Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

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.

10
Jun
16

Michael Griffiths: COLE

 

Michael Griffiths: COLE

Brisbane Powerhouse & Queensland Cabaret Festival

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

5 June 2016

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

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Ok. Hold the phone. Have you heard of Michael Griffiths? You need to. He is a singer, pianist, actor, composer and musical arranger who studied at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). He has performed in numerous musicals such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert, We Will Rock You, Shout, and my all time favourite, Jersey Boys. He played the role of Bob Crewe four years running for which he was nominated for a Green Room Award for Best Supporting Actor. This man is pure talent. 

It was my first time seeing Griffiths perform on a rainy night on the 5th of June, though it was warm and cosy inside the Visy Theatre at the Powerhouse. I felt like I was entering a secret underground jazz club. A grand piano sat on stage with a crystal glass and a bottle containing brown liquor, not too far out of reach. Soft amber light filled the room. A somewhat devious audience member discovered the crystal bottle contained not alcohol but tea. I should hope so, for Griffiths needed to wet the whistle quite a few times. Perhaps we would have seen a very different side of Cole Porter.

Yes, the star of the show is Mr. Cole Porter, an American composer and songwriter. He was classically trained but found his heart was drawn to musical theatre and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters on Broadway. I admit I had no prior knowledge of Porter, but as soon as Griffiths began singing his songs, my memory was triggered and my ears filled with familiar sounds. One of his more popular musical hits is Anything Goes, though I was recognising songs such as Love for Sale, I’ve Got You Under My Skin and You’re the Top.

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Griffiths embodies Cole Porter with oodles of class and charisma. This one man cabaret, superbly written by co-creator and best-selling author, Anna Goldsworthy, takes the audience on a journey through Porter’s very colourful and somewhat controversial life in the spotlight. The highs soar effortlessly in the clouds with mesmerising melodies and witty banter, and the lows are handled with a tender subtlety by Griffiths, making sure the mood is not too dark and dreary. The show must go on, as they say.

This is one of those shows that I urge people to see because it’s a darn good time, and this is an artist who I utterly admire and respect (and somewhat envy). There was not one moment where I was bored, or wondering how far into the show we were, or thinking about my bladder exploding. I was utterly captivated by Michael Griffiths. And I was upset I didn’t bring my mum but there’s one more chance to see Griffiths – at Noosa arts Theatre on July 23 – before he heads to Edinburgh Fringe Festival! 

Book here to see COLE during Noosa Long Weekend Festival

10
Jun
16

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

 

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

Brisbane Powerhouse & Queensland Cabaret Festival 

Brisbane Powerhouse Performance Space

June 4 2016

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

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Electric Moon’s spectacular show returned to the Brisbane Powerhouse for one night only as a part of Queensland Cabaret Festival, honouring the late and amazing David Bowie, and playing one of his greatest albums in its entirety. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was Bowie’s fifth studio album released in 1972, a concept album telling the story of a fictional rock star named Ziggy Stardust.

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The atmosphere in the Powerhouse Theatre was electric and I was sitting next to hardcore Bowie fans. A young girl had the iconic lightning bolt painted boldly across her face and she was talking excitedly to her mother about her favourite songs. Tickets were hard to grab a hold of, and no wonder. After Bowie’s tragic death back in January, this show’s popularity and importance has obviously grown dramatically. I could sense a unity within the room, that this incredible musician had changed lives. People had come from all over to celebrate the man as well as the music and they were certainly not disappointed.

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There is no denying the album is ‘far out there’ great with each song being a hit, but the performance was just supreme. The cast included 20 of Brisbane’s finest musicians. The eight lead vocals honestly blew me away, each embodying their own creation of Bowie’s songs. Lucinda Shaw was magnificent and dangerous as she took the stage first to sing Five Years. I thought to myself, “Can it get better than this? This woman is a freaking powerhouse at the Powerhouse!” It certainly did get better; the wind was knocked out of every audience member as the stunningly beautiful Emma Dean sang a soft and eerie version of Starman. Now there was one performer, Maria DeVita who seemed of a different breed. She was absolutely wild, stomping across the stage like a punk chic goddess while singing Hang on to Yourself. She almost made me want to start a mosh pit. Lastly, I have to mention my favourite was Daniel Hack. I hung on every word as he reached out to the audience, taking us along for the ride to outer space. His vocals were incredible and if I closed my eyes, there were moments I could swear Bowie was singing.

