Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

23
May
16

The Wives of Wolfgang

 

The Wives of Wolfgang

Anywhere Festival & Girl Who Cried Wolf Productions

Holy Trinity Anglican Church

May 20 2016

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

Wives-of-Wolfgang-Image-e1456783508514

Dear Friends, Family, Colleagues, Acquaintances and Perfect Strangers, It is with great sorrow that we must inform you of the death of Wolfgang. Your presence at a memorial service in his honour is most humbly requested. A loving man, Wolfgang is survived by three former wives. They pray his soul will rest, somewhat, in peace. Wives of Wolfgang is a work-in-progress from new production company, Girl Who Cried Wolf Productions.

A friend asked me how I was spending my Friday night, and I replied, “Off to see a theatre show in a church.”

I arrived at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Fortitude Valley, somewhat puzzled about exactly where the show was taking place. There seemed to be a 1940s jazz social commencing in one of the halls but I quickly assumed this was too upbeat for the Wives of Wolfgang. I meandered over to a group of shadowed figures huddling by the steps of the church, and was soon ushered inside by a morbid-looking gentleman who resembled Lurch from the Addam’s Family.

The lighting was stunning; a deep fuchsia making me feel like I had slipped into a Tim Burton film. Smoke billowed ominously across the altar and around a chestnut coloured coffin. The Wives – Hannah Belanszky, Paige Poulier and Caitlin Hill – entered from different parts of the Holy building and so commenced the funeral of their dearly departed, Wolfgang. They each told the story of how they met their mysterious lover, how they impacted his life, and how their lives will never be the same again. Their stories merged between reality to the imagined and the audience had no choice but to sit back and listen to absurd tales about pussy cats, diamond rings and sexual fantasies…

This creative development by Girl Who Cried Wolf Productions was hilariously charming and slightly disturbing in all the right ways. Belanszky, Poulier and Hill are all recent graduates of the Acting program at Southbank Institute of Technology. Being a graduate of the course myself, I recognised the rigorous physicality and heightened language that is held in such high regard. All three actors were attuned to one another, making the performance engaging and thrilling to watch. I must say, I yearned for more. In particular, I wanted more attention on the actual story. I had many questions. Who is Wolfgang? I think if I knew more about the man, then I’d care more for his wives. It seems the surface was scratched of each character. In saying this, I can’t wait to see more developments of this work.

Belanszky, Poulier and Hill are all strong and beautiful performers to watch on the stage (or in this case, on the altar), and this is just the beginning for such a talented trio of emerging Brisbane artists.

23
May
16

When Time Stops: Director’s Cut

 

When Time Stops: Director’s Cut

QPAC & Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Playhouse

May 20–28 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Natalie Weir's When Time Stops. Image by Chris Herzfeld. Image shows EDC full company with Camerata of St John's

The dancers’ commitment and trust bring new energy and vision to the work. They are responsible for bringing it to life. It belongs to them.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

When Time Stops is intense, moving, and beautiful. In a series of impressionistic scenes, a dying woman re-experiences significant events in her life, and says goodbye, finally moving into another realm and accepting her inevitable death.

 

In this 2016 restaging of When Time Stops, Expressions’ Artistic Director Natalie Weir has made some changes, and has refreshed the work in collaboration with new and former cast members. The original 2013 version was powerful – this one even more so.

The music, composed specifically for this work by Iain Grandage, won a 2014 Helpmann Award for Best Original Score. It creates a dark, rich string sound, with poignant solos for cello and violin.

The live performance by the string players of the Camerata of St John’s is spellbinding. Dressed in black and with bare feet, the twelve musicians play from memory, moving on and offstage and in among the dancers, sometimes enclosing them in lines. Outnumbering the dancers, they are visually striking, but not overpowering.

The overriding impression of the dancers is of fearless strength and unrestrained emotional expression.

Michelle Barnett as the Woman excels in her first leading role with Expressions. It is a demanding performance, physically and emotionally, requiring a great expressive range. Barnett sweeps us along with her, and her final acquiescence, as the light shining on her face dims, is a wrenching moment.

