Archive for the 'Reviews' 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.

 

08
Feb
18

Black Is The New White

 

Black Is The New White

Queensland Theatre presents a

Sydney Theatre Company production

QPAC Playhouse

February 3 – 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Two politically powerful families at war. A son and daughter helplessly in love, defying their parents. You’ve heard this story before – but what if Romeo was white, Juliet was black and the war mainly fought on Twitter?

 

“It’s about a successful Aboriginal family called the Gibsons who are activists and very proud to be Aboriginal and who also happen to be quite financially successful,” Lui says. “Their youngest daughter, Charlotte, is just back from being in Europe for three-and-a-half months and she’s bringing home her boyfriend for the first time – he’s white and a poor, struggling musician who also happens to be the son of her father’s arch nemesis. “It’s kind of what happens when you get together with family over Christmas – you laugh, you fight and you talk about all the things you’re not meant to talk about in a very intimate and flippant way.” – Nakkiah Lui

 

Nakkiah Lui’s script is razor-sharp in its unbridled observations of race and human nature, and Paige Rattray’s precision production is masterfully handled, fast-paced, funny and highly entertaining. There’s a dance break AND a dance off AND a food fight! I wonder what this work would look like, sound like, without Rattray’s light hand? The characters are heightened, delightful and painful, completely believable, (mis)behaving exactly as our family members (mis)behave at Christmas, and the sense of the work is at first light-handed, hilarious. But don’t think that means you won’t cringe at times, faced with your own pre-conceived notions and beliefs. Is this just a mirror of Australian contemporary society or a hammer to shape it? No stone is left unturned, with each character either delving into or narrowly avoiding addressing the misconceptions surrounding the mistreatment of our Indigenous peoples, privilege, gender roles, rich vs poor, cultural sterotypes, the courage of individuals and the common interests of communities – and sparking bold conversations around the emergence of an Aboriginal middle-class and the re-rise of a feminism that sees an older generation of women – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – claiming their sexual identities and political ideas.

 

Unless you’re at a Williamson, you might not think it possible to pack such a wealth of material into 2 hours and 20 minutes of theatre, and yet there it is, and with deep insight, the off-hand and humorous remarks hitting hard, getting under our skin and challenging everything we think is Australian. Human.

 

 

Luke Carroll (the Spirit of Christmas disguised as the Narrator) is probably the least essential element, and tells us more than we need to know, particularly in the second act. His performance though is highly entertaining, and I come to love his omnipresence and subtle interactions with the family members. However, it must be said that Carroll’s perfectly clipped consonants are either the stuff of over articulated nightmares, or that he’s the very model of a trained-within-an-inch-of-his-life stage actor (no comment on his screen performances, which have been well received, earning him Deadly Awards and a Bob Maza Fellowship). This is not to be unkind, but to make a point: Carroll is excellent and can afford to employ a more relaxed vocal style. Once the initial nerves/disparate energy of opening night disappear there’s not one amongst this stellar cast whose performance misses the mark. Comic timing is spot on, beautifully crafted by Lui and polished by Rattray, leaving us in no doubt of the fun and playfulness of the creative process.

 

Tony Briggs (Ray Gibson) and Geoff Morrell (Dennison Smith) narrowly avoid playing political enemies for laughs, and leave us in horrified hysterics from the outset of their ongoing sandbox dispute. Briggs brings particular wit and wry humour to this role, which could just as easily have turned into caricature.

 

 

Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, as wife, Joan, reaches our hearts on multiple levels. It’s she who has penned her husband’s speeches, and she finally feels she deserves some recognition for her part in his story. Vanessa Downing as Dennison’s wife also steps up at a crucial moment, demanding that her life preferences be respected.

 

 

Miranda Tapsell joined this cast for the Brisbane season, and she brings hilarious headstrong energy to Rose, the millennial entrepreneurial sister of Charlotte (Shari Sebbens, straight up and sensational) and wife of Sonny (Anthony Taufa, in his element here), as does Tom Stokes as Francis, the (wonderfully awkward!) struggling artist and fiancé of Charlotte.

