Archive for the 'Festival' Category

11
Apr
18

Alchemy

 

Alchemy

Zen Zen Zo & Festival 2018

Southbank Cultural Forecourt

April 5 – 8 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

ALCHEMY is the fourth collaboration between renowned Australian composer/musician Richard Grantham and leading contemporary performance company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre. ALCHEMY is an exploration of the ancient process of transforming base metal into gold. A potent metaphor for the Commonwealth Games, ALCHEMY celebrates the journey towards realizing our full potential, and the power of transformation. The dancers move like shamans or spirit walkers along the path, weaving their way through the inspirational soundtrack, until they finally “spin out of nothingness scattering stars like dust” in the dramatic climax. This is a moving performance work that is a meditative homage to the long passage towards greatness.

 

The highlight of Brisbane’s Festival 2018 – a performing arts program staged at Southbank Cultural Forecourt to coincide with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – was Alchemy, a little show with a lasting impact, bringing butoh back to Brisbane.

 

Zen Zen Zo’s ALCHEMY brings our imagination and our senses to life, melding startlingly original live music – a living, breathing, beating-heart score – and ancient movement to stir our souls, light our hearts and transform our view of ourselves in the world.

 

 

Alchemy is a stunning sensory contemporary performance showcasing Zen Zen Zo’s unique brand of movement and original live music to create a world in which audiences feel free to lose themselves in wonder, and linger in a soulful, joyful experience long after the lights have gone down.

 

Undergoing some transformation themselves, the company has focused on the training arm of the business for a number of years, and also on developing new projects including taking to New Zealand for the first time, their renowned rigorous actor training residency, Stomping Ground, and reconfiguring their popular internship program for inclusion in the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Master of Professional Practice (Performing Arts)

 

This production boasts a current student of the course and two graduates from the inaugural year in 2017 (and this review is written by another!), further testament to Lynne Bradley’s proven track record of training and mentoring multi-skilled performing artists of the highest calibre in this country and overseas. 

 

USC would do well to start shouting about their Masters courses in Performing Arts and Creative Writing

 

 

Alchemy sees a continuation of the collaborative relationship between Zen Zen Zo and composer/musician, Richard Grantham, and brings on board another couple of gifted Australian composers in Iain Grandage (When Time Stops, With Love and Fury, The Rabbits, The Secret River) and the Sunshine Coast’s Joshua Curtis.

 

While DUSK had a festival audience entranced during its meditative moments, Alchemy lures with more potent force an entirely new crowd to its cross-cultural open-air experience, fusing traditional butoh and contemporary classical music by way of an original composition, and a compelling performance by Curtis.

 

With the addition of Grantham’s viola crying and lilting and lifting its exquisite voice, the bold essence of this work takes us beyond ordinary and into ecstasy before we’re released and dropped gently back into a more contemplative place. Incredibly sensual and cinematic in some of its transitions, the music resulting from this meeting of minds is a truly evocative gift. Even re-reading, it sounds as if I’m overstating the fact…until you’ve heard it. And you’ve not heard anything like it since the pairing of Aaron Hopper and Kacey Patrick-Bare AKA Stringmansassy (Aaron’s stunning solo album is available on iTunes).

 

 

But first, without a sound, other than the murmurs of the audience members as they – the children first, always the children first – look up to take in white painted performers in lush costumes of red and silver layered robes (designed by Bill Haycock) and red full-circle skirts beneath (designed by Kaylee Gannaway, who very kindly made me a black one for opening nights…and for twirling), the performers, elegant and other-worldly, slow-walk to take up positions against the city lights and the ever-changing Brisbane River.

 

While this is a perfectly picturesque backdrop for a 20-minute public performance as part of a larger event, the open-air venue is less than ideal. Performance spaces placed too closely together left techies with little control over the sound bleeding from multiple stages, resulting in competing productions rather than a program of complementary and perfectly timed events to be seen and appreciated as separate entities.

