Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

17
Sep
14

Bon Voyage – The Show

 

Bon Voyage – The Show

M2 Productions

Jupiters Theatre

September 10 2014

 

Reviewed by Lisa Gallagher

 

bonvoyagetheshow

 

In Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days Mr Phileas Fogg’s balloon trip created a magical adventure for us all. In 2014, producer extraordinaire Mr Michael Boyd will relive that journey in song, performance and magic, assisted by thousands of sequins, feathers, high kicks, top hats, tails, animals and fire! Introducing Bon Voyage – The Show, opening at Jupiters Theatre on the Gold Coast from September 10 for a limited season.

 

With the magic of the world’s greatest destinations as the setting, Boyd’s Bon Voyage celebrates the mystique and elegance of old world adventure – from Broadway to Bangkok, from Africa through India and the colour of Bollywood to the romance of Parisian cabaret, with the final destination being the wonder that is Australia.

 

A world premiere season, Bon Voyage stars 13 world-class performers and an equine superstar direct from Canada’s blockbuster touring show Cavalia, on stage at Jupiters Theatre in a kaleidoscopic Las Vegas style revue that will take audiences around the world in 80 minutes!

 

The idea of the show holds a promise of adventure, and the ambience on arrival does not disappoint. The ushers are well dressed, their hostess uniforms look great. On Opening Night, Michael himself introduced the show, informing the audience that this is his 3rd show at Jupiters. He then recognised that the creative cast and performers were all Queenslanders, which was great to hear. The Gold Coast as a whole does not generally support culture at a grass roots level (especially our local council!), so it is wonderful that Michael and Jupiters are supporting local performers and the arts community.

 

The show starts with a fantastic character – Miss Aviation, played by Drag Queen Miss Synthetic, in the role of flight attendant. In her opening monologue there is a lot of sexual innuendo, and this continues in her segments throughout the show. It is extremely funny, but the 80ish year old man beside me looked markedly uncomfortable during these times. I would normally not hesitate to recommend a Jupiters show to families with children, and whilst the rest of the production is fine for kids, Miss Aviation’s segments are definitely aimed towards adults. Nicole Sokolovic and Dean Giltinan head a wonderful ensemble; the performers are all very talented and able to captivate the audience.

 

First stop is New York and the standard is set! The performance starts with a fantastic shadow acting piece. This is followed by great, polished performances that are very enjoyable. The song choices are excellent and the performers are on cue with their singing and dancing.

 

This momentum is not achieved throughout the whole show. The show seems to be more of a tribute to the stopover cities, rather than a true symbolic cultural representation. With that said, the show is fast paced, and the time spent in each country was just right, with set changeovers seamless and quick. A variety of songs, routines and outstanding costumes make for an exciting show. As expected with Michael Boyd, there were well placed interludes of visually appealing illusions to entertain the audience.

 

bonvoyage_horse

The show finishes up back in Australia. Being a proud Queenslander, I was expecting to see some Gold Coast themed action and a tribute to our beautiful beaches. Instead, the producers have focused on our bush heritage.

 

There were some good old songs, to which the Aussies in the opening night audience had a sing along, and for the last few songs, an Australian Outback Spectacular style finale, a (Cavalia) horse is brought on stage. Mikayla Barber obviously knows what she is doing with her horse, Maverick, but I do not see a need for a horse to be included in the show and feel it is only included for the wow factor. Whilst Maverick did settle down, the horse looked out of place and uncomfortable on the small Jupiters stage.

 

But from the hot jazz of New York, to the tribal beat and colourful costumes of Africa, to the sheer fun and sparkling sequins of Paris, Bon Voyage is a very entertaining night out!

 

 

 

12
Sep
14

A Doll’s House

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

adollshouse

 

A Doll’s House

La Boite & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 10 – 27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo

 

Writer, Lally Katz, and Director, Steven Mitchell Wright, have recreated A Doll’s House for a new generation.

 

I’m not sure exactly what the new generation will get from it though because I feel the conclusion is slightly skewed. Is it just me? I always wonder what other people will take away from a show. I think the opening night crowd loved it! But the ending? Not so much.

 

Tara-Moss

The feminist message is so overstated by the conclusion of this production that I feel sure I would have been happier to miss the final gear change and escape before the end, still anticipating, as Lally’s mum’s English teacher put it, “the door slam that was heard all over the world.”

