Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

30
Sep
14

QTC launches impressive season for 2015

 

Queensland Theatre Company Season Launch 2015

QPAC Playhouse

Monday September 29 2014

 

Four world premieres, a super star Main Stage and a five-show DIVA program lead a front row Season 2015 for the state’s theatre company

 

Queensland Theatre Company has unveiled a stunning Season 2015, the most diverse and ambitious program the company has ever staged, starring an extraordinary lineup of acclaimed actors, writers, directors, musicians and designers.

 

Four world premieres, a mainstage program of eight major works, a DIVA program celebrating women on stage and more, the season features a roll call of music and theatre greats and emerging stars  – Tim Finn, Amanda Muggleton, Noeline Brown and Darren Gilshenen, Carol Burns, Christen O’Leary, Libby Munro, Margi Brown Ash, Tama Matheson and Jason Klarwein, Rob Carlton, Nicki Wendt, Rachael Beck, Robyn Arthur, Dash Kruck, Michael Tuahine, Chenoa Deemal, Naomi Price, Daniel Evans, Hugh Parker, Brian Lucas, Lucas Stibbard, Amy Ingram, Conrad Colby, Lucy Goleby, Melanie Zanetti, Emily Burton, Helen Cassidy, Nicholas Gell, Barbara Lowing and the list goes on.

 

Directors taking the lead this year include the internationally acclaimed Simon Phillips, the prolific Roger Hodgman, Iain Sinclair, as well as QTC’s own Artistic DirectorWesley Enoch, Todd MacDonald, Daniel Evans and current Resident Directors Andrea Moor and Jason Klarwein and more.

 

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The year starts with David Mamet’s witty comedy Boston Marriage and ends with the world premiere of an outstanding new musical called Ladies in Black. This stunning adaptation of Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel, is brought to life by multi award winner Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies) with original music from superstar singer and musician, Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House).

 

ladiesinblack_qtcseason2015

 

Ladies in Black has been supported by the Newman Government’s Super Star Fund, a Queensland Government program that delivers super star performances exclusive to the state.

 

Arts Minister Ian Walker said Ladies in Black was the latest project to receive Super Star Fund investment. “This is another coup for Queensland which sees the Super Star Fund once more giving Queensland audiences world-class arts productions, as well as unique opportunities for our Queensland artists to learn from the best in their field,” Minister Walker said.

 

Ladies in Black will be nothing short of extraordinary. With Tim Finn creating the music and our own Christen O’Leary as the star, this marks the triumphant return of true musical theatre to Queensland Theatre Company’s stage.

 

“This world premiere will be a uniquely Queensland experience, and we look forward to welcoming audiences from Brisbane, regional areas and interstate for what will be a blockbuster stage event in 2015.”

 

QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said that from the opening night of Boston Marriage on January 24 through to the closing show of Ladies in Black on December 6, the year is a front row offering for all ages.

 

“2015 stands as out most ambitious and wide-ranging in terms of content, actors and delivery. There’s the very funny stage adaptation of the hit TV show Mother & Son; two more world premieres – Brisbane, about the infamous Battle of Brisbane during WWII told through the eyes of a young boy, and Country Song, focusing on Indigenous country and western legend Jimmy Little, with lots of great songs and also three iconic plays: Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, Chekhov’s The Seagull and Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days,” he said.

 

“In addition to the mainstage, there is a special celebration of amazingly talented Queensland women in a suite of works called DIVA. For all the family we present the whimsical Argus created by Dead Puppet Society and for older ones Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a contemporary retelling of the Oedipus story and winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award.”

 

“QTC has been the leader in Queensland theatre for 45 years and in 2015 we are bringing you a huge range of professional productions that show off the best talent from around the country.

 

“Our season draws from our nationally recognised Indigenous Program, our showcasing of local independent theatre companies, partnerships with commercial presenters, plays commissioned from our New Works Program, the return of the musical and of course our very special DIVA program.”

 

“Season 2015 is another tremendous on-stage adventure, we hope you love it.”

 

Launching Season 2015 in the finest of on-stage style is Boston Marriage, the quick-fire turn-of-the-century comedy riddled with the wicked wit of the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer behind Glengarry Glen Ross and Speed-the-Plow, David Mamet. Performed on Broadway in 2002, Boston Marriage stars double Helpmann Award-winning actor Amanda Muggleton under the directorship of Andrea Moor, who delighted audiences and critics alike and won a Matilda Award for 2013’s Venus in Fur.  This three-woman production will also tour to 10 Queensland regional centres in 2015.