 

With so many years of successful Brisbane Festival outdoor staging inside the same perimeter, you’d think there’d be enough experience on the ground to avoid any rookie errors. But the opening night performance was unable to go ahead due to the sound from the nearby Orbit Stage drowning out Alchemy’s soundtrack and thus, the performers’ cues, and adding insult to injury, show times throughout the weekend were continuously updated in a last-ditch effort to solve the problem. It’s actually amazing that anyone at all found themselves in the right place at the right time to experience Alchemy.

 

If you missed it (or if you saw it and loved it), get onto the company’s Facebook page or send an email and demand its return. There’s nothing quite like a return season by popular demand! While you’re at it, demand that it also comes to Ocean Street and NOOSA alive! (The only footage available for the moment is embedded below, a sneak peek at rehearsal, very brightly lit!).

 

It’s interesting to note that during the process, a question arose around the “pop-up” nature of the work, with the assumption perhaps that a public performance would be (should be?) light and funny. Hmmm… The company’s Artistic Director and director of this production, Lynne Bradley, responded, “We do do comedy, but everything we do is attempting to dig deeper, not flit across the surface of life.”

 

Indeed, the performers resist flitting and move fluidly, like liquid gold, with Gina Limpus contributing warm vocal harmonies to complement Curtis’s early melody before joining other accomplished physical performers, Travis Wesley and Jamie Kendall, in an extended sequence of the fluttering (fluttering being vastly different to flitting), floating, falling, rising and twirling that had us entranced during DUSK, as well as sharper, more angular and deeply grounded gesture. Limpus is captivating and not just because she’s front and centre, holds the audience gaze with ease.

 

WE COME SPINNING OUT OF NOTHINGNESS

SCATTERING STARS

LIKE DUST.

RUMI.

 

Zen Zen Zo’s signature performance style begs us to respond emotionally rather than letting us off the hook with an easy narrative. When asked about this type of very visceral contemporary performance, we’re likely to respond with “It was beautiful!” or “It was amazing!” or “It was so moving…” without being able to explain exactly what it was about. The intention is not to offer just one hero’s story with its happy ending but to inspire and slightly – or deeply – unsettle, urging us to look inwards and to consider our own stories, recognising which of those are limiting or damaging, and which will help us not only to survive in this world of overload, but to thrive and find our way to gold. 

 

 

Images by XS Entertainment

#iPhoneonly

 

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26
Feb
18

[Mis]conceive

 

[Mis]conceive

Thomas E S Kelly

Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

… I speak through the lens of a dancer and creator. But I also speak through the lens of my ancestors, the Bundjalung and Wiradjuri people … I share my culture, which was also theirs through the songs, stories, and dances I create, all inspired by the land of which I have ancestral custodianship.

 

Rather than sitting by and letting the ancestral stories of past, present and future dissolve, I share them with everyone who is listening and willing to learn.

 

Thomas E S Kelly

My art. My culture. Our country.

 

[Mis]conceive aims to expose contemporary misunderstandings of Indigeneity and to create understandings instead. The multitalented Thomas E S Kelly is the choreographer, one of the four performers, and composer of the music. Co-performers are Caleena Sansbury, Taree Sansbury and Natalie Pelarek. Alethea Beetson is the dramaturg.

 

[Mis]conceive was the final main stage work to be performed as part of the Supercell Contemporary Dance Festival in Brisbane this year. Originally created for the Next Wave Festival in 2016, it runs for 50 minutes.

 

Kamilaroi Elder Bob Weatherall introduced the performance, acknowledging the traditional owners of the Brisbane lands, the Jagera and Turrbal peoples and their ancestors. He asked us to think about the ancestors and the land, and to walk lightly on it, to be a ‘friend of the earth.’

 

This reflective appeal led smoothly into the opening scene, where Kelly sits in a pool of dappled light, as a song in Aboriginal language plays. At first wearing only black trunks, he then gets up and puts on the modern uniform of jeans and a Tshirt, which the three women also wear. The dancers don grey hoodies at times and use these in different ways as versatile props throughout the performance.

