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.

03
Aug
16

Straight White Men

 

Straight White Men

La Boite & State Theatre Company

The Roundhouse

July 27 – August 13 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Because to acknowledge that privilege exists is to acknowledge that we live in an unkind, unfair and oppressive world.

Director, Nescha Jelk

Straight White Men is a powerfully political play without being overtly so. But only if we want it to be. We can walk away considering its content or simply be amused by its characters. The arguments that come towards the end of it are the result of the characters’ musings throughout, not as an attempt by the playwright to punch us in the gut but as a slow burn to destroy us through self-doubt; Young Jean Lee is all about “destroying” her audience. After laughing at the comments and silly antics of three young men who return to their widowed father’s home for Christmas, we’re eventually left to squirm in our own discomfort. The feeling at the end of this piece is the feeling of having said something appalling rather than having stayed within the bounds of polite, politically correct conversation, followed by awkward silence and blank stares. Having uttered aloud many appalling things in my life I recognise the feeling immediately. It’s a guerrilla tactic, gently, subversively forcing the issues in our faces. Which is where they’ve always been, only we’ve turned a blind eye, haven’t we?

The boys behave badly, but not really. Their preconceptions are our preconceptions. Their notions about privilege are our notions about privilege. Their behaviour is so typical, so ordinary; they’re so well read and worldly and witty and they’re just joking – we totally get it – they’re products of their environment and perhaps that’s the problem we too continue to perpetuate. We recognise them (too) easily. We know them. We are them. Everything is assumed, and reinforced by the previous generation, reminding us endlessly, we don’t know how lucky we are. After growing up with far more than they need, graduating from college and navigating relationships and careers of varying degrees of success, Jake (a strong, insightful performance from Chris Pitman), Drew (Lucas Stibbard) and Matt (Hugh Parker) don’t know what it is to do without. And one of them feels bad about that. After years of simply trying to be “useful” Matt suddenly cracks up and breaks down over a Chinese takeout Christmas Dinner around the coffee table, and his family doesn’t understand why. His father, Ed (Roger Newcombe), has long wondered why his eldest child hasn’t put his gifts to good use as his brothers have done. The premise is fine and the context is perfectly acceptable, but has this production missed the mark? Has the playwright written something so blandly American we’re able to walk away from it unaffected? I don’t think so. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s presented nicely, wickedly glaring us in the face and daring us to consider our own cultural privilege.

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I love the way, once the actors have stopped being so earnest and simply settle into the story (typical opening night pitched performances – everybody, chill! We like you, you know), these characters communicate naturalistically, from a place of innocence and genuine antagonism, which we realise comes from the deeply ingrained habits we learn in close living quarters, not to mention the level of intimacy/apathy we invariably develop after years spent dancing together in front of the fireplace in daggy pyjamas. The big questions are asked and no answers are provided here unless we choose to see them for ourselves, veiled as they are behind the boys’ attitudes and behaviour, which becomes progressively childish; unsurprisingly, the brothers quickly revert to their childhood roles. This leads to some interesting oneupmanship and great physical comedy, nicely managed by Director Nescha Jelk, each time somebody presses somebody for answers, or somebody wants to sit in somebody’s chair. We can relate because we’ve all suffered from – or manipulated – the cruel games and power play at alcohol fuelled family reunions. And we all have our favourite chair. The pent up emotions stemming from dissatisfaction with the culture of privilege begin to surface. Designer, Victoria Lamb, invites us into a comfortable middle class home, with an interior of middle class (ie neutral) colours, soft furnishings (ie effortlessly coordinated), and plush carpet. Ben Hughes’ lighting is white with a neat golden glow and it stays politely understated. Privileged. Perfect.

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Young Jean Lee says this work is designed to make us notice our own responses and think about our relationships to our own privilege. Jelk echoes the sentiments of the text. She says feeling guilty about her privilege “isn’t useful – it doesn’t help anyone or do anything.”

Straight White Men has people talking, and appropriately, for the privileged opening night crowd, conversations buzzed over free drinks after the show. In between high praise for the playwright, the performances, the design elements, etc. I heard it’s not clever enough, not subversive enough, not specific enough… Um. Were you not listening closely enough? It’s not my favourite either, but maybe I’ve missed what it is that’s been perceived by some as being so unsuccessful about this show. I love the way we have a heap of stuff we so often avoid discussing thrown in our face without it being discussed. Are we so privileged, having seen so much, that now nothing is good enough?!