 

 

The end of the three acts is an anomaly, completely at odds with the style and sophistication of the rest of the piece. The poorly matched bag and shoe colour-blocking fashion statement takes us defiantly back to the eighties, the music brings us well and truly into the nineties, and its strangely staunch feminist diatribe, after the fluid, modern, poetic language of the play, transports us stubbornly back to the seventies, when women’s lib was a thing. Okay, so it’s still a thing (it’s always been a thing), but in a very different way. In this country at least, we’ve been talking intelligently for a while now about equal rights, without having to burn our Honey Birdette bras and shout about it from the rooftops. In fact, I listened last weekend to Tara Moss talk very intelligently about it. (She’s actually my new favourite public person, right up there with our Cate).

 

At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to explain. I don’t want you to avoid seeing A Doll’s House because the ending is wrong for our time and place.

 

Like all good drama, the play speaks for itself. We don’t need the contemporary voice here to sum it all up in case we missed the point, in case we’re stupid. It just doesn’t ring true. Until this point Lally’s version is exceptionally clear – there’s no missing the message in this fresh and insightful adaptation – and when the essence of Ibsen’s original play (illuminated more brightly than ever through the beautiful, subtle changes in text and Mitchell Wright’s unnerving, alienating staging), is lost in the explanation, it’s like listening to the host of the party trying to break down a joke when someone doesn’t laugh at the punchline. Look, seriously, sorry, but the thing is this: if you’re having to explain a joke at your own event you need a) a new guest list and/or b) new material.

 

Admittedly, I was feeling slightly wary of Steven Mitchell Wright’s treatment of Lally’s updated text. (Wary is my defense mechanism. I don’t like to be disappointed). By this I mean, after recently experiencing The Danger Ensemble’s very challenging Caligula, I went into A Doll’s House not knowing what to expect! (N.B. This is a good thing in theatre). This neat team comprises Lally Katz and Steven Mitchell Wright, and Designer, Dan Potra, Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, and Composer & Sound Designer, Dane Alexander. Hughes’ lighting states and Alexander’s soundscape whisper discreetly together, with NCIS ad break clunks to punctuate plot points and the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters, until the ambience morphs into some sort of subterranean club scene. I’m already freezing and by the time I begin to visibly shiver I have to get out. I’ve never been so cold in The Roundhouse. The temperature and the volume are moving in opposite directions, forcing me outside into the marginally more comfortable night air of the Theatre Republic. It’s so discomforting it’s brilliant. Talk about experiencing the theatre! When I go back in, the space is still too loud and too cold and too small. It’s claustrophobic and if it were hot it’d be cloying. Because I’m still freezing I’m tapping my foot in spite of myself. It’s so not tapping-your-foot-to-the-music music. It’s music to go mad to. (And the bass clearly takes others to the point of madness about three quarters of the way through the final act, persisting underneath something classical, but I don’t mind it. I’ve slid down venue doors and heard that beat for hours longer. It’s sort of vaguely comforting, and it makes me think, responsibly, “THE BATON PASSES ON!”)

 

The company has achieved something extraordinary with this play (because let’s just forget that dreadful ending ever happened), which is to create an entirely new experience of one of our greatest feminist (or rather, free choice) plays. I always loathed it until I read it so many times I loved it. Nora annoyed me, and yet I chose A Doll’s House for an extended study unit in Senior Theatre (back when we called it just Drama). I designed costumes and a shoebox set, complete with actual doll’s house furniture. I didn’t consider this to be cheating; I thought it demonstrated my initiative, and an uncanny ability to source precisely whatever it was the production needed. It’s taken years for my skills to be truly appreciated in an actual theatre. Anyway.

 

desperatehousewives

Potra’s creepy Grimm Brothers’ fairytale hair cum forest trees and tendrils (Wisteria Lane, anyone?) literally trap the inhabitants of Torvald’s house – a sort of a Sleeping Rapunzel Beauty effect – and the first few times our actors break into song, I expect to hear the princes’ refrain from Sondheim’s Into the Woods. (When they don’t sing it, I hear it inside my head anyway!). It’s a device that allows the opportunity for melodrama and many mini comedic moments. Each song also offers a glimpse at the complex machinations of the characters. But what I suspect is that it may simply be a bemused statement on musical theatre. I could be wrong…

 

 

I love the clever, slightly untidy action leading into the final moments of the play, when the actors connect additional power sources to light up the pallet parquetry floor from beneath, only to reveal its cracks. The cracks in the floor (in the faces, in the hearts and minds and souls of so many men and women), were always there, but until they’re illuminated it’s possible to stubbornly/naively/foolishly/destructively ignore them.

