Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

29
Oct
14

Dangerfield Park

 

Dangerfield Park

La Boîte Indie & Pentimento Productions

Supported by QPAC

The Roundhouse

21st of October – 5th of November 2014

 

Reviewed by Guy Frawley

 

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In Dangerfield Park we’re introduced to a group of gay men from different backgrounds who through differing connections of friendship and sex are brought together at the same moment one of their friends is brutally bashed in a homophobic attack. The Noel Coward-esque theatrical producer Sholto (Sven Swenson); his journalist amore d’jour Tim (Michael Deed); solicitor Marc (Christos Mourtzakis); his paramedic fiancé Perry (Zachary Boulton); and the young, inexperienced Reyer (Nick Barclay) form the core cast of characters in the play who are all gathered in the St Lucia apartment of Sholto when they learn their friend Otis (Brian Lucas) has been bashed in the eponymous Dangerfield Park.

 

Dangerfield Park is a show a decade and a half too late to the stage that attempts to build it’s emotional core with outdated subject matter.

 

Yes the ‘gay panic defence’ is still on Queensland’s law books in some form (sigh) but changes several years ago by the state government have made the conditions of claiming the defence stricter and the defence of provocation can technically be applied equally across all genders and sexualities. Are beats still a thing? Sure, but they’re fast diminishing as the internet and mobile devices fundamentally change the mechanics of modern gay sex. Several references in the script imply a modern context but how can that even be with all the talk of sex and nary a mention of Grindr?! Religious discrimination? You bet it’s still a problem, but when we meet the fundamentalist Christian father of Reyer the painful struggle of dogma, love, salvation and family is reduced to an archaic stereotype that would have appeared comfortable in The Crucible. Most grating of all beleaguered and outdated messages was the constant harping upon gay couples suffering legal discrimination at the hands of a society that refuses to validate the love that dare not speak it’s name. I say this as a gay man who recently married his male partner of 6 years, and yes most of would like gay marriage to pass in parliament (even the polls agree!), but after the massive overhaul of policy in regard to same sex relationships under the Rudd government there isn’t a great deal of legal discrimination left to overcome. Yet we endure clunky monologues on the rights (or lack there of) of gay couples wrenched apart and disenfranchised by the unaccepting establishment.

 

By no means am I implying that all is good and right in the land of Oz when it comes to societies treatment of sexuality and same sex relationships but so much of what was obviously written to outrage and impassion just felt stale. Our primary cast of characters are an interesting and varied group that could have made much of contemporary issues but were instead left to stumble through tired tropes. Look to shows like Holding the Man and The Laramie Project for examples as to how similar subject matter is handled with far greater poise and nuance whilst being restrained by similar issues of contemporaneity.

 

Running at three and a half hours long the sheer length of Dangerfield Park makes the piece a laborious viewing experience. Swenson’s sharp dialogue and delightfully entertaining turn of phrase keeps the pace bustling along initially however the second act suffers as a result of the far too common polemic speeches that replace the witty repartee of earlier scenes. Cast your aspersions upon me as a product of the ‘Gen Y generation’ but everything I enjoyed about Dangerfield Park was tarnished by the utter boredom I felt by the end. Apathetic towards the conclusion and wishing a firmer hand had been shown with the editorial red pen.

 

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There’s a lot in this show that I obviously disliked but the performances in Dangerfield Park are really very good. Swenson does a thoroughly fabulous job as Sholto, playing the deliciously funny ageing queen with a delicate mixture of acidic bite and emotional depth. I would have enjoyed the show far more if we could have remained within Sholto’s domain and revelled in his lighting fast tongu. Brian Lucas brings the character of Otis to the stage in a fully realised and authentic performance that in many ways is the polar opposite of Sholto character. Otis is really the hardest role to play in this show requiring a performance that at times requires lecherous but never predatory, sleazy and sincere. Lucas carries the role beautifully and to me imparted the only sense of true authenticity I felt throughout the show.

 

I think Dangerfield Park would have made a real impact on me if I’d seen it a decade ago as a young gay man growing up in the changing world of the new millennium, but in 2014 it just left me underwhelmed and disappointed. When Swenson’s script succeeds it truly sparkles and allows the cast to shine but spread over three and a half hours these moments are sadly few and far between.

