Archive for the 'Events' Category

23
Apr
19

CLUEDO! The Interactive Game

 

CLUEDO! The Interactive Game

Brisbane Immersive Ensemble

Baedeker Wine Bar

April 17 – May 25 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

CLUEDO! The Interactive Game is the most fun you’ll have outside a theatre until Anywhere Festival takes over all the unlikely performance spaces in Brisbane and across the Sunshine Coast (May 9 – 26). Since its humble beginnings during the 2017 Anywhere Festival, with just two performances on board the Kookaburra Queen, the award winning interactive game / show CLUEDO has continued to attract capacity audiences, and also serves as an attractive corporate option, by special arrangement.

 

This Baedeker Wine Bar season is Brisbane Immersive Ensemble’s third, returning to delight audiences who come to collect clues and assist the iconic board game characters to solve a murder mystery by the end of the night. Ultimately, we don’t actually care who it was, or with what, or where; but others do and either way, the fun is in the chase. We follow our favourite suspects curiously, to see how well they hold up under interrogation. And by that I mean, who here has the sustained focus, and the rather unique skill set required for the successful navigation and manipulation of this style of entertainment and its audience? Not only that, do these performers have the energy and ability to genuinely connect with their audience in this close-up context? No pressure. 

 

CLUEDO is undoubtedly Brisbane’s best improvised immersive dinner theatre experience, encouraging dress ups, dancing and mingling – as much or as little as we like – as we hear from characters made famous by the classic board game (1949) and the film it inspired, starring Tim Curry, Madeleine Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Christopher Lloyd, Colleen Camp and Lesley Ann Warren (1985). A cast of thousands appears to be on hand for each season of the live show, and testament to the nature of the production and this far-reaching yet tight-knit ensemble, a number of past and present players attend on opening night just for fun, including Chris Kellett, Jonathan Hickey, Aurelie Roque (on alternate nights playing Madame Peacock), and Damien Campagnolo (credited with a variety of roles).

 

 

The current season sees the debonaire Colin Smith (Kelly, Nearer the Gods, An Octoroon), step into the role of Dr Black, perfectly suiting both the suave attire and high society demeanour as the host of a 1930s style cocktail party in the beautiful Baedeker building. 

 

The stock characters are variously informed by the experience and confidence of the performers. Most notably, Madame Peacock (Elizabeth Best) and Reverend Green (Tristan Teller) hold their own no matter what’s thrown at them by the punters. Best struts and postures, relishing the bold and brash Americanisms and eroticisms of the role, as well as the effect on guests of her towering headpiece. (Standing at almost 6ft tall even without this plumage, for Roque to don it on alternate nights must make her Madame Peacock the most imposing character of the night and possibly, with the exception of Joanne in RENT, of Roque’s repertoire to date). Best’s version of Madame Peacock has a sense of the Unsinkable Molly Brown about her, and she won’t be beaten. Likewise, Reverend Green has all the answers and when for an instant he almost appears not to, he conveniently and appropriately passes the buck to God. And in a neat casting trick of the Gods, we think that Teller, surely the most accomplished performer here, having previously been cast opposite Tom Hiddelston and Eddie Redmayne, and with a list of special skills too long to mention (I resist including his CV), could actually be Jude Law’s long lost brother, such is his precise and very lovely vocal work, distinct look, and with a devilish glint behind them, his distinct looks. For a man of the cloth, the shifts between pious and wicked are too deliciously easy, and if he can be kept in Brisbane, we can look forward to Teller’s next captivating performance, in a mainstage production, or a commissioned festival piece, or in a staged reading, just of some memes or something somewhere. Or just sitting, reading, silently. Or drinking coffee, or anything, actually. Seriously. Someone. Anyone. Give him work. Make him stay.

