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raising the curtain

Geoffrey Rush is featured in this impressive documentary
Geoffrey Rush is featured in this impressive documentary about Australian theatre

An absolute must for any Australian, whether they are theatre goers or not, is the three part documentary RAISING THE CURTAIN available on DVD through Madman.

A celebration of Australian theatre, it mirrors Australia’s cultural and social evolution, performance being present in the penal colony from almost the raising the flag. Convicts and Corps craved entertainment and so the show must go on.

The gold rush brought an appetite, an economy and an opulence that gilded the industry, girded its loins, and an intense entrepreneurial flurry brought performers in tents out to the fields and finally into grand playhouses.

Through archival footage and interviews with existing veterans, this is a vibrant, compulsively watchable series that explores all facets of show business in Australia, from the indigenous, impresarios, vaudevillians, circus acts, imports, playwrights, hoofers, actors, and cross dressers.

Barry Humphries and Reg Livermore give frank and fertile interviews about their careers and inspirations for their iconic cross-gender creations, Dame Edna and Betty Blokk Buster, marvellously illustrated with fascinating footage.

Like so much of Australian society, the theatre was beholden to colonial roots and later to Broadway musicals and the programme examines the pros and cons of this reality, as well as the exhilarating emergence of home grown theatre, the first great and lasting success being Ray Lawler’s The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, with the baton being taken up in the Sixties by dramatists like David Williamson and Jack Hibberd, and companies like La Mamma and Nimrod.

The background to this burgeoning bombast of broad talent has commentary by those who were at the barricades, including Graeme Blundell, John Bell, and Jim Sharman.

Present day performance landscape features legendary larrikin ethos along with indigenous drama and dance, a corroboree of cultures coalescing into a contemporary scene that continues to entice, enthral, enrage and entertain.

Thoroughbred thesps like Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Robinson, and Robyn Nevin, reflect and ruminate on the past, present and future in a showcase of achievement and sheer exuberance.

Much more than just a luvvie fest, RAISING THE CURTAIN is a backstage pass to the rise and rise of Aussie theatre, both the show and the business.

RAISING THE CURTAIN,  3 x 54minute episodes, is available through Madman, SBS, and many retail centres.

 

 

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