 

The choreography combines motifs from traditional Aboriginal dance with contemporary dance and hiphop movement, creating a distinctive and visceral style. The dancers point, prowl, and use body percussion, including stamping, clapping and hitting parts of the body.

 

Repeated gestures include making ‘talking’ motions with one hand to the other, clapping a hand to the side of the face and sliding it down, pointing upwards with one arm and grabbing it with the other to pull it down. Sudden sharp movements are accompanied by audible exhalations of breath.

 

The work develops through distinct sections. With the hoodies used to signify school uniform, the dancers put up their hands hyper-enthusiastically, as if to answer questions in the classroom, raising a laugh of recognition from the audience. However, they then show, each in their own way, how it feels for this enthusiasm to be ignored.

 

In the dim light of a later scene, the dancers repetitively and submissively fold the hoodies on the floor, to music that sounds like the rhythms of machinery. The image is of hard labour in some institution or factory. They put on the hoodies, with hoods shadowing their faces, for a scene in which one of the women resists being part of the group (perhaps a group of people rejecting traditional ways in favour of European ones).

 

Around halfway through the work, the impetus and direction shift, with the focus now including the spoken word (mainly recorded). Some of the impetus of the previous dance scenes is diffused, but then regathered after this change of gear.

 

 

Kelly asks whether you can tell nationality from someone’s voice. He recounts his experience of being mistaken for other nationalities, despite his insistence that he is Aboriginal — other people refuse to believe him, almost as if Aboriginal people do not exist. He asks ‘What am I?’

 

Kelly’s solo at this point emphasises what a powerful and charismatic performer he is – tall, his movement expansive and full of energy. Complementing him, the three women are concentrated bundles of energy, expressive and committed.

 

In a bitingly amusing and thought-provoking scene, the performers act out people’s responses to a survey about the imaginary beings they believe in and the (mis)conceptions they have about Aboriginal people. Following on from the previous theme of disbelief about Aboriginal people, the implication is that they too are imaginary. In parodying the racist stereotyping of the (mis)conceptions, the performers show how ridiculous and mistaken these are.

 

At this point, suddenly the lights blaze onto the audience, and the dancers sit in silence, critically surveying us. The duration of our turn under the spotlight seems long, but is probably only a minute or two. It was uncomfortable to be the watched, rather than the watchers. A lone audience member found this very funny (he said so), and roared with laughter.

 

The mood of the work then gentled, the dancers going back to the more traditional movement, performed with a solemn joy and great energy. A final spoken monologue was one of hope, of still walking in the footsteps of the ancestors, of acknowledging all history, but looking forward for the whole Australian community, with no more division between black and white.

 

The abiding impressions of the performance are of a powerful energy, of a strong vision, of humour, heartfelt hope and generosity. The communication with the audience feels very direct.

 

19
Feb
18

Everything Remains

 

Everything Remains

Juli Apponen & Jon R Skulberg

Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Performance by JULI/JON entitled “EVERYTHING REMAINS”
18-20.09. 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

 

Everything Remains is choreography for a tired body…

 

 

JULI/JON are not interested in bodies with unlimited possibilities and virtuoso movement repertoire. They are interested in limitations, weakness, tiredness and bodies that are on stage not because they can, but because they can’t. 

 

– Juli Apponen & Jon R Skulberg

 

 

Everything Remains (recommended for 18+) is a gripping and intense experience for the audience. The different elements of the performance — the dancer, sound, lighting, set and structure of the piece — work together to create an intensity of focus that is utterly absorbing. I have never been in an audience that was so quiet during a performance. Afterwards, it was a sensory shock to walk out into the Powerhouse foyer full of light, people and noise.

