Tag Archives: Waapa

All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA

reviewed by Neville Cohn


All My Sons

‘All My Sons’ 3rd Year Acting / WAAPA Production (2015) / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons comes across with implacable, near-overwhelming intensity, a tour de force with young actors giving proof of significant potential.


Tom Healey’s direction holds – indeed rivets – the attention throughout and despite the actors’ youth, they give characterisations that more often than not are close to the emotional epicentre of each part. Miller spares neither players nor audience in a play that brings us face to face with families in self-destructive mode. Its intense reality does not so much attract the attention as rivet it.


All My Sons

‘All My Sons’ 3rd Year Acting / WAAPA Production (2015) / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Healey’s guiding hand ensures there isn’t a weak moment in this production by 3rd- year acting students at WAAPA.


In essence, the play, set in the early aftermath of World War II, is about the corrosive, devastating after-effects on two families of faulty warplane parts causing the deaths of 21 pilots in training exercises over Australia.


Guilt, subterfuge, regret, emotional devastation, self-delusion and self-destruction are the currency of Miller’s masterpiece – and invariably, the actors rise to the challenge.


Bevan Pfeiffer is particularly effective as Chris Keller who has survived the war –  and Brittany Morell, entirely persuasive as Chris’ hysteria-prone mother who insists, against all the odds, that her elder son, a war pilot, is still alive. He isn’t but it would be unfair to intending theatre-goers to reveal what is one of the gut-wrenching climaxes of the play.


Arthur Miller provides an inspired dissection of ordinary Americans who find themselves in a devastating emotional maelstrom.


In a convincing characterisation as the ethically challenged Joe Keller, Chris’ father, Andrew Creer comes up trumps – but in visual terms he looks too young. Skilled makeup could well have resolved this issue.


Stephanie Panozzo gives a touching performance as Anne Deever  – and  Hoa Xuande is impressive as George.


Cameron Routley’s lighting design is consistently effective; so, too, is Sallyanne Facer’s set design of a typical US backyard. Music, however, was far too loud and overwhelming in a negative sense.

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Martin McDonagh)


WAAPA  Roundhouse Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn


This production is as refreshing as a cold shower on a hot day.


A cast of 3rd-year WAAPA acting students embraced Mc Donagh’s play with relish.


Director Patrick Sutton has done wonders in securing memorable responses from his youthful cast – and while lilting accents did not always sound entirely convincing, the actors breathed often engagingly raucous life into the play.cripple photo stitch


In a nutshell, the story revolves around the eponymous hero – Billy Claven (played with very real understanding of the role by Felix Johnson) – who is seriously handicapped, lurching pitifully about the stage. He comes across as a gentle, likeable soul who, notwithstanding his disability and perhaps intellectual limitations, goes through life with a touching grace. His idea of a good time is to watch cows in the fields. To the surprise – and chagrin – of some of the townsfolk, Billy auditions successfully for a projected cinematic role. He is also doted on by two ageing spinsters who run a very modestly stocked general store.


Rushing about the stage tirelessly and loudly is Michael Abercrombie who seems positively to delight in playing the garrulous gossip Johnnypateenmike. This blabbermouth is the perfect foil to Rose Riley’s Mammy O’Dougal, Johnny’s nonagenarian, whiskey-sodden, bedridden mother whose awesome alcohol intake would surely kill off lesser mortals. Her cackles and astonishing imbibing brought the house down.


Cecilia Peters does wonders as Helen McCormick, altogether persuasive in conveying the character’s startling lack of grace and more than a hint of rebellious violence.

And there’s a touch of tragedy to Oscar Harris’ Babbybobby, whose wife has died of TB.


Cripple Stephen HeathThere’s not a dull moment in this engaging and often touching romp. Not the least of the pleasures of this production is the quality of its ensemble, the interplay of the protagonists; it lifts the performance well above the ordinary.


Simeon Brudenell’s lighting design is consistently effective.

Parade (Alfred Uhry/Jason Robert Brown)




West Australian Academy of Performing Arts Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn




photo credit Jon Green c 2009 WAAPA



In the minds of most people, lynching, with all its connotations of hideous violence, is inextricably and exclusively associated with the murder of African Americans by white supremacists in the USA.


Parade, however, focuses on a victim who was abducted and hanged by anti-Semitic vigilantes in 1915 in the southern state of Georgia.


