Author Archive for Xanthe Coward





debase Productions

Judith Wright Centre Shopfront

November 19 – 21 2015


Reviewed by Meredith Walker




It has been said that one of first things in creating a character is to find their walk. But wigs, it seems, also offer opportunity to easily establish a character… or characters in this case.


As writer/performer Liz Skitch demonstrates in her comedy show “Spoilt”, there are so many nuances to characters. After entering as herself, she transforms c/o five different wigs and a handful of accessories into five entirely distinct but stereotypical female characters, all spoilt in their own way.




Sucking in her cheeks and sticking out her chest, she morphs from bridezilla Sonja to scatterbrain reality tv star Larissa, famous for her burlesque number on “X Factor” and desperate to maintain her tenuous celebrity status. Then, with hunched shoulders and bulky beads, she becomes Sue, a sarcastic wedding co-ordinator, ageing years in a moment. From Botoxed celebrant Jacqui, willing to share her most intimate secrets to anyone who will listen, to Australia’s Toughest personal trainer, Peta Swift, once captain of the Australian Netball Team and now celebrity trainer on “The Biggest Loser”, her energy never wanes in representation of the essential narcissism at the core of each character.




The characters’ clever connection is through a celebrity wedding, at which audience members are also in attendance, including as the mother and father of the bride and bridesmaids crew. Although a lavish affair, complete with New Idea coverage, it is also a very weird wedding, thanks to an unanticipated Act Two twist. Despite only this loose narrative, however, Skitch’s performance is dynamic enough to carry the evening. Her affection for the characters and their quirks is clear. And her impersonations of the exaggerated personalities are as remarkable as they are entertaining.


Beyond just wigs and accessories, down to the finest nuances, her physicality, vocals and mannerisms combine in each instance to create perfect depiction, making audience members spoiled for choice of a personal favourite.




“Spoilt” is a strangely entertaining show: mostly entertaining in Act One but sometimes a little strange in Act Two. Still, with its catchy soundtrack (because what wedding is complete without some ‘Nutbush City Limits’) and many comic moments, it is loads of fun, including through its mild audience participation.


More entertainment than social comment, it includes a stack of silliness that makes it a great, giggly night out.





Heavenly Bodies and Beautiful Souls


Heavenly Bodies & Beautiful Souls

Pentimento Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 18 – 28 2015


Reviewed by Katy Cotter 




Heavenly Bodies and Beautiful Souls features, yet again, exquisite writing by Sven Swenson that brings to life afflicted and loveable characters, making us reflect on our own human existence. Each play is an hour long, allowing the audience a brief glimpse into the lives of one particular family, four generations apart.


The stage design by Ray Milner is stunning; as the audience enters the Visy Theatre, they are transported to a den of iniquity in Singapore, 1942. Heavenly Bodies opens with Laidie (Regan Lynch) a woman of hidden talents preparing her boudoir for the next soldier and trying desperately to block out the sound of artillery shells exploding outside. She makes the bed and then reclines on a chaise lounge, surrounded by lavish rugs and precious trinkets that comfort and make her feel desirable in a time of war. The stage is surrounded by debris; broken furniture, crumbling brick and all covered in a ghostly white sheet of dust. As beautiful as Laidie’s world appears to be, a brutal reality is ever present and creeping through the cracks in the window.


She is soon joined by Australian solider Cutty Cutler (Sam Ryan) who is quick to express his love for his wife, Ruby, and that he only requires friendly company and conversation.


The narrative unfolds into a sweet, confronting and transformative encounter between two people searching for inner peace and acceptance in dark times.




Ryan’s performance of the “joker from the scrub” is jovial and endearing. The writing includes brilliant moments of Aussie slang and hilarious anecdotes that Ryan handles with ease. Lynch has an incredibly difficult role, with Laidie by the end completely and unashamedly revealing her true self to Cutty. Whether or not it was opening night nerves, it seemed that Lynch’s performance was bubbling on the surface. His restraint captured Laidie’s discomfort but there were times I wanted more! I wanted to see her harrowing struggle with the person she use to be, is now, and who she yearns to become. The text is so rich and desperate that more weight and time needed to be given to certain lines.


Heavenly Bodies explores themes that are still (unfortunately) relevant today.


