Archive for the 'Cabaret' Category

21
Oct
19

I’m A Phoenix, Bitch!

 

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch

QPAC & Brisbane Festival 

QPAC Playhouse

September 18 – 21 2019

 

Reviewed By Shannon Miller

 

 

Shrieking melodramatically and pursued by God only knows, co-writer and performer, Bryony Kimmings enters the stage in a gold sequinned dress and blonde wig, frantic and helpless. She is pursued ridiculously by herself, a creature of her own making, as she flips between the damsel in distress and the hunting beast; an introduction lampooning Hollywood clichés, scream queens, slasher films and creature features.

 

However, the damsel turns the tides and defeats the monster, triumphantly shooting invisible fireballs from her loins! Kimmings is victorious and turns to the audience posing the meta-theatrical proposition, “Imagine if I started the show like that.”

 

Surrounded haphazardly by set pieces covered in sheets, Kimmings sheds the bling and levels with the audience, donning active wear and embarking on a heartbreaking personal monologue of a much darker time in her life. She meets her partner, Tim. They fall in love, and move into a quaint cottage out of town of which they’ve been warned by the agent of a pastoral stream having the potential to swell and flood the property.

 

 

They move into the cottage nonetheless; part dream-home, part Evil Dead/cabin in the woods. Kimmings soon discovers she is with child and everything couldn’t seem more perfect. However, the stream rises inevitably as it has been foretold, and the story delivers a child plagued by medical issues, born in the midst of a relationship breakdown, while Kimmings’ character is flanked by a crushing post-natal depression.

 

Along the way, she reveals the set pieces, which appear shambolic at first but soon become a curated visual psycho-sphere, items of the symbolic order which join the dots to this quickly harrowing tale: a kitchen, a back window, a miniature of the cottage, metonymic icons of the limited roles she is expected to play in a patriarchal society.

 

 

She puts the book into song, too, at times channeling Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, the yes girl, the bimbo, the damsel, the siren, Lorna Jane, the psycho – stereotypes that seek to sum her up and limit her as the gathering plot begins to unravel her in synchronicity with the rising stream.

 

Kimmings has written a sharply targeted one-woman show, and she draws the audience so tightly under her control. Every second of this work is deeply felt, beautifully rendered and at times utterly exhausting. It’s funny, whimsical and a serious commentary on not just gender inequality in the domestic sphere, but it’s a personal anecdote in which the audience is voyeur to a working practitioner’s creative, self-healing process.

 

 

This is a grim modern fable daringly funny and with darkly uncompromising feminisms echoing Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion and Jeanette Winterson. The story twists in the direction of mother-shaming, anxiety-driven perfectionism, and self-flagellation as the new currency of excellence, honing in on the pressures to be a strong and independent woman, girl, and lady – to become everything: the lover, the caregiver, and the breadwinner.

 

With stunning multi-media and set design, and a dénouement so unexpectedly dramatic and nuanced, this remarkably redemptive narrative set within a current movement of self-care and mental health awareness is buoyed ultimately by hope. A truly compelling theatrical experience.

10
Aug
19

Lady Beatle

Lady Beatle

La Boite & Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse

August 7 – 10 2019

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Like most kids, I would first come to know The Beatle’s music through my dad. With his collection of 45’s, which he still has, we would listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Yellow Submarine and Penny Lane amongst others from the crackling turntable. I remember watching that needle wondrously glide and float upon the grooves of the record as Dad would dance along and play air drums, lost in a broken rock and roll dream, perhaps. And now, years on, admittedly my favourite genre of music is orchestrated versions of pop songs performed by some of the most extravagant cover bands like the London Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops Orchestra playing Hey Jude and Eleanor Rigby. We all have our personal stories of how we know The Beatles. They’re a rite of passage and like Bach, Mozart or Shakespeare, seminal in their modern pop music inventions.

