18
Feb
20

Matilda Award Winners 2019

 

Matilda Award List of Winners 2019

Presented at Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

Monday February 17 2020

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL NOMINEES AND WINNERS OF MATILDA AWARDS

 

 

2020 Gold Award Winner: Shake & Stir

Shake & Stir is one of Australia’s leading contemporary theatre companies, formed in 2006, and creating bold and exciting mainstage and in-school productions that tour Australia and New Zealand. Shake & Stir has built a company that doesn’t just entertain existing audiences with their spectacular main house productions that display a consistent level of excellence, but the company also cultivates a new audience, creating the artists of tomorrow through their in-school programs.

 

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: WINNER

Amy Ingram, Cinderella (QPAC and Myths Made Here)

Amy’s intricately detailed portrayal of Ashley in Cinderella was a highlight of the year, with her impeccable comedic timing and raw vulnerability she had us in the palm of her hand from the moment she walked on stage. We were laughing, crying and cringing with awkwardness as we followed her journey through the reimagining of Cinderella.  Ultimately, due to Amy’s skill and level of excellence as an actor, we were left with a lasting connection to the character and her world.  This achievement speaks volumes to the strength of Amy’s performance and the execution of a fresh, contemporary take on an iconic character.

SHORTLIST

Helen O’Leary, The Confabulator (Helen O’Leary)

Nelle Lee, Jane Eyre (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

Kate Wilson, The Revisionist (Refraction Theatre)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: WINNER

Susie French, Girl’s Guide to World War (Musical Theatre Australia)

Susie’s down-to-earth, unpretentious characterisation was executed effortlessly, and captured the passion, dedication and sheer determination of a woman well ahead of her time. Embodying the individuality and inimitability of Dr. Lilian Cooper, Susie was able to entertain and educate while keeping us eating out of the palm of her hand.  From the moment we met this full-rounded character, it was clear we were in excellent hands as we watched Dr. Cooper’s story unfold.

SHORTLIST

Kathryn Marquet, Magpie (Playlab, Metro Arts and e.g.)

Kimberley Hodgson, Fangirls (Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Festival and Belvoir in association with ATYP)

Marika Marrosszeky, Savage in Limbo (Big Scary Animal)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: WINNER

Richard Lund, Kelly (Ad Astra)

In a highly competitive field, Richard’s performance of Ned Kelly gave us a fresh, multi-faceted and finely crafted portrayal of a character we all ‘know’. A high degree of excellence was evident in a performance that was a glorious mix of  danger and humour, strength and compassion with the underlying fierce loyalty of the Ned Kelly we all expect.  Richard executed the role with confidence, consistency and a high level of skill, as he sat naturally and comfortably in this character, hooking us into his unique world and keeping us hanging on his every word.

SHORTLIST

Thomas Larkin, Cinderella (QPAC and Myths Made Here)

Tama Matheson, When the World was Wide (Camerata and QPAC)

Bryan Probets, Hydra (Queensland Theatre and SA Theatre Company)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: WINNER

Thomas Larkin, Death of a Salesman (Queensland Theatre)

Thomas Larkin’s touching performance of an iconic character, Biff, in Arthur Miller’s modern American classic, presents a unique challenge for an actor.  How to breathe life into such a well-known role?  Thomas addressed this issue head on and successfully delivered a deeply moving portrayal while speaking to contemporary issues of masculinity, expectations and fulfilment.  His physicality and vocal work were both excellent, executed with individuality and assurance.   As Biff’s fractured relationship with his father came into sharp relief, the craft and skill of the actor were utilised to full effect, expertly embedded in the character, delivering a performance that was compelling and deeply affecting.

SHORTLIST

Pacharo Mzembe, L’Appartement (Queensland Theatre)

Michael Mandalios, Magpie (Playlab, Metro Arts and e.g.)

Jackson McGovern, Death of a Salesman (Queensland Theatre)

 

 

BILLE BROWN AWARD – BEST EMERGING ARTIST: WINNER

Gina Tay Limpus, The Tempest and La Silhouette

A physical actor, director and theatre-maker, Gina is being recognised for her compelling talent and strong skill set, that transfer seamlessly to any context. Still in the early stages of her professional career, in her work in both The Tempest and La Silhouette, Gina displayed consistency and a high level of execution in her work, both vocally and physically.  We look forward to seeing more from Gina as her career develops.

SHORTLIST

Sui Ensemble, La Silhouette

Ella Macrokanis, Daddy Long Legs

Michael Mandalios, Magpie and The Revisionist

 

BEST DIRECTOR: WINNER

Daniel Evans, Cinderella (QPAC and Myths Made Here)

While the term auteur usually only relates to film, Daniel Evans’ individual style and sure hand ensures the term translates easily to theatre.  Daniel gives each of his productions his personal and unique stamp and in the instance of Cinderella, the direction is so distinct and individual that Daniel’s signature was evident from the opening moment.  This was tight, compelling storytelling, executed flawlessly and delivering a consistent level of excellence, eliciting beautifully nuanced performances from the actors.