 

It’s brave, of course it is, to stage something so known so drastically differently, to trust your actors so completely to bring new aspects to each character, giving us new insight into an age-old story. If you’ve never seen A Doll’s House, originally staged in 1879, a month after Ibsen penned it, this one is a fascinating production, well worth making the effort to get to. And interestingly, when much younger members of the audience laugh (well, let’s say they are not that much younger), I feel a rush of sadness for Nora and still, despite our “progress”, a tenderness for women everywhere. I overhear an older couple discussing whether or not the young people are “getting it” and I can only conclude they are “getting” something completely different from the show. Or maybe not so different at all. It’s in that (and in my own response to the work), that we see the real magic of this version of the play.

 

I didn’t think I could ever sit through another production of A Doll’s House. We just don’t accept anymore that a woman relinquishes the right to answer back to her husband, or to manage her own affairs, but in this entertaining and moving production, it’s entirely believable. Of course this is largely due too, to the superb cast, comprising Helen Christinson (Nora “Hummingbird” Helmer – a delicate and precise little kewpie doll creature, like our Wife in Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, whose silent scream is loud and clear and whose Tarantella is, for one moment in time, just as wild and desperate as it should be. It’s at this point that a new production might find its finish. Christinson makes me ache for her…and wonder what it is the redheads in Brisbane theatre circles have been taking. I want some is all.), Hugh Parker (Torvald Puppet Master Helmer), Chris Beckey (Krogstad), Damien Cassidy (Dr Rank) and Cienda McNamara (Kristine).

 

If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman,
don’t worry, there is still time.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

We continue to see Steven Mitchell Wright create the most incredible original work, and with the support of La Boite Theatre Company and Brisbane Festival, this time he’s turned straw into gold, pulled Granny from the belly of a wolf and planted a magic bean at the end of the rainbow. I’d say this production marks Steven Mitchell Wright as being well on the way to joining our country’s directing giants.

 

10
Sep
14

Adding Machine: A Musical

 

Adding Machine: A Musical

Underground Productions

UQ Schonell Theatre

September 4 – 13 2014

 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

 

Adaptation by Joshua Schmidt. Libretto by Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt

 

addingmachine

 

Last week I attended Underground Productions’ Australian Premiere of Adding Machine: A Musical at the Schonell Theatre, UQ.

 

A musical adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1923 expressionist play, Adding Machine, the musical is a challenging undertaking through which the cast of Underground Productions plummets fearlessly. The score is as difficult as it is surreal.

 

Adding Machine centres around the devastation of protagonist Mr. Zero when he is replaced by an Adding Machine and ‘let go’ from his job as a Bookkeeper after 25 years dedicated service. A distraught Zero kills his boss in a fit of outrage and consequently, is charged and executed.

 

This is not a musical that will leave you humming its chorus on the way home, rather my companion and I were left feeling rather pained and exhausted following this show. It is it seems a musical experience more like a contemporary opera, notably poignant, brave and complex but as challenging to the audience and listener as I’m sure it is to the cast.

 

Not that Adding Machine is a stranger to accolades, as my companion pointed out; it has been awarded multiple Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk awards, and had countless rave reviews.

 

But this musical is definitely not for everyone. It is refreshing to see a small theatre company tackling something different to the norm, the production obviously cracks the mould of a lot of traditional musical theatre dominating small Australian stages.

 

The score is the biggest hurdle to pass and is as mechanical as the plot that surrounds it. If you can move past the rhythmic complexity and dissonance, it could be seen almost as a textured nightmarish soundscape, which (from that angle) makes it more digestible. The cacophonous intensity does continuously grate the nerves however, although it is occasionally used to great effect, such as during an office scene in which a chant builds into a polyrhythmic moment that showcases some great ensemble singing and choreography.

 

The cast itself boasts some strong voices; Chris Kellet in the role of Mr. Zero is the perfect balance of hopeless and hopeful. However frustrating his plight, hints of a fine baritone voice made me yearn for a lyrical moment.

 

Playing opposite, Gabriella Flowers in the role of wife Mrs. Zero balances the demands of a vocally challenging role with a strong portrayal of the unrelenting socialite. Her soprano flits between ringing and reedy, her unyielding characterisation serving to antagonise her husband and the audience alike.

 

Taylor Davidson as the lovesick Daisy Devore brings a softer characterisation, her smoky mezzo enjoying some of the more melodic moments.

 

Mischa Reinthal in multiple roles as the fated Boss, Fixer and Charles is suitably commanding both in voice and physicality, while Louis Peake as Shrdlu adds some comic moments and melodic lines that are welcome changes of pace.

