23
Sep
16

Chekhov’s First Play

Chekhov’s First Play

Brisbane Festival & Dead Centre

Brisbane Powerhouse Powerhouse Theatre

September 21 – 23 2016

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

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From its at-door sign warning of loud, sudden noises, coarse language, nudity, sexual references, pyrotechnics and smoking on stage, it is easy to recognise that Dead Centre’s Chekhov’s First Play is going to be take audiences far from the usual Chekov places. Yet still, in its disassembling of the great Russian playwright’s work, as well as theatre itself, the play takes its audiences to some surprising but ultimately superb places.
The show begins somewhat traditionally, apart from the fact that audience members are all wearing headphones in order to obtain Bush Moukarzel’s audio director’s commentary. This allows, he claims, for him to unclutter the complicated work and, accordingly, his words include snippets of explanation of its play’s subtext, highlight the universality and thus modernity of its metaphors about property and clarify the dramatic concept of Chekhov’s gun… providing the cast don’t muck it up by accidentally skipping a few pages of dialogue. There is humour too as he makes metatheatrical observations regarding the actors, such as in reaction to their underplay of lines, moving towards offer of his opinion of them, including their flaws.

 

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The soap-opera story of Anton Chekov’s first play, Platonov, which he started writing ‘before he was Chekhov’ at just 18 years of age, is of the widowed Anna Petrovna who can no longer afford the upkeep on her giant house (represented by Andrew Clancy’s imposing and immaculate redbrick set) and the benefactor trying to woo her despite her love belonging to another, already married man. At five hours in unadapted form (thanks to 83 scenes) and with a 20 character cast and multiple themes, the ambitiously complicated play is generally accepted as unstageable.

But this is far from a traditional telling, and not just due to the headphones. Things begin to change towards the abstract when the obscure Platonov arrives on stage, with the actors slipping in and out of character. As they await and then laud Platonov’s arrival, the Chekhovian language begins to breakdown; as Chinese takeaway is ordered, mention of traditional superstition is Googlised and talk even turns to Kim and Kanye. Chaos soon ensues as the show’s stately staging is wrecked (literally) and the gun reappears. And it works… mainly due to Platonov, the central character, who does not utter a single word as the world implodes around him. To say more would be to ruin the impressive imagery and pack-a-punch impact of the work’s modern application of its after and always themes of ownership, translated too within a feminist discourse. All cast members are impressive, whether performing the naturalism of Chekhov’s original script or when within the heightened melodrama of later lip-synced sections.

 

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Chekhov’s First Play is a hugely inventive work, not just in the realisation of its rebuild from the broken down fragments of its source material, but its concept of modern examination of a classic, and shows that the leading character can be any one of us. Like An Oak Tree and Gob Squad’s Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good), with a bit of last year’s Confidence Man, Chekhov’s First Play creates a truly memorable and though-provoking theatrical experience through its insightful reconciliation of Chekhov’s trademark naturalism with the commotion of our everyday world. Go for the comfort of its classic premise but stay for the challenge of its shattering of preconceptions. And then share your thoughts so that others might also join in the incredible privilege we have to be seeing such acclaimed work from this year’s ‘Irish Rebellion’ Brisbane Festival Artists in residence.

 

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22
Sep
16

Rainbow Vomit

Rainbow Vomit

Brisbane Festival, Channel Nine & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

September 21–24 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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We … set out to create a low-fi phantasmagoria – a world in which dream, fantasy, illusion and play were funnelled through unreality …

Kyle Page and Amber Haines

Dancenorth’s Rainbow Vomit was created to appeal to a young audience, but also to people of all ages. With its sense of fun and play, its colour and ingenuity in design, and unfettered naturalistic movement, it engages everyone. On opening night of its Brisbane Festival season at the Judith Wright Centre, it was lovely to hear the reactions of children in the audience, laughing and showing their surprise, delight and curiosity.

The title of this piece, directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Kyle Page and Artistic Assistant/Rehearsal Director Amber Haines, is intriguing. Does it refer to the overload of information and entertainment from electronic media? Or the gushing forth of creative ideas? Or creativity unleashed in the medium of dance, away from the realm of the iPad, the smartphone and the computer?

