28
Jun
18

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

 

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Out of the Box

QPAC Cascade Court

June 26 – July 4 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The Brisbane Guru Dudu team boasts four energetic and very brightly clad tour guides – Maja Hanna Liwszyc, Stefan Cooper-Fox, Daniel Cabrera and the original Guru Dudu, David Naylor – who take turns to take super fun silent disco walking tours.

 

The concept is not only an Out of the Box smash hit but also, a private-party-in-public-spaces phenomenon sweeping Australian and UK cities.

 

I think we all wish we’d thought of it.

 

We arrive on QPAC’s front steps to be greeted by staff in their black and red, and to greet festival volunteers in their orange. That distinction is deliberate, many of them being a bit shy, or else, not yet in character as Effervescent Festival Vollies. We are issued with a set of headphones each, and instructions to meet Guru Dudu and the green group at the top. Fortunately for punters on the first day, most of QPAC’s staff, being not quite as shy, and a number of them having survived several Out of the Box festivals since 1992, knew a good deal more about where things were and indeed, what things were, than many of the vollies. We’ll put misdirection and reticence down to opening day/night jitters. 

 

We could see our Guru Dudu (Stefan Cooper-Fox) and as soon as we had our earphones in place we could hear him, and that the party had already started! We joined the group and I made a strong offer of a classic disco move. Not being known for my enthusiasm when it comes to audience participation, I’m not sure if it was me or Poppy who was more surprised by this unusual willingness to be involved. Panic at the disco? Having to talk the talk in recent devising sessions? Actually, it’s harder not to join in; the music makes us want to move. This silent dancing/walking caper is hard to resist! It’s actual real-life living-in-the-moment stuff without the memes, instant heightened awareness, just-add-earphones increased confidence, without inhibiting levels of self-consciousness. It’s liberating and laughter inducing.

 

Of course, we’re not really aware of anything happening outside of the world created by Guru Dudu. We realise on some level that without earphones, onlookers don’t know what’s happening; all they know is what they see, which is a group of super confident disco dancers of all ages and abilities having super amounts of uninhibited, silent, silly fun. Going by the raised brows and wide smiles, it must be hilarious to witness. A mum shares her headset with a random woman, her bewildered expression transforming into one of recognition. She knows the song and she suddenly understands the set up. She offers a big smile and double thumbs up, passes back the headset and continues on her way with a new bounce in her step.

 

The song choices are good, with a few of them kitsch enough to be cool – it’s a kids’ festival after all, but the grown ups have to make it through the day with some humour too. The Mission Impossible theme is the first challenge, as we move like Super Spies across the walkway, heading towards the museum and art galleries. Bjork’s Quiet is performed conspiratorially, now that we’ve all bonded during our impossible mission, just as we might expect to see it at an early Wakakirri rehearsal (or an early evening karaoke effort), with parents getting down low to join Guru Dudu and kids, gesturing “SHHH” and singing along, although whether or not any of them are singing the same notes as Bjork is anyone’s guess.

 

Not as popular with the adults as with their children are the more literal song and dance tasks, including being dinosaurs to Katy Perry’s Roar, and dancing like monkeys to a track that was previously unknown to me: Disney Junior’s Big Block SingSong Two Banana Kind of Day. I don’t recommend it.

 

Everyone happily joins a conga line, and takes their turn At the Carwash, although Poppy thinks this one is odd and I remind her that everyone – even the kids of Rydell High – have their variation on a tribal initiation or celebration circle. We wind down with some actual circle dancing, as any sub-culture would, with parents pushing their offspring into the centre, confident that with so much live on-camera experience after this, their children are well and truly ready to be reality television stars. Walk Like An Egyptian garners massive support from tour participants and randoms, and we finish up with a fun free dance and enthusiastic high fives for Guru Dudu.

 

Despite the exquisite pressure of a tight turnaround before the next tour and a couple of unintentionally quiet moments that occur at the push of a wrong button (these are met with merry laughter), Guru Dudu has been relaxed and fun, keeping things moving at a safe, steady, contemporary, public-space-disco pace. It’s been real.

 

There is obviously safety in numbers and everyone feels comfortable to do their very best silly dance moves in a big group. Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour is so much fun. There’s no right or wrong; we’re free to be ourselves and have some uninhibited fun.

 

Guru Dudu is one of the most exciting inclusions in this year’s program, with a terrific payoff for participants and an awesome ongoing opportunity for artists. And the festival is always amazing – you can see its success in the smiles on small faces and the stats in the press – but I miss the amazing festival feeling of previous years, when school groups and families all settled in the sunshine, on the grass by the river, sharing the open outdoor space, a village, a common ground. Without that now, and everything happening instead within the QPAC building and cafe areas, it all feels very safe and neat and contained, a little like the development and support of the arts in this country generally. I mean, it’s hard to believe that there’s a festival on at all. I guess in good weather over the weekend, the Cultural Forecourt will come to life again. 