 

The small ensemble are on the whole strong vocally, although some issues with balance caused a few tuning issues at times. With such a score however, they are to be commended and it is clear Musical Director Benedict Braxton- Smith has put the cast through their paces.

 

The design elements of the production add a lot of interest and are also worth a mention. A revolving set adds to the mechanical feel of the production and visually mimics the feel of the score.

 

If I’m completely honest I can’t say I loved this production. While I’m all for theatre that moves beyond traditional conventions (even with some interesting musical moments and strong performers), I have to say I still found Adding Machine indigestible and musically pretentious. Obviously given the accolades the show has received this is not everyone’s opinion but ultimately it’s not for me. Underground Productions is full of talent onstage and off, that much is clear, but next time I’ll take a showtune.

 

 

09
Sep
14

I Want To Know What Love Is

 

brisbanefestival2014

iwanttoknowwhatloveis

 

I Want to Know What Love Is

QTC & The Good Room

Bille Brown Studio

September 4 – 19 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

CHECK BACK BEFORE THE END OF THE WEEK FOR GORGEOUS IMAGES

 

“Perhaps we are in this world to search for love, find it and lose it, again and again. With each love, we are born anew, and with each love that ends we collect a new wound. I am covered with proud scars.”

Isobelle Allende

 

We are a combination of a thousand different experiences (especially when it comes to love).

Deviser/Director, Daniel Evans

 

 

Everyone is here. Wesley is playing the role of Glassy and the foyer fills quickly around him with the chatter and laughter of friends, and the clink of glasses and the clatter of heels. I contribute to the clinking and clattering and chattering. I feel like I haven’t seen everyone for such a long time! This is the tribe I know and love! We’ve strolled across the road from Brisbane Writers Festival, where I’ve been hanging with a different tribe and hearing about how challenging it is to get published and get noticed, how courageous one must be to write, and how disciplined. I Want to Know What Love Is is a cleverly devised show, using the written submissions of the general public… YOU. You are the writers! But by giving this glorious little show such a short season within the Brisbane Festival program (it runs for this week only), I feel like QTC is challenging us to demand its return.

 

Dear QTC,

 

 

We all adored I Want to Know What Love Is.

 

 

PLEASE BRING IT BACK!

 

 

Cheers. x

 

So it’s a proper Opening Night, with all the bells and whistles (and all the red roses and pink champagne in the world), and all the Industry friends. It feels GOOD. It feels good like it must be the work of THE GOOD ROOM. We know we can trust this collective of creative heads and hearts to entertain us, to challenge us, and to make us leave wanting more. There’s no deprivation about it, in fact our hearts are full…we want more of THAT.

 

I knew this show would be gorgeous (I was told it would be gorgeous) but I wasn’t prepared for so much of the gorgeousness to be done and dusted before the half way mark. The pure joy of an early succession of exuberant scenes concludes with what I can only presume, is the end of the honeymoon period of the show. We’re left hanging in darkness, in some undefined sad sort of state. I guess it feels like loss. The shock of love gone. Yeah, you know it. The honeymoon period is over, man.

 

I spoke with Carol Burns after the show about the dramatic mood change; it’s a distinct beat, unmistakably sad; you can’t miss it. I assured Carol that it could be felt! Indeed, it’s a rare thing in the theatre, to feel so strongly, a collective response to a single beat. I joke that I recognise that beat, the turning point in a relationship after the cascades of rose petals have finished raining down and the kisses have stopped meeting you at the door and the fights start about who’ll take out the rubbish. After the extreme highs come the devastating lows. Or, day after day, the plain ordinary. Or, the break up.

 

It’s a tumultuous journey and no one apologises for the rough bits. We spend just as long as we need to, wallowing, relating, remembering, and commiserating… There are uncomfortable titters from time to time because REALNESS. RECONISABLE. RELATABLE. REALNESS. It’s not all bad; so much of the show is very funny and very moving. I Want to Know What Love Is tastes like a fistful of sticky, sugary, virtual cotton candy goodness, with a bit of harsh reality thrown in.

 

The stories come from the community. Over eight hundred randoms submitted their stories online via the specially built website wewantyourlove.com

 

wewantyourlove

 

It’s the sort of verbatim theatre I love – not too verbatim – the words are painted in full colour, with layers upon layers of meaning between them and the canvas, the picture almost certainly improving on the telling of the tales. No offence, to you, the writers. Sometimes, the simpler the story, the greater the effect, as when there are no words and we are left to fill in the gaps; an awesome little device. The stories we hear range from love at first sight, I’ll love you forever, happily ever after tales to devastating blame games, plots for revenge and guilt-ridden admissions. Wow, we actually begin to feel like we know these people. We think perhaps we are these people. Not so random after all.