SHORTLIST

Jason Klarwein, Death of a Salesman (Queensland Theatre)

Ross Balbuziente, Fantastic Mr Fox (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

Paige Rattray, Fangirls (Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Festival and Belvoir in association with ATYP)

 

BEST MAINSTAGE PRODUCTION: WINNER

Death of a Salesman (Queensland Theatre)

It is potentially challenging to bring something new to a play that is over seventy years old, but Queensland Theatre’s production of Death of a Salesman managed to bring the Arthur Miller classic into the present without changing what made it a classic in the first place. This production delighted both existing fans as well as educating a new generation about what earns this work a place at the top of the list of the great American plays.  As the death-rattle of American optimism echoed through the land of the free market, the audience followed Willy Loman as he lost himself in the halcyon days of the past, at the same time opening a window for the audience to reflect on America then and now. A withering commentary on capitalism, this production displayed excellence in every element, bringing an American classic very much into the contemporary conversation.

SHORTLIST

Fangirls (Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Festival and Belvoir in association with ATYP)

L’Appartement (Queensland Theatre)

Cinderella (QPAC and Myths Made Here)

 

BEST INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION: WINNER

La Silhouette (Sui Ensemble)

It’s not easy to choose the recipient for the category, given the vast number of independent shows viewed throughout the year. With La Silhouette, Sui Ensemble showed that they are not only an ambitious company, but also a company with an abundance of raw talent that enabled them to devise a work of immersive theatre that has a very high degree of difficulty accompanied by a high level of excellence in terms of execution.  Skilfully weaving together local queer histories that are both beautiful and sad, both true and imagined, La Silhouette is a unique and truly independent work that envelops its audience whole and refuses to pull any punches from euphoric start to climactic finish.

SHORTLIST

Kelly (Ad Astra)

Throttle (The Farm)

Girl’s Guide to World War (Musical Theatre Australia)

 

BEST MUSICAL OR CABARET: WINNER

Fangirls (Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Festival and Belvoir in association with ATYP)

Fangirls, a bold new musical, delivered a genuinely fresh, loud and proud female-centric production that brought the experiences of young women front and centre on our stages.  First love meets fan culture in this hilarious musical work that combines pop culture, touches of rave and the soul of choir, to cleverly explore the brave new world taking place right now through the online media experiences of young people. Acute, edgy, and very sharp direction and command of each element from Paige Rattray and her team made this production of Fangirls a highlight on stage this year, embraced by female and male audiences alike, and reminding us to never underestimate teenage girls.

SHORTLIST

Yank (Understudy Productions)

Daddy Long Legs (Passion Productions)

When the World Was Wide (Camerata and QPAC)

 

 

BEST CIRCUS OR PHYSICAL THEATRE WORK: WINNER

Inside Out (Tammy Zarb and Company)

A compelling new physical theatre work, presented as part of Bleach* Festival, Inside Out stood out in what was a highly competitive field.  In this large-scale, site-specific theatre work, Tammy work utilised an excellent ensemble of performers to lead audiences across the grandeur of the Abedian School of Architecture Building at Bond University, exploring what was conceptualised as a ‘cathedral of concrete.’ The ensemble explored the sloping pathways, mezzanines, curved stairwells and sloping sculptural frames, before leading the audience outside to its wooden forest.  This was a cinematic-like, yet highly theatrical experience that was enhanced by live vocalists, a beautiful soundscape and an intelligent and unique lighting design.

SHORTLIST

Tectonic (Dancenorth)

Throttle (The Farm)

You & I (Casus Circus)

 

THE LORD MAYOR’S AWARD FOR BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK: WINNER

Girl’s Guide to World War, Katy Forde (Book and lyrics), Aleathea Monsour (Composer)

A new musical that explores the astonishing true story of a group of women who try to sign up for army service in World War One but are soundly rejected and told to, “Go home and sit still”. Thankfully, the women have other ideas.  Incorporating live music and a narrative that traverses the gamut of the human condition, this is a finely nuanced work  that follows a year that changes their lives forever.  Dealing with themes of inclusion, freedom, power and commitment, this work uses a combination of compelling storytelling and original musical composition to explore a story of contemporary relevance.

SHORTLIST

La Silhouette, Sui Ensemble

When The World Was Wide, Tama Matheson

Reagan Kelly, Lewis Treston

 

 

BEST SET DESIGN: WINNER

Josh McIntosh, Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts (Shake & Stir and La Boite)

This tightly crafted, swiftly moving production needed a flexible, inventive and workable set to facilitate the rapid-fire storytelling. The result was a delightful design that not only met all practical requirements and levels of excellence but, in its seamless execution, also perfectly matched the production’s witty, sharp and clever style. Facilitating the surprising and hilarious twists of the production, the design brought to life Roald Dahl’s beloved stories, serving the text and tight ensemble of 4 actors, in equal measure.

SHORTLIST

Caroline Delore, When the World was Wide (Camerata and QPAC)

Josh McIntosh, Jane Eyre (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

Josh McIntosh, Fantastic Mr Fox (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: WINNER

Libby McDonnell, Orpheus and Eurydice (Opera Queensland and Circa)

In Orpheus and Eurydice, Libby McDonnell and the costume team at Opera Queensland created some of the most stunning costumes this year on Queensland’s stages. The bold, graphic styling combined with exquisite cutting created a striking aesthetic that would be very much at home on the best international stages and linger long in the audience’s memory after seeing the production. As Orpheus and Eurydice took their perilous journey home, we were treated to exquisite detail and variation in costuming that served both the singers and the circus performers alike, combining harmoniously to create an exceptional whole.