 

Always keen to hear how artists interpret The Beatle’s canon of pop, vocalist Naomi Price, reprises her titular role as, Lady Beatle with co-creator Adam Brunes, Mik Easterman on keys, Andrew Johnson on bass, Michael Manikus on drums and Jason McGregor on guitar. Described as a “kaleidoscopic journey through The Beatles’ most monumental hits this performance marks the beginning of a three-month tour across the country.

 

 

The band assembles on retro podiums. The light is scarce and broody but for a contemporary chandelier of crystal shards cascading with sparkles just above Price as she takes the stage in an iconic straight jet-black wig and military issue marching band uniform.  While we’re in the stalls, there’s cabaret seating in the “mosh pit” of La Boite’s theatre and the audience, clinking with wine glasses and bottles, are immediately receptive to the energy Price’s band are promising. 

 

Kicking out a punchy overture of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, Price and her band will continue to wow audiences throughout the night with beat-driven reimaginings of Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine and Come Together with particular noteworthy performances of Eleanor Rigby, Don’t Let Me Down and Here Comes the Sun. (The latter for which Price received a standing ovation part way through the show.) She not only showcases the full breadth of her vocal dynamic but also that she has the desperate yearnings and poetry within her to take us on the emotional journey. One of the difficulties with such a show is to elevate the material higher than just mere covers; to be more than just a juke box monologue. And she does just that. She brings something new and old; a courageous new rock music language both timeless and innovative.

 

Price is bold, electric, she twists and shouts, she uses her body, she kicks and turns, she uses every artifice and physicality at her disposal, she lets loose, then turns inward; tiny and small. She approaches the audience like we are her friends, like we’ve come over to her house after school and we’re going through her vinyl collection together as she shares her favourite Beatles’ songs.

 

 

Between pieces, Price stops to reflect in Liverpudlian on more obscure notions. Her stories are presented as if she is omnipotent, she is everyone, she is no one, impossibly moving forward and backwards in time, explaining in an almost fractured poetry a series of vignettes about her grandmother who taught her about The Beatles, about Paul McCartney, Ringo, John Lennon, George Harrison and Brian Epstein’s tragedy. Price mixes up the fantastical and the factual sometimes coming from the point of view of a tortured fangirl wanting to be the fifth member of The Beatles. But at times the intention of the narrative is lost, juxtaposed between a seemingly innocuous tribute and the melancholy pages of an angsty teenage diary.  With themes of existential crises, insignificance, and the burden of living in the shadows of unrealised dreams, Lady Beatle is part memoir, part fiction, part documentary. As a narrator, Price is unreliable as she weaves stories together some seen naively through a kaleidoscope of modern sensibilities. But we come to understand her stories may not necessarily be a cohesive arch; the vignettes are undeveloped and at times leave unappealing malaise and unanswered questions with the audience to reconcile.

 

 

Nevertheless, this is a fun and unabashedly toe-tapping show with innovative lighting design by Jason Glenwright, sound design by Jamie Taylor and costuming by Leigh Buchanan. A tightly executed operation, which serves to honour the music of a most world-beloved band. In Danny Boyle’s recently released film, Yesterday in which a struggling musician wakes to discover that he is the only person who remembers The Beatles’ music, I felt similarly reminded of how Lady Beatle taps into our own personal relationship with the music of The Beatles; a relationship which only we can know, and like the film Yesterday, is secretly hidden and unknown to the rest of the world. 

 

Lady Beatle tours until November 9. Tour dates here.

 

 

19
Feb
19

Matilda Award Winners 2018

2018 MATILDA AWARDS

STILL Brisbane theatre’s night of nights. Perhaps Paul Bishop said it best: the importance of the Matilda Awards is that we come together not to celebrate brands, but to celebrate our stories as humans.

 

The new judges deemed the following stories and storytellers the winners. Congrats to all!

