Archive for the 'Comedy' Category

15
Sep
17

Trigger Warning

 

Trigger Warning

Zoe Coombs Marr & Token Events

Theatre Republic – La Boite Studio

September 12 – 15 2017

 

Reviewed by Heather Blacklock

 

 

Zoe Coombs Marr brought Trigger Warning to the La Boite Studio for four shows only. Outside, in the precinct, an incredible space called Theatre Republic has been re-built for Brisbane Festival. There’s live music, scrappy bars, food stalls and seating to spare before you go in to see your show. I felt like I was in a giant treehouse.

 


I deliberately went into this show with very little information about what I was going to see. All I had picked up was that Zoë performs as the satirical character Dave. A fact I forgot to tell the friend accompanying me. My poor, darling friend spent the first 10 minutes or so wondering how the hell she was going to break it to me that this person was awful! So firstly, a warning (not a trigger warning) that Dave is going to challenge you in the best way.


The atmosphere flips between uncomfortably tense and explosively uncontrolled guffaws. We go on a journey with Dave that starts with stand up then moves to, of all things, clowning, and then deeper and deeper into a meta-mental breakdown. There’s a lot of sensitivity and vulnerability to Dave, despite his misogynistic instincts and I found myself feeling so much empathy for him despite reminding myself of my twitter replies after catching the attention of Men’s Rights Activists. There are so many layers here, and with it comes nuance in the commentary on being a female comedian, being a male comedian, challenges to privilege, feminism and identity.

 

I completely understand how Zoë has won multiple awards for this show, which has already toured extensively. It’s clever, socially aware comedy cut with bad puns, dick jokes and physical comedy that catches you by surprise. People will love it or hate it. I’m firmly in the love camp.

Advertisements
21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

13
Jun
17

Screw Loose

 

Screw Loose

Queensland Cabaret Foundation

Queensland Multicultural Centre

7-8 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

Arriving at the Queensland Multicultural Centre in Kangaroo Point, I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t been there before. This venue is Brisbane’s best hidden secret, it seems, with a large theatre performance space. As part of Queensland Cabaret FestivalEmily Vascotto took to the stage in her hilarious show Screw Loose. With direction from Gabriella Flowers and accompanied on piano by Ben Murray, Vascotto delves into her experience as a self-confessed stalker. She takes the audience on a journey of past relationships from kindergarten to adolescence to now, with passionate (and somewhat embarrassing and obsessive) stories, and songs of her struggles with letting go. By the end of the show, Emily Vascotto is just a woman scorned, misunderstood. She is far too fabulous and gorgeous for any man to handle. But don’t worry, she’s not one to give up easily, and her search for Mr. Right or MR RIGHT NOW continues.

 

Screw Loose is quirky and unsettling in the best way.

 

I found myself wondering if all these absurd tales were in fact true and taken directly from Vascotto’s life. She introduces herself as “Emily.” Is this an alter-ego?

There is one moment I feel is taken too far. Trigger/Spoiler alert: During one song, a set of keys are used to cut a lover’s name into skin. It went on for longer than necessary and it felt a bit insensitive.

Also, the space seems too large for the show. A curtain drawn to hide the depth of the stage would have created more intimacy. In saying that, Vascotto’s performance is physically spot on. She knows how to work it, never missing a beat, knowing exactly how to draw the audience in. With a flick of her luscious auburn locks, the wink of a smoky eye, she exudes confidence and sass, and is a joy to watch on stage. She keeps the audience on their toes, having everyone falling in love with her and then with a simple twitch of the head or a change in her tone, has us all thinking “this girl really does have a screw loose.”

I am blown away by Vascotto’s voice. Holy moly, what a set of pipes! And it isn’t only during the songs (that she wrote, by the way), but the musicality of her speaking voice, which is just as captivating.

Regarding cabarets and musicals, there needs to be a flow between story and song. The beginning of Screw Loose seemed a little stagnant, though a better momentum was found as the show progressed. It is hard when the only thing on stage is a performer and a pianist – there is nowhere to hide. But more often than not, that’s cabaret. Vascotto has an amazing presence, which she uses to her advantage.

