Archive for the 'Noosa Long Weekend Festival' Category

06
Sep
18

Disenchanted!

 

Disenchanted!

Mad About Theatre

Noosa Arts Theatre

July 27 – 28 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

…just one more ‘Once Upon a Time’ and I swear I’ll go insane!

 

Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs ’em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that is anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know. When these royal renegades toss off their tiaras, this hilariously subversive, not-for-the-kiddies musical cleverly reveals what really happened ‘ever after’!

 

Disenchanted!, the smash hit Off-Broadway fractured musical fairytale for feminists and dissatisfied Disney Princesses, previewed at NOOSA alive! in July before transferring for a limited run to Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre.

 

Director, Madison Thew-Keyworth (Artistic Director of Mad About Theatre), has assembled the brightest, brassiest, sweetest-on-the-surface-at-least ensemble of five multi-talented performers to bring to vivid life the royal suite of princesses: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Mulan, Badroulbadour and The Princess Who Kissed The Frog. Her spare direction, letting the gags speak for themselves, allows the artists to go a little and a lot OTT in terms of vocalisation and characterisations. I feel like a fly on the wall at a private princess party and overhearing what everyone really thinks of Prince Charming.

 

 

Off-Broadway style big belt voices, beautiful close harmonies, cute and silly contemporary choreography, sexy costumes and loads of sass make this politically correct call to arms a delightful surprise at Australia’s premier performing arts and cultural festival, now in its 17th year in Noosa.

 

History teacher, Dennis T. Giacino (book, music and lyrics) rewrote the inner monologues of the princesses we know so well, giving the gals good reason to revolt. Even in this enlightened age it seems that it still takes both guts and grace to stand up and proclaim that we don’t need a guy, or that we actually need to eat. And all of this, taken up and written down by a guy. Praise be.

 

Disney purists will laugh along with these talented girls right from the opening number, One More Happ’ly Ever After, dripping with sarcasm and brimming with righteous anger, to A Happy Tune, which clarifies the issue of domestic duties and the mental load with the hilarious and well timed help of triangle, kazoo and the sweetest smiles, to the sad-but-true and very funny All I Wanna Do Is Eat. A significantly poignant moment though, comes with Honestly, a more considered and compassionate, pondering look at the story Pocahontas had thrust upon her. There are other opportunities for this sort of moment elsewhere in the show – they’re few and far between but they’re there behind a raised eyebrow or a sad, knowing smile – but the preference in this production is obviously to get the laughs, and the NOOSA alive! audiences eat it up.

 

Can someone tell me why I’m forced to row around that riverbend – just around the riverbend – am I the only one who knows this is pretend? And honestly, I was only ten but now I’m Double D. Can anyone explain why leaves keep following me and why my story can’t be told honestly?

Pocahontas, Disenchanted!

 

You’ll recognise a number of famous riffs and beloved musical theatre moments throughout (MD and Piano Man, Bradley McCaw is right at home here, and his extreme energy on stage is another highlight of the show). You’ll surely feel compelled to cheer and shout for the rights of princesses everywhere, and if you can overlook and laugh at the kitsch, cheap props and a distinct lack of any sort of set (“It’s Vaudeville!”), you’ll see Mad About Theatre’s Disenchanted! for what it is: a superbly sassy, witty, fast-paced and unapologetic political and social statement about everything that’s better than being a storybook princess, simply staged and boldly sung. You’ll love it! Let’s hope we see a return season on the Sunshine Coast.

 

24
Mar
17

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out

Noosa Long Weekend

In Association With Ensemble Theatre

The J Theatre, Noosa

March 23 – 25 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Odd-Man-Out-01

David Williamson’s Odd Man Out sold out in Sydney over an eight-week season. Secure in the knowledge that it would be another smash hit for Williamson and Ensemble Theatre, Noosa Long Weekend invited the company to bring the production to The J for an exclusive pre-festival fundraising weekend (4 performances only), launching the rebrand of the festival only weeks prior.

Noosa Long Weekend Festival is now Noosa Alive! presenting an exciting program of world class events over 10 days in July.

Williamson’s success is unparalleled in this country. His work not only reflects the many aspects of our individual lives and the broader societal values to which we subscribe but also, it brings to light the little details of our relationships, our connections with other humans. Always funny, always touching, always extremely intelligent, examining all the things we think we should be getting right and all the things we know are not right with the world, Williamson is a master of making misfortune a gift. We see his characters expand and grow in the advent of disaster rather than be defeated by life’s difficulties.