 

Perhaps Guru Dudu’s tour group will be allowed to venture out into the open then, since this immersive event goes some way to filling the community festival feeling void (The other great crowd event is Dance…Like No One is Watching, don’t miss it!). We’d noticed the first tour group of the day moving through that riverside space, and I can only imagine the reasons to move to a more contained concrete area upstairs (weather and workplace health and safety considerations/risk assessment factors, and comments from carers who would rather not admit that in fact, they’ve always felt a bit insecure in their attempts to wrangle small persons in open spaces). It probably looks easier on paper to take it all inside. But easier is not often better or…funner.

 

 

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said Out of the Box was a great opportunity for Queensland children to engage with amazing arts experiences, to sing, dance, move, play, paint, create and imagine. “With ongoing support from the Queensland Government for more than 25 years, Out of the Box has presented quality performance and cultural activity that celebrates and supports learning, play, and discovery for children,” Minister Enoch said.

“Since the first Out of the Box in 1992, the biennial event has engaged more than one million participants and 3721 artists. It has presented 1534 performances, 2335 workshops and 9461 activities.

“Out of the Box has presented 103 brand new works, some of which have gone on to tour nationally and internationally and creating work for Queensland artists,” Ms Enoch said.

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said the delivery of the biennial Festival and associated community engagement activities connects children with a variety of arts experiences and is a great example of how QPAC inspires our community to talk about broader issues in the world today.

 

 

 

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27
Jun
18

The Arrival

The Arrival

QPAC’s Out of the Box & Red Leap Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

June 26 – July 1 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

A man flees his homeland and journeys across vast seas to arrive in a strange, wondrous

new world where giant ships fly through the air and curious creatures abound. There he

negotiates dazzling architecture, bizarre foods and foreign tongues to build a new life. On his

travels the man meets fellow migrants, each with their own tale to tell.

 

 

There are no notes for a relaxed performance, though that’s what it is, with hundreds of kids spilling into the seats in the Playhouse on the first day of QPAC’s Out of the Box children’s festival, asking questions already, and right through the show. And this is the way theatre used to work, and needs to continue to work, allowing us to be involved and completely immersed and alive, feeling every moment. For a kid, more often than not, this means feeling out loud, speaking their mind in the moment, and not accepting being told, “Shhh…we’ll talk about it later”, although if you’ve been following for a few years you’ll know that that is precisely what I’ve told Poppy, now twelve, for years of attending theatre with adult audiences. (I care less now about the glares). I love the children’s chatter during the shows that are especially created for them. I also love when they are captivated and silent, and in this show there are those magical moments too, when a hush descends over the entire audience of under-eights. But not for long! It’s too interesting and exciting!

 

What’s happening? What is that? Where is he going? Why can’t they be with him? Is the tiny ship the ship he’s on? Why can’t they go on the ship too? Is this a true story? Not all of it is understood, but there is a basic family unit separated and eventually reunited, and in between there is survival, friendship, war, horror and a new home.

 

More questions. This time from Poppy, afterwards. Why can’t we see Air Play? Why can’t we see everything? Why did he have to leave his home? Why couldn’t his family go together, stay together? Did the beautiful origami bird letter reach them? Was it even a letter? Money? Was it his love being sent symbolically across the ocean? This last, not as clear as it might have been, unless of course you’ve recently read the book, which Poppy had not. If you’ve not looked at the book recently either, or never looked at it, watch this brilliant animation. I had shared it with ten-year-olds at one school before we wrote about our favourite images, and created leaving and arriving freeze frames. At another school I was asked not to use the book again, it was too much to discuss. “We don’t have time to talk about that.” 

 

Adapted by Kate Parker and Julie Nolan, and directed by Nolan, this outstanding production, like Shaun Tan’s award winning graphic novel, comprises a series of incredible images, created by bodies, and the muted colours and textures they wear and through which they weave. Set pieces slide, and fold in and out and onto themselves, offering a semblance of a pop-up storybook on stage, perfectly lit. Scenes and moods and emotions shift seamlessly in curious exploration of a whole new life and the wonderment of living it, and the challenge and contentment that comes with communicating and connecting with other living beings. 

 

 

To have The Arrival of the title, we must first have a departure. This is a poignant goodbye, preceded by the opening image of the three as one – a perfectly balanced family trinity, clutching each other in a lifted embrace before they separate, to be seen as three individuals, each with their own feelings and ways of working out the world. There is a long journey and a ship sails by, beyond the action, just as a suitcase ship is constructed downstage, in front, in the real-life world of the play. The kids get it. Perspective 101. Performers become migrants, and make a porthole of their arms, and we fully accept the style of the show now – I remind Poppy that she saw something like it for the first time in Wolfe Bowart’s beautiful works, including Letter’s End and La La Luna; his is some of my favourite visual/children’s theatre ever – combining live performance and physical theatre, puppetry, projections, silhouettes and shadows, an evocative soundscape and original music. Adults and kids alike marvel at various inspired aspects of Red Leap’s storytelling, even something as simple as swaying together to create the shared trepidation of the travellers and the movement of the ship. With only the faint hope of finding more than a day’s work, it’s the opening of Les MiserablesAt the End of the Day, played out in silent slow motion on a boat. Birds fly overhead, heralding a strange new land, and crying freedom and joy and flight and hunger and fear. Of course, that depends on who you’re asking.