 

One of the main stage performances of the Supercell Festival, this 50-minute work is by a Scandinavian team, including Juli Apponen (creator, choreographer, space and lighting design, performer), originally from Finland and now living in Sweden; Jon R Skulberg (creator, choreographer, space and lighting design), from Norway; Lil Lacy (composer), from Denmark; Astrid Hansen Holm (dramaturg); and Addis Prag (lighting).

 

On the surface, the piece seems simple: one performer on a rectangle of white floor on a black ground, minimalist music, and slow, controlled and limited movement.

 

The publicity about the show talks about it being ‘choreography for a tired body’. On their website, Apponen and Skulberg reveal that ‘Juli Apponen’s body has undergone a heavy transformation through several surgeries and numerous severe complications’.

 

The title Everything Remains reflects the concept that everything that happens to the body leaves its mark on that body. It’s logical, then, for Apponen to remain naked for the performance. Her body is slim, but without the ultratoned muscularity of many contemporary dancers. A scar runs down her abdomen.

 

Apponen is lying face down on the white floor as the audience enters. The music begins with an almost inaudible peeping sound, and Apponen slowly bends her elbow and draws up her hands, slowly comes up into a crouch, and stands. Movements such as slowly turning her averted face to the audience seem powerfully significant.

 

She walks very very slowly around the white floor, placing each foot directly in front of her, as if walking on a line. Her concentration and focus are palpable, her gaze impassive yet intent.

 

The movement develops to include crouching, lying in different positions (some beautiful, some ungainly), slowly arching off the floor, gradually coming into balances, slow-motion curling and writhing on the floor, and standing to spin slowly, extending and contracting the arms.

 

The music gradually includes more notes and becomes louder, almost painfully booming, chiming, grating and screeching towards the end. The lighting (by Apponen, Skulberg, Prag, and light technician Daniel Goody) varies from cool and dim, to warmer and brighter, and creates different amounts of shadow on Apponen’s body.

 

Performance by JULI/JON entitled “EVERYTHING REMAINS”
18-20.09. 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

At the final climax, Apponen has folded up the white floor covering, and strobe lighting amidst smoke shows her moving round the floor, turning and raising and lowering her arms in a slow frenzy. The varying speeds of the flashes create different effects: slow motion ‘time-lapse’ images, blurred ultra-brief glimpses, and sudden appearances and disappearances. Then suddenly it is quiet, Apponen stands still and everything goes black.

 

Apponen’s performance is utterly absorbing, expressing her experiences in a way that deeply moves other people.

 

The powerful and economical structure of this work and the way it develops are a tribute to the work of co-creators Apponen and Skulberg, and dramaturg Hansen Holm— while there are no explosive, virtuosic movements and expansive action, you are in a state of suspense, constantly waiting for the next movement or change in movement.

 

While minimalist, Everything Remains contains a lot of variety, although this is expressed in minimal ways. It shows that limitations and restrictions can focus to an intensity that makes a powerful impact.

 

JULI/JON´s two first performances are part of a trilogy in development. Everything Ends With Flowers, (2012), Everything Remains (2015) and a third piece which is in development.

 

19
Feb
18

The Blokes Project

 

The Blokes Project

Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell

Flowstate

In association with Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

February 13 – 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

Men are meant to be something, they’re meant to be stoic, they’re meant to be independent. Some of these ideals are not actually working for us as a society.

Joshua Thomson

 

Supercell is a contemporary dance festival in Brisbane, now in its second year. It consists of multiple performances, classes/workshops and talks/discussions — mostly one-offs. I cannot claim to review the whole festival, or give an overview of it, as I saw only three performances. What I can say, though, is that I wanted to see many more, and that next year I intend to take a week off so that I can go to as many events as possible.

 

The Blokes Project was one of the few festival shows that ran for multiple performances. On its first night, a summer storm hit Brisbane. The storm wasn’t quite a supercell, but dramatic enough to echo the festival name, and provide a primal environment for co-creators and performers Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell.