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While Anna Gardiner’s design (lit by Christopher Page) is contemporary and suitably symbolic, at times it feels almost too sterile, which is perhaps the point: it suits every scene and our focus remains on the performers. Alistair Wallace’s soundscape adds an interesting dimension, most effectively incorporated into the second act to up the pace and underpin the absurd comedy act required of Ryan in each new social situation. 

When a production is mediocre we don’t take much away from it (except perhaps a thought that we’ll not see that company again for a while, just while they work themselves out!). But when the actors excel in bringing a terrific, insightful script to life, we experience a degree of what the characters on stage are going through. This shared empathy is part of what makes live theatre so special, so vital, and how it’s possible to invest so much emotionally in what’s essentially a cute little love story. In the case of Odd Man Out, the story is much larger, and we feel more deeply than we expected to for Ryan, a high-functioning autistic physicist, and for Alice, a physiotherapist with a ticking biological clock; we quickly became complicit in her attempts to change Ryan, in a frustrating journey through life and love.

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In creating Alice, Lisa Gormley has discovered something beautifully gentle and natural, and building on it gradually, layer by layer, she develops incredible strength and purpose so that we understand completely by the end of the play, her unfailing love for Ryan and her determination to support him, in spite of the challenges he continuously throws at her. We see her undergoing the kind of transformation that can only come from a place of whole-hearted love and unwavering kindness. This role might be wasted on anyone else but Gormley gives Alice the necessary warmth and depth, and good natured sense of humour to enable us to believe in her crazy pursuit of happily ever after with a guy who seems incapable of understanding her needs, or communicating his own.

oddmanout_justinandlisa

Williamson has said to me that Justin Stewart Cotta (Dream Homes’s memorable “Lion of Lebanon”) is one of our finest stage actors – high praise indeed; I’d seen the proof of it during our brief rehearsal period and limited run of that production, directed by the playwright, for Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2015 – and in Odd Man Out we see once again, Cotta’s knack for nailing a challenging character, bringing to this complex role a heartbreaking vulnerability that might remind you of Noah Taylor and/or Geoffrey Rush in Shine, and well-studied idiosyncrasies, which are likened in the play to Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond in Rainman. And in this moment, Williamson very succinctly makes a point about our lack of references in the mainstream, since the release of Rainman, to Autism Spectrum Disorder. In recent years we’ve seen a bit of a run on bipolar and depression and dementia in the movies, however; unlike sitting in a cinema and feeling somewhat removed from the situation, when we’re just metres away from the humans having to find a way to live with a mental illness or developmental condition in a world that doesn’t offer much assistance, we can’t help but feel for them, and wonder how, given the same set of circumstances, we might behave.

Odd-Man-Out-04

Ryan is hyper-intelligent but emotionally stunted and socially anxious, and innocently offends everyone with whom he comes into contact, including Alice, his sharp wit and honest observations providing the play’s funniest and most uncomfortable moments. An awkward and highly entertaining scene involving good friends and wine (or is that friends and good wine?) puts the approach to the test with hilarious results. But without support from her parents or friends (that gorgeous Rachel Gordon as best friend Carla, let’s face it, is far more bitch than BFF), Alice has had to find a way to teach Ryan a new way to present himself to the world. The consequences are disastrous, giving us a mother of a monologue from Cotta, just in case we weren’t already convinced of his utter conviction in the role. These two bare their souls and connect with such genuine honesty and intimacy that we can’t help but be moved. A friend told me after the show that for him, in Ryan and Alice he saw his parents’ relationship, Autism included. And he could see he was the child, whom Ryan and Alice can’t quite agree to have…until we find ourselves at the neat, optimistic ending (there’s no spoiler there if you’re familiar with Williamson’s unashamedly, cleverly crowd-pleasing style). Look, there may have been a few tears shed.

Gordon, Gael Ballantyne, Bill Young, and Matt Minto beautifully flesh out the secondary characters, but this show rightly belongs to the effervescent Gormley, and to Cotta, in his most honest, detailed and nuanced work to date.

A Williamson play is always such a gift to actors and audiences, and this one, his best yet, so sensitively directed by Ensemble’s Artistic Director, Mark Kilmurry, offers greater insight than ever into the way humans behave and successfully – or not at all – relate to one another. 