It’s a shame the season was so short but this isn’t the last we’ll see of Emily Vascotto. With this year’s Tony Awards just announced, it seems appropriate to ask, will it be Broadway next?   

    

07
Jun
17

The Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise

 

The Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise

Brisbane Powerhouse & Lisa LaCelle

Friday June 2 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

 

 

Yes, you heard it here first, Mercedes DeLuca-Jones is auditioning to become the new Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise. This lady has everything her heart desires, a husband with a large check-book, two beautiful children who have moved out of home. What more could she want? FAME!!!

 

The ever-versatile Visy Theatre was transformed into Mercedes’ luxurious sitting room on the Gold Coast. There sat a grand piano, a bar cart with only the most expensive French champagne, extravagant rugs, and a large statue of a Cassowarie – of course, darling! Mercedes, played by the beautifully charming Lisa LaCelle (as it turns out, a housewife of Brisbane) graces us with her presence in a fabulous sequinned number with diamonds sparkling on her ears and fingers.

This wickedly hilarious comedy-cabaret sees Mercedes gossiping about friends both alive…and dead. She recently lost her gay best friend, Ritchie, whose voice she still hears and believes now is her guardian angel. To help deal with her grief she’s hired a music therapist, Ivy, who sits behind the piano sufficiently boozed up, it seems, to withstand Mercedes’ rollercoaster of emotion.

The story follows the highs and lows of Mercedes journey to be the next Housewife. She suffers shocking personal blows that see her husband Gregory running off with a Japanese exchange student, and her left clawing at her polyester Moo Moo in the hope to regain her dignity.

Alongside the witty and intelligent writing, the lyrics from hit pop songs weaved seamlessly throughout the show have been altered to suit the story. It was clear that LaCelle had a voice, but Mrs. DeLuca-Jones not so much, though it was the over-the-top performance of each song that had me in stitches. Her I don’t care what you think attitude got the audience on side from the get-go, and singing along.

With reality television taking over, this show is extremely current. It was entertaining and like reality TV, it was a chance to escape the hum-drum of everyday life, and have a laugh at another’s expense.

 

LaCelle’s performance is entrancing, throwing herself into the character, eliciting raucous belly laughs from the audience.

 

She was in complete control, even when phones starting ringing and people deciding to have loud conversations during the show, she powered on and I applaud her for that. It was a tough gig.

 

08
May
17

The Play That Goes Wrong

The Play That Goes Wrong

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Kenny Wax Lyrical & Stage Presence

In Association With David Atkins Enterprises & ABA

May 4 – 14 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

playthatgoeswrong_window

If you’ve ever seen, or been involved in your local amateur theatrical productions, you know this play.

This was the ideal production to see at the end of a massive week of the Masters course, with a number of things due and a third of the ensemble at my house for half the week, due to various configurations of groups and scene partners, the stress compounded by very little sleep and a whole lot of the usual travel on Sunshine Coast roads that are just not coping with the rapidly increasing number of drivers. We’re based at The J, Noosa, because our USC campus has offered the creative arts courses without having the facilities to house them. We love The J but nevertheless, we’ve all submitted a heartfelt survey response…

886x456_the_play_that_goes_wrong_17_galley_image_7_new

Originally staged in a North London pub, then on West End and Broadway, The Play That Goes Wrong is a production that literally brings the house down. A genius notion turned into an award-winning cookie cutter formula from young actors/writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, has given us everyman’s Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off. While Noises Off may be the slightly cleverer, more sophisticated show (we’ll see it soon), The Play That Goes Wrong is right on cue, and it’s on right now and it’s precisely the right thing to see if you’re in need of a good, laugh-out-loud evening of entertainment. And who isn’t craving a bit of light release?

886x456_the_play_that_goes_wrong_17_galley_image_4_new

The simple genius of this play is that it’s a total parody of everything amateur, with a delicious premise packed full of pompous performers straight out of the community theatre green room/club room/somebody’s living room, which makes us laugh because it’s what we know to be true of any well meaning community theatre company. I wish more of the locals would get to see this production, and I wish the same locals would get to see our Queensland Theatre, La Boite and Noosa alive! productions. They may wish to charge slightly less then, for the productions they’ve convinced themselves are just as professional as anything on a professional stage. Really? Have you seen one lately? If you’re happy to hop up and have some fun with some friends, please just ask for a donation at the door and give us all a large glass of wine with our ticket. I’ve said as much for years. I may also have said that the alternative involves actually taking on board the feedback you ask for, and getting better at putting on shows. 