 

 

Flowstate, the new temporary creative space at South Bank, includes a performance space with a roof and no walls. The Blokes Project set was not covered by the roof, and the performance had to stop after 40 minutes instead of the scheduled 60, as rain made the conditions too hazardous for the dancers. (In the audience, we experienced only a bit of fine spray blowing in over us.) The set is a flat-roofed shed-like structure built from scaffolding and panels. (The original set, for earlier performances in other states, was a shipping container, pictured below.)

 

 

 

 

Wearing shorts, jeans, Tshirt/singlet, workboots and Akubras, the dancers began by slouching and moving through various tough ‘masculine’ poses and expressions (sometimes reminiscent of poses in a workwear catalogue). This develops into a slow, controlled duo where these movements and poses are extended into acrobatic lifts performed with a slow nonchalance. Thomson and Cornell support each other, and the movement of each depends on the weight, strength and counterbalancing of the other.

 

The dancers reproduce, amplify and extend the physical bearing, poses, expressions and gestures of working men into dance sequences involving lifting, manoeuvring on networks of ropes, climbing scaffolding, and fighting.

 

The dance sequences are interspersed with audio (including brief discussions of what lies behind male suicide and domestic violence) and video projections (by Claire Robertson) on the front of the ‘shed’, showing, for example, footage from a car driving along a dirt road in the wake of dust from a vehicle ahead, and an older man against an outback landscape and blue sky, accompanied by a monologue about talking to an older man, and expressing feelings.

 

The soundscape (by Tristen Parr) includes sounds like a small plane taxiing, and music dominated by dark strings.

 

After changing into dry clothes, Thomson and Cornell took part in a Q&A with the audience, and spoke engagingly and interestingly about their creative process and their experiences in thinking about what it means to be ‘a man’. As part of their preparation, they worked in ‘speed apprenticeships’ with men doing manual work across northern Australia, as well as drawing on their own blue-collar backgrounds. They are interested in the physical intelligence involved in manual labour — how much force is needed to do particular tasks, for instance. This is likened to the physical intelligence involved in dance — which is, perhaps, developed and discussed by its practitioners in a more conscious way.

 

The work is informal, with moments of humour. It does feel like watching two blokes at work on a project — as well as watching two highly skilled performers.

 

In between sequences, one leans on a door and appears to chat to the other inside the ‘shed’. It is an interesting exploration of ‘blokiness’ — and an examination of masculine behaviour that in everyday life is often not examined.

 

The rain added some unforeseen elements to the performance that the blokes took in their stride.

 

19
Feb
18

APAM 2018 begins!

 

APAM 2018 CEMENTS BRISBANE’S PLACE ON THE GLOBAL STAGE

 

The Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM 2018) officially opened today at Brisbane Powerhouse, an event that has brought an influx of visitors to the city and will shine a light on Australian arts and culture.

 

APAM is Australia’s leading internationally focused industry event for contemporary performing arts, held this year from 19 to 23 February. More than 670 delegates from 39 countries have been warmly welcomed onto country through song, story and dance, and celebrating Australia’s oldest living culture. They will witness extraordinary contemporary performing artists and companies present 46 (15 Pitches and 31 Showcases) Australian and New Zealand showcases and pitches.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) was an example of Council’s vision for Brisbane to become a premier location for thriving creative industries in Australia.

“Brisbane is proud to again host this exciting creative showcase, which will welcome hundreds of delegates from 39 different countries to our New World City,” Cr Quirk said.

“APAM will give our international visitors an opportunity to see why Brisbane is a top destination for arts and culture and create more leisure and lifestyle opportunities for Brisbane residents.

“It is fantastic to celebrate another exciting event for our city’s creative and performing arts scene.”

 

APAM will host over 265 Australian and New Zealand artists and companies across the range of performing arts genres, who will present or pitch their work to festival directors, venue managers and program executives from around the world to find touring partners and investors to take their shows to audiences in Australia and overseas.