A constant reminder of death and the crossing into another world is the archetypal Ferryman (guest dancer Thomas Gundry Greenfield), who waits to take the woman on her final journey. For much of the time, he sits in the background in his boat, rowing, and facing away from the audience.

Gundry Greenfield’s muscularity, combined with slow, controlled movement, and his watchful, ominous presence, make the Ferryman a dominant figure, at times pulling the Woman towards death, and at other times repelling her or trying to prolong her life.

In the section ‘Time’, guest dancer Xiao Zhiren (Guangdong Modern Dance Company) recreates the solo originally performed by Daryl Brandwood. Flexible and fluid, he is a worthy successor to Brandwood, twisting his body impossibly and recovering effortlessly.

Natalie Weir's When Time Stops. Image by Chris Herzfeld. Image shows Rebecca Hall_low res

The Woman alternates between observing her younger self, played by other dancers, and reliving her own experiences. In ‘First Kiss’, Rebecca Hall and Benjamin Chapman capture the joy and tenderness of a youthful love affair, the movement exultant, with lifts whirling through the air.

Barnett is partnered by guest dancer Jake McLarnon in ‘Knocked Sideways’, the evocation of a violent and dysfunctional relationship, where Barnett is flung and wrenched through acrobatic movement. In this role, McLarnon creates a character with a convincingly cold and threatening presence.

Showing great expressivity and strength, Cloudia Elder features in ‘Scan’, at first pressed against a large panel of light, and then moving away to convey fear, disbelief and despair.

Following ‘Scan’, the Woman relives her reaction to the news about her illness. As if one person can’t contain the enormity of it, McLarnon and Chapman partner Barnett in expressing her rage and grief through uninhibited movement.

The mood changes in the elegiac ‘Last Kiss’, where the Woman farewells a friend (Xiao Zhiren). In this gentler duo, Zhiren and Barnett match each other in expressing a sense of loss, nostalgia, yearning and compassion, taking it in turns to carry each other.

In the ‘Cardiac’ scene, Elise May recreates the Woman’s final struggle for life. The Ferryman, this time in the guise of a rescuer, administers chest compressions to try and resuscitate her. Barnett is watching, as if the Woman’s spirit is already separated from her body.

May is a very powerful performer, completely sublimating movement into emotion. Her sudden coughing and choking in the Woman’s death throes seem incongruous, however, as none of the dancers have previously vocalised in any way. This breaks the intensity of the performance.

Bill Haycock’s design for the show gives an effect of elemental simplicity, with walls of a tilted room, and projected images of clouds, and stars in a night sky. The lighting by David Walters is often muted, and pierced by shafts of light from a tall, narrow doorway. The dancers’ costumes (calf-length dresses for the women, and long pants and loose shirts for the men) are in neutral light shades, apart from Barnett’s, which is black.

After the show and the extended applause, the audience was still so wrapped up in the performance that they stayed in their seats briefly, and moved out of the theatre slowly, talking about the experience. You know it has been a great night in the theatre when this happens.

When Time Stops is on until Saturday 28 May at the Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Book here

21
May
16

I Love A Sunburnt C*ntry

 

I Love A Sunburnt C*ntry

Anywhere Festival & Foxy Morons

Hotel LA, Petrie Terrace

11-20 May 2015

 

Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway

 

foxymorons

 

Well, the 5th show of the festival and I feel like a seasoned professional. It has been an amazing week.  I Love A Sunburnt C*ntry was very entertaining, and going off the title I’d guessed it was going to be quite rude and it definitely didn’t disappoint. When I arrived I could spot the Foxy Morons immediately because they were dressed as flight attendants getting ready to “take us on a tour of the land down under and maybe some of Australia too”. Phrases like this one riddled the entire show, which made it all the more entertaining.

The Foxy Morons, Shazza and Jaimee-lee, were our tour guides for the evening and gave us all the lowdown on what it means to be Australian. During the evening there were mentions of certain political figures, many native creatures and even a shout out to Mark Holden who was a definite blast from the past for me.