If we’re white and privileged, we don’t need to think about being white and privileged, right?

The beauty – and challenge – of this text is that it speaks to the themes of privilege, desire, identity, equality and empathy largely without actually speaking about them.

What we really care about, what we really value, is not being a loser.

Young Jean Lee

The text includes an interesting introduction and subsequent interludes during the scene changes. The device falls flat here, although there is general laughter and congenial nodding of heads in acknowledgment of the dead white male three-act structure being manipulated by a non-white woman, presumably “provocatively” dressed, the stagehand-in-charge, who addresses the audience in her own “voice”. In this case, it’s Merlynn Tong who gives us a beautiful Welcome to Country when the noise of the deliberately offensive pre-show hip hop stops (MD, composer and sound designer Busty Beatz). I think, wonderful; someone has contextualised this American play for Australian audiences. But then the male performers appear, speak in their American accents (Accent Coach Simon Stollery) and it feels like the opening is a token gesture. Why doesn’t that work?

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I can’t help wondering how previous stagehands-in-charge have been received. I don’t find anything particularly provocative about the way Tong is dressed, or the way she speaks to us, or the way she unpacks the meta theatrical before the story begins. No doubt there are others who better appreciate her part in the play. I’d like to see it again without her handing us the context on a silver privileged platter…but perhaps that’s the point. Or perhaps La Boite’s trailer does a more sophisticated job of framing the show than the show does… This is not to say that Tong doesn’t put in a fine performance, more that the writing can do without her introduction or subsequent interruptions. Sometimes it’s more effective to simply tell the story without attempting to break it down or make it…cute.

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It’s true. Straight White Men might almost be a really bland American piece, from which this Australian cast gets – almost – as much as they can. There’s something lacking within the final moments but again, is it the writing? (Jean Young Lee is a new favourite the world over, and an award winner so, you know…). The text redeems itself somewhat with its persistent, unapologetic approach to its social political themes, showing us throughout what a white man thinks makes a white man successful (or what an American-Korean woman thinks a white man thinks makes a white man successful!), and at the very least, this production succeeds in holding up a mirror. Whether or not we like what we see (or even bother to take a second look) is the most interesting result of this work. It’s entertaining and confronting and challenging in a way most live theatre doesn’t try to be (or isn’t quite bold enough to be). With its undercurrent of polite, privileged restraint, Straight White Men challenges us to think again about the invisible influences: what is it that amuses, inspires and endures? And why?

P.S. And just what do non-white, unprivileged people think about this play and their response to it? Will they ever even see it?

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Production pics by Kate Pardey

27
Jul
16

The Wider Earth

 

The Wider Earth

QTC & Dead Puppet Society

Bille Brown Studio

July 9 – August 7 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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The discoveries Darwin made while onboard the Beagle rewrote our understanding of the world.

David Morton

An epic journey, a quest of the soul; a question of creator or creation by nature… Darwin threw his theory of evolution into the mix of Christian faith and fear, and unveiled in 1859 in his book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s thinking changed the way we view and understand the world and its inhabitants.

The Wider Earth is a complete and thoroughly complex experience, drawing us into the detail, and the wonder and excitement of Darwin’s discoveries. We journey across the seas with twenty-two year old Darwin as he sets out to observe a whole new world and record his findings, only to leave his detailed notes behind him, in Tasmania, struck by crippling self-doubt, ready to abandon five years of work and his newly formed beliefs about the natural order of things, based on what he’d observed and knew to be true, despite the indoctrination of society at the time by the church. 

Last night I finally realised how I’d been feeling about QTC & Dead Puppet Society’s vivid imagining of The Wider Earth… wonderment. The curiosity and wonder of a child – before she is trained by the adults of her intriguing, impatient world to hurry up, and keep up and stop messing about in the garden – fascinated all over again by story and science presented in this unique way, and completely blown away by the design elements and the manipulation of the puppets, integral in this impressive world premiere.

In fact, this is the first production in a long time in which I’ve felt the entire audience completely immersed in the story from start to finish. A much younger audience than opening night enjoyed, the first Monday evening performance saw a couple of secondary school groups in the mix. And Poppy. This always changes the experience and I know some adults prefer not to hear the self-conscious laughter and the comments that teens whisper during a production but I love to see young people – all people – connecting and engaging with the arts. I love witnessing the moments of enlightenment, when the kids realise how all the elements combine in that mystical, magical, alchemical way of theatre and suddenly, they get it. In this case, an intriguing rom-com lens was cast over the show; I enjoyed hearing the giggles and squeals of delight from the girls, and the hearty applause before the final moments, testament to the entertainment value of this production, as well as its quality and substance (a trifecta rarely seen, if we’re honest). The Wider Earth is living, breathing theatre of the most intoxicating kind. We feel that it’s evolving even as we experience it. It’s the most exciting culmination of brilliant minds and skills, and real support networks in Brisbane in a long time. If only this was the result of every creative process: this feeling of immense pride, and true ownership and sheer joy, shared.

