Archive for the 'Performing Arts' Category

19
Oct
17

Rhinoceros

 

Rhinoceros

heartBeast Theatre Company

Spring Hill Reservoir

October 13 – 28 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Spring Hill Reservoir is such a diverse and beautiful space, and heartBeast Theatre Company never tire in utilising this underground chamber to transport their audience to a different time and place. The last show I saw was an immersive production of Hamlet, where the audience literally followed the actors and the action of Shakespeare’s tragedy to different sections of the reservoir.

 

Rhinoceros, directed by Steve Pearton, was performed on a raised square stage, intimate and inclusive. The set was stark and minimalistic, though the ensemble of colourful and absurdist characters brought the show to life.   

 

Eugene Ionesco wrote Rhinoceros in response to the uprising of Nazism and fascism before and during World War II, commenting on how easily people succumbed to a way of thinking and being. The play opens in a café – though with the Irish music filtering in from outside the reservoir, it turned into quite the jovial pub scene – where two men witness a rhinoceros stampede down the street. As the action unfolds and speculations arise, a most peculiar thing happens. People start turning into rhinoceros’ and suddenly being human is an unruly concept. Tis the age of the beast!

 

Patrick Farrelly (Jean) had a strong presence and played a hilarious drunk, though at times his eyes betrayed him. It was as if he was waiting on a cue and not reacting to his partner Brian Bolton (Berenger). There were unnecessary pauses and it took a while for the two leads to relax into the play. Bolton, whose character fights hard against mediocracy and running with herd, delivers a heartfelt performance. The audience sympathise with him on his journey from being a narcissistic, Trump-like know-it-all to a desperate man trying hard to hold on to his sense of identity.

 

 

The ensemble cast were brimming with an exciting and youthful energy, bombarding onto the stage then leaving a trail of dust and confusion in their wake. There’s a method to Ionesco’s madness within this work, making the listener think and reflect about the correlations between what is happening on stage to what is happening in the real world.

 

It is a wonder to think how relevant this play still is; how easy it is for those in power to persuade, to manipulate, to corrupt, and how willing some are to follow these so called “leaders.” And how dangerous and isolating it is for the voices of a minority to revolt against injustice. A line from the play that rocks me to my core is, “People who try to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad end.” This will resonate differently with each person, but to me it rings true, and exposes a cycle humanity must break.  As Bolton delivered this line so passionately, I thought of all those who have stood up and fought to nurture and embrace diversity, celebrate culture, and live a life of compassion.

 

The ensemble is the driving force of this production; there is a much-needed lift in energy when they barge on stage. This play is provocative and entertaining. It will leave you bedazzled and thinking, “When in my life have I turned into a rhinoceros?”   

 

 

 

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19
Oct
17

One The Bear

 

One the Bear

La Boite Theatre Company

Campbelltown Arts Centre and Black Honey Company

Roundhouse Theatre

October 10 -21 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

One the Bear is a magical journey about identity and discovering your true self. It is fun, unexpected, loud and proud, and full of heart. Growing up, pursuing your dreams and learning who your real friends are is hard, and some of us get lost along the way. This show presented by La Boite Theatre Company, Campbelltown Arts Centre and Black Honey Company validates the importance of remembering your history and where you came from, and celebrates individuality.

 

The story follows the friendship of two grizzly bears named One (Candy Bowers) and Ursula (Nancy Denis), who live in a grungy alleyway next to a dumpster, spending most of their time keeping out of sight from the “Hunters.” In this dystopian world, capturing bears is paramount for humans to survive. They are skinned, even their organs are used in medicines. One vividly remembers the day when her mother was killed in front of her. It fills her belly with rage, but this little cub has hope, and dreams of a better future where bears are free to return to the forests. One has a passion for hip hop music and she and Ursula rap about their trials and tribulations.

 

 

When One is discovered by a hot shot producer, she walks a fine line between using her fame as a platform to give voice to the discrimination and torture of bears, and losing herself completely in the bright lights and screaming fans. She alters her appearance, gives into vanity and pride, and worse she abandons her friend Ursula. One finds herself being consumed by a world that takes advantage of the weak to make money. She finally hits rock bottom, roaring out against it all, and returning to the dumpster. Ursula is there waiting and ready to help One find her purpose again.