02
Mar
15

Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2015 Now On Sale!

 

Noosa Long Weekend Festival presents our most exciting program yet!

 

You know these events SELL OUT! In fact, many events have already sold well during the exclusive pre-sale for Friends & Patrons. Become a Friend or Patron this year so you don’t miss out again next year!

 

You won’t want to miss David Williamson’s DREAM HOME or CATHERINE ALCORN or ROB MILLS or DUSTY LIVE IN CONCERT or AN EVENING WITH THE QUEENSLAND BALLET or MELODY BECK & JOHANNA ALLEN or ROB MILLS or JULIAN GARGUILO or THE MAGIC FLUTE! GO ON. BOOK NOW.

 

pre-sale

 

There are 3 easy ways for you to secure your festival event tickets:

1. Online

2. Telephone* (07) 5329 6560 – The J Theatre Mon-Fri 9am – 5pm.

* A transaction fee of $3.50 applies to all telephone ticket sales.

3. Counter sales The J Theatre Mon-Fri 9am 5pm.

magic-flute-australian-opera

 

For the first time ever, Opera Australia will bring a fully staged production of its much loved Opera, The Magic Flute to the Sunshine Coast.

 

Direct from Melbourne, the professional cast and orchestra complete with an authentic Egyptian tomb set, lighting, costumes and wigs will perform one night only, on Tuesday July 14.

 

“It’s a magical way to kick off our 2015 festival” said an excited and proud Festival Director, Ian Mackellar. …“It couldn’t have happened without the wholehearted support of Opera Australia Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini AM and festival event sponsors, Settler’s Cove and Tourism Noosa.”

 

The logistics surrounding this ‘one performance only event’ equates to Noosa’s own G20 manoeuvres.

 

With no existing stage large enough, a 48 foot Semi will roll into town and transform the Noosa Leisure Centre into a major performance space capable of staging the full production of this Mozart masterpiece in front of 700 people.

 

The ability to pull off such an event, confirms the Noosa Long Weekend Festival as the major regional Arts Festival in the Country.

 

President Johanne Wright said “The collective vision of Opera Australia and our sponsors has enabled us to make this special performance accessible to as many people as possible and this will be reflected in the ticket price.”

 

Lyndon Terracini AM, Artistic Director of Opera Australia said “Opera Australia is thrilled to be bringing Mozart’s The Magic Flute to the Noosa Long Weekend Festival. I’m personally tremendously excited about this event and I know all the cast and of course the legendary director Michael Gow are just as excited as I am. It’s a wonderful production…”

 

04
Aug
14

The breakdown you have when you’re not having a breakdown and why I need a break

 

Life is crazy.

 

We are busy.

 

Craaazy busy.

 

It’s not new news. We’ve always been busy. Sometimes I delight in it (I’m easily bored).

 

I often hashtag #crazybusy and #xsneverstops but I don’t often stop to contemplate the implications of this. The other day I hashtagged #xsneverstopsbutxsmightneedto

 

This is why.

 

Last week I crashed my car. I was tired, I was at a roundabout, I looked and then didn’t look again quite soon enough, and I hit the girl in front of me. She had gone to go and she stupidly/safely, thinking better of it, had suddenly stopped again. Fuck! I knew I had no insurance and I was about to discover that neither had she. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be near enough to hit her. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be too tired to drive. Ordinarily I would have listened to that little inner voice inside of me that said when I got out of bed that morning, “Do the school run and go back to bed. Enough already. Stop.” Instead, largely because I’ve always associated that little voice with the onset of a migraine, I blinked, dressed, continued to ignore the little voice sans migraine, and headed to yet another event that followed hot on the heels of our 10 days and nights of fabulous Noosa Long Weekend Festival events.

 

For the last few days, while my car has been out of action, I’ve been in Toowoomba, where my grandparents have lived for as long as I can remember. (Of course there is history beyond that, before the beginning of my memory, and it’s an interesting story but it doesn’t matter for the moment).

 

I used to think of Toowoomba as a town of schools and churches but now I realise it’s actually an aged care mecca.

 

xantheandmerv_selfie_august2014

 

My grandfather is 96 years old. My grandmother is 83. Grandpa still lives at home, and so did Grandma until she contracted pneumonia and suffered a serious fall last week, which put her into hospital and meant that the discussions about aged care facilities began again. Grandpa is actually still fairly “independent”. It’s as bewildering as it is impressive. He’s almost blind but he knows where everything is…as long as he’s in his own home. He sometimes spills the sugar when he’s making his tea but there is always somebody around at some stage to help clean it up.

