Archive for the 'Circus' Category

04
Oct
17

TORUK – THE FIRST FLIGHT OPENS THIS WEEK

Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight, inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR opens this week at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

 

Brisbane Entertainment Centre: 5th – 8th & 11th – 15th October

 

 

 

Inspired by James Cameron’s record-breaking film AVATAR, TORUK – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil will make its Australian debut at Brisbane’s Entertainment Centre in October before heading to Sydney (Qudos Bank Arena), Melbourne (Rod Laver Arena), Adelaide (Entertainment Centre) and then Perth (Perth Arena).

 

“Avatar is really meant to be a celebration of human motion and human emotion and Cirque is able to capture that absolutely perfectly, because it’s all about human performance and physicality. It makes you feel alive to watch these performers,” said James Cameron. ‘’TORUK – The First Flight is an integration of humanity and technology, a colorful spectacle for the entire family. We are delighted to see this epic journey take flight in Australia, a country so rich in culture and scenery as can be found on Pandora,’’ said director and writer Michel Lemieux.

 

 

THE SHOW: Inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR, TORUK – The First Flight transports you to the world of Pandora in a visually stunning live setting. Experience a storytelling odyssey through a new world of imagination, discovery, and possibility. Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination. This live immersive experience also bears the distinct signature of directors and multimedia innovators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic co-existence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things.

 

Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

 

THE STORY: When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omatikaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.

 

 

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27
Sep
17

Limbo Unhinged

 

Limbo Unhinged

Brisbane Festival

The Courier Mail Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent

September 8 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

70 minutes of sizzling, sexy, adult circus and cabaret returns to the magnificent Spiegeltent at Brisbane Festival. Strut & Fret, it seems, can do no wrong; the formula and style perfected, the audience lapping up every moment. With only a slight dip in energy and drive, while Remi Martin, in the clown role (no, he’s not scary or silly), spends several minutes miming various approaches to opening an imaginary door. It’s the preset to one of the better pole routines we’ve seen in a while, a sensational display of strength and grace in the most masculine way. Other than this precursor, there’s no lull and we love the spectacle of circus trained sculpted bodies, Heather Holliday’s magnificent fire breathing, sword swallowing and light sabre swallowing (Will we see it glow? We see it glow!), stunning aerials, superb vocals and the graceful, swaying, verging-on-death-defying Chinese Poles. Is it any wonder that there are gasps from the crowd beneath, as the artists dip low enough to give someone a quick kiss on the cheek?!

 

 

Limbo Unhinged is everything we desire in circus right now – we’ve talked about this before – with so many offerings, the best of them in terms of content, style and audience appeal, are still Cirque du Soleil, Casus, Company2 and Scott Maidment’s Strut & Fret, since 1997, delivering on their manifesto to make artistic experiences “breath-taking, heart-gripping, unforgettable and entertaining”. 

 

 

And where their Blanc De Blanc fails to capture the imagination (others loved it but I’ve always found it slightly less tasteful), Strut and Fret’s Limbo and Limbo Unhinged both offer a level of sophistication and sexiness that we demand now in circus and cabaret – there’s no going back to cheap vaudeville stunts unless they can be sold as brilliant parody or a little nod to nostalgia.

 

Sxip Shirey plays a starring role on vocals and a variety of instruments, leading a fabulous band. He’s a quirky figurehead, the lively persona of all upbeat components of the work, which would be nothing without his original compositions and zany personality. But the acrobats also play, stepping in and out of the band to jam at this big, bold party while someone else takes a starring role on stage. 

 

 

There’s really something for everyone. Charlotte O’Sullivan and Nico Jelmoni delight with their daring balances, lifts and counter balances, defying gravity and all common sense. We won’t be trying this at home…without a spotter. The element of danger across all physical feats is just enough to induce a state of excitement and anticipation – we don’t fear for the performers. We’re in awe of their focus and strength and control. There’s the light-hearted, awe-inspiring pole routine, contortion and aerial contortion, a fire breathing counter balance, and the men strutting and dancing, Kinky Boots style, in an epic choreographed number that would put to shame many of the under-30s out for a dance on a Saturday night!

 

 

One of the more elegant moments, reminiscent of the rose petals and paper of Per Te, brings an artist in billowing white to centre stage – for not quite long enough – beneath beautiful lighting that makes her appear almost mystical, a muse. And then she disappears; she’s moonlight and then she’s gone.