SHORTLIST

Leah Shelton, Bitch on Heat (Leah Shelton at Brisbane Festival)

Josh McIntosh, Fantastic Mr Fox (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

Anthony Spinaze, Death of a Salesman (Queensland Theatre)

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN: WINNER

Geoff Squires, Inside Out (Tammy Zarb and Company)

This unsuspecting design was executed sensitively in response to its site, transforming found spaces imaginatively whilst respecting the eccentricities of the architecture. Geoff made very effective use of simple tools and excellent design choices, appropriating existing lighting fixtures alongside theatrical interventions in order to sculpt the environment. In this promenade work, the bold use of lighting contributed indispensably to the sense of enchantment and discovery felt by the audience.

SHORTLIST

Tom Wright, Tectonic (Dancenorth at Bleach*)

Ben Hughes, L’Appartement (Queensland Theatre)

David Walters, Net of Souls (The Boxties and QPAC)

 

 

BEST VIDEO DESIGN: WINNER

Craig Wilkinson (video) and Jon Weber (illustrations), Fantastic Mr Fox (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

Video design excellence is positioned front and centre in this visually decadent production, using animation to drive the distinct theatrical style and staging. With this elaborately interactive design, Craig Wilkinson has cemented his reputation as a master of projector spectacle, demonstrating the magical theatricality of his illusory virtual worlds. Jon Weber’s illustrated environments here create the perfect play space for these larger-than-life characters to breathe, and for this much-loved classic to find its purpose on stage.

SHORTLIST

Justin Harrison, Fangirls (Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Festival and Belvoir in association with ATYP)

Freddy Komp, Tower of Babel (Baran Theatre at Metro Arts)

Nathan Sibthorpe and Jeremy Gordon, Statum (Flipside Circus and Counterpilot in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

 

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN/COMPOSITION: WINNER

Luke Smiles (design) and Anna Whitaker (associate), Throttle (The Farm at Bleach*)

This design involved a very high degree of difficulty, bringing to life the sound environment for a B-grade Thriller, viewed from within the safety of your own car.  With a soundtrack heard through your car radio, this production excellently captured all the nuance, originality and detail of live-action drive-in theatre.  Sound effects and voiceover were incorporated impeccably, bringing to life what begins as one man’s love song to his Volvo but turns deadly as the zombies inflict mayhem and disorder, running riot through the outdoor site.

SHORTLIST

Guy Webster, Fantastic Mr Fox (Shake & Stir and QPAC)

Guy Webster, Inside Out (Tammy Zarb and Company)

Guy Webster, Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts (La Boite and Shake & Stir)

 

 

BACKSTAGE AWARD: WINNER

Tanya Malouf

A fixture of the Queensland performing arts community, Tanya has demonstrated excellence in her long career as a stage manager, company manager, and project coordinator. While recognising her incredible body of work, Tanya was especially nominated for her tireless efforts in her role as Tour Producer with ArTour in 2019, demonstrating patience, persistence and professionalism in all she does behind the scenes to secure multi-location national tours for Queensland artists.

 

 

EMERGING FEMALE ARTS LEADER AWARD: WINNER

Emily Wells

Emily Wells is an impressive young woman who is stepping into a leadership space as a First Nations producer across disciplines.  Already contributing significantly to the sector and demonstrating  curiosity and enthusiasm to continue to learn and expand her skills and networks, Emily is ready to embrace the mentoring opportunities offered by the Emerging Female Arts Leader Award.

SHORTLIST

Kate Malone

Laura Hansford

18
Feb
20

The Neighbourhood

 

The Neighbourhood

La Boite Theatre Company & Multicultural Australia

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

February 8 – 29 2020

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Exuberant and revelatory new work gives life to seven marginalised voices who share their experiences growing up in multicultural Australia as either First Nation individuals, first generation migrants, or refugees.

 

Simplistic and minimal in staging, this is however an irreducibly complex ensemble piece in which the sum of its parts is a sociocultural hybrid, a third space of enunciation in which significantly damaging racial tropes are challenged and dispensed with. With human dignity, its hope is to demand recognition, dismantle assumptions of white Australian suburbs and to forge ahead with powerfully transcendent themes of community, home and belonging.

 

Brilliant and hopeful, The Neighbourhood is an olive branch of unapologetic repatriation and optimism written and co-created by the actors themselves. With its finger on the pulse, it’s an upbeat series of overlapping monologues delving into the personal struggles of the players tied together with light movement and incidental live music played by two of its performers, Dr Matt Hsu and Cievash Arean.

 

After surviving parts of war-ravaged Syria, Amer Thabet, moved to Australia in 2019. While funny, bold and resilient, his sense of humour cannot always protect him from being silently destroyed by the memories of family and friends left behind there. With devastating precision, he narrates and enacts a survival story juxtaposed now against his pedestrian life as a newly settled Australian citizen.

 

From Uganda, Amisa Nandaula describes the causal discrimination she endures growing up in rural Rockhampton. As a school girl, she would rub honey in her eyes and exfoliate her skin to lighten its blackness. She heartbreakingly shares a story of how her best friend in a misguided compliment tells her that if she were white she would be beautiful. Amisa talks proudly of her mother’s inspiration of leaving their home in Uganda to start her own business and raise the family in another country.

 

 

Aurora Liddle-Christie is Jamaican and an Australian First National. In a mature austerity beyond her years, she reflects on growing up in the shadow of her father’s loving dysfunction, and of proudly being the loudest family on the street. She follows a literal ancestral path of elders to Alice Springs, exploring a spiritual family legacy, a deeper belonging to a community of First Australians inhabiting these now stolen lands of Australia.

