Classic recreations

Cinderella (Javeenbah Theatre Company)

Javeenbah Theatre

March 10 – 25

Generally speaking, a two-hander relies on the interaction of its leads and their respective abilities to successfully move the narrative along. In Javeenbah Theatre’s production of Matthew Whittet’s “Cinderella”, Taylor Holmes and Liam Mathers achieve exactly this.

The performers are two in a season that features three rotating companies (which also include Cass Rockley, Megan Frener, Carole Lange and David Anderson). As advertising for the show promises… “This Cinderella isn’t about princes and princesses. It’s about a single woman in her early 40s trying to go on a date, and a single guy who has an unreasonable fear of not being heard over loud music in bars.” And so we see the story of Ash and Ashley’s burgeoning relationship over the course of an evening, affectionately conveyed by Holmes and Mathers.

Holmes is an engaging storyteller in share of her character’s entertaining anecdotes as part of what soon ends up emerging as a date. And Mathers captures the nervous energy of his character’s bumbles, conveying him as a genuinely likeable guy in whose story we become equally invested. The actors certainly work well, both together and independently. In particular, Holmes’s realisation of her character is complete down to nuanced movements and glances to hint as to a perhaps underlying sadness. This means that the Magic Realism that classifies the work, appears, not so much as an integral component, but as a superfluous distraction from a good story. One scene with puppetry of bird fits into the narrative of a recalled story, but the interpretive dance sort of movements from not just the two leads, but sometimes appearance of others on stage, only serves to detract from our absorption into a story whose emotional themes are already being accurately conveyed without the need for such emphasise.

Experimental as it may be, however, this “Cinderella” is still a work of much potential in its concept as we follow the pair’s relationship blossom over an evening, with little nods to the original story through a lost shoe and slowly-creeping-forward clock, for example. The timing of the show’s season starting during the week of International Women’s Day represents a particularly apt opportunity for some quality subversion of the original fairy tale’s traditional saviour plot through a feminist lens. While there is foreshadowing of an impending plot change of direction, without real establishment of motivation, this perhaps alienates rather than endears the conclusion of what is an otherwise quite lovely story.

“This is where the magic begins,” a staging statement tells the audience as Act One opens. In many ways this is true beyond even its particular genre, as, thanks to Jocelyn Moore-Carter’s direction we easily become enveloped in the cocoon of a catchy (but also aptly-chosen) Hall and Oats soundtrack and well-paced story. Indeed, the engagement created makes experience of this retold story of Cindy and her fella a quite lovely way to spend a Gold Coast evening.

Grimm goodness

The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon (Javeenbah Theatre)

Javeenbah Theatre

January 6 – 21

Once upon a time before Disney and its resulting copyright concerns, there were the brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, who collected and published folklore. Their popularisation of stories such as “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White” et al makes them among the best-know storytellers of folk tales, or fairy tales as they have become over time. Originally though, the vast majority were not intended as children’s tales, which is certainly apparent in Javeenbah Theatre’s maintenance of their original (often violent) endings in their attempted combination of all 209 stories in the fast-paced and very funny “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon”, written by Don Zolidis.  

Under Taylor Holmes’s direction, it is a rollicking ride as the core cast of five pace us through classic and obscure tales alike. Meatheatrical from the outset, the work is very self-aware, with actors reacting to their instructions and often engaging directly with the audience. Sections of the audience are also utilised to provide pantomime-ish and atmospheric accompaniment, such as in the original horror movie of “Hansel and Gretel” (an Act One highlight), which only adds to the fun.

Although they also sometimes make appearance in character roles, Martina French and Nathan French, serve predominantly as narrators who direct each story as it is shown on stage, with portrayals shaped by the characters’ desire to change their stories to make them more considerate of modern expectations, for example, when Snow White (Jessica White) switches into narrator role to retell the story her way repositioning its protagonist (now Nathan French) as a now feisty modern woman with avoidance of traditional gender roles.