 

Renee Mulder’s stunning design, beautifully enhanced by Ben Hughes’ lighting, is a pristine playground for these Christmas shenanigans, with Steve Toulmin’s soundtrack an easy invitation to simply enjoy the ride….for now.

 

This crafty contemporary farce – poised for a film option – has a strictly limited Brisbane run. See it, and join the conversation.

 

Production pics by Prudence Upton

30
Jan
18

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

 

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

Gordon Frost Organisation, GWB Entertainment and Howard Panter Ltd

QPAC Concert Hall

January 19 – February 11 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Don’t dream it, be it.

 

The message has never been clearer: you can be whatever you want to be. But somewhere along the way, has Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show taken this lesson a little too literally, and lost some sense of self?

 

It’s still a ridiculously fun, kitsch show (a ridiculous, fun, kitsch show) – it’s even retained a little bit of its naughtiness (the bed scene is still hilarious, although, thank Adam, not quite as lewd) – but it seems it’s not only the size of the production that’s been scaled back. With Craig McLachlan’s departure from this slick little mini-production from London and even less time allowed than in 2014 for the double entendres and sight gags to sink in, it’s no longer a wild and untamed thing. Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is practically PG.

 

 

In London, in 1973 the very first Rocky Horror Show genuinely shocked audiences, and with the 1975 release of the film (a dismal failure at first, and let’s not even speak of the appalling remake from 2015), based on the stage production by Richard O’Brien, this strange encounter of virgins and phantoms and aliens quickly became a cult classic. The show has played all over the world non-stop for 45 years, and in case you were unaware, an audience participation ‘script’ informs both screenings and live performances, although the Brisbane Cards 4 Sorrow crowd (if that’s who they were. Incidentally, their next floorshow is in March; check it out here) didn’t get much of a look in this time, the couple of determined callouts deflected without hesitation by Narrator, Cameron Daddo, superbly and very suavely his natural self in this coveted role). Perhaps they felt, after the initial bold outburst, that QPAC’s Concert Hall was not the place for it…

 

Tim Curry remembers the moment he realized that his performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show,” the London stage precursor to the 1975 cult film, was no longer his alone.

 

David Bowie and his wife at the time, Angela, were in the audience that night in 1973. Onstage, Frank, the hypersexual alien mad scientist, was being held at ray-gunpoint by his former servants, Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn). They were about to shoot when Ms. Bowie shouted, ‘‘No, don’t do it!”

 

Indeed, the Concert Hall feels like the least likely space in which to experience Rocky Horror, but Mamma Mia! continues to claim the Lyric until February 4. According to one of the venue’s producers, we’ll likely see more of this use of the Concert Hall, which has historically been home to artists and acts of a slightly different ilk. Perhaps the precedent was set by Harvest Rain, with their full-scale musicals in this space before a move across the road, or had it been set already? It’s truly magnificent to have so much coming to Brisbane that QPAC (booked ahead for years you understand), must utilise every space, but by the same token, it’s a firm reminder that we are in desperate need of another performing arts venue in Brisbane that doesn’t also serve as a convention centre or conference location.

 

In exciting news for independent artists, presenters and producers seeking a brand new and intimate performance space, XS Entertainment is issuing an invitation to come play with us on the Sunshine Coast. 

Email xanthe@xsentertainment.com.au for available dates and details. 

 

It could be said that this version of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show continues to suffer from its smaller scale, although probably not if you’ve never seen it live on stage before…

 

 

A couple of Rocky Horror virgins joined me on opening night, and despite some confusion surrounding the story and some horror/mock horror moments – cold blooded murder and beneath-the-bed-sheet sight gags – they enjoyed the show and the performances from a cast rocked by allegations against the previous leading man, made before the Brisbane season commenced, by Christie Whelan Brown, Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, cast members from the 2014 production and, for the record, as far as I can see, all without reason to fabricate anything against anyone to further their careers. (Honestly. The things people say). Regardless of our understanding of the facts, the women experienced something that negatively affected them.