Rainbow Vomit starts off quietly in black and white, and through various scenes, builds to a frenzy of colour, sound, imagination and movement. Lighting and set designer Govin Ruben, costume designer Andrew Treloar, and composer Alisdair Macindoe have created an incredible rainbow world, full of surreal creatures, with a soundtrack combining voice, sound effects (such as watery slurping and gurgling), clapping, drumming, bells, and simple, repeated tunes.

At first, the dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are plainly dressed in black and white pyjama-style tops and pants, and sitting on clear, colourless plastic exercise balls.

They at first appear to be watching TV, their synchronised reactions and exclamations showing the contrast between the excitement of what must be on the invisible screen, and their own relatively passive state. Then they move to gazing down and swiping at invisible iPads, while the soundtrack plays children’s voices, electronically blurred, describing how they feel when using these devices.

The exercise balls become objects to play with instead of sitting on. The dancers fall on them, bounce on them, tumble over and around them, and dribble them. It is exhilarating and fun to watch, and you feel yourself wishing you could do that too.

The style of movement is established in this segment. It is at the same time very natural-seeming, yet athletic; relaxed and flexible, yet powerful.

The dancers move fluidly and through every plane without pause, apparently effortlessly. Their energy, expressiveness and prowess are phenomenal.

A large exercise ball morphs gradually into a pingpong ball for the next segment, provoking shrieks of joy from the younger audience members. The dancers now appear to be robots, with pingpong balls in their mouths, like some alien kind of teeth. They blow the balls out of their mouths at the audience and each other.

Next, in multicoloured costumes, and with their long hair flung forwards over their faces, Jenni Large and Georgia Rudd form a segmented creature, moving as one. In ‘plank’ position, with their heads pressed together, they form a bridge, and then entwine, roll and jump together. Harrison Hall flies through a solo in this scene, leaping with abandon.

A silver virtual reality helmet is the focus of the next scene. The electronic flashing, buzzing and crackling emitted when a dancer puts on the helmet contrast with the twittering of birds and joyful expressions of the other dancers when the helmet is removed.

Ashley McLellan’s character is fascinated by the helmet, and while wearing it she is manipulated by a dancer behind her, waving her arms and body like a sea creature moved by underwater currents. The changing colour of the light – red, green and purple – leads into the colour extravaganza of the final scenes.

For these scenes, the audience (and the dancers at first) don ‘fireworks glasses’ made of holographic diffraction film. These multiply images and refract light into myriads of rainbows. The green rims glow in the ultraviolet light, creating an eerily comic effect when the dancers move in a close group (multiplied many-fold by our glasses).

The psychedelic wonder is cranked up even further when, on a darkened stage, the dancers each hold two small lights. As they move the lights, we see an explosion of moving rainbows in very intense colours in an almost out-of-body experience.

When the main lights come on again for the final scene, there is a riot of colour. At first just hanging between columns at the side, and then filling more and more spaces across the stage, are multicoloured strands of UV-reactive rope (7.6 kilometres of it altogether). The colours glow in the UV light, as do drifts of coloured pingpong balls on the floor.

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The final incarnation of the dancers is in the form of surreal imaginary creatures, including two unicorns (with flexible over-head masks and glowing lips), while the dancer wearing the magic helmet is on a swing, swooping through it all.

This show is a joyous and uplifting experience, full of wonderful dance and magical effects.

And you get to keep the glasses! To prolong the magic, if you are NOT driving (!) try them out after an evening performance. The smallest intersection with traffic lights becomes a wonderland, while travelling along a six-lane road is mindblowing!

21
Sep
16

Snow White

Snow White

La Boite, Opera Queensland & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 3 – 24 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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My mother just spent more than 50 days in hospital – two hospitals actually, between two ICUs – and she continues to recover at home from complications following surgery, all due to a bug that travelled with her from one of the 5 Stans. I’ve also been sick since Brisbane Festival opening night and have stubbornly attended as much as possible, in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, where people forget I’m based, without managing to keep up with the follow up, i.e. writing about what I’ve seen. I have, however, perhaps as some sort of procrastination, insisted on (mostly successfully although the place could be tidier) running a household with two extra people in it, getting to some social engagements, camping at North Shore despite coughing up a bigger storm than the one to hit us on the day we came home, and before that, finishing a 5-week teaching contract because unlike reviewing Brisbane theatre, teaching pays. An exhausting term, physically and emotionally. I’ve missed yoga and coffee dates and drinks and events. Everything online needs an overhaul, the garden needs love, and I’ve been postponing the spring cleaning since this time last year. I need new writers, I need new clothes and I need a new focus. But more on that later.