 

2018 GOLD MATILDA AWARD

Debase Productions
This special, open award recognises either a standout production or performance element in the year’s theatrical season or, in this instance, recognition of an individual company or group for their contribution to the industry as determined by the judging panel. DeBase are being recognised this year for their commitment to making theatre of excellence in Queensland for over 20 years, touring nationally and internationally, focusing on the use of comedy to address social issues in a way that is in tune with their target audience.

 

INAUGURAL EMERGING FEMALE LEADER AWARD

Christine Felmingham
Announced at the 2017 Matilda Awards Ceremony, this award is sponsored by the Brisbane Women Arts Leadership Group with a cash prize of $1000, provided by the sponsors of the award.  The Brisbane Women Arts Leadership Group will work with the recipient of the award to develop a 12 month program of mentoring and development that is specific to the recipient’s needs and goals. The Program could include one-on-one mentoring with an Arts Leader, networking opportunities through invitations to opening nights and other industry events and professional development.

 

The Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work

Crunch Time – Counterpilot

Including works from all performance categories, this is a very competitive category and this year is awarded to an outstanding new work that pushes the boundaries of what contemporary theatre is or can be. A transmedia performance work, sitting in the world of immersive theatre, Crunch Time places its full trust in the hands of the audience, combining intricately complex interactive digital design, with a guest chef from a public position, to set the scene for a performative dinner party designed to model the processes of democracy while providing the audience with a uniquely immersive theatrical event

 

Best Video Design

Craig Wilkinson – A Christmas Carol

An original and captivating video design that incorporated new video forms, staging magical gestures that were both theatrical and cinematic to impeccably support the aesthetic of the production. Craig’s design enchanted audiences with its spectacle, but only ever to serve the wonder of the story being told.

 

 

Best Lighting Design

David Walters – Nearer the Gods

In a production that that deals with both human foibles and the mysteries of the star-studded universe, David Walters’s original design displayed exquisite lighting artistry, providing moments that transported us beyond the characters’ earthbound realities, giving the audience evocative glimpses of the cosmic enormities that grounded the story.

 

 

Best Sound Design/Composition

Babushka – Happily Ever After

Babushka, in collaboration with Luke Volker, created an impressive sound aesthetic that incorporated blind-siding arrangements of a combination of original composition and existing works, utilising exquisite vocal harmonies and live music to deliver a darkly seductive and wickedly theatrical score.

 

 

Best Costume Design

Penny Challen – The Owl and the Pussycat

From a Surfers Paradise beach as part of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Festival 2018 to a season at Flowstate and then on tour, the costume design for this work needed to be flexible and pack a visual punch. And that’s precisely what Penny Challen succeeded in doing. A visual feast, within an innovative contemporary context, the costume design provided seamless dramaturgical support for the work, with each costume displaying an impressive attention to detail and providing a vibrant and precise expression of the characters within their pea-green world.

 

 

Best Set Design

Josh McIntosh – A Christmas Carol

For inventive use of scale, theatrically realising a shifting cityscape that brought a vivid liveliness to this world. Josh’s modular design enabled a dynamic relationship between the characters and their environment, where the whole world seemed to open up and close in on its inhabitants as the story unfolded. This outstanding scenic design created a highly adaptive space that traversed numerous locations and technical requirements in a way that clearly evoked the environment of Ebenezer Scrooge’s world, while giving the artists a space within which to explore and create.

 

 

Best Director

Natano Fa’anana and Bridget Boyle – We Live Here

To the excellent directing team of Natano Fa’anana & Bridget Boyle, for their elegant and nuanced direction, and sensitive, funny, yet hard-hitting sharing of the story of the people of Hummingbird house. These directors worked collaboratively to create an incredibly strong visual narrative that seamlessly combined forms of circus and recorded narration to portray real stories. The result of their attention to detail was a compelling and unforgettable theatrical experience.