29
Oct
14

Angel Gear

 

Angel Gear

La Boite Indie & Pentimento Productions

Supported by QPAC

The Roundhouse

October 14 – November 8 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

 

Angel Gear: hooning down a hill without the car in gear.

 

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This play is as pointless as the titular activity suggests. Lacking subtlety, mystery, substance and wit, the best part of Angel Gear is its end. And I mean, that it ends. It’s two hours of WHY and WTF? It’s Deliverance in Dalby (sorry, Dalby, that’s unfair), only Deliverance had complete characters. And a plot. And a point.

 

Look, if you get food poisoning in a restaurant it’s really hard to go back. The only way I’ll see another Sven Swenson play is if somebody I respect tells me I must. I suspect some of the other opening night audience members will have felt the same, despite the polite and genuinely appreciative applause at the conclusion. There is, after all, regardless of a disappointing outcome, a hell of a lot of work in staging a production.

 

 

I overheard a gentleman at interval on opening night lament, “After a very tough week it’s not lifting me up at all.” Well, we don’t always go to the theatre for a lift. Did Victor Hugo ever expect a rom-com to come out of Les Mis? Did Shakespeare or any of the ancients try to hide mankind’s miseries in their tragedies? Theatre makers are either creating entertaining theatre or they’re creating something that makes a statement, makes us think, and makes us want to see more…

 

 

The latest from Sven Swenson – sans Sven Swenson (he was sick on that first Saturday night and unfortunately, rather than offering an alternate performance, the decision was made to put Assistant Director, James Trigg on stage with book in hand) – offers one perspective of a subculture with which I can’t identify. Whether or not this group is accurately portrayed, I don’t know. I feel it must be but I hope that it’s not. I hope this is a grossly inaccurate picture of a seriously flawed lot of human beings. Sam, sadly, assures me it’s quite accurate. I’m glad I don’t recognise characters of this sort. This is the very essence of Aussie trailer park trash.

 

 

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What’s it for? Why do we need this theatre, which makes us grit our teeth and leaves a bad taste in our mouths?

 

I was looking forward to experiencing this show because in conversations about Swenson’s last La Boite production, The Truth About Kookaburras, people confidently informed me that this is a man of great talent…and how dare I question anything at all from him. OH! Right.

 

#anothersacredcow

 

I actually wanted to write a great review of a great production. It would be so much easier to give this a rave…or to say nothing at all. Good sense, that little voice, tells me, “Don’t write it!” Integrity tells me I must.

 
No doubt the sycophants, suckholes and arts worker wannabees will have their say, and y’all are entitled to your opinion too. Aside from the vitriol though, I look forward to hearing differing opinions, and exactly what it is you believe the artistic merit of Swenson’s work to be. If the purpose of this work is to shock audiences, it’s failed on that level too. We’re so desensitised now that we barely take in the crass language, brutal violence, sexism, homophobia, incest and the blatant representation of women as whores. If anything, despite a few witticisms within the crude, er, dialect (others find the insults and labels hilarious while I wonder why it is men must write anything that perpetuates these myths of scrags and sluts and whores), it all becomes a bit tedious and again, I have to wonder, what is it for? In experiencing this work how am I challenged and changed? Why would I take a friend or family member to see this play?

 

The constant barrage of gutter language, and the lack of any structure, intelligence and meaning, makes this piece, for me, nothing more than pointless drivel. The supposed shock factor contributes only to a whole new level of cheap-tricks-theatre, offering nothing new to the canon of Australian work.

 

The design is ugly, cheap and nasty, perhaps precisely as it was intended to be, and there are very few moments of convincing, dynamic character work, despite obvious attempts to create ebb and flow in a fairly flat story arc. The emphasis seems to have been on spitting words, shooting wary glances at each other and holding the inevitable forced glares that follow. Luckily, Casey Woods shines at times. As Jayanne, we sense some sort of fading vulnerability, which is completely overridden by single-minded determination to seek revenge and eventual satisfaction. The pace lags as poor Triggs struggles to drive the drama in the second act, which dissolves into a low budget hostage scenario, lazily penned and poorly presented.