 

 

The walking fingers of performers, representing the newcomers’ insignificance as much as the figures themselves, hurry along a gangplank, which rests between the suitcase ship and an official looking person, standing formidably and stamping passports, allowing them passage across the bridge to a new world. A projected image seems to be the shape from the book, which is a beautiful, spot-the-difference moment with children if you have a copy at home or at school; it’s the towering, hand-shaking figures in their boats, but it’s not as clear as the Statue of Liberty would be (and how clear is her message at the moment, anyway?), and perhaps it’s a missed opportunity to incorporate another amazing design feature, as The Rabbits had its central tower of earth. Perhaps not.

 

 

A hot air balloon is revealed before it’s miniaturised, and our man continues his journey, looking over a vast new city. This means of transportation is gentle and other-worldly, like Dorothy’s intended way home, or Charlie’s Great Glass Elevator once it’s crashed through the factory ceiling. There are oohs and ahhs all around us. We see seasons pass, and the man is rained on, snowed on, each element initially indicated by the actions of the ensemble, clustered around him, reaching and clicking fingers in the air, and more reaching, fingers pinching snowflakes, unintentionally making the “okay” sign because (the boy behind me), “Look! Everything will be okay, don’t worry, Mum”, and (Poppy beside me), “Surely someone will be kind enough to give him a home.” And someone is. The new home is tiny and strange, with strange things in it! The ensemble members become a hat stand, a shower, and the puppeteer of a stray creature, a new best friend. A wonderful moment sees the actors react to a spray of water from the shower, and kids all around us shriek and laugh! In the pages of the book we see that there are many like the man, however; this story is mostly his story, and it has not been made too overwhelming by frequently and needlessly reminding us that there are countless others in his plight, focusing instead on just a few migrant stories to represent millions. The most engaging of these, a great and terrible battle in which many lives are lost during a series of lifts and spins and balances, and a near tragedy, depicted by a woman moving over and under a continuously moving ladder to retrieve a precious book, perhaps her only possession. These are highly physical sequences, the company of actors having settled with each other and with the demands of the show over a very short rehearsal time, however; during the extended season, once they’ve really settled, you’ll see an even tighter, more precise and even more closely connected ensemble, comprising Giema Contini, Nerida Matthaei, Leah Shelton, Michael Tuahine, Charles Ball, Danielle Jackson, Kristian Santic, Caroline Dunphy, and Tama Jarman & Shadon Meredith from Red Leap Theatre.

 

 

We appreciate more and more the work of these performers, largely disguised during the journey in their on-stage-stagehand roles, manipulating the invading dragon tail dementors in the sky, and moving city walls, and later, pulling up cloth from below the apron of the stage to create a field of flowers, the perfect realisation of Tan’s original illustration. A devised imagined language also makes perfect sense, supported by comedic gestures and facial expressions, often bringing light to this dark story. There’s a very funny snozzcumber moment, when a refreshing, revolting tasting fluid is sourced from some weird vegetable at the market. A more frightening BFG/Holocaust/The Mission moment comes with the sudden, violent extraction of tiny people by enormous shadowy figures looking suspiciously like Ghostbusters (the original Ghostbusters, kids, the best).

 

It’s gorgeous to see and hear this society brought to life by accomplished performers, making this production a theatre makers’ masterclass: for physical theatre / devising / directing addicts/aficionados we see in The Arrival a stunning example of contemporary theatre, and specifically, Visual Theatre and Physical Theatre using the essential elements/ingredients of composition, including all of The Viewpoints. For example, and this is especially for my year 9 & 10 drama kids, who are used to me telling them to go see whatever it is I’ve just seen, a beautifully constructed sequence of everyday activities exploring gesture, tempo, repetition and duration, as well as a choreographed dream-turned-nightmare, and a unique game in which lawn bowls meets bottle-flipping, to the great delight of everyone-who-is-not-a-teacher-with-playground-duty-experience.

 

 

With the arrival of another Spring, comes the arrival of the man’s family, and again this moment is miniaturised, the fingers doing the initial walking, building our anticipation before, finally, a running, leaping, embracing reunion, made even more moving this way, setting up the final lasting image of the family standing together again. 

 

The Arrival comes to us with its universal story, its beautiful, powerful, theatrically conceptualised and constructed images, and Red Leap’s signature aesthetic. It’s unparalleled at this year’s Out of the Box Festival, superbly realised, designed and directed, imbued with so much meaning and emotion, and waiting for your take on it. This is the intelligent, aesthetically and emotionally inspiring theatre that kids (and adults) never forget. Take the whole family and talk about it, and about what it means to each of you, and what – if anything – you might do about the feelings that come up for you. It’s not a call to action exactly, but a gentle nudge, a reminder to love and be loved, and to be kind to those near you – family, friends, strangers – because at the core of The Arrival is the struggle to survive and stay connected, and that’s everyone’s story.