 

David Berthold’s Brisbane Festival only brings in or brings back the very best, and Strut & Fret’s Limbo Unhinged is one of the highlights again this year, offering an exciting and erotic, enticingly exotic evening of pure escapism and entertainment we don’t see anywhere else for the rest of the year.

 

 

11
Sep
17

PER TE

 

PER TE

Brisbane Festival & Aurecon

QPAC Playhouse

September 9 – 16 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

She could tell a story through her eyes…

 

PER TE (Dedicated to you, dear Julie) is an astonishingly beautiful and tender production featuring charismatic acrobats with all the skills, and a circular set up of wind machines on stage to lift inanimate things into the air, creating breathtaking moments for little more reason than that it can be done. It’s perfect festival fare, a feast for the senses without making perfect sense. An Australian premiere, exclusive to Brisbane Festival thanks to David Berthold’s relationship with Compagnia Finzi Pasca (Switzerland), PER TE is almost a show and so much more than one. Can I even explain it? Do I even need to? I just want you to experience it.

 

Dramaturgically challenging for those looking to find a narrative thread through it, PER TE is unashamedly a work of sheer beauty, complex memories and raw emotion, dedicated to writer and director Daniele Finzi Pasca’s late wife, the visionary Julie Hamelin Finzi, who died last year after a long illness at the age of 43.

 

NEXT YEAR I WILL BE 43.

 

 

The profundity of this production is not in its circus tricks but in its arresting images within the aesthetic of a dream, or a dream of a dream, or of several dreams woven together over decades, with sheaths of white plastic floating and dancing above the stage, red and gold silks billowing and becoming fire-breathing dragons, frolicking, fighting…newspaper pages whirling, snowflakes swirling, an aerial hoop descending chillingly like a noose, and in the same instant containing all the beauty of the world, a thousand red rose petals twirling around it, tiny dancers in the air.

 

An entire sequence will stay with me forever, an extended anime fight, private, child-like – SCHOOM! – until the performer’s exhaustion sets in and she continues to fight – what? The world? Herself? – despite physical, mental and emotional fatigue, causing real tears to spill down my cheeks as I ache for her.

 

The second act opens with a plate spinning spectacular-spectacular, the stage filled like a field or a forest of light, or a jungle if we go by the sounds the acrobats make, with poles upon which the plates are placed and spun until they’re suddenly gone, and I don’t notice when they’re struck, or how, or by whom…the angel’s story has me captivated.

 

 

PER TE’s meta-premise lets us in on the secrets of creating a show and paying tribute to a life. With only a box of memories and a garden bench we are three months out from opening night, so things can change and there are members of the stage crew still moving props and set pieces about in plain sight, but basically the show exists, right? Why? And for whom? As the performers explain to the audience the way a show comes together, they reflect on their practice and the creative process. They play games, childlike in their glee, and they remember the things that Julie had said or done. The live music and vocal work is integral to the melting, sweeping, changing moods of the show. This “show” is in fact a love letter, a memoir; an homage to beauty, passion, love, belonging and longing.

 

 

When we begin we are in a garden, with a red garden bench and a darkened doorway, its edges lit. (Finzi Pasca’s Icaro also features a darkened doorway, which opens to the light). It reveals the performers, wearing suits of armour that weigh 30kg each, inhibiting movement, but not much, and adding clanks and creaks to the soundscape. At times it seems like something more will be made of the armour – at one point the tiniest female performer offers a guy his breastplate to put on, but there is no deeper meaning other than what we ourselves read into it, no extra moment there unless we ourselves choose to languish in it. At the end the armour is removed, piece by piece, and each performer lays it on the stage in front of them. This meaning is clear. But with a number of moments that seem less specific we can decide that either there are missed opportunities or that we have missed something that probably wasn’t meant for us in the first place. When such a deeply personal work is shared, we can either embrace it and find morsels we wish to keep forever for ourselves, or simply let it wash over us and look forward to the next festival piece.

 

PER TE is a private place of grief and glee and reverie and community, or a strange and visually stunning circus piece.

 

PER TE for me, more than a secret garden, is the distant memory of a series of decadent grown-ups’ dinner parties, which we would catch a glimpse of for years before being sent down the hall to bed; it’s magical, elusive and it might make more sense next time, or never.