 

 

Written wholly in rhyme by Candy Bowers and accompanied by an incredibly fresh and funky sound design by Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, this is a must-see show for young people. It delivers important messages regarding our time and how we view fame. People are urged to present the best version of themselves, and yet the media, the internet, Facebook and Instagram are filling our heads with idealistic and often unachievable ideas of happiness and success. One the Bear is a beautiful reminder to have the courage to define yourself and carve your own path.

 

 

Walking into the show, I was unsure what to expect, though I was pleasantly surprised at how invested I became in the story. There were moments the sound was loud and overpowered the performers, making it difficult to hear what they were saying. All the production elements ensnared the senses, particularly the stunning video projection by optikal bloc and Sarah Seahorse’s bright and bold costume designs.

 

 

Candy Bowers and Nancy Denis were next-level, never dropping their energy for a second. Their physicality was outstanding, you couldn’t look away for fear of missing something. Even though it was a tale of two bears, the message about friendship, identity and empowering women, were all too clear.

 

One the Bear is for the cubs, the next generation of strong, opinionated and passionate young feminists who will change the world. The audience fell in love with One and Ursula, and it was thrilling to see so many young people enjoying themselves. The emotional arc of this work is superb, and the reason you’ll leave the theatre filled with hope and a big smile on your face.   

   

14
Oct
17

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

 

Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

QPAC Presents A Barking Gecko Theatre Company Production

QPAC Playhouse

October 11 – 15 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

How does a story write itself?

 

It only takes a wish…

 

How weird theatre is, or my head while I’m in it. The ancient Greeks recognised the River Styx as the point between this world and Hades, and this with its ferryman, Kharon, is the image that fills my head as we watch Bambert, an impossibly small man with an enormous love for writing, cross over to the other side of the dream.

I cry, and usually I can brush away any tears before the house lights come up but something is different and I let them fall. Poppy hugs me – she’s almost as tall as me and as skinny as my grandmother, her great-grandmother, Ena; I’ve been thinking about her – and we don’t hang around, even though my friend knows this cast and I could race around with her to Stage Door to give every one of them a huge hug to say thanks for stopping by and stopping other things happening in my life for a little while. Katie Noonan’s exquisite cover of River Man, from Elixir days, haunts me for the next few hours, despite Poppy’s insistence that we listen to Next to Normal all the way home – I will keep the plates all spinning – and then, when we get home, the noise of the neighbours’ parties pervades our house, and our little street. This used to be a neat street…

 

 

Children’s stories make us think of other children’s stories, and this one, a Helpmann Award winner in 2016, brings up all sorts of stuff, including my hero, Mr Plumbean, and for some reason (because we get a sense of how simple and complex death is?), a favourite Little Golden Book about the changing of the seasons, The Four Puppies. And always, The Neverending Story. ALWAYS The Neverending Story. Some stories stay with us…

 

Child-like, old man Bambert lives in the tiny attic above Mr Bloom’s grocery store, writing his stories beneath the gaze of his friend, the moon.

 

 

“He realised that all his stories were just words on a page. All these years he thought he was writing himself into the world but the truth was, if Bambert knew nothing of the world then the world knew nothing of him.”

 

One day Bambert sends his stories out into the world, tearing the pages from his book and attaching each to a balloon, with instructions for the reader to send the story back so that he may use the postage stamp to give each story a location.

 

Bambert’s stories are rich with meaning. I enjoy the first one the most, about a headstrong, and socially, politically and environmentally conscious princess looking to appoint the next leader of her kingdom. She sees through the gimmicks of potential suitors who have been asked to give her the key to truth, exposing their flaws and fake news, and we are left to assume that she herself will take the reigns. Frightening tales follow this one, in which a pigeon woman in London, Lady Brompton-Featherly-Poselthwaighte-Huntington-Moore the Third, finds lost and hungry people to add to her collection of living wax figures, another in which two writers will have to put their faith in an imaginary child to escape their prison cell on a ray of light, and a brother and sister who will have to find their way through the stark winter forests of Poland before the Dark Angels (no, not those who frequent the fetish club, but something more like Dementors, or…Nazis), find them and force them into a deep hole in the freezing earth. And finally, it’s the tale of Taruk, whose drawings come to life as he completes them, reinforcing Bambert’s wish that creativity and good choices will change the world.