 

 

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Andrea Moor – Hedda

Andrea Moor was barely recognizable in her standout portrayal of Aunt Julia Tesman, completely embodying the bogan matriarch, skilfully bringing both humour and heart in this layered and nuanced supporting performance. This outstanding work solidifies Andrea’s place as one of Queensland’s theatrical treasures.

 

 

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Jackson McGovern – The Owl and the Pussycat

Jackson found gravity, balance, humanity and humour in an eclectic array of larger-than-life characters including a turkey, a pig, a bear and a moon. In a challenging breadth of roles, the skill of the performer shone through to create many memorable and standout moments that expertly supported the storytelling.

 

 

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

Noni Hazlehurst – Mother

In a solo work written specifically for her, Noni gave an outstanding performance, giving voice to Christie, a lost, fallen and ultimately dispossessed woman existing on the fringes of society. Through her nuanced portrayal, we were able to connect with the humanity of this beautifully wrought character, and perhaps reflect on our own.

 

 

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

Paul Bishop – Poison

For his compelling and unflinching portrayal of a father faced with life after the death of his son and the breakdown of his marriage, Paul Bishop brought the depth and breadth of his experience as one of Queensland’s most experienced actors to this work, presenting an intimately moving performance that captured the complexity of loss as both particular and universal. With Paul’s embodiment, the sticky details of this character’s backstory open up to accommodate our own grief and heartaches.

 

 

Bille Brown Award – Best Emerging Artist

Carly Skelton – The Hatpin

In the early stages of her professional career, Carly is being acknowledged for her portrayal of Harriet Piper, clearly meeting the professional requirements of the challenge. Carly displayed a solid skill base within a fully realised character journey replete with inventive choices and excellent comic timing that was skilfully coupled with vulnerability and empathy.

 

 

Best Circus or Physical Theatre Work

We Live Here – Flipside and Metro Arts

A unique collaboration of physical theatre, circus and recorded verbatim stories, this intricately nuanced production utilised a strong ensemble, excellent skills base, transformative design, stunning direction and detailed, touching performances to deliver an impossible-to-forget story about life in the face of death. For many, this work offered one of those divine experiences in the theatre – where an inexplicable moment in time and space lands with such emotional resonance that it transcends all language as a way of connecting us to each other.

 

 

Best Independent Production

The Sound of a Finished Kiss – Now Look Here and Electric Moon

In a strong year of independent work, The Sound of a Finished Kiss was considered the best overall independent production because of the unique nature of the musical work, the execution of the production, the degree of difficulty and uniqueness inherent in the original concept and the way in which all elements of the production came together to create an innovative theatrical experience of the indie musical reimagined for Queensland audiences.

 

Best Musical or Cabaret

The Sound of a Finished Kiss – Now Look Here and Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse

The indie musical reimagined for Queensland audiences, this compelling story of love, loss, betrayal and share-housing was explored in an inventive work inspired by the songs of The Go-Betweens. Using four singers, a live band and eleven songs from this iconic Brisbane band, The Sound of a Finished Kiss proved to be a powerful coming-of-age story that cut across genres and generations.

 

 

Best Mainstage Production – TIE

Prize Fighter (La Boite & Brisbane Festival) and The Longest Minute (Jute, Debase and Queensland Theatre)

This award is shared between two exceptional productions this year. Prize Fighter is recognised for the further development that has refined it into a powerful theatrical work of excellence. The urgent heart of this production explores the compelling story of a Congolese refugee, haunted by his past as a child soldier, as he fights to build a future in Brisbane.

The Longest Minute is acknowledged as an excellent collaboration between Jute, Debase & Queensland Theatre, fully immersing a diverse audience in the world of sport & theatre. By capturing attention through a uniquely local premise, this play sneaks up on us to explore underlying social, cultural and gender themes within its compelling story.

All elements of both productions were consistently outstanding and worked harmoniously to deliver theatre of excellence.

 

 

 

 

18
Dec
18

A Very Naughty Christmas – The Second Coming

 

A Very Naughty Christmas – The Second Coming

Understudy Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

December 6 – 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Elliot Baker & Sophie Christofis. A Very Naughty Christmas.