 

It doesn’t matter if we would not be affected in the same way. What happens to a person happens to them in a way that no one else can ever fully appreciate. It is a person’s right to feel the way they feel about a situation. 

 

The producers had told us in the early press, “this is sure to be an even wilder and sexier night out than ever before…” and perhaps it is, if you don’t get out much. The reward this time, if you’ve seen the show before, is in the night out itself, the whole event of going to the theatre with friends, a bit of fun, and also, thankfully, in solid performances across the board.

 

 

The standout, however, is Kristian Lavercombe, with more than a thousand performances to his name as Riff Raff. Again, he’s absolutely sensational, building vocally on the work we’d heard previously and deceiving us into thinking we’re witnessing Richard O’Brien’s soul take up residence in another body. Amanda Harrison holds her own as the Usherette and Magenta. (It’s a really tough gig to keep us enthralled throughout that opening number of obscure sci-fi references and plot points!)

 

 

It seems appropriate to note that one of the best ever in this dual role, Jayde Westaby, can be seen across the hall until February 4 as Tanya in Mamma Mia!

 

 

Brendan Irving is, once again, just beautiful as the all-singing, all-posing, all-glittering and glistening Rocky, bringing to life a scene that threatens to slow the bull-in-a-china-shop pace if it were not for his impressive posturing. The hand mic, used inexplicably by both Rocky and Frank-N-Furter for this scene and the following, loses its potency after about three seconds, becoming a distraction. I’ve never understood its inclusion. Also, Irving’s an aerialist and I’m still confounded as to why his considerable skill in the air hasn’t been incorporated by Director, Christopher Luscombe. The bizarre interruption of Eddie (James Bryers) also lightens the mood before it turns gruesome, with Frank’s response to the appearance of this unwelcome guest. Unfortunately, Hot Patootie is turned into an untidy non-event rather than featuring as the fully choreographed showstopper it might be (and wasn’t it, in 1992?). This time the morbid game of chainsaw cat and mouse played out across the stage is chaotic, but doesn’t add to the excitement of the show. This oddity, common in blockbuster smash hits demanding more of the marketing and publicity teams than of the touring company, occurs across the entirety of the show, with the exception of Lavercombe’s Riff Raff and Rob Mallet’s (adorable) Brad. The ensemble is rounded out by Michelle Smitheram as Janet, Nadia Komazec as Columbia and Phantoms, Bianca Baykara, Ross Chisari, Hayley Martin and Stephen McDowell. The on-stage band is ably led to light speed by MD Dave Skelton.

 

As for Australia’s newest superstar, Adam Rennie turns the role on its head to become the sweetest transvestite we’ve ever seen. It’s true, he’s missing some specificity and physical extravagance (Tim Curry speaks about creating the character here), at least on opening night, although he may have spiced things up and nailed more precise movement (and electrifying stillness) towards the end of the season, but he’s gorgeous and he makes it his own. His is a thoroughly entertaining performance, marked especially by sensational singing and his unique sweet and cheeky take on the role. In fact, whether or not he means to, Rennie comes across as just about the antithesis of McLachlan’s leering hyper sexual alien scientist. And despite being at odds with the character’s placement and purpose in the story, it’s refreshing, perfectly non-threatening, and perfect for this (political climate) light, fun, smash-hit re-staging, which really does appear to assume we’ve seen it all before, and also, that its audiences will continue to get younger and younger… (The film retained its R-Rating in some countries for the single silhouetted sex scene). QPAC advises: This show has rude parts…parental guidance recommended.

 

Why go back again and again to Rocky Horror? It makes little to no sense, neither its costumes (Sue Blane) nor its fluid sexuality are particularly shocking anymore, and we can watch the original film, which is arguably the best version anyway, whenever we like. But there’s something irresistible, isn’t there, about the electric energy of a live glam rock infused performance, and the permission to relinquish judgment and inhibitions, as well as the fleeting connection with strangers in a dark space, lost in time, and lost in space. And meaning.