 

Red Leap Theatre – The Arrival TRAILER from Red Leap Theatre on Vimeo.

16
Jun
18

4Seasons

 

4Seasons

QPAC, Expressions Dance Company & City Contemporary Dance Company 

QPAC Playhouse

June 14 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

The Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project is more than just a dance exchange. It is an exchange of ideas and an intertwining of culture, with an enormous amount of generosity and respect between everyone involved.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

 

A collaboration between Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), 4Seasons is the latest development in EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project. Presenting three very different works by three choreographers, it premiered in Hong Kong last month.

 

First on the program is Summer, created by independent choreographer Kristina Chan for the CCDC dancers. She has imagined a future world of fierce heat as global warming worsens, exploring how people react to changed climate.

 

The dancers are already on the stage when we enter the theatre, slowly walking, crouching, and writhing on the floor in silence, under a burning orange light shining through a silk canopy above. They are dressed in black and grey.

 

This is an ensemble work, with no individuals singled out — it is as if we are watching a community of organisms from a distance as they are burnt by fierce heat, blown by gales, and fearfully watch the orange sky.

 

The dancers move in slow motion with great fluidity and control — a population weighed down, moving through an oppressive atmosphere. They huddle together, shielding each other, entwining, collapsing, recoiling, and occasionally running.

 

The music, James Brown’s Summer, is ominous, with long drone-like notes humming and blaring, pounding beats, noises like a helicopter, rumbling, the sound of the wind, and rasping breath.

 

An endpoint seems to arrive when the sky falls and envelops the dancers in a silvery shroud. However, in an anticlimactic final section after a short stillness, some people extricate themselves and crawl away. Others survive to struggle on, with eventually only a lone figure left standing.

 

This work is intense and, despite its apocalyptic vision, at times hypnotically beautiful in a minimalist way.

 

 

Following a very short break (when the audience remains in darkness), the second work on the program begins. Dominic Wong, Assistant Artistic Director of CCDC, created Day after Day on the six EDC dancers and one CCDC dancer, using music by Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Patrick Ng.

 

Focusing on partings and reunions, in analogy with changing seasons, it opens dramatically with the group entering quickly, carrying Alana Sargent above them as if she is swimming through waves. Their transparent white pants and blazers contrast with the darkness of the previous work, and accentuate the rapidity and detail of the movement.

 

The EDC dancers dived into this work with great energy and commitment, meeting the demands of an astonishing variety of movement. In a complete change from Summer, this is frenetic and tic-like at first, with scratching movements, heads jerking like birds, little jumps and wriggles, nodding and head shaking. In one section, the thrashing music, white suits and high-energy movement are reminiscent of a nightclub.

 

Behind the EDC dancers, Bruce Wong of CCDC is walking in ultra-slow motion across the back of the stage. With shaved head and almost naked, he is a complete contrast to the other dancers. He suggests the passage of time, or an underlying reality of life with non-essentials stripped away.

 

When Wong turns towards the front of the stage and begins to walk forward towards a column emitting bright white light, the mood changes. The music becomes plaintive and has a singing piano-like tone. The movement of the EDC dancers changes pace, with slow-motion lifts and slow turns. As Wong reaches the column, the work ends. 

 

 

The culmination of the program is the signature work 4Seasons, choreographed by EDC’s Artistic Director, Natalie Weir, for all 20 dancers of both companies. Weir’s music choice is Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, ‘recomposed’ in a contemporary and compelling interpretation by Max Richter.

 

The costumes are in soft colours of pale pink, pale grey-green, burgundy and dark blue that reflect the seasons and look lovely together. In this work, as in the other two, the visual and costume design by Cindy Ho, and lighting by Lawmanray contribute hugely to the different moods and styles.

 

Duos representing each season are punctuated by interludes for the full ensemble. Alana Sargent and Ivan Chan evoked spring and youthful romance, entwining around each other. Bobo Lai and Richard Causer projected the sensuality and storms of summer, matching their power and energy. Elise May and Yve Yu, with long extensions and coiling embraces, savoured the richness and fulfilment of autumn.

 

The winter duo for Qiao Yang and Jake McLarnon was electrifyingly beautiful from the instant it started. In its expression of longstanding love, coupled with a poignant realisation of time running out, the couple seemed to melt and soar in intertwining and folding lifts. It was as if the movement itself had become embodied, rather than bodies putting effort into making movement.

 

Qiao is an extraordinary dancer, whose every move is viscerally expressive. In McLarnon she has an extraordinary partner whose strength, line and feeling complement her perfectly. Their interaction is in essence like that between the two companies: the fluidity, control and speed of the CCDC dancers and the athleticism, attack and broad-brush fluidity of the EDC dancers melding and influencing one another.

 

In full circle, the winter couple is followed by a look back at youth. Felix Ke, one of dancers representing spring, dances a lovely solo with a yearning quality, and many slow-motion acrobatic movements. Rousing ensemble work end 4Seasons on a high note. With the pace and variety in this work, and the quality of the performances, it flew past, ending too soon.