Luckily, most of the shows I see stay with me. And let’s quietly appreciate the archival value of even a late response. Here’s the first in a succession of catch ups, well overdue. Sorry about that.

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We enter The Roundhouse to a Disney soundtrack and chirping birdsong, eliciting an eerie sense of foreboding and at the same time, a false sense of security. This is a grim tale, much more so than the Grimm tale.

For the record, Disney’s classic animated Snow White unnerves me to this day.

The forest is inside, on the ceiling. The darkness is broken by fairy lights. Mirrors, the autumn leaves, the branches, a blood stained timber floor, musical instruments and kitchen chairs hanging from the forest canopy. Later, rose petals, sparkles… A tree house, the stairs running up the middle of it, musicians beneath it (the evocative space designed by Sarah Winter & striking lighting designed by Ben Hughes). I recognise Kanen Breen, like a lithe, glittering, corseted Cabaret Emcee, swanning around with his glass of red until it’s drained and settling next to a member of the audience for an intimate chat. He grins like The Cheshire Cat and moves on to the next victim, seated in front of us. I love Breen’s sparkling red nails and mouth, the essence of the infamous red apple, a reminder of the inherent evil and glamorous violence of this fairytale. He’s The Mirror. Of course he is.

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The Queen (Silvia Colloca) epitomises everything we love to loathe and fear and admire about the evil stepmother stereotype / ancient mother archetype. She’s sophisticated and sexy, intimidating, alluring…actually, she’s intoxicating. Colloca’s voice is a fallen angel’s, her lower register particularly rich and warm. Scintillating in black and red lace like a Spanish lady of the night, she’s exquisite, a Diva, seducing us effortlessly. As per the original version, without differentiation between biological mother and stepmother, she is one, she is all. Mother. Woman. Crone. Queen. Her tango with The Mirror is a luscious, almost lascivious affair. Choreographed by Rosetta Cook and Gavin Webber it’s the perfect vehicle to set these two up early as the stars of the show.

Zulya Kamalova’s compositions – enchanted swirling, pulsing, living, breathing things – take us out of ourselves and into this dark, dangerously glistening, shifting world of elegance, innocence and broken trust. A waltz spells out the mother-daughter relationship more clearly and succinctly than a few shouted lines of dialogue can do. We feel for them both. None of us actually want to grow old and weary and weathered, after all. Suzie Miller’s libretto succeeds in capturing varying perspectives on the power and fragility of women and the way we can examine our potential, our power, our perceived limitations, our ambitions, and what it is we’re prepared to do to be “happy” when we dare to look at ourselves in the mirror.

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This Little Lolita Snow White, the fairest of them all, is an innocent princess turned teen seductress. An innate talent, an inevitability; the product of her environment, perhaps… In her last desperate attempt to escape the clutches, and the axe, of The Hunter (Michael Tuahine), this Snow White becomes every mother’s worst nightclubbing, shame-walking nightmare. Steph Pickett gets the mix just right – she’s ingenue and expert, and sings like Fiona Apple/Jesska Hoop/Katie Noonan (and I see Katie in the bank of seats opposite us but miss her later to say hello to). It’s Act 1’s most contemporary piece, reminding me of the first 16 bars of Katzenjammer’s Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back in both its shape and tone. This is the moment the little girl becomes a woman, beautifully, frighteningly, authentically captured. The most amazing, game-changing piece of the show though is The Queen’s lament, truly exemplary vocal work, which must be heard to be believed. Colloca’s wailing resonates with us no matter how great or small our individual losses, and becomes a cry of utter despair for all mothers everywhere, for all humanity. She wails and groans her immense grief, singing over the unmoving body of her daughter. Singing over the bones. Lost. Empty. Willing her flesh and blood, her little Snow White, to come back to life, even when it will bring about her own undoing. This extended moment in time holds us in collective stillness, breathlessness, until the final haunting note fades. It’s the greatest Medea moment we’ve seen yet. This is an indescribable ache, which I’ll retain from this show for years yet. 

