Over and over 100 out

With Covid still causing disruptions, I was surprised to ultimately make it along to over 100 shows again this year. Here are my highlights from the 2022 Brisbane theatre year.

1. The Normal Heart (Ad Astra)

The Queensland premiere production of Larry Kramer’s largely autobiographical “The Normal Heart” was absolutely absorbing and inspirational in its unflinching look at the horrific time in our history that was the start of the AIDS epidemic.

2. A Girls Guide to World War (Musical Theatre Australia)

Inspirational, also, was Musical Theatre Australia’s tell of the true story of some amazing women forgotten by our history. The February show, which was my favourite then for most of the year, was richly rewarding in both its entertainment and education about the courageous and compassionate real life humanitarian adventurers at the core of its story.

3. Holding Achilles (Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall)

My 2022 Brisbane Festival highlight, the grand Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall co-production was an exquisite world-class design-led theatre experience, as much a celebration of the craft of storytelling as a retell of one of the Western canon’s oldest narratives

4. The Sunshine Club (Queensland Theatre)

Queensland Theatre’s bright revival of Wesley Enoch and John Rodgers’ joyful musical was a historical work of a particular time, but also a story of love, hope, heartbreak and the shared humanity of these emotions, easy to watch and love.

5. 42nd Street (Queensland Conservatorium)

There was much to also love about Queensland Conservatorium’s massive musical production of “42nd Street” as its assured performances, quality orchestrations and show-stopping ensemble production numbers captured the spirit of the show’s era and also the grand musical genre.

6. Oliver! (Savoyards)

Savoyards excellent musical revival was full of highlights and everything needed to entertain its audience around the troublesome aspects of “Oliver!” to a resonance of resilience and hope.

7. The Last Five Years (La Boite Theatre Company) 

La Boite’s two-hander share (in two different directions) of the ill-fated five-year relationship of aspiring artists was certainly clever in its alternate musical narration, however, was also slick in its use of space and tight in its telling thanks to the moving performances of its charismatic performers and musical stylings of its varied, bitter-sweet score.

8. Mary Poppins (Disney and Cameron Mackintosh)

The Disney spectacle that came to life on the Lyric Theatre stage was a celebration of imagination, and, thus, an unforgettable production that could easily be seen again and again, making for a “Mary Poppins” anew for the whole modern family.

9. Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner (La Boite Theatre, Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre)

Just before the floods came, there was this fierce and furious coproduction, sharp in its satire of cancel culture and appropriation in a viral world, but also wickedly humorous.

10. First Casualty (Queensland Theatre)

The hard-hitting storytelling of Queensland Theatre’s landmark blockbuster season closer was elevated by an epic soundscape and dynamic lighting to take us into a world not previously seen on stage…. the last days of Australian troop involvement in Afghanistan.

And of particular note….

Best Drama – The Normal Heart (Ad Astra)

Also the most moving and thought provoking production of 2022, Ad Astra’s “The Normal Heart” allowed us to bear witness to each stage of the play’s centrepiece romance as it played out in unfiltered vulnerability, raw anger, complex beauty and undeniable love, against the backdrop of a community living in fear of AIDS.

Best Comedy – Hidden in this Picture (Villanova Players)

The one act “Hidden in this Picture” (from the pen of Emmy Award-winning playwright Aaron Sorkin), which appeared as part of Villanova Players’ intermezzo series, was full of over and over again laugh-out-loud moments emerging from the increasing hyperbole in share of what was essentially a duologue inset with simple interjections.  

Best Cabaret – Women in Voice

The 2022 outing of this Brisbane institution was the best yet in its curated program of different musical styles from its empowered female performers.

Best Dramatic Performance – Vivien Whittle – Gaslight (Growl Theatre)

Whittle was simply wonderful as the vulnerable, tormented and humiliated Bella, whether bustling about in fleeting, naive belief that all is well or blubbering in flustered confusion after being raged at by her psychologically-torturous husband Jack.

Best Comic Performance – Troy Bullock – Hidden in this Picture (Villanova Players)

Meanwhile, Bella’s gaslighting husband Troy Bullock gave the funniest performance as a first-time director Robert, intent on obtaining an Oscar-winning shot in for his movie’s final scene, until three cows make appearance along with the hundreds of extras.