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We enter the Bille Brown Studio after catching up in the foyer with everybody else who’d missed The Wider Earth opening night (having committed to the opening night of We Will Rock You – n.b. the early invites, folks!), passing a timber ship-pretending-to-be-a-rock structure that reminds me of the outback texture, colour and shape of the central feature of The Rabbits. It’s necessarily more versatile, serving as an imposing mountain, a gentle slope, a row boat, a number of landscapes, interiors, stormy waves and the deck of the HMS Beagle. It revolves. It’s brilliant. There are few full revolves used to their full potential and this is one design (David Morton & Aaron Barton) that doesn’t disappoint. Above it is a panoramic screen, lashed and hung with ship’s rope. The images cast across it begin as if we’re inside the pages of Beatrix Potter’s journal and become the entire universe. More on this aspect later; Justin Harrison has outdone himself here, muscling in on a space previously occupied by the talented boys from optikal bloc and Markell Presents.

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Tom Conroy, whom we remember from MTC/La Boite’s Cock, fearlessly embraces the complexities of young Darwin; his vulnerability and fears, his sense of wonder and obsessive attention to detail, his self-loathing, and his ambition and determination to develop his ground-breaking, game-changing theory. This is fine casting and a stand-out performance from Conroy.

On board the Beagle with Darwin is the conflicted Captain Robert Fitzroy (Anthony Standish, in his most impressive role to date, balancing light and dark and various shades of grey to create a commanding presence without losing lightness and genuine human connections towards the end), Father Richard Matthews (David Lynch), John Wickham (Thomas Larkin) and Jemmy Button (Jonty Martin). They are joined by Lauren Jackson as Darwin’s fierce and ambitious, very patient sweetheart (and his eventual wife), Emma Wedgwood, and Margi Brown Ash as both Reverend John Henslow & John Herschel. We hear from the outset the rich tones of Robert Coleby as the voice of old Darwin, landing us in the present with minds open to the stories of the past, and we see the extraordinary prowess and emotional investment of Anna Straker, Puppet Captain and notably, adorably, Polly the beagle. It’s a stellar ensemble, worthy of a new award category nom…

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We’re transported across vast seas and exotic lands by a timeless original cinematic score by ARIA Award Winner (and Woodford Folk Festival’s Mystery Bus superstar), Lior and producer/songwriter Tony Buchen, with a sweeping sound design by Tony Brumpton and superb ambient lighting by David Walters. The combination of elements elevates this production not only to national tour but to world tour status, if only someone would invest in this piece of theatre at the same level as men’s sport in this country. (That would also equate to a film option for international distribution, just saying). Justin Harrison’s projection art (with sketches from the original photo-composites by Straker) is an astounding success, taking us from Great Britain to the ends of the earth and back again, and into the mind of Charles Darwin.

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I’d love to see inside David Morton’s mind (Writer, Director, Co-Designer and Puppet Designer). I think The Wider Earth is a glimpse at how it works, but no more than The Harbinger or Argus was…there’s obviously so much more to come. It’s quite extraordinary, really. It’s another extraordinary production. It will impress aficionados of old and new theatrical forms and also appeal to those who have never seen anything outside of the cinema or their own living room. The Wider Earth, in one form or another, is destined for a much wider audience. (This season was close to selling out before it opened). 

It’s not the sort of theatre we see often. We often see theatre that is touted, celebrated and promoted as something like this. But it’s nothing like it. This is an epic tale made so intimate that we feel every atom is a part of the storytelling. And why are we even surprised by its stunning success on stage?! Dead Puppet Society have raised the bar – have been raising the bar – in visual theatre since 2009; it’s largely due to the support of our two major theatre companies that we’ve seen the work come this far this quickly, however; the simple fact is that Morton and Dead Puppet Society Creative Producer, Nicholas Paine, see the world differently, and they see the business of putting on a show differently, and they’re able to present their ideas in a complex and highly technical, yet incredibly childlike way, unfolding immense notions and universal truths and heavy moral dilemmas before our eyes, capturing our hearts before we’ve realised we’ve changed and in reflection, remembered how vulnerable we are. This is the little company that could, and does, despite so many major challenges facing artists and producers in this country, which stop others in their tracks.

