Archive for the 'Festival' Category

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.

 

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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.

 

29
Nov
17

WURST

 

WURST

Brisbane Powerhouse & Jacqueline Furey

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 23 – 25 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Armed with a lineup of  chiseled “Menu Men”, Jacqueline Furey and her team grace the Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival with Wurst: a delicious assortment of meal-themed stripteases and cabaret acts. Hostess Jacqueline Furey sports a collection of glamorous gowns and an elegant demeanor as she serves up the diverse evening of comedic cabaret and beguiling burlesque. A collection of sexy male performers, affectionately referred to as the “Menu Men”, come together to present a selection of bawdy, cheeky and tantalising acts. Be it ballet or hip-hop finesse, an enthralling exhibition of acrobatic ability, or cheeky exploitation of accents, the erogenous men demonstrate their diversity and embrace their distinct backgrounds throughout every performance.

 

Graceful Furey lays out the food-themed showcase like courses in a sexy feast of flavoured variety. From raunchy roast dinners to sweet yet sultry ice cream and milkshake mess for dessert, the show is loaded to the brim with variety to suit a range of tastes. While the focal food theme allows for sweet dance numbers – highlights include a cheeky lollipop trio and a playful whole-body baking demonstration, the showcase unfolds in a staggered progression of underlying premises and unpredictable maturity levels. Performance content may link together with a lens of food or audience devouring of the young men overall, however the ordering of the pieces ensures that one theme, style or performer entices the audience with distinctive substance and well paced deliveries. The acts also range in stimulating intensity and physical exposure, keeping the audience on their toes during unpredictable skits during what could have been a predictable lineup of repetitive strip sequences.

 

 

The only downfall of the work is the choice to include two considerably similar hip-hop dance sequences. Perhaps the recent Magic Mike popularity justifies the inclusion of one clichéd grey-singlet adorned, hip-hop dance work to break up the indulgent food-based content, however two in an evening offered little more than diverting movement. The two acts also lacked in the striptease element that the show promises, leaving audiences calling out for more if only to match the physical reveal reached in the other acts. This audience teasing helped to rekindle appetites for the remaining performances mid-show, but unfortunately rendered the respective floor grinding and muscle manipulation uncanny and undistinguished.

 

Gender blending Raven and physically diverse Dan are the standout Menu Men of the night, offering up twists to traditional role archetypes and stretching the recipe for where the evening’s content could reach. Traditionally handsome and classically trained Dan Venz plays with the subtle eroticism of his ballet body and the assets that come with tight-fitting white stockings. In stark contrast is Raven sporting a dramatic white mask with intense lashes and black crosses over his nipples while performing as the night’s stand alone drag queen. With a shocking opening 50s housewife skit exploring roast chicken sensuality and a dominatrix dog training session breaking comfort levels at the lineup’s climax, Raven’s acts were definitely the most provocative and potent.

 

 

Amongst the diversity and intensity of the male acts, the night’s hostess’ performance was equally as praiseworthy. Despite an innuendo segment being delivered overdone for a contemporary cabaret context, Furey’s overall performance is elegant and erotic from start to finish. However, amongst poised audience captivation, it is Furey’s humane responses to audience heckling and humble admittance to hilarious speech stumbles that pushes her performance beyond a stale, simplistic cabaret host that is seen far too often. Furey entices her audiences with glamour and prowess but truly wins them over with her sassy humanity and well-timed sense of humour.

 

With rich yet simplistic costumes and stage design the production focuses on the raw attraction of the performers and their presence on stage. By combining an array of performance strengths and fusing together styles and techniques from both cabaret and burlesque, Wurst forefronts the power of simplicity and reinforces the joy of a playful night at the theatre.

 

25
Nov
17

There’s Something About Mary(s)

 

There’s Something About Mary(s)

Brisbane Powerhouse & Cassie George

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 23 – 26 2017

 

Reviewed by Amelia Walker

 

 

Wearing a black lacy slip and sloshing around a glass of rosè, Cassie George is the hot mess we all know from university. In her autobiographical show There’s Something About Mary(s), Cassie details her love life in a familiar story of ‘crazy girl’ stereotype, falling in love with practically every man she meets.

 

From overly dramatic teen flings, to misguided crushes on an unavailable best friend, Cassie manages to crack jokes and belt pop ballads about her cringe-inducing missteps in love. If there is a term for that balance of awkward humour that makes you snort-laugh, Cassie coined it.

The audience is taken through a chronological look at Cassie’s romantic endeavours, briefly visiting her Christian upbringing with a well-placed handjob joke. I wanted to hear more about this religious impact on Cassie: what was her take on the repression of her clearly active sexuality? It had the potential to be a thread that was perhaps revisited more through humour or through personal development, but instead served as another ‘plot point’ for Cassie to bounce off.

Her ability to laugh at herself, her circumstances, and her series of bad luck was inviting as an audience member. She lured us in with self-deprecating humour, and then made me lean back into the kind of discomfort that only my dad’s worst jokes can do. Outrageous humour had a place to land in this theatre full of friends.

Working on an ‘actor’s budget’, this production did well to create the feeling that it was taking place inside the bedroom of a young woman. This operated in conjunction with lighting to give Cassie just enough dramatic flair to stage dream sequences and even a dance that had the potential to be sexy if not for Cassie’s spectacular ability to take everything over the top.

The ‘queen-in-waiting’, as she calls herself, uses a cart-load of colourful terms to reference one of the biggest influencers in this struggle of romance: her gay, male friends. Cassie has nothing but love these people, and when she tells her story it is done with an endearing honesty. I worry, however, that naming her sample of gay, male friends ‘the entire gay community of Brisbane’ is at best a joke that doesn’t land, and at worse, a step back for representation.

Luke Volker’s onstage presence went a long way to bring something new and different to this delightfully tragic cabaret. His musical direction allowed Cassie to shine in what I believe worked best for her: self-referential jokes punctuated with an overly enthusiastic smile and an unhinged laugh.

Volker also managed to bring back some humanity to the gay men in Cassie’s life, as they sometimes only served as a backdrop to her extremely heterosexual cabaret. Navigating how to avoid making queer people merely a functionary element in a story about someone who is not queer is difficult. Rather than existing just for sassy comments and an indulger of gossip, Cassie finally gave some depth to her queer friends by acknowledging their flaws. It would have been satisfying to hear more about the struggle of a self-identified unhealthy symbiotic relationship, but it was only addressed briefly.

 

The underlying love story here is a platonic one between Cassie and a community she fully emerged herself in, but I’m not sure why it took the backseat so often. Love on just about every angle has been covered, so it felt like a missed opportunity that the intricacies of well-developed friendships were glossed over. The show was most successful when celebrating friend love and all the difficulties that come along with it.

 

There’s Something About Mary(s) is a fun new work that has a place in a theatre space such as the Powerhouse’s Wonderland Festival. Although it felt inspired by the problematic women behind the “gay best friend” trope, it was able to laugh at itself and acknowledge the troubles in desiring such a relationship. Celebrating friendship and platonic love in the age of Tinder is a nice spin on the saturated topic of young women and romance. And I can always get behind a rendition of Cher’s Believe.




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