 

 

Professor Plum (Joel O’Brien) and Colonel Mustard (Zane C Webber) provide wonderful contrasts in their statures, mannerisms and banter, leaving Mrs White (Jessica Kate Ryan) and Miss Scarlett the least memorable guests on the list. Ordinarily, the latter role is in the hands of Geena Schwartz, however; due to unforeseen circumstances, was filled at the last minute by Director, Xanthe Jones. In her ill-fitting red satin, designed and made for Schwartz (and we love Kaylee Gannaway’s designs – remember, I own one – everything else here is perfection), the stand-in Miss Scarlet’s simpering, and her protestations to the accusations made against her, lack light and shade, and Jones misses many opportunities to keep us engaged with her story, however; there are others who remain entranced with her from start to finish. Perhaps they knew she had thrown herself into the mix, or perhaps they are granted eye contact, which we are not. She only looks up in passing to compliment me on my stole, which I would love to tell you is faux fur but it’s properly vintage so… Mrs White, a character informed neither by Madeleine Kahn nor Colleen Camp in this case, is not attuned to the offers from her fellow performers, and despite her efforts to cut through the noise of the crowd or the quiet intensity of a scene, Ryan fails to make an impact as Dr Black’s German hausfrau. However, had we seen her in a scene rather than in between scenes, we might gain a more complete picture of both the character and the actor. More on this later.

 

 

Patrick Aitken gallantly strides in to save the day – or at least, to facilitate and wrap up the investigation of the crime committed while we had enjoyed jazz and booze in the ballroom, driving a challenging scene that amounts to wrangling cats since most of the guests are by this time happily holding their third or fourth glass of wine. He is assisted by prettily named detectives, Carmine, Periwinkle, Dove, Moss, Cobalt and Honey (James Elliot, Johanna Lyon, Julia Pendrith, Tom Harris, Patrick Shearer and Matthew Butler).

 

Genevieve Tree and Samuel Valentine sing up a merry storm with the band led by MD Jye Burton (I would name the talented musicians if they were credited). This aspect of the evening is so enjoyable that if solving the crime doesn’t interest you, you’ll have a decent night out just sitting and listening, or dancing to the band! All the players can carry a tune and when I mention my surprise to Chris Kellett, because here we are with the Immersive Ensemble and not Oscar Production Company, he laughs and tells me, “Yes, it’s what we do!”.

 

Written by Xanthe Jones and directed by Jones and Ben Lynskey, CLUEDO makes the most of the superb Heritage listed space in which its staged. It relies on clearly drawn characters and mostly audible instructions to move punters through a range of interesting rooms, and a story full of intrigue and action, but therein lies the challenge. The construct itself is problematic, allowing us so much freedom during the evening that we miss vital scenes. Is it enough to get a version of events from other guests? I would like to have seen more for myself, particularly from Mrs White, and Miss Scarlett. Perhaps their scenes are more engaging than those moments in-between. A solution might lie in a ‘menu’ of appointments, a card in the style of the original game if you like, or iPads – so good for the company’s socials and data collection too but then, how would one hold one’s drink? – distributed to guests upon arrival to ensure they know where to be and when to be there, in order to witness each conversation or altercation in turn. Ensuring that everyone is an eye witness to everything will invariably lead to more efficient and more relevant lines of questioning. Some of the questions! Be patient with your friends, friends! Also, another point of conversation and certainly a more glamorous offer, befitting of the surrounds and the style of the party, would be a generous grazing table in the dining room, rather than the plates of food currently available, which you won’t feel the need to photograph. Anyway, after running such an event for two seasons, I know that I would start to want more control of the crowd (think of the Divergent trilogy; Poppy is obsessed with it!), but such solutions are less obvious from the inside. And drugs are bad. 

 

Despite a sense of chaos during the time allowed for questioning suspects, and a few loose ends here and there, what makes this immersive and quite sumptuous version of the much loved CLUEDO a winner is its perfect location and its cast, and their genuine interactions with members of the audience. If you’re prepared to interact, it can be a very personal theatrical experience, as if what you imagine to be true will make all the difference to the outcome! You might not feel quite as satisfied at any other show after this one, or quite as willing to sit still in the audience and stay mute. Go with a group and work together in a team or go rogue like we did, and investigate from the fringes to solve CLUEDO’s mystery – or not – and have a swellegant, elegant time of it. 