 

The whole program is an inspiring celebration of dance, music and the spirit of collaboration, drawing together so many different elements: Vivaldi, Max Richter, the climate apocalypse, romance, passion, fierce athleticism, transcendent beauty, meditative slowness …

 

Production pics by Cheung Chi Wai

 

14
Jun
18

The Sound of a Finished Kiss

 

The Sound of a Finished Kiss

Brisbane Powerhouse, Electric Moon & now look here

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 13 – 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

When an old mixed tape is unearthed, four friends rewind to Brisbane in the 1990s. Through a series of monologues interwoven with the songs they loved, they relive the events which shattered friendships and scattered friends to the four corners of the world.

 

There is undoubtedly more lively material than any of the music ever released by The Go-Betweens and if you’re not a fan, this might not seem like the show for you, but wait, there’s more to it than that. And when you make art, is it not right that you should make it the way you want to, using the soundtrack you want to, without having to tick funding application boxes, or satisfying sponsors or producers who are under the misguided impression that their dollars equate to creative talent or artistic decisions better left to the artists? Right. Here we have Kate Wild’s show, not yours, and not mine, and it’s clear from the outset that it’s a labour of love.

 

 

I love the story, which is penned by Wild with nostalgia and style, complete with colloquialisms and local references, which might not have the same impact anywhere else in the world, but here where everyone can picture very clearly, as we did during Zig Zag Street, the share houses and cracked coffee cups and odd, stoned characters at late night share house parties, the in-jokes and the bin references are appreciated. There’s a poetry and honesty to this work that leads us gently from four corners of the globe to our own back yard, begging us to recall the details of a decade. Nothing from your life? No one you know? Look closer. No hammer here with which to shape society, not really, but a mirror held respectfully within our reach while we gaze and wonder and remember, if we’re willing, crazy, hazy days and nights.

 

 

I adore these performers – Lucinda Shaw, Lucas Stibbard, Kat Henry and Sandro Colarelli – in their element as actors who can sing and move proficiently, and certainly in the case of both Shaw and Colarelli, as singers in their own right. This is clever casting, giving Stibbard another recognisable, relatable, beautifully underplayed super sensitive sad guy (you know, he can play happy people too!), and having Henry fill the shoes of a sweater-wearing, box-ticking, wide-eyed and impressionable Toowoomba girl on a fierce/lonely/dissatisfied life journey, Shaw delightedly swivelling and swaying and dancing her way into all our hearts, despite the distinct feeling at first that she doesn’t fit in here, and Colarelli – what a master, of sensual presence, poise and too-cool, disdainful and casual connection, enthralling us even as he reaches demurely for a mic hidden beneath the floor. I don’t know how we’ve managed to keep him in Brisbane… Can we still say parochial things like that?

 

 

Beneath some beautiful lighting by Christine Felmingham, Sarah Winter’s design puts us right at home in any number of share houses during uni years, making use of various levels and all four corners of the intimate Visy stage, and placing the accomplished musicians (James Lees, Ruth Gardner, Richard Grantham, Brett Harris and Karl O’Shea) behind a scrim and in an actual Paddington living room. Really. I swear it’s our place off Latrobe Tce. Or Susan’s Kelvin Grove house. Or Marnie’s Red Hill house. Or Lyndelle’s or maybe Annie’s parents’ place. Or a random St Lucia address that preceded coffee and gelato and too much wine and table soccer and intense conversations with actors and the Italians after knockoffs under the Eiffel Tower on Park Road… The memories come flooding back and I think there are probably really bad late-night, red-eyed, smokey, blurry photos of the parties in any or all of these spaces. You know, actual photos, in photo boxes, that have never been seen on social media (and nor will they ever be). 

 

This is one of the marks of a decent show, though, isn’t it? It pulls you in, even as you resist and don’t recognise much of the music (I don’t mind telling you that right through uni I was still listening to a heap of Single Gun Theory and Indigo Girls and show tunes and I don’t remember what else), and it doesn’t let you go until it’s time to leave, and drive home through all those roadworks (six sections, people, SIX SECTIONS OF ONE LANE OPEN ONLY AT 40KM/HOUR), and marking devising pieces before morning. No wonder I’m tired.

 

 

The Sound of a Finished Kiss is such a sweet new thing, I want to challenge the makers to lift it a bit and find the places it can continue to keep us engaged; these are in between sections of dialogue, with a number of the songs going on for longer than necessary, sometimes by two or three verses, so at 90 minutes it feels like the show drags at times. The pace at one point is helped considerably with the fun and ironic execution of Neridah Waters’ choreography.

 

With its deep insight and some dark and topical content, its wonderful reflection on an era and its bunch of misfit, perfect-for-each-other friends (yeah, c’mon, now you know them), this production could literally bring the party to wherever it shows. Like Soi Cowboy (it was one of those amazing creative developments, like Hanako, which I’ve never finished writing about and yet often reference), and unlike many others confidently charging you full price for the privilege of seeing them, this is one of the few new works to actually, genuinely be ready for their opening night, only begging the most minimal work, only in my opinion, before a return season somewhere, surely. 