Best Musical Performance – Priyah Shah – Oliver! (Savoyards)

Shah’s show of strength but also vulnerability ensured that her Nancy was not just a kindly, but a complex character and her strong vocals left the “Oliver!” audience equally impressed in rollicking tavern sing-a-long and torch song numbers alike.

Best duo – Marcus Corowa and Irena Lysiuk – The Sunshine Club (Queensland Theatre)

The chemistry between Corowa and Lysiuk was not only evident in their protagonists’ duets, but warmed the audience into investment into the blossom of their childhood friendship in to more after his post-WW2 return to Brisbane.  

Honourable mention to Christopher Morphett-Wheatley and Darcy Rhodes – Into The Woods (Beenleigh Theatre Group)

Morphett-Wheatley and Rhodes were audience favourites as they dynamically pranced about in pantomime-esque play off each other’s bravado energy as two-dimensional princes attempting to one-up each other in argument.

Best EnsembleHeathers: The Musical (Millennial Productions) 

Millennial Productions’ debut musical was a highly professional independent production, in part due to its strong performances, with nobody holding back even in edgier scenes. There were no vocal weak links as each performer was given an opportunity to shine and there was a clear level of focus in all performances, resulting in no missed beats within the show’s tight rhythm. 

Best Independent Production – Boy, Lost (Belloo Creative)

The years-in-the-making tell of the true story of one family’s loss and redemption was also an ensemble production with its actors playing multiple characters (including themselves at moments), jumping in and out of different roles with simple prop or costume enhancements, yet, as an audience, we always knew what was happening as we moved through its tightly-woven emotional journey.

Most fun – All Fired Up (Box Jelly Theatre Company)

The show so nice, I ended up seeing it twice to contemplate if a trip to the ‘80’s and a chat with your 15-year-old self really can solve a mid-life crisis? With a live band perfectly capturing the nostalgic energy of the era it was all incredibly feel good, fun and funny.

Best Staging – Holding Achilles (Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall) 

The mythical magic of “Holding Achilles” may have been multi-layered, but this was built upon a performance space reminiscent of classical Greek amphitheatres with staging exposed to the audience, in contrast to the modern technology used to sometimes literally soar the story along with aerial artistry.

Best Sound and Lighting Design – First Casualty (Queensland Theatre)

The sound and lighting design elements of “First Casualty” were likely worth the price of admission alone. Paul Jackson’s lighting design transformed the space and its surfaces to tell the show’s many multifaceted narratives, while sound design by Brady Watkins and THE SWEATS added to the onstage action, whether dynamic or subtle in tone.

Best Choreography – Mary Poppins (Disney and Cameron Mackintosh)

Matthew Bourne’s and Stephen Mear’s “Mary Poppins” choreography (recreated for the Australian production by Richard Jones) filled the Lyric Theatre stage with a burst of moving bodies, brooms and brushes in spectacular, precise, fast-paced numbers like ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and ‘Step in Time’.

Getting to the heart of history

The Normal Heart (Ad Astra)

Ad Astra

November 3 – 27

The Queensland premiere production of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” begins upon audience entry into the versatile Ad Astra theatre space; the ‘I Feel Love’ rave through which we are led to our seats is infectiously joyous, however, it is a jubilance in juxtaposition to where journey of the landmark, largely autobiographical play will lead, as hinted to by the backdrop pop of pride flag graffiti that is are weeping from the walls.

It is 1982 and the start of yet to be named ‘gay cancer” AIDS epidemic in its New York epicentre. Many gay men are still in the closet when purple lesions begin appearing on their skin. Physician Dr. Emma Brookner (Janelle Bailey, in a role shared with Madeleine Little) is fearful of the insidious disease she believes may be rampaging, but nobody important cares because of who is being affected. Time is not on their side.

Emma wants Jewish-American writer, and the story’s protagonist, Ned Weeks (Gregory J Wilken) to use his big mouth to rally his community. Being well known in the gay world is one thing, however, rousing to action a culture without real leaders is another. Weeks founds a non-profit, volunteer-supported HIV advocacy group, the real-life GMCH (formerly Gay Men’s Health Crisis). While the group begins its quest for equality, it’s all about political perceptions as its leaders find themselves battling against a city and a nation in denial.