 

14
Apr
17

Model Citizens

 

Model Citizens

QPAC & Circus Oz

QPAC Playhouse

April 12 – 15 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Melbourne’s Circus Oz, under new Artistic Director, Rob Tannion, returns to QPAC after an absence of some years (you might remember Steampowered  in 2011) with a wink, tongue in cheek and two thumbs up, in Model Citizens, a boldly conceptualised, powerfully political look at what it means to be a resident in our lucky country.

 

In a beautifully designed (Michael Baxter), dramatically lit (Sian James-Holland) model-kit playground of oversized ordinary objects, this newly assembled troupe surpasses expectations, bringing their entertaining physical feats and cheeky Aussie humour to the Playhouse stage for a strictly limited season. It’s a shame it hasn’t enjoyed a longer run right through our school holidays.

This is not so much a new direction for Circus Oz – they’ve always been politically and socially cheeky and funny, and had the band on stage and performed all the tricks – but more a refinement of the mischievous, clever form, which takes the most entertaining and exciting elements from circus, cabaret, dance and theatre, and combines them to create a refreshingly different circus style. The real difference here is Tannion’s uncanny ability to fuse concept, design elements and content, making Model Citizens a more polished show than we’ve seen previously, and without having an actual narrative, is just about as seamless as circus gets.

In an Arts Review interview last year, Tannion noted, “Having a broader pool of artists to draw from will open the possibility for numerous and concurrent collaborations for shows and acts that may evolve into intimate smaller shows, site specific performances or develop into our Big Top productions … This will continue to challenge our preconceptions of the creative process and expectations of what our audiences will see and experience on stage.”

Tannion’s dance and choreographic background comes through in both the fast-paced super busy sequences, with the performers running and leaping and balancing and tumbling all over the place, and in moments of relative stillness, such as the opening sequence when we find ourselves grinning at ironically stereotypical frozen statues that come alive and eerily, like mannequins or Stepford Wives, peer at the emcee Mitch Jones AKA Captain Ruin, and run away from him, playing a sort of hide-and-seek-milling-and-seething ensemble game. Just to note, in case you’ve also gone back to school and ended up studying composition this year, Tannion’s direction is the best application of the Viewpoints I’ve seen in a while (only Natalie Weir’s work with EDC regularly does anything remotely similar). It’s an interesting, discerning use of triangular floor space, and giant everyday objects, including a peg, a cotton reel and a safety pin.

The giant safety pin serves as our Chinese Poles (actually opening and shutting with the weight and agility of the performers, a brilliant realisation of design and purpose) and an enormous pair of Bridget Jones’ knickers provides a unique take on a classic aerial act, with silks dropping from overhead on a peg. A balancing act on a house of oversized credit cards has us considering our economic situation when, proudly and precariously teetering at the top, Luke Ha is offered yet another card i.e. more credit, which, to the delight of the audience, he adamantly refuses.

Jones as Captain Ruin, heavily inked and sporting a pink punk mohawk, a gold tooth and a tutu, sings and roller-skates and gets himself out of a straitjacket in record time, which we’ve seen a good friend do too, sure, but not whilst hanging upside down by his ankles! Jones is irreverent and enigmatic, irresistible, driving the show and stitching many of its pieces together.

The most surprisingly erotically charged knife throwing act ever sees the bewitching Freya Edney ducking and weaving, then blindfolding Jones to finish the act. Her hoop act astounds and then, upping the anti, a giant roue cyr (cyr wheel) is manipulated by another performer while the ensemble members roll bowling balls around him.

A series of silly puns throughout the show have us groaning in a good way, and the original songs elicit raised eyebrows, some dropped jaws, wide eyes, and lots of raucous laughter. A small herd of sheep causes hysterics in the audience at the beginning of Act 2 as a sheep dog rounds them up and puts them into their pen, which also holds a Webber barbecue and Captain Ruin. In an undeniably Amanda Palmeresque performance style, Edney plays ukulele and sings straight-faced about how tolerant and accepting we are of others, “but not in my backyard.” The undercurrent of pseudo-political correctness and self righteousness is, unfortunately, easily recognisable and appeals to the collective sense of humour on opening night. Jeremy Hopkins and MD Ania Reynolds add heightened energy and sass on stage as well as strong musicianship skills.