 

Then there is Cievash who was imprisoned in Iran for political insurrection. He later fled to Australia 31 years ago as a refugee. He recounts a story of a doomed man he tried to help hide from authorities, the man’s execution, and the sense he now tries to make of his life in the aftermath of his exile. He is a musician and with his many instruments, the horrors of his torture and the homesickness for his homeland find a new language within the phrasing of his playing.

 

Dr Matt Hsu is also a musician and he reflects on the racial hypocrisies within his own community, the subtle racisms of growing up in the west, the frustrating career expectations of his family and realised dreams of pursuing music and art. He is talented and entertains us with the accordion, the double bass, the clarinet and a percussive ethnic drum.

 

 

Naavi Karan is transgender and non-binary from India. Now living in Brisbane, Naavi opines on the deep faith and tradition of family and oppressive schoolyard bullying. Bejewelled and adorned in traditional golden headdresses and colourful dresses, Naavi dances, and transforms truth and poetry, exploring a beautiful and diverse performative non-conformity.

 

Born during the Iran-Iraq war, Nima Doostkhah grew up witnessing the bombing of his city Esfahan. He is tortured by the memory of being lost as a young child at a mass funeral ceremony and being grasped and held by wailing women, their cries still disturbing to him years later as a young man.

 

And while he grew up watching Rage, listening to hip hop whilst sitting on the back steps composing rhymes, he tries to embrace modernity, and hopes to cloak his ‘otherness’ within its inconspicuous shroud, that carefree nonchalance of his fashionably sensitive generation. Desperate to forge an individual identity, he also just wants what everyone else wants; to be cool and to fit in.

 

 

Spontaneous and innovative, The Neighbourhood has a deliberate an arresting sense of naïve charm. It’s hopeful and while preachy and developing, it feels like the culmination of a highly workshopped experiment which has come together as a well-balanced and authentic mouthpiece for the silent voices in our community.

 

You can see the potential for the work to evolve and strengthen over time. It is a flexible platform to expound a growing movement of social justice, refugeeism and islamophobia all writhing together in the mess of an inevitably globalising newtopia. The Neighbourhood, decries so diligently the pressure on migrants to assimilate, and how the plurality of different ways of life should be encouraged and celebrated. 

 

Co-Created by Todd MacDonald, Aleea Monsour, and Ari Palani with Lighting Design by Ben HughesSound Design Brady Watkins and Set & Costume by Adam Gardnir.

18
Feb
20

KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities

 

KURIOS

Le Cabinet des Curiosites

Cirque du Soleil

Grand Chapiteau, Northshore, Hamilton

January 10 – February 23 2020

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

The roar of joy that set the worlds in motion

Is reverberating in your body

And the space between all bodies…

 

The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche, PHD

 

 

 

Behind every challenge, there are always beautiful risks.

Chantal Tremblay, KURIOS Creative Director

 

ONLY 10 Brisbane shows left!

 

Circus has always been about coming together in awe and wonder, laughing and gasping, shouting and applauding, recognising and celebrating, and expressing the collective roar of joy beneath the Big Top, marvelling at the breathtaking, beautiful business on stage of taking human potential to its limits. No one can create this space, in which time stops still for more than 90 minutes, quite like Cirque du Soleil can. 

 

If you’ve been following @xsentertainment on socials, you will have noticed that my worlds have been less about live theatre lately and more about our inner theatre, however; as these worlds so beautifully and naturally converge, it should come as no surprise that any further study/work/play with actors and non-actors, all looks and sounds a little a LOT similar. In fact, I’ve just about given up trying to tell people what I “do” and have started telling people who ask, that if they think it would be of some use to them, I’ll happily “be” right by them when they need. This is a new brand of life force coaching and creative facilitation. You don’t have to be a performer to get it, or to get the benefits from it – you just have to be human. 

 

As an instinctive meditation coach and change maker, I see all my worlds and possible futures coming together; making sense of working in theatres, private studios, and school settings for so long, travelling, and writing and responding to live theatre and lived experience; it all begins to make more sense than ever, as it becomes crystal clear to me that we all need the same – but different – very personal support. 

 

 

KURIOS: Cabinet de Curisotes dabbles less in the darker aspects and revels much more in our playfulness and childlike curiousity of life, making it the perfect entertainment and escape for all ages.

 

In an alternate yet familiar past, in a place where wonders abound for those who trust their imagination, a Seeker discovers that in order to glimpse the marvels that lie just below the surface, we must first learn to close our eyes . . .

We are in a future past – a Thomas-Edison-meets-Jules-Verne retro-future. We are now or never.

Close your eyes and open your heart. Now look again and behold the wonder. Seize it!

 

 

Cirque virgins and long-time lovers alike will enjoy KURIOS: the Cabinet of Curiosities, written and directed by Michael Laprise. We delight in its steampunk inspired style, and some slightly different acts, though during the Brisbane Premiere, those that are a little less physically daring – the yo-yo and the invisible circus – appear to be the most under-appreciated. The skill required to perform such a short, fast paced, double yo-yo piece is undeniable, however; this act perhaps falls short of some expectations.

 

Looking a little like my favourite Woodfordian postie, Astrid (AKA Zen Zen Zo’s Gina Limpus, recognised this week as the Bille Brown Best Emerging Artist in Brisbane at the Matilda Awards), our Aerial Bicycle artist is suspended mid-air, performing a number of amazing and amusing upside-down tricks.