The show clearly would not go on without the 12 amazing musicians playing guitars, piano, strings, percussion, the list goes on! Where many are fixed on the singer, my eye tends to wander. Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the beautiful lady on piano but she was the personification of joy. As her fingers danced across the ivory keys, her smile grew wider and I just wanted to run up and sit next to her. What a talent! My grandmother would have killed to have a piano-off with this woman. Is that even possible?

If these guys return, buy a ticket. You’ll leave feeling all the emotions, but all of David Bowie’s music seems to have that effect. I actually wanted to sneak back in and see the late show. I can’t imagine how exhausted and elated the cast must feel after two back-to-back shows. They are all simply terrific, and this show is a great night out. Vale Bowie.

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08
Jun
16

I Get the Music In You: An Evening with Jan van de Stool

 

I Get the Music In You:

An Evening With Jan van de Stool

Brisbane Powerhouse & Queensland Cabaret Festival

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

 

Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris

 

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Queenie van de Zandt as the cult character Jan van de Stool – International Musical Therapist, Interpretive Dancer and Singing Psychologist – graces our stage in I Get The Music In You, presented by Queensland Cabaret Festival and Brisbane Powerhouse.

 

First conceived on Brisbane soil in 2005, van de Zandt has since entertained audiences from across the country with her Dutch-Australian satirical self-help guru, Jan van de Stool. Jan is hilarious in her unique methods (“colonic irrigation of the spirit”), occasional misuse of the English language and her deliberate avoidance of the “big notes”. After all, as Jan suggests, belting is called belting for a reason.

 

From the first moments of our evening with Jan van de Stool, we understand that we’re going to be in for a wild ride; you may merely miss being insulted by Jan, but you won’t avoid dancing along to Wind Beneath My Wings with her not-so-interpretative-interpretative dance moves. Nor will you avoid being hypnotised into purchasing a glorious Jan van de Stool barbecue apron, or paying for your sneaky biscuit from the packet of Arnott’s Family Assorted Biscuits in the break room. And finally, you won’t avoid being subjected to a new age world of musical therapy where anything is possible, and if you happen to be really good, you’re probably not going to get a chance to perform (otherwise you may just outshine Jan).

 

In this way, van de Zandt masterfully enrolls the audience as participants in a one-day beginners course where everyone is given a run down of the basics – from stepping into your very own “golden shower” to releasing the tension in your hand by…screaming at your hand. The audience is obviously enthralled by van de Zandt’s deadpan monotonous performance as Jan van de Stool; they are fully participative, amused and outraged as joke after joke and song after song flows from van de Zandt.

 

There is something very familiar and distinctly Australian about this character that appears to win over the affection of the audience. In this role van de Zandt shines as an experienced and versatile vocalist and performer.

 

She gracefully transforms her whole being as she transitions from one character to the next, giving short performances as Jan van de Stool’s unique graduates. In these moments we have an opportunity to relish in the hilarity of Jan and her pupils, but also an opportunity to appreciate van de Zandt’s beautifully captivating voice (which is rather dissimilar to Jan Van de Stool’s).

 

I Get The Music In You is a witty, satirical cabaret shedding light on the wonderful world of musical therapy. It’s a fun evening that will have you laughing out loud to the absurdity of Jan van de Stool in all her wisdom.

 

06
Jun
16

Little Shop of Horrors

 

Little Shop of Horrors

Luckiest Productions & Tinderbox Productions

In association with QPAC

QPAC Playhouse

June 1 – 12 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Roger Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) was a pretty terrible movie; it was largely improvised on a set built for a different movie, but when Howard Ashman (Book & Lyrics) and Alan Menken (Music) penned a musical adaptation for the stage it quickly became a cult classic on Off-Broadway and on screen. This production, by Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions is the best Little Shop we’ve seen; it’s superbly designed and directed, and boasts a stellar cast that brings the original sci-fi story to vibrant life as if for the first time.