 

We muse afterwards that Swenson should concentrate on writing plays for Short & Sweet. That way we could sit through just 10 minutes of self-indulgent sloppy setup and no plot, go to dinner and see a movie. Sam says out loud – he can’t help it, he’s still furious that his valuable time has also been wasted – that Pearl Harbour had a better plot!

 

Ultimately, the problem I have with this brand of theatre is Swenson’s blatant disrespect for audiences.

 

For years, I’ve seen Sven Swenson paraded before us, lauded by a certain circle. While I certainly respect the opinions of my peers, I’d love to know what it is that puts Swenson’s writing at the top of the Queensland theatre tree. Is there no competition? I know that’s not true. Somebody send me the scripts that have earned Swenson his reputation. Because I don’t see the merit. Surely it’s time to say, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!”.

 

24
Oct
14

He Dreamed A Train

 

He Dreamed A Train

Brisbane Powerhouse & Metro Arts

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

October 15 – 26 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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On the weekend my friend and I were almost killed by a driver who, prompted by the green arrow, obviously, plunged straight ahead and directly into us from an inner right turning lane as I took the outer right turning lane in Bowen Hills on our way to Brisbane Powerhouse from the Sunshine Coast. (Usually the trip is just slow and frustrating due to roadworks!). Also, I sat through one of the most poorly written and unimaginatively staged plays I’ve ever had the misfortune to see (I know; everybody else thinks it’s brilliant! WTF?!), and I drove six hours in a day, to Toowoomba and back (I know; Kate Foy does it all the time!), to join my family as we said our final farewell to my lovely grandma. As I held Poppy in my arms and watched my grandma being laid to rest I remembered the shooting star I’d spotted on Friday night after returning home from the car accident that almost killed Dee and I, which also meant we’d missed the first ten minutes of He Dreamed A Train. It blazed across the sky for what seemed like forever to remind me that we are okay. And we are still here. And our time is precious. And that it is vital to experience theatre that changes us, rather than choose to suffer through theatre – or anything or anyone in life – that does nothing for us.

 
He Dreamed A Train (the title of the show is from Margi’s brother’s book of the same name) is about the reverie of remembrance, and honouring our memories… Mindfulness cannot be our mantra. There is a place for the past, and if we can resist staying there, if we can pull ourselves back into the present to live it fully, there are important lessons to be learned. Or not. And that’s why those lessons – the unlearned – continue to come at us.

 

 

Margi Brown Ash is a storyteller and teacher of the finest sort. Her delicious stories are slices of an extraordinary life, informed just as much by experience as by ancient myths and thrilling tales of heroes, dragons, kings, caves, and the power of gods and men.

 

 

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The combined creative forces of Margi Brown Ash, Travis Ash, and Benjamin Knapton means this company, Forces of Circumstance, lives up to its name, reviving notions of what contemporary theatre can look like, and sharing reverence for the traditions of oldschool storytelling. The forces of this circumstance are pretty powerful if you’re willing to listen.

 

Before there was ever a poor excuse for an animated film inspired by the book, Dr Seuss wrote The Lorax, and the magic of that opening, which I’ve heard read to me countless times, and read to hundreds of children over years of teaching is the mood established while we take our seats. Throughout the show there are the sounds of the Australian bush, evoking memories of my own. (I make a mental note: take in on Monday, my copy of The Lorax for our science unit, Save Planet Earth). Remember, we missed the first ten minutes of the show and Judy Hainsworth, that First World White Girl, acting as Brisbane Powerhouse usher extraordinaire, was obliged to keep us in the sound lock for a little while so my experience of the start of the show was the usual juggle of handbag, phone, wine (yes, you have time to check in and get to the bar when you’re late), and a short succession of single sounds; Margi’s gentle, soothing, telephone voice at one end of a conversation, footsteps and then static, at which point we were taken to our seats.

 

Note: If you are late to a show, don’t be uppity and expect to be seated after the show has started until a suitable break in the performance. Don’t be rude to the box office staff or the ushers. They’ve been told that a lock out period applies. This is a creative decision as much as it is a courtesy to the artists, and to the patrons who’ve arrived on time. There’s no need to begrudge anyone (ever). Everyone is doing his or her job. Ok? Ok.