 

The Sound of A Finished Kiss closes on Saturday. It’s not just for The Go-Betweens fans. Go see for yourself.

 

Production pics by Greg Harm

 

14
Jun
18

The Mathematics of Longing

 

The Mathematics of Longing

La Boite, The Farm & The Uncertainty Principle

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

June 2 – 23 2018

 

Reviewed by Nicole Reilly

 

 

My passion is to translate, if you will, the beauty of maths and physics into something visceral, narrative, human, ‘emotional’ if I dare. This play The Mathematics of Longing is an expression of that desire to merge two of my worlds, two of my ways of seeing, and to invite everyone to share the wonder of mathematics in a completely different and experiential environment. And it is also very much about uncertainty, not just the physics theory of The Uncertainty Principle, but uncertainty as it comes up close and personal, opening up possibilities, emotional journeys, tears, laughter, sadness and joy in human lives.

– Suzie Miller, playwright and co-creator.

 

An ambitious experiment in collaborative play-building between La Boite, The Farm and The Uncertainty Principle, The Mathematics of Longing is a fast-paced 60-minute non-linear collision of art, mathematics and humanity. As promised by playwright, Suzie Miller, the audience is invited to share in the wonder of mathematics. This is for some a frightening concept, but thankfully it’s tackled through the familiar lens of love…between a physicist (Todd McDonald) and a playwright writing about physics (Ngoc Phan), and their daughter (Merlynn Tong), and a rockstar and his artist girlfriend (The Farm’s Gavin Webber and Kate Harman, who are both thrilling to watch in these demanding physical and emotional roles).

 

 

 

Each scene, or event, opens with a monologue detailing a mathematical theorem, providing a framework within which to contextualise the on-stage actions. And assumedly, due to the collaborative nature of the work, the designers (lighting by Ben Hughes, sound by Regurgitator’s Ben Ely and set by Ross Manning), are able to incorporate the beauty of mathematics into all aspects of the show quite effortlessly. It is somewhat apt, however, that after outlining a mathematical theorem, what follows is an experiment, executed with varying degrees of success. One such success is of attachment theory, with the rockstar and his girlfriend entangled in red cabling whilst below them, the physicist and the playwright attempt to divide their belongings as they navigate their separation. Even in relative stillness above, allowing our focus to go to the physicist and his wife as they collect and sort the domino-effect-fallen books surrounding the stage, the entanglement of the two dancers is nothing short of entrancing.

 

 

In an earlier scene, an alternate universe sees the physicist and the playwright lament the loss of their daughter. An attempt at profundity is made, but this is an example of when a director is necessary, rather than five co-creators. Full of potential, primed to be heart-wrenching, it fails to reach the emotional heights needed to affect the audience, or even to portray a real experience. The scene lacks vision and clarity, and feels as though every line between the physicist and the playwright was chosen for its profundity, lacking authenticity as a result. An underplayed scene that when revisited later and re-contextualised to take us into a different universe with a different set of circumstances, never offers stakes high enough for us to care.

 

 

 

 

By far the most satisfying experiment of this new work is between the physicist and his daughter, as he explains the sheer beauty of maths with such passion and intensity that the audience can’t help but smile and be swept up in his delight. Miller’s writing of her lived experience is poignant and emotive, carried with ease by both McDonald and Tong. The additional layers, in the transformation of the stacks of books lining the stage into dominoes and a helix, as well as the installation-like floating and spinning tubes of light, vividly illustrate the beauty of mathematically seeing the world. Cleverly, as the lights spiral above the audience, that sea of faces, now lit and enlightened, is revealed.

The Mathematics of Longing, in its debut season, is a promising first draft, enjoyable and full of potential, though at times it feels like an unfinished version of Nick Payne’s brilliant Constellations.

 

 

 

09
Jun
18

Wheel of Fortune

 

Wheel of Fortune

Metro Arts & Tam Presents

Metro Arts Lumen Room

June 1 – 9 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

LOCAL, NAUGHTY AND FUN.

Tim Hill, Director

 

Highly anticipated, Troy Armstrong’s Wheel of Fortune, directed by Tim Hill, promises the real and scandalous, weirdly erotic, ugly, obscene, beautiful, strange and sometimes disturbingly lustful adventures of several individuals during the heat and humidity of a Brisbane summer, and at times it delivers. It could be heralded as the new La Ronde if it had that seminal play’s wit, eroticism and intrigue. This production, and all of its potential, will have been embraced by those who support our local talent without question and by those who know little of the original text. Penned in 1897 by Arthur Schnitzler, it was immediately banned due to its controversial content, addressing the spread of venereal disease through all levels of society at a time when those in positions of privilege and power believed themselves to be above infection, responsibility and reproach. The stories are updated and localised, and despite feeling a little outdated at times, at the core is the connection between characters; think one degree of separation and the mysteries of the multiverses.