28
Feb
19

Turbine

 

Turbine – the return

Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble

Queensland Academies Creative Industries (QACI) Theatre

Friday February 22 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Collusion’s show Turbine returned to Brisbane for one performance only, on Friday February 22 this year, after premiering in May 2018. Since then, a substantial excerpt has also been performed in September 2018 at the DANCESTAGES: Shanghai Dance Festival. The music for the performance in Shanghai was partly recorded, rather than performed live by violinists Benjamin Greaves and Camille Barry, and the composer Thomas Green.

 

At the Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine was performed in traverse mode (the audience seated on two sides of the performers, and on the same level) in the intimate setting of the Turbine Studio. The latest performance at the QACI Theatre in Kelvin Grove was in a proscenium arch setting, with the audience at more of a remove from the action on stage.

 

While some of the raw immediacy of the physical action was lost, the show made a more powerful impression as a whole. With the stage that little bit further away, we in the audience could see all the performers at once, rather than shifting attention, say, between the music and the dancers. The musicians were more prominent visual presences as performers (particularly Thomas Green on electronics), complementing the power of their sound. (Note that I was sitting only a few rows from the front. My impressions may be different from those of people sitting much further back.)

 

The athleticism, commitment and expressiveness of dancers Gareth Belling, Michael Smith and Jacob Watton were as impressive as in the premiere – with an additional assurance and a sense of their performances and roles maturing since the first showing of Turbine in 2018.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

05
Feb
19

The Sisters Brothers (Les Freres Sisters)

 

The 30th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival

The Sisters Brothers (Les Freres Sisters)

Media Launch

Palace Cinemas, James Street

January Tuesday 29 

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

This year’s 30th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival returns to Palace Cinemas in Brisbane from 14 March and is set to spoil cinephiles with a cultural foie gras of film. From the opening night with Audrey Tautou in The Trouble With You, to a special Australian premiere of the fully restored 1963, Last Year at Marienbad, the festival also offers Cannes’, Sink or Swim.

 

One particular plat principal on offer is French filmmaker, Jacques Audiard’s first English-language film, The Sisters Brothers. Lauded as the Australian festival-only premier, this film based on the award-winning novel, is set in the 1850s Californian Gold Rush. Eli and Charlie Sisters, (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) are cold-blooded hitmen brothers in the employ of a wealthy baron known only as the Commodore who tasks them with the job of hunting down a man called Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), a chemist who’s allegedly perfected a formula, which causes gold-bearing rock to illuminate in water.

 

Meanwhile Warm is also being tracked by John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) a henchman also in the pay of the Commodore, however the two men strike up an unexpected alliance and Morris defects with Warm to build a utopian society in Texas. The film is premised on this game of cat and mouse, however the plot takes an unprecedented twist remarkable of western film genre.

 

 

John C. Reilly is well cast as the brother eager to retire from their line of work, and he’s up against Phoenix, commanding and severe, who’s keenly settled on pursuing his career criminal aspirations. As hardened outlaws typical of the dry, uninhabitable terrain of the much-trod western, their masculinities are starkly juxtaposed against the gentle, emotionally intelligent, intelligentsia of Gyllenhaal and Ahmed. Although Gyllenhaal is miscast, both men provide a fresh reprieve from the harsh cruelty of the world this film is at pains to create and discern itself from.

 

Production design and costuming handsomely portray this period piece, especially the rendering of 1851 San Francisco, and while cinematography is at times too dark and moody, this adds to the film’s off-beat nuance. Oscar-winning composer, Alexandre Desplat provides a peculiar score to the film, which doesn’t exactly land, but reconceptualises the western genre music score so entrenched by Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly score.