Despite the smart commercial decision to put this tiny set and its enormous plant into QPAC’s Playhouse rather than its Cremorne Theatre – and I don’t know the dimensions, I just loathe the empty space around contained, touring sets – it looks fantastic… Imagine though, what it would feeeeeel like to be literally surrounded by the plant! How much more would that cost??? A sophisticated schlock-injected film noir aesthetic draws us into a black and white world, just like Dorothy’s home in Kansas before she’s tossed into the Technicolor of Oz (I remember when we tried to fix the settings on our big enormous twelve-inch screen the first time we were allowed to stay up late to see The Wizard of Oz televised!). And it’s not just the set, it’s the whole of Skid Row, metaphorically grey, drained of all vibrant colour until Audrey II – and money and fame and true love – enter their lives. This is bold and inspired design (Set by Owen Phillips, Lighting by Ross Graham, Costumes by Tim Chappel and the plant, created by Erth Visual & Physical Inc), right down to Audrey’s on-trend grey hair, the black flower heads and stems, newspaper print with which to wrap them, the white plastic crime scene/Psycho shower curtain, and the shadows creeping up the walls of the shop; a creepy pre-cursor of the horrors to come.

The dark themes of Little Shop are heightened here but not dwelt upon and I wouldn’t hesitate to take ten-year old Poppy, however; Opening Night clashed with a school disco so she had to consider her priorities… The school disco won.

In the iconic roles of Audrey and Seymour, made famous in the movie musical (1986) by Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis, Esther Hannaford and Brent Hill stun us. I’ve never seen a truly original take on either character, but Hannaford and Hill have recreated these two, and in doing so, have also discovered an entirely new perspective on the unlikely relationship; it’s a sweeter, stronger dynamic. We love it. I adored Hannaford in King Kong, and as the vulnerable and self-destructive Audrey it’s as if she’s revisited the very essence of that era of filmmaking and also, the shadow of every domestic violence victim in the world. She’s certainly the tallest, leanest bombshell of all time, but at the same time so fragile… Hannaford finds a way to make every moment genuine; it’s about what’s going on behind the eyes, despite her entire time on stage being all about her gangly presence and OTT posturing. Delightfully awkward.

Hannaford has said she didn’t focus on her singing until age 18 but she’s become one of our best, able to move effortlessly between speaking and singing without the irritating change in tone. I’ve never heard Somewhere That’s Green so beautifully shaped to make us ache and hope and remember to breathe. One of the comments Penny Mullen and I have made, as the judges of the Sunshine Plaza Breakthru comp for schools, is that as the kids get older and sing the same songs, the meaning of the songs will continue to change. I’ve heard Audrey’s song sung by so many young girls whom, thank goodness, have no understanding of it as anything more than a dream of having somewhere pretty to live, but Hannaford finds every bruise and broken bone in it. Heartbreaking.

And Suddenly Seymour is a showstopper. Hill and Hannaford are perfectly matched and clearly enjoy every moment of their duet. But before we stop raving about Hannaford, I love love LOVE her breathy lower register, the European immigrant influenced New York twang, and the precision pause-for-effect tactics that have us in the palm of her hand from the outset. Is Hannaford the most underrated musical comedy performer in the country?

Director, Dean Bryant, is brilliant. I love his global view; his ability to hone in on the small and truly epic stuff in a single moment; the comedy and real vulnerability in the tragedy (Sweet Charity for Hayes Theatre, Anything Goes for Opera Australia/GFO, I’ll Eat You Last, Priscilla and GAYBIES, anyone? And Christie Whelan Brown’s Britney Spears: The Cabaret, and Michael Griffiths’ In Vogue: Songs By Madonna and Sweet Dreams: Songs By Annie Lennox). Bryant takes a big bite out of what we thought we’d acquired a taste for before spitting it out and plating it up as a new, stunning winning dish. Amazing. And surprising that he hasn’t yet been lured overseas for a bigger bite of the cherry.

