Tag Archives: Capacity Audience

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1913)




Nova Ensemble dir. David Pye



Somerville Theatre, UWA campus

reviewed by Sophie Sax-Lehrman


Have there ever been so many people at one time on the campus of the University of Western Australia? Certainly, the citizens of Perth turned out en masse on Friday evening for LUMINOUSnight with literally tens of thousands swarming across the campus to savour the delights of a range of free entertainments to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the UWA. 

A capacity audience attended a screening at the open-air Somerville Cinema of Carl Laemmle’s silent movie version of  Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a tale that has inspired a host of moviemakers. 

Why this movie when there are so many others to screen? It was a clever choice as the film dates from 1913, the same year as UWA’s founding. And giving a 21st-century slant to it, we listened to a specially commissioned music score by two of Perth’s most committed exponents of new music – David Pye and Lee Buddle – performed by the Nova Ensemble. 

Here were the antique (the film) with the brand new (the music) – and how finely they meshed. Nova was very much on its collective toes with Pye presiding over events. All praise for the skill with which the instrumentalists co-ordinated with cinematic action. Time and again, there was splendid integration between on-screen action and the accompanying music which for the most part enhanced mood. This was fascinating fare; I savoured every moment, especially King Baggot’s portrayal of both Jekyll and his ghastly alter ego. 

Baggot’s  Mr Hyde is fascinating, his transformation startling, reducing his height to striking effect by hunkering down, then scuttling and lurching about like some monstrous, malformed spider. An almost flat black hat added to his bizarre appearance, in striking contrast to his portrayal of Jekyll as a compassionate and thoroughly decent doctor. 

Laemmle’s movie makes for disturbing viewing in quite another sense as one realises that the entire cast, including many children, and those behind the cameras, are long dead. But through the medium of cinema, they are all, in a way, brought back to life to once again reach out to a fascinated audience a century on. An exception was a cinema-goer nearby who with astonishing indifference to the annoyance he was causing many, had a loud and largely pointless conversation on his mobile phone.


This is a movie I’d very much like to see again. True, it shows signs of wear, the image occasionally scratched, blurred, stained or bubbled but in a curious sense this underscores its great age and makes viewing it all that more fascinating.

Sam Atlas gave a delightful introductory talk.

Orpheus in the Underworld (Offenbach)

Jane Davidson

Jane Davidson

Daniel Sinfield



Dolphin Theatre



reviewed by Neville Cohn





Half a loaf is better than none, as the old saw goes. And experiencing Offenbach’s zany Orpheus in the Underworld to an accompaniment not by orchestra but a single piano might not have been ideal – but it was certainly better than nothing in this part of the world where Offenbach’s work seldom gets the exposure it warrants.


With the lightest of directorial touches, Jane Davidson brought this comic opera to sparkling life. Certainly, her young charges seemed positively to relish coming to grips with this much vaunted although seldom mounted work locally.


It was an inspiration to use an English version of the libretto by Jonathan Biggins, Phil Scott and Ignatius Jones. With its many witty Oz allusions, it prompted gales of laughter from a capacity audience.


Kathleen How as Public Opinion, dressed up as Moonee Ponds’ most distinguished representative, brought the house down again and again. Here was a Dame Edna Everage clone at her most vivacious and effervescent with her mauve-pink hair do, trademark bunch of fake gladioli and those unforgettably tasteful spectacles, all ensuring the laughter level was high.


On the debit side were a number of singers whose pitch was not quite spot-on but, time and again, the sheer vivacity with which they tackled their roles went quite some way as compensation. And this cheerful energy, not least in the galop finale, ensured a constant chuckle level. And allusions to that most recognisable of Gluck melodies – Che faro senza Euridice – were consistently musical.


Laurels to Daniel Sinfield who seemed positively to revel in the role of  Pluto disguised, not, as in Offenbach’s original as a shepherd cum beekeeper but as a black-clad tough on a motorbike, singing and strutting about the stage as if it was his natural milieu. His diction was first rate.


In a smaller role, Dudley Allitt was altogether convincing as the Hades-based, creepy John Styx. With a sepulchral pallor and his hands unctuously clasping and unclasping, he did Offenbach proud – not least for absolutely first rate diction, an object lesson on how to project speech impeccably.   


A thousand flowers, as the Chinese say, to Juliet Faulkner who breathed life into a piano reduction of the orchestral score. Surely, she deserved better than being labelled in the printed program solely as repetiteur. The latter would certainly apply to her work as rehearsal pianist – but on stage, she was a pivotal participant in the production.


Standing to one side of the stage close to the piano while giving discreet cues to the cast was music director Francis Greep.


Décor was basic but effective as was the lighting design by Jake Newby – and the splendid costumes were designed and made by the cast.