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The production continues past its perfect end though, redundantly taking us ten years into the future, when Snow White is with child and we see the pattern repeating. The story goes on… I would love to have left the story to go on unseen, leaving us hanging, after the devastating look that is exchanged between the two once the girl has realised her mother has tried multiple times to kill her. The rest amounts to the beginning of a poor sequel and undoes a little bit of the brilliance that is this new extraordinary work, so funny and lovely, and witty and gritty and gory.

I also enjoyed less than others may have, the opening of Act 2 involving Colloca-as-performer-as-The Queen, wrapped in her iconic cape, gliding down the stairs and moving through the audience to offer an apple to bemused audience members – “It’s not poisonous” – and sitting on stage to share a story from between the pages of Grimm’s Fairytales before morphing back into The Queen proper to go on with the tale. A gimmick that seems unnecessary in a work of such quality but one that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Think about it. Do audiences need these breaks from the narrative to connect, to relate, to remember they’ve come here to experience another world? To help them recognise their world? Despite my questions, I see the opening night audience embrace every element of the production and so I muse, again, who am I to find fault with any tiny thing? Snow White is truly a work of art and I hope we see the original cast recording soon, if not a beautifully filmed version of the show at some stage.

Masterfully directed in this space by Lindy Hume, Snow White is an important, potent new work that reflects our enduring obsession with beauty, power, the mystical feminine and the wonder and majesty, the vital lessons of storytelling. An accomplished piece for a world premiere and perfect festival fare, Snow White is destined for lands far, far away. I hope you saw it here at least once. 

21
Sep
16

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

September 9 – 17 2016

 

Reviewed by Meredith Walker

 

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It is a rare thing to be an hour into a show and still have no idea at all where it is going to go. And in the case of Filter Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is a very good thing, given the absurdity with which the group has taken what is arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play and transformed it into a giddy and gleeful postmodern romp.

That said, it does start a little slowly with, like so many Shakespearean works, a prologue, delivered with true Irish charm, but of frantic pace by Peter Quince (Ed Gaughan). Drifting into tangents about the Royal family, for example, he tells audience members that they are about to enter the Ancient Athens of ‘fantastic architecture and thriving homosexual culture’. He promises that the part of Bottom is meant to be played by a famous actor, but a technical hitch means that an ‘audience volunteer’ may have assume the role. It is all in keeping with the clumsy craft of the play’s Mechanicals’ amateur dramatics, and, as the curtain rises on the Athenian court, Shakespeare’s society is represented in the play by three distinct class groups, lovers, mechanicals and fairies. A series of mix-ups orchestrated by king of the fairies Oberon (Harry Jardine) causes lovers’ quarrels between Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, frantic chases and general chaos that needs to be resolved before King Theseus’s fast approaching wedding.

What the audience sees, however, is no ethereal forest setting, with set design placing the action within a run-down public bathroom of white tiles, water leaks and paper-walls through which characters literally burst on to the stage. Staging is chaotically creative as pieces are destroyed and as Puck (Ferdy Roberts) flings blue liquid gel love juice around, to instant aphrodisiac effect. Oberon, dressed as superhero in all-in-one suit and cape, flies, falls and is covered in flour as part of an epic food fight (with audience involvement). Rather than unruliness, this makes for a hilarious experience that flies by without realisation of its near two hour duration. It’s not all froth and frivolous bubble, however, for as contrast to the mania of the Mechanicals, the lovers, speak only Shakespeare’s words.

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This is a high-energy and physically-demanding show and all the performers deliver accordingly. Francesca Zoutewelle is solid as Hermia, Cat Simmons is an initially dignified Titania and John Lightbody is sensationally smooth as the lustful Lysander, once transformed entirely from his former unassuming self in reaction to the love potion. And Demetrious (Karl Queensborough) makes music out of the Bard’s iambic pentameter. Another standout is Ferdy Roberts as grumpy, tattooed and mischievous rocker roadie/stagehand Puck, from his commanding entrance to the dignified delivery of his final wishes of good night unto all. And Fergus O’Donnell makes the scripted chaos of Bottom’s ascension to stage seem spontaneously improvised. Together, they provide a refreshing interpretation of the characters.