 

mother&son_qtcseason2015

 

Fresh from the world premiere season at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre comes Mother & Son, the brand new stage comedy based on the treasured Australian  television classic, with an all-star cast led by Noeline Brown and Darren Gilshenan together with Rob Carlton, Nicki Wendt, Rachael Beck and Robyn Arthur. Written by Geoffery Atherden and directed by Roger Hodgman Mother & Son will be a highlight stage experience.

 

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In April QTC presents the world premiere of Brisbane by Queensland playwright Matthew Ryan.

 

A large scale new work starring an all-Brisbane cast including Conrad Colby, Lucy Goleby, Dash Kruck and Melanie Zanetti, Brisbane tells a significant  story of our Queensland capital, in a year when Australian commemorates a century of service in different theatres of war.

 

 

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July 4 heralds the world premiere of the exciting new Indigenous work Country Song. An award winning script by Reg Cribb, it is based on an original concept by Michael Tuahine. Country Song is set in 1973 with the opening of the Sydney Opera House and revolves around legendary singer Jimmy Little and includes  true life experiences of other Indigenous singers such as Wilma Reading, Auriel Andrew, Bobby McLeod, Vic Simms, Roger Knox and Lionel Rose – this is a true onstage, toe-tapping adventure.

 

theseagull_qtcseason2015

 

In August QTC’s Actors Studio presents The Seagull. QTC Artistic Associate Todd MacDonald and Queensland playwright Daniel Evans will adapt this classic which will be performed by an ensemble of ten acclaimed Brisbane actors: Emily Burton, Helen Cassidy, Nicholas Gell, Amy Ingram, Jason Klarwein, Barbara Lowing, Brian Lucas, Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Lucas Stibbard. This will be a bold contemporary retelling of one of Chekhov’s great plays.

 

theoddcouple_qtcseason2015

 

The classic comedy from Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony Award-winning American playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon, The Odd Couple reteams the odd couple from 2013’s Design For Living, uber talented duo Jason Klarwein and Tama Matheson – as the housemates from hell for what will be another season highlight, under the direction of Wesley Enoch.

 

Accompanying the Mainstage Season is the DIVA suite of works which  brings together five theatrical goddesses, each taking centre stage in their own tour-de-force performances.

 

 

rumourhasit_qtcseason2015

 

Chenoa Deemal tells touching, funny stories of tears and reconciliation in a celebration of Indigenous survival in The 7 Stages of Grieving, a powerful story by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman. Doyenne of the stage Carol Burns is brave Winnie, buried to her waist in Samuel Beckett’s absurd, surreal masterpiece Happy Days. Libby Munro is a deadly Air Force pilot brought back to earth with a bump when she falls pregnant in Grounded. Margi Brown Ash shares her life story in Home, bouncing across several continents as actor, therapist, schoolgirl, soapie starlet, wife and mother. And Naomi Price transforms into pop star Adele in Rumour Has it – a Grammy goddess ready to spill her guts about the man who wronged her.

 

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happydays_qtcseason2015

 

Season 2015 Ticketing Details:

 

 

Subscriptions on sale from Monday, 29 September at 6pm via queenslandtheatre.com.au

 

 

Phone sales available from 9am Tuesday, 30 September by calling Freecall 1800 355 528 or in person at QTC 78 Montague Road, South Brisbane, 9am – 5pm Monday – Friday.

 

 

 

25
Sep
14

Scotch and Soda

brisbanefestival2014

SCOTCH+AND+SODA_22_by+Mik+la+Vage..jpg

 

Scotch and Soda

Brisbane Festival & Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre

September 23 -27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Well, this is a bit of fun! A hit at Woodford Folk Festival last year and at Sydney Festival earlier this year, Scotch and Soda (not the fashion label) is a collaborative effort by Company 2 and the Crusty Suitcase Band, with support for the Brisbane Festival season from the Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground program. I didn’t see Company 2’s Cantina during Brisbane Festival last year but I love, love, loved She Would Walk the Sky, commissioned for WTF 2014. Chelsea McGuffin, director and performer, in her only Director’s Note, simply invites us in to join the company for some fun, so if you read the program notes (and you know I do), we are ready! Bring it on!