 

THE POLAR OPPOSITE OF CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT

 

Alex Woodward’s Understudy Productions returned to Brisbane Powerhouse for the holiday season with the naughtiest Christmas cabaret show in the city. It really should have run for another week. It’s the return of A Very Naughty Christmas and it’s only missing Miss Libby Hendrie, the gorgeous blonde triple threat in all of the marketing collateral. Other than that, there’s not a single disappointment; it’s perfectly designed to become a (strictly adults only) Brisbane Christmas Tradition.

 

Apparently, The Second Coming is nothing like last year’s production. But I missed seeing it, so from what I can gather it’s either lacking its original raw, really naughty edge, or it’s even more titillating and entertaining than before! We’re going to assume that the latter is the more common response because box office records. Also, Woodward is one of our excellent new producers who learns from each experience rather than giving up, packing up and moving on to another, bigger, brighter city. The lights are getting brighter in Brisbane and it’s largely because the indies, like Understudy, persist and survive – very well it seems – alongside the mainstage offers. (It’s also because table service survives at many of Brisbane’s better haunts. C’mon, Sunshine Coast!). Woodward always assembles the best of the best, both onstage and off, which makes it easier to garner support for each new project, and also makes the next tickets on offer from this company, for next year’s production of Sweet Charity starring Naomi Price, a very attractive Christmas stocking filler indeed…

 

Dan Venz directs a fierce and fiercely talented, unafraid, flamboyant cast. Each is a bit of a star in their own right, and not a bit reticent about performing this style of comedy. There’s a great deal of the individual in each very personalised role. Let’s face it, we’ve never seen Santa’s Helpers quite like these! Unlike last year’s rough and ready reverie, this script was written by Emily Christopher and Matthew Semple. It’s super speedy, stupidly funny and yes, very naughty.

 

Emily Kristopher & Stephen Hirst. A Very Naughty Christmas.

 

The role of Santa comes, of course, to Stephen Hirst, the host with the most…well, let’s just say he’s the most indecent Santa we’ve seen on local stages. Leading a completely politically incorrect, drug addled, intoxicated and very sexy band of elves, it’s no surprise to see an Austin Powers’ nude number eliciting raucous laughter, and equal measures of delight and dismay, when sight lines outside of the main seating bank offer sneaky peaks at a little more than the punters thought they’d paid to see, especially for those sitting in the right (or the wrong?) seats. Hirst is well known for his easy manner and wicked humour, his ability to take an audience along for the ride with a wink and a knowing grin; all qualities that serve him well here, lowering the tone a little nearer to bawdy, but lifting the standard of the show into the realm of Club Cumming, rather than just another cabaret show; yes, high praise indeed!

 

There was never any doubt that raunchy Aurélie Roque could steal the show, but she resists (that) temptation and plays nice – real nice – with performers and unsuspecting audience members. With powerhouse vocals and legs up to her ears, Roque leaves an indelible impression as always.

 

Emily Kristopher, having had two other productions in the Wonderland program, lets her hair and her guard down in this one. A substantial amount of the writing has got to be hers, such is the clever, concise dialogue, breathing space and overall pace. A versatile performer, her character is ridiculously cute, her comic timing is perfect and her voice is sublime. Sofie Christofis finds her place in this cast, establishing herself as the one to watch. I suspect she is to Understudy Productions what Stef Caccamo is to The Little Red Company.