Anyway, the conceit is this: here we are, at a dreadful, over-directed community theatre production of The Murder at Haversham Manor, a tidy little 1920s murder mystery in the tradition of the Agatha Christie style whodunnits featuring Inspector Hercule Poirot. The poor company has suffered from budgetary challenges and the loss of company members, making it impossible to stage their productions as intended. Instead, they have produced variations on the classics, including The Lion and the Wardrobe, Chekhov’s Two Sisters and Lloyd Webber’s CAT.

playthatgoeswrong_clock

The set is a brilliant disaster (Designer Nigel Hook), magically falling apart on cue, and making it a stage manager’s dream and their worst nightmare (Company Stage Manager Anneke Harrison and Production Manager & Head Mechanist David Worthy). It’s absolutely the stage manager’s show, and given a greater chance to flesh out their stereotypical characters, it might be a more satisfying show for the actors too. They clearly relish the physical comedy, accomplishing astonishing feats of balance and the expert juggling of props, as doors refuse to close (and then refuse to open), books fall from shelves, shelves fall from walls, walls and floors fall… you get the idea.

886x456_the_play_that_goes_wrong_17_galley_image_8_new

Original Director, Mark Bell, has taken the play-within-a-play formula to the extreme, even including in the first half of the printed souvenir program, the actual program for Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’s show. This includes a heartfelt note from Director, Chris Bean, who also plays Inspector Carter (Nick Simpson-Deeks, the very model of an actor who thinks he’s nailed the English inspector character) and the full fictional bios of Cornley Polytechnic’s company members: Jonathan Harris who plays Charles Faversham (Darcy Brown), Robert Grove who plays Thomas Colleymoore (Luke Joslin, every bit the pompous Leading Man/Lord of the Manor/Master), Sandra Wilkinson who plays Florence Colleymore (Brooke Satchwell, in all her smokey vocal jubilant glory), Max Bennet who plays Cecil Faversham (James Marlowe), Dennis Tyde who plays Perkins (George Kemp, hilariously timid and pathetic), Annie Twilloil, stage manager & initially reluctant stand-in (Tammy Weller) and Trevor Watson, the Duran Duran loving lighting and sound operator who thought he was signing up to a house rave (Adam Dunn). We also get glimpses of Francine Cain, Jordan Prosser and Matthew Whitty behind the scenes. It’s a stellar Australian cast, directed by Sean Turner, to bring us every fine, funny detail of the disaster that community theatre so often turns out to be. It’s fast-paced basic slapstick; Sam says it’s “dinner theatre without the dinner”. (He is of the opinion it should have stayed in the pubs).

Our party of four split up and the boys sat so far back in QPAC’s Concert Hall that they missed a lot of the nuance in the facial expressions, making the indulgent set ups and in-jokes a little too much to believe. But in Row D Mel and I missed nothing and we loved every minute of it. Ideally, for the vast majority, the more intimate Cremorne Theatre would be the place to see this show.

Is The Play That Goes Wrong just well-funded fancy comedy for the lowest common denominator? Or brilliant, entertaining worthwhile art? Is it a million dollar show? (It’s making close to that each night just at QPAC)! It’s certainly fun and fast and very funny if you’re prepared to see it for what it is, and give yourself permission to simply enjoy it.

886x456_the_play_that_goes_wrong_17_galley_image_6_new

20
Mar
17

#First World White Girls: Botox Party

#First World White Girls: Botox Party

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Rooftop Terrace

March 8 – 12 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

First World White Girls is a proudly Queensland created phenomenon, inspired by an inexhaustible list of what is commonly referred to as #firstworldproblems

These are the things we should be ashamed of admitting are a problem, but we’re not ashamed because it’s all relative, isn’t it? What we don’t have we desire, and what we don’t have going perfectly for us is nothing less than lamentable, even while others are suffering.

This smash hit cabaret, direct from a sold out season at Adelaide Fringe Festival and Brisbane Comedy Festival, is the realisation of an original concept, which manifested in a little show at the Judith Wright Centre last year.