Meanwhile, only the strongest survive, and Dead Puppet Society continue to prove they are intrepid explorers of the world, forging their own path, reimagining the landscape, terraforming the theatre industry. 

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The Wider Earth is breathtakingly beautiful, an emotional, visceral theatrical experience. For artists within, and for audiences on the outside of a dynamic and diverse industry that is continuously changing and growing and stalling and starting again, and never quite stepping out of its own way, The Wider Earth is a truly inspiring theatrical event, serving as a gently powerful reminder that we really do exist only to evolve as much as we can before we expire, as artists, and as human beings who share this planet.

You will see nothing more magical this year. The Wider Earth – its vast and intimate beauty – will stay with you long after the lights go down.

 

Production pics by Dylan Evans. Portrait of Tom Conroy by Susan Hetherington. Compilation of projection art by Justin Harrison.

 

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22
Jul
16

Edges

 

EDGES: A Song Cycle

Understudy Productions

Metro Arts

July 20 – 23 2016

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

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Last night I entered (for the millionth time, I’m sure) the hallowed halls of the Metro Arts building in the city. I never get sick of the place. It was opening night of Understudy Productions’ debut show Edges: A Song Cycle. For those who are not familiar, Edges is a coming of age musical about a group of friends in their early twenties. They reflect on the people they were or pretended to be in high school, and the people they hope to become. It focuses on the tumultuous relationships, the importance of friendship and forgiveness, and the necessity of dreaming big. It also warns about the crazy ex and that closure is paramount.

Edges was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul in 2005. Apparently, while they studying musical theatre at the University of Michigan, they were dissatisfied with the roles they were being assigned so they decided to write their own show. They were only 19 at the time, and now the show has been performed around the world.

Understudy Productions is a brand new Brisbane-based company founded by Alexander Woodward who last year graduated from the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium of Music. With the help of his creative team, the company strives to create professional opportunities for local performers. Edges was the perfect choice to display the incredible vocal talent of the six cast members, including Woodward, giving each a decent amount of time in the spotlight. They played multiple characters which at first was jarring, though it was quickly established that each song was a snapshot into a person’s life, and then we moved on.

The production itself was minimalist; set at the beach. The friends were spending the day reminiscing while lounging on picnic rugs, eating strawberries and drinking craft beers. A small wooden boardwalk crossed the stage adorned with mood lights and surrounded by pale white sand. Behind this sat the band.

The musical itself is the right amount harrowing and hilarious. The audience enjoys the emotional rollercoaster without being overwhelmed or begging for there to be one central character to root for. I must mention my favourite performance from the Musical Director, Dominic Woodhead, who sang Along the Way. This young man is not only an incredibly talented musician, but his comedic timing was superb during this number. He was completely endearing and charmed the pants off the audience.

The transitions between songs were awkward space and needed more consideration as to what the performers were doing instead of just waiting for their cue to start singing. Those transitions are vital in maintaining that relationship between the performer and the audience. If there is awkward space, then the audience drops out of the world being created for them. And, of course, in large scale musicals there are many magical distractions like flying witches or hobbits disappearing. Edges has a raw and vulnerable quality.

This show is a whole lot of fun but it only runs until Saturday. Understudy Productions is a group of young creatives that are passionate about musical theatre. We need to support those who are brave enough to step out on their own and carve their own path. Support the arts, Brisbane, and most importantly, support the locals!

14
Jul
16

Rock of Ages

 

We Will Rock You

John Frost

In Association With Queen Theatrical Productions, Phil McIntyre Entertainment

& Tribeca Theatrical Productions

QPAC Lyric Theatre

July 10 – August 20 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Both on and back stage the Australian musical theatre community is quite simply second to none…

Ben Elton

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We Will Rock You isn’t just a title, it’s a promise.

The time is the future, in a place that was once called Earth. Globalisation is complete.

We Will Rock You has strong Australian roots. Some of the book was written in Fremantle and some of the enduring memories of the show for many in this country at least, are the characters created by Amanda Harrison (Oz) and Michael Falzon (Galileo) in the original Australian production. Prior to its first season here though, the show ran for 12 years in London and continues, somewhat inexplicably, to tour internationally. To the consternation of many critics, audiences love Ben Elton’s Queen musical!