 

Directed by Dan Giovannoni and Luke Kerridge, who came across a copy of Reinheldt Jung’s book in a London bookstore and carried it with him for years of backpacking around the world before returning home to turn it into this show. (Kerridge’s other favourite book is The Little Prince). In these sophisticated stories, Kerridge recognised Jung’s simple storytelling device, that it’s the children who are the protagonists and the children who can save the world.

 

It’s a much darker show than you might expect to be seeing with the kids, but here are 5 things I noticed during the Friday night performance at QPAC’s Playhouse, which makes me consider how much we need darker stories told in a theatrical context, and how much we need kids to continue taking their parents to experience live theatre.

  1. we need darkness to see the light
  2. kids are more prepared to hear difficult stories than their parents appear to be
  3. kids are more comfortable hearing difficult stories than their parents appear to be
  4. kids and parents experience similar difficulties trying to quietly consume hard candy in boxes
  5. theatres should resist selling hard candy in boxes if they would like to maintain a particular quality to the storytelling and audience experience
  6. parents should resist accompanying their kids to the theatre unless they are going to follow their own advice, including not speaking or using phones during the performance because as well as being distracting to those seated nearby, the performers, who all real people exisiting in real time in front of you, can hear you and see you.

 

Of course most of the kids work out how it works before the house lights have dimmed.

 

 

The magic of Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories is not only in the allegorical tales themselves, but in the telling of them. Igor Sas is the thoughtful, gentle Mr Bloom, who intercepts Bambert’s stories in favour of seeing his small friend’s delight rather than disillusionment with the world. A talented ensemble play the roles required to bring the story characters to life. Tim Watts is Bambert’s gibberish voice and head and heart (and also, Lord Byron and the princess’s tall, gangly, funny father, the king). Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris and Nick MacLaine are exceptional across multiple roles demonstrating their versatility and flair for comedy and Bunraku puppetry.

 

 

Designer, Jonathan Oxlade, has created a beautiful, intimate two-storey set of intricate detail, which we would ideally have seen in the Cremorne Theatre, only somebody probably thought they could sell every Playhouse seat to any production from this award winning company (I would have thought so too). With ever-changing evocative lighting by Chris Donnelly, and a cinematic soundscape and original music by Ian Moorhead, there’s nothing about this show that’s not perfectly crafted and polished for audiences of all ages and sensibilities. I’ve seen nothing on this scale, of this calibre, for young children since Slava’s Snowshow and Wolfe Bowart’s suite of works. We miss so much as adults (and with an older child now), not even trying to get to similar work at QPAC’s Out of the Box festival for under eights or so-called “children’s theatre”. If only we could get to everything, and if only everything was this sweet and enthralling and entertaining. 

 

While you’re at QPAC, drop in to see Puppet People, a free exhibition in the Tony Gould Gallery with extended opening hours during the Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories season:

Saturday 10am – 6.15pm and Sunday 10am – 1.30pm

13
Oct
17

The Last Five Years

 

The Last Five Years

Wax Lyrical Productions

Visy Theatre Brisbane Powerhouse

October 7 – 14 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Within the first ten minutes of The Last Five Years we know whether or not we’re up for hearing this story and watching heartbreak happen. Wax Lyrical’s production, directed by Zoe Tuffin, and starring Kurt Phelan and Lizzie Moore, is exquisitely sad and beautifully crafted to let some light shine on the perfect imperfections of two people who were once in love.

 

During the opening three minutes we’ve already had our hearts crack irreparably and we realise we’re in for a relentlessly emotional 90-minute ride. If you’re coming in with real, raw, brand new wounds, or savage old ones that you’re not ready to let heal, take a drink or two in; you may feel the need to self-medicate.

 

Jason Robert Brown’s contemporary song cycle boasts a neat structure that sees the two performers share the stage throughout, and yet meet and connect only once, for a moment when they marry (The Next Ten Minutes, ever so delicately crafted and delivered). Despite the clever chronological device, and their continuous comings and goings, these gifted performers retain a deep connection with the material and with each other throughout.