The story is, briefly, this: a girl – Mary Phagan – who works in a pencil factory managed by Leo Frank, is found murdered on the premises. The completely innocent Frank is charged with her murder and is found guilty and sentenced to death. Eventually, the governor of Georgia commutes the sentence to life imprisonment.


Not long afterwards, while at a prison farm, Frank is abducted and lynched. None of the lynching party, which incredibly, included lawyers, a court prosecutor and the son of a senator, was ever held accountable. Decades after this miscarriage of justice, Frank was posthumously pardoned in the 1980s.


I had wondered whether so dark and tragic a story was suitable for treatment as a music theatre piece. But any reservations I might have had about this evaporated only moments into the piece. By even the most severe of critical standards, this production of Parade was riveting stuff. Near-perfectly paced, its two-hour-long duration flew by in a production worthy of high praise.


In this multi-faceted offering, the youthful players in a large cast came up trumps again and again. The pivotal role of Leo Frank, who was 31 years old when he met his terrible death, was played as if to the manner born by Brendan Hawke, who captured the character’s stoic, rather prissy and edgy personality nuances to the nth degree. And Laura Page as Lucille was no less convincing as the wife who refuses to cut and run but stands loyally by her man. Lucille, incidentally, was scion of a prominent Jewish family which decades earlier had founded the first synagogue in Atlanta.


Whether coincidentally or by design, Hawke and Page are strikingly similar in looks to the characters they play.


Rather oddly, the role of Frank’s do-nothing lawyer Luther Rosser was played, very competently, by a woman Naomi Livingston. But what was the point, if any, being made?


Nearly all the large cast sang multiple roles.


It says much for the skill which Uhry and Brown brought to their creation of Parade that despite the trappings usually associated with the genre, the dancing and singing in no way robs the story of its tragic darkness.  Bobbing, weaving and twirling, the dancers brought Bernie Bernard’s choreography to exciting, pulsing life. Drew Weston, as reporter Britt Craig, was a particularly impressive presence.


David King presided splendidly over events, conducting a big instrumental ensemble positioned at the rear of the stage. Throughout, singing was of high standard as were Tony Gordon’s lighting and Jess Tran’s imaginative set designs. Cale Watts’ costumes did much to establish a sense of era. Crispin Taylor’s directorial touch was everywhere evident not least in consistently meaningful deployment of an unusually large cast.

Faith Court Orchestra




Ben Martin (piano)

Music Auditorium

W.A.Academy of Performing Arts






reviewed by Neville Cohn



Since Peter Tanfield took over the direction of the Faith Court Orchestra, it has improved so significantly that it sounds like an altogether different – and more proficient – ensemble to that of, say, a couple of years ago.


Tanfield comes to Perth with impressive credentials. A former student of Yehudi Menuhin, he was a prizewinner at the Carl Flesch International Competition. He has taught extensively in Britain, Spain and Germany. Tanfield came to University of Adelaide in 1998 to lead the then-Australian String Quartet. He has been co-ordinator of classical strings at WAAPA since last year.

Ben Martin

Ben Martin


Tanfield’s direction of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 was impressive. I had wondered whether tackling this masterwork might have been overly ambitious. In the event, my reservations evaporated only moments into the work.


While a uniform tonal sheen in the various subsections of the strings is, on Wednesday’s evidence, still more a hope than a reality at present, and although some of the lower woodwinds need focused work in relation to intonation and tone quality, the overarching, grand sweep of Tchaikowsky’s Fifth was most commendably achieved.


Tanfield did wonders in extracting fine detail from his forces, his face eloquently mirroring the emotions he so skilfully coaxed from his young players. It augurs impressively for the FCO’s long-term prospects.


I particularly liked the tone of the brass choir, now bold and assertive, now warmly expressive, especially the French horns who gave a most musical account of themselves. A bouquet to Samuel Parry for consistently musical work on the oboe.


Ben Martin was soloist in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2. As ever, this prince of the piano did wonders at the keyboard, in an interpretation that was in the best sense lucid, cogent and stylistically apt. It is perhaps quibbling to point out some minor slips in the finale. Certainly, the overall effect was first rate, not least for Martin’s finely honed skill in unbottling the often turbulent genie that lies behind the printed note.


As for the accompaniment, one wondered whether the lion’s share of the FCO’s rehearsal time had been devoted to the symphony because there were moments in the concerto when ensemble weakened and entries were tentative.