This play reminds us of the importance of being vulnerable; that it’s ok to be scared but not to be controlled by our fears. It is imperative to look upon someone with love, without judging them too quickly; to see them for who they truly are. Perhaps then, our own true selves will be revealed.




From the beginning, Beautiful Souls thrusts the audience into a cage of regret, loneliness and uncertainty. This story introduces David Cutler (Zachary Boulton) who travelled to Asia with his intellectually disabled brother, Justin (Peter Norton) and companion, Beth (Casey Woods). After David convinces Justin to hide the remains of their marijuana on his person, the three are convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death.


Swenson has mentioned that at the time of writing Beautiful Souls, no Australian had been on death row since drug offenders Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers in 1986. He has also refrained from altering the script due to recent events.


The stage is surrounded by debris with the actors standing on three raised platforms with a wall of thick barbed wire behind them; above each hung a noose. It is a stark and terrifying design that allows the audience to draw their focus to the actors. All three performances by Boulton, Norton and Woods are raw and completely harrowing, each leading to a defeated acceptance of a grim end.




There are moments when it seems the text does not sit well with Beth, that the character would not utter particular words given to her, though Woods has everyone on the edge of their seat. She speaks with such sincerity and moves honestly through moments of grasping for hope, lost in memory and wallowing in despair. Boulton plays David as a broken man tormented by the past and fighting against the inevitable future. Due to the fact he is continually battling with his raging emotions, his quick acceptance of his fate at the end is somewhat abrupt. On opening night I was yearning for glimpses of light in this dark character. Perhaps this resistance was a conscience decision, a reminder of those who fight and fight and fight till the very end.


Norton’s performance is a standout. He is completely charming, providing the right amount of comedy when need be, and also an incredible depth and knowing, allowing the audience to delight in the many facets of the character.


Beautiful Souls forces you to reflect on the history of humanity.


While our world can be cruel and relentless, this play reminds us of the beauty found in minute moments, and in the company of those closest to us.



Scotch & Soda


Scotch & Soda

Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

November 19 – 28 2015


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward






I LOVE this show. I love this show as much as I love Woodford Folk Festival. And birthdays. AND CHRISTMAS. We saw it last during Brisbane Festival (September 2014). Company 2’s Scotch & Soda, featuring The Uncanny Carnival Band (with members from The Crusty Suitcase Band), is so full of simple joy and cheeky fun, we can’t help but forget everything else that’s happening. It’s the ideal show to take us away from the 24-hour news cycle and into a world in which there is nothing to fear or to feel disheartened about. Scotch & Soda celebrates simple human connections and acrobatic feats.


The mixology is perfect, a cocktail of circus and naughty late night backstage casual cabaret, tantalisingly blending jazz, acrobatics and carefully choreographed chaos. Slickly executed whilst retaining a sense of raw daring, Scotch & Soda is the delicious and fabulously changeable Ink Gin of contemporary circus.


Chelsea McGuffin and David Carberry, with Kate Muntz, Skip Walker-Milne and Mozes create a hipster vaudeville vibe with the help of the heartbeat of the show, The Uncanny Carnival Band. These guys, originally from Sydney – Lucian McGuiness, Evan Mannell, Chris O’Dea, Eden Ottingnon & Matthew Ottingnon – turn this delightful show into a raucous past bedtime party.



That time Madonna shared a pic of Chelsea McGuffin walking across champagne bottles at her birthday party.


I love seeing – again and again – McGuffin famously walking across an array of glass bottles, including a magnum of Moet. McGuffin holds the Guinness World Record for the most upright glass bottles walked across (in case you’re wondering it was 51 bottles in 2012 at London Wonderground’s Spielgeltent!). This act becomes sweetly, drunkenly intimate when it’s repeated, McGuffin in an embrace with Muntz atop just 4 bottles. They tumble, laughing and falling about, and try again. I find it hard to believe that there are errors, despite Chelsea’s claim after the show that there were some “preview” things happening (appropriately, since it was a preview performance). This is clowning at its simple best. The art of misdirection is seen elsewhere, such as during Carberry’s bicycle feat, as he split-jumps over Muntz while she sustains the bicycle’s movement around the space a dizzying number of times.