As far as Anywhere Festival performances go, this was certainly one right up my alley, any show including profanity, alcohol and quick costume changes is going to be a favourite. The ticket price also includes a pub meal, which is even better! The girls referred to a TV screen throughout that was on the wall opposite to me which at times was hard to see and occasionally the tech guy was a bit slow on the clicker but he was fired before the end of the show so that’s okay. A small interval broke up the show which allowed for people to go grab a drink and one for the two performers as well, promoted frequently throughout the show. You also had the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for your chance to win a prize, which I know for certain included a bottle or two of wine, of course!

Shazza and Jaimee-lee were a very tight knit duo throughout the show. Whether it was their fantastic harmonies or their synchronised dance moves, everything was very rehearsed. The pair improvised well and they bounced off each other creating a fast pace for the entire performance. Almost so fast that some of the Australian colloquialisms were hard to catch or by the time you had processed it they had moved on and had said 5 more hilarious one-liners since.

I can definitely see this show being very successful if they choose to perform it again, and I look forward to seeing what other creations the Foxy Morons come up with.

 

foxymorons_salute

 

21
May
16

The Curiousity Experiment

 

The Curiousity Experiment

Anywhere Festival & Nathan Schulz

Ecclectica, West End

5-21 May 2015

 

Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway

 

curiousityexperiment

Another show during Anywhere Festival means another interesting venue to visit.

 

The Curiosity Experiment was staged at the Ecclectica: Esoteric Books and Curiosities in West End. I was excited for this production, as it was in a place that I found very intriguing. After I survived the drive into West End and found a car park in a dark backstreet a couple of blocks from the store, I made my way and was greeted by one of the voice actors who gave me a little insight to the show. Unfortunately “The Butler” was unable to make this performance and therefore Nathan Schulz, the writer and director of the show, was filling in.

 

ecc3

 

I then got to explore the store before the show began and it was exactly what I had hoped for. Lining the walls were animal skulls, shelves with books on tarot, reflexology, auras and taxidermy. The incense was burning and the mood was set. In the centre of the room was a long table with chairs and different accessories to wear, to fit in with the era.

 

Schulz started the show and told us about a story his father used to tell him. A ghost story. If you are a fan of anything supernatural then I would definitely recommend going along and seeing The Curiosity Experiment. Schulz confessed to me this was his first self-written show and I believe he has done a good job. At times I was a little confused because I had to remember that it had three layers: the actor we were introduced to (Schulz), introduced us to two new characters in his story, who then took us into another story in which the spirit of Ella came into the room. I saw the performance when Ella was played by Audrey Cadzow and my, what a performance she gave. It was terrifyingly accurate how crazy she sounded within the piece. At times I thought Schulz may have found her in an institution, or on the street corner rocking back and forth muttering to herself.

 

The radio show effects that were used throughout the show enhanced the atmosphere and the first crack of thunder, I am not ashamed to admit it, made me jump. The mood was further intensified by the fact the audience was asked to wear blindfolds during the telling of the story. This made it more intense when Cadzow popped her head between members of the audience during her story. Unfortunately there was some interference during the performance, one being from the Latin dance classes going on upstairs, however; the actors played with it by mentioning the poltergeists in the room. The other mood-shattering interference was when the phone began to ring at quarter to nine at night. Like, who is calling a bookstore at that time?

 

ecc1

 

Although I’m sure the show will undergo some changes in the future, Schulz can be proud of what he has created.

 

The Curiousity Experiment had me wondering what was going to happen next and left me wanting more, and when I got home I spent way too long researching all the true ghost stories of Brisbane’s West End.

 

21
May
16

Tragedy!

 

Tragedy!

Anywhere Festival & Ease Productions

Paddington Substation

8 – 16 May 2016

 

Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway

 

tragedy

 

I will admit I was skeptical to see this show. Having read the small blurb found on the website I was honestly walking into this show without an ounce of knowledge as to what to expect. Particularly because of the venue, The Paddington Substation, I was intrigued. Little did I know that the Substation is actually home to the Room To Play Independent Theatre. It provides an area for any creatives to go and make use of the space. During Anywhere Festival it was home to Ease Productions and their performance of Tragedy, a show written, directed and performed by Elizabeth (Libby) Scales.