The global obsession with this show can’t be attributed to its wafer thin book or its sparse set, which – for this tour at least – comprises Grease style bleachers, and a massive screen beneath a rock concert lighting rig. The lighting at least is impressive.

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The stars of this show are few but they are big, bold technicolor characters; larger than life and unforgettable. I love Erin Clare (Scaramouche) and Jaz Flowers (Oz) – we saw them both in Heathers – and MD David Skelton’s musicians: a 12-piece hard-core rock band that hangs out on the mezzanine and successfully bring Queen’s songs to life. Strangely, Don’t Stop Me Now is omitted…can anyone explain that?   

Jaz Flowers, with her powerhouse vocals and fierce energy effortlessly steals the show. When Flowers is on stage I can’t take my eyes off her. She is well matched in energy by Thern Reynolds, as the amusingly misnamed Britney Spears.

As the sassy Scaramouche Erin Clare shines. Is she not the most exciting next big thing?She’s gorgeous in this gutsy role and doesn’t shy away from the character’s rebellious nature; in fact, she relishes it. She even brings some sweetness and light to Somebody to Love and You’re My Best Friend (added to this reincarnation of the show) without losing the full extent of her vocal power or a tough chick exterior. Gareth Keegan appears to put a slightly gentler spin than expected on Galileo, The Dreamer, but it works well enough and together the pair creates some super cute romantic moments, whilst maintaining the sense of rebellion the show demands. It’s this real rockstar energy that drives the show and to their credit, it never feels as if the company is trying too hard.

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It’s a strong ensemble, young and cute; they’re our rising stars, but they don’t get much to work with here. They must wonder what-the-what they’re doing from time to time, surrounding Killer Queen (a killer thriller Casey Donovan) with Simply Irresistible attitudes and hot pink feather dusters in hand and who knows where else, but at least they’re committed.

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Brian Mannix has little to do in Act 1 but comes into his own after Interval with some of the show’s best one-liners. Perfectly cast, he has as much fun as we do. And that’s key to the success of this show. We Will Rock You is about disregarding everything manipulative and oppressive in our world, and finding the fun and irreverence in every moment. It’s a little reminder to keep our hold over technology, our independence from industry, religion and state, and hearts pumping with our favourite ancient smash hit rock song lyrics.

Featuring some of the best real rock music of all time, with its mass appeal spanning multiple generations, We Will Rock You is a bold, proud crowd pleaser.

 

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27
Jun
16

If _ Was _

 

If _ Was _

Judith Wright Centre & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

June 23–25 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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If Form Was Shifted is a virtuosic reflection of the thought process structured through group manipulation.

Ross McCormack

If Never Was Now is a surreal hive of buzzing activity reflecting the beauty and brutality of the natural world.

Stephanie Lake

Dancenorth’s Artistic Director Kyle Page set choreographers Stephanie Lake and Ross McCormack a challenge, the end result of which is the double bill If _ Was _.

The challenge was for each to create a work of the same set duration, to sound selected from the same composition (by Robin Fox), using lighting from one design (by Bosco Shaw), and costume design based on one pattern (by Andrew Treloar). During the creation process, neither knew anything about the other’s work.

While these conditions might appear restrictive and likely to produce similar results, the works create very different impressions, McCormack’s dark and more introspective, and Lake’s vivid and full of energy. That said, they do have in common a robotic, ‘popping’ style of movement at times, and in both, the dancers seem to represent non-human creatures living in different dimensions of our world.

For the titles and themes of their works, the choreographers filled in the blanks. McCormack created If Form Was Shifted, which reflects group manipulation of the thought process, and manipulation of the body. Lake created If Never Was Now, a piece about creatures changing in response to a frenetically changing world.

The choreographers chose different segments and combinations of the electronic sound composition. These range from continuous reverberating chords, buzzing noises, repetitive phrases and beating rhythms, overlaid at times by bell sounds or beeping noises.

Each set of costumes creates a very different effect. The trackpants, singlets and shorts for McCormack’s work are dark and unobtrusive; for Lake’s, the dancers all wear trackpants (red with a white stripe for the men, and deep salmon with a red stripe for the women), the men are bare-chested and the women wear flesh-coloured bras.

If Form Was Shifted is the first work on the program. It begins and ends with four of the five dancers standing around speakers on the floor towards the back of the space, and a lone dancer downstage left. This lone figure is a male dancer at the beginning, and a female dancer at the end, echoing the theme of transformation.