A dance cum domestic between Carberry & McGuffin hasn’t the first-round vindictiveness about it but rather a more pleasing, joking feeling, as if somebody on the sidelines had shouted out during the original Scotch & Soda season, “Hey! That’s a bit rough!” It’s now a sassier, smarter routine, more neatly and efficiently showcasing the incredible skill sets of Carberry & McGuffin.


Muntz performs a beguiling rope act on a satisfyingly imperfect rope (in fact, it’s prettily frazzled), and with Mozes, a breathtaking trapeze duet. Later, Moses steals the spotlight for a solo trapeze turn to do what he does best: smash together strength, power and physical prowess as an acrobat with the comedy and superior confidence of a born entertainer (who started training for the circus at the age of 25). He reads the crowd and plays pointedly into our hands.


Spectacularly difficult to execute, although it looks almost simple enough to be a slapstick setup, a double act using an unfixed pole is largely dependent on a counter-balance arrangement between Carberry and Walker-Milne. Walker-Milne also features in a deceptively calm, extraordinarily careful balancing act on top of crates that are balanced on suitcases balanced on boxes balanced on bottles, placed gingerly on top of a table. The delicacy, strength and poise with which this act is delivered elicits horrified gasps and squeals of delight before sighs of genuine relief to see Walker-Milne safe and sound once more on the ground.


A less successful act requires Roxy the circus dog to perform tricks in a magically raised black marquee but I prefer the delicacy and gentle magic of the original act, which used birds and alluded to so much more than what was able to be seen. A more poignant moment this time comes when saxophonist Chris O’Dea steps onto a tiny turning timber disc and into the spotlight to serenade us with a solo that starts as a transition between acts, and becomes the featured act before melting away again into the next transition. The moment remains a highlight of the show, unlike its odd and ill fitting inclusion in the original season. All-new compositions have come from The Uncanny Carnival Band, and with just a couple of hours to rehearse the latest score together with the circus acts, there is no doubt that these musos are also some of the country’s best performing artists, as much a part of the spectacle as the acrobats are.




Three children in the audience enjoy the show as much as any adult and accept the silly comedy of momentary nudity like pros, the accompanying adults not quite as sure how to respond. (It’s funny, Mum!). But that’s the thing about live theatre – we’ll all respond differently – and it’s exactly why we must take children to experience it. It’s in the most troubled times that we most need art and the magic of theatre, to ponder, to play, to remember, to heal, to dream, to escape, to come back together again…




Company 2 and The Uncanny Carnival Band are some of the most genuine and generous entertainers I’ve seen up close. Their hearts and souls shine bright in this show and they’ve a lot more to give yet – remember, we saw the preview performance. Before they take off again to continue to conquer the world (their next stop, a return season at Woodford Folk Festival), leave your worries at the door and get amongst the old-fashioned, real-deal death-defying fun of Scotch & Soda.


Scotch and Soda at London Wonderground! from Company 2 on Vimeo.



Les Miserables


Les Miserables

Cameron Mackintosh

QPAC Lyric Theatre

November 13 2015 – January 17 2016


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



Les Miserables – Cameron Mackintosh’s Acclaimed New Production – is outstanding, boasting a spectacular new design enhanced greatly by its cinematic elements, and a new cast that makes each character their own, retelling Victor Hugo’s epic story for a brand new generation of theatregoers.


The hype surrounding this production also showcases the savvy use of social media following the release of the movie musical to inspire a new audience to “Join the revolution” with its handles and hashtags cleverly included with tickets and in performers’ bios in the program. This new Les Mis is one example of the talent – both onstage and off – living up to the hype created by a sensational social media campaign.




The legendary musical by Boublil and Schonberg now comes with a re-orchestrated score (Christopher Jahnke, Stephen Metcalfe & Stephen Brooker) conducted at lightning speed by Geoffrey Castles. I have to say, I miss the siren’s wail beneath Javert’s, “Could it be he’s some old jailbird that the tide now washes in?”, but that’s just nostalgia. It’s a rich, full sound, beautifully realised. The pace of it doesn’t help us to hear all of the lyrics though, which are sung so quickly at times as to be indiscernible, even for those who have grown up knowing the show by heart.