Despite its anarchy, in many ways, this A Midsummer Night’s Dream keeps with Shakespeare’s original text though its weave of comedy through all three of the plot strands and, in particular through the ridiculous mirth of the working class Mechanicals and their presentation to the audience of an abbreviated Pyramus and Thisbe, making us laugh at them rather than with them, in a way different to many other of Shakespeare’s jesters and clowns.

Every comic device is evident in this fast-moving funny-fest. There are moments of stand-up (showing that apparently 20 years is in fact too soon for a Michael Hutchence suicide joke), celebrity impersonations, spontaneous songs, slapstick, clowning and innuendo. The greatest laughs come, however, from notice of the little details, like the lameness of a lion costume and Oberon and Puck’s pull up of picnic chairs and crack open of drinks to watch the lovers battle it out.

Filter Theatre have made their reputation mainly for inventive takes on classic plays and this is especially evident in their sound innovation, and Chris Branch and Tom Haines’s sound design and original music is masterful . Music is effectively integrated into this production and the live band, doubling as Mechanicals, in break from their play of retro kitsch Barry White and The Ramones numbers, add the necessary magic to assist the audience in imagining the invisible fairies to life and suggesting Bottom’s transition to donkey by the sounds of coconut-shell hooves clapping. And a fight between Lysander and Demetrius is enacted as a video game, with Puck at the console, with the noise of gunfire and explosions.

Although a modernisation of a Shakespearean classic is hardly a ground-breaking idea, Filter Theatre manages to bring something truly unique to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Characters and scenes are presented with new purpose, freshly realising, in particular, the text’s sexual innuendo. It’s not always cohesive, but it is superlatively funny in its gleeful irreverence. Cutting and adding so much text is filled with risk, but it is risk that exists at the foundation of all exciting art. And, in this instance, the liberties taken with the text make for not only a highly-entertaining, but a genuinely accessible version. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much in the theatre.

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A scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream @ Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Created by Filter and Directed by Sean Holmes and Stef O’Driscoll (Opening 25-02-16) ©Tristram Kenton 02/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com

 

 

08
Sep
16

Snow White

Snow White

Ballet Preljocaj

QPAC International Series

September 2–11 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Watch the live stream of Snow White tonight from 7pm HERE

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Dance is more than controlled contortion and movement. It is the canvas against which we interpret the world and explore the depths of human emotion.

Angelin Preljocaj

The story of Snow White is a focus for this year’s Brisbane Festival, with the full-length dance theatre work by the French contemporary dance company Ballet Preljocaj, as well as a music theatre retelling by La Boite Theatre Company and Opera Queensland, and the Gallery of Modern Art screening two film versions, one from 1916, and the better known Walt Disney one from 1937.

Artistic Director and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj created Snow White on his company Ballet Preljocaj in 2008, and it is one of their best-known works. This season is part of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s International Series, and exclusive to Brisbane.

The series has notably brought to Brisbane companies of the calibre of the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and the Bolshoi Ballet, and is a highlight of the dance performance calendar. While Ballet Preljocaj is not as internationally renowned as these companies, it is good to see a contemporary company as part of the series.

Snow White, like many fairytales, is a very dark story, about hatred, jealousy, attempted murder and revenge. Preljocaj’s version exploits this darkness to the full, staying very close to the story recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

The evil Queen, jealous of the beauty of her stepdaughter Snow White, tries several times to kill her, and apparently succeeds, but Snow White is revived by her Prince and marries him. At the wedding, the stepmother is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies.

In the opening scene, a woman in black struggles through dark trees in a thick fog, disappearing into it and then reappearing. She is revealed as Snow White’s mother, who dies when giving birth. This short sequence is one of the most powerful moments in the work.

The set design and lighting, by Thierry Leproust and Patrick Riou, respectively, create a powerful effect, from the start taking us into a malevolent world dominated by brooding forest.

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There are lighter, even joyous, moments: Snow White’s duos with her Prince; the vigorous dances of members of her father’s court; an interlude with nymphs and fauns in the forest; and the dwarves, with whom Snow White takes refuge before the Queen finally hunts her down.

The choreography has some very balletic elements, mixed with much earthier grounded movement. The courtiers’ dancing, for instance, repeats the basic classical arm positions, but also has the dancers stamping and thigh-slapping, reminiscent of central or eastern European folk dance. Scooping and windmilling arm movements are a theme through the work.

