Melbourne review wrap: Macbeth (An Undoing) at Malthouse; Wet Hard Long at Dancehouse; Triveni at Monash University; Hockey Dad at Margaret Court Arena; Iniko at The Corner Hotel; Ryman Healthcare Winter Gala: Carmina Burana


They also freely step out of character to sass the audience and its motivations, a luxury allowed other characters – including Bojana Novakovic as Lady Macbeth – when, after interval, the play breaks free of Shakespeare’s template.

Novakovic portrays a smart and psychologically astute Lady Macbeth aware of her sexual power and passionately in love with her husband. There’s a compelling dark energy with Johnny Carr’s Macbeth, at least until he devolves into a feeble and fragile himbo.

A feminist vision does not seem to require this act of revenge. It looks a bit silly and leads to unevenness in the performances. Facetious male caricature contrasts sharply with awfully realistic portraits of male power, violence and entitlement – Jim Daly’s dufferish Duncan on the one hand, and David Woods’ dour and emotionally cauterised Macduff on the other.

Bojana Novakovic portrays a smart and psychologically astute Lady Macbeth aware of her sexual power, and passionately in love with her husband.

Bojana Novakovic portrays a smart and psychologically astute Lady Macbeth aware of her sexual power, and passionately in love with her husband.Credit: Jeff Busby

Director Matthew Lutton needs a surer hand to get the acting styles in sync, though there are subtle flashes of brilliance – the way audiences can see how characters react behind other characters’ backs, for instance, as the castle whizzes towards the play’s bloody climax – that might be one positive legacy of the Malthouse’s recent turn towards immersive theatre.

Intriguingly, Lady Macbeth’s most important relationship is with her cousin, Lady Macduff (Jessica Clarke). Without giving anything away, their close bond ruptures as the former takes and wields power with grim efficiency, though in a world so drenched in patriarchy that everyone sees her as a man.

If patriarchal anxieties are given full play in this production, they don’t ultimately lead to a tragedy deeply grounded in character.

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Lady Macbeth deserves a fuller arc, more agency, and many more lines than Shakespeare gives her. And while Harris’ vision does upend expectations with plot twists producing a thriller-like effect, it doesn’t come close to the psychological acuity of the original.

Macbeth (An Undoing) misses some theatrical opportunities and seizes others. It isn’t as accomplished a feminist take on Shakespeare as, say, Kate Mulvany taking on Sarah Bernhardt playing Hamlet at the MTC. And yet we do get a tantalising sampler of the compelling Lady Macbeth Novakovic has in her, as well as a provocative dramatic engagement with gender discrimination in Shakespearean performance.

Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead

DANCE
Wet Hard Long ★★★★
Dancehouse, until July 13

Wet Hard Long, as if you couldn’t tell from the title, is all about innuendo and suggestion. Choreographer Jenni Large has created a darkly ironic spectacle of feminine submissiveness in which two dancers also exhibit extraordinary strength, stamina and technical skill.

Wet Hard Long, as if you couldn’t tell from the title, is all about innuendo and suggestion.

Wet Hard Long, as if you couldn’t tell from the title, is all about innuendo and suggestion.Credit: Gregory Lorenzutti

Wearing enormous silvery platform heels, Large and Amber McCartney glide across the glossy black studio floor on all fours. Throughout the performance, their movements have a dreamy, fluid quality – occasionally interrupted by realignments and isolations.

As they move around the stage, they appear to envelop one another in slow motion, disappearing in uncanny symmetries and mirror effects. They bend like Hans Bellmer dolls and create surreal heaps of fishnet calves, spikes and sparkles.

There are striking images of subservience and humiliation. The two heads disappear into metal buckets. There are visual references to watersports and bondage. The removal of the gloves becomes a show of its own. And all of it is done with an absolute alien calm.

Between these suggestive tableaux, there are also glimpses of animal transformations. There’s the cat, of course, which is part of the slang of the exotic dancer; but there are other creatures, too, such as a horse lying on its back and pawing the air like something from a Tarkovsky film.

Wet Hard Long is still a seriously impressive show.

Wet Hard Long is still a seriously impressive show.Credit: Gregory Lorenzutti

It’s these weirder moments that linger in the mind and it’s possible that Large could have given us more of this disconcerting creatureliness.

At one point, an affable looking bloke in a hoodie is plucked out of the audience and placed in a chair in the corner of the stage, like the ideal voyeur. With this, the scene achieves a kind of closure, and it all starts to seem a little less weird – a little less compelling.

And yet Wet Hard Long is still a seriously impressive show. Adelaide Harney’s lighting design suggests the morbid thrills of a horror movie and Michelle Boyde’s layered costumes make femme sexuality appear simultaneously strange and familiar.