 

 

 

Wheel of Fortune’s form is beautifully supported by its cinematic component, placing the intertwining tales squarely in Brisbane. Optic Archive’s AV contribution here is integral; we see locations and characters on screen before any live action takes place below it. The transitions are well rehearsed with timing almost perfect. The show must have been a nightmare to tech! Interestingly, the preferred option to address the more delicate aspects of the script appears to be a big-screen, super-soft-porn approach, with the steamiest action taking place above the stage. A post-crossfit shower scene is actually about as steamy as it gets, but perhaps there is more in other scenes for some, and it’s likely that the actors have embraced racier moments with more gusto as the season continued. In spite of Richard Jordan’s involvement – I’ve really loved his writing in the past – it all feels a little overwritten and obvious (the other writers are Jacki Mison & Krystal Sweedman). Most scenes lack nuance, pointing to each hot topic and then pointing again in case we missed it. There’s a distinct lack of electricity in the air, and very little bare flesh, even when a scene begs for it. No, I don’t want to see gratuitous nudity for the sake of it (we’ve had to address that before, haven’t we?), but I won’t object to the beauty and sensuality of bodies on stage should the material and a sensitive director, respectful lighting, and the acting chops of the cast support its inclusion for good reason. 

 

 

So. Schnitzler’s soldier is made a marine (we can tell, because Richard Lund wears blue jeans, white shirt and dog tags, and speaks with what he claims/explains is a Tennessee accent), the prostitute becomes public servant (Meg Bowden), the parlour maid an au pair (Jacqui McClaren), and the young gentleman a schoolboy (Brendan Lorenzo). His biology teacher is the original young wife (Jacqui Story), and her husband the lawyer (Ron Kelly). His mistress, Schnitzler’s Little Miss, is referred to as the socialite: AKA Social Media Influencer/Collaborator (Ruby Clark). Clark is cute and funny as she casually climaxes at the dinner table and just as casually seduces another woman in the following scene, but like Story, the new wife, in both the gym and at home, she’s dressed in the most unflattering and ordinary sexy lingerie we’ve seen on stage in a long time. Having weaned our Sunshine Coast and Brisbane audiences off modest attire for the stage a decade ago (thank you, Honey Birdette), I wasn’t the only one on opening night wishing we could go away claiming to have been a little more voyeur than viewer, however; of course there were others who were completely happy with every aspect of the production, including the everyday briefs and bras on display. And yes, of course there are times when the most ordinary can be made extraordinary and no, this was not one of those times.

 

 

 

In the most naturalistic and welcome performances of the night, the poet is made portrait photographer (Elise Grieg) and the actress stays an actress (Veronica Neave), to be caught out by the end with the count cum politician (Stephen Hirst). Grieg and Neave demonstrate with ease exactly the style and sensibilities we wish could be so natural for every other performer on the intimate Lumen Room stage.

 

 

 

 

My experience of this production can be considered fairly biased but unfortunately for those involved, it’s not in their favour, because one of our first sold-out shows on the Sunshine Coast was an adaptation of La Ronde, re-staged in a surf shop in Mooloolaba after its Noosa season (long before Anywhere Festival arrived on the scene) and followed by original works, Erotique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival) and Diabolique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival). The beauty of all three productions was that the director didn’t shy away from the really dark, disturbing aspects of human nature, successfully balancing these moments with wry wit, black comedy and unnerving silences, and added Leah Barclay’s incredible original musical compositions to evoke mood, which was necessarily nightmarish or desperately sad at times.

 

 

What I love about Wheel of Fortune is that it’s brought so many of our newer heads and hearts together, without masses of money or the allure of a bigger venue and a broader audience, the very things that can so often see the artistic vision compromised before it’s realised. Here we see accomplished actors and relative newcomers working together in one of the most supportive spaces in the city for new work, and we see the creative team, steered by Armstrong, working collaboratively to offer something new and exciting to a younger demographic, and with a particularly local flavour. The best advice I was ever given in terms of seeing and considering work was to see everything. That way – we hope – a singular opinion has at least a little credibility to it, and the work is supported, whether or not we are all in agreement about its impact.

 

Wheel of Fortune enjoys its final performances at Metro Arts this weekend. You should see it. 

 

Production pics by Deelan Do

03
Jun
18

BARE

 

BARE

Understudy Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

BARE in Sydney in 2010 was the first time I’d experienced a professional looking and sounding high school production; it was a fast, shocking, moving show, which Kris Stewart included in that year’s Fringe Festival. It featured a well-trained and super talented young cast, including a couple of triple threats who went on to attend WAAPA. Understudy’s production has its moments, and it certainly doesn’t lack talent (when Oscar’s not playing, Alexander Woodward’s Understudy Productions always attracts the best that Brisbane has to offer), but it’s largely Shaun Kohlman’s show. As seen early in the piece, in Role of a Lifetime, as Peter, the co-ed Catholic schoolboy who falls in love with his best friend, Kohlman captures every nuance of a young gay man in love and in turmoil; he’s completely captivating. Playing opposite him as Jason, the popular athlete and charming leading man in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Jason Bentley, with soapie good looks, strong presence, his genuine connection with both the male and female love interests in the story, and his part in the boys’ beautiful duet (Best Kept Secret) can be forgiven for the apparent anomaly of a singular over-the-top anguished moment. I’d prefer to see this underplayed, or managed slightly differently, perhaps giving us less time to question the authenticity and impulse behind his overwhelming emotion. It’s a choice, a Stella moment, and a tough one to sell. 