 

Margi’s brother was diagnosed with a debilitating terminal illness, which changed everything and nothing. We journey with Margi and her son, Travis, in the role of her brother at the age of 23, to discover other worlds, the worlds in which they lost and found themselves as children, and then again as adults. These are compelling performances, gently guided by Knapton. I love the moments of furious pace (Travis Ash’s dramatic retelling of The Myth of Er, his impressive musicianship, and Margi’s moments of consternation as she sees her brother sitting, having fallen to the floor, waiting for anyone else but her to help him up) and the languid turns (Margi’s thoughts, spoken aloud as she wanders through the family home, not quite ever finishing packing the books into boxes and again, Travis Ash’s skill at the piano). We can’t help but join these two as they leap into paintings and their deepest memories. At just under 70 minutes, it’s a comparatively short show, and yet it feels like the longest time – time is stretched like a shooting star moment – in the presence of Margi Brown Ash & co.

 

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The increasingly difficult task these days of keeping an audience captivated is made easier in this circumstance by the seamless incorporation of sounds (Travis Ash) and images, which are thrown across walls and gradually, magically bring to life Hogwarts style, a painting of a landscape from another time and place (Nathan Sibthorpe, Freddy Komp & Benjamin Knapton). Though I don’t mind it, Dee can’t stand the static sound, and so we see it serve its purpose to challenge sensory perception and unsettle entirely. In stark contrast to the harsh static, we are both mesmerised as much by the misty, moving, changing and raining painting as we are by the performances. I leave this show feeling vulnerable, and uplifted, as if my child has revealed to me her special secret fairy wish and I just know I can make it come true before the fairy fades away and…well, I mean I hope I can.

 

 

The energy & momentum of the storytelling, its ebb and flow, the naturalness and grandeur of delivery, the rich vocal work and dramatic images cast by the actors’ physical states and their connection with each other, as well as the tech wizardry, make for a fascinating insight into the mind and heart of Margi Brown Ash, a true theatrical treasure.

 

 

He Dreamed A Train is one of the most challenging and entirely engrossing new works you’ll see this year. I’m sure it will have another life after this (Sweet!) Brisbane Powerhouse season (I’d love to see it come to the Sunshine Coast), but if you can catch it in the Visy space, do. When there are magical, beautiful, inspiring and life-changing tales such as this to be told, there had better be a bloody good reason to endure anything less intelligent, or less lovely in life.

 

23
Oct
14

Reality Bites Nonfiction Literary Festival

Reality Bites Nonfiction Literary Festival 2014

 

Now in its seventh year, Reality Bites brings Australia’s best minds and writers of literary nonfiction to the Noosa Hinterland. Presented by the Sunshine Hinterland Writers’ Centre, this festival is hand-crafted by a dedicated group of writers, readers and lovers of books and ideas.

 

This year the Festival is delighted to spread the word in Eumundi, taking weekend events to two new venues there. After the most successful ever event last year, it now offers a three day festival pass that includes a program of close-up sessions, panels and conversations with a brilliant lineup of local and interstate authors.

 

Feed your heart and mind at the Poet’s Speakeasy on Friday night, then on Saturday night celebrate the festival and welcome VIP guests.

 

Check out a workshop series for developing writers and programmed sessions covering a range of subjects for readers, thinkers and writers alike. And don’t forget the wildly popular pitching clinic where writers pitch their book ideas to a panel of industry experts.

 

Join writers and lovers of good writing for a feast of ‘food for thought’ in the REAL heart of the Hinterland.

 

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A message from Artistic Director, Melanie Myers

 

It’s been a year of changes for Reality Bites Festival – the most obvious being our change of dates and location. Having enjoyed great support in Eumundi – from the Eumundi Green magazine and the Eumundi Historical Association, which has sponsored our festival launch since the event began – the time seemed right to spread the word to out to the wider Hinterland. While our workshop program and community events will remain at the Cooroy Library, our home for the last two years, hosting the main program in Eumundi allows us to kick off events Friday afternoon, and continue right through Saturday and Sunday with two streams of panels, conversations and close-up sessions that showcase a diverse range of Australia’s best nonfiction writing and authors.