 

 

The quickest, slickest contortionists ever, appearing as splendidly coloured electric eels, twist and turn themselves into incredible balances and pyramids on top of a fully mechanised hand, crawling downstage like a giant crustacean emerging from the rock pools at low tide. This is a masterclass for physical performers, in timing, precision, specificity and dynamic stillness.

 

A Russian Cradle Duo appears from their music box to perform a thrilling aerial act 4 metres above us. The Strongman flings a porcelain-faced ballerina into the air, allowing her to achieve somersaults of increasing complexity in the space above him. He is stoked each time they succeed; it’s gorgeous to see and hear his roar of joy intermingle with the appreciative sounds from the audience.

 

Rola Bola features a suave Lazytown style aviator, balancing on a teetering structure of cylinders and planks, which he constructs inside a trapeze Washington, the ultimate balance test as it swings like a pendulum; incredible.

 

The largest acro net in the world becomes the setting for my favourite act and the highlight of the show; featuring Australian acrobats, Fletcher Donohue and Nathan Dennis; it becomes home to an incredible ensemble of wriggling sea creatures, childlike, cheeky, a little bit crazy! These flying fish leap higher than we imagine might be possible, but isn’t that the point? Not only does this act celebrate its unique and quirky characters, it relishes its daredevil nature and a terrific sense of humour, before making way for the more serious and serene Continent of Doubles. Their aerial straps and extraordinary strength and grace allow them to soar through the air as if they were on broomsticks in a Quidditch field, pure magic. The program notes suggest that this act is an ode to individuality, emancipation and cooperation.

 

One of the world’s 10 smallest people, Australia’s Rima Hadchiti, stands at 3.3 feet tall and as Mini Lili, represents the intuitive mind of Mr Microcosmos, the embodiment of technological progress. She lives in a tiny Victorian world and adds elegance, refinement and subtle humour to the show. 

 

Building on the notions of brotherhood and the Catalan tradition of castells (castles), the Banquine acrobats are perfectly synchronised, and the epitome of strength, poise, perfect focus, connection and teamwork.

 

I adore Sophie Guay, Canadian chanteuse/street singer, reminding us how insignificant words can be when the voice itself will do (her scat is fantastic), and a lively, vibrant band featuring French cellist, Guillaume Bongiraud and Australian drummer, Paul Butler. This might be my new favourite upbeat soundtrack.

 

KURIOS is the joyous recognition – in the same vein as The Greatest Showman or Baz Luhrman’s brilliant can can sequence in Moulin Rouge – of the magic and beauty of all our unique differences, our crazy similarities, and our basic daily requirement for awe, wonder, connection and celebration.

 

 

Cirque du Soleil, the circus of the sun, continues to raise the bar; there is no show on earth quite like the world created each time, for all people, everywhere. How can we even expect the best to be bettered? Somehow, there continues to be something for everyone; the medicine to treat every ailment. And there’s never been a better (darker, more challenging, more taxing) time to bring some extra light and utter delight into our world. Whether it’s your first or tenth time under the Big Top – and the new grey and white one is a beauty – there is so much on offer here. Miss it and miss another opportunity, presented by artists on a silver platter, to savour the pleasure you remember from another time and place. The theatre – music, circus, dance, magic – is still the easiest way to find it!

 

Splurge and experience the full VIP package or book a Backstage Tour, and a Meet and Greet!

 

Love is inside you

Life is beautiful

Life is more powerful than fear

We are with you

We are with you

We are with you

Courage

Everything is possible

 

 

06
Jan
20

Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities opens this week!

CIRQUE DE SOLEIL – KURIOOS – CABINET OF CURIOSITIES.

The brand new white-and-grey Cirque du Soleil Big Top was raised on the weekend, marking the arrival of KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities in Brisbane from January 10 – February 23.

 

  • This is the first time the all new grey-and-white big top has been to Australia.

  • The Big Top stands about 20 metres (56 feet) high and is 51 metres (164 feet) in diameter.

  • Over 60 technicians raise more than 100 metal poles in the final step of building the roof of the “grand chapiteau”.

  • It is supported by 4 steel masts that each stand at 24 metres (79 feet) high.

  • More than 550 pegs are required to anchor the Big Top.

  • The Big Top can accommodate more than 2,400 people.

  • The entire site set-up includes installation of the entrance, hospitality and rehearsal tents, administrative offices, workshops, and kitchen.

  • KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities travels city to city with more than 85 containers carrying the entire village.

 

Written and directed by Michel Laprise, KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a tale in which time comes to a complete stop, transporting the audience inside a fantasy world where everything is possible.  In this realm set in the latter half of the nineteenth century, reality is quite relative indeed as our perception of it is utterly transformed.

 

 

 

KURIOS is Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production since 1984.  The newest big top production to tour Australia arrives with a cast of 47 artists from 17 countries including world-class gymnasts, acrobats, contortionists, hand-puppeteers, yo-yo wizards, clowns, actors and musicians.

 

 

BOOK HERE

 

 

 

19
Nov
19

Matrix

 

Matrix

Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Beijing Dance/LDTX

QPAC Playhouse

November 13 – 16 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

 

Through the power of cultural exchange and flow of creative understanding, we demonstrate how artistic relationships foster appreciation of diversity and empathy across borders, making our world a better place.