Bailey is brilliant as the determined Emma. In particular, her response to refusal of a research funding support request, although essentially delivered to a contemporary, empathetic audience, is shared with such a resounding passion as to both shock and shame us as humans knowing that this once happened in our worlds. It is often said that the first step of successful character development is to find their walk. And Wilken inhabits his character through this, as well as his gesture, head tilts and turns, and eyes wide in astonished emphasis at the preposterousness of Emma’s first request that he tell gay men to stop having sex. It is a detailed, authentic and absorbing performance of a reluctant leader but furious activist. Later his vitriolic ‘how dare you’ advocacy and determination to yell louder and apply more pressure in a meeting with a representative of New York Mayor Ed Koch’s administration is palpable in its fiery frustration as the organisation grows, still without acknowledgement of there being a problem despite the increasing percentage of New York deaths in the USA’s statistics.

On an often-quieter note, the scenes showcasing the strained relationship between Ned and his older, more conservative lawyer bother Ben (Luke O’Neill), have a natural rhythm as the two character each say what they think they should, but still have it not be enough. So often the play’s conflicts come from attempted communication between characters who never really hear each other. In this way, the story shines an insightful light upon multifaceted relationships within and surrounding the community, including the tensions between the provocative Ned and preppie good cop activist, former Green Beret Bruce Niles (Sam Hocking). And through its clashes about what the organisation’s primary focus should be, deliberation is also given to if personal belief systems need to always be imbued throughout every aspect of one’s life.

As things continue, we also bear witness to each stage of the relationship between Ned and his partner, New York Times journalist Felix Turner (Felix Jarvis). Their centrepiece romance plays out in all of its unfiltered vulnerability, raw anger, complex beauty and undeniable love (as much due to intimacy coach Michelle Miall, as it is Wilken and Jarvis’ performances). All of the story’s relationships are ones in which to believe, thanks to Michelle Carey and Anna Loren’s balanced direction of the talented cast, which also includes Tom Harwood and Liam Wallis. Mathew Alec Costin makes Mickey Marcus’ preference for conciliation in contrast to Ned’s loud-mouthed confrontation, endearing, which means seeing him broken by the cycle of perpetual bereavement all the more devastating. And Jarvis’s portrayal of Ned’s great love Felix is particularly poignant without wallow.

Bringing together such a ragtag group of characters of such different personalities allows opportunity for humour to break the play’s dramatic tensions. Rad Valance’s Tommy Boatwright ensures there is some Act One levity to lighten the emotional load. There is humour, too, in Ned’s self-sacrificing nervous first date interaction with Felix. Songs are also effectively used to punctuate things, capturing the sentiment of scenes and the era of the story’s settings.

Like “Holding The Man”, “The Normal Heart” tells the story of people, but also the politics that are such a very real part of their day to day lives when, as the death toll increases to the status of epidemic, the media continuous to remain largely silent on the issue. As much as it serves as an indictment against ignorance, however, “The Normal Heart” is a heartfelt story of love and compassion. Act Two is filled with powerful monologues, including a particular a gut-wrenching recall from Hocking as Bruce, of his lover’s last days and the appalling treatment received. This is just one of many deeply moving moments that will sit with you long after the show’s deserving curtain call ovation.

While very much of its time, this is also a story of universal themes around love, loyalty and foreboding fear. “I know something is wrong,” are the first words of dialogue uttered in the play. Something was very wrong indeed and “The Normal Heart” also serves as contemplation of the effect of this in terms of all the potential works of art lost by the demise of a generation of creatives. It also offers us a reminder of how far the world has come in its acceptance that love is love, reinforced by the work’s outdated attitudes and shocking slurs reflective of the time of its setting. Such moments are particularly deplorable, I imagine, to those without any experience of the Grim Reaper Ad Campaign era or appreciation for just how marginalised this group was in society. Many of those born after the time perhaps have little understanding of just how brutal the AIDS crisis was, and the play’s unrestrained share of this is to be applauded. It is a reminder too of the courageous medical practitioner pioneers of AIDS care, operating against institutional and professional resistance to caring for patients with the virus and instead living by the messaging of the work’s opening monologue mantra that we must love one another or die.

While it may be a harrowing true story, in Ad Astra’s hands the drama of “The Normal Heart” is gripping and also inspirational. The play is a long one, but it is absolutely absorbing throughout as it presents us with several sides of its issues. Its unflinching look at a horrific time in our history will wring you out and leave you battered in way only live theatre can. For all of its narrative impact, however, the biggest emotional wallop perhaps comes as part of the dedication announcement at the outset of the play, reminding us that 45 million people have lost their lives due to the AIDS virus.