Little Shop of Horrors exceeds all expectations. It’s brilliant. Don’t miss it. 

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Hill was an awesome Lonny in Rock of Ages and he doesn’t disappoint as Seymour. A terrific singer and actor, Hill embraces Seymour’s nerdiness without making him pathetic. His tentativeness is endearing and when he finds the strength within to challenge the plant he elevates the character to hero status. He actually voices the plant too, an extraordinary accomplishment, making him a real multi-tasking musical theatre hero. Can you imagine that conversation with Director, Dean Bryant? You want me to do whaaaaaat?! And look, it doesn’t work perfectly – we miss some of the words, which we know are so witty and cheeky and funny, but it’s a very clever device.

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The urchins (Chloe Zuel, Josie Lane & Angelique Cassimatis) are suitably too cool for school and emanate a wonderful Hispanic flava: this from Crystal (Cassimatis) and Chiffon (Lane). As Ronette, Zuel raises the cool stakes through the roof, a magnet for the eyes. Together they are Avenue Q’s West Side Story girls. I missed Cassimatis in her show, Guilty Pleasures recently because TIMING, but after this performance I won’t hesitate to reschedule things to see her the next time she’s in town. Together these girls are quite formidable; powerhouse voices and perfect harmonies, slick chorey by Andrew Hallsworth, and sufficient sass to make any secondary teacher’s stomach turn. Yes, I had a moment of gratitude that there are times I get to work with some of the best kids on the Sunshine Coast!

Tyler Coppin (he was pure evil magic in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), makes Mushnik his Jewish own, easily surpassing all previous efforts I’ve seen to reinvent this role, and Scott Johnson brings us a genuinely dumb dentist (made famous in the film by Steve Martin and on the Sunshine Coast by Sam Coward), drawing on the same level of energy and wit that we saw from Vincent Hooper and Jake Ambrose in Heathers. (American footballers, I’m sorry, but there’s usually a reason a stereotype sticks).

Brisbane’s (and Brisbane’s) Dash Kruck plays multiple characters superbly, and as much as I enjoy Hill’s performance, I can’t resist saying aloud online that I’d LOVE to see Kruck’s Seymour. As Hill’s understudy, if you happen to get him for a matinee or an evening performance at QPAC I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Kuki Tipoki is another enigmatic performer with little stage time, but that’s because he’s a talented musician, and he plays guitar in the band. Under the masterful hand of Noosa’s favourite MD Andrew Worboys, this band is tight and funky and fun. Despite minor issues early on (some vocal distortion, some slow lighting cues, whatevs), the look and sound of the show is terrific.

Bryant is actually brilliant. I love his global view; his ability to hone in on the small and truly epic stuff in a single moment; the comedy in the tragedy (a-hem, Sweet Charity for Hayes Theatre, Anything Goes for Opera Australia/GFO, I’ll Eat You Last, Priscilla and GAYBIES, anyone? And Christie Whelan Brown’s Britney Spears: The Cabaret, and Michael Griffiths’ In Vogue: Songs By Madonna and Sweet Dreams: Songs By Annie Lennox). Bryant is one of our brightest, taking a big bite out of what we thought we’d acquired a taste for before spitting it out and plating it up as a new, stunning winning dish. Amazing.

Bryant’s Little Shop of Horrors exceeds all expectations, setting a new standard in the small scale revivals realm. 

31
May
16

Switzerland

Switzerland

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

May 20 – June 26 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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“She was a mean, hard, cruel, unlovable, unloving person…”

– Otto Penzler

“Writing is a way of controlling experience.”

– Joanna Murray-Smith

“I’m going to enjoy what I’ve got as long as it lasts.”

– Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

 

Patricia Highsmith was a difficult woman.