 

 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it pays to know this much: A novelist, Jamie (Kurt Phelan), shares his story from the start to the finish of a five-year relationship with actress, Cathy (Lizzie Moore), who tells us her side of the same story in reverse, from the end of their relationship to its beginning. The characters are complex, the relationship complicated and it doesn’t end well.

 

 

 

As Phelan and Moore settle into their challenging roles, on opening night of a too-short season in the intimate Visy Theatre, we begin to sense what these two can really do. Phelan (Boys of Sondheim, Dirty Dancing) and Moore (Kiss Me Kate, On a Night Like This) know each other from way back, having met in a bathtub at a surprise party for mutual friend, Lucy Durack. There’s no doubt they’ve attracted attention as individual performers, but if they can perfect Moore’s first couple of numbers (Still Hurting & See I’m Smiling) – and perhaps she’s hit the mark after opening night, letting the emotion drop in, and going to the edge from the outset, as she does a little later – this two-hander will be the smash hit of next year’s national touring circuit.

 

You get to be happy…

 

 

In his most honest and searing work to date, Phelan embraces Jamie’s narcissism, ambition and shifting affection, offering a bold and precise physical performance, buoyed by a deeply committed energy that could be bottled and sold to most undergraduate (and some professional) performers. He’s effervescent, irresistible in this challenging role, which is the perfect vehicle for Phelan, with an impressive vocal range and a cavalry of emotions. From Shiksa Goddess to If I Didn’t believe in You we get the full gamut of emotions. The Shmuel Song – that track that might use a Spotify skip to miss – works so well that I’d happily see Phelan perform it again; he keeps us fully engaged (although the literal aspects, which are mimed, could go). His Nobody Needs to Know is, unsurprisingly, completely devastating. Phelan’s a busy, busy guy, but I hope this role is one he can keep smashing for some time.

 

I open myself one stitch at a time…

 

 

Cathy is one of the more demanding high belt roles for any female vocalist, asking of the performer a massive emotional range, difficult to keep in check, and it’s up to the performer to resist pushing vocally without the inner life to back up the big sound. When Moore settles into the role she nails it, embodying the sweet, insecure Cathy, and able to bring home the big brash open notes (Anna Kendrick doesn’t sell them like that!), as well as more thoughtful, gentle moments. Moore’s comedy is superb, it’s her thing; she’s so funny and cute, and yet, within the world of the show, she gives us reason to understand why Jamie might look the other way. I’d love to see her contain more, especially to begin with, to sit with the shock and immediacy of Jamie’s departure before the hilarity – the Climbing Uphill sequence later, and the little moments and glances that have us giggling during A Summer in Ohio and I Can Do Better Than That. We have to laugh out loud during the multiple failed auditions. We’ve all been there. Fucking shoes. Poor Cathy.

 

I have been waiting…

 

 

Shannon Whitelock (MD and piano), leading guitar (Joel Woods), violin (Ruth Donovan), cello (Wayne Jennings & Ruby Hunter) and bass (Conall O’Neill), plays with conviction and coaxes from his on-stage 5-piece the rich sounds of a much larger assembly of musicians. When I speak to Jennings, with whom I train on Monday nights in Zen Zen Zo’s Dojo, he modestly dismisses what he does so well outside of the training room. But if it were not for the sweet, desperately sad sounds and contrasting upbeat and humorous numbers (and with the hold these musicians have on JRB’s challenging score), our hearts might still be in tact!

 

Zoe Tuffin’s poised direction hones in on the detail, the specificity of each intimate moment. Her use of the sparsely configured space and contrasting lighting states, designed by Jason Glenwright, draw us into two completely different worlds, which collide for just a little while, for just as long as they need to, to tell the common tale of two people who are just not meant to be together.

 

The Last Five Years is quite a journey, for the cast and for us.

My head spins. My heart hurts. The hawk soars forth from my chest.

 

All I could do was love you hard and let you go…

 

04
Oct
17

TORUK – THE FIRST FLIGHT OPENS THIS WEEK

Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK – The First Flight, inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR opens this week at Brisbane Entertainment Centre

 

Brisbane Entertainment Centre: 5th – 8th & 11th – 15th October

 

 

 

Inspired by James Cameron’s record-breaking film AVATAR, TORUK – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil will make its Australian debut at Brisbane’s Entertainment Centre in October before heading to Sydney (Qudos Bank Arena), Melbourne (Rod Laver Arena), Adelaide (Entertainment Centre) and then Perth (Perth Arena).