Character charm

Why Men Run at 2am (Ad Astra)

Ad Astra

October 6 – 22

“Why Men Run at 2am” begins with a bang, or rather banging… and sawing… and drilling … as Knoll (Tom Coyle) reinforces the doors to the pawn shop setting of the dark comedy. The barricading in response to a recent robbery is interrupted by appearance of travelling pawn shop salesman Terry Schmidt Jrn, or TJ (Lachlan Engeler). TJ hasn’t set foot in his father’s shop in months, but is back in Brisbane to help to get to the bottom of his father’s disappearance for days without a trace, with help from the shop’s colourful cast of characters. Thus, the trope of an unseen character sets up the direction of the narrative against the tapestry of its richly detailed setting.

The enigmatically named work is ambiguous in setting too, beyond the store being in the northern subjects of Brisbane. ‘80s themed posters appear on the walls and calls are taken on a rotary phone, but there is mention too of the recently opened Clem tunnel, setting things circa 2010. The era isn’t particularly relevant to the story’s unfolding, which moves quickly as if trying to ensure that no idea for inclusion is missed. The play is essentially a three hander between Knoll, TJ and Knoll’s niece Maureen (Caitlin Hill) who also works at Schmidt’s Pawn and Laundry, though dreams of returning to her happy times travelling in Europe. That is until the late Act Two appearance of property developer Colleen Worthington (Aurelie Roque), in progress of a subplot of local council redevelopment plans for the business, which leads to some of the show’s funniest moments, especially in her conflict with the feisty Maureen.

All performers do an excellent job in creation of such distinct and distinctive characters. Coyle anchors things as the shop’s long-suffering co-operator, all about making deals but also committed to the shop and its customers. The subtlety of his vocal delivery adds much to the script’s comedy, meaning that he can make even ordering a kebab funny. The standout, however, is Hill as the flighty Maureen. Her performance is a force of nature, perfectly pitched to endear an unconventional and quirky character who could so easily have been overplayed to obnoxiousness. There is light and shade within her performance too, evident particularly through quieter moments in almost romantic conversation with TJ.

The play which is written and directed by Matilda Award-winning local actor and director Gordon, comes with a clever script. It is busy with witty dialogue that, unfortunately is not always given time to properly land and some of its language structures don’t always sit naturally in everyone’s mouths with deliberately dropped gs jarring into the dialogue from time to time. This can easily be forgiven though, given its inherit humour and memorable characterisations, which stand the work in good stead in and of themselves without need for enhancement.

As its current form, “Why Men Run at 2am” is more vehicle for characterisation than satisfying narrative. However, the lack of a real resolution, gives it an additional appeal, perhaps opening up opportunities for audiences to drop into the characters’ lives again. Indeed, it is very sitcom in its feel, in a “Steptoe and Son” meets “Black Books” way, which gives it an essential charm, with a Brisbane twist, that is worth a visit.

Marvin’s moments

Marvin’s Room (Ad Astra)

Ad Astra

September 1 – 24

“Oh life is bigger, it’s bigger than you,” REM’s ‘Losing My Religion’ reminds us along with the character of Hank during Scott McPherson’s 1990 comedy-drama “Marvin’s Room”. It is one of many song snippets that serve to barometer the emotions of the story in Ad Astra’s production of the bittersweet tale, in this case coming as troubled 17-year-old Hank (Jayden McGinlay) considers whether he will be undergo genetic testing to see if he is a transport match for an aunt he has only just heard of, let alone met.

We don’t see the bedridden Marvin of the play’s title or his room (just hear his agitations courtesy of Nicholas Sayers),  but his presence looms large in what is essentially the story of a family learning to love what binds them when circumstances force them back together. Whereas the free-spirited Lee (a standout Elise Lamb) struggles as a single mum living in Ohio, her now-estranged, determined sister Bessie (Fiona Kennedy) has long been in Florida, caring for their dying father Marvin and eccentric, forgetful Aunt Ruth (Phillipa Bowe) who has been crippled with back pain. With Bessie facing her own difficult diagnosis, Lee arrives in town, along with her teenage sons Hank, who is on leave from a mental institution following an arson incident, and Charlie (Kieran McGinlay).