 

While there’s some dark humour in the idiosyncrasies, this is all ultimately weighed down by the mean-spirited misery the characters must endure, and what is left is a sombre and unpleasant film filled with dying horses, spider bites, limb amputations and all the horrors of the west. With themes including American progress, camaraderie and the promise of Utopia, Director Audiard imbues this outwardly American tale with his contemporary European film making sensibilities, and while still painting with a Hollywood palette of red, white and blue, he has created something new and exciting, which isn’t completely lost in the doldrums.

 

The 30th Alliance Francaise French Film Festival runs March 14 – April 14

 

See here for Brisbane details

 

18
Dec
18

Louise Bezzina to Lead Brisbane Festival as Artistic Director

 

Brisbane Festival announces Louise Bezzina as Artistic Director

 

Brisbane Festival has announced Louise Bezzina as the incoming Artistic Director for a four-year term. Her first festival will be presented in 2020. Bezzina is the creator and inaugural Artistic Director of Bleach* Festival; the Gold Coast’s Festival. Relocating to the Gold Coast from Brisbane in 2011, Bezzina created Bleach* Festival and built it from a pilot project to a major annual event that has reached almost 1million people since inception. 2019 will be her 8th and final Bleach* Festival, having led the organisation through the Commonwealth Games as part of the Creative Lead Team for Festival 2018 and establishing Bleach* as one of Australia’s leading site-specific contemporary arts festivals.

 

 

For Bleach*, Bezzina has commissioned more than 50 new works, from major outdoor spectacles to intimate dance and theatre productions from local, national and international artists. In 2018, four Bleach* Festival commissions were nominated for Helpmann Awards, with TIDE by Gold Coast dance theatre company The Farm winning Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production. Bezzina also co-produced the inaugural Opera on the Beach by Opera Australia and is one of the curators of sitespecific immersive arts experience Hotelling; a groundbreaking cultural tourism initiative of the City of Gold Coast. Bezzina was listed as one of 11 inspiring women of the Commonwealth Games on International Women’s Day in 2018 and has won several awards for her contribution to arts and culture in Queensland. She recently completed the Australia Council for the Arts’ Arts Leaders Program. Prior to Bleach* Festival, Bezzina held a number of high-profile roles in Brisbane, including Program Manager for the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts; Producer at Brisbane Festival, including Producer for the opening of the cultural precinct (GoMA, QPAC and State Library of Queensland); and Director of the Mackay Festival of Arts. Brisbane Festival Chair, Paul Spiro, praised Bezzina’s commitment to the cultural sector in Queensland and said her extensive festival experience and broad international connections made her an ideal candidate for the coveted role.

 

 

“After a competitive international search, the Board of Brisbane Festival is incredibly excited to appoint exemplary cultural leader Louise Bezzina to role of Artistic Director to guide Brisbane Festival future development alongside CEO Charlie Cush,” Mr Spiro said. “Having known and admired Louise as Bleach* Festival’s creator and Artistic Director, I’m delighted that she will be our next Artistic Director.

 

“Louise’s deep understanding of festivals, her curatorial rigour and vision for the future of Brisbane Festival made her an irresistible choice,” Mr Spiro said. “Brisbane Festival celebrates and reinforces Brisbane’s international cultural reputation and I look forward to Louise being part of Brisbane Festival’s ongoing development and change.” Bezzina said she looked forward to returning to the Brisbane Festival team following Bleach* Festival in May 2019. “The combination of Brisbane’s rich history, its contemporary dynamism and future ambitions offers a great thematic foundation for a festival and its artistic program,” Bezzina said. “The responsibility of an Artistic Director is to find the unique gems, welcome all citizens and, most importantly, turn the city ‘on’ during festival season. “Our job is to inspire audiences with new ideas and experiences that leave life-long impressions,” Bezzina said.

 

 

“As Artistic Director, I will showcase what characterises Brisbane, celebrating its wonderful artists, delivering a strong Indigenous program as well as curating a bold international program that makes sense for the city, ensuring it is loved by all of Brisbane.” Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch thanked outgoing artistic director David Berthold for his many achievements and welcomed the appointment of Louise Bezzina. “Louise has done an extraordinary job leading Bleach* Festival, helping to shape the Gold Coast event into one of the state’s leading multi-arts festivals,” Minister Enoch said.