 

For a nonfiction writers’ festival, ‘Reality Bites’ is a fitting name, and has held us in good stead for seven years now. When planning the program for 2014, our name got me thinking about the term ‘reality’ and, more particularly, what we mean by ‘real’. Real is considered synonymous with truth. We understand real to be what is actual, rather than imaginary.

 

For a literary festival that specialises in showcasing Australia’s best nonfiction, concepts of what are actual, real and the truth, are the touchstones of our existence. That might suggest we are in the business of disseminating cold, hard facts, but the truth is, that’s rarely the case. What is real, or even what seems real, may be true only so far we, as individuals, communities and societies, perceive and feel things to be real – whether that be love, loss, deviancy, injustice, the workings of our own mind (as with mental illness), or our shared past. This idea of ‘real’ is the thematic thread that underpins this year’s program.

 

So often the prerogative of fiction, real love, for example, holds a prominent place in this year’s program. As well as launching Australian Love Stories – a new anthology of short stories and memoir – we’ll be discussing the use and abuse of the ‘L’ word in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in ‘Words of Love’. With proceeds going to the Morcombe foundation, both real love and real crime will be in focus, as author Lindsay Simpson talks about the process of co-writing Looking for Daniel with Bruce and Denise Morcombe, and their 10-year quest to find out what happened to their son. Real crime and real dirt turns on the agents of the law enforcement themselves with ‘Watching the Detectives’ − our police diaries conversation in two parts, while ‘Dirty Secrets’ looks into the ASIO files of well-known Australian activists.

 

For the ‘big issues’ this year we’re talking about women in politics, or the lack of, in ‘Dis-man-tling the Joint’, and the competing realities of compassion and the law in ‘Seeking Refuge’. In a special 90-minute session, ‘Forgotten War’, Steven Lang will discuss the ‘white washing’ of Australia’s real history with respect to the frontier wars with historian Henry Reynolds, and academics Nicholas Clements and Tony Birch. For our Saturday morning-tea event, Maxine McKew will talk about inequality in our education system, and real solutions to remedy the problem. These are but a sampling of the conversations I hope will generate real discussion, real ideas, and perhaps even, one day, real change.

 

Ultimately, as readers and writers we have the power to create our own realities, and I hope you find something that’s real to you at Reality Bites ’14. Enjoy!

 

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TODAY – Thursday October 23 2014

 

Berkelouw Books:

Early Bird Breakfast – free
THURS 23, 7.30 a.m.

AV Presentation by Raoul Slater of the new book Glimpses of Australian Birds
Croissants supplied by Berkelouw Cafe. Buy your own beverages.


Check website for details. http://www.berkelouw.com.au/events

 

Berkelouw Books Open Bookclub – free
THURS 23, 6 – 8:30pm
Join Eumundi Book Club for its discussion of Thomas Picketty’s Capitalism in the 21st Century.
Check website for details. http://www.berkelouw.com.au/events

 

(Book club attendees can attend Reality Bites session 24 AmalgaNations for free. Please register with Amanda at Berkeleow.)

 

School of Arts:

Beyond Fossil Fuels: Alternatives for a Clean Energy Future
THURS 23, 6:30 – 7:30pmIan Lowe, Drew Hutton and Tasmin Kerr
Tickets at door $5/$2
Tomorrow night – Friday October 24 – Katie Noonan presents Song Book at Eumundi School of Arts

 

Katie Noonan’s Song Book
FRI 24, 6 – 8:30pm

 

School of Arts

Katie NoonanLocal song-siren Katie Noonan hosts and performs with special guests in this annual community fundraiser. Profits go to Eumundi State School and School of Arts Hall.

Cash- only tickets available from Berkelouw Books Eumundi and Discover Eumundi Heritage and Visitor Centre.

 

 

See you there! (And before that, we’ll be at Words of Love with Anna Campbell, Annah Faulkner, Mandy Sayer & Ashley Hay).

 

 

Follow @xsentertainment on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with what’s happening at the Festival!

 

 

Download the PDF Program

 

 

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07
Oct
14

Wuthering Heights

 

Wuthering Heights

QPAC and shake & stir

QPAC Cremorne

October 1 – 18 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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Time stagnates here.

 

 

“…everything anyone other than an english professor knows about Wuthering Heights at all happens in the first half. Then it drags on and on, focusing mainly on how handsome AND EVIL Heathcliff is, and how twisted he is, and how he’s just going to keep on ruining the lives of basically everyone around him.”