The sisters soon fall into their old dynamic, however, as they work through their tensions, there is an authenticity to the complexity of their relationship. Indeed, one of the show’s best scenes is when the sisters are up late sitting around the kitchen table talking. Kennedy and Lamb work well together to present such an authentic recreation of the resonate connection that shared history engenders, despite the passage of time. As an audience, we become invested in their story, not just because of their performances, but the intimacy of staging, which has the emotional action occurring within a metre of the front row.

The modest domestic setting of so many of these scenes is another strength in how Director Roslyn Johnson makes the work accessible to an audience easily able to recognise the interactions between siblings, or with a parent or child. However, the show is a long one and could be more economical. Early scenes in which Bessie pays visits to wacky Doctor Wally (an energetic Tom Harwood), may add to the irreverent comedy that balances the story’s essential pathos, but ultimately slow down our entry into the essentially small family story of big human considerations.   

All members of the cast impress, however, the story’s telling rests upon the sisters at its centre. Most notably, Lamb’s nuanced performance gives Lee a vulnerability beneath her tough veneer, with her glances about and fidgety movement conveying a sense of insecurity that her words belie. Meanwhile, Kennedy makes us feel both with and for the saintly Bessie who has devoted a large portion of her life to being caregiver to Marvin and Ruth since her father’s first stroke two decades earlier…such is the realness to the shades of grey display of the reality of life’s trials and tribulations.

Although touching, things don’t necessarily end happily; in fact, there is no real ending at all, just like in real life, but there are some resolutions and a resonance with everyone who has experienced the dilemmas and associated emotions that come with aging and caring for family members, such as consideration of outsourcing their care (which comes courtesy of an assured Marita McVeigh as a local Retirement Home Director). While it may be full of quiet moments (and some quick scene changes) that slow things down, ultimately it is the contemplation that these bring that remains with audiences long after our time in “Marvin’s Room” is over.

Two-hander Traces

Brilliant Traces (Ad Astra)

Ad Astra

June 16 – July 8

One of things that continues to impress about Ad Astra shows is the versatility of the company’s staging in terms of audience reorientation and overall aesthetics. In the case of Cindy Lou Johnson’s critically acclaimed “Brilliant Traces”, this is realised in the creation of the remote Alaskan hut that becomes the sole location of action in the intimate two-hander.

As if the pre-show Violin Concerto of Vivaldi’s “Winter” is not enough, stage design (Bill Haycock working with Fiona Kennedy) establishes a clear sensibility. Sparseness is punctuated by important details like fishing apparatus, a small frosted window and a lone pair of gumboots. We feel the isolation before a word is even spoken and when it is, this is further enhanced by an evocative (but not overbearing) soundscape of outside swirling winter winds (Sound Design by Theo Bourgoin). Inside, however, the blackout of the show’s first moments is warmed only by the inviting light of a pot-belly-esque wood-fired stove. It’s a cosiness that is soon contrasted, however, by the literal and metaphorical blizzard that blows in to the cabin as a distraught Rosannah DeLuce (Vanessa Moltzen) blusters through the door.

Rosannah has driven from Arizona in flee from her wedding, that is until a ‘white out’ blizzard forces everyone into isolation. Likeable oil rig worker Henry Harry (Kyle McCallion) is a sad and lonely figure. We learn this despite him not speaking until well into the 80-minute (no interval) work’s first act, which serves as a testament to McCallion’s skill. And when he does speak, after the physically and emptionally exhausted Rosannah has slept for two days, there is a trepidation that hints as to his own fragility, such is the nuance of McCallion’s performance.  

This is a play that showcases the skill of the two actors as, in the confined cabin space, they bounce back and forth in bravado and then honest vulnerability that highlights their fated commonality in seek of emotional safety. And Moltzen does well to bring humour and humanity to the demanding role of a damaged but exhausting character who tells of some selfish choices on way to her personal crisis. The hyperbole of her stream of consciousness introductory monologue, for instance, is tempered with some relatable reflections of self.

Both performers are on stage for the entire play, during which time they take us on a tumultuous emotional journey as the two lost souls try to find their way back to life in attempt to become whole again. The result of this sustainment is an intense piece, tightly directed by Fiona Kennedy to emphasise its drama, yet also infused with some humour along with symbolic call-backs and a metaphoric thematic exploration that gives us hope that even seemingly-unbearable lives can be lived. Indeed, “Brilliant Traces” is a complex and layered work, full of imagery in its multifaceted examination of the role and result of isolation in life’s journeys, and conclusions about the humanity at the core of compassion.