Nevertheless, there are some breathtaking moments in between the breakneck efforts to move through the three-hour tale before new audiences start to fidget. They don’t, at least not on opening night, and I wish we could continue to trust that the material will hold the audiences’ attention. I’m not against updating anything (I only mildly miss the revolve, such is the spectacular effect of the newly designed gliding, joining and separating imposing set pieces), but it does seem that there’s a fear of inattentiveness behind this move. Particularly in Act 1 we barely get a chance to take a breath and contemplate the gravity of each situation.




The stars of the show, and those able to most expertly blend the best of traditional and contemporary approaches to the acting and vocal demands of their roles are Simon Gleeson (Jean Valjean) and Hayden Tee (Javert), both in superb voice and perfectly matched in their strength and subtle gesture. The battle between real life and the law is made completely believable by these two, and a couple of extended silences between them demonstrate the quiet awe of an appreciative audience as much as the performers’ focus and command of the stage.




The cast is uniformly excellent, with standout performances from Patrice Tipoki (Fantine in all her fragility and stubborn strength) and in her professional debut, Kerrie Anne Greenland (Eponine). Luke Joslin’s Grantaire adds an extra strain of compassion to proceedings with a beautifully developed big brother relationship with Gavroche (on opening night, we delight in Nicholas Cradock’s cheeky performance), and Drink With Me happens more organically than ever before, making it the ideal gentle prelude (rather than the track we tend to skip on the CD) to Gleeson’s tender, heartfelt and lightly soaring rendition of Bring Him Home, which is an absolute triumph.




Appropriately attempting to steal the show are Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy as the Thenadiers, included for the undercurrent of evil intention as much as for the comic relief brought by their vulgar characters and hilarious antics. Master of the House showcases not only the pair’s ability to manipulate the comedy necessary for a bit of light relief, but also the ensemble’s expert treatment of their individual roles. Billy Bouchier has a lovely moment towards the end of the scene, upon realising that a newcomer has swiped his drink. His reaction is priceless, and testament to the attention to detail evident, not just vocally but in terms of every person on stage being integral to the storytelling. Whether entertaining moments like this are due to the talent on stage or the new directors (Lawrence Connor & James Powell) is impossible to say. The updated One Day More march is a disappointment though, and should never have been allowed to happen. It’s been simplified and loses its original powerful visual effect; a reminder that newer is not always better.




But Paule Constable’s haze enhanced precision lighting, Matt Kinley’s detailed set and image design (inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings) and Mick Potter’s soundscape combine to create the cinematic atmosphere we have come to expect from the blockbuster musicals. Despite Javert’s suicide not translating quite as well as it should do (I was expecting more haze, more theatrical magic…), the technology comes together brilliantly during the preceding sewer scenes.


There’s no doubt that this Les Mis is the biggest and best reincarnation of a classic musical yet.


It might not fully satisfy the purists and returning patrons but the updated design and so much of the talent in this Les Mis is too good to miss, and new audiences will continue to lap it up. Don’t be the one to have to admit that you missed it! If you need another reason – or two – to see this production, make it the chance to catch Patrice Tipoki as Fantine before she joins the West End cast and Hayden Tee as Javert before he heads to Broadway. These are the roles that will establish Tipoki and Tee as our next international “overnight” successes.




Michael Cassel Group:


Simon Gleeson, who won a Helpmann Award for his heartrending portrayal as Jean Valjean, will lead the production for seasons in Manila and Singapore from March next year. Simon will star alongside Rachelle Ann Go, direct from the West End production, and Earl Carpenter from Broadway.


Adding to this excitement Hayden Tee will take his incredible portrayal of Javert to New York where he will assume the role from February in the Broadway production. Hayden has firmly staked his claim on Valjean’s lifelong antagonist Javert, earning him a Green Room Award and a Theatre People Pro Choice Award for ‘Best Individual Performance’.


Patrice Tipoki will also be packing her bags and heading to London to star as Fantine in the West End production from February. She will bring her much loved “I Dreamed a Dream” to the production, which just celebrated its 30th Anniversary, until May when she will then join the production in Singapore.