 

This will include renowned Sydney hip hop dance artist and choreographer Nick Power’s work Between Tiny Cities; a hilarious and deeply moving work about family, language and culture from acclaimed Australian actor Jimi Bani and Queensland Theatre;  leaders in contemporary circus Casus showcase their work Driftwood in a dazzling journey of explosive encounters, hidden looks and humorous discoveries, while All The Queens Men’s The Coming Out Ball blends showbiz bells and whistles, community celebration, heartfelt storytelling dinner and dancing.

 

 

At the opening event guests were given the opportunity to experience one of the FREE events on offer to the general public during this week long industry event.  String Symphony, a large-scale interactive performance installation, hand-woven using more than one kilometre of rope uses puppetry to explore connection, community and collaboration. Another free evening event for general public access will be A Night Across Asia (Thursday 22 February ), with performances by SsingSsing (Korea),  Senyawa (Indonesia) and Hiroaki Umeda (Japan) on the Turbine Platform, Brisbane Powerhouse.

 

 

Australia Council CEO Tony Grybowski said; “Since the Council established APAM more than 20 years ago it has grown to become one of Australia’s leading performing arts platforms, attracting more than 1200 influential Directors, Executives, Creatives, Associate Producers, CEOs, General and Program Managers, Artists and Agents from around Australia and the globe. This is the third time we have partnered with Brisbane Powerhouse on this signature event, which is a key part of our commitment to showcasing vibrant new Australian art and investing in the capacity of the sector to reach new markets.”

Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones said APAM would round off a blockbuster summer of events in Queensland.

“APAM is a fantastic contemporary arts experience which will showcase Brisbane’s cultural scene and will attract  visitors to Queensland. It will cap off what has been a spectacular summer of events in Brisbane, from the Rugby League World Cup and the Battle of Brisbane 2 to the Brisbane International, Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, and now APAM. The event will also help kick off this year’s It’s Live! In Queensland calendar, which is expected to generate a $780 million economic boost for Queensland in 2018.

In addition to providing the premier platform for Australian and New Zealand contemporary performing arts companies and artists to build international and national tours, APAM champions the ongoing exchange of ideas and dialogue.   It is through this philosophy a focused program of ongoing First Nations Exchange, the innaugual Performing Asia program as well as our First Timers program, all offering a deeper engagement for delegates were created.

 

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Queensland Government was delighted to welcome APAM back to Brisbane in 2018, reinforcing Queensland’s reputation as a world-class arts and cultural destination.

 

“APAM provides the unique opportunity to showcase our local talent to the rest of the world, and I congratulate the six Queensland artists and companies selected to pitch this year, including Bleached Arts, Casus Circus, Dancenorth, Leah Shelton, Queensland Theatre, and Thomas E.S. Kelly,” Ms Enoch said.

“I am also delighted that BlakDance, supported by the Queensland Government, will be providing increased visibility, mobilisation and promote outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander producers and artists at this year’s event.”

Representatives from London International Theatre Festival (UK),  Théâtre National de Chaillot (France),  Tanz in August (Germany), National Arts Centre (Canada) and China Shanghai International Arts Festival will join Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director Kris Stewart at one of the most popular activities at the market.  A series of curated ‘Talking Circle’ sessions also provide participants the chance to uncover exciting and up-to-date information about topics and regions relevant to their interests and touring objectives.

 

Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director Kris Stewart said Brisbane Powerhouse was once again proud to be hosting APAM Australia’s leading biennial industry event for contemporary performing arts, showcasing the very best performances from Australian and New Zealand.

 

“APAM 2018 is the only arts market that provides international presenters with the opportunity to see and find out about contemporary performance works by Australian and New Zealand arts companies and independent artists. It showcases new Australian performances including First Nations and provides an opportunity to collaborate and secure tours that will wow national and international audiences,” said Mr Stewart.

 

APAM 2018 will be presented at Brisbane Powerhouse with additional events held across local partner venues including the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Sofitel Brisbane Central.

