other dates being available (can be a bit tricky if the play turns out to be popular), as well as payment of a small fee.

Di and Viv and Rose

Well, MTC’s production of Di and Viv and Rose deals with what seems to be almost  the full range of issues that three women can have – then nearly at the end, when you think it’s coming to an end, there’s a “but wait, there’s more” moment!

It seems that the play is structured to serve the issues up and “deal” with them.  The Herald-Sun review referred to the “unsatisfying plot development”, which resonated with me.  It’s as though the issues drive the play, that it’s just there as a vehicle to hang the issues on, rather than the other way around.    Just the same, the Herald-Sun review liked the acting (agreed), and on this basis, the play was definitely worth seeing.

However,  this comes with a plea to MTC -we struggled sometimes to hear parts of the dialogue.  Yes, I know, we’re old and our hearing isn’t as acute as it may have been in our younger days, but it’s not too bad and is certainly still fine for day-to-day purposes.   And, dear MTC, we’re rather typical of your audience!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

What wonderful entertainment:  adventure, eccentric characters, enterprising children, baddies, a little romance and a car that swims and flies!    It’s all in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Babirra’s production with a total cast of 37 plus a few dogs as well as 14 in the orchestra delivered in spades.

It’s based on a book by Ian Fleming that was subsequently made into a movie.  The car of course has James Bond-like features!

All the cast gave strong performances, and while it’s a bit unfair to single out Michelle Eddington as Truly Scrumptious (because the part itself invites admiration!), I was amazed to read in the program that apart from school productions (and a life long love for music),  this appears to have been her first major role!    And everything else came together, too:   the movement of the car (enhanced by the bold use of projection), the choreography, the costumes, the sets and a polished finale.