The fractured fairy-tale premise means that there is sufficient audience familiarity to appreciate what is being twisted anew and intertwined on stage. Despite the fairy tale content, there is much adult humour in the crafted script, which never misses an opportunity for enhancement through the lens of modern sensibilities, such as when Little Red Hat of the ‘hood, sets out to visit her passive aggressive grandmother. Simple staging ensures focus remains entirely on the performances, with attempted prop inclusions often adding humour in and of themselves. And who knew there were so many stupid ways to die?

Energy never wanes in the cohesive ensemble’s enthusiastic realisation of the show’s many exaggerated characters. James Greenwood is excellent in his embrace of such a wide variety of roles, appearing as (amongst others), a magically transformed frog, talking fish, handsome prince, Scottish Dwarf and every character in one hilarious sketch, before backing up again for the ensemble’s final, frantic 2-minute recap of the entire show. Also making her characters distinct and memorable is Jessica White, particularly as an angsty teenage Rapunzel of mutated hair and jerk parents, and later as the assured regal ruler in Act Two’s disturbing retell of “Faithful Johannes”, the original psychological thriller. Indeed, Greenwood and White work well together in their many varied couple pairings, making their stories especially easy to watch. Also, of note is the confident performance from the ensemble’s youngest member, Ella Goodhew, especially as a melodramatic prima-donna orphan girl Cinderella, intent on realising her opportunity for future stardom.

“The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” may be an unconventional play, but in Javeenbah Theatre’s hands, it is clearly a good one in its offer of lots of light-hearted reward. The show makes for an entertaining night of free-form comedy for anyone looking for a madcap (but even-handedly not too manic) break from the mundane … and to find out what to expect if you are expecting to live in a fairy tale, whether you be one of the genre’s pretty people or otherwise.

Privileged pleasure

The Kingfisher (Javeenbah Theatre Company)

Javeenbah Theatre, Nerang

May 26 – June 6

It is countryside England where Lady (Evelyn) Townsend (Viviane Gian) arrives from her dim husband’s funeral to revisit love long-ago lost with successful novelist and unconfirmed bachelor Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins), who lives in his dotage by the river with his long-serving and dedicated, but also pompous and petulant butler Hawkins (Graham Scott). It is a privileged world of slippers, service bells and after-dinner drinks, but also one of unrealised dreams and concealed emotions, well-suited to the comedy of manners style that defines the Javeenbah Theatre Company’s “The Kingfisher”.


William Douglas Home’s words are sometimes verbose but certainly witty, generating many a laugh in themselves, but especially when brought marvellously to life by the performances of each of the three-hander’s actors. Indeed, in the hands of this skilled cast, the script stands the story on its merit, meaning that the excessively detailed and stunning in-itself staging is not only unnecessary ,but at times distracting in its novelties, like water feature sounds of the river by the garden. And although costumes are on-point, conspicuously-aging makeup also sometimes make it difficult to focus solely on the story being shared. Still, where the humour is showing a little age, the cast has done a great job in exploiting every opportunity to general a laugh.


Under Nathan Schulz’s direction, performances are excellent, especially in the physical scenes that start Act Two. Graham Scott makes it immediately clear that his character dislikes Evelyn’s sudden reappearance. Passive aggressive but also far from subtle, his perfectly-time reactions and expressive body language convey more than any words could. As the object of his abhorrence, Viviane Gian is perfect in her reluctance to let her guard down and initial oblivion to Hawkins’ taunts. However, it is Chris Hawkins who anchors the production with a natural and engaging performance as the tale’s protagonist, nostalgically wanting to recapture past days of kingfisher watching under the beech tree. And he is at his best in show of his range through eruption in an Act Two angry rant in response to Hawkins’ meddling into his marriage proposal to the new widow.


“The Kingfisher” is a delightfully British story, yet its light-hearted examination of the need for person fulfilment is so universal as to engender audience contemplation long after the show’s finish. In the hands of Javeenbah Theatre Company, both its story and its message are pleasantly brought to life, making it easy to appreciate its characters’ wants to chase a second summer despite having had the first flush of youth long ago pass by. For an entertaining experience in a comfortable theatre, “The Kingfisher” at Javeenbah is best not missed.