 

“She will bring to the Brisbane Festival her passion for creating unforgettable arts experiences and a commitment to showcasing Queensland artists.” Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said. Bezzina takes over from David Berthold, whose fifth and final festival will take place in September 2019. Brisbane Festival Chair, Paul Spiro, paid tribute to Berthold’s contribution to Brisbane Festival during his tenure as Artistic Director. “Queensland audiences have benefitted from the extraordinary vision of David Berthold,” Mr Spiro said. “Over the past five years, the festivals that he curated have confirmed his status as a truly international festival director, able to connect with audiences of all ages, tastes and sensibilities. “He has brought unseen and unforgettable worlds to Brisbane for which we are deeply grateful,” Mr Spiro said.

 

The Spirit of Churaki

 

The Spirit of Churaki will be seen next at Woodford Folk Festival December 28 & 29

 

24
Sep
18

DUST

 

Dust

Dancenorth & Liminal Spaces

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

September 19 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Upon birth, we arrive into a world in which those who precede us determine everything.

 

From this lottery of birth we inherit the architecture of both restriction and opportunity in countless manifestations. Structures, barriers and borders pre-exist, and past tense illuminates both our present and future thinking…

 

Dancenorth

 

Dancenorth’s work Dust premiered at this year’s Brisbane Festival. It is inspired by weighty and solemn concepts, outlined by directors/choreographers Kyle Page (Dancenorth’s Artistic Director) and Amber Haines (Associate Artistic Director) in their program notes.

 

Page and Haines are married and have a baby son, whose birth last year led them to contemplate ‘the architecture of inheritance’, and to think about the present, past and future worlds, and how we shape these worlds and they shape us.

 

In the post-performance Q&A on opening night, Page referred to the set for Dust, designed by Liminal Studio, as ‘another performer’. It dominates this work. At first, a large, wedge-shaped wall looms over the performers. Angled across the stage, it separates one dancer (Ashley McLellan) from the six others (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing). The themes of barriers, restrictions, insiders/outsiders and inclusion/exclusion continue throughout the work.

 

The power of the soundscape matches that of the set. Created by composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Canadian composer/musician Jessica Moss, it surges, booms and pounds, ebbing to quieter moments with sounds like bells, harmonic chanting, droning, and distorted voices calling.

 

Threading their way among the recorded electronic sounds are echoes of Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. Moss plays the violin live during the show, electronically modifying the sound of her instrument.

 

Early on, the dancers dismantle the wall into its constituent box-like blocks. As the work progresses, they move the boxes into various configurations: a ramp, a pile of rocks, a low wall around the stage perimeter, and parallel rows of columns.

 

The action continues with duos and solos while this happens, but shifting the boxes takes up much of the dancers’ time and effort. (The dancer representative at the Q&A, Felix Sampson, confirmed the impression that the blocks are heavy.)

 

 

Once the arrangements of blocks are in place, striking images are created by the dancers moving and posing on and round them. A group moves and stands on a ramp, while a lone man creeps alongside. A woman stands and lifts her arm, like a priest or an ancient oracle. A group of dancers bow and abase themselves to a pile of blocks; one woman walks slowly among them and they follow her.

 

It is as if we are witnessing some ancient ritual in a sacred space. This effect is accentuated by the configuration of the Powerhouse Theatre, with the audience in tiers of seats rising above the stage, as in an Ancient Greek theatre.

 

The dancers perform heroically, and one can only wonder at their energy. The quality of movement is athletic and grounded, fluid at times and jerky and robotic at others. McLellan in particular impresses with her intensity, strength and fluidity.

 

The pattern of the movement is full of circles: for example, using the impetus of whirling around in lifts, or rotating on the spot like a dervish, or running in circles, and people circling each other. The group of dancers sometimes huddle in a circle, moving in close action and reaction to each other, like a flock of birds. They also undulate in slow motion, like a group of sea creatures. There is a great deal of floor work.