 

New work needs time and it needs space and it needs trust.

Amy Ingram

 

We know Amy Ingram’s comedy is excellent, and this production allows her a little tragedy too. It’s clearer, and sadder than ever before. Carol Burns, Caroline Dunphy and eighteen year old Tom Cossattini in his QTC debut, also manage to get the tone exactly right, seemingly effortlessly, taking us on a rollercoaster ride that starts out naively and joyously and finishes with sass and stubborn, glassy-eyed glimmering hope, in spite of the tumult and ugliness along the way. In this way, the show’s structure cruelly and accurately reflects the usual pattern of relationships. We still haven’t come to terms with the life-death-life cycle, have we?

 

Daniel Evans, not only a published writer and Premier’s Drama Award winning playwright (his work, Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, will be staged by QTC in 2015), is the sort of director who creates work you wish other directors would see. If they did so, perhaps we wouldn’t have to suffer through so much earnest work. Just saying.

What Dan does, with co-devisor, Lauren Clelland on board this time, is take a story, offer it to his actors, and with their help, he passes the story on to us. Dan’s a custodian of stories.

 

DanielEvans_theweekendedition

 

Kieran Swann’s design is nothing less than stunning. He’s humble, paying homage to Feliz Gonzalez-Torres, Tracey Emin and Jenny Holzer in his notes, but what Swann does, just as Evans does, is create worlds that we can’t wait to step into. The simple images of flowers and garbage bags may have come from the punters but it’s Swann who’s conjured the delicate-bold lush effect they make on stage. Lights by Jason Glenwright and soundtrack by Lawrence English support the pace of the production and punctuate the stories, offering us time to breathe and no time at all. A bit like life.

 

What’s incredible about this production is that a very basic idea has been executed in the most effective way when it could easily have ended up a disaster; a shoddy, tacky, nauseating and seriously awkward and embarrassing high school collage drama. It is none of these things.

 

I Want To Know What Love Is is elegant, sophisticated, heartfelt, inspiring and uplifting; it’s delicious festival fodder. It’s original, beautiful and unfortunately, it will disappear after this week…or will it?

Go now, just in case. You don’t want to miss this. It’s gorgeous theatre.

 

iwanttoknowwhatloveis_xantheianjessicabianca

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Director, Steven Mitchell Wright

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

We asked Director of La Boite & Brisbane Festival’s A Doll’s House, Steven Mitchell Wright, to drop everything and tell us about the show and his process and he did! Hooray! You HAVE booked now, haven’t you?

 

Steven, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

We don’t need to but the work is rich.  It’s deeply relevant still.  The work has undeniable feminist readings. I believe (despite recent social media phenomena) that we are in a world that still requires an argument for feminism and equality. Nora’s position within this work is not just about an individual but also an entire culture.

 

For me, it’s also a story about individual happiness, and about the sacrifices we make for other peoples happiness and the cost of our own.  Particularly in Love and the ways that in relationships we can love someone so much that we lose ourselves or when we spend so much energy on making sure our Love is ok that we forget to make sure our lover is. I’m not sure that will ever fall out of a place of relevance.

 

What’s different about this production?

Well, Lally made it a bit of a musical. Well, not a musical, a show with songs.  For me, the inclusion of songs shifts the form in a really challenging way.  I abhor domesticity in theatre and I don’t really believe in realism so that makes this production different to the way it is often perceived and presented in the majority of the works theatrical history.  That said, Mabou Mines and Pan Pan have both presented very experimental versions of A Doll’s House in Brisbane in the last decade or so and our version is in no way that irreverent… but it is also not a domestic sitting room drama, we are playing with time and space in a different way.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

I believe I read it when I was at university but I have little to no recollection of having any feelings about it. I saw Mabou Mines production at Brisbane Festival many years ago but really my first deep engagement with it was reading it last year when we were in early discussions about programming the work for La Boite.

 

Can you relate to any of the characters?

I relate to all of them, I think that’s one of the greatest things about the work and one of the reasons the work has endured time.

 

What do you think made Lally Katz the ideal writer for this gig?