Symphony of selves

Toy Symphony (Ad Astra)

Ad Astra

April 21 – May 14

Experience has proven that Ad Astra is not only to be commended for its interesting production choices, but its often inventive staging of these, especially given the company’s intimate performance space. Michael Gow’s critically-acclaimed “Toy Symphony” (the play was awarded Best New Australian Work at the 2008 Helpmann Awards), stands as testament to both of these truths.

Blackboarded walls featuring graffitied quotes, allow audience members the satisfaction of seeing how they are woven into the essential fabric of the story, while trunks and suitcases stack about the stage to become a range of set pieces. They provide appropriate imagery for these is a lot to unpack in the story of playwright Roland Henning (played to perfection by Gregory J Wilken), a character who appeared in Gow’s earlier play “Furious”.

The play’s central protagonist is a complex character who, like Gow himself, knows how to use language. Indeed, he is, by all intents, a representation of the playwright himself (Gow has publicly acknowledged the somewhat autobiographical nature of the work). And through his tale, the play considers not only the nature of language and theatre, but essential elements of the human experience, such as the power of formative experiences to shape our later selves.

Following a legal victory in response to accusations of plagiarism, at the encouragement of an unseen friend, Roland reluctantly begins psychoanalysis. While he assures psychiatrist Nina (Caitlin Hill) that he does not have writers block, and therefore does not need therapy, he is clearly in denial about something and their session soon leads to a self-reflective journey through his troubled past in search for the writer he once was. Within his ensuing therapy sessions, Roland recalls real and imagined characters from his childhood, including his compassionate Year 5 teacher Mrs Walkham (Bernadette Pryde), at whose urging he funnelled his fertile imagination into a play called “Toy Symphony”.

Things momentum along through a combination of real-time and flashback storytelling, thanks to the inclusion of magical realism and larger-than-life representations in illustration of Roland’s imagination of historical figures such as Alexander the Great and alike, alongside his 1960s classmates, school bully (Sam Webb), the sweet t Mrs Walkham, intimidating school principal (Greg Scurr) and his personal champion, Nick. Although details of his childhood home in the southern Sydney suburb of Como are explored in lengthy classroom scenes, overall, these sections serve well to highlight the versatility of the dynamic cast who transition seamlessly between characters. Indeed, Act One is textured with a colorful set of characters, which the ensemble cast bring to glorious life. Hill, in particular, is excellent as both capable therapist Nina and an excitable Year 5 student, while Pryde is simply wonderful in anchor of everything as the doting Mrs Walkham, always offering warmth and assurance to Roland.

Act Two takes a turn as Rowland, now a successful playwright, faces the consequences of his past along with the loss of his parents, the combination of which spirals him into the writer’s block that prompted his therapy. From being a bullied youngster, he has now become an intimidating oppressor himself and it is uncomfortable to watch his evisceration of university student and wannabe actor Daniel (Jonathan Weir), such is power of Wilken’s performance. At times intense, and others turmoiled, he evokes both psychological depth and emotional range in his realisation of all of Roland’s selves, from his schoolboy energy to the despair of a layered man who is at his rock bottom. And his one-sided phone conversation soliloquy serves as a magnificent celebration the play’s language and its show of the human of humanity.

“Toy Symphony” shows that there is more to Australian playwright and director Michael Gow that his most famed 1986 work “Away”. The stylistically-distinctive work may touch upon similar tones in its 1960s setting, but its discussion of the merit of theatre over other art forms and attempt to understand creativity. elevate it as a clever, challenging and entertaining look at the world of the imagination. It is also very funny at times, particularly through Scurr’s Act One appearances as Rowland’s Latvian childhood friend Nick, whose hyperbolic declarations of love of beautiful women are matched only by his profane exclamations of excitement.  

While it may be a neglected work, the play’s themes and inherent theatricality will hopefully ensure its longevity. Magical elements, along with Gow’s poetic writing and trademark classical allusions make “Toy Symphony” an entertaining, albeit underrated Australian play, and under Michelle Carey’s direction, Ad Astra has presented audiences with a very fine production of it.