 

From Krypton With Love

 

 

 

#ohheathcliff

 

If it’s a gorgeous, dark, desperate, thrilling thing you’re after don’t miss this Wuthering Heights.

 

One of my favourite companies, shake & stir, continues to come up with some of the most challenging and engaging original live theatre in Brisbane. Their adaptations of classic literature are all superb (1984, Animal Farm, Tequila Mockingbird), and their latest production, a new version of Emily Bronte’s classic gothic masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, is no exception.

 

Adapted and directed by Nick Skubij, this production has a slightly different feel to shake & stir’s previous works, which have been less subtle, and somehow lighter, though no less complex, confronting or shocking in terms of their themes and the impact of each on their audience. This time – it must be the moody design inspired by the eerie moors on which the story takes place – it’s a spectacular looking production and the drama follows suit.

 

 

Terror made me cruel.

 

 

We have come to expect extraordinary beauty from this brilliant creative team: shake & stir, optical bloc and – I’m sure I’ve said it before – Brisbane’s hottest design team comprising Josh McIntosh (Set Design), Jason Glenwright (Lighting Design) and Guy Webster (Sound Design). These guys seem to split up and flit about a bit, but every time they come together with shake & stir, theatre magic happens. It’s as if they come home to play at shake & stir, and out of pure joy and surrender comes their best work. Adding to the mix this time, Leigh Buchanan’s delicate-dramatic touch (Costume Design), makes Wuthering Heights a dark and stormy (yes, you can taste it), sexy and sumptuous production.

 

 

Although the pace lags at times due to Gerry Connolly’s stilted delivery (at times the pauses are effective and at other times, not so much), his characterisation of Nelly Dean and his/her oddly measured phrases remind me of my Aunty Lorna, who has seemed eternally elderly to me, and yet has always been the most lively and strongly opinionated of the relatives I visited with as a child, with the keenest powers of observation and the longest memory. It’s as if Connolly has studied Aunty Lorna’s conversation. I always remember though, in stark contrast to Connolly’s static state, Lorna’s hands shaking to match her voice as she talked about whichever book she was devouring at the time, or the latest horror on the news, or her favourite British TV crime series. She would always insist on pouring the tea for us, in her own kitchen, in her own house, for years and years, before finally moving to a high care facility. She’s ninety-something.

 

In his Director’s Notes, Skubij reminds us that guilt doesn’t only lie with he who sinks the knife in. “Heathcliff has copped a lot of flack over the years and has been hailed as the personification of evil in this tale but what if the real devil wears a housemaid’s outfit?” It’s an excellent point and I feel like this aspect of evil, left to fester and subliminally feed the minds and hearts of others, although hinted at in this adaptation, remains largely unexplored. By Chapter 7 of Bronte’s novel Heathcliff is being advised by Nelly Dean. Sam thinks she is the mastermind and Heathcliff her pawn, though to what end he can’t say. (“Some people are just twisted!”).

 

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I love Connolly on the ivories, the accompaniment lends such a disturbing, penetrating, haunting air to proceedings, and his presence overall as Nelly Dean, particularly as her figure looms overhead, projected across fluttering silk curtains, is eerily omnipresent. (And to throw each character’s image, cleverly consumed by mist and fog early, and then later by curling flames against the flimsy fabric to demonstrate their downfall and their ultimate demise, is an inspired dramatic choice). Without the expertise and creative flair of Projection Designers, optikal bloc (and also, of Photographer, Dylan Evans), this version of Wuthering Heights would not be nearly as powerful.

 

Not quite as inspired, it has to be said, are the wigs selected for use in this production, but now that we’ve mentioned it we’ll just leave that one alone.

 

 

We cannot escape each other.