Amy Hollingsworth, Artistic Director, EDC

 

Matrix is the latest development in Expressions Dance Company’s (EDC’s) five-year Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project, begun in 2015 under the leadership of former Artistic Director Natalie Weir, and carried forward under current Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth.

 

In this project, EDC has been working with companies led by Willy Tsao, currently Artistic Director of Beijing Dance/LDTX. The Matrix double bill is the second collaboration between EDC and Beijing Dance/LDTX, the first being in 2011 with the work First Ritual.

 

 

The 20 dancers of the combined companies (6 from EDC and 14 from Beijing Dance/LDTX) have worked with choreographers Stephanie Lake from Australia, and Ma Bo from China to create two very different pieces: Auto Cannibal and Encircling Voyage. The Brisbane season follows a five-week development period in China, and performances in Cairns and Queanbeyan.

 

While the two works are different, there are some basic similarities. They both use the dancers to great effect in coalescing and fragmenting groups, often with the whole 20 dancers on stage. When the whole group moves with everyone very close together, the impression is of different parts coming together to form one whole — like a flock of birds, or a herd of animals, or some colonial organism.

 

With a run time of 25 minutes, Lake’s Auto Cannibal is just over half the length of Ma’s 45-minute Encircling Voyage. While there are pauses, and places where the action freezes, the overall impression is of relentless, synchronised action, driven by the strong rhythms and the snapping, pounding, croaking, and breathing sounds of Robin Fox’s electronic music, composed for this work.

 

In contrast, Ma’s work is overall more contemplative, although there are moments of frenzy and intense action. The music, by composer and cellist David Darling, is darkly melodic, and has an epic or heroic quality. The rich sonority of cellos and other string instruments combines with many other sounds (bells, gongs, babies crying, singing) (sound effects by Mao Liang).

 

The look of the two pieces is also contrasting. In Auto Cannibal the dancers wear sporty white singlets and black shorts (costume design by Xing Yameng), and overall the lighting is warmer and brighter, while in Encircling Voyage they wear dappled-grey coat-dresses (costume design by Wang Yan) and the lighting is generally softer and bluer.

 

 

In Encircling Voyage, polished steel benches are used by the dancers as benches, mirrors, and, end-to-end, as a bridge or walkway, while in Auto Cannibal, the stage is bare.

 

In her program notes, Lake explains that she is ‘sometimes afraid I’m repeating myself or cannibalising my own work’ — hence the title Auto Cannibal — but that in this work she celebrates the reusing and reinvigorating of choreographic ideas.

 

The precision and timing in this work, with 20 people pounding out movement absolutely on the beat of the varying rhythms in the music, are euphoric. Sometimes all the dancers are doing exactly the same thing on the beat, at other times different groups are responding at the same time to different rhythms.

 

The movement ranges from swaying hips, rotating shoulders, pulsing the upper body, nodding, waving the arms and wiggling fingers, to making tiny fast tramping steps, lunging, jumping up and down many times, and running. Having a large group making intricate movements very close together multiplies the movement effect, as do the punctuating freezes and pauses, which are also absolutely synchronised with particular rhythms and sounds in the music.

 

 

Following Auto Cannibal (and an interval) on the program, Encircling Voyage is a very different experience. In this work, Ma celebrates the journey from birth to death. She has been quoted as saying that she was inspired by a documentary about migrating birds and their journeys, and also by witnessing the ageing of her parents.

 

Images of ageing — shuffling walks, bent upper bodies, shaking — are interspersed with different impressions of journeying — people trying to head in opposite directions; a group lifting and carrying someone along; people walking along a bridge with tiny quick steps; someone frantically swimming; a large group marching slowly, bending backwards and looking up. The synchronised intricate movement of a large group has a mesmerising effect.

 

In extended lifts and movements such as twirling and falling to the ground, the dancers have a lovely fluidity and pliancy, with exceptionally flexible backs.

 

Near the beginning and end of the work, a small figure walks slowly across the stage holding a book, and we hear a soft voice speaking in Chinese (perhaps reading out the words about an encircling voyage printed in Chinese and English in the program?). The dramatic end represents the death of one of the group, visually accentuated by clouds of symbolic white dust.

 

This is a meditative and moving work, providing a balance to the hyper-energetic Auto Cannibal, and sometimes seeming a little slow after that.

 

In both works, the passion, commitment and precision of the dancers is awe-inspiring. The exhilaration of Auto Cannibal and the contrasting control, flow and expressiveness of Encircling Voyage make Matrix an intense and absorbing experience for the audience. 

 

The collaboration between the artists from the two different companies and two different countries has generated great energy and creativity. What will the Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project bring us in 2020? That’s something to look forward to.

07
Nov
19

Jane Eyre

 

Jane Eyre

QPAC and shake & stir

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

October 18 – November 9 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

No one does a slow-burn gothic treatment better than shake & stir, and there was never going to be a better time of year to schedule this one than during the sassy, scary Scorpio season. Let’s face it: Rochester is as Scorpio as Scorpio gets.

 

shake & stir’s Jane Eyre, like its titular character portrayed by Nelle Lee, is fiery and full of promise, but it’s not Polly Teale’s take and it’s not my favourite. Adapted by Lee and Nick Skubij, it’s quite simply overly long, however; if you leave before Interval, you’ll miss the best half of the show, so don’t!

 

Have we even seen a Jane Eyre since QUT’s student production in 2010 at Gardens Theatre? (And is it true that Gardens Theatre is the next live theatre venue to go?).