 

 

The lighting (Niklas Pajanti) is subtle, often quite dim, with simple minimal colours that correspond well with the cosmic soundscape and the monumental set – such as gold, and pink strengthening to red. These are the only touches of colour other than shades of grey (for the backdrop, the wall, and the costumes).

 

The costumes (Harriet Oxley) are lovely. In contrast to the dominating set and the sound, and more aligned with the mood of the lighting, they are delicate and almost transparent. Of fine, pale, lightly patterned fabric, the combinations of tunics, wide pants, long skirts, and sleeveless tops are reminiscent of Ancient Greek or Roman draperies.

 

The whole creative team was represented on the 9-strong panel for the Q&A (facilitated by Bradley Chatfield, formerly with Sydney Dance Company, and more recently with Dancenorth and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts). All were very passionate about their particular discipline and about the collaborative process of creating Dust.

 

The different creative elements in this work all make a powerful impression. However, for me they did not gel as a whole: rather, they seemed to be struggling for dominance, a struggle won by the set. At around 70 minutes, the work is not over-long, but is repetitious in parts.

 

In the current drought, the title Dust might first suggest clouds of windblown particles of soil. However, on reflection, the biblical idea that we are all made of dust seems more relevant: ‘… out of [the ground] wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:19).

24
Sep
18

Peter Grimes

 

Peter Grimes

Brisbane Festival, Opera Queensland, Philip Bacon AM

QPAC & QSO

QPAC Concert Hall

September 20 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Matthew Hickey

 

 

THE centrepiece of the Brisbane Festival Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes fell apart on Thursday night when the star couldn’t sing due to illness.

When the internationally renowned Australian heldentenor, Stuart Skelton, was wobbly in the high register during the first act, everyone thought it was just the histrionics of the part. But after the interval, Brisbane Festival artistic director David Berthold emerged to tell the audience the bad news that some in the concert hall at QPAC had already guessed, that Skelton, 50, was ill and would be unable to continue singing.

 

Phil Brown, the Courier Mail

 

Art criticism is fundamental to a healthy arts scene.

 

Informed and considered criticism applies a torch to artists’ feet. Dialogue between critic, artist and audience is central to the development of great art. When done well, there is nothing like arts criticism. Sadly, the Courier Mail’s criticism of the premiere of the semi-staged production of Peter Grimes, which forms the centrepiece of this year’s Brisbane Festival, was nothing like arts criticism done well.

 

Peter Grimes is an opera by British composer, Benjamin Britten. Here, it is sung (as originally composed) in English. The story is set in a Suffolk fishing village. It centres upon Peter Grimes, a troubled local fisherman, of whom insular locals are suspicious. His young apprentice has recently died, “in accidental circumstances”, during a misadventure at sea.

 

Contrary to the Courier Mail’s hyperbolic clickbait headline, last night’s production did not “fall apart”. It’s lamentable that Phil Brown’s piece ignored entirely the many positive things that deserved to be acknowledged in print. Before addressing those, one must speak about the obvious.

 

 

The star, internationally-acclaimed Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton, was unwell. As much became concerningly obvious when the achingly glorious moment, which usually arrives in the first duet between Peter Grimes and Ellen Orford – when they sing “your voice, out of the dark” in a leaping ninth – frankly, didn’t.

 

For those close enough to the stage to see him well, it was obvious that Skelton was working hard, very hard, to produce his sound. But, despite the odd crack here and there, in a narrow part of the voice where Skelton seemed to be struggling to get his vocal folds to come together, in the first act the audience received a thrilling demonstration of why this man is the best Peter Grimes on the planet right now. His singing was exciting and powerful and his hulking physicality brought equal parts menace and pathos to the role.

 

After the first interval, it fell to David Berthold, Brisbane Festival’s Artistic Director, to gingerly take to centre stage (where his awful task was prolonged by darkness until someone found the light switch) to tell the audience what many had already guessed: Skelton was ill; he would be unable to sing the rest of the performance; the understudy (to whom I will return) would sing the performance from the side of the stage; and Skelton had “generously” agreed to act out the role.