Well, I don’t think there is such a thing as an ideal artist, the creatives on the work make them what they are.  Had it been a different writer it would have been a different show entirely.  What I think is great about Lally though is her rhythms, her sense of poetry and the idiosyncrasies she writes with, it marries with my philosophies.  I don’t like watching theatre that asks us to forget that the actors are acting.  I like theatre that is undeniably theatrical and Lally’s writing is great at keeping the theatrical bouyant and the poetic in her work is unexpected.  I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time so it’s an honour to be working with her.
What do you think would happen in the sequel? What does Nora do next?

I think the power in A Doll’s House comes from the potential and possibility at the end, I would never speculate as to what becomes of Nora, I think that could kill and crush A Doll’s House.

 

Which directors do you admire and why?
I feel like I’ve answered this question for XS Entertainment before, and I’m scared that my answers haven’t changed. Jan Fabre, Robert Wilson, Simon McBurney, Robert Lepage, Tadashi Suzuki, Barry Kosky, Anne Bogart, Tim Etchells – I admire them all for different reason – largely they give me something to aspire to.

 

Locally, Daniel Evans‘ work constantly inspires and challenges me.  I’m really interested in the work of The Rabble and The Hayloft Project but I haven’t seen enough of their work.

 

What made you start directing and keep directing?

I think I started creating first, I wanted to be a maker largely because I wasn’t seeing much work that excited me and I wanted to perform in work that excited me and audiences.  So I started making work and directing them so I could perform in them.  As my work matured and I was able begin to articulate my process more, I found performing and directing became too complicated and was doing a disservice to the work and the other actors.    I’m not sure why I kept directing, it’s in my blood I think. I don’t have much of a choice about it.

 

Describe your creative process and the rehearsal process for a production such as this.

I don’t know that I’m the best person to describe this – my process on this show was an evolution of some ideas I’ve been playing with in different processes over the last few years. This process has been very different for me as it’s the first time in years that I’ve been on the floor with a completed script at the beginning of rehearsals so I’ve had to reassess and relearn some processes.

 

I asked the actors to give me a line each to answer this question.

 

Hugh Parker said, “an intense physical work out that forced me to examine where I was skipping in my own process”.

 

Helen Christinson said, “an incredibly free process that was supported by foundations that encouraged creativity, specificity and nuance.”

 

Chris Beckey said, “it was a process that afforded me the opportunity to explore the minutiae of the text and it’s physicality, a luxury that few processes afford an actor”

 

Cienda McNamara said, “working for specificity and when you think you are being specific, you need to go specifikerer”.

 

Damien Cassidy said, “a rigorous commitment to placing the mundane and the default and the familiar with a precise yet fractured quiet virtuosity”.

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s lovely to be programmed as a part of the festival. To be programmed along works of national and international significance.  It gives local artists the opportunity to be involved in the international conversation, to contribute to our greater ecology.

 

stevenmitchellwright

Steven Mitchell Wright

What’s next for you?  

I am directing a work as a part of Awkward Conversation curated and artistic directed by Daniel Evans at Metro Arts. The piece I’m directing is currently embargoed so I can’t spill that but it’ll be announced shortly and I’m really excited and terrified by it. After that it’s basically next year and The Danger Ensemble (the independent company I Artistic Direct) are going into development for a large new work for 2016 and you may see some of our existing works getting a redevelopment and another presentation.

 

I’m also looking to get back on stage next year as a performer and some conversations around that have also begun.

 

 

 

 

04
Sep
14

La Boite Theatre Company’s A Doll’s House for Brisbane Festival 2014 – a chat with Writer, Lally Katz

 

brisbanefestival2014

 

 

Lally Katz has written a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for La Boite and Brisbane Festival. Of course you knew that. But have you booked yet?

 

Lally, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?

I guess as a culture we’re still fascinated by a woman who leaves behind all the things that women are taught to value and base their identity on. Plus the characters and story are great.

 

What’s different about this adaptation?

There are songs in it. And time is used differently. But it also keeps very closely to the original structure.

 

What was your first experience with the play?

My mother told me about it. She said her high school English teacher used to say, ‘It was the door slam that was heard all over the world.’ That always resonated with me.

 

How do you relate to Nora?

I am very different to Nora in lots of ways. But I have hidden longings and dreams too, like Nora, like most people.   I have an almost opposite life to Nora, unlike her, I don’t have a husband and family. I have a career I’m obsessed with and I travel a lot. I don’t have to answer to anyone within my household, except my cleaner, who I really don’t want to lose. She comes once a week, and whatever she says, goes. I relate to Nora in that I wonder how can you have a family and keep yourself. I know lots of women must do it, but I have never worked out how to do it.. Sometimes I try to be like Nora in the beginning of the play. Sort of like a very happy housewife- because I think that will make me acceptable. But it never works. Often I find this heartbreaking, but relieving. I think there’s something women are still taught about how to see themselves. And we can go against that, but there is always a price. Also, like Nora, people sometimes treat me like a child. I can act like a child sometimes. I feel comfortable there. But I’m trying to change that. I’m currently learning to drive so I can leave that persona behind.