I didn’t love it, but I love its adopted little black baby, Botox Party. Judy Hains (trust fund princess, Tiffany) and Meggan Hickey (Noosa born and bred Maddison) take us through an irreverent hour or so of social catastrophes and gross injustice from their privileged point of view. From Tinder to Trump to celebrity style and puppies, climate change, labiaplasty and those little black babies (so wrong but so funny), the girls, accompanied by Max Radvan on keys, lead us through a number of hilarious recounts of their first world white girl problems and also, invite the audience to contribute their own issues to the show. This works much better this time, the pace vastly improved and the girls better able to handle the throws from the audience, rather than the original and rather time-consuming awkward reading of what we’d written before the show, the pieces of paper randomly drawn from a bucket (OR WERE THEY?).

The vocals this time are stronger and the harmonies slicker, with Hickey’s versatility a highlight in  multi-tasking singing/tap dancing hilarious new number, Snowflake. Hains giving us new insight into the ageing process via a sensational rendition of Memory. The original numbers, penned by Hains, are witty, catchy ditties with less forced rhyme than before (or are they better selling the songs?) and a greater degree of difficulty, which we see particularly in the satirical tribute to the disaster that is Donald Trump, complete with Patty Simcox inspired cheer choreography. The stakes have been well and truly raised, and we can’t fail to recognise these abhorrent creatures and their complaints, and laugh and gasp for breath with them.

I love that this show continues to evolve and prove itself to be just as current and as relevant as ever, making it much funnier and riskier than it has been before. This is the added value for audiences (and for return audiences), as well as for the artists, who obviously get to work more often doing what they love when we support the arts, so that good things can be made better and tour for longer.

Botox Party is pure fun, very funny entertainment, but the not-so-subtle satirical message marched out alongside every line is nothing less than deeply disturbing if we actually pause to think on it, and this juxtaposition makes for terrific theatre that we can enjoy time and time again, digesting as much or as little as we like. After the balloons deflate, our hangover lifts and our next Botox appointment looms, we might actually consider for a moment longer, what it is we really value in life. Or not. It’s probably too hard to even contemplate, right? Yet another #firstworldproblem #justenjoytheshow

17
Feb
17

Single Asian Female

 

Single Asian Female

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

February 11 – March 4 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

things have to change…

Single Asian Female gives a voice to the voiceless and talks about race and gender in ways we often don’t.

– Director, Claire Christian

singleasianfemale2017production-219-1

Single. Asian. Female. It’s a joke because, remember the film? But it’s no joke that the truths shared in Michelle Law’s searingly honest and delightfully funny debut are instantly, regrettably, familiar to us. Of course, a lifetime of being on the receiving end means the racial slurs and assumptions to which this piece gives voice and context, are more familiar to some than others. It’s a timely, nicely conceived work, bold and furious and funny, and while it can do with a more discerning dramaturgical touch, on its first outing Single Asian Female wins the open hearts and minds of audiences and artists. Like Future D. Fidel’s unforgettable Prize Fighter, Law’s contemporary timeless story, inspired by aspects of her own, will rightly take its place in this country’s canon of works; it’s not only highly entertaining and moving, but also, another opportunity to open up our performance spaces and school curriculum to people of colour.

La Boite is employing all the colours, telling all the stories. 

I read something about someone wanting to get rid of a particular story. But why would anyone feel the need to do that? Acts of destruction waste so much energy. Challenging and questioning the dominant myth may be useful, but losing it from the conversation altogether? Not so much. It’s true that some stories are lost along the way, but they’re eventually uncovered, or remembered, or replaced by another version that has the same substance and soul message. This is why we persist with telling them, writing them down, putting them on the stage and screen… Isn’t it vital to keep the stories, to share them and not destroy them or discard them just because someone suddenly decides they don’t appear to be relevant to a particular group of people? The stories are another group’s stories. It doesn’t mean they have no value for you, and it certainly doesn’t mean they were created with an intent to offend or to bury any other stories past, present or future, it simply means they’ve come from someone else in another place at a particular time and you have the choice, always, to recognise any value in them from your unique personal and cultural perspective. And to continue to contribute your own version of events. Go on, get creating rather than destroying.

picnicathangingrock_vogue2011

Let’s keep all the stories and concentrate our efforts on contributing more stories. Stories are for sharing. So we hold space for all of them. There is enough space.