 

coffeecup_grandmashouse

 

I should tell you, I’m very late to this party – the discussions actually began over five years ago – tentatively at first, and then, just two years ago, application forms were requested, facilities were visited and with great diplomacy and delicacy, the subject of moving to a care facility was broached again with Grandpa, who wouldn’t hear of it. Of course not. Stupid, really. What were they thinking? Or, in his words, I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE.

 

Last week Grandma suffered a fall and discovered that simply breathing was difficult. Mum and I have visited every day and each day, although there have been some ups and downs, she seems brighter and livelier, even “bubbly” and “ready to come home next week!” You can imagine the twinkle in Grandpa’s eye as he says this, knowing he wins, again. This, after so much talk (so many tears to hold back!), of not returning home but going into a home, and Mum’s sister, and Mum and I persisting with ongoing comparative studies of no less than eleven places in town (and well outside of it! “Highfields? Hmphf! Too far!”). Sometimes one of them will agree, “Oh yes, that does sound nice, doesn’t it?” And I feel like I’ve been here before. Oh wait. I have been. Different party, same theme, starring Sam’s mum. Good to have had a rehearsal. From one decision to another, and back again. It can drive a person crazy! The next part of the decision making process is obviously about letting go and taking a step back from the process itself. Ultimately, once again, the decision is rightfully Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. We might just need to change how we feel about giving them the space and time to work things out for themselves. To fumble with the remote control. To lose things, forget things. To spill the sugar. To see out their days in the comparative comfort of their own home…

 

xantheandena_august2014

 

Some of the homes are actually lovely and others are, well, best left out of the conversation. You can tell when you walk into a place, whether or not somebody you love might like to spend the rest of their days and nights there. There is the matter of design, décor, landscaping, meals prepared on the premises, coffee shops, colours, smells, and warmly lit (or not) corridors to consider. There are either happy, smiling people working there and living there, or there are not. There are fees. And there are admission processes. And then there is Centrelink. Since July 1 2014 a whole lot has changed, making it difficult for families and administrators to fill the rooms available. That’s right. The rooms are there but most places won’t admit a person until Centrelink has processed a particular portion of the paperwork, which could mean a wait time of up to 10 weeks. Meanwhile, there are rooms – empty rooms. And conflicting information and advice from each facility and government agency. It makes it all so much more difficult. Stop. Spoiler alert!

 

 

That leads me to letting you know that I’m bowing out for a bit. I’m continuing to rely on our wonderful team of reviewers to keep up with the Brisbane scene. I still love theatre, I love seeing the shows, and I love having the conversations about them, but I need to take care of a few other things at the moment, including family matters, our growing business (hooray!) and also, me. I’ll keep doing some teaching, which earns me more money than reviewing (ie some as opposed to none), I’ll keep posting the reviews our writers submit, and I might even stick around on social media. I still love Instagram. I’m going to let you know about our upcoming events, including the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival (with special guest adjudicator Margi Brown Ash!), Keep Calm and Cabaret, and the launch of my sister’s book Dress, Memory and Brisbane Writers Festival. But this writer needs to get back to writing…and sitting and reading and dreaming, and drinking cups of tea with friends, and getting to know our child and her friends, and growing our food and talking with the chickens and walking on the beach.

 

I’ll see the things the Matilda Committee needs me to see and I’ll see the things I desperately want to see. It might not be your thing and for that I’m sorry, but not really, because I’m truly completely and utterly exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally drained. And frankly, I’m disappointed that you didn’t make it to see our recent things. They were really good. I know. Too busy. TOO FAR! (Insert the sigh of one who knows she is beaten by apathy more than by distance or time-poor existence). It’s okay. Really. You have your own stuff to work on too. Everybody, keep doin’ the work. There will always be someone (nearer) to see it.

 

If you’re a Brisbane based writer and lover of theatre do email me, or find me on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to have you on board.

 

29
Jul
14

And that’s a wrap! Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2014

 

And that’s a wrap! Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2014

 #NLWF2014 #NLWF14 #NLW14

 

diabolique_collagepic_NLWF14

 

We’re back! But if you’ve been following on social media, you won’t have missed us at all! We’ve been tweeting and instagramming for the last 10 days from the 13th Noosa Long Weekend Festival! And what a festival!