 

 

What do you think makes Steven Mitchell Wright the ideal director for this gig?

Steven has a brilliant theatrical imagination. He sees and hears theatre in a very unique way. I’m really excited to see the world that he creates. Steven and I talked a lot in the lead up to my writing this adaptation and he gave me these songs to listen to, that really brought me into the world and the heart of Nora and of the play. So I think we came to this together on the same wavelength. Steven makes arresting theatre, watching him in early rehearsals I was fascinated by the textures that he was building into the characters and the world. He has a very special and arresting way of seeing things. I think this will be fantastic for A Doll’s House.

 

Do you feel the need to write a sequel? What Nora Did Next?

No, not really. I like imagining lots of different stuff for Nora.

 

Which writers do you admire in the literary and theatrical worlds?

In Australia there are so many playwrights I love and admire. And they’re all so different from each other. Andrew Bovell, Joanna Murray Smith, Hannie Rayson, David Williamson, Wesley Enoch, Brendan Cowell, Andrew Upton, Jenny Kemp, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius, Nicola Gunn, Tommy Murphy, Tom Holloway, Simon Stone, Anne Louise Sarks, Kit Brookman, Nikki Bloom, Tom Wright, Angela Betzien, Rita Kalnejais, Melissa Reeves, All the people who’s work I’ve watched and learned from and my peers. I’m forgetting LOTS of people. But I love the work of the writers in the Australian theatre industry. Outside of Australia there’s lots I love too- I love Caryl Churchill, Thorton Wilder, Tennesse Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Sarah Cane. But so many others. I am also reading a Stephen King book at the moment. I love his writing, But actually I can’t read it because it’s too scary. And I love lots of new plays and playwrights, but I can’t think of all of them now.

 

What made you start writing and keep writing?

I always wrote. I have always had a passion, a hunger and a drive to tell stories. I live for it. And I still do it because I’m still obsessed with it and I still live for it. Even though I am always behind on all my work. So really I live to procrastinate….

 

If you could write a letter to anybody and be sure they’d respond, who would it be?

Leonard Cohen. I just love him so much. And I wish I knew him and that we talked all the time. And I think I would really get a lot out of reading his letters. He’d be a great letter writer.

 

Describe your creative process/writing routine.

It is very chaotic. I spend a lot of time getting inspired and getting experiences and living everything enough to be able to write it, then I procrastinate for months and/or weeks. And then I sit down in a panic and write the first draft very quickly.

 

How much time do you spend “in the room” with the actors and director?

It depends on the production. Less as I get older to be honest. When I was younger I thought they needed me all the time. But now I find that it’s okay if I’m not there. The show doesn’t fall apart- sometimes it’s better because if I’m there then I can keep re writing too much and it doesn’t let everyone settle into and commit to the script. But that being said, there are definitely productions that are better if I am there a lot. Especially if the script isn’t quite done, or there’s still a lot of mysteries people need insights to inside the world and the characters.

 

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What are you looking forward to seeing in this production?

I’m really looking forward to seeing the set and the costumes! And the actors in them of course!

 

What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?

It’s really exciting for me. I love Brisbane and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a work in the festival. It’s thrilling.

 

What do you want to see/keep seeing in Australian theatre?

 

I want people to their rich imaginations. Australian writers have great texture and life in their work. But I think we can keep challenging ourselves more in structure and story.

 

 

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Lally Katz

 

What’s next for you?

I am going to be acting in an adaptation of my stage show STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON for ABC Arts.

 

 

 

03
Sep
14

The Furze Family Variety Hour

 

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The Furze Family Variety Hour

deBASE Productions

Judith Wright Centre

September 2 – 7 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

The Furze Family Variety Hour promises pies in faces. And it’s pies in faces we get, even if for no other reason than “pies in faces are funny.” Also, nakedness is funny. But this kind of family friendly “nakedness”, and a wild rumpus dished up as the finale, are even funnier than you’re imagining…

 

It purports to be a family show – or does it? It’s the Furze Family’s Ginger and Red taking to the stage to entertain us in the best way they know how. It goes along the lines of, “Make ‘em laugh!” And they do. In the timeless tradition of the likes of Lucille Ball and Jerry Lewis, this duo appeared to be testing the waters with their opening night audience on Tuesday night. One of the first comedy cabs outta’ the rank this Brisbane Festival, the pressure to impress is real, but the season is relatively short, so I imagine the rewards will be great, regardless of critical opinion. The general response is already favourable because PIES IN FACES GUYS. And there’s a lot more besides.