 

“Avatar is really meant to be a celebration of human motion and human emotion and Cirque is able to capture that absolutely perfectly, because it’s all about human performance and physicality. It makes you feel alive to watch these performers,” said James Cameron. ‘’TORUK – The First Flight is an integration of humanity and technology, a colorful spectacle for the entire family. We are delighted to see this epic journey take flight in Australia, a country so rich in culture and scenery as can be found on Pandora,’’ said director and writer Michel Lemieux.

 

 

THE SHOW: Inspired by James Cameron’s AVATAR, TORUK – The First Flight transports you to the world of Pandora in a visually stunning live setting. Experience a storytelling odyssey through a new world of imagination, discovery, and possibility. Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination. This live immersive experience also bears the distinct signature of directors and multimedia innovators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic co-existence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things.

 

Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

 

THE STORY: When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omatikaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.

 

 

03
Oct
17

Under Siege

Under Siege

Brisbane Festival & Philip Bacon Galleries

In Association With QPAC

September 27 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

underseige

You are surrounded by enemies you cannot see.

 

You ambush me. I ambush you.

 

Yang rewrites the epochal tale known in Chinese opera and lore as Farewell My Concubine with a high-octane mix of performers from ballet, hip-hop, kung-fu and Peking opera. Under Siege is an extraordinary feat of theatre, a visual and kinetic treat that sears the senses.

 

Under Siege is her stunning vision of the climactic battle between Chu and Han armies – an encounter that changed the course of Chinese history – and a love story between the besieged warlord Xiang Yu and his self-sacrificing concubine that would transcend death.

 

Beneath thousands of suspended steel blades a climactic battle rages; the Battle of Gaixia will change the course of Chinese history. Two mighty, ambitious warlords stake everything for the ultimate prize. A legendary beauty will prove that love and loyalty outlive death.

 

undersiege_red

20 000 pairs of scissors hang and clank and descend and rise and bend and arc above the stage, inciting a gamut of emotions and creating all the settings of an epic story across time and space until – spoiler alert – thousands fall to the floor, clattering and settling amongst nearly naked bodies and delicate red death feathers.

 

Yang Liping (Artistic Director / Choreographer) worked with Oscar winning designer, Tim “costume is always related to movement” Yip (Visual Director / Set & Costume Designer), to create her first full-length work, a visual degustation befitting a Chinese battle tale told through contemporary dance, martial arts and delicious design aspects you won’t see anywhere else.

 

Under Siege is undoubtedly the most visually arresting show of the year, premiering here for Brisbane Festival before it moves to Melbourne Festival. The changing colours of the sea of scissors, and the final spectacular image of flailing, dying bodies falling beneath a flurry of feathers are just two of the moments to leave a lasting impression.

 

The visual splendour and physical specificity of this production is unparalleled, featuring elegant balletic traditions, blurring the lines between Eastern and Western styles, juxtaposed against fierce, angular sequences, which to my eyes are more in keeping with Wayne McGregor’s second instalment of Woolf Works, but which draw from ancient Chinese operatic, martial arts and dance traditions. There are fluid formations created by an ensemble of warriors, in all-black-everything, moving as one, twisting and somersaulting and throwing themselves across the space and over one another. And there are the tribal tendencies and shadow selves / bipolar characters of others (Han Xin, for example, the brilliant tactician who struggles with opposing loyalties), lunging and reaching across the floor, holding the liminal space and our wonder…are they even really there?

 

undersiege_kings

 

A virtuosic physical performance is delivered by the tall, slim, graceful He Shang as the Western Chu’s Xiang Yu; he presents just like Dairakudakan’s principal dancer, Daiichiro Yuyama, who made such an impression on us in Japan. The Han’s Liu Bang (Gong Zonghui) is shorter, cheekier, and bounds around, playing games with his rival that involve balances and counter balances, and stomping one foot in front of the other’s, to get ahead of one another, eliciting delighted chuckles from the audience.

 

The Concubine, a role traditionally played by a man (and yet, unforgettably by Gong Li in the 1993 film Farewell My Concubine), is the sublimely beautiful male dancer, Yu Ji (Hu Shenyuan), dressed ceremoniously in red by (her) attendants. He’s an astounding, contorting, arresting physical beauty, almost defying description and leaving us quite breathless with the performance of the night.