This production, this story, is another hammer, which La Boite rightly prides itself on wielding (this company too, sans hashtag, is all about leading from Queensland) and it will go a long way in continuing to shape our shared reality. 

artisnotamirror_bertholtbrecht

These are the stories that are with us and amongst us.

– La Boite Theatre Company Artistic Director, Todd MacDonald

There’s nothing to fault in the wonderful, easeful performances of the three leading ladies, each a fiercely “strong woman”, firm in her resolve to thrive, and funny in her unapologetically wry take on so many situations, which we find equally appalling and amusing. Director, Claire Christian, gives each situation to us straight, trusting the source and allowing her actors to play with the material, resulting in some of the sharpest, most original comedy of the year.

Lana: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR EYES? THEY LOOK HUGE.

Mei: OH … THANK YOU.

In a complex and appropriately cluttered and homely, surprisingly functional multi-level space designed by Moe Assad and lit by Keith Clark, the women revolve around each other and their Golden Phoenix Chinese Restaurant (amusingly, for long-term Sunshine Coast residents, located in Nambour, but it could be anywhere), which will bring about either fortune or disaster in the end. La Boite feels as festive as ever, with Chinese lanterns hanging in the foyer and the red carpet rolled out for opening night. There’s even cabaret style restaurant seating available inside the theatre so some audience members really get to feel a part of the action, a clever, inclusive design element. We delight in picking up our tickets (for the tiered section) encased in a shiny red and gold embossed envelope before the show, and cracking open our fortune cookies after it. 

wrongcookie_fortunecookie

singleasianfemale2017production-44-1

The Wong family women are real to me because they were inspired by people I know: generous, assertive, resilient women who hold the world on their shoulders.

– Writer, Michelle Law

Alex Lee’s Zoe is a superb realisation of the eldest daughter, harnessing the extreme emotions of a young, talented, ambitious creative soul suffering from anxiety, having yet to secure a place in the world outside of her mother’s realm and representing not just Asian young adults but every young woman everywhere. I’d love to see Lee’s solo show sometime – how could I not? It’s called I’m Eating Peanut Butter In The Shower Because I’m Sad And You’e Not The Boss of Me. Lee is a delight.

emily-burton-courtney-stewart-emily-vascotto-photography-by-dylan-evans

Courtney Stewart’s Mei is the younger, impressionable and eternally frustrated, just-wanna-finish-school-and-go-to-the-formal eye rolling second child, on the verge of finding out for herself the truth about her father’s character and her own. (Interestingly, this dad is unseen and painted as the devil, having selfishly, callously caused every problem faced by the family). Stewart was an inspired inclusion in last year’s developmental showing of Soi Cowboy, a commissioned Brisbane Powerhouse production, which we’re sure to hear more about this year. 

hsiao-ling-tang-photography-by-dylan-evans

Hsiao-Ling Tang is an ideal Pearl with her frantic gestures juxtaposed against complete stillness (a sense of the sacred self knowledge coming up against the contemporary overculture’s unachievable expectations), her stubborn use of Chinglish and her insistence that shoes be taken off inside the house (and that Chinese snacks be available to friends during study group – how embarrassing – hilarious). Her tiger mother bouts of intense frustration and raw anger at something unseen prompt us to sit up in surprise and sadness and awe before settling back into a place between laughter and tears (of recognition, sympathy, empathy), when she finally reveals the secret that could be the family’s undoing… Tang will appear later in the year in the world premiere of Michele Lee’s Rice, the winner of the Queensland Premier’s 2016 Drama Award, another must-see.