Once I arrived at the venue I got to explore and have a drink before the show began and listen to the musician, Amy Scales, set the mood. Creative blood must run in the family as she is sister to Libby. Fortunately I was able to have a quick chat to Libby beforehand and find out more about the future of the show because tonight was the final showing…for now.

Soon the lights dimmed and we were seated. (I was smart enough to sit next to the reserved seat which meant later in the show I was the shoulder for Libby to lean on). Out comes Artemis an ancient Greek God who wasn’t important enough to be sitting in on the meeting of the Gods that was happening at that very moment. She was instead sent to give an important lesson to the humans of Brisbathania.

We were told that the Gods were angry and furious and angry and furious and angry and furious (one of the many lines in the show that were repeated over and over for comedic effect – almost tipping over into the annoying category) and they felt useless because of the modern day humans lack of praise to them. They are feeling irrelevant and are deciding on a “restructure”.

In terms of staging, The Room to Play Theatre has a small raised platform which means the audience are extremely “involved” in the show. Meaning, the fourth wall is often broken and who else are you going to talk to during an hour long one-woman show? Libby did a great job of interacting with the projection on the back wall, whether it be to her subservient servants (who eventually disobey her and walk off), her best friend (who clearly needs to understand that fake disconnection doesn’t work on Skype) and two small clips – one at the beginning and one at the end – that show Libby running around frantically in public because she can’t find her phone and the latter because she got decaf. These introduced the audience to the theme of the show and brought light to the generation currently roaming the earth.

During the show Libby has a little sing along with Dolly of Partonia; she sings a parody of Jolene and later gives us some sampling of her dance moves whilst Tina Turner plays on the projection Simply the Best. This is playing during her metamorphosis into a God that is learning to live in this world. She has to do this after discovering she has been made redundant, losing her place in the fluffy clouds.

 

Tragedy-image-May-2016

 

This show probably isn’t one I would normally attend but I am glad I came along to it. It was a great experience and I was definitely learning tips for when, if ever, I want to do my own one man show….

Libby dropped that Tragedy! may be making a return so definitely keep an eye out for intros one in the future.

21
May
16

Boy with the Rainbow Umbrella

 

Boy with the Rainbow Umbrella

Anywhere Festival & Coleman Grehan

19 Heath Street, East Brisbane

May 5 – 14  2016

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

Anywhere-Theatre-Festival-2016-The-Block-1024x624

In Queensland and New South Wales there is a law known as the Homosexual Advance Defence (HAD) – the American equivalent being the Gay Panic Defence. This is a legal loophole in the Criminal Code in s304 “Killing on Provocation,” and has existed since the 1990s. Because of the mandatory sentencing which accompanies murder charges, provocation is an important defence. The Queensland law, which was changed under the Newman government to ensure that words alone did not count to provocation, “unless exceptional circumstances exist,” an accused could claim they had experienced a temporary insanity after being overwhelmed by a homosexual advance. Queensland and New South Wales are the only two states in Australia yet to abolish this law.

Coleman Grehan’s new work Boy with the Rainbow Umbrella is inspired by a tragic story in Queensland’s history.

In 2010 a young man was bashed to death by two men in Maryborough. The men claimed they were provoked after the victim made an unwanted advance. At the trial, video footage showed no evidence of homosexual advances, and even though both men were imprisoned, neither was found guilty of murder.

It was closing night for this particular show and I’m so honoured that I made it. I arrived to find a group of about 15 people standing around in the garage of a house in East Brisbane. Anyone passing by must have thought it was a pretty awkward party had it not been for the Anywhere Festival banner standing on the footpath. Soon the audience was led into a downstairs bedroom where everything – from the wallpaper, to a lampshade, to a pair of shoes – was painted in black and white stripes. A young man (Jay, played by Nicholas Prior) who was utterly saturated, wearing a black and white turtleneck and dark trousers, followed us into the room and stared at the body of another young man (Adrian, played by Lachlan Smith), asleep on the bed. Lights flickered and an eerie soundscape brought a claustrophobic tension into the room. The bedroom was so small and the audience was crammed in like sardines that every breath and shift of weight could be heard. One of the things I must mention about Grehan’s work is that he is always hyper-sensitive of what his audience is feeling and experiencing. More often than not people pay little attention to a piece of sound; they just let it wash over them. The soundscape for this show was understated yet crucial in creating atmosphere and highlighting important shifts. Ugh, I loved it!

