TIME OUT: Theatre on the edge

This week's top picks for your weekend activities include an intense play in Hobart, a Sydney shopping experience and the new show from the writer of Keating! The Musical.

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Once again the team from Neo Neighbourhood have been scouring Australia for the best things to do this weekend. Here's their top picks:

1. Steven Berkoff, one man with menace

In Hobart this Saturday night you can see one of the stage’s most intriguing performers at work. Steven Berkoff has a restless talent that almost defies categorization: he is successful as an actor, director, playwright and author. Of course, to many he is simply Hollywood’s bad guy of choice throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, steely blue eyes burning as he menaced Roger Moore in Octopussy, Sylvester Stallone in Rambo II and the whole world in War and Remembrance (where he played Hitler).

Live performance is where Berkoff puts most of his energies these days, and the show that has brought the British actor to Australia, One Man, consists of two solo pieces, Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart and Berkoff’s own Dog, in which he mesmerisingly embodies both a football hooligan and the thug’s bull terrier. No dutiful night out at this theatre, this.

Afterwards you might need a stiff drink. Luckily, Lark Bar & Distillery in Davey Street is only two blocks away. This is the base of Tasmanian entrepreneur Bill Lark, maker of award-winning, locally-distilled whiskies.

If you like your spirits botanically enhanced, you'll probably want to taste the vodka and gin flavoured with the native pepperberry. For traditionalists there are single malt whiskies. Either way, enjoy the spreading inner warmth as your pulse rate drops back to normal.

2. China vs USA, and there's no ref.

The Olympics are over, and China is getting back on with the business of becoming a major 21st century player. But what exactly does that mean for the rest of the world?

Sure, terrorism gets all the attention, Michael Klare, respected commentator on energy and security issues, argues that international rivalry over dwindling raw materials, particularly oil, is potentially the greater threat.

Klare, who is Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, defence correspondent for the US magazine The Nation, and author of books including Blood and Oil, explains his position in a lecture presented by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Specifically, Klare details what China’s rise to great-power status means for a USA which is determined to protect its own access to oil and other energy sources. To read his lecture in full, and decide for yourself how real the threat of a new cold war is, click here.


3. Be sharp and book for Bennetto

Anyone lucky enough to have seen the tour de force that is Keating! The Musical will surely have walked out with two things: a huge grin and enormous admiration for the writer of the show, Casey Bennetto. This weekend, do a bit of judicious planning and book your tickets to see Bennetto’s next show, A Largely Fanciful History of the Spiegeltent, playing as part of the Melbourne Festival on October 11 and 12. Hesitate at your peril; it’s likely to sell out quickly.

Keating! began as a show for the 2005 Melbourne Comedy Festival by Bennetto and his bandmates in The Drowsy Drivers. Three years before that, they’d been a big hit at the Festival with the Northcote Country Soul, a musical about Melbourne. They were showcases for Bennetto’s musical comedy genius — he can turn his hand to any genre, from power-ballad to tango to Broadway-style showstopper, with witty lyrics to take it beyond pastiche into something all its own.

In his Spiegeltent show expect to see numbers inspired by the historically dubious snake-charming chanteuse Leila Montesano-Jones, the Human Croissant Pierre Courbure, and Fred Sinatra, Frank's little known, semi-talented half-brother.

If you need help deciding he’s worth seeing, click here and listen to some of Bennetto’s early work, including a big gospel number that contains the lyric "I was lost! Lost! I knew that I was lost, confronted by each avenue I took, but in my disorientation I was lookin' for salvation and I found that sweet salvation in the Book”. Yes, it's about the Melways street directory.

4. The best of both worlds

In Perth, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra has two performances of Dvorak’s From the New World Symphony this weekend. The work has been chosen in celebration of 80 years of the orchestra’s existence – it was first performed in Perth in 1928 by the 6WF orchestra, which evolved into WASO. The performances are on Friday and Saturday nights at the city’s Concert Hall.

For the perfect mood-setting meal beforehand, go to Balthazar. Dark and intimate and very Euro, it's in marked contrast to the wide expanse of foreshore park outside and provides a reliable alternative to all that West Coast al fresco dining. The moody intimacy here will immediately put you in a cosy frame of mind.

The wall of wine is more than just decor — these people are serious about their selections. Find a high quality glass of something interesting and take advantage of a small selection of ModOz tapas to go with it: old world meets new, and everyone wins.

5. Style up at The market.

Bondi’s The Market is pure retail theatre. You can easily imagine cobwebs and mad uncles lurking in the back amongst the armoires and other furniture, but in reality this is a high quality, carefully contrived collection of old and new. There are stories lurking in the all the 'vintage' pieces, and a good sprinkling of contemporary and reproduction pieces to fill the style gaps. The combination will inspire you to artfully arrange your own period space.

There are also human stories stomping in and out of the doors all day long, to swap a story or just say a cheery hello. It's entirely unpredictable and entirely gorgeous.

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