 

APAM 2018 is presented by the Australia Council for the Arts in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse.  Brisbane City Council is the Principal Supporter of APAM. The Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland and Tourism and Events Queensland, also proudly supports the event. A Night Across Asia and the performance by SsingSsing is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

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11
Dec
17

Elizabeth I

 

Elizabeth I

Brisbane Powerhouse & Monsters Appear

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

December 1 – 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

At a glance, Elizabeth I is a one-woman show about Elizabeth, a seemingly ordinary royal enthusiast from Sydney. When delving a little deeper, it becomes apparent that this production is also a one-woman show about the Virgin Queen’s ghost entering the world of 21st century Australia. When tentative and vulnerable present-day Elizabeth, and fearless, resilient Queen Elizabeth I join forces during an inciting threat of doom, the far-removed females combine the paradoxes of history to present a surprising development of wits and self worth.

 

Despite all of her endearing qualities and quirky antics, royal enthusiast Elizabeth is introduced to the audience as a faltering woman who relies on small pleasures and simple prospects to fill up her modest life. She loves her pug, is working her “dream job” managing complains at a Sydney pharmaceuticals company, and gains most of her thrills from office parties and unrequited desires for mysterious work colleagues. However, when a number of tragic developments multiply before her, Elizabeth is propelled down a terrifying path that leads to life threatening danger in a single afternoon. Lost and helpless she calls up her love of historical monarchs to source the power needed to face her looming peril. With this comes the hilarious yet harrowing entrance of the infamously powerful Queen Elizabeth I, and with her a split from a single character’s journey to a more complex battle between two women’s considerably conflicting attitudes towards danger and intimidation.

 

The Virgin Queen enters Elizabeth’s body as a kind of guide to offer commanding counsel and an essence to drive effectual action. With a simplistic, relatively supernatural usurping of Elizabeth’s internal control, the frail and susceptible woman is engulfed and her inner warrior is released. Within moments following her introduction Elizabeth I reveals her dated historical perceptions of gender roles and attitudes towards physicality and its dictation of power. However, her value of inner strength and devotion in times of confrontation is a welcomed reinforcement of modern day empowerment for any woman, let alone one as uncertain and self-doubting as Elizabeth. The contrast between the women through time and stance is an exquisite dynamic that pushes the piece beyond a playful fusing of timelines and closer to a more profound reflection of past, present and future musings.

 

Sole performer Emily Burton’s performance is rich in personality yet sweet and endearing as modern day Elizabeth. She matches vulnerability with admirable comedic timing and keeps the character entertaining in office-based contexts that could have quickly become tedious. As the two Elizabeths Burton showcases her diversity, combining a meek and charming demeanor with a guttural and commanding presence in a sharp retort. She portrays a delicate amalgamation with a controlled splitting of characters, or personalities if so inclined, while fixated from a singular spot on stage. Burton’s control of movement, body positioning and inner strength is what truly makes this complicated hybridisation work; her ability to bring out the shades of light and dark within both Elizabeth characters is impressive, and it is executed with evident depth during moments that require stark contrast.

 

Director Benjamin Schostakowski also deserves praise for his ability to lead Burton’s detailed delivery of the two women. Overall Schostakowski manages to embrace the piece’s melodrama and predictable plot developments and harness their impact in a hilarious fusion with effortless style. His control of pace and surprising contrast strengthens the work’s evolution from comedic charm to thrilling theatricality as the plot progresses towards the climactic cliffhanger.

 

Notable mentions must also go to this production’s stellar design team. Neridah Waters’ choreography and Wil Hughes’ sound and AV design compliment one another fluidly to layer atop the comedic yet intrinsic elements and enhance Burton and Schostakowski’s coordinated craft. Jason Glenwright’s lighting design holds the shows’ realistic beginnings together with imaginative depth, as well as exploiting moments of mystical proportions with sophistication and pertinence. Glenwright goes from creating simple yet beautiful atmosphere to exploring eery environments to differentiate the Elizabeth psyches. Through smooth alterations and understated overlays Glenwright progresses from playing with sparkling disco dance floor or flashing thunderstorm to splitting the stage and the characters’ essences visually through juxtaposing green and orange hues. As distinctly different colours cast across the space and divide Burton’s body, the Burton’s physical performance of the two Elizabeth’s is extended into a purposeful yet beautiful manipulation of space.