Historically, Circus Oz has found it difficult to resist having a go at the world’s most famous circus since Barnum & Bailey, Cirque du Soleil, and refreshingly this time, rises above the seemingly typical Australian need to take a swing in their direction. This time no reference or comparison is made. Circus Oz has grown up and gotten confident, claiming their space in the contemporary Australian circus arena.

Model Citizens boasts a beautiful sense of childlike playfulness and innocence without forsaking any of the sheer thrill we expect from circus, and on the other hand, offers a wizened, wry look at the way we see ourselves. It’s perfect whole family fun at an affordable price, right here in our own backyard.

 

Model Citizens features the many and varied talents of Freya Edney, Jake Silvestro, Jarred Dewey, Jeremy Hopkins, Lachlan Sukroo, Luke Ha, Mitch Jones, Olivia Porter, Rose Chalker-McGann & Steph Mouat.

 

24
Nov
16

KOOZA opens tonight!

 

Cirque du Soleil’s incredible KOOZA opens tonight!

with our own Lisa Skinner

 

kooza_lisaskinner

 

Using very conservative mathematics, Queenslander Lisa Skinner has spent more than 75,000 hours in a unitard; in reality, it’s probably more like over 250,000 hours. That’s a lot of time in lycra.

 

Brisbane audiences are about to see the result of Lisa’s dedication because this Albany Creek born, world class gymnast and Olympian is about to take over one of the key solo acts – the Aerial Hoop – in the critically acclaimed KOOZA, by Cirque du Soleil, opening in Brisbane on November 24.

“I have spent considerably more time in lycra than I had ever planned when I was young, but I have been lucky enough to have made a career out of what I love doing; out of what I started as a kid in Albany Creek when I was six years old and wanted to learn to do the splits and a handstand!” said Lisa.

Born in Brisbane Lisa began gymnastics at age 6 at Lawnton Academy; she went to Albany Creek Primary School and later she traversed the city each day, from the northside to the south to attend senior school – at Holland Park, because it was close to Chandler sports complex where she trained. For almost ten years Lisa reigned supreme in Australian gymnastics. From her international debut at the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan where she placed 12th with the Australian team, through to 2004 she competed at four World Championships and three Olympic Games (1996 Atlanta; 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens). She held the Australian National Champion title in 1996 and 1997; earned two gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and was the highest-ranked Australian WAG athlete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She was the country’s most celebrated elite gymnast.

And while she may have shone at three Olympic Games, numerous world championships and won standing ovations for her role in another Cirque du Soleil production in Quidam, this upcoming season of Kooza in Brisbane will be the very first time Lisa Skinner has performed in front of her hometown crowd.

 

She’s excited, and yes, just a touch nervous.

 

However, in a twist not unlike some of the breathtaking moves she performs under the Big Top in Kooza, her time in the Cirque du Soleil spotlight almost didn’t happen.

In 1997 when Cirque du Soleil scouts first approached Lisa she turned them down because, she had never seen a Cirque du Soleil show and, “thought joining a circus meant caravans and elephants, and I didn’t want that, I wanted to continue my career as an elite gymnast, to see how far I could go.” It was at the 2004 Athens Olympics that Lisa’s destiny turned.

“By this time I had seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows and had been astounded at every one of them, at the level of excellence, at the generosity of artistic direction, and at the world class standard of acrobatics, costuming and performance involved in each. There were no elephants, just incredible human beings doing extraordinary things!”

She saw the Cirque du Soleil scouts at Athens and this time, she approached them.

She was invited to Cirque du Solei’s General Formation of 2005 – the company’s talent pool sourced from all over the world. But before she could join, she needed not one but two shoulder reconstructions to mend damage caused by years of pushing her body to extremes. “My shoulders were basically held together with tape; and I knew I couldn’t start the new career I really wanted with Cirque du Soleil, without having the operations and focusing on rehabilitation.” She returned home to Brisbane for the operations and recuperated at the family home, still her most loved destination to visit in the world! All up, this took almost a year.

After initial training in Montreal, she was offered a position on Alegrìa in the Power Track Team and later became the dance captain for the cast. Always looking to improve her skills, Lisa challenged her Artistic Director to find her a position on Quidam in one of the shows’ powerful aerial numbers.