 

undersiege_silhouettes

 

Wang Yan, a woman in white sits downstage in one corner for the duration, cutting masses of paper into snowflakes and Chinese symbols depicting the names of the characters, while the Narrator, Qiu Jirong, also clad in white, leads us across time and space into the epic battle and safely out of it again. There’s an element of The Never-ending Story and the Empress here, although the story is their own and in fact, there are never enough surtitles to tell the non-Chinese audience exactly what’s happening. Does it matter? Not really. It’s enough to take in the beauty of each stunning  image, and understand that the rivalry for power and prestige has existed for an eternity. It’s precisely what we continue to witness in contemporary contexts around the world, without the elegance and ravishing beauty of a full-scale theatrical production.

 

With a shorter opening sequence (we sit and listen to the overture for eight minutes or more while the house lights stay up, surely an oversight), and a story made more accessible to Westerners, Liping’s first full-length piece might enjoy a broader audience here. As it is, 100 minutes of Under Siege reminds us just how exquisitely beautiful the violence of past events can be made to appear.

02
Oct
17

MUSE

 

MUSE

Suncoast Repertory Theatre

Black Box Theatre, Old Ambulance Station

September 29 – October 8 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

MUSE is the best new Australian indie work we’ve seen this year. Written and directed on the Sunshine Coast by Simon Denver after XS Entertainment’s Sam Coward challenged the playwright at the poker table one night to write something new and irresistibly real, this darkly comical piece dives deeply and unapologetically into human nature, hook-ups, marriage, lies, loyalty and the world of live theatre, capturing our imaginations and clenching its fist around our hearts. Honest, unsettling and a catalyst for some of the most interesting conversations you’ll ever have with your lover, MUSE is the very best sort of provocative performing arts.

 

Upcoming at Brisbane Powerhouse is Wax Lyrical’s production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, which also looks at the dissolve of a relationship. And there are many other good works that explore the jealousy, resentment and resignation leading to the end – or not – of a relationship. Where MUSE differs from what we’ve seen before is that it’s violently articulate and neatly structured, offering a balanced view of the issues, inviting us to join these individuals on their journeys and at the same time, reflect on our own lives and loves.

An unexpected theatrical device is cleverly incorporated to make us consider how much of what we tell ourselves and our partner is actually reality and how much is fantasy. So much of what might seem like a good idea at the time is complicated and also, outside of society’s norms.

Denver’s text questions why we do what we do, juxtaposing human nature and free will against a traditional view of marriage and monogamous relationships. Set within a theatrical context, two weeks before a classic play goes up and the leading players become entangled in an illicit affair, MUSE avoids cliche and draws on truth. Denver is a keen study of human behaviour; in this work you’re sure to recognise aspects of yourself or someone you know.

 

Refreshingly, Denver presents all sides of the story and also, fully drawn female characters – the actor-turned-academic wife, Jemma (Mel Myers) and the free-spirited leading lady, Ngaire (Rachel Fentiman) – rather than the token women we’re so used to seeing, still, on our stages and screens.

 

While Jemma flails alone at home beneath a stack of undergraduate essays and an endless supply of red wine, her husband, Kris (Brett Klease), is enjoying post-rehearsal drinks with his free-spirited millennial leading lady, Ngaire. When things come to a head, Jemma confronts Kris and then Ngaire, and the terms of engagement are settled over a couple of unsettling scenes. Kris turns to his geeky gamer/coder brother, Julian (Howard Tampling), only to hear from him the voice of reason and the loyalty line he wishes he could tow too. Meanwhile, the director of the play within the play (Adam Flower), just wants to put on a good show.

Sans production values (we know it’s been produced on the smell of an oily rag) the work speaks for itself. While there’s some effort to make in terms of taking it to the next level (some of the musical choices to bookend scenes are a little too obvious and a design aesthetic is less so), MUSE is the most intriguing and moving night at the theatre this year on the Sunshine Coast. SRT must be encouraged to seek further support for a return season next year, or a move sideways in the ecology, which will allow a broader audience to experience the beauty, tragedy, hope and truth of MUSE.