 

In Joanna Murray-Smith’s brilliant slow-burning two-hander, renowned US crime writer and recluse, Patricia Highsmith, meets her publishing company’s earnest rep, Edward Ridgeway, in a fictional encounter that demands of her a final Ripley novel to put her back on the bestseller list. Ridgeway won’t leave until the contract is signed and the two grapple with power, perception, deception and wit, and drink beers before breakfast (Highsmith hated food) before a sly twist turns the situation on its head.

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Steve Toulmin’s creeping cinematic score and Ben Hughes’ moody lighting contribute to the feeling of isolation in Highsmith’s haven near Locarno, Switzerland, where she lived for the last thirty years of her life. The play takes place during the last three days of her life. Despite warm accents in the weapons on display, the soft furnishings and timber pieces (Highsmith had enormous hands and feet, and proudly carved some of her furniture herself), Anthony Spinaze’s design, incorporating cold whites and steely blues, complete with raked ceiling and false proscenium, creates an uncomfortable, open space for Highsmith’s unwelcome visitor, and for us too. Tension seeps into the room with the shadows that stretch across the floor, moonlight leaking in, sneaking in, from beyond authentic French doors. We’re flies on the wall, keeping a safe distance from the intricate web being woven, knowing there is something awful to come, knowing the end will be dire.

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When the French doors are thrown open to reveal the contrasting darkness outside, the mood and pace of the piece is dramatically altered. A moment suspended in time sees Highsmith here, moonstruck, moving to music (although we can’t be sure if she’s hearing what we’re hearing or something else entirely), oblivious to everything but her innermost thoughts, having dowsed the rest of her soul and her insecurities with Johnny Walker Red.

Andrea Moor has stepped into Highsmith’s loafers and into this difficult woman’s head, embodying the imagined real-life character and all her complexities. She’s witty and impatient and caustic, rising like a snake in the face of her antagonist, ready to strike, but often taking her time to do so while she sizes up the opposition, considering perhaps, with which weapon she’ll finish him off. Highsmith meets her intellectual match in Ridgeway and Moor meets her on-stage equal in Matthew Backer. In every aspect of his communication Backer encapsulates the initial timidity and gradually gained prowess of a ruthlessly ambitious admirer. He needs few words to make his position known.

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It’s thrilling to see two accomplished actors simply acting. Having said that, the greatest compliment we can pay the actors is to not have seen their acting; to know that the work has been done and not see them doing it, only the effects of it, and that is the case here. Murray-Smith’s complex characters are perfectly realised by Moor and Backer, under the watchful eye of Director, Paige Rattray. Deftly fashioned suspense, created by Rattray’s superb manipulation of the text, timing, design features and plot twists, builds a little like the dark, lilting, recurring Norma Desmond theme of Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. Toulmin’s score balances this mysterious and sombre mood with interludes of Hitchcock style high stakes, and to further elevate the mood in that weirdly comically nightmarish horror movie way, we hear the innocent, joyful, slightly absurd strains of South Pacific’s Happy Talk.

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The end is not altogether unpredictable but it comes as a shock nevertheless. We’re drawn toward unimaginable horror; the writer’s reality, the inevitable, the loss of control. The actual end.

Switzerland is compelling and richly rewarding. It’s darkly funny, provocative and ultimately terrifying. It’s highly accomplished humble theatre; the strongest we’ve seen from within QTC’s walls this year.

Production pics by Rob Maccoll

Want to learn more about Patricia Highsmith?

Read THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar.

29
May
16

Daffodils

 

Daffodils

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

May 18 – 22 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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This is far more than boy meets girl. This is real life romance – indie-cabaret style.

Sometimes a show comes along that, for some reason, you know will be something special. It might not be big or flashy, and you might have missed it the first time around before it humbly went on its way and returned again without so much as a fanfare. Daffodils is such a show, gently urging genres to tiptoe along beside each other, gathering momentum until the conventions of theatre, music and cabaret hurtle into one another with a powerful storytelling force, leaving us completely satisfied and quite breathless.