 

We walk into what’s billed as a “speakeasy” but to me, having only ever experienced the speakeasyness of Motherboard’s Underground, this gorgeous, vintage-ish, circus-ish backstage-ish space (try saying it ten times fast!) feels like any venue at Woodford Folk Festival, which is great; I miss it every year until it comes around again (and it’s coming around again! Hooray!). I stop and breathe in, expecting to get a whiff of incense. Nope. Ah well, nevertheless it’s a wonderful sensory experience, the carnival space jumping with the same feel-good vibes and excitement you get at Woodford when walking through the site late at night, or when a headline act doesn’t come on for another hour and you’re already set up with friends, beers and a selection of international cuisine in paper tubs. Of course you ate the Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts while you were waiting for the Langos… #truestory #notproudofit #dessertfirst

 

This show is one big late-night-all-night party.

 

Every night during a festival anywhere, and particularly at Woodfordia during the folk festival, you’ll hear similar riotous fun. In fact, we did! Musicians become acrobats and the acrobats are musicians too. Here, it’s the ridiculously talented percussionist, Ben Walsh, who leads a merry band – bohemian looking Beverly Hillbillies meets Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (You sang that, didn’t you? I always do too). These guys are all too talented to care much about cleanliness or matching pants (or reliable stayupable pants). At least, that’s the gimmick.

 

SCOTCH+AND+SODA_10_by+Mik+la+Vage..jpg

 

The show is a succession of daring and amusing shenanigans, eliciting gasps and guffaws from the audience. Not your usual festival crowd, in fact, a distinctly non-theatrical crowd, rather like we saw walk in off the street to see our 2008 production of Shout! Wearing jeans and t-shirts, most of them thought they were coming in to see a movie! But is this the new circus crowd I see before me? I hope so! Circus and good gangster dub afro gypsy swing is for everyone!

 

We ooh and ahh, admiring the classic circus acts, including balancing, tumbling, cycling and flying. Transitions involve the necessary set ups, Mozes on home made clodhopper roller skates, and a couple of card games. One such card game evolves swiftly into a mini brawl, which becomes an entertaining, toe-tapping percussion session utilising the various boxes and suitcases also used in a tabletop construction for a balancing act, and a strange and probably unnecessary clarinet solo. A clowning routine towards the end of the show, thinly veiled behind cheeky characters and a loose love triangle becomes an aggressive game of catch. Um. Yes. It’s McGuffin the boys are throwing and catching. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s actually a little unsettling and would have made a more interesting and exciting finale than the jumps and board tricks, which, to be fair, may have looked more impressive from the floor.

 

Hmmm… A note to producers and venues: QPAC this does not apply to you, having always designated appropriate seating to your reviewers, thanks. Everybody else, consider where you seat your reviewers. Especially for “General Seating” ticketed shows. Just saying.

 

The only woman in the company, McGuffin stands out; her strength is mighty and her smile is wicked sweet, like Little Red with a fake ID in her pocket and an extra bottle of whiskey in her basket. (We know that whiskey’s not for Granny). If every performer invested half as much character and sass as McGuffin and Mozes the Scotch and Soda stakes would be raised through the roof. The strength and control in the trapeze acts Mozes performs makes him the other standout. His comedy is in turns tongue-in-cheek and slightly lewd…I love it! He’s the epitome of the bizarre, beguiling circus performer. Did you know he didn’t even start any circus training until turning 25?!

 

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Sometimes a smile is just not enough to sell such daring feats, many of which are not new, but need to appear so, or at least appear more daring than we remember them to be. At least the pace is quick, the acts are neat and the live band is fabulous. Wait. What is with the long, quiet lead-in to the show? (And does Walsh’s drunk entrance really work?). Why does the band not play a set as we enter the space and take our seats? Why do they not play us out? We would happily have heard much more from them, and for my hot date, a friend of Woodfordia and the Festival of Small Halls, the Crusty Suitcase Band was the absolute highlight of the evening. Clearly, in that camp, there’s no man crush on Mozes.