2high Festival Launch


2high Festival Launch 


This Must Be the Place

Friday October 30 2015


Attended by Katelyn Panagiris




2high Festival has a long history of supporting Brisbane’s emerging producer, providing a unique learning experience in festival management, under the mentorship of many industry professionals. This year the team has programmed a vibrant and energetic festival combining in the mix, a program of science.


The Backbone 2high festival is the official unofficial training ground for festival workers, artists, administrators and leaders in the industry. With an alumni group that would make universities blush, and support and acknowledgement for the experience industry wide – 2high has long been the place to cut your teeth in the industry and to exchange knowledge with tomorrow’s leaders.


2high is a circus trick. One standing on the shoulders of another. An ongoing exchange of trust. 2high represents the relationship between the mentor and the mentee who work together to synergise and share their knowledge, networks and abilities throughout the festival making process. This relationship, coupled with tangible experience and ongoing training specific to festival management is what truly sets the 2high experience apart and has made this experience such a success.




Since its inception in 1994 Backbone Youth Arts has built, shaped, created and reinvented the 2high festival to respond to the changing needs of the industry and emerging arts workers. What do we need to learn today to be prepared for the demands of our audiences and artists tomorrow?


The 2016 2high Festival boasts many exciting contemporary works from artists across multiple art forms. The three-day long festival in January, co-presented by Metro Arts, is comprised of six interesting programs, as well as installations, ideas and pop-ups.


The Science program, curated by Elizabeth Long, is dedicated to seeking new knowledge at the crossroad of science and art. Works include Stand Back, I know Science, Water Pollution, Lenguas Ironicas and Sweat of the Earth.


The F-Word program, curated by Sophie-Jane Huchet, is a feminist program with space for discussions, zines to read and performances including Don’t Read The Comments by Digi Youth Arts, The Girlfriend Experience by Taryn Allen, Mess by Young Goose Productions and You Mad, Bro? by Brodie Shelly and Madeleine Little to name a few.


The performance program, curated by Hannah Farrelly, presents two unique platforms: YAAS and Bare Bones. YAAS, or the Youth Arts Australia Showcase, is designed to showcase some of Australia’s best young artists in performances I am by Bust a Move Dance, Joyride by The Light Ensemble, Interrupting the Internet by YAK YAK Youth Arts Kuranda and Parental Guidance Recommended.


This program exemplifies 2high’s commitment to an inclusive space where all voices are heard and valued.


Bare Bones is dedicated to theatre, dance and circus that is primal and physical. Performances include Sonic-Body-Actions, Imago, Eye Resolution, Sisyphus, The Mechanics of Entanglement, Naked, Submerged, An Act of Intimacy and many more.


There will also be music performances by Airling, Aquila Young, Fierce Mild, Quintessential Doll, Pontouf, Jouk Mistrow, Born Joy Dead, Landings, Georgia May, Sean Anthony, Brendan Maclean, Phoebe, Opaeka, Ella Fence and Yóste in a Music program curated by Roy Gordon, Aidan Hogg and Steph Linsdell.


Finally, the I am Vital program, curated by Kaitlyn Tighe, celebrates what makes each and every one of us vital. You can visit the I am Vital Selfie Booth throughout the festival and use #IamVital to express why we are vital (as artists, as people).


2high Festival 2016 is a truly exciting festival with something to satisfy the diverse tastes of every art lover in Brisbane as Metro Arts is filled to the brim with music, dance, circus, theatre, installations, pop-ups and discussions. It promises to be an inclusive, eye-opening festival, celebrating the vital part that the arts play in our community. Don’t miss it! January 15 – 17 2016





The Motion of Light In Water


The Motion of Light in Water

La Boite Indie

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

November 4 – 21 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 






“Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there. It’s also thinking about how that world might be—a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed, because if they’re going to change the world we live in, they—and all of us—have to be able to think about a world that works differently.”

Samuel R. Delany


About Hacker’s work, the poet Jan Heller Levi has said:

“I think of her magnificent virtuosity in the face of all the strictures to be silent, to name her fears and her desires, and in the process, to name ours. Let’s face it, no one writes about lust and lunch like Marilyn Hacker. No one can jump around in two, sometimes even three, languages and come up with poems that speak for those of us who sometimes barely think we can even communicate in one. And certainly no one has done more, particularly in the last decade of formalism, to demonstrate that form has nothing to do with formula. In villanelles, sestinas, and sonnets—not to mention a variety of forms whose names I can’t even pronounce—Marilyn Hacker can journey us on a single page through feelings as confusing as moral certainty to feelings as potentially empowering as unrequited passion.”