These women, as if they’d been working together for some time already, convey genuine affection and concern for each other. The connections are real, making their stories completely relatable, regardless of our cultural background, a fly-on-the-wall shared experience. Such a magical thing, live theatre…

singleasianfemale2017production-233-1

Emily Burton is perhaps the most endearing performer I’ve seen on a Brisbane stage (Dash Kruck and Tom Oliver up there also). I adore her, and much more so when she’s perfectly cast, as she is here, as Mei’s lanky, daggy, wannabe Asian misfit friend, Katie. She’s got a bohemian willowy geeky tomboy cosplay comical sad panda thing going on and it works superbly as a foil to mean girl Lana’s constant digs, and Mei’s reluctant rebelliousness and her insecurities about who she thinks she wants to be. A scene in which we see Mei trapped between Katie’s longstanding friendship and Lana’s passive aggressive popularity test is so uncomfortable to watch; it’s probably stingingly familiar to most of us if we’re honest, as is Mei’s choice in the moment and Katie’s reaction. Like similar moments, it could be overplayed but Burton finds a balance between the truth of the character and the tragicomedy of the situation.

alex-lee-patrick-jhanur-photography-by-dylan-evans-1

Patrick Jhanur is just gorgeous as Paul. His gentleness though, his subtleties (and some of his words), are at risk of becoming lost in the noise and pace of the women’s world. This is quite probably a deliberate thing and will be more astutely balanced/managed as the season continues. The self conscious banter between he and Zoe is delightful, making us squirm and giggle and smile, and hope that everything will work out for these two. But is this character just the token male, included as a woman might be, to fit that space in a play populated with men, penned by a man? I don’t think so. As we see during a discussion about the chance to have a child, with vulnerability and a tenderness not always afforded a male character, Jhanur steps up for this role, and perhaps there is simply, gradually, a little more flesh to be added to its bones. 

emily-burton-courtney-stewart-emily-vascotto-photography-by-dylan-evans-1

Emily Vascotto has vibrant, wicked, gleeful Isla Fischer/Lizzie Moore energy and if you don’t know our Lizzie Moore, you really ought to get out…more. A real-life red-headed Bratz Doll, Vascotto embodies the type I’d warn my daughter about, as in, keep your friends close and keep that one closer. With less experience on stage than the other girls but with no less sass, Vascotto walks a fine comical line between being immediately recognisable and so much larger than life that we lose sight of who Lana really is. I think she’ll settle into this role during the season and certainly, will do so without the vignettes involving her character losing any momentum. At least, let’s hope not, with some momentum lacking on opening night. (I think we accept that this is typical of an opening night performance and later, we’re unsurprised by reports of a cracking pace). The occasional lag seems due to The Family Law style episodic structure, each chapter landing with an unapologetically political or moral thud. Like, BOOM. It’s never too much but it’s almost too much at once; it’s almost overwhelming, but then, the reality is that life IS overwhelming. There IS this much blatant racism to deal with in this country, every day. We have ALL of these issues to consider, and more. 

One has to write what one sees, what one feels, truthfully, sincerely.

– Anton Chekhov

singleasianfemale2017production-216-1

To finish with Tina Arena’s Chains is such a great gimmick (and these girls can really sing it!), but it’s not my favourite closing number. I feel we should be singing along with something…upbeat. Karaoke is gold and if you promise it you need to deliver on it, just as the slinky has its moment on the stairs. (Gun. Bang. Etcetera.)

In the spirit of the current trend to make a short show a good show, it’s worth noting that a discerning dramaturg might take a red pen to the text, make more efficient use of the more stylised moments (a raw, real look at online dating and the daughters’ stories being taken into account by the end), and make it a 90-minute no-interval knockout…but think about that. Would we have quite as much to digest or to discuss? Would we feel as deeply about any of the characters without the time to meander through their world with them? The rich texture of this tale is in its detail and while I’d often prefer to get home earlier (but I know, it’s so interesting to stay for speeches too, so I usually do), by the same token I’d love to see the full length production, as it stands, return with yum cha at interval and actual karaoke afterwards. In fact, let’s make the food together. It’s perfect festival fare.

In the meantime, don’t miss seeing Michelle Law’s personal-universal play just the way it is, at La Boite’s Roundhouse. Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in our nation’s most pressing conversation. Don’t miss being part of the cultural change, the global shift; the impetus behind powerful art and empowered people.

 

Single Asian Female is the baton being passed on. Don’t drop it or decline to take it. Don’t be a dickhead. Don’t be that (white) guy.

 

alex-lee-courtney-stewart-hsiao-ling-tang-photography-by-dylan-evans