The combination of the lighting and the dark costumes emphasises the dancers’ arms and their muscularity, particularly in the first solo, where the man’s hands with splayed fingers are a focal point. In another section, dancers contort their faces into rubbery grimaces. In the final grouping, the lone female dancer moves like a long-legged bird.

The most striking moments of the work involve the whole group moving as one organism, or one shifting aggregate of organisms, with the boundaries between individuals vanishing. Occasionally one dancer rises to the top of a huddle and continues to move on the backs of the other dancers, or is extruded from the centre of a group and reincorporated. The impression is of a constant flux or process of transformation.

The second work, If Never Was Now, opens with two dancers in a circle of white on the floor. The circle has texture, and I wonder what it’s made of – rice? sand? The answer is small polystyrene beads.

The circle is soon broken up by the dancers, whose movements sweep and fan the beads into different patterns on the floor, and into fluid drifts and flurries, with mesmerising effect. They also press the beads onto their faces and bodies as decoration, resembling dots of paint.

Changes in the lighting add other dimensions to the beads, different angles making them look like a relief map on the floor, or showing up every bead, while ultraviolet light makes them glow. Finally, a column of the beads drifts down over the one dancer remaining on stage, and as she sits and then lies down, her movements make the whole column undulate like smoke.

The movement in this piece is generally fast, with turns and jumps, grappling, stamping and running, as well as floorwork. The dancers appear to be creatures fiercely intent on living to the utmost. As in the first piece, their movement is birdlike at times, and they move like a flock at one point. Two dancers mirror each other in one segment, shimmying and increasing their range and speed of movement.

The Dancenorth dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are strong and superfit. In both pieces, they show an incredible athleticism that really lets fly in Lake’s work.

Kyle Page must be pleased with the result of his ‘fill the blanks’ experiment. Both pieces transcend the limitations of the conditions he has imposed, appear to fulfil their choreographers’ intentions, and are absorbing and exhilarating to watch.

23
Jun
16

We Get It

We Get It 

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 15 – 25 2016

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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After a critically acclaimed season at MTC’s NEON Festival, Elbow Room brings We Get It to Brisbane Powerhouse. In this fierce and witty new work, five classic heroines (and the actors playing them) take to the stage in a battle to win it all and to answer the question: can we imagine a world without sexism?

 

The performance begins with the men in the audience literally centre stage. The lights come up, the screen is lit and a booming voice helps us to imagine this world where sexism no longer exists – where women are granted the same rights, pay and opportunities as men. Understandably, the men on stage begin to look uncomfortable. In these opening moments we glimpse the bigger picture of this important work; we may “get” sexism, but there is still a long way to go before achieving gender equality.

 

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From here we enter a glitzy glamorous game show complete with five contestants dancing ridiculously in hot pink lycra. It’s a familiar scene, but there’s something disturbing behind the laughter and the fun. As each of the five women are forced to order themselves according to their appearance, personal lives and categories that simply have nothing to do with the competition at hand, a system of institutionalized sexism (and racism) reveals itself.

 

The “message” of the work permeates through the actors’ video diary entries where they recount their experiences as women in an industry dominated by men. It is unclear whether these are the lived experiences of the actors, and in this way the line between the actor, the actor playing an actor, and the actor playing an actor playing a character (and it really does feel that convoluted) is blurred time and time again. In particular the line between reality and fiction is manipulated as the actors talk back to the host, argue their concerns and work to perfect their performance as one of the greatest heroines ever written. These powerful and magnetic moments bring to the fore the problematic portrayal of women through characters written by men hundreds of years ago. Progressively through the performance we see the actors fight back against the ridiculous expectations of the host and us, the audience.

 

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It is clear that there is plenty of ground for We Get It to cover, but at times scenes feel too long and blatant declaration of the issue at hand becomes too much to handle. Personally I found the work difficult to connect with – while I empathised with the actors / characters, I struggled to play my own role as the alienated audience member. I wanted more space to come to my own conclusions, rather than being told what it all meant and who was at fault. In addition, I found the work to be exclusive in its use of in-jokes and terminology that only an industry audience would fully appreciate. As a work dealing with an issue relevant and important to all, I believe the work could be more accessible to a general audience that do not work within the Brisbane theatre industry.

 

We Get It is a vital piece of political theatre that is uncomfortable, confronting and sharp. It digs deep into the reality of women in an industry that I am just beginning to enter, and it’s frightening to say the least.




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