 

The tech elements here are absolutely next level, a bleak mood from the outset, helped by smokey blue hues and the darkest shadows, cast across multiple levels of a scaffolded set, thanks to Brisbane’s most awarded and appreciated creative triumvirate, Josh McIntosh (Designer, having designed a completely different production for HR in 2008 – wish I’d seen Edward Foy’s Rochester), Jason Glenwright (Lighting Designer) and Guy Webster (Additional Music and Sound). If you can’t imagine how incredible the result of a collaboration between these guys can be, see it for yourself before Jane Eyre closes this weekend, or during the return to QPAC later this month of A Christmas Carol).

 

shake & stir’s productions are truly world class.

 

The Superjesus and Green Day’s American Idiot star, Sarah McLeod, takes artistic stakes even higher, and it’s a gamble that pays off, with a haunting, stirring soundtrack of original music commissioned for this production. In her compositions and rasping, grasping vocals, lies the deeper realisation of both Bertha, the mad wife of Rochester (McLeod), and Jane. And without feeling the need to return to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea I get a sense that it’s this version, or essence, of Bertha we see here, beneath McLeod’s sculpted arms and ink, and fierce, frightened eyes in this challenging role. (McLeod’s Bertha is probably as Polly Teale as we can expect to get for audiences that include Year 9 – 12 students). In a future role, it will be interesting to see if there is a need to reign in McLeod’s extraordinary energy and natural presence on stage. Let’s hope not; it can be better managed than that!

 

The duality of the female characters is further examined in the treatment of little Adele, Rochester’s ward, represented here by the actor’s posturing and impossibly wide eyes, a Sia-sized ribbon in the hair, and the jaunty movements, as marionette, Adele’s invisible strings pulled by the adults, who regard her with vague interest, or none at all, rather than with Jane’s attitude of love and acceptance, until the little dolly demands more and drops the coquettish act – literally; this is a very funny fuck-you moment – as individuation finally kicks in, and she is seen to stomp – not skip or twirl – to assert her place in the household, in the world. I would like to have seen a more deliberate prelude to this, in Jane’s very early behaviour, which of course would have had little to no effect in the context of the Reed’s oppressive home; perhaps this would be too subtle after all, to foreshadow the widening distinctions between class and wealth and society and privilege and pride, or perhaps we just had to see her as someone different. 

 

 

We have to remember that Charlotte Brontë published under the male non de plume, Currer Bell, in 1847 – a time when class structure began to be challenged and the romantic notion of the gentle ‘feminine’ was supposedly being left for dead, and a stronger ‘feminist’ approach was taking hold, although not everywhere; even the women of the day were shocked and dismayed by the boldness of Brontë’s Jane Eyre. A female critic famously referred to the story as a “very naughty” one.

 

A production picture of McLeod and Lee, facing off only inches away from each other, contains all the intensity and harnessed energy expected on opening night. The adaptation is still too dense to make this version a truly captivating one, and this production lacks the necessary pace to keep us on the edge of our seats. At least it’s not set in space. There is something lacking in the bullying scenes, which are rushed and light-handed, and then we spend an overly long time in the red room, and away at Lowood School. An extended choreographic sequence here, of ritual and repetition, ticks a box but fails to enhance or advance the story; it’s such a short moment actually, and you might enjoy it as a prelude to the very interesting symbolism later of little Adele, but these are the things that are slightly clunky after seeing other, flawless moments work magnificently in shake & stir’s previous productions.

 

Nelle Lee’s Jane Eyre is quietly brash and bold, with appropriate agency, giving us a sense that actually, Nelle Lee is quietly this brash and bold.

 

Anthony Standish is the bully, John Reed, the principal, Mr Brocklhurst, the missionary, St John and the gentlest, gruffest Rochester ever, and despite the distinct lack of scintillating, simmering sexual energy between he and Lee (let me know if you sit closer and feel heat from anything other than the house fire), at least we get the gorgeous playful moments, such lovely moments for actors and audience, and those looooooong looks that should have felt more…thrilling. Perhaps each piece really is just so precisely measured for schools now, so careful not to titillate or offend. Or does it still, in the moment, on the night, come down to casting, timing and bold, impulsive choices? With Intimacy Coordination/Choreography/Direction and wellness at the centre of our actor training and the entertainment industry, and in the meantime, complaints directed to school administrations at the mere mention of a gothic element, or a stiletto strutting teen in a scene for assessment or assembly, this is a very interesting conversation. To be continued…

 

 

Helen Howard is one of our most accomplished actors and directors (and with a bit of Irish luck, COCK will start something in terms of regular directing engagements for Howard). As Aunt Reed, as well as various school teachers, each with their own stance, posture, gesture, accent, and social mask/set of facial expressions, and as Mrs Fairfax and Blanch Ingram, Howard reasserts her superior authority and versatility on stage, and her place in the hearts of Brisbane audiences. 

 

Did you remember that both Helen Howard and Michael Futcher are Matilda Award Hall of Fame(ers)? No. So. There’s your reminder and a little timely nod to Rosemary, whom we miss. so. much.

 

Director, Michael Futcher, has a sharp eye; his astute and super sensitive direction of just four performers in this magnificent contemporary starkly gothic space, contained beautifully by the Cremorne, brings some splendid literary moments to life, and heightens some of the subtleties of the original text, including a stunning image of the women, Bertha above and Jane Eyre below. But by resisting taking a red pen to this adaptation, in its inaugural season this Jane Eyre is not yet the absolutely extraordinary example of live theatre it promises to be. When this production grows up and goes beyond even its own wildest imagination, watch out!