 

Berthold’s use of the word “generous” seemed initially an odd choice. But, by the end of the performance, it made complete sense. It was an act of generosity for Skelton to walk through the role. Grimes is a dramatically challenging character. Complex, brooding, dysfunctional, tortured, despised, shunned and, ultimately, cast out by a community disappointed in him. One couldn’t help but feel, observing his personal anguish during the bows at the end of the performance, that Skelton had begun to personalise Grimes’ pain, by transmogrifying the Borough’s hate into (what his mind might have convinced him was) the audiences’.

 

But there was no hate from the audience. Only admiration. Those who were there were treated to a tantalising (and satisfying) glimpse of the voice that has made the Australian heldentenor a star on mainstage opera houses abroad.

 

It fell to Skelton’s understudy Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts, a Welsh tenor, to sing the role of Grimes from a music stand at the side of the stage while, from time to time, leaping back onto the stage proper to sing the role of Reverend Adams, in which he had been cast. His singing was clear and powerful. He is a very fine singer and, as may be seen from his leaping into the fray without any real time to think about it, a courageous one.

 

Other notable international guests included British soprano Sally Matthews, who sang the role of the schoolmistress, Ellen Orford, with great control and line, and British baritone, Mark Stone (who, interestingly, read mathematics at Cambridge University) sang the role of Balstrode. I can’t remember being more excited by a baritone’s performance since hearing Simon Keenlyside sing at the Opera House, in the mid-90s. Even without Skelton, the price of admission is worth it to hear those singers alone.

 

But they were not alone. Through the musical and dramatic skill of the rest of the featured cast, the Suffolk fishing village came to life on the Concert Hall stage.

 

 

Andrew Collis was steadfast as the dour Swallow, with his drunken dancing a particular highlight. The nieces were played to trashy, fish-netted, stiletto-heeled perfection by Katie Stenzel and Natalie Christie Peluso. Jacqueline Dark’s portrayal of the laudanum-baked Mrs Sedley was beautifully nuanced. Michael Honeyman’s cheeky turn as Ned Keene, the pill-pushing apothecary, in particular when leading a pub-full of tense drunks in the ditty “old Joe has gone fishing”, was great fun. Brad Daley again showed why he remains among the best-known tenors in this country. His voice remains bright and strong, and from the moment he “started shouting” as the dishevelled bible-basher Bob Boles, he made the character his own. Jud Arthur (whose biography records an unsurprising history as a rugby player) provided wonderful physical menace as the performer of “dirty jobs”, Hobson the carter.

 

 

A particularly poignant moment in this production is the quartet in the first scene of act two, between Ellen Orford (Martin), Auntie, played stoically by Hayley Sugars, and the nieces (Stenzel and Christie Peluso). They sing despondently of the role women play in supporting men. “And should we be ashamed because we comfort men from ugliness?” they sing. In the era of #metoo, that quartet resonates like never before.

 

The Opera Q Chorus, supplemented by talented students from the Queensland Conservatorium, again revealed astonishing vocal polish and discipline, and dramatic commitment. That so much is accomplished by this ensemble, year in, year out, when they are retained on an ad hoc, casual basis, is testament to their collective talents. We are lucky to have them. They sang their hearts out. The power of the moment at the end of Act 2, when they stormed the front of the stage, with flame torches aloft, a terror-inducing, frothing-mouthed mob, baying for Peter Grimes’ blood, was especially confronting.

 

Finally, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of the baby-faced Scottish conductor, Rory Macdonald, has rarely sounded better. Their performances of the famous four sea interludes, in particular, were evocative and atmospheric.

 

While it was disappointing he couldn’t sing the second and third acts, to suggest the production “fell apart” is to do a grave and thoroughly unjustified disservice to the rest of the performance.

 

It was, simply put, a remarkable evening in the Concert Hall.