I missed seeing Daffodils during APAM16 – a full week in February of productions and pitches to presenters – and there was no way I was going to miss the quietly acclaimed 70-minute piece this time, in a too-short touring season at the end of a stupidly busy ten year old’s birthday week. Luckily, the lovely girls at Brisbane Powerhouse were able to move tickets around to make a miracle possible, and I took Poppy to see the final performance on Sunday last week, following a fancy high tea with friends. It was a big day! It was a miracle to even get there! And Daffodils was the perfect closure, giving us much to consider, about relationships, family and the way we communicate – or don’t communicate – with each other.

What we saw of Daffodils in the lead up to its limited Brisbane season didn’t exactly undersell it – I was taken by the music and images in the marketing materials – but it didn’t prepare me for the incredible beauty and depth of its storytelling, which lies beneath the very simple premise of a story inspired by true events. And it’s a beautiful, romantic, happily-ever-after story. Until it’s not.

The parents of the playwright, Rochelle Bright (also vocalist and keys, one of three talented musicians on stage), met one night in a field of daffodils by the lake outside Hamilton, New Zealand. It was 3am and Rose told Eric she was feeding the ducks… Unbelievably, Bright’s grandparents met in the same place.

Both relationships suffered from extraordinary, perfectly ordinary, lack of communication.

The narration is shared between Rose and Eric, and the songs tell as much as the spoken word. Underscoring and overlaying distinctive accents with some of the best Kiwi indie music, the scene is set for first love, loyalty and passion, and then the antithesis of what we are led to believe every loving, long-term relationship looks like…sounds like…

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Rose (Colleen Davis) is the heart of this piece. A lesser performer would have a very different effect on the show or much worse, leave no impression at all, whereas Davis makes an indelible mark. A keep-it-real modern woman with the remains of her previous life about her like the lingering base note of a favourite fragrance – the sweet rock n roll party queen – Rose is someone we all know, or used to know, and someone whom we hope never to become quite as resentful as. 

Her Teddy Boy, Eric (Todd Emerson), is the thread that holds disparate pieces of the tale together. A true Kiwi gentleman, he takes Rose home on that first night, even though her house is an hour’s drive away. His mod punk rock persona transforms brilliantly into the demeanour of the desperate, desperately unhappy working man, working for the (old) man. There Is No Depression in New Zealand. Right. Moving upstage and downstage only, on either side of the Visy stage with hallway rugs beneath their feet and the three-piece band between them, the performers play with constantly changing energies, pushing and pulling, helping to draw out the tale’s natural ebb and flow, as if we were hearing the shared telling of it from a couple over dinner.

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The connection between Davis and Emerson is as intimate as if they are in fact at dinner; a long-time couple or the best of friends, despite the two never crossing the space to be with one another and never making eye contact. In fact, a crucial moment in the story sees them turn away from each other. We are fully invested, sooo frustrated. Devastated. I resist shouting at Rose. I blink back tears. I remember to say to Poppy after the show, “Look at what comes from not saying something out loud…” She smiles. “I know, Mum. But she didn’t know what it was she needed to say. They should have waited until she did.” Oh.

A heart wrenching acoustic rendition of Neil Finn’s Fall At Your Feet, complete with rich vocal harmonies, hits us hard and remains the pivotal moment for days afterwards, on loop in my head. This is a complex cinematic (closing credits when you finally let the tears fall) moment, immense, and yet, again, it’s so intimate, shared with just a few of us in this small dark space. It’s not often you feel an entire audience go still and stay silent for the duration of a song. There are a number of these moments in Daffodils, when time actually appears to stand still, and unwittingly (and at times, unwillingly), we become aware of our feelings.

Garth Badger’s black and white images, including aerial footage of the happy couple, roaring off into the night on Eric’s motorbike, dancing, laughing, and the footage of another happy couple celebrating their small town wedding with friends and family, bring a sense of nostalgia to what is essentially an unexpectedly affecting folk tale, full of little warnings for those of us who might feel somehow destined, in the same way, to repeat the mistakes of previous generations… 

Sometimes the sweetest, saddest, most unassuming and simply told true story is the one we’ll remember.

Daffodils to Edinburgh from Bullet Heart Club on Vimeo.




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