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Anna Whitaker’s detonative sound design – full of loud collisions and hammerings – keeps the audience on edge throughout the performance so that we never completely surrender to the blank stares of the pliant dancers. In quieter moments, it recalls the work of Mica Levi.

Wet Hard Long was originally developed for the now sadly defunct Keir Choreographic Award in 2022, where it won the audience choice award. It has been extensively remodelled but is still as creepy and glamorous and exciting as it was then.

Reviewed by Andrew Fuhrmann

MUSIC
Zakir Hussain, Jayanthi Kumaresh, and Kala Ramnath in Triveni ★★★★★
Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, July 5

Zakir Hussain last performed in Melbourne in 2010 with an extraordinary cross-cultural trio called Sangam. Now the revered tabla maestro is back in Australia with another superb trio, Triveni. Named after the mythical meeting point of three sacred rivers in India, Triveni’s music is an enthralling amalgam of North and South Indian traditions, instruments and approaches.

Kala Ramnath, Zakir Hussain and Jayanthi Kumaresh at an earlier Triveni performance.

Kala Ramnath, Zakir Hussain and Jayanthi Kumaresh at an earlier Triveni performance.Credit: Mallikarjun Katakol

At Robert Blackwood Hall last Friday, Kala Ramnath (on Hindustani violin) and Jayanthi Kumaresh (on Carnatic veena) sat on either side of Hussain, whose tabla served as both bridge and binding agent between his two colleagues. At the start of the evening, Hussain suggested we view the concert as a continuous train journey, following one main raga (melodic mode) – in this case, Keeravani raga – but taking detours through other ragas and rhythmic cycles to enjoy different vistas along the way.

The journey began with a hypnotic alap (melodic introduction) by Ramnath and Kumaresh, highlighting the players’ exquisite mastery of their instruments. Ramnath’s sonorous, plaintive violin evoked the slides and sighs of a human voice, while the notes that emerged from Kumaresh’s veena quivered like a spider’s dance on a delicate web.

Hussain then joined them in a series of alternating duets – tabla and violin; tabla and veena – punctuated by thrilling tandem runs where all three players were locked in rhythmic unison.

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The percussionist’s every gesture was designed to draw attention to the dexterity and imagination of his fellow instrumentalists, yet it was impossible to ignore his own astonishing agility and intuitive instincts as he matched his colleagues’ phrases note for note, stroke for stroke.

The slightest movements of his fingers, hands or wrists allowed him to alter the pitch, tone and timbre of his drums, while his facial expressions served as visual exclamation marks.

When the trio leapt back on board Keeravani towards the end of the concert, Hussain mirrored not only the rhythm but the melody of the raga on his tabla, propelling this train to its final station in an ecstatic surge of delight.
Reviewed by Jessica Nicholas

MUSIC
Hockey Dad ★★★★
Margaret Court Arena, July 5

Snakebite Yoga. Toad Control. Murder Zone. If these were band names, they’d look great hanging in giant Scrabble tiles behind an arena rock band, throwing shapes in a spinning and hammering galaxy of coloured lights. But no, the sign says Hockey Dad, and you know what? They’re better than that.

Hockey Dad at Margaret Court Arena on Friday night.

Hockey Dad at Margaret Court Arena on Friday night.Credit: Richard Clifford

The Wollongong rock duo – surf-blonde drummer Billy Fleming thrashing atop a high platform to our right, and tall, dark-haired singer Zach Stephenson conjuring an arsenal of fat, juicy guitar tones on the left – are new to headlining arenas but utterly match-ready.

From the paranoid rant of Homely Feeling to their climactic anthem for career misfits Join the Club, they also have more than enough brash, tuneful Hottest 100 hits, plucked in turn from their last three albums, to keep a couple thousand fans in a sea of motion.

Touring bassist Steve Bourke is centre stage but a study in musical restraint, mixed strictly for bottom-end support – maybe a smidge of vocal harmony on Good Eye, but never so much as an extraneous note to detract from the thick riff and up-front hyperactive drums that make these songs breathe.

The hour-long set is a great plan. Local indie charmers The Belair Lip Bombs and LA-punk visitors Militarie Gun have added plenty of value and warmed the cavernous, mostly roped-off space to operating temperature.

Hockey Dad: new to headlining arenas, but utterly match-ready.

Hockey Dad: new to headlining arenas, but utterly match-ready.Credit: Richard Clifford

Even with a new album to flog, Rebuild Repeat, Hockey Dad boil it down to an all-killer set studded with already-classics: I Wanna Be Everybody, Fleming’s star turn, Sweet Release, the FOMO-sufferer’s theme song I Missed Out and surely a Hottest 100 hit in waiting, Wreck and Ruin.