 

 

Enjoy the ride and take what you will, again, from Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show.

11
Jan
18

Mamma Mia!

 

Mamma Mia!

Louise Withers, Linda Bewick & Michael Coppel Entertainment

QPAC Lyric Theatre

January 28 – February 4 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

There’s not a better night out in Brisbane to begin the year, especially for mothers and daughters, or a gaggle of girlfriends, than Mamma Mia!

 

A celebration of love, laughter, family and friendship, MAMMA MIA! brings the fun and joy the world needs right now. Set on a Greek island paradise and inspired by the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs, writer Catherine Johnson’s heart-warming tale centres around Sophie, a young bride-to-be. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.

 

 

Australia hasn’t seen Mamma Mia! since 2001, when Natalie O’Donnell, Donna in this production, played Sophie. How strange it must be, to be singing Slipping Through My Fingers instead of stepping into a wedding gown during it. O’Donnell is one of the highlights of this production, with a beautiful soulful musical theatre voice and the acting chops to match. She’s a delight, and so is Sarah Morrison (Sophie), whom we remember fondly from Queensland Theatre’s Ladies In Black. Perfectly cast as mother and daughter, there is genuine affection between them. Poppy had asked me before the show whether or not I’d cry during this scene, when mother helps daughter prepare for her wedding day and imminent departure from the idyllic Greek island she’s always called home, and I told her I didn’t know, it would depend on the delivery. That’s a standard response, but it’s not always entirely true. With nothing to fault in the delivery, others might have shed a tear, but there are times when it’s hard to take off the reviewer hat and stay fully immersed in the story, suspending disbelief rather than keeping some distance from the action and emotion. It’s a safe place to be, but not a very vulnerable one, and so I’ve had to admit that this scene didn’t move me to tears after all. What did though, was O’Donnell’s gritty and bitterly accepting reading of The Winner Takes It All. With such a basic book, it’s ultimately up to the actors to sell every moment in a jukebox show and with one exception (not their fault that the opening of the second act was likely staged under the influence of ABBA era hallucinogenic drugs…other likely explanations follow, see below), this stellar cast nails it, earning in turn, our affection, and fuelling our hopes that each of them (and by association and the magic of theatre, that we too) will see their (our) dreams fulfilled.

 

It’s worth noting, at least for other performing artists, directors and obsessors of the genre, that on opening night at least, the gentle, whimsical song that opens the show (I Have A Dream), didn’t particularly serve the show or Sophie as well as the following upbeat number did. (And look, other than to set the scene for Jesus Christ Superstar, do we ever need an overture anymore? Really?). The real start of the show, Thank You For the Music, saw Morrison light up, and leap into brilliant, connected and wholehearted storytelling mode.

 

 

Mamma Mia! – like so many of the jukebox blockbusters – is a perfectly polished production, one of the “precision musicals”, that simply can’t fail, with a spectacularly fun score comprising entirely of ABBA songs written by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus (and some with Stig Anderson), a tight and light little book written by Catherine Johnson, a beautifully designed and functional set (Linda Bewick), and a stellar cast, featuring O’Donnell and Morrison, Alicia Gardner (a hysterical Rosie), Jayde Westaby (a fabulously sexy Tanya, making Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out one of the showstoppers of the year, closely followed by the high impact full company Act 1 finale Voulez-Vous), the wonderful possible fathers – each of them a class act – Ian Stenlake (Sam), Phillip Lowe (Harry) and Josef Ber (Bill), and Stephen Mahy, an undeniably gorgeous and sensitive Sky, however; the jury is still out on whether or not he was the perfect choice for this role – perhaps it’s just the musical theatre tables turned on a secondary male role (rather than a typically flimsily written female role) getting through to the final edit without being further developed, but it seemed as though Mahy never got his moment to really shine. Did I miss it? Unlikely, with a vantage point from the second row, which I don’t recommend actually, unless you’re into counting abs and inhaling additional haze.