We know that anything penned by Marcel Dorney (Prehistoric, Fractions) is worth a look. The Motion of Light In Water, originally commissioned by Hothouse Theatre and Theatre Works, and inspired by Samuel Ray “Chip” Delany’s award winning speculative works and his memoir of the same name, is testament to Dorney’s intelligent approach to creating theatre that challenges and satisfies in equal measure.


The Motion of Light in Water is utterly surprising and affecting, highly intellectual and deeply challenging, and despite its slightly indulgent running time (110 minutes without interval), it’s incredibly entertaining. I come away from it wide-eyed, having never been a fan of Delany’s work or of science fiction generally and somehow overlooking, until now, Marilyn Hacker’s incredible writing. I know. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?


In this work, Dorney has captured a style of storytelling that feels genuinely new and fresh; it’s sci-fi manga live on stage. While it doesn’t purport to be a biopic or an adaptation of Delany’s groundbreaking Babel-17 there is so much truth to it, which comes at us – unforgivably – through a fictional account of events in the extraordinary ordinary lives of Delany and Hacker overlaid with the “what if…?” of Delany’s acclaimed books. It’s a work that William Gibson says, “captures the sense of courage and possibility that we took from these books, and the cultural and personal struggles that gave rise to them.”


The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.


Empire Star’s narrator, Jewel (Emily Tomlins), invites us to take a look inside the imagined world of Delany (Ray Chong-Nee) and Hacker (Olivia Monticciolo) as they live and love and work and fuck and rage right through the 60s and 70s, simultaneously taking us by the hand for a trip into the future. We find ourselves in front row seats at an intergalactic battle of epic proportions, the unlikely space crew fighting against evil, led by Babel-17’s protagonist, poet & captain of the craft, Rydra Wong (Ngoc Phan). The historical and futuristic aspects are cleverly interwoven, and while there’s possibly another play just in the intriguing Delany/Hacker relationship, it wouldn’t have the same impact without the intricacies (and complexity! And adventure!) of the other.


I love the straight-up, naturalistic approach to the NYC scenes, giving us insight into the challenges and delights of existing in 1960s and1970s America as a black bi-sexual man (and as an extraordinarily talented, tolerant, lesbian Jew not so much – Hacker is integral to the string of events but she plays a supporting role in this version of Delany’s story), and a bi-racial couple that brings between them for several weeks – what seems like a lifetime – a married, displaced man, who has the same basic needs and desires as their own (Tom Dent).


The more stylised futuristic scenes keep the dense text real for those of us who may be familiar with Tolkien’s imagined ancient tongue and Orwell’s “newspeak” but not with the brilliantly created codes of the future, which in this case have the power to destroy humankind. Within both plots we get our past, present and possible future, with vibrant discussion on social norms, political constraints, three-person parties and linguistic relativity (that language determines our perception of reality), however; during the final discourse it seems to take an exorbitantly long time for Captain Wong and The Butcher (Tom Dent) to satisfactorily explore the notion of empathy. There is lovely comedy in it, but it’s at this point that we begin to get restless…


The context changes but the rhetoric remains the same.

– Samuel Ray “Chip” Delany


In the role of Delany Ray Chong-Nee has been given room to create a delightfully disarming character that we immediately adore, and with whom it’s easy to empathise. His embodiment of this quirky, incredibly brilliant man is captivating. When I read interviews with the actual Delany I can imagine he’d be pretty chuffed with Chong-Nee’s work in this production. In fact, I like to think that he and Hacker would be as intrigued and as entertained as I am by this production. (Professor Delany gets a thank you in the program for his generosity, support and insight during the process).