 

Despite its tame tone and perhaps because of its sweetness masquerading as a-little-bit-naughty nature, Scotch and Soda is the most fun at the circus you’ll have this festival. It’s a show I would expect to see in any city in any country in the world, or – note for Sam – at my next birthday party. Thanks, honey! And if you ever catch Company 2 and the Crusty Suitcase Band as separate entities, I ‘reckon you’re in for another couple of rollicking good nights. In the meantime, get to the bar before the show and not during (#youidiotstimpy #sitdowninfront #itsa70minuteshow #youcanwait), and enjoy some Scotch and Soda!

 

 

24
Sep
14

The Button Event

brisbanefestival2014

thebuttonevent

 

The Button Event

Brisbane Festival & QTC

Bille Brown Studio

September 18 – 27 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

A high-stakes, high-octane, multi-faceted one-man-show, performed and co-devised by award winning performer and Associate Artistic Director of QTC, Todd MacDonald, The Button Event is maybe missing…somebody. She’s there, in the centre of the front row on opening night. Todd’s wife, Bec, has been a force behind the scenes, and spent time in the studio but she doesn’t appear on stage. During the show we hear her voice and the voices of their girls, Lola and Ruby (they’re seated either side of her); the voices are integral to the storytelling. But strangely perhaps, I’d love to see Bec in it. Impossible for all sorts of reasons and completely unnecessary I hear you say. The show is already a family affair – it has to be – we’re being allowed a glimpse at the most difficult time of their lives.

 

The Button Event is the true story of one man searching for connections in chaos. Juggling the daily grind of home, work and family comes to an abrupt halt when one of his twin daughters is diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis. In the time it takes to push a button the future of his family hangs in the balance between beauty and fear, faith and science – and what it takes to cope with the messy and absurd things life hurtles at you.

 

With him, we catapult into a world of sleep deprivation, seizures, medication, trampolines and home renovations. This one-man tour-de-force fuses physical performance, wry humour, raw emotion and a few hundred tennis balls.

 

Devised by the multi Greenroom Award-winning artist Todd MacDonald and acclaimed director Bagryana Popov, The Button Event is a deeply personal and fearlessly honest work, which ricochets between medical minefields, acts of faith and family counselling.

 

This production mostly works just beautifully. I love the pace, and the changes in pace; the extended pauses while something heavy is left to sink in and the frantic physical effort as MacDonald simply DEALS. A wonderful performer, delightful to watch, MacDonald is honest to the point of matter-of-factness, delivering the facts of an impossibly difficult situation amidst the maelstrom of emotions and tennis balls. There is complex medical terminology to deal with, a marriage, Lola’s twin Ruby, and of course, the many-layered emotional responses to Lola’s diagnosis and the daily challenges that Tuberous Sclerosis presents. MacDonald’s boundless energy in the telling of his story draws us in early, offering a new, unique perspective on human suffering. There’s so much pain and suffering in so many lives, of course there is, but who is fearless enough to write a show about it and share it with the world?!

 

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) affects more than 3000 individuals in Australia and New Zealand and thousands more carers, families and friends who live with the impact of the disease.

 

TSC tumours can grow in any organ of the body, commonly affecting the brain, skin, heart, lungs and kidneys. TSC can cause epilepsy, developmental delay and autism. There is no known cure for TSC.

 

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Highlights include the highly physical feats of delivering intermittently, successions of witty lines about marriage, twins and the ongoing home reno (what else does a dad do under the circumstances? And is it ongoing still?!) whilst leaping madly about to catch tennis balls spewing forth from a machine, slowing down time to explain in darkness the appearance on the skin of the telltale white lesions, and chanelling Richard III beneath an awkward coat of strung-together tennis balls. The tennis balls, though a simple enough device, are extremely effective in conveying early chaos and later, in helping to shed eerie light on the mysteries of the brain as they are lowered into the space to represent Lola’s ECG. The collaborative efforts of an inspired design team should never be overlooked, and it’s thanks to Deviser/Director Bagryana Popov, Lighting Designer, Ben Hughes, and Composer & Sound Designer, Guy Webster, that this production looks and sounds as intriguing, and remains as compelling as it does.

 

The precarious situation in which the family find themselves is represented eventually a little too obviously, as if we had to have the symbolic for such intensity of emotion, by a “high wire” act, and boxes stacked one on top of the other to create a towering figure, like a Transformer or a Minecraft character. The construction is a little drawn out, my mind drifts, I watch Bec watching her husband recreate a truly intense part of their lives, and I begin to wonder what happens next. How does school work? How do careers fit in? Who makes the tea? Who takes out the rubbish? Perhaps, as Wesley Enoch mentioned after the show, we’ll see an update in another ten years.