 

kooza-lisaskinner_quidam

 

In 2010, Lisa joined the Aerial Hoops act on Quidam and toured all over the world with the show. She was in the USA and on a break from Quidam when the call came through a few months ago from Cirque du Soleil – they needed her for Kooza, the Aerial Hoops performer had to leave the show for family reasons for a few months.

“Which city?” she asked.

“Brisbane,” came the reply.

And “yes” was hers.

 

In Kooza Lisa performs the Aerial Hoops act solo. “This is my first time in a solo act with Cirque du Soleil, and yes, it’s daunting – there is no-one to share the load, no-one to shift focus, the full weight of the audience lies with me – and I guess that’s why they called me, this is what I do, I’ve done it since I was six,” she said.

 

And so, tonight when Kooza opens in Brisbane, many in the audience will be the people Lisa grew up with, her friends and even those she used to train with, old coaches and car pool drivers. Some will know her as one of the country’s greatest gymnasts. Others may recognise her from medal ceremonies. And there will be fans who applaud her after simply reading her story.

Her family will sit proudly knowing her as the girl who spent far too much time in a unitard.

And thank goodness she did.

 

KOOZA opens tonight at 8pm. See you there.

 

kooza_trickster

24
Nov
16

Wonderland – 10 Top Picks

Wonderland!

 

bph_wonderland_2_2016-1178x663

 

Wonderland opens tonight! Get ready for three weeks of high energy entertainment in the intoxicating heat of Brisbane’s Summer nights.

Wonderland is Brisbane’s end-of-year carnival of surprise and delight.

With 31 shows over 14 days, you’re invited to flirt with the unexpected and step into a euphoric world of body bending antics and late night temptations…

 

1. Phelan Groovy

Don’t miss the star of Dirty Dancing in Phelan Groovy, part auto biographical, part celebrity dish and ALL entertainment. For if there’s one thing Kurt Phelan has learned through life, it’s to only say 10% of what he thinks. Now you get the other 90% but only from tonight until Saturday at 8:45pm.

 

 

 

2. Wild Heart

Grand Finalist of The Voice and one of Australia’s most gifted singer/songwriters, Ellen Reed, won the hearts of a nation with her soaring voice and unshakable spirit as the Team Jessie J favourite. In Wild Heart, a one night only concert on Wednesday November 30 with her band, we can experience her national television defining performances live in the Powerhouse Theatre, with soulful renditions of Sia’s Chandelier, Demi Lovato’s Stone Cold, and Pink’s Perfect. Ellen Reed will also debut her new single Wild Heart and perform her upcoming album of original tracks including Ask Me to Stay, Blur and Not Tonight. A special Wonderland treat, not to be missed!

 

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3. Smooth Criminal

Not only is Christopher Wayne one half of the global success story, The Naked Magicians, but he’s also producing some of the hottest shows we’ll see over the next couple of summers. Smooth Criminals brings together the odd couple of Australia’s entertainment industry, Luke Kennedy and Joel Turner. For one show only, on Sunday at 4pm, audiences will get the chance to experience Michael Jackson’s back catalogue as they’ve never heard before, when Kennedy (The Voice, Season 2 runner up, The Ten Tenors) and Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) join forces to share in their love for the greatest entertainer to ever live, in a musical experience like no other. This is the must-see Smooth Criminals.

 

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo

 

4. More Than A Boy

Starring Tom Oliver, More Than A Boy is a playful rite-of-passage about family and adventure, do-or-die situations and seemingly random events that build character and shape destiny. Featuring an eclectic mix of original songs written by Tom, Andrew McNaughton and Wes Carr (Australian Idol winner), theatre tunes and reworked contemporary hits, More Than A Boy magically weaves together the stories of a Croatian refugee forging a new life and a grandson who follows his dreams. Backed by a live band, get the adrenalin pumping and experience Tom Oliver shoot for the stars in this lively quest journey.

 

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5. The Lady of the House of Love

If you’ve never seen this show – or this artist – you’re in for a real treat. Performed by award-winning artist Sandro Colarelli, The Lady of the House of Love is a darkly eerie and exotic one-man show exploring the themes of desire and destiny. With original music composed by award winning singer-songwriter Jake Diefenbach, this combination of evocative narrative and stunning songs harks back to the darkest roots of cabaret.