 

Austin Cornish and Elliot Baker round out this devilishly talented cast. Cornish, given the opportunity to do so,  dances rings around the other elves, and Baker relishes his comedic role as the newest elf on the shelf with a shameful secret and a crush on Christofis. Cornish and Baker are further testament – as if we needed any further evidence ever – that the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (i.e. the Con) is training our next generation of triple threat superstars. Watch out, WAAPA. It’s a delight to hear each sing up a storm, in between their riotous workshop antics, and at times combining these elements to deliver, for example (and possibly, for a verse and a chorus too long), the viral Lonely Island number about a particular appendage in a boxMD Tnee Dyer (keys), Chris Evans (drums) and Elliot Parker (bass) appear to have just as much fun as we do. New arrangements of the most popular Christmas songs become fabulously dirty ditties with new lyrics; singalongs that you might not want to be caught on camera singing along with!

 

Understudy Productions had already gone to some lengths to fill the gap in the market, a chasm in fact, left by Oscar Theatre Co – now Oscar Production Co. A Very Naughty Christmas is potentially a neverending year-round series, like enough Club Cumming or Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, starring new and old talent, featuring new and favourite sketches and songs, and satiating new and returning audiences, as long as they’re over the age of eighteen. It’s a no-brainer to bring this show back to Brisbane Powerhouse each year at Christmas time (and in July!). If you missed the last two versions, you don’t want to be left out of a third.

 

Make sure you’re amongst the first to hear of another season. While you’re at it, you might want to book for the return season of The Little Red Company’s Christmas Actually and then let QPAC know that you’d like to take the whole family to A Christmas Carol. But keep any version of A Very Naughty Christmas for yourselves. It’s a lovely, filthy treat especially for the big kids. Talk about filling the gap in the market!

 

 

Austin Cornish. A Very Naughty Christmas.

20
Sep
18

Mother’s Ruin

 

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

MILKE & The Ginstress

La Boite, QUT & Brisbane Festival

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

September 18 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Nicole Reilly

 

For one week only, as part of Brisbane Festive 2018, La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre has been transformed into a boozy, magical gin joint. The cheekily self-proclaimed ‘threesome’, Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood and Jeremy Brennan, take their audience on a hilariously whirlwind, hazy and musical journey through the history of ‘mother’s ruin’, AKA gin.

 

The show begins with Maeve and Libby performing a Prayer to Gin, with Jeremy accompanying on piano, amidst the clutter of gin bottles of every shape and size strewn across the set. Don’t let the amount of empty bottles surprise you, the trio manage to pull gin bottles from anywhere and everywhere, with several hiding in the cleavages of Maeve and Libby to be retrieved mid-song.

 

Though the history of gin, and its reputation as a depressive tipple, is quite a downer, mostly due to the mistreatment of women throughout history, the expertise of these rising cabaret stars is in their ability to not take their narrative or themselves too seriously. As they race us through 18th century London, Libby confesses that it’s probably best for everyone if she just doesn’t attempt the accent, while Jeremy later remarks that he desperately wanted to do an accent because he’s “from NIDA!”. The songs and on-stage antics are equal parts cheeky, sexy and grotesque – with a memorable rendition of Fever by Libby ending in her dying of malaria after suffering from a range of delightfully disgusting symptoms on-stage – always with gin in hand. 

 

 

Both Maeve and Libby are incredibly dynamic performers, and unashamedly themselves (albeit heightened for stage), as they banter with the audience. They exude sexy, and their voices, together and individually, are mesmerising. Towards the end of the show, Maeve takes the microphone at the front of the stage and the other two disappear into a fiercely blue lit stage. I cannot even recall the song, it’s irrelevant, but Maeve’s ability to hold an audience, to captivate us with her authenticity and vulnerability was utterly engrossing. The audience was completely immersed in her world, which is a credit to her formidable skills as a performer.    

 

 

The passion and enthusiasm for their drink of choice, including the inclusion of a certified gin expert to their creative team, is infectious – if the gin bar of the Theatre Republic post-show is anything to go by! And so finally, after critically acclaimed sold out seasons at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, London Underbelly Festival, Sydney Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Fringe World Festival Perth, Adelaide Fringe and Festival of Voices, Mother’s Ruin has landed in Brisbane!

 

With a gin in hand, don’t miss this wonderfully silly and informative cabaret.