 

What a joy it is to always be able to recommend a company for each new theatrical work offered (even when it’s not my favourite!), based upon the extraordinary body of work, and on the clever and creative team’s ongoing commitment to making live productions continue to work for as broad an audience as possible.    

 

25
Oct
19

Explain Normal

 

Explain Normal

Daniele Constance, AHA Ensemble & Phluxus2 Dance Collective

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

October 17–26 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

What I think we’ve learned in the making of this work is that there’s a whole spectrum of perceived ‘normal’ and normal behaviour. This show is about celebrating the parts of normalcy that we find difficult to reconcile with as well as celebrating our own ‘normalcy’. In this show, we get to decide.

 

Daniele Constance, Director

 

Explain Normal focuses on celebrating people’s abilities and on seeing both their superficial appearance and their fundamental inner qualities. It is moving, but not sentimental, often funny, and surprising in what the characters choose to tell us about themselves or about some aspect of life.

 

This is a collaboration between Phluxus2 Dance Collective and Aha Ensemble, a physical theatre group established in 2015 to support the development of artists living with disability and impairment. The ensemble, and this show, are directed by Daniele Constance.

 

 

Explain Normal is a physical theatre work combining spoken word, movement and contemporary dance, enhanced by some clever electronic technology, and inventive sound and visual design. (Sound and AV design is by Joseph Burgess, photography and videography by Jorge Serra, and lighting by Keith Clark.)

 

In between movement sequences, performers take turns at the microphone, each talking about something very different and unexpected, from ‘normal ways to die’, to lost socks, a one-night stand, and the end of a friendship.

 

The set consists of a moveable framework and platform, screened by clear plastic-strip curtains (like a giant shower cubicle), and a screen backdrop for projection of still and moving images. The nine performers, seven from Aha Ensemble and two from Phluxus2, are dressed simply in everyday clothes — T-shirts, pants, jumpsuits and sneakers. They appear in various combinations as blurred figures inside the cubicle, and moving outside to the floor of the performance space. The contrast underlines the difference between the way we see others without appreciating who they are, and the way we ‘see’ people more clearly as people.

 

 

The creative team (including Constance (Director), Nerida Matthaei (Choreographer), Ruby Donohoe (Assistant Director), Min Collie-Holmes (Dramaturg), and the performers) have created a polished, yet still raw-edged show. The structure and pace I’m sure owe a lot to the input of Dramaturg Min Collie-Holmes: the spoken pieces are mostly very punchy, and the combination of movement and speech, and the flow between them, work well. The recurring theme of superficial impressions contrasting with what’s underneath provides a robust infrastructure, and its strong exposition at the start and end of the show provides a satisfying and energising resolution.

 

 

The show begins with performers seen blurrily through the plastic curtains. Photos of people are projected onto the large screen, and different voices describe them in detail, starting with the words ‘I see …’ and moving from the obvious superficial characteristics (e.g. ‘pink shirt’, ‘blue eyes’) to other, deeper impressions and qualities (e.g. what the person might be feeling). The accompanying sounds are harp-like ripplings.

 

Three performers in turn stand in front of the screen and with their hands trace around the images. As they do so, thick coloured lines are drawn around the images: pink, yellow, pale blue and bright magenta. The characters stand in front of different images, as if trying to fit themselves into the outlines, while other outlines continue to be drawn. The larger the outlines get, the less detail they include.

 

We then hear a rustling noise, and a large figure, in an orange blow-up suit covering every part of the body, strides down the stairs through the audience onto the performance floor. The outline of this grotesque figure is like the rough outlines around the projected images, but we know that there must be a different, more sharply defined person (Nadia Milford) underneath. In an effective movement sequence, the figure dances with a tall young man (Charles Ball), who grapples with it, and hurls it around, giving the impression of trying to get at what’s underneath.

 

In two dream-like sequences, a performer wears a lovely ‘halo’ made of strings of tiny white lights wound into a net-like cap, at first appearing behind the plastic curtains in dim ambient lighting, then coming out to mirror another’s slow waving movements before retreating. Later, Tara Heard is crowned with these lights, appearing as the embodiment of a touching monologue, spoken by another performer.

 

Megan Louise West has a powerful, yet gentle, presence in her initial appearances interacting with the projected photographs, and in her monologue about an intense friendship. Another memorable moment is a solo by Mitchell Runcie, with its raw, jerky movement matched by Joseph Burgess playing strident electric violin.

 

There are some ensemble dance scenes, one featuring two women (Rebecca Dostal and Allycia Staples) who lift others and whirl them around with great ease. A frenetic scene to pounding electronic music has all the performers dancing wildly as if in a club, led by an amazingly energetic Ruby Donohoe. Leading into this, Donohoe has taken the microphone and verbally described a series of images projected at a blistering pace, becoming more frenzied as she goes.

 

Finally, all nine cast members walk up the stairs between the audience and sit on the steps. They pass the microphone around and, each starting with ‘I see …’, make some short observations about the audience (if you are nervous about audience participation, don’t worry – this was a very inclusive experience!). If an audience member shows that they are willing, they might have their own chance to say what they see. None of us put ourselves forward on the night I was there, though.

 

A final, incisive remark rounded off this thoughtful and entertaining work: ‘I see people looking, but what is it that we don’t see?’