 

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6. Other Women

This is the season’s sexiest circus-cabaret! Starring Lizzie Moore, Eliza Dolly, Rosie Peaches, Freyja Edney with a Chloe-Rose Taylor. Other Women: Temptress or tempting? Fast woman or free-spirited? If a man is a stud, what is a woman? Enter the world of Other Women: a provocative and witty circus-cabaret celebrating female sexuality and exploring sexual double standards. A thrilling live band, circus soloists and burlesque cheek electrify the stage in this World Premiere performance. Featuring an eclectic mix of songs by artists such as Nina Simone, Goldfrapp and Prince; Other Women explores promiscuity, and our contradictory views towards women and their sexual behaviour.

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7. Emma Dean in Concert

Heralded for her captivating vocals by the New York Post, Brisbane’s own Emma Dean is a consummate performer and has released over ten independent original albums/EPs.She has toured the world, performing alongside Jesca Hoop and Kate Miller-Heidke, and in support of Macy Gray, Jinkx Monsoon, Katie Noonan, Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls. Emma will be joined by her brother, Tony Dean to perform an eclectic catalogue of songs exploring love, loss and light. One show only on Saturday December 3 at 4pm.

 

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8. The Chaser’s Australia

Discover The Chaser’s Australia with Charles Firth and James Schloeffel. A very special multi-media presentation of The Chaser’s Australia. Covering politics, culture, religion, sport and jokes about Karl Stefanovic, it includes a special segment on Australian cooking, and why chicken salt is the only ingredient you’ll ever need. It also includes an extra special presentation on the environment entitled “There’s Absolutely Nothing to Worry About”, sponsored by the Minerals Council of Australia. If you only attend one event this year, you should probably go out a bit more often. The Chaser’s Australia; it’s everything you wanted to know about Australia, but were too apathetic to ask. One show only tonight at 7:15pm.

 

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9. Mills and Boom!

Join the Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary, a fictitious amateur writers’ group of oddball characters with fake hair, fake lashes, and real passion, for its personally acclaimed stage show. Mills and Boom! is a simply stupendous salon of bosom-heaving, lip-quivering ecstasy during which we regale you with our smouldering romance stories. Featuring Pascalle Burton, Carody Culver, Adam Hadley, Michelle Law, Ian Powne, Tessa Rose, Jackie Ryan, Leah Shelton, Lucas Stibbard, and Neridah Waters. One show only on Sunday December 5 at 5pm.

 

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10. House of Mirrors

The House of Mirrors is a grotesquely fascinating walk-through installation composed of a labyrinth of seemingly endless mirrors. Since the 19th Century, mirror mazes have been trapping and reflecting participants, challenging those that venture into them, both physically and psychologically, resulting in delight, amazement and sometimes, fear. The House of Mirrors includes Kaleidoscopic like chambers, voids, doorways and darkened breaks, the purist and most traditional form of a mirrored maze. No added gimmicks, no special effects, no special lighting, no sound track or soundscape.  The primary ingredients of carefully arranged mirrors, geometry and pure optical illusion.

Please be aware that during busy period, long wait times are possible. We recommend if you pre-book a ticket and plan on experiencing House of Mirrors before another show, to give yourself ample time in case of lines. Your House of Mirrors experience could take anywhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, depending on how fast you solve the maze.

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22
Apr
16

VELVET

 

Velvet

QPAC & Organised Pandemonium

QPAC Cremorne

April 21 – May 8 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

VELVET is a night club and a state of mind – a fantasy.

– Craig Ilott

Live_22_Brandan Maclean_ADE_Tony Virgo

VELVET is this year’s best night out so far, especially if you missed it last time, at the Powerhouse during Brisbane Festival last year. It’s a dazzling disco cabaret; a feast for the senses and a wake up call for the soul.

We’re seated at the top of a catwalk stage, with additional seating on either side of it. The Cremorne has become a dance floor, with five giant glitter balls suspended above, flashing, moving, colourful lights on all sides, lots of haze, revolving mirrors and entire walls of light below a balcony boasting yet another wall of flashing lights, and the omnipresent DJ, MD & Percussionist, Joe Accaria.