 

 

Other than a quick, very much appreciated nod to the social and political climate of New Farm, other additions or amendments to the book go unnoticed. It’s a pretty ordinary book. Despite its dated, flimsy feel, at the core of the show’s universal themes are the current local pangs of real-life wounds, still raw, and the knowledge that so many individuals in our communities fight even now for their right to be accepted by family, friends, colleagues, corporations and institutions, despite the big picture success of the yes vote.

 

Claire, and Ivy, played by ABC weather woman Jenny Woodward and Jordan Malone respectively, are considered by others to be perfectly cast. For me, Woodward’s most affecting work is during the heart-wrenching phone call with her son (See Me). Even so, she doesn’t quite go to the edge, and the first phone call at the end of Auditions gives no indication of her long-held maternal suspicion about her son’s sexual preferences, a missed opportunity. Malone’s Portrait of a Girl rings truer than All Grown Up, which is a little forced and nevertheless appears to leave other hearts aching, those hearts having assured me after the show that for them it was raw and emotional and real. Fair enough. We’re probably in agreement over Melissa Western being a pretty fierce and funny Sister Charlotte, delivering razor-sharp one-liners to bring the house down and at the same time, showing genuine sensitivity and concern for the wellbeing of her students. But the music is written for a voice that doesn’t need to flip into a lighter top soprano, and a misguided wardrobe decision makes a distraction of a pair of black pantyhose and a bodysuit in what would otherwise be a sensational Jesus Christ Superstar/Like A Prayer proper gospel number. While Western is the most accomplished performer on stage and delightful in this role, it’s hard to be a sassy and sophisticated Mother Mary in an 80s inspired blue sequinned bodysuit! (Design Raymond Milner). 

 

Sarah Whalen’s Nadia is sadly, beautifully vulnerable beneath her tough and entertaining exterior, and her singing is spot on. Jonathan Hickey (Matt) and Trent Owers (Lucas) also offer convincing performances with Owers’ rap and his unassuming part in the tragic end to the tale making his character a lighthouse for entrepreneurial kids everywhere.

 

The company largely comprises Queensland Conservatorium graduates and they bring with them their gorgeous contemporary vocal style, which boasts a more naturalistic tone and approach, in case you haven’t gotten out much lately and still expect to hear a big Broadway belt in a Brisbane show. (You can hear it in abundance when Patti LuPone comes to QPAC). It’s a refreshing pop-rock sound, brilliant for our performers, who need to be as versatile as possible in an increasingly competitive industry. In fact, the ensemble’s vocal work is stunning from beginning (Epiphany) to end (No Voice, a stirring, inspiring finish), with precision harmonies and a heartfelt message a joy to hear. 

 

 

Stunningly, simply lit by Daniel Anderson, the action takes place beneath abstract stained glass windows and a white cross, putting us firmly beneath these brightly coloured symbols of the ever-watchful eyes of God. Or is it a cruel joke, as God turns a blind eye? All the questions are asked and painfully, the old-school priest offers only Old Testament answers. James Shaw is rather wasted in this role after his impressive performance in RENT but then who else would do just enough here, just as beautifully?

 

Luke Volker (MD and keys) leads a tight band, hidden from sight but who make their presence felt, particularly with the inspired inclusion of cellist, Kate Robinson. Contemporary pop choreography by Madison Lee makes every company number a Britney Spears’ video, with the angst and frustrated aggression of a couple of these numbers, including Confession, suiting some performers better than others. Variations in tempo and dynamic make the rave scene’s Rolling multi-layered and more visually exciting than anticipated. Director, Sue Rider, manages with more aplomb and sensitivity than at other times, these tricky transitions between music video moments and the continuing drama. 

 

BARE is a polished and emotionally charged production, thanks to the high calibre of artists on stage and off, and it feels like the next stepping stone for this ambitious company. It was an ideal inclusion in this year’s MELT Festival program. The too-brief season concludes tonight with an extra performance due to solid bookings before the show had even opened. We are clearly craving more of this style of work, and happy to embrace the stories selected by savvy young indie producers as our own. I can’t wait to see what Woodward does with his Spring Awakening (we saw Oscar do it best in 2011). Book early for it because going by the general response, Understudy Productions continues to challenge and satisfy both artists and audiences. 

 

 

ONE HEART

ONE LOVE

ONE LOVE, ONE LIGHT

ONE LIGHT, ONE TRUTH

ONE TRUTH, ONE LIFE

ONE VOICE

 




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