Dorney’s direction is careful, as precise as his language is; he’s so attentive to the quieter moments, which are vital if we are to process the complexities of the storytelling, and at the same time, with gusto and mischief, he plays with the physicality of the actors, their bodies in the space, and the more technical elements of the louder, brighter, comic book bits. All the elements come together magnificently – comically, boldly – for example, when Captain Wong takes control of the space battle in a Wii styled solo effort to save the world. (AV Designer Andre Vanderwer, Lighting Designer Kris Chainey and Composition & Sound Design THE SWEATS). Only it’s taken the power and navigational skills of the crew to get her there. In the fine tradition of Romeo and Juliet and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this bizarre meeting of minds and bodily bits required to power the spacecraft happens symbolically (or really, this way, in the future. What if…?), as hands meet and move as one. All of this within the cold confines of an austere set designed by Matthew Adey, which serves as the spacecraft as well as separating various city spaces. Zoe Rouse has rejigged the costumes since the original Melbourne run and may need to rethink the ill-fitting futuristic white leggings here, which simply detract from the overall aesthetic and keep us, unfortunately, squarely in “indie” theatre territory. The current obsession with awesome looking active wear, which relies on superior textiles and advanced technology to lift and shape and flatter, means it’s just not plausible that such a style crime would be committed by anyone in authority in the future.


The Motion of Light In Water is Dorney’s most detailed and entertaining work to date, exploding with vivid reflections on the darkest, most threatening aspects of life and love and power, and at the same time tenderly embracing and celebrating the best of every day. This is a play that will itself be embraced and celebrated by audiences who are craving all the feels and something more to think about.


Between us on our wide bed we cuddle an incubus

whom we have filled with voyages. We wake

more apart than before, with open hands.

Your stomach and head begin to ache.

We cannot work. You are in pain. I cry.

The Navigators, Marilyn Hacker



The Chat


The Chat

La Boite Indie 

 La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

November 5 – 14 2015


Reviewed by Katy Cotter




Co-creators James Brennan and David Woods have conceived a rare and powerful theatrical experience that allows the audience to navigate inside a severely misunderstood world.


The Chat opens up a can of squirming, uncomfortable worms and tries to remove the stigma around the rehabilitation of criminal offenders.


Being a parole officer, Brennan was deeply affected by interviews had with offenders and decided to explore creative outlets that generated discussions and abolished stereotypes. The question that continued to arise and concern Brennan was ‘How should we treat people who commit offences whilst maintaining their dignity?’ The Chat highlights that the relationship between the parole officer and the offender is one that must be valued. It is a delicate relationship as the officer’s job does not require them to assess whether or not the offender is guilty. The performance contains interviews that shed light on the duty of care of the officer, particularly their ongoing battle of providing the right help. It also humanises the offenders with the dialogue being dark yet often comical, revealing the absurdities of situations.




What makes this show so incredible and unsettling is that some of the performers are ex-offenders who are all exceptionally brave human beings and are terrifyingly raw on stage, exposing themselves to a room of strangers. This is such an important element of the work, transforming it from theatre to therapy, or soul-searching.


The performers are literally screaming out for understanding, empathy and compassion.


They want to expel the hate inside of them and are yearning for someone to listen, and help them find solutions to move forward with their lives. The transition back into society and stopping repeated offences is a focus in the show, and solutions are hard to come by. It seems that being in prison is a safer option. One of the performers, Mark Flewell-Smith, almost had me in tears when he said in his rough voice, “I am frightened by no-one but I’m scared of everything.”


There is a fine line between fiction and the truth that keeps audiences engaged. The performers are allowing exclusive access into their lives – their rehabilitation – and whether or not they are bending the truth at times, The Chat evokes a gut response that can only be experienced in person. At times you are possessed with rage and the next a deep sadness. You question how you view people that are different from you and lived different experiences. There is a frustration because you want to know more about the “characters” and how they got to certain points – information needed to then provide adequate help and solutions, yes? This is the dilemma! There are so many questions left unanswered, too much judgment, and not enough listening. Toward the end of the show there is an element of audience participation, where the audience is able to ask performers questions or offer suggestions about how to help them transition back into society.


One audience member simply asked Mark what he wanted. Mark replied, “I want to be just like you. I want to be normal.”


Walking out of the theatre, I was lost for words. I was not satisfied. Then on the drive home, I realised that was the point. The Chat does not end once you leave. It will stay with you; those faces will stay with you. This is an important piece of theatre; it is brave, it is unfair, it is harrowing. Yet there is hope. A hope to be heard, to be given a chance, to be normal…whatever that is.



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