During the next hour, a dark secret is revealed and questions about masculinity arise.

The two characters talk about their differences, their lives and how certain expectations are placed upon them. They talk about how society views them and brands them with specific labels and stereotypes. The dialogue is balanced beautifully with meaningful conversation and hilarious banter. A magnetic chemistry existed between Prior and Smith that allowed me to completely forget where I was and to be enthralled and engaged in the storytelling. And this is such an important story to tell. I was sitting right in front of Smith at one point, as if he was confessing his secrets to me alone, and I thought how special and rare these moments in theatre are.   

Coleman Grehan and his team are fearless, creating work to promote change.

Anywhere Festival has served up some exceptional work this year.

anywhere2016 Boy_With_The_Rainbow_Umbrella

     

19
May
16

Backyard Double Bill

 

Backyard Double Bill

Anywhere Festival & Backyard Theatre Collective

Toowong Bowls Club

May 12 – 21 2016

Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway

anywhere2016 Backyard Double Bill printed program

I love going to see shows in Brisbane’s Anywhere Festival. It’s always a real surprise to see how the directors are going to use the space with which they have chosen to work. Anywhere Festival forces audience members to go to places they may never have been before. I remember exploring an antique shop during intermission of a show last year.

First cab off the rank for me at this year’s festival was Backyard Theatre Collective’s Double BillThe Picnic and Saying Goodbye to Ally, at Toowong Bowls Club, where I’d never been before.

The Picnic is a piece written by Tremayne Gordon and directed by Kristen Maloney. Previously performed at The Festival of Australian Student Theatre (FAST) it had a sold out season and for good reasons that became clear to me on the night. This piece is set at a picnic that has been organised by Ash, however; she doesn’t show. The strangers, who are all friends of Ash, are now left to test heir own patience and to see who will crumble or, in this case, who will cake.

As soon as the audience walks into the room the stage is live with two characters, Kat (Tess Middleton) and Maggie (Gemma Elsom) standing in the middle of the space with huge awkward smiles on their faces, an awkward stance and wearing ponchos covered with cream. The two stand there until the audience has been seated and it’s time to start. Throughout the piece we begin to see the actors meet each other and reflect on what all of us have been through when we first meet mutual friends. We see these strangers become friends, enemies, lovers, all in 45 minutes. 

The Picnic is a delightful show. The use of butchers paper and even the movement of chairs is used in place of props, which is clever and effective. The audience interaction is great and I wish I’d had the chance to wear my poncho. The short vignettes give the audience insight into each individual character; a small touch, connecting the audience that little bit more. The piece features clever writing by Tremayne and fantastic artistic direction from Kristen.

Kristen also wrote and directed the second half of this double bill, Saying Goodbye to Ally. This piece is definitely a contrast to the previous, and goes to a darker, more sombre place. It is a modern day take on the Euripides’ story of Alcestis who gave up her own life so her husband could live longer. However, surprisingly this piece shines a light on suicide. Kristen has written cleverly, using humour in such a way so as not to marginalise the audience or leave them depressed. It balances on a knife’s edge throughout. She does a good job of ensuring it is well balanced for the entirety of the show. With minimal props and staging, the artistic approach is well executed. All actors play their characters with heart and passion. The standout is Bowden and her portrayal of ten-year-old Alice. Her energetic personality stops short before the older sibling in you comes out and tells her to go to her room. Tremayne Gordon’s different ‘hood voices’ are clear, accurate and surprising. With playwriting and acting up his sleeve it will be exciting to see where Tremayne’s future will take him.




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Nicola Hewitt (Noosa District SHS), the only soloist in the comp this year, sang Somewhere That's Green today in Heat 1 of the senior section. Breakthru is back next week, at Sunshine Plaza from 10:30am. Noosa District SHS presents Little Shop of Horrors August 3-6 #breakthru #littleshopofhorrors #qldmusic #qlddance #performingarts #xsentertainment #xsneverstops #visitsunshinecoast #sunshineplaza @_sunshineplaza_

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