 

 

These two multi-faceted performers are old-school style truly delightful; they’re cheeky and a little bit naughty. Leon Cain (Red) and Helen Cassidy (Ginger) are the brother and sister team that offers, true to form, a variety of vaudeville inspired entertaining acts. At times I feel the pace lags a little but nobody else seems to notice. Anyway, I’m convinced that Helen Cassidy has one of the most radiant faces in the world so whenever I start to feel a little impatient I look at her and she glows in a genuinely born for the spotlight sorta’ way. Cain manages to keep a wicked gleam in his eyes even when, or perhaps especially when, a scene requires some pretend pathos, so it doesn’t hurt to glance his way either.

 

A classic picnic skit, perfectly measured and polished, allows a new relationship to blossom and honours the timeless comic traditions of slapstick, surprise and the sharing of secrets or asides with the audience. This sequence highlights the director’s light hand and her trust in the actors, as well as her attention to minute detail and comic timing. A more relaxed musical interlude indulges our tendencies towards sibling rivalry, and a traditional lion tamer act turns into a Thank God You’re Here segment when a member of the audience is called upon to play the role of, you guessed it, the lion. “He’s so beautiful. But so stoopid!” He did very well in fact! Was he a plant? It doesn’t matter! We don’t care because FUNNY.

 

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And my favourite act; Wendy the blow up doll becomes a stand in for Jennifer Grey in a riotous Dirty Dancing send up. For those of you sharing a cabaret table with kids (#isitjustme), you may wish you’d accepted the Furze Family part of the title for what it was, rather than assume this would be a “family” show. I got out of answering any tricky sex accessory questions because Poppy simply thought this sequence was hilarious. And it was! She recognised all the moves! That’s my girl! Cain’s commitment to this scene, his manipulation of his dance partner, and his mastery of the iconic choreography makes this the highlight of the night.

 

Poppy said The Dance of Love was funny too, when the boy played the girl and the girl played the boy until we got dizzy watching their clever coat changes. She loved Cassidy’s many voices, including her sweet singing voice, and having just come from Opera Australia and John Frost’s Anything Goes launch event at QPAC, at which we had heard from Caroline O’Connor and Claire Lyon, that is high praise indeed! And the use of song, or as Poppy puts it, poems sung – some we knew, like Moses supposes his toeses are roses but Moses supposes erroneously (she said to write the whole thing and embed the video, Mum; it’s so good!) – and some we didn’t (original music composed by David Megarrity & Samuel Vincent with Kellee Green). It was so funny because they would be talking and suddenly they would start singing a song.

 

 

Also, the (balloon) sword-swallowing act was hilarious yet it didn’t seem quite real… #theadventuresofpoppy

 

But the show splits itself right down the middle. On one hand we have our skits; a collection of mini narratives with pie-in-the-face punchlines (metaphorically only until the finale), and on the other hand we have a formally introduced segment, “The Rules of Comedy”, which could almost be the premise that got lost along the way. The structure of this segment could potentially serve to strengthen the entire show. Alternatively, put a red pen to it and keep this part short and sweet like everything preceding it (and get to the pies!).

 

I’m delighted to relay that the opening night crowd on Tuesday filled the Judith Wright Centre’s Shopfront with laughter but I fear I may need a slightly more sophisticated return season before I’m completely convinced about this one. It’s possible that the Furze Family simply needs to find new audiences for a while in our favourite regional centres. There’s no doubt they’d develop a following, and easily give the cousins, Ivan and Juniper, a run for their money in the sprint to host industry events each year. It would also be interesting to gauge the response of the after dark Woodford Folk Festival crowd. I ‘reckon Director, Bridget Boyle, and deBASE Productions are onto something but I don’t think this is it…yet.

 

It’s the cheeky and charismatic camaraderie, as well as the extraordinary individual comic talents of Cain and Cassidy that win me over in the end. And it’s for the entertainment value of these two talented performers that you should see The Furze Family Variety Hour in this format during this festival. Next, I’d love to see some stronger material delivered at breakneck speed to turn this hour of vaudevillian fun into a classic smash hit!

 

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