 

There’s not the time and space within a festival piece to tell it, but there’s possibly another tale here if MacDonald is THAT brave. This is not that story. What intrigues me is that The Button Event is already an incredible story of trauma and survival and triumph. Theatre should change us, and the point of change occurs for me when out of frenzied energy comes Lola’s ECG wave on the wall. It’s as if her fate, compared to any “normal” child’s fate, for example, that of her twin sister, is literally written on the wall. The realisation that comes to us from seeing the medical evidence in white chalk across the black back wall, combined with Todd’s high-powered energy in explaining everything to this point, is a real knockout, a king hit. A series of ponderings about Lola’s future (she may never go to school, she may never have a boyfriend, she may never…) provides a similar punch. Perhaps even more so for parents, but who can say? We all know and love a child. Luckily there is lovely humour throughout, and the gentleness of a soft-strong hearted father.

 

It’s a strong premise, it’s a real story after all – it’s actually really still happening – and I want to care more, to feel closer and leave feeling even more moved, but I leave feeling a little frustrated, like I can’t get quite near enough to this beautiful, fighting family’s journey. Perhaps that’s the way they want it. It’s as if the dread of knowing the story itself is more affecting than hearing the telling of it. Get close, but try not to get THAT close.

 

There is perhaps some safety in not feeling too much.

 

What I’ve come away with is this: Todd MacDonald is an incredible performer, the production in any guise will have all the elements and all the support it needs to tour (and it should), and there is no stronger couple in the world than MacDonald and his wife, Bec. How lucky Ruby and Lola are to have chosen them.

 

 

24
Sep
14

대홍수 Deluge

brisbanefestival2014

deluge_header

 

대홍수 Deluge

Brisbane Festival, Motherboard Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

September 18 – 20 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Deluge. Anything that overwhelms.

 

We are all naked in the face of grief…

Director, Jeremy Neideck

 

 

Deluge Preview from Motherboard Productions on Vimeo.

 

During Brisbane Writers Festival, I was delighted to speak with Morris Gleitzman, mostly about tea. Not only a renowned author, he’s what you might call a tea connoisseur, quietly, humbly possessing vast knowledge on many varieties of tea, and the many ways in which humans have enjoyed tea for centuries. I’ve come to realise that tea expertise impresses me immensely and if you can talk about it, and make it well, you are a prince (or princess) amongst men (or women).

 

In our household tea is very special, even sacred (I quit coffee a couple of years ago); the drinking of tea is not to be rushed or denied. Our tea “ceremonies” enable a level of conversation and connection that we just don’t discover over any other shared beverage. Tea is the first and final thing we share each day, and it links events, friends and colleagues in between.
Considering my appreciation for a good cuppa, I delighted in the notion of a tea ceremony to open the show. During this time the house lights stay up and we watch as members of the company take tea orders from the audience. Black? Green? Milk? Sugar? They are relaxed, in no rush at all, waiting patiently to take turns to pour the water to make the tea from a towering urn centre stage, which sits in pride of place on a kitchen hutch. It’s not what Raymond Mao would do but it sets the scene and serves to focus our attention on the performers’ focus, kindness and control of the elements. A deceptively simple soundscape (Sound Designer Dane Alexander) and the alternating pace of the performers’ movements remind me of the imagery and viewing experience of Baraka. Although the slow-mo sets the pace of the show and establishes its ritual, which continues in the following moving water vessels sequence, what starts out as a quirky, gentle, delightful opening sequence feels, after 20 minutes, too long, even for me.

 

Other segments of the show feel indulgent for little gain or effect. Without a narrative – everything is symbolic – at times we’re left floundering (though no less fascinated or impressed by the movement itself), like the flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline. I try to go with the flow, to take in as much as possible on an experiential level. Despite its strengths Deluge is presented in an extended form that some may be reluctant to sit through again. This is unfortunate (or is it?) for the development of the piece, which might just need a new pair of eyes on it. Ultimately, despite some moments that are forever etched in my memory, this version of the show is one that is less mesmerising than it should be.