 

With powerful creatives joining forces, Elizabeth I at Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival is an exhilarating first instalment of a what looks to be a promising full-length production in the future.

03
Dec
17

Love / Hate Actually

Love / Hate Actually

Brisbane Powerhouse & Act/React

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 30 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Two friends, Amy and Natalie, come together after ten years of friendship and countless Christmases of debating, to share their annual tradition of desperately debating and aggressively assessing the worth of the infamous 2003 Christmas rom-com film Love Actually. Love/Hate Actually is a fun and playful dissection of the Christmas cult classic with the key goal of determining whether it is a loveable product of Christmas joy or a plot-hole filled problematic mess.

 

Taking a sharp stance for or against the film, Amy and Natalie enter the space with gusto and clear attitudes of positivity or condemnation ready to break open the Christmas can of worms that they declare is causing arguments everywhere. First, Natalie affirms her critical stance against the film and enters the debate prepared with an in-depth analysis of every relationship depicted. She supports her arguments with visuals of hilariously detailed pie charts weighing up the annoying, the implausible and the uncomfortable subdivisions of content. Natalie is detailed in her breakdowns, sharp in her deliveries and altogether hysterically exasperated with the relentless love for what she sees as film created with a foundation of problematic, sexist and hollow content.

 

Amy on the other hand, bases her arguments in defence of the film in more persistently joyful and aesthetically dedicated love for the overall season itself, with the film working as an iconic product of worship for her devout seasonal spirit. While Natalie impresses with pie charts, logic and aggressive argument instigation, Amy electrifies with an exceptionally vibrant personality almost as bright as her Christmas tree-eqsue costume that combines festive colours and decorations, with a pope-like hat and sceptre. Her adoration-filled reasoning for the film’s worth stretches across a range of Australian Christmas traditions, a deep love for holiday rituals and an unwavering appreciation for romantic comedies. Her analysis of the film highlights memorable or charming flick moments, however her initial dismissal of Natalie’s more serious accusations against the film leaves the debate open for further realms of cheeky combat.

 

As the women delve further into the film’s assembly they break down their debate into a detailed examination of each storyline. With each new issue or problematic element discussed, the women veer into hilarious tangents including the dissection of workplace sexual harassment and audience-lead deciphering of content to differentiate pornography from art. Thanks to Natalie’s active investigation, a feminist lens drives much of the debate surrounding the film’s problematic elements, with particular distaste being expressed towards the film’s lack of diversity and its blatant sexist or one-dimensional depiction of women. Amy joins forces with Natalie during assessments of blatant sexism, body shaming and hollow relationships resulting in amalgamated respect for the need to address the film’s oppressive and toxic representations, dismissed every Christmas.

 

As a united duo the women are charming, hilarious and unapologetically themselves.

 

Their casual costumes and realistic banter feels uncannily like watching friends debate the film in a lounge room during a Christmas movie night. With delightfully silly PowerPoint slides and hilarious summaries of relationships and storylines, even audience members who haven’t seen the film in years, or have intentionally avoided the niche content altogether, can laugh along to the pair’s hilarious argumentative techniques, saucy and sarcastic skits, and overall cheeky comedic choices.

 

At its core Love / Hate Actually is a fun and friendly debate that welcomes both joy and bitterness from its audience and combines the passion and intelligence of two female friends, despite their opposing opinions. As an admitted hater of the film, like Natalie, I found the women’s hilarious show spectacularly surpassed the film in cohesion and insight. Whether a lover of the film or a hater of its problematic elements, this cheeky cabaret encourages a loving Christmas spirit and value of friendship regardless of your stance.

 




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