Inspired by Studio 54, a club famous for its wild parties and hedonism but also ultimately for its culture of acceptance – blind to colour, creed, class, gender, size and sexuality. VELVET is a celebration of that freedom.

– Craig Ilot

An outstanding soundtrack of back to back 70s smash hits (get the original cast recording here) takes us on a journey that is focused on a young man’s hopes and dreams (Brendan Maclean). There’s a whole lot of Pippin about it; Maclean’s character’s gotta’ find his corner of the sky (only his Corner of the Sky is If You Could Read My Mind). He finds it in a flashy, racy late night venue, VELVET.

Live_4_Emma God_ADE_Tony Virgo

A stronger storyline may have seen Maclean more explicitly seek a soulmate or a Drag Mother; nevertheless, he appears to find both, sans awkward scenes or dialogue, in the divine Marcia Hines. The story is not much clearer than boy-goes-to-big-city, boy-becomes-confident-with-the-help-of-fairy-godmother-and-a-few-good-men, boy-lives-out-his-wildest-dreams, and nor does it need to be. Those who seek a deeper meaning will find it.

Moments – impressions – have come back to me today, outlasting the high energy of the performers (Choreography Lucas Newland), the glamorous discotheque aesthetic (Design James Browne & Lighting Matthew Marshall), in particular, a moment of real connection between Hines and Maclean, and a later moment of truth, when the boy faces a mirror image of himself in another performer. Does he even recognise his previous conservative self, and how far he’s come? There are enough moments like these to make VELVET the more narrative of the increasingly popular cabaret variety shows.

Indie singer-songwriter, Maclean, is fabulous in this role; brilliant, bold and barely able to contain his excitement, driving the semblance of plot with a full range of facial expressions and a full spectrum of emotion behind them. His energy on stage is infectious and we watch as he stumbles into this strange and exotic new world with grins big enough to match Maclean’s. He’s a phenomenal, full-hearted performer, with the glorious gift of true versatility and not a weak aspect. Like his friend and hero iOTA (with whom Director Craig Ilot has also worked), Maclean wears sequins and feathers well, and can take us from the most flamboyant and colourful camp heights to the most sombre, moving, modern ballad lows. His heartbreaking acoustic rendition of Stayin’ Alive transports us, transforming us. Can you even imagine? No, you can’t. You simply must be in the room for this performance. I feel bereft, and in the same way a heavy metal band has recently repackaged Simon and Garfunkel, this classic disco smash hit will never be heard in the same way again. Ilot has clearly left room for the artists themselves to come to this party, making it a beautifully intimate experience.

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Hines sparkles and shines, a true diva, her full, rich, real voice a joy to hear live. She commands the stage as only an enduring star can, and in It’s Raining Men and, with Maclean – it’s fabulous – No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) we hear her full vocal super power, quite extraordinary.

Her backing vocalists are two of the best in the biz and not so much “backing” as “flanking”. Rechelle Mansour and Chaska Halliday are stunning, with the dance and vocal ability to give Beyonce’s girls a run for their money. They could be next year’s Super Bowl half time entertainment, but we’d be foolish to lose them. Turn the Beat Around is a showstopper, showcasing their combined and individual formidable talents.

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Mirko Köckenberger is not only the handstand acrobat of the company (he impresses early, undressing upside down on a stack of suitcases) but also, the mirror image and symbolic self to Maclean’s soul-searching, world-seeking character. Another striptease is noticeably absent from this version of the show, according to friends who’d seen the first, but the production is not lacking. If anything, it’s a relief to enjoy a circus cabaret that doesn’t feel the need to go there (anymore). The show is inherently sexy and the slightly risqué (I guess? Perhaps for some of QPAC audiences?) comes in the form of a dangerous, gorgeous bondage aerial sequence featuring Stephen Williams and Emma Goh. They demonstrate strength, grace and a range of S&M options for the, er, high-flyers amongst us.

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Craig Reid (AKA The Incredible Hula Boy), offers comic relief – perfect comic timing – and cheeky fun in a perfectly polished hula hoop act to impress even the most discerning circus crowd. Hilarious, he’s a firm favourite with the opening night audience.

There’s nothing to dislike here. VELVET is sensational; the most unashamedly entertaining Spiegeltent show outside of the Spiegeltent. This season will sell out. See it or see it again. You won’t be disappointed.