The dancers playing the dwarves appear from openings in a giant wall filling the whole space at the rear of the stage. The miner’s lamps on their heads reinforce the analogy of a cliff, peppered with mineshaft entrances or cave mouths. Suspended by ropes, the dwarves walk up and down the wall as if it is a floor, and fly and tumble across it, in a magical sequence.

Emilie Lalande was a fragile, girlish Snow White, light, quick and agile. Her Prince, Redi Shtylla, was the outstanding dancer on first night – strong, tall, and athletic. He projected an energy that contrasted with Snow White’s fragility. Their duos were tender, and passionate, with many flying lifts.

Léa de Natale appears only briefly as Snow White’s mother, in the opening scene, and in a beautiful and moving aerial sequence when she lifts the unconscious Snow White up to float above the stage – both very powerful.

As the Queen, Cecilia Torres Morillo glowered and smouldered at her giant mirror, and commanded the stage with an evil presence. There is little dance in her role until the end, when the Queen is tortured and dances to her death. Torres Morillo’s repetitive leaps were slightly underwhelming in the portrayal of such a violent end.

An uncredited dancer deserves a mention for her portrayal of a deer in the forest, nervous and alert, and moving jerkily as it scans its surroundings for danger. Its fear is justified – it is the creature killed by the Queen’s hunters to make her believe they have obeyed her orders and killed Snow White.

Much was made in the publicity for the show of the costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier. The wicked Queen’s red and black dominatrix outfit, with its cage-like outer bodice, and long skirt cut away in front to show her black stockings and boots, was a signature image for the season.

The Prince’s eyecatching salmon-pink costume, reminiscent of a prince from classical ballet, was inspired by that of a Spanish bullfighter.

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Snow White’s striking wedding dress is a crinoline, the frame hung with white fringes that fluttered as she moved. Her costume for the bulk of the work, however, is a white playsuit-like garment looped very loosely between her legs, with wide slits at the side, and a floating panel at the back. The costume is very unflattering, with the look of a sagging nappy, and exposes the dancer’s buttocks a lot of the time.

Preljocaj chose music from works by Gustav Mahler for Snow White. The haunting quality of the music suits the dark fairytale, although the choreography (the vigorous folk-style dance, for example) contrasts with its grandeur at times.

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The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, led by its Conductor Laureate Johannes Fritzsch, played beautifully, and contributed greatly to the theatrical impact of the show.

At 1 hour 50 minutes without an interval, Snow White feels like a long stretch in the theatre. Some people on the first night obviously needed a break, and walked out halfway through anyway.

31
Aug
16

Muscle Memory

 

Muscle Memory

Judith Wright Centre & Collusion

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

August 17–20 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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Muscles flex and memories resurface in this all-Australian evening of chamber ballets …

Muscle Memory program notes

Muscle Memory is a varied and polished program of chamber music and chamber ballet. Contemporary music ensemble Collusion has partnered with choreographer Gareth Belling and dancers from the Queensland Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program to present three short works for small groups of dancers, and two duos.

Belling was originally commissioned by the Queensland Ballet to create these works for the company over a period from 2006 to 2011. The costumes were all designed by the Queensland Ballet’s Noelene Hill.

The first piece, Urban Myths (to Nigel Westlake’s piano trio of the same name) is for three couples. Inspired by photographs on the walls in his grandparents’ house, Belling wondered what lay behind the posed images of happy 1950s couples. In his ballet, one pair of the three has a troubled and violent relationship, gradually revealed in increasing intensity, with the other two couples being drawn into the conflict.

Lifts feature prominently in the choreography, displaying the strength and poise of the young dancers straight away. The movement patterns also have the dancers advancing and retreating in a wave-like effect.

The youth and freshness of the dancers contrasted with the dark themes and sober costumes of this piece. It was hard to believe in them being enmeshed in the unhappiness they were trying to portray. But they danced beautifully, and straight away demonstrated the success of the QB Pre-professional Program.

Urban Myths was followed by Transference, a cheeky flirtation between a female and a male dancer. The music too, is a duo, the Violin and Piano Sonata by Australian-Ukrainian composer Catherine Likhuta.