 

 

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I love Nelle saintly-blonde-bombshell Lee’s Isabella Linton, whose self destruction, in its naivety, is always so much sadder than mad, stubborn Catherine’s, isn’t it? And as Catherine AND Cathy, allow me to rave for a moment about Melanie Zanetti. I’m sure you don’t mind because, having seen her before, you know she is absolute perfection. If this is your first time with Zanetti, enjoy (and make sure it’s not just a one night stand!). She’s a wild, free heart (but not free at all, of course she’s not), like Charlotte Riley in Goky Giedroyc’s 2009 version for PBS. Zanetti transfixes her tall, dark, brooding, vicious vagabond Heathcliff (Ross Balbuziente) and also, every single member of the audience on opening night. What? Am I wrong? She’s absolutely captivating; in both roles emitting the essence of beautiful, alluring girl-child-grown-woman, like a heady fragrance worn lightly, of which we get a sense before the show even starts; I could be wrong but I feel it’s Marc Jacobs’ Oh Lola! (If so, thank you cosmetics training). If indeed it were deliberate, this subtle addition to the theatrical experience is absolute genius. On the other hand, perhaps it’s pure coincidence (if so, thank you unsuspecting audience member), but regardless, we get a sense of it at the beginning of the show, as the scent is carried on the cold wind in the created storm. And what a storm! The opening moments of Wuthering Heights are up there with The Lion King and Les Miserables for unforgettable entry points into the story. The final moments too are breathtaking, stunning, all the superlatives… Anyway, Zanetti’s ability to balance wide-eyed innocence with mad, obsessive passion makes me fear – and relish – having a daughter.

 

She burned too bright for this world.

 

 

In their debuts for shake & stir (though they are no strangers to the stage and screen), Anthony Standish and Julian Curtis are also impressive. This is most interesting and engaging work from Standish (Hindley/Hareton), and it’s the second time I’ve seen Curtis (Edgar). The first was in The Glass Menagerie and I hope there will be many more opportunities to see what he can do. Let’s keep him here a little longer, shall we?

 

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Ross Balbuziente – he of the poster, which has had high school girls and boys stopping in halls and swooning all year – presents a sultry, stormy Heathcliff straight from the pages of the book. I think it’s fair to say it’s likely we’ve never seen the full extent of this performer’s range, or perhaps it’s a lack of total surrender to each role, though what he’s doing always seems to be enough. Even so, there’s an electric undercurrent here that makes me want to slap him and say, “GO THERE” …er, see more from Balbuziente.

 

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Oh, Heathcliff. Are you really as evil as all that? I’ve never believed it! (Save me right now). Let’s call you misunderstood, a product of your environment, and without the consciousness or awareness to meditate on your destructive hatred and your desperate revenge-seeking in order to realise an alternative path.

 

07
Oct
14

Monty Python’s Spamalot

 

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Harvest Rain

QPAC Concert Hall

October 2 – 5 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Right. Look, every company has a sacred cow and Spamalot is probably Harvest Rain’s.

 

It’s a very silly, very funny, very popular award winning show and it will not do anyone any good to say anything that is not rave, rave, rave about this production. In fact, to say anything critical is simply missing the point, right? This show is fun, fun, fun! And I love Monty Python! And look! Jon English and Simon Gallaher together again on stage at QPAC! Harvest Rain are so good now at giving their audiences what they want that really, it’s a bit ridiculous for me to post anything at all, and I haven’t done for a few days, genuinely unsure about whether or not it’s worth calling out a company that does so much GOOD.

 

I was so bemused confused impressed by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic and very forgiving opening night reception that some lyrics of my own popped into my head when The Song That Goes Like This refused to leave it! This is a silly review for a silly show that was obviously a heap of fun to create and for the vast majority, a heap of fun to watch. The highlights for me were in the performances by Dash Kruck, Chris Kellett, Julie Anthony, Frank Woodley, and in the one highly polished full production number, which cleverly updated and relocated, You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz. You might not recall Eric Idle’s version of The Mikado’s I’ve Got a Little List (we grew up with this production on VHS!), but you may have enjoyed more recently, Mitchell Butel’s brilliant performance (2011). I enjoyed less than others, obviously, the awkward moments; pauses and LOL that seemed to indicate we were a little lost along the way to finding our grail. Also, can I say Dan Venz is the Cassie of every chorus? This is not actually a bad thing. I can’t wait to see what he choreographs for Footloose.

 

If you didn’t see it – it was another short season over one weekend at QPAC’s Concert Hall – you can take my word for it; Monty Python’s Spamalot is another official Harvest Rain Smash Hit! Really! What do I know? Everybody (else) LOVED it!