 

Oh yeah. Right. There are still some theatre and cabaret reviews to catch up on…dating back to MAY. I KNOW. I’M APPALLED BY ME TOO.

 

But those will have to wait a little longer because you should really know what you’ve missed out on SO YOU CAN BOOK EARLY FOR NEXT YEAR’S NOOSA LONG WEEKEND FESTIVAL! Lock it in!

 

Noosa Long Weekend Festival July 17 – 26 2015

 

There really is nothing like a Noosa Long Weekend – it’s 10 days of warm winter sunshine, beautiful beaches, the best accommodation, bars and restaurants, and top shopping, arts, literature, forums, food and fun! I honestly don’t know why you’d be anywhere else.

 

XS Entertainment has been involved before – we took Erotique to NLWF12 after sell-out seasons in a Mooloolaba shop front and at the Sydney Fringe Festival in 2010. We had developed Erotique after staging Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, and never felt satisfied with the woman’s character, played at various times by Sharon Grimley and Sarah McMahon (and in Schnitzler’s original script was written as a male character, a fop; we hated him). The Woman we created was elusive but she’d been so strongly brought to life by Sharon, and then by Sarah, we couldn’t let her rest. Or, she wouldn’t let us rest. Sam proposed a new show, which would focus on The Woman, and he cast the three of us to play her – Sharon Grimley, Stephanie Brown and me. Steph was also engaged to choreograph the show, and once I faced facts and realised I was too busy (or too distracted) to write the thing myself, we collaborated beautifully and each wrote our own monologues and selected our own songs.

 

As far as process goes, Sam and I love to work this way, allowing the performers to sing the flesh onto the bones of their characters and discover for themselves why they end up doing what they do. Sam hasn’t always directed this way – he used to be bossier! I’ve loved seeing him discover a magical relationship mantra that goes something like, “Watch, listen, trust, adjust.” He didn’t tell me that, it’s just what I see. Perhaps he’ll disagree. We often disagree and so the two of us working together is not always ideal. The rehearsal studio can get quite heated at times, and it’s not anything to do with the eroticism of the show! Due to its adult content, this show has been particularly challenging to rehearse at home, where an eight-year old has learned to come to terms with getting her own dinner, tidying the kitchen and disappearing to put herself to bed twice a week. We don’t want that to ever happen again. However, everyone has certainly appreciated Poppy’s newly acquired barista skills. She was even making money from the Managing Carmen cast, who left a tip for her at the end of the night!

 

I don’t consider dancing to be my strongest point so Steph’s fabulous choreography was challenging for me. (With any luck, those of you who saw the show wouldn’t have known!). Don’t expect me to take on a dance role again anytime soon, although if I continue to get enquiries I’ll consider giving Burlesque classes. Seriously. Hopefully we’ll see some of those enquiring aspiring strippers work really hard before October on stylishly shedding their layers and singing and chatting away for our inaugural Keep Calm and Cabaret competition because here’s the thing: let’s keep the styles evolving. Some of the best feedback we got from audience members at Diabolique was:

 

I love the old burlesque but I love your new burlesque more.

 

You girls can sing!

 

The character was so strong and the story was so beautiful and sad we forgot you were nearly naked!

 

This is theatre to make you think.

 

It’s theatre on a high wire.

 

This is cabaret? I like this cabaret!

 

Highly sophisticated.

 

Mesmerising.

 

Beautiful theatre.

 

 

diabolique_stephandx_NLWF14

 

 

We were lucky to have Travis MacFarlane stop by to design our lighting after just one viewing of the show.

 

Of course the audiences responded to Managing Carmen in an entirely different way. The production was cleverly staged, just as beautifully lit, and so funny, starring Frank Wilkie, Adam Flower, Simon Denver, Marina de Jager and Ashleigh Muekenberger.

 

“It was hard,” says Sam, of directing two productions at once. “The greatest challenge” he says, “was to keep two teams who were very different in nature, in style and in preparation, in my head at the one time.”

 

“I’m very proud to again prove that local talent can mix with our national and international talent. We can hold our own.”

 

I’ll offer some more reflections on the festival along the way, as we catch up on the reviews that are missing here.

 

In the meantime, check out Barry Alsop’s Eyes Wide Open Images from Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2014! Cheers!

 

managingcarmen_castandcrew_NLWF14

 




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