It’s been a while between albums, Stephenson says before the crowd roar rises to meet Seaweed, “so thanks for stickin’ with The Dad”. Actually, when he puts it that way … yeah nah, maybe not Toad Control.
Reviewed by Michael Dwyer

MUSIC
Iniko | The Awakening Tour ★★★
The Corner Hotel, July 3

Iniko steps onto the blue-lit stage, filling the packed room with their haunting celestial vocals. “Can I sing some new songs for you, is that OK?” the singer asks the crowd. They’re met with a cheer of encouragement.

Iniko performs at The Corner Hotel

Iniko performs at The Corner HotelCredit: Richard Clifford

Amassing over 6 million followers across Instagram and TikTok, this is the artist’s first Australian tour, sharing music from their yet-to-be-released new album. Identifying as genderless, they tell Archer Magazine: “I think my music has some correlation and interconnectedness to the queer struggle because I struggle every day to be queer”.

Alongside a strong soul base, their music is heavily influenced by rock and dancehall, which comes through in the strong guitar and drum accompaniment from the live band. Their sound drifts from soft ethereal tones influenced by their church choir roots to edgier, harder invocations, moving across the stage as if possessed by the beat and channelling the spirit realm.

Contextualising their music and educating their audience was key to Iniko’s onstage storytelling. They spun tales of Icarus’ origins, what it’s like to live on the margins, navigating religion as a queer person and offered an explainer on the influences of disco and rock music. “Rock and roll wouldn’t be rock and roll without black people,” they say defiantly.

Touring new, previously unreleased music can be risky, but Iniko’s fans’ deafening cheers spur them on as the crowd screams out “you’re amazing” and “we love you”. They also performed more familiar singles Pinocchio and Luna, as well as covers of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Boogie Wonderland and Michael Jackson’s Earth Song. They end on their most popular single Jericho, which has the crowd pulsing and singing along, sampling Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us in the introductory bars.

Iniko’s music is heavily influenced by rock and dancehall.

Iniko’s music is heavily influenced by rock and dancehall.Credit: Richard Clifford

Unbound by the restrictions of genre, there was a frenetic energy across the show brought about by Iniko’s experimental approach to musical style and pace, which made it hard to keep up and switch gears as the vibe shifted. Also, a limited catalogue of singles can make it difficult to pull together a cohesive one-hour show.

By the end, like an alien creature from the cosmos, Iniko leaves a lasting impression as an artist that refuses to be boxed in.
Reviewed by Vyshnavee Wijekumar

MUSIC
Ryman Healthcare Winter Gala: Carmina Burana ★★★★
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall, July 4

Braving a bitterly cold night, a sizeable audience attended this year’s Melbourne Symphony Orchestra winter gala. Musical warmth first came through an ebullient rendition of Richard Strauss’ Don Juan. Thrumming with the energy of the piece, chief conductor Jaime Martin vividly projected the work’s colour with engaging, well-shaped solos from guest concertmaster Glenn Christensen, oboist Michael Pisani and trumpeter Owen Morris.

Chief conductor Jaime Martin leads the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Chief conductor Jaime Martin leads the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Credit: Laura Manariti

Warmth of a different kind emanated from a powerful performance of Peter Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry, featuring yidaki virtuoso William Barton. Beginning in the stalls and slowly moving onstage, Barton’s instrument issued soul-piercing cries against a skilful orchestral backdrop.

Written nearly 40 years ago, this most prophetic creation is infused with a restless yearning for genuine reconciliation but acknowledges painful work is yet to be achieved. After rapturous applause, Barton performed a short work of his own evoking his native Country.

Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana rounded out the program, a work orchestra and chorus have been honing since early last year and which will tour Singapore next month.

Taking some time to establish appropriate balances and emotional energy, the work eventually took flight, with the monumental forces of the orchestra, MSO Chorus and Young Voices of Melbourne driving towards a memorable, final O fortuna.

William Barton performs at the MSO Winter Gala on July 4, 2024.

William Barton performs at the MSO Winter Gala on July 4, 2024. Credit: Laura Manariti

A trio of Australian soloists rose valiantly to Orff’s vocal challenges. Bass-baritone Christopher Tonkin particularly revelled in his slapstick portrayal of the bibulous abbot of Cockaigne, while tenor Andrew Goodwin had such fine technique he almost sounded happy to be a roasted swan. Soprano Kathryn Radcliffe amiably personified the ripeness of young love.

After the concert, it may have seemed a little chillier outside had the audience been given access to the text, whose hymn to fortune ends with: “Everyone weep with me.” Fortunately, enough warmth had been generated to keep those chills at bay.
Reviewed by Tony Way

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