 

The supporting cast is terrific, comprising Monique Salle (Ali), Jessica Di Costa (Lisa), Sam Hooper (as Pepper he’s a standout) and Alex Gibson-Giorgio (Eddie). A strong ensemble brings to life the people of the neighbourhood.

 

 

Donna’s taverna is a little too pristine to be the run-down setting demanded by the story, but Bewick can be forgiven for bringing such beauty and functionality together. Transitions happen seamlessly, largely due to the multi-talented ensemble moving things about, helping the pace to race along. At least until we come to the awkward and clumsily choreographed Act 2 opening number, which for some reason is played out as if Fruma Sarah has visited from beyond the grave to join Dairakudakan’s Daiichiro, and Zen Zen Zo in their butoh bends and twirls around a double bed in the hope of scoring a cameo in The Greatest Showman… Whose nightmare is this?! What was it that Director, Gary Young (Resident Director Jacinta John), was thinking in the staging of this piece? Was it

 

  1. the writers’ work is sacred and cannot be changed
  2. the fine print states that the writers’ work is sacred and cannot be changed
  3. cutting it will mean we see less of the chorus and require the running time to be amended
  4. every musical needs a dream sequence (even Rocky had a montage)

 

It’s completely at odds with the overall look and feel of this production, but if we can move beyond it (and we must!), Young’s direction hits every other mark, and Tom Hodgson’s choreography (Resident Choreographer Danielle Bilios) is otherwise cute and fun and funky.

 

 

MD Michael Azzopardi leads a bright band, diving into the score as if it’s the playlist to the party of the year, which was the claim after all! And having taken an evening off from Woodford Folk Festival to attend opening night, we’d have to agree. We can never celebrate enough, the love, laughter, family and friendship that makes every ABBA song at any given moment still a favourite of someone’s, somewhere in the world, and Mamma Mia! all over the world, an unashamedly shiny sequinned and spandex’d smash hit!

23
Dec
17

Humans

 

Humans

QPAC & Circa

QPAC Playhouse

December 6 – 9 2017

 

Reviewed by Analiese & Henry Long

 

The latest production to land in Brisbane from world touring Queensland company, Circa, is a ferocious journey into athleticism and quirkiness.

 

It’s believable that the show might have been inspired by a number of dares and physical games, although that assumption has no base in anything concrete. 

 

Director, Yaron Lifschittz, has asked his ensemble, What does it mean to be human? How can you express the very essence of this experience with your body, with the group, and with the audience? Where are your limits, what extraordinary things can you achieve and how can you find grace in your inevitable defeat?

 

 

Never before have I seen artists actually try to throw themselves at the floor so wholeheartedly. The usual idea is to throw yourself at the floor but cleverly miss it. Nope. These guys are hitting, skimming, bouncing and skidding all across the stage with a thin mat as their only buffer.  Technical Director and Lighting Designer, Jason Organ has kept our attention to this investigation. There is no set and Circa have relied on very clever lighting in this intimate performance.

 

And bodies.

 

The human form is a wondrous thing and the small company of ten artists show it off with gusto. Hand to hand and contortion is explored in countless combinations.

 

I dare you to do it without your legs.

 

What if you are the puppet, and I manipulate you.

 

Can you lick your elbow…?’

 

One of the striking things about this piece is the focus on strength and skill. Of course, we all know and assume the feats shown to us by circus artists are not easy. This production glorifies how difficult it actually is. A real gutsy display of strength with all the sweat and strain is magnified for us here.

 

Static trapeze was interestingly used more as a compliment to the rest of the action onstage.

 

 

Humans didnt appear to have a musical theme to connect the individual acts. Perhaps it was to reflect the different musical preference and taste among these Humans. It is frenetic, wonderful strings, an old standard, a motivational theme song and techno pop. Funny, sensual, inquisitive, the artists played with it and carried the audience along regardless.

 

Libby McDonnells costumes were complimentary to the action and certainly complimented the wonderful bodies onstage. Good use of a theme created an individualised ensemble.