 

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The production’s strength lies in its design and ritualistic choreographic elements. The action happens in and around a semi-circle of pylons, rising up out of swirling mist like some structure’s ruined foundations at the edge of Brisbane River. Having waded through waist-deep, stinking black mud to get to Drift in the aftermath of the 2011 floods, and knowing there was a similar clean up required at Brisbane Powerhouse (and everywhere else), this picture alone elicits strong feelings. It’s the bold work of Sarah Winter, the head and heart behind A Dinner With Gravity, a rare production of pure magic, which has never left me. Here too, Winter creates a dramatic, quite magical scene out of very little. A fantastic final segment, the climax of the piece, utilises the majesty of the simple set, immense lengths of white fabric (and, are they plastic bags?), and the power of Neideck’s physical and vocal performance especially, to striking effect. Before that though, an extended trance sequence builds and builds, the performers shivering, trembling, and eventually leaping up and down on the spot, Maasai Warrior style, possessed by some dark spirit or inherent longing. They suddenly stop, and one by one disappear, drowned, beneath a shimmering green light, a body of laser brilliance that engulfs each figure. The audience gasps, collectively; the movement and music and flood of emotion has quietened all at once. This moment is why we gather together to experience live theatre. (It represents the way we come together after a natural disaster, in one breath, the same realisation, all at once). The award-winning lighting, surely, by David Walters, the stuff of illegal substance enhanced dreams, is easily his best work to date.

 

Another moment brings us Whirling Dervish sema bliss. Or is it grief even still? It’s mostly grief explored in this production – sorrow, despair and some hope. The sort of hope we hope a hot cuppa will bring.

 

Both female and male performers wear simple yet sumptuous layered, gathered skirts, which swirl and billow around the dancers just like Seven Angels Jasmin Lychee blossoms dance around our big glass teapot. Below a leather waistband cum waspie and above bare feet, the fabric swishes and swings around each performer beautifully, conjuring images of western women working new, harsh land and doing their washing in shallow creeks and rivers, in their entirely unsuitable, beautiful European garb (Costume Designers Kiara Bulley & Bianca Bulley. Originating Costume Design Noni Harrison). Most of the movement achieved draws on Korean traditional dance, most of the vocal work taken from Korean opera, leading us from the beauty and wonder of daydreams by a gentle stream, to the devastation of a stormy, horror story nightmare that is any deluge, or deluge of emotion.

 

Han is a word that is widely held to be untranslatable…it is sometimes described as a dark shadow, or a deep-set knot of sorrow that passes between generations and oscillates in that place between despair and hope. Han is presented as the voice of the pansori singer, and in the body of the traditional dancer. It is precipitated and released in endless cycles that require time for meditation and contemplation as well as cathartic outpourings of emotion.

 

Some would say this brand of art is self-indulgent, but I would say maybe the artists are still in denial about what the audience wants. Or needs. There’s a fine line between sharing ritual and respect for cultural traditions, and selling us a style and a story so that we desire more of it. Neideck has little intention, as far as I can tell, of making anything more commercial, but perhaps it’s time to consider entertainment value. It might not take much – it’s already a beautiful work of art. But for whom is the art being made? Why? Why in this country? Neideck is not only a master of the art form, but also, of knowledge and skill sharing, and nurturing the relationships between artists in Australia and Korea. There must be ways to gently bring this work, and work like it to a wider audience; to help bring all of the challenging cross-cultural collaborative work to an even bigger, newer audience, and not just continue to attract the connoisseurs.

 

Deluge has come a long way since its original work-in-progress showing in 2011 (Red Moon Rising & FreeRange Metro Arts), and it probably has something of an eternal life, or more accurately, multiple lives, should Neideck feel the need to stay so close to its themes. It should be cherished, like the oldest Puerh, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change and benefit from new infusions to be enjoyed by all. I think the beauty and strange power of Deluge in any of its forms is enough to stay with even the most impatient theatregoers, so let’s hope it finds its way across the sea, continues to evolve, and comes back to us on the tide someday.

 

In 2014 Deluge features Hoyoung Tak, Younghee Park, Youngho Kwon, Katrina Cornwell, Sammie Williams, Amy Wollstein & Jeremy Neideck.

 

In 2011 Deluge featured Tak Hoyoung, Mark Hill, Younghee Park, Mary Eggleston, Kat Henry, Ellen Rijs, Jung Minji & Amy Wollstein.

 

Forest – Deluge (2011) from Red Moon Rising on Vimeo.

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.

 

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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.

 

 




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