 

 

 The Show That Goes Like This

 

At least once every year

There comes a show like this

The main cast is paid loads

And think they’ll take the piss

Where is the show that goes like this?

Where is it? Where? Where? Here it is! Here!

 

A Monty Python show

Accolades where’re it goes

The punters sing along

They know every silly song

For this is the show they love like this

Yes it is! Yes it is!

 

Now the cast should know their job

And remember why they’re here

Is Julie Anthony the only one who cares?

 

Jon English is a star

But he’s taken it too far

Impro

visation

fail!

 

Frank Woodley’s comedy

Is perfect for this show

But the French scene goes too long

For jokes we’re scraping low

For this is the show that goes like this!

 

I’m feeling slightly gypped

Although they’re well equipped

to put on a polished show

this really isn’t it

For this is their show to take the piss!

 

I can’t believe there’s more

Did they not learn before?

Dash, Chris and Shaun are gold

But this show’s been oversold

Will we accept more shows that go like this?

Yes we will! Of course we will!

 

Harvest Rain have got some gall

It’s true, they have a ball

We need the upbeat shows

But at what price we go?

The company comes out on top like this!

 

 

01
Oct
14

Saying no and staying home is hard!

 

In lieu of attending Lavazza Italian Film Festival opening night tonight in Brisbane I made our favourite Italian dish at home and asked Poppy to put on Andrea Bocelli loud enough for the whole street to hear.

THIS IS WHY:

 

I love my little family.

 

I love cooking.

 

I love cooking Italian food.

 

I love eating Italian food.

 

There are times when I actually do enjoy cooking and eating at home.

 

I don’t see Sam very often at the moment, although I hear him every morning now from 5am – 9am on HOT91.1! That’s right! In case you missed it (serves you right for not following us on Twitter and Insta), Sam is the Sunshine Coast’s newest brekky radio show host! He joins the lovely and very funny Lynda Edmunds each morning. Together they are #samandedmoforbreakfast & #wakeuptosamandedmo & #thesoundofthecoast  (Sam is actually perfect in this role. He sounds as if it’s what he’s always done. I guess at every party, and in every upbeat moment, indeed he has done!). Luckily, the station has completely rebuilt itself and the music is now awesome too. I mean, it’s actually great! Every hour there is 80s gold! GOLD!

 

samsedmoslider

 

I’m driving to Brisbane tomorrow night for shake & stir’s Wuthering Heights and on Friday night for Harvest Rain’s Spamalot. Chookas, all!

 

Driving to Brisbane gets expensive.

 

Driving to Brisbane gets frustrating.

 

Also, there is always good wine here.

 

I was looking forward to seeing a heap of the Italian films over the next couple of weeks and also, to meeting Nadir Caselli. Well, weren’t you? Isn’t she just gorgeous?! I think I’ve decided not to see anything at all, and to find all of the amazing films on offer this year, eventually, somewhere online.

 

 

nadircaselli

 

I managed to get out last night with my dear friend, Min (you know Min, of White House Celebrations), to catch an advanced screening of Gone Girl. Directed by David Fincher, with a screenplay by the author, Gillian Flynn, this is one of the best page to screen adaptations I’ve seen. I loved the book and the film stays true to its quirks, its characters, its pace and structure, and its disturbing brilliance. It could be argued that the film is in fact, a little more brilliant! I know. It’s a big call. Perhaps I’ll tell you more (but not too much more!) another time. I still have some theatre reviews to write (I always have theatre reviews to write), a stack of one-act plays to get through, and Term 4 planning to complete, and according to Poppy it’s not even nearly the end of school holidays. We have much more cooking, baking, swimming, playing, singing, dancing, shopping, running, reading, making, gardening and climbing to do!

 

italian1

 

It’s no wonder that we are all so tired by the end of each day! A no-show-night means, officially, it’s an early night. I’m trying to establish a new routine actually, because being back at school is exhausting enough, and I’m trying to get up earlier to write. With Sam up and at ‘em before four, I figure I can get up too, get dressed, light some candles, make some tea and work for two or three hours before Poppy stirs. If I’m feeling super motivated I’ll do some yoga again too.

 

We’ll see how long this lasts…

 

italian2

 

 




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