 

Created by Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa Ensemble

Performed by Caroline BaillonMarty EvansScott GroveKeaton Hentoff-KillianBridie HooperTodd KilbyNathan KnowlesCecilia MartinDaniel O’Brien and Kimberley O’Brien

12
Dec
17

Dance: A Double Bill

 

Dance: A Double Bill

Sarah Aiken & Rebecca Jensen

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

6 – 9 December 2017

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Explorer looks at the material world in relation to the rapidly shifting digital world through an anti-humanist lens … An entitled explorer arrives in a half imagined world of formless potential, navigating a series of shortcuts simulating memories.

Rebecca Jensen

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Aiken looks at how we live in the world, the versions of ourselves we curate, our ouptut, achievements and the versions that others hold of us; how much we control these variants, and how much they shape us.

Sarah Aiken

 

The two works on this program, Sarah Aiken’s Sarah Aiken (Tools for Personal Expansion) and Rebecca Jensen’s Explorer were both finalists in the Keir Choreographic Award for 2016. The Keir Foundation supports new and emerging practitioners across a range of art forms, including contemporary dance.

 

A leaf-blower, enormous pieces of fabric, two mysterious faceless figures, a ball of ice glowing with red light, a ladder, a dead tree branch, and an assemblage of ropes, plastic pipes, styrofoam, and a couple of kitchen bowls all make a surreal appearance in Explorer.

 

As the explorer, Jensen is a strong and striking figure, simply dressed in tracksuit pants and a T-shirt. She navigates a dreamlike path through this mysterious landscape, appearing to be unaware of the two beings (Michael McNab and Harrison Ritchie-Jones) who support her and shape her path.

 

McNab also created the sound for this work, with electronic siren-like noises, oscillating blares of sound, the leaf-blower, and performers hitting the floor, walls, and some of the props with drumsticks.

 

He and Ritchie-Jones work with Jensen to perform arresting physical feats, supporting her as she runs up a wall, and then ‘walks’ along the wall, lying across her partner’s shoulders.

 

Do the two men represent the ‘rapidly shifting digital world’ Jensen mentions in the program notes? They are completely dressed in white, including their heads, looking a little like fencers.

 

One then strips off this outer layer to reveal a similar costume, but made of pale blue fabric marbled in brown and orange. The same fabric, conveying an incongruous old-world elegance, forms a backdrop for Jensen and this figure.

 

It’s hard to interpret Explorer as the program notes describe – for example, ‘The landscape slips in and out of disappearance’ – but Jensen certainly conveys the sense of trying to find her way through a puzzling world, while calmly accepting its challenges.

 

The piece ends more mysteriously than it begins, with Jensen harnessing herself to a collection of random objects, and climbing the ladder towards the suspended ball of ice.

 

In Sarah Aiken’s eponymous work for three female dancers (Aiken herself, Claire Leske and Emily Robinson), her name is heard many times. Each dancer announces the name into a microphone as she appears, and the sound is recorded and played back over and over again, with other voices added later. Muffled bell-like chords are also part of the sound design by Daniel Arnott.

 

The three dancers are dressed in leggings and tops, each in a different shade of pink. The impression is of different attenuated versions of the same person, reinforced by the frequent use of movement in canon.

 

The movement is simple and naturalistic: walking, crawling, kneeling, raising the arms, sitting on the floor and using the hands to shuffle backwards …

 

The action culminates in one of the dancers filming the others, using a smartphone, and projections of the film distort the images, amusingly extending parts of the dancers’ bodies. This image is then carried through back to the dancers, with the arms of the pink costume being stretched to many times the length of human arms.

 

Some of the program notes about this piece are obscure, and grandiose. While Aiken may have intended, for example, that it ‘critiques the gendered occupation of space and the worship of progress, development and continual growth, observing what retracts as we reach further’, this was hard for me to see in the actual performance.

 

In presenting this season, Metro Arts is certainly fulfilling its purpose of championing contemporary arts, supporting artists and providing opportunities for them to show their work to new and existing audiences.

 




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