The dominant feature of the dance duo is the female dancer’s white tutu, with its medium-length petal-like skirt. At the start of the work she is on the floor folded into the skirt, and appears from it like a flower opening. Later, the tutu droops downwards, or is folded up around her torso, exposing the underside of the tutu, and the body. The body of the male dancer, while he was wearing less (a white Tshirt and grey briefs), did not appear as exposed.

After this interlude came Transition Sequence for a group of eight dancers, to Carl Vine’s String Quartet No. 3. At times the dancers formed a close group, with quick movements darting out from the group, like a small colony of organisms moving as one. At other times the group disassociated, and two couples were featured.

The costumes for both male and female dancers in this piece were short, stylish, grey tunics with a Grecian-style bodice. Those for the female dancers were particularly short, and kept riding up, destroying their elegant effect.

Following the interval came a second short duo, Mourning Song, to Paul Stanhope’s Songline (for violin and cello). In this piece a woman is mourning the death of a man, and also celebrating his life. The woman is dressed in a dark-purplish long dress, and appears gaunt and grief-stricken. The man is a ghostly figure, dressed in grey.

The music for this piece, with the violinist and the cellist seated downstage left, made a great impact, and dominated the dance. At one point, the cello and violin were as if stridently calling out in the same strong, beating rhythm. The power of the performance by Benjamin Greaves (violin) and Danielle Bentley (cello) eclipsed the youthful, earnest performance of the dancers.

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The final work on the program was Refraction to Philip Eames’s composition for piano quintet, Annealed Cyan Matt, in its premiere performance. Refraction has been rechoreographed to this commissioned score after first being created to Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1.

This is a playful work, with one sprite-like female dancer leading the others into various energetic routines. The lighting design (by Ben Hughes) features a refracted band of rainbow-colours that the dancers move in and out of, creating interesting colour effects.

The dancers wear bustiere-like white bodices, and white briefs for the men, and intriguing skirts made of clustered thick white loops for the women. (Again, these skirts tended to ride up distractingly.) The general effect was reminiscent of Victorian or Edwardian circus performers, and the strength and flexibility of the male dancers, in particular, reinforced this impression.

Overall, this was an entertaining program, showing off the skill and attack of a strong group of emerging dancers. The classically based choreography (with the women on pointe in three of the five pieces) suited them.

The strength and assurance of the Collusion musicians’ performance and the music they played were spellbinding, showcasing the work of five different Australian composers.

During this season of Muscle Memory, Collusion also promoted their crowd funding campaign, which will help them to provide free community concerts for people with a disability and their families in Queensland. These concerts give people the opportunity to experience live music in safe and accessible spaces.

19
Aug
16

Akmal

a-list.com.au

Brisbane Powerhouse

August 11 – 20 2016

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Last week Akmal Saleh, one of Australia’s most respected and hilarious comics, thrilled audiences at Brisbane Powerhouse with his newest stand-up comedy show.

From stories of growing up in the Sydney suburb of Punchbowl to stories of his first foray into reality television with I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (he only agreed to appear on the show to avoid bankruptcy, of course), Akmal offers an amusing insight into his life in the biz.

His performance is at once crude and sincere, dealing with personal and universal experience. And sure, at times Akmal could be perceived as controversial, touching on issues of cultural identity mainly through his own experience as an Egyptian-Australian. For a conservative audience, some of his jokes may offend but for me Akmal’s honesty and warmth counteracts any possible offensiveness.

Above all, Akmal is visibly passionate about his “job” as a stand-up comic, and like any great comedian, he exudes enormous confidence on stage. He says his main goal is to make us happy and I would say without a doubt he achieves this.

He commands the audience’s attention and rides their laughter out to the last little giggle.

Akmal is full of energy and vigour, while remaining casual and conversational. The structure of his act could be likened to that of a story from a close friend. It starts strong with all of the important information, departs onto a million little tangents as you chat the details but eventually returns to the point, to the punchline. In short, I found the structure of Akmal’s act a little messy at times but at no point did I feel like we were on a journey without a destination.

Instead Akmal’s approach leaves plenty of room for audience interaction. On the night I attended there were a few audience members who Akmal continually referred back to with very funny consequences. His question and answer section was also a great opportunity for audience members to ask all of the important questions – like, you know, what are Shane Warne, Carl Baron and [insert other celebrity here] like?

Akmal delivers a night of feisty, fresh entertainment that asks and answers